Friday 24 January 2014

UK Politics: A way out of this mess

It has been noticed that I kick Ukip an awful lot.  It's so unfair isn't it?  But no party gets a free pass from me.  Stupidity is never excused because I like the colour of the rosette it wears.

I don't write much in condemnation of Labour.  There is little point, because I'm crediting my readers as already having basic common sense - and would not be reading this if they had not.  And why rage at the sky for being blue?  That said, it's time to stick the boot in on the Tories.

I've not said all that much on this subject because I'm watching with a close eye while I forge my conclusions.  But here is what I see:  Back in 2004, I was among the many who could see that the Cameron Project to detoxify "the brand" was doomed to failure (as if turning politics into brand competition was ever going to do politics any favours).  Asset stripping the party of its most basic founding principles in favour of chasing the Guardian vote was a tactical blunder, and a huge slap in the face to anyone who considered themselves naturally conservative.  Where else would they go but Ukip?

Much was then said of the "Ukip effect" on Tory marginal seats, which is what produced the defeat in the polls for Cameron - as many said it would.  The dynamic was not the appeal of Ukip, but the revulsion to Cameron.  Along with A-lists and a a total disregard for grass-roots level activity, Cameron made a lot of enemies.  Those who did not vote Ukip simply stayed at home on polling day. 

Senior local Tories at the time told me they needed Cameron in order to win elections.  Except that he did not win, thus we have a coalition.  But that coalition has been largely dominated by the Tories with the Lib-dems becoming increasingly insignificant as each day passes, yet that has not stopped the Tories hiding behind them as an excuse for their timidity and lack of purpose.  It's baloney.  Can you honestly tell me that a Cameron majority government would be more red-blooded?  I doubt it.  We have not seen radicalism of any kind, anywhere.  We have seen fringe adjustments dressed up as reform, but nothing that gets the blood pumping and certainly nothing that inspires us for the future.

The economic miracle recovery could better be described as bumping-along-the-bottom, held aloft by a misplaced sense of optimism, based on flawed and phoney statistics.  Then lately, we have seen Gove and IDS stealing the clothes of radical, principled conservatives, but in the main, the state school system and the welfare empire remain largely in tact.

I have been somewhat moved to give two cheers to IDS, since dismantling the welfare empire cannot be done with a wrecking ball.  It must be done slowly and carefully, because those on welfare are not just numbers on a page.  They are people.  Welfarism took 40 years to mature into the monster it is today and will not be rolled back in the space of one or even two parliaments (much though I would wish otherwise), especially without a firm mandate.

That said, I have no particular confidence that even with a mandate they will put their foot on the gas.  The latest Tory wheeze is to boast their proud achievements via this website in which its calculator boasts that it has reduced my income tax by a staggering £150.  A somewhat extraordinary boast to make to someone who sees tens of thousands removed from their wage annually.  This government has apparently "Saved" me £182 a year on petrol by "freezing Fuel Duty".  Not cutting.  But "freezing".  How is that a saving exactly?  Who is dumb enough to buy this crap?  Nobody.  That's why voter turnouts are so low.

They also boast they have reduced crime by 21% in Avon & Somerset - "making your community safer.".  Of course it's easy to reduce crime figures if you don't bother to investigate crime and you're making the numbers up.  The Tories take us for fools.

Meanwhile, they have successfully framed the economic debate in terms of "deficit reduction", again by fiddling the figures, to proudly tell us that they have marginally slowed the rate of borrowing - which says nothing of the trillion or so in national debt and the gaping trade imbalance.  And for what little good has been done by the Conservative cabinet, it is undermined whenever the PM opens his mouth.

So this leaves us with few choices.  If one is to vote, one can either cast a vote for the ideas-free Ukip clowns or hold ones nose and vote Tory, largely because the country cannot take any more economic or social vandalism by Labour.  What chance have we at all when the best option going is to only to slow the rate of decay by a fraction?

The Tories offer no great vision for the future.  They are as bereft of ideas as all the other parties.  The Tories are not reducing tax so that one might notice.  Nor are they reducing the size of the state.  They are merely reducing public ownership of an expanding state.  My vision of a Conservative future is one of a real "Big Society", whereby government only fills the void charity leaves behind rather than vice-versa.  We see some aspects of this in the rise of food banks, but the charity sector is still hamstrung by red tape, and cannot grow to fill the vaccuum while taxes remain eyewateringly high.

Essentially, what we will end up under the Tories is a Serco-G4S corporate-state, where we pay top whack for services which we then do not receive, while paying twice in order for charities to do what little they can.  All the while, the real private sector stuggles under the mounting regulatory expenses and taxes.  To lay waste to the claim that the Tory party is a party of enterprise, one need only look at local business rates and employment law.  Can you blame the public for their "voter apathy"? 

This leaves us staring across the table at one another, wondering how far we have to fall before we can turn this around.  What we need is a revolution in politics.  But that is not what is on offer, not even by Ukip or the Greens.  What these parties have usefully demonstrated is that playing the party game, by establishment rules, produces the same lamentable outcomes as ever they have.  This is why we have to stop playing their games by their rules.

The process of voting is merely the asking of the establishment if we may please have a little influence in who governs us and how.  That speaks to our collective lack of aspiration.  I want more.  I want to take the power from them, and we can only do that by challenging their authority and removing their means to control us; our money.  If you are paying their wages, you are part of the problem.  Tax evasion is not a crime.  It is now a civic duty.

A general strike among the labour force would scarcely be noticed (were it even achievable), but to deprive them of their money, even for just a month, would force them to the table.  This is what a real taxpayers union would be working toward.  But instead that hole in politics is occupied by the Uncle Tom "Taxpayer's Alliance" which is essentially a Tory-boy think tank; a subservient, grovelling safety valve for "protest" but still essentially shills for the establishment, and always ready with a rent-a-quote for our dismal local media.  We have to bypass them altogether.

I'm afraid there is no glory in the coming revolution.  There is no paid internship in a think-tank, there is no cushy public office or a newspaper column - and there is no media exposure.  The death of this regime will be a death by a thousand pinpricks, from individuals each acting in their own capacity, by their own initiative, each using their wits to play the system.  And this is your blueprint right here.  This is how we force them to the table and that's when they will have to listen to us.  It is then we shall demand The Harrogate Agenda.

Ukip: A party that stands for nothing

Ukip:  The self-ridiculing party
And so it begins.  I have maintained for some time that the tabloid media was building up Farage only to knock him down when he ceased to be useful.  The steady torrent of publicity has now turned into a gradual drip of embarrassments for the party.  The biggest embarrassment yet is not the bizarre behaviour of it's ever more absurd representatives.  In this instance, it is the party's own manifesto.

When told what was on the Ukip website, Mr Farage said: ‘When it comes to websites, I’m not the expert.’ "He also claimed not to know about a compulsory dress code for taxi drivers and proposal to repaint trains." says the Mail.

Let us just digest that for a moment.  A party website is the closest thing in politics you can get to a shop window.  As much as it is your portal to the public, it is also a primary resource for activists.  If the party leader is not familiar with the content of his own website, what then can be said of his competence?  Here we have a leader who doesn't even know what his own party stands for.  Hardly surprising then that his followers don't either.

Moreover, Farage has effectively disowned his own party, because a great many Ukippers do actually think like this.  Just read the Daily Telegraph comments on any given day should someone so much as whisper the words "European Union". Farage has also admitted he has no idea what he has been fighting for since 2010.  All we have is the vague ambition of leaving the EU, without any notion of how, or what we will replace it with.

I wish not to dwell on the contents of the manifesto itself.  Who has that kind of time to waste?  But with a cursory inspection you can see it's an infantile wish-list of diktats and directives that lay waste to any claims that Ukip is a libertarian party.  Strip away these juvenile, cringe-worthy ideas and what remains simply hasn't stood the test of time.  It is a rag bag of parish-council suggestions box submissions, written with an Ikea pencil on a piece of torn up notepaper.  I'm not surprised Farage wishes to disown the manifesto.  I certainly would.  But then how did this nonsense make it as far as the website in the first place?  Somebody in the Ukip high command evidently thought they were credible ideas.

I have not made any friends by saying Farage is a lightweight who will crumble under scrutiny, but yet again, my predictions are coming true.  As we approach the euro-elections, and the prospect of leaving the EU is openly talked about, eyes will fall upon Ukip as to how credible their alternative is.  And it hasn't got one.  Now Farage is in the position of abandoning the party manifesto, and so until such a time as they produce a new one (sometime in the next 18 months, we are told), Ukip is making it up as it goes along.  Does this sound like a serious party to you?

Here is another prediction.  The next Ukip manifesto will not be a set of principles or a blueprint for a new Britain based on a philosophy.  It will be yet another rag-bag of updated suggestions box scribblings, cobbled together with a fact-free, fantasy-land exit plan.  Just for once I would like to be wrong but I fear Ukip will implode before then.  A house built on sand cannot stand.

Sunday 19 January 2014

The death of euroscepticism

I need not go to any lengths to qualify myself as a euro-sceptic. I find the Tories deceptions on the EU as crass and distasteful as any Ukiper. But I cannot support that party. The dogmatic and rude behavior of its members is a huge turn off. Just lately I had Ukipers accuse me of being a "europhile Marxist" for daring to criticise Nigel Farage. These are not serious people and they are not on the same planet as the rest of us.

I also know that Ukip is not a winning party. I have maintained for a long time that populism has a glass ceiling in terms of appeal, and the more you go down that line, the uglier it becomes. Ukipers used to suspect infiltrators sabotaging the party, but now the other parties don't need to bother. Ukip does that all by itself.

But then Ukip is a cul-de-sac anyway. It's unique selling point is EU withdrawal but has nothing to offer in place of it. Sure, they have policies but they are along the same old tired lines of spend a bit more here, spend a bit less there, with some other fringe tinkerings without any intellectual substance. It has no coherent overarching vision.

If you were to listen to the mood music, there is a strong desire for fundamental change in the UK. But Ukip is not that fundamental change. I have said it many times, but most Ukipers think that EU withdrawal alone will take us to sunlit uplands. This is not grown up politics.

Thirty years of integration is not undone over night, and isolationism is not an option, nor is the scorched earth libertarian view of letting the chips fall where they may. In many cases international regulation is not a barrier to trade, but a facilitator. What matters is having a voice in who makes it and how.

But aside from the technical minutia which seems beyond the grasp of the average Ukiper, there is an appetite not just for change, but for a revolution. Just about anyone I talk to thinks the current regime is running as much on borrowed time as it is borrowed money. Yet not one single party is offering real change or offering us a real voice in how we are governed - and who we are governed by. Nobody has a blueprint for a new society, nor a means to achieve it. Unless such is on offer, I cannot see myself moved to vote for anyone. We need fresh ideas based on a coherent philosophy, not a rag-bag of reactionary policies with no connecting thread.

We are never going to arrive at a set of policies that everyone can get behind - and that is why no new party can ever win. This is why we have a political process, to hammer out compromise. The problem being that the process we have no longer works and is corrupted beyond redemption. We need a new framework for governance and an agenda for change.

However, such will be achieved not by the ballot box. Too many have a vested interest in maintaining the status-quo. It will come about through becoming ungovernable, as I have set upon with this A&S Police trial. (which most of you couldn't be any less interested in, and would rather "re-tweet" Nigel Farage if he so much as farts).

My view is that they cannot spend what they do not have, and frustrating their means of collecting funds gives us more power than any vote does. Shouting at one another over Twitter and forming tribes behind celebrity politicians is more part of the problem than the solution.

It is for this reason, I am rooting for a total implosion of the Ukip vote (which is inevitable at this rate), and I will do what I can to help bring it forth, so that something worthwhile can rise from the ashes. What we want is real democracy, where we are listened to, we run our own affairs and we say how much of our money they can take - and what they can spend it on. A vision whereby leaving the EU is not the end in itself, more a necessary stepping stone on the way to something bigger and better. The EU will die of its own accord eventually but without something to fill the vacuum, we won't enjoy any greater freedom.

This is why most of my efforts will be directed at The Harrogate Agenda from here on in, and we have an interesting year ahead of us.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Welfare state: A fascist ideology

This video is interesting. Lefties like to tell me that without the welfare state, there would be no welfare at all. But here, Beveridge says that the creation of the welfare state was to be an amalgamation and confiscation of existing welfare provisions. Essentially it was the monopoly nationalisation of independent and municipal welfare to bring about the post-war utopian socialist vision.

The very same was done to our utilities, transport, manufacturing and housing. It was a fascist ideology from the outset; the blueprint for the social component in Le Corbusier's planned society, where the needs and desires of people as human animals were secondary to their craven lust for order, directed from the centre.  

If you find elements of this video at all reminiscent of the propaganda films from Hitler's 1930's nation-building programme, you shouldn't be at all surprised. They are essentially the same thing: Confiscation of private assets, forced nationalisations, state-directed capitalism and repression of individual rights, with power wielded only by a select few, who thought only they knew what was best for us. Sadly, much of that mentality in our rulers survives today.

The NHS and the welfare state are the last dominoes to fall in the dismantling of this grotesque, failed experiment. The folly of mass social housing is behind us, along with the dead hand of socialism on our manufacturing, and the writing is on the wall for the bloated and decaying NHS. But the damage wrought by welfarism will last for generations to come. We can privatise industry and we can bulldoze the tower blocks, but sixty years of social programming is not so easily undone, even with rapid cuts to welfare.  The mindset is still spoon-fed to children through state run schools.  All the more reason why we do need Free-schools, so that we may be free of this cancer forever.

Polly: A masterclass in stupidity.

Toynbee:  Dogshit for brains.
Polly T is a colossal wheeze this morning!
"This realm of squalor and exploitation seemed all but abolished by the 1970s after decades of government building under Attlee, Macmillan and Wilson."
Oh you mean the damp, concrete tower blocks that smashed up long standing communities and forced everyone to live like lab rats in a vertical filing cabinet, that became hotbeds of mugging, murder and rape?

More Romanians please!


Just watching episode 2 of Benefit Street. I can REALLY see why the left are so keen to silence Channel 4. It shows the Romanians as motivated, resilient, enterprising, daring and optimistic, willing to take on more hardship if it advances their chances of finding work and improving their lives. A far cry from the attitudes of a white, English, obese, idle slob sitting on the sofa complaining about the lack of opportunity.

That's the problem with Brits. They'd sooner settle for their state subsidised poverty; Too cosseted and entitled to take a risk - and too selfish to get off their bottoms. THAT is why we need a war on welfare. Brits need shaking out of their complacency.

This is offensive to the Left because the notion that you can shape your own future with effort, sacrifice and enterprise (as demonstrated by immigrants) runs counter to the left wing narrative that we are all helpless victims who couldn't survive without the dead hand of welfare. Little wonder they hate it.

I expect those Romanians will be quite well off in ten years time, while that pile of stale lard is still sitting on her sofa, sucking on her NHS oxygen tank, complaining how little she gets from "the government". This programme exposes what the left would rather keep as their dirty little secret. Channel 4 deserves our gratitude for shining a light on their bankrupt ideology.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Owen Jones: Paternalistic Malthusian psychopath?

Jones: Twisted sociopath?
Here is a classic example of why I so thoroughly dislike Owen Jones. He makes some entirely valid points about landlords getting rich off the system, and in-work benefits subsidising corporates to pay low wages. I have made those very same points myself - frequently. But Jones is holding the producer of the programme responsible for the reaction to it when anyone who has viewed it objectively can see that nothing has been fabricated. These are adults speaking in their own words.

Jones states this is not a honest portrayal of life in modern Britain. It is true that the producers have gone looking for the very worst aspects of life on benefits, but not at any time did the programme attempt to sell us the notion that it was. What this points to is a patronising, paternalistic mentality that we are not capable of making up our own minds, evidenced by a handful of morons on Twitter. What else would you expect to find on Twitter exactly? And that is quintessentially the leftist mindset, that we unenlightened masses must be protected from controversial influences that may lead us to disagree with what our intellectual betters are telling us.

He repeatedly trots out the mantra that only 0.7% of the welfare budget is fraud. I don't dispute this number. But that is only what the state considers fraud.  That is not the figure of those taking from the system when not in acute need. In that regard Jones should be careful what he wishes for when he states that more focus should go on those in work and claiming benefits.  Because when you add up the perks and discounts, we would see working people in receipt of state assistance who are by most people's standards comfortably off. As much as that provokes an envious and bitter reaction among those who decline to be a client of the state, what these benefits do is enable people to continue making poor life choices without considering or suffering the consequences. That is not just unfair. It's amoral.

I know of an individual, who I shall not name, but have made my feelings known to him, who has been on welfare most of his life, has only in the last two years held down any kind of job, under 15 hours (deliberately so to avoid losing benefits), who has now decided to have a child with his girlfriend, who will no doubt require extra state assistance - and he has done so without any financial planning. He hasn't even secured proper dwellings and has saved nothing for a rent deposit. Meanwhile, the fiscally responsible working class defer such decisions until such a time as it can properly be afforded, with proper regard to the grave consequences of bringing a child into the world.

There is every probability that this child will experience the kind of poverty demonstrated on the Channel Four programme - and that child will be the product of the welfare system. This is not a recent phenomenon. My good and dear friends from Bradford can testify that we have seen this for more than a decade, not just in isolated cases either; it's an epidemic, and it is self-perpetuating.

What is prevalent among both the working poor and those featured on the programme, is a deep rooted feeling that the welfare payments are not enough, yet I am routinely told there isn't a problem with a culture of entitlement. These people do not have the first inclination that it is OUR money, not "the government's" money.

I have had people coming to this page seeking to deny the scale of the problem by performing some clever statistical gymnastics, and manage to reduce the number who have never worked to around a million people. That says nothing of the number of people who bounce in and out of jobs but in the main spend the majority of their time out of work and on welfare. (There is no real way of accounting for this.) But it is not an insignificant number, nor is one million for that matter. Depending which metric you look at, anywhere between 35% and 50% of the workforce is touched by the dead hand of welfare, with almost a third of the budget going to households whose total income is above the national average. How is that right?

All these voices playing games with the statistics are seeking to maintain the status-quo and pretend there isn't a problem with our twisted welfare system - and it escapes me why they would. We are not a nation of incapables and we are not victims. But our system makes us so. What we have here is a welfare system that has suffered mission creep, and now has its tentacles in just abut every aspect of our lives - and it is becoming increasingly difficult to shut the state out of our private affairs.

As we, as a nation, become more dependent on welfare, we give more of a licence for the state to pry into our lives, scrutinise, judge and coerce behaviour and it shuts down our ability to make adult choices in our own lives. It is through this system we will surrender our liberty and potential in exchange for a welfare handout and a CCTV camera installed in our living rooms.

I ask of you welfarists; is this really the height of your ambition for humanity? That we train ourselves to be helpless serfs to be looked after by our betters? To have wise men like Owen Jones deciding what we are mature enough to watch on television? To have David Cameron dictating what we can view on the internet? Jamie Oliver setting the rules on what is permissibly healthy food? And the rest of the politicians deciding our needs for us?

I am both puzzled and dismayed that a man like Owen Jones, who can see as well as I the failings of the system, is leading the chorus of voices in defence of the status-quo. Why is this? I have attempted to ask him via Twitter and Facebook, but he has blocked me each time. I'm approaching this issue with a view to breaking the grip of the welfare state on our lives and helping people out of the cycle of dependency, and allowing them to realise their potential. I don't think Jones and the others seek that. He sees "the poor" as inferiors in need of his munificent protection; they who have not the ability to rise above their designated station in life. That is a sickening and twisted view of humanity.

Friday 10 January 2014

Welfare: Where do we go from here?

Channel 4's "Benefits Street" shone a torch in a very dark corner of modern Britain. And a lot of people are not very happy about it.  If you are reading this, you are familiar with the arguments on both sides and I have made my feelings quite clear on this blog and elsewhere.  So rather than rehashing the same ancient arguments we need to ask where do we go from here?  All but the most bone-headed leftists would argue that the status-quo is acceptable.  So on what do we all agree?

Despite wailing to the contrary, I don't think any rational person would say that the lives depicted in the programme were fabrications.  Perhaps what we see represents the worst of the welfare class, but we have all seen this in our own towns and cities.  We all on some level experience the consequences of it.  It has an impact on our quality of life and does little for theirs either.  It isn't right that in a first world, developed economy that anyone lives like this.  I think we can all agree that these people represent a failure of ours and we share a collective responsibility for this.

We can also agree that these people do need help.  But what kind of help?  And how do we deliver it?  We had a failing welfare system in the Thatcher years and under Blair the very worst aspects of that system had the volume dial turned up to eleven.  Now we reap what we have sown.

For all the condemnation the Tory welfare reform programme, we are not seeing any major deviation from the norm.  We are still looking at policy dictated by Whitehall, administered through our local authorities which are little more than regional agency offices of the central state, fronted by job centres that work on the same principles they always have. Claimants must report to the state fortnightly to justify their existence to a lowly public servant to receive their benefits, and what is presented in the interview is run through a series of centrally derived set of criteria, rather than the intuition of a living, breathing human being.

The horror stories we hear of unfair sanctions and absurd medical assessments are not the product of an "evil Tory attack on the vulnerable".  This is certainly nothing new and it's disingenuous to pretend that it is.  I worked in a DLA appeals office in the 90's and the benefit stoppages were equally absurd then.  This is merely the product of an inhuman system designed specifically to remove humans from the decision making process.  It is a bloated, creaking system run for its own convenience rather than to serve those who pay for it.  Without addressing the fundamental structural flaw, no amount of reform can ever bring about a system that cares, because bureaucratic computerised systems can no more be caring than the chair I am presently sitting on.

We hear much of the growing disparity of wealth in the UK and the gaping North-South divide.  We acknowledge this, yet we are still wedded to the idea of a one size fits all welfare policy.  This makes no sense.  What is not enough to live on in London, is a sustainable income in Yorkshire.  The every day expenses are significantly cheaper.  The pint that costs four pounds in London costs little over two in Bradford.  The equivalent taxi journey of home into town costs £20 in Bristol but a mere £6 in Bradford. 

So if we acknowledge there is an economic disparity, we must adapt our welfare policy to meet the reality. There may be an under-occupancy problem in London that requires a bedroom tax, but to suggest there is a shortage of homes in Wales and the North East is risible. It follows then that the welfare state is not fit for purpose and never will be. By continuing to pay national rates we are in effect overpaying people to remain on welfare and trapping them where they are.

Last summer, the BBC ran a magazine discussion piece entitled The unbearable sadness of the Welsh valleys, in which is brings to light the "recent studies" showing the number of prescriptions for mental illness drugs.  You don't need to be a professor of sociology to understand why.
"A quarter of working-age adults are on benefits - male unemployment is more than double the British average. Among the economically inactive, the students and the homemakers and the sick, a far higher proportion in Blaenau Gwent say they would like employment than across the country as a whole. These communities are desperate for work."
I urge you to read the whole piece. The piece paints a fairly accurate picture. Not entirely satisfied with what I read, I drove up to Cwm (which I am informed is pronounced "Coom") to see it for myself. It's the sort of place you would never drive through intentionally. There is an A road on the old railway line that cuts it off from civilisation and you would have to have business there to go there deliberately - so the outside world barely intrudes. Twice I was asked if I was a journalist by way of having an SLR camera on me. 

It seems the only visitors they get are journalists looking for tales of deprivation and woe. A lady I spoke to in the local shop said that "round here people have kids to get more money off the benefits", and from her other observations it seems the welfare class have become particularly savvy when it comes to navigating the benefit system. Once the rumour gets round that depression is classed as a disability, that means you no longer have to make tiresome journeys to sign on, and it quickly becomes the norm. (That is not to say that living in a Welsh welfare slum isn't depressing.)

But this is what I hate especially about the welfare state. It means we can turn our backs on the problem and warehouse these people, and salve our collective guilt with the knowledge that we pay their welfare through our taxes. This is not good enough. This is an abdication of our responsibilities as human beings. Allowing people to fester in the back hills to live miserable, degrading lives in real poverty is unacceptable.

The causes are more of mindset than actual access to jobs. The valleys are peppered with industrial estates, the public transport is half decent and there are plenty of rail links to Newport and Cardiff - both of which are less than an hours drive away. The poverty is poverty of the mind.  If you tell people they are helpless incapables for long enough, eventually, they will believe it. Residents complain of the lack of local jobs (while, ironically, sat in deserted working men's clubs) but the residents must learn that the jobs are not going to come to them, and for that they need to get out. 

Cwm is similar to a dozen other places in the region. These are dead-end (literally) village-towns reliant of welfare, which is entirely self-perpetuating. The local mine (which later closed) ceased mass employment in the region in 1982 with the acquisition of a skip winding system.  Consequently, the town has had no reason to exist for thirty years and that is never going to change.  So we face a choice.  Do we subsidise this generation and the next to live depressing lives on welfare or do we break the cycle?  I think we would soon find the mental illness "epidemic" rapidly resolves itself with an honest income and a routine. Simply subsidizing the poverty is the reason it remains a Prozac town.

The common complaint being that the total value of the welfare package outweighs the fiscal benefits of work and, even after some considerable tweaking (I shall not use the word reform), fag packet maths seems to confirm this. It is on this I come dangerously close to agreeing with Polly Toynbee in that a working wage does not go far enough. Her answer is the simpleton approach of merely legislating people into wealth which is absurd and wrong-headed. 

The challenge is to make the pound go further. If you add the salaries and pensions of those who work in the welfare state to the welfare spending figure and it starts looking like over £200bn. Cut that in sum half and we can abolish VAT with change to spare. That will help the less fortunate and create more jobs than government ever will.

That said, this is not going to happen. In the realms of the possible, what we can do is gradually draw down the value of the total benefits package so that staying locked away in the back hills of nowhere is no longer economically viable. In this regard, the bedroom tax is a useful tool. There are few if any self-contained single person dwellings in the region which means residents will have to move somewhere where there are homes and jobs. It also has an advantage in that landlords can't let these vacated three bedroom houses to people on welfare (specifically in fear of the bedroom tax), which means the rents either drop, or the houses go on the market at 70-90k.

This presents an opportunity for young families to get on the property ladder. In the case of the Welsh Valleys, the railway infrastructure is still there and working and is within 30 minutes commute of Cardiff or Newport and an hour from Bristol. So we could very well see a renewal of these places because the occupants would be working home-owners - and that would be a huge boost to the local economy.

The obvious advantage to those downsizing is a flat with lower bills and smaller council tax. If there is a shortage, existing larger properties can be converted to flats, which is in line with the general trend toward more single dwellings anyway. The opportunity there is to improve insulation to bring down energy costs and consequently infrastructure costs.

The second major reform would be a complete withdrawal of government from social housing.  Presently social housing is awarded on the basis of acute need.  My own views are known but you don't need to take it from me.  Read this by Mick Kent, CEO at Bromford Housing...
"The rationing of social housing, more and more in scarce supply, and its allocation according to greatest need and vulnerability, has led to a 'race to the bottom' and a focus on what customers CAN'T do rather than what they CAN do. This in turn has led to a dependency culture and caused deep and untold damage to society. I offer these views as a CEO who spends major amounts of time listening to front line colleagues and meeting customers face to face, on home visits, sign ups, interviews and on the 'shop floor'. And I say this with great sadness, as someone who has devoted his working life to social housing, but in the last 20 years we have been party to creating a dependency culture where qualities like enterprise, self-reliance, perseverance, skill and above all service to others, have been steadily devalued. Of course many of our customers through their own admirable efforts have still achieved great things. However I question whether collectively we have failed our fundamental mission and purpose, which is way beyond bricks and mortar - to inspire people to be the very, very best they can be."
The lessons therein are self-evident.  But it doesn't just apply to housing.  The whole welfare system creates a race to the bottom, and with a centrally administered behemoth welfare state, it is all too easy to game the system. 

What is fundamentally at wrong with the welfare state is that it starts off on the basic assumption that we are not capable of managing our own affairs. It takes decisions on welfare out of our communities and puts it into the hands of control freak, megalomaniac politicians of all stripes, and even with the best will in the world, you cannot devise a system that caters for the nuances and disparities of modern day living across the whole nation. So I have a proposal:  Replace the welfare state with the welfare parish.

We must devolve welfare rates, policy and delivery to local authorities. And by local authorities I don't mean our mega corporate councils.  Our
"local" authorities are not local. If I live in South Bradford, I am governed essentially by an authority that covers other towns like Keighley and Ilkley, Shipley and Bingley. Authorities comprising of populations larger than 100 countries in the UN. That is not local. Their systems would be no less remote and bureaucratic than a Whitehall one. Welfare needs to go even more local.  Regions of no more than 40,000 people as the upper limit.

I propose that we replace the dead wood "Job Centre" with parish committees of elected individuals who will sit as juries, and welfare claims and appeals have to be made to them.  The jury can then set their own conditions according to the needs and conduct of the individual making the claim.
That way, the people making the decisions know who they are dealing with, rather than decisions being made by a remote Whitehall supercomputer, or a low level bureaucrat in a remote call centre. The system is then more democratically accountable and less prone to the meddling of politicians. 

The anonymous nature of welfare produces anonymous outcomes. Local people make better decisions than London politicians and databases. Moreover, allowing each parish to run their welfare according to their own rules means they are free to experiment and innovate - and good ideas can easily be replicated where they work, and more importantly, ignored where they don't. You will never accomplish a fair or efficient system when it is a one size fits all system run by central government.

I would even go as far as to suggest that the funding for local welfare bodies comes directly from the locality, while enjoying charitable status so that citizens may freely donate to it. I dislike the idea of them being centrally grant maintained because as we have seen with US education, federal funding comes with strings attached and power is then sucked back toward the centre. The aim should be to gradually phase out any government involvement with the exception of auditing and inspection.

The flaw in this local approach is that revenues may exceed demands upon it in some areas.  I take the view that local authorities must devise their own rationing system, because if there is too much demand for welfare then evidently there are too few jobs in the region to sustain a community, and its population must seek opportunity elsewhere. 

I have yet to see an approach that covers all the bases, but I am beyond any doubt that the welfare state now is the chief creator of the problems it was designed to solve. It is yesterdays solution for yesterdays problems and the timid tinkering of IDS is not reform. What we need is a revolution in welfare that puts the decision making back in the hands of the people, so that it works both for those who claim welfare and those who pay for it.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Trolls: A rare voice of sanity.

In a stonking piece on "internet trolls" by the magnificent Brendan O'Neill, he writes:
In the troll panic, the ‘power’ was not exercised by trolls against vulnerable women; it was completely the other way round - the power of the police and the law was summoned up by very influential women in the media to crush two rather sad, isolated individuals, to make a national laughing stock of them in a way that no single troll could ever hope to achieve against one of his chosen targets. Influential middle-class white women used their numerous platforms in the mainstream media both to give a favourable account of themselves and to demonise their online haters, demanding the exercise of state power against these quite hapless individuals.
I cannot disagree. Speaking as premier league troll, I consider it a civic duty to bait, goad and annoy the hypocritical and the stupid. Gender doesn't come into it. Stupidity must be confronted in all its forms, and possession of a vagina cannot be considered diplomatic immunity.

We do not have a problem with sexist trolls. We have a problem with stupid women saying stupid things being thrust into the public domain. Laurie Penny, Jack Monroe, Polly Toynbee, Louise Mensch, Stella Creasy, Caroline Lucas, Chloe Smith, Luciana Berger, Jo Swinson and so many many more, all receive flack in direct proportion to their degree of stupidity.

These people seem to think the vitriol directed at them is because they are "strong willed, independent women". Nooooo... it's because they display such bovine stupidity that if they were members of your own family you wouldn't let them leave the house without qualified adult supervision.

Moreover, a lot of these people enjoy their public profile specifically because they are women and are thus setting back feminism by more than thirty years. It used to be the case that women would make it into the public domain on the strength of their arguments (see Mrs M. Thatcher). But thanks to Troll hysteria, stupid women are now free to remain stupid and are afforded the full protection of the state in doing so. That is extraordinarily bad news for bright women who want to make it in politics and journalism - and democracy as a whole.

If for a moment they could disengage their heads from their rectal passages, they would discover that stupid, asinine, narcissistic men are also the target of mean spirited vitriol on social media. Just ask Owen Jones, Julian Assange and Russell Brand. One does ones bit.

Sunday 5 January 2014

We need a war on welfare, urgently.

Not so long back, people used to care.

Not sure what to make of this.  "Benefits Street features the lives of locals living in James Turner Street, Winson Green, Birmingham.  90 per cent of residents living in the 137-house street claim one or more benefits ranging from £500-£900 a month in free hand-outs."

On the one hand I think some of these individuals seeing themselves on screen have been confronted with a few home truths and aren't too happy about it - but won't confront reality and would rather blame the producers than themselves. On the other hand Channel 4 are masters at documentary stitch-ups. They create a concept, define the conclusion, write the script then go out auditioning people who fit the stereotypes they are looking for. I've had this stunt pulled on me and wasn't very happy about it.  But it was a worthwhile learning experience for me and it makes it easier to spot manipulative bullshit.

That said, I am routinely told by people at The Guardian that welfare dependency doesn't exist and abuse of the system is a not a huge issue. Tosh! What is shown here is not a contrivance. I think many of us identify with what is shown because we see it every day.

The squalor in the street tells you everything about the mindset of welfarism. When you pay people to be poor, and give them everything for free, they won't respect themselves, their homes or their street. For all we may criticise Roma, it seems we have our own trailer trash who also see it as the responsibility of others to maintain them.

I won't entertain the excuse that these people are simply poor. Poverty is no excuse. Yesterday I found a family photo from the 80's (above) taken outside our home and what I noticed was the house next door had flower pots and the pavement was weeded. Now it is overgrown and long grass grows from the cracks in the pavement, even though the occupants are at home all day. Welfare has created a class of slovenly, stupid, lazy, self-entitled people and we actually subsidize these people to breed.

Go anywhere in the country and you will see this now. A decay so gradual we barely notice. And the Left don't see a problem with this. These people are "victims"!  But you know what I think. I think it's fucking bullshit. And I hate it with every fibre of my being. We have to stop this. Labours answer is to throw more money at the problem but giving people more free money won't change their attitudes or engender any self-respect or self-discipline. It won't restore community pride and it won't improve their lives. It will merely perpetuate this squalor, filth and degradation.

And now you see why I despise patronising vermin like Jack Monroe. Ignorant hacks who know fuck all about nine tenths of anything, telling us that these are poor defenceless people, and our problems would go away if only we were to throw more money at them. This is why I cannot contain my contempt for her or the Guardian.

But the left need these people to stay poor. Without a bloated public sector to muck out the welfare lepers, their union paymasters go short and they have to develop ideas to win power, rather than bribing us with our own money. These people aren't just wrong. They are evil, evil people.

We need a war on welfare. All of it. Every benefit must be slashed to the bone. I've heard all the excuses now. I am not moved by any of them. Like I often say, it's better to lose one generation than condemn the next ten to more of this. The sad thing is, even though we need a war on welfare, we're not getting one. We're getting timid tinkering by IDS and Co. It only seems like radical reform from the volume and shrillness of the lefts whining. For all the noise, we still haven't made a dent in the problem.

Leftists commonly argue that welfare isn't a large part of our national spending, and by contrast with other spending, they're right - and it doesn't save all that much money. But that does not excuse this. This isn't about saving money. It's about saving people. It's about reshaping our society to one where people meet their obligations as citizens and human beings. One where we are all responsible for each-others welfare, rather than a faceless monopoly corporate state that consumes ever more of our money, while gradually destroying social mobility, crushing our liberties, spying on us, coercing us and making each day on this rainy little island just that little bit more depressing.