The Conservatives are being advised by David “Lundy” Trimble, who sold out the people of Ulster with the Belfast Agreement, and then failed to deliver, and watched while terrorist prisoners were released, arms were not decommissioned, and the police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, was dismantled.
Common sense Ulster people ejected Trimble even from his prosperous Upper Bann constituency, in which I have had the pleasure of living for the past 6 months. The UUP went down from having a majority of unionist seats to only one in 2005. They had the first minister in the Assembly and then lost it. They are a spent electoral force.
Trimble is advising the Tories to amalgamate with the UUP and contest every seat in Northern Ireland. As Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP MP for Lagan Valley, (once a rock solid UUP seat) rightly pointed out, what about the proposed Unionist pact to stop Sinn Fein winning Fermanagh & South Tyrone and the SDLP from winning South Belfast?
And what’s more, Tory MEP Dan Hannan described Northern Ireland as an “over-subsidised quango state.” What gives him the right to say this?
Most of all, sensible Ulster people will simply not vote in sufficient numbers for the Conservatives, who were responsible for the iniqitous Anglo-Irish Agreement – not to mention wiping out much of Ulster’s industrial base during the Thatcherite period of the 1980s.
The UUP/Tory pact is a non-starter. It is the advice of a failed politician (Trimble) to the next Prime Minister (Cameron) and is bad judgment all around that it is even being considered. The UUP’s sole MP Sylvia Hermon is rightly against the idea, it is rumoured.
It would be like toxic debt being injected into the markets – but in this case, a toxic political force (the UUP) being injected into the veins of the Conservative Party – and should be abandoned forthwith. And, anyway, just as Scottish Unionists didn’t like being bossed about from London, Ulster people simply wouldn’t wish to be bossed about by the Conservative Party in London either…
I am going to apply some logic to the controversial issue of grammar schools. First, we know that academic selection is beneficial to driving up educational standards – as Graham Brady MP bravely highlighted in his constituency, Altrincham and Sale, which has grammar schools.
The Conservatives, under pressure from Mr Dominic Grieve QC, a Buckinghamshire MP who has grammar schools in his constituency, acknowledged that where there was increasing demand, new grammar schools should be build.
We learn from today’s Telegraph that
The number of pupils entered for the 11-plus – the grammar school entrance test – has soared to a record high this year, figures show.
As the first children in England sat the exam this week, it was disclosed that entries in one county jumped by a fifth compared to 2007.
It follows the disclosure that independent school fees have increased by more than 40 per cent in the last six years alone, sparking claims that many families can no longer afford an independent education.
According to the Good Schools Guide, many of the most popular grammar schools – particularly those in outer London – have had 10 applications for every place.
Robert McCartney, chairman of the National Grammar Schools’ Association, said: “The on-going deterioration of the comprehensive system in England is forcing more and more parents to opt for alternative forms of education.”
The twin factors of rising independent school fees and the deterioration of comprehensive education – not to mention the impact of the credit crunch – means that we should open new grammar schools.
I hope that the former public schoolboys on the Conservative Frontbench realise that Labour (such as ex public schoolboy Ed Balls) is denying ordinary kids the educational opportunities they deserve. It is, therefore, vital that the Tories pledge to create new grammar schools to meet this soaring demand and to offset the educational apartheid that is the legacy of 11 years of New Labour misrule.
And why should children that have been born since May 1997 be prevented from fulfilling their potential in life by outdated 60s educational ideology being followed by the ‘heirs of Crossland’?
Recently, we have heard much of the possible Lloyds TSB/HBOS job losses of up to 40,000 as well as the shedding of 4,500 Lehman Brothers jobs in the City. However, what about elsewhere? What is going on to the local economies – where most of us live – in terms of unemployment and worklessness?
Nationally, we know from the Office of National Statistics that:
The unemployment rate was 5.5 per cent for the three months to July 2008, up 0.2 over both the previous quarter and over the year. The number of unemployed people increased by 81,000 over the quarter and by 72,000 over the year, to reach 1.72 million.
But Labour has presided over an increase of unemployment in the entrepreneurial city of Birmingham again (this is of personal interest to me as I worked there for over three years). The birthplace of the industrial revolution is suffering from Brownian economic policy with an unemployment rate of 9.2%.
Source: ONS (2008)
The ONS report also finds that economic inactivity in Birmingham is a staggering 30.7% much higher than the UK’s corresponding 21.6% rate.
Even more of an indictment for Labour – which is supposed to be the party of ethnic minorities – is that in Birmingham the employment rate for non-white adults is only 50.6% (63.1% for the whole population) and their economic inactivity rate is 41.9% (compared to 30.7% overall).
So if you’re black or Pakistani and living in Birmingham – or anywhere else in the UK – you can blame Labour for your economic situation.
And no matter what colour, gender or age you are, if you live in Birmingham, you’re much more likely to be out of work than if you live in many other parts of the country.
The next Government needs to sort this mess out and get people, whatever their ‘demographics’ or background, back into work.
The lessons of Lehman
As Lehman Brothers becomes the biggest business failure in the US, one must remember that entrepreneurship is about risk and reward.
Reward: The employees of Lehman have collectively made hundreds of millions in bonus, and now they’re out on the street looking for new jobs (that includes £4,500 in the UK, ominously). It’s a pity that their bonuses – their rewards for failure, if you like – cannot be clawed bank and handed back to the creditors of Lehman. But such bonuses are cunningly used as an accounting measure to reduce profits and, therefore, corporation tax paid.
Risk: They got it wrong and now they are paying big time for their failure. John McCain is right to describe the financial services sector in the US (AKA Wall Street) as a ‘casino’ – well, the same is true of the City of London’s investment banks. And entrepreneurship can be very much a ‘casino’ if people take extraordinary risks. Or are extraordinarily stupid, as was the case with Lehman.
What does this mean for tax cuts?
I argued on this blog about a year ago that the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), with its brilliant team including Matthew Elliott, Matthew Sinclair and Tim Aker amongst others, has won the argument on tax. Since then,
- Labour made a hamfisted attempt to reduce a tax that it raised in the first place (10p).
- The Conservatives, on the other hand, have about two tax reducing commitments: first, to increase the stamp duty threshold for homeowners from £175k to £250k; and secondly, to increase the inheritance tax threshold to £1m or £2m for married couples. The first favours ordinary people and first-time buyers, and the second largely favours the relatively wealthy (although, as Ian Hislop pointed out on Have I Got News For You, it’s so popular with a large section of the electorate “because they’re going to get the house”).
- The Lib Dems are now the only party that offers tax cuts for the lower paid and middle-income people who are most devastated by the credit crunch. It would have been better had ‘Ozzy’ Osborne ( our next Chancellor of the Exchequer, at only 13 🙂 ) had used those billions to help the poorer and middling sections of society, the true coping classes. This is the obvious next step for the Tories if they are to hold any hope of gaining Lib Dem held seats. While Eastleigh, Solihull and others are in the bag, the Conservatives can forget Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam or Vince Cable’s Twickenham (unless the latter retires as an MP) – people there can vote with their social conscience for the ‘nice liberals’ AND vote for tax cuts.
Tim Aker of TPA points out that:
The Lib Dems have already made a bold stand in putting the case for lower government spending, a move that even outflanks the Conservative message of higher public spending as all part of the ‘sharing’ deal between the government and taxpayer. But the silver bullet in twenty-first-century British politics is staring the Liberal Democrats in the face. In presenting the case for lower taxes on the lowest paid, they should embrace the call to take those in poverty out of income tax by significantly increasing the income tax threshold to the government’s valued level below which poverty begins. Whereas Lady Thatcher locked in the support of the C2 and D voting classes when the government allowed council tenants to buy their own council houses, the same opportunity is there for any party to take the next logical step and to take the poorest out of income tax.
Absolutely spot on, of course, so it is time for the Tories to sit up and listen. It’s all very well being 20 points ahead, but the Lib Dems are still an electoral threat in many places.
Not just that, but it is also morally right to cut taxes on the poorer and middling sections of society who are being skewered by Brownite economic policy and the credit crunch – mortgages, petrol prices, food prices, etc. It is they who elected one of the Tories’ best and most compassionate MPs, Edward Timpson, in Crewe & Nantwich. He is someone whose parents fostered over 30 children and Timpsons is one of the best employers around.
It is time for some compassion on tax too. Now. Or, if not, at least in time for the next general election, which may be sooner than many people expect.
What has this to do with Lehman? Simple. We’re in this mess largely because of the Wall St and City of London ‘casino’, and the Brownian policy vacuum that doesn’t know how to deal with the credit crunch. Ordinary people are suffering – we need to stimulate the economy to ease their financial (and thus emotional) strain, as well as making entrepreneurship attractive, and reviving the housing market. Tax cuts are a good way to start this process.
- Alistair Darling
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