Friday, December 15, 2006

Intellectual rigor

I can’t decide whether Girls Aloud’s condemnation of Cameron is a good or a bad thing. But then again how could anybody question the kind of intellectual rigor displayed by Cheryl Tweedy:

"You know that basically Labour is the working class and the Conservatives are kind of upper class, and then everything else is... I have no idea,"
Um, OK.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

18 Doughty Street debut

I’ll be on 18 Doughty Street tonight at 10pm. We’ll be discussing ConservativeHome’s recommendations for year two of project Cameron. Should be quite interesting, in particular I’m looking forward to discussing point nine:

Year 2(9): Management of the Policy Group reports

Recommendation 9: It is vital that the party anticipates the difficulties that are going to be presented by the gap of time between the Policy Reviews reporting and the
leadership deciding which recommendations to embrace. Team Cameron have reacted quickly to the Tax and Social Justice reports – shunning one and embracing the other. Will they be able to react so quickly in future? If not, how will they deal with the Labour offensive against more controversial policy group recommendations that may need some defence?
To this I would add that more should be done to prevent un-conservative recommendations such as the 35-hour week proposal.

Tea and Tony

I should probably say something about Tony’s chat with the police. But I think the fact he avoided being interviewed under caution speaks volumes already.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tory in the Wilderness of... London

I'll be in London tomorrow so posting may be a bit thin on the ground. I really need to get a laptop with wireless.

Lets remove competition from the job market

Just read an astonishing post by Iain Dale highlighting the LibDem MP Sandra Gidley’s call for school sports days to be done away with. I remember being one of the children she refers to who are last in line to get picked for a sports team etc. But it didn’t destroy my self esteem, rather it taught me that if I wanted to get picked for a team I had to train harder, get fitter, become better. This lesson carried over to other areas of my life, in particular my academic activities. I am thankful for the lessons competitive sport in school taught me.

I’m not saying that competitive sport has the same effect on all children; indeed for some it is a terrible experiece. However in life there are winners and losers. Competition is a part of our everyday lives; we compete to get jobs, we compete when we are in our jobs. The sooner children are introduced to competition the more ready they will be to deal with it in their adult lives.
Although perhaps Sandra Gidley would rather competition was removed from the job market as well; after all we wouldn’t want to damage the self-esteem of those who are unsuccessful. Besides, do we really need the best people doing the job – isn’t that just elitist?!?

Lost in Translation

BBC News 24 had a segment last night (there is a related article online) on the cost incurred by the public sector when providing translation services to people who don’t speak English. The grand total (although I should probably say shameful total) was £100m. Uncharacteristically the BBC highlighted the folly of such expenditure; it creates a disincentive for non-English speaks to learn English. The BBC interviewed two immigrants, one resident in the UK for two years, the other for 22 years; neither of them could speak English. Both indicated that the translation services provided by their local councils etc removed any reason for them to learn English.

For me however the parallels between the provision of translation services, and the provision of welfare are too important for us to ignore. If translation services remove the incentive for immigrants to speak English, is it really that surprising that welfare removes the incentive for people to work? After all, if you pay a person more to sit at home and do nothing than they could earn for doing an honest day’s work, is it surprising that so many people choose to rely on welfare rather than on themselves?

Welfare is a trap. A gilded trap perhaps, but a trap nevertheless.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Iran’s unrelenting aversion to peaceful coexistence

Tony Blair’s acknowledgment that Iran is a ‘major threat’ comes as no major surprise. We have after all been aware of the danger Iran poses to international peace and security for some time. The recent conference questioning the holocaust is simply another provocative move by an increasingly confrontational rogue state.

Iran’s anti-Israeli (indeed anti-Jewish) stance has not abated any with the passing of time. The venom behind President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call for Israel to be wiped off the map is as evident now as it was in 2005. We would do well to constantly remind ourselves of the seriousness with which this threat is made.

Given Iran’s unrelenting aversion to peaceful coexistence, it is worth recalling the remark made by Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s earlier this year that “military intervention might have to be considered”.

In this vein I reiterate the need to keep the military option in play.

Back from Brussels

I am now back from Brussels and ready to get back to blogging. As it happens Ireland didn’t invade Luxemburg whilst I was away.

On another note I didn’t realise how much of a welfare state Belgium is. For example I learnt, to my astonishment, that Belgians on welfare are entitlement to ‘holiday money’ once a year. It would seem things aren’t so bad in the UK after all (of course that doesn’t mean things could be described in any way as being acceptable).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Off to Brussels

I will be in Brussels (enjoying the Christmas markets) until next Tuesday, and have decided to take a break from blogging until I return.

No doubt in the intervening period Tony Blair will be questioned under caution, Gordon Brown will launch a coup whilst Blair is ‘helping the police with their enquiries’, Polly Toynbee will be announced as the new Chairman of the Conservative Party, a new tax on breathing will be announced, and, who knows, Ireland will invade Luxembourg.

A leviathon in sheep's clothing

Let’s overlook for a moment what the Chancellor’s pre-budget report has brought the Great British public (£2.2bn more in taxation), and instead address the following. If I said to you, without any elaboration, I was delivering a ‘pre-budget report’, what would you think I was doing? Would it be:

a) Delivering a mini-budget raising taxes overall, whilst leaving you with the impression I had actually reduced taxation; or

b) Delivering a report, which does not alter the current level of taxation in any way, prior to the budget in the coming year

Personally I think the name ‘pre-budget report’ gives the impression the latter should be happening. Of course in the world of New Labour, nothing is as it seems (it just wouldn’t do to be straight forward with people).

So there we have it, the pre-budget report; a leviathan in sheep’s clothing.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Better to have and not need, than need and not have

Tony Blair’s commitment to retaining nuclear weapons is probably the best decision he has made in the… well, in a very long time. The problem with the argument made by the majority of critics is that their opposition to the replacement of Trident focuses far too much on the short term. Whilst a need for a British nuclear deterrent may not be immediately apparent, the same may not be true in 20, 30 or 50 years. Liam Fox hit the nail on the head:

"We don't know what we will face [in 2025]. One thing we know is that you can't suddenly conjure up a nuclear deterrent if you require it."

With rising threats in the Far East, not to mention the potential for nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, it is more important than ever than we retain a nuclear force.

My only concern with Tony Blair’s current position is his indication that a reduction in the number of submarines is being considered, along with a 20% reduction in the number of warheads. Let’s hope these statements are there simply to placate critics, and that they will never be acted on.

As for the ruling-out of a transfer to a land-based nuclear weapons system, Tony Blair should again be commended. The whole point of a purely submarine based system is that our enemies remain constantly in the dark as to where our nuclear weapons are; thus reminding them that a nuclear attack on the UK, even the utter destruction of the UK, will not prevent an immediate and overwhelming retaliation.

As for Ming the Meaningless’ position on the Trident debate, I believe it’s a case of the less said the better.

Put simply, nuclear weapons are very much like the military generally. It is better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Back to blogging

I have returned to the wilderness of Northern Ireland (although not for long) and will get back to blogging tomorrow.

In short though, the news about the apparent grassroots rebellion is disturbing, although not surprising. That said I continue to maintain that Cameron’s poverty speech may indicate a firm, albeit implicit, commitment to conservative values. However the more an overtly leftist message is communicated to the electorate, the more difficult it becomes to deliver sound conservative policy in the event that Cameron becomes the next Prime Minister.

Moving to the Trident debate, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s commitment to replacing the current system should be welcomed. The very idea of doing away with our nuclear deterrent is deeply disturbing. Also disturbing though is the possibility that our current number of warheads may be reduced.