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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thou shalt travel by train

It is rare for me to have a rant on my blog, however, today is going to be one of those days.

There are times I don't know what is happening to my party - the Conservative Party. After the ridiculous proposal of restricting us to one short haul flight a year - a proposal that thankfully has died a death - the review group looking at quality of life issues has decided to try and force us, by means of stealth, to travel in the UK and places in Northern Europe by train, instead of by air.

This review group has been co-chaired by John Gummer (or seldom glummer as he has been called in the past) and millionaire 'eco-warrior' Zak Goldsmith. If - like them - you live in London or the South-East, it is very easy to jump on a train at Waterloo and three hours later arrive in Paris. It is not so easy for us 'up north' who have to catch a train to London, then cross London, and then catch a train to Paris. I want to get to Paris quickly and not take all day over it. That is my freedom of choice and it is not the job of government to restrict my choices. It will give the rail industry an unfair advantage over the airline industry and perhaps put some airlines out of business. Put simply, this whole idea is bonkers. I'm sure Zak Goldsmith has a few things in common with fellow 'eco-warrior' Al Gore. Both are rich men and both enjoy travelling the world - by air - telling us we shouldn't. David Cameron, unfortunately, falls in to the same category.

This is the party of freedom of choice. This is the party of less regulation. This is the party of business and enterprise. Thankfully the majority of us Conservatives still believe in these values and these proposals will be 'kicked out' at the party conference in a few weeks' time.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What has happened to Britain?

This is the question that is on many peoples lips today. What sort of a society do we live in where a teenager on a BMX bike rides up to an eleven year old boy, shoots and kills him and then rides away again? There is no apparent motive for the killing of Rhys Jones. He was - so we are told - just an ordinary eleven year old boy whose big passion in life was football and Everton Football Club.

Britain is at a genuine crossroads today. A knife and gun culture is virulent in our cities and children are being killed on a far too regular basis. The solutions to these problems are not simple, yet there is a danger of thinking the problems are so insurmountable that society sits back in a state of inertia. Action is what is needed, however, society has to be ready to act.

I am discovering that life as a parent is not an easy task. I seem to be either too soft or too hard and of course how you discipline a child all depends on your mood at the time. I was always in favour of smacking, using the argument that it never did me any harm, but I have been persuaded by the other argument of 'you can't say violence is wrong and then discipline your child by using violence.' Plus, you are more likely to smack a child when you are in a bad mood. If you were in a better mood there is more chance you would deal with the situation in a calmer and reasoned way, which would be better for you and your child. All you can do is instill in to them what is right and what is wrong; to be open minded and fair; and to treat others with the respect they would want themselves. There are too many children who do not receive this nurture and it is hardly surprising that many feel so undervalued that they join a gang where they feel a valued member.

At the crossroads we are at now we have to start collectively demanding action from politicians and the judiciary. The police are undermanned and under resourced. There needs to be a vast increase in the number of police officers and they need to be seen. When Rudolph Guliani - the former Mayor of New York - was first elected, it was on a mandate of action. New Yorkers were sick of crime and the mayor increased police numbers and made sure the courts handed out tougher sentences. If you commit a crime you are now more likely to be caught and you know you won't just get a wrap around the knuckles and told to go away and sin no more. The net result of this approach was to vastly reduce crime in New York. Ray Mallon - former police superintendent - did the same in Middlesbrough. He is still a popular man and the electorate there have re-elected him as their mayor. It can be done - it just needs the will.

The breakup of society starts in the home. It then spreads in to the local community where children feel they are not wanted and the lawful majority are terrorised by gangs. We all have a part to play as parents, relations, family friends and citizens in making sure our children are loved and valued; taught right from wrong and are disciplined. However when that fails, politicians have a duty to us, and that is the crossroads where Gordon Brown is at the moment. More and more of us are calling for action and the choices facing the prime minister are simple. We want more police officers and they need to be visible. We want punishments that fit the crime. We want an education system that does not fail our children. We want teachers free to teach and not have to constantly think about the next round of national tests and what position the school will be on a league table. Perhaps then our kids will be more numerate and literate. We want action and we have to collectively voice that. If we do there is a chance Mr Brown and his government will heed our call. There is a way to make this country a better and safer place. Don't just sit back and twiddle your thumbs.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Congratulations to Durham CCC


As a member of Durham County Cricket Club, you can imagine my delight at the result from Lords' at the weekend. We went out there from the first over and set the tone of the game. We always looked in control and richly deserved our victory. Congratulation to all the boys. This is our first piece of silverware and hopefully it will be the first of many.

The true cost of Quangos

An interesting article in The Times today shocked me as to how much Quangos cost. I have always regarded them as jobs - if that's what you want to call them - for those who have their noses in the trough. It reminds me of the 'Yes Minister' episode entitled 'Jobs for the Boys.' If you haven't seen this episode you can probably guess what the writers and I think of Quasi Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisations!

There is a wider issue however and that is just how much waste there is in government. Successive governments try - and by and large succeed - in extracting more cash out of its citizens and as the huge bureaucratic machine plods along we never really know just how much of our money is wasted.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks that tax cuts will take money out of the economy. If this sums up his basic grasp of economics, then God help us all, however if incompetence was the basic criterion for removal as a government minister, there would be virtually no-one left in government at all.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Interest rates are high enough

John Redwood is calling for lower interest rates worldwide. I totally agree. After the stock market plummeted last Thursday, I was left thinking the Bank of England have been getting it wrong in raising interests rates of late; something I have thought for some time. As soon as the US Federal Reserve lowered the rate at which it lends to banks, the markets rose again. Interests rates are high enough. We cannot risk a recession. This is the wake up call we have to heed.

Are the Tories' lurching to the right?

So, the Conservative Party is lurching to the right then? Is that the only response Labour and the Liberal Democrats can come up with?

I am sure I am not the only person who thinks John Redwood has not gone far enough in his report and I am sure John Redwood thinks the same. Scrapping Inheritance Tax is hardly lurching to the right; it is simply getting rid of a tax that is unfair. It is unfair to tax someone throughout their lives and then when they die, tax their estate as well. A lurch to the right?

Why not abolish the ridiculous tax credit system? This rather sums up Labour. When you have the option of raising the personal tax allowance, thereby allowing individuals and families to spend as they like without the state getting involved, they choose a system of taking tax out of peoples' pay packets and then through a huge monstrous bureaucracy, give most of it back again and tell us they are doing us a favour. Why not double - at least - the personal allowance and get millions out of the tax system? Why not scrap child benefit and target the money to families who really need it? Why not trust the British public to spend their money themselves rather than thinking the government know how to spend it better? This is the way to allow the economy to grow and create more jobs. This will in turn mean more money for the treasury which will help fund essential services. Is this a lurch to the right? It is simply allowing us to get on with our lives, rather than have it controlled from Whitehall. A lurch to the side of common sense I think.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I am getting married!

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. Becky and I went on holiday to Paris for a few days at the end of July and got engaged in a very plush Michelin starred restaurant. Quite naturally, we had a wonderful time in the most romantic city in the world. After that the three of us went to visit some friends in Normandy and had a great time there too. We have been back for just over a week and somehow I have not got around to doing any blogging. Hopefully I can now get back in to the swing of things again.

I read an interview today with Cllr Carl Minns, Leader of Hull City Council. Some of the Labour boys in the city are sniping at him, but I think we all know this is sour grapes after the election drubbing they received in May. I know I have criticised Carl on this blog in the past, but I have to say I think he has done a good job under exceptional pressure. His comments to the national media that Hull was the forgotten city after the recent floods, raised the profile of the city and got the prime minister to visit Hull, along with other senior members of the government. So, credit where credit is due, and to those having a pop at him - could you have done any better?

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