October 16, 2007

Lib Dem leader quits.

The Lib Dem leader Menzies Cambell yesterday quit after pressure fromLib his party. Doubtlessly his age (66) and relatively low-key media style (i.e. boring) are big factors, coupled with the fact that many younger Lib Dems are hungry for the job.

Who will be the next leader? I think that it wouldn’t be unlikely to see the party take a swing to the right. Those Lib Dem MPs in Left wing constituencies will find an easier time to defend their seats in the next election as support for the Labour party falls. While those defending their seats in Right wing constituencies will find it harder to defend their seats to in the next election due to the increasing popularity of the Tories. Thus the right-wingers in the Lib Dems are likely to be galvanised and be a more active force then the left-wingers, due to the former having fear for their jobs while the latter not.

The FT says that a leading right-wing candidate for winning the leadership election is Nick Clegg. He is only 40, 26 years younger then Menzies Cambell. Plus he is 13 years younger then Chris Huhne, another leadership possibility. So perhaps he holds a good chance of being the next Lib Dem leader.

October 12, 2007

Inheritance tax (again)

Follow-up to Conservative conference – Inheritence Tax from The International Current Affairs Society

Good article in the G2 today that supports my point of view.

There is the assumption, contrary to economic history and most current predictions, that house prices will just keep on booming and therefore make even the most modest of homes liable for inheritance tax. There is the allegation that the levy is a form of “double taxation” – well, so is VAT, and anyway, money earned on property is untaxed. There is the unlikely assumption that people will not downshift to a smaller place, or see their savings swallowed up paying for their own care in their old age – as Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies, says: “Your wealth at 50 or 60, when it’s at its peak, will not be the same as your wealth when you’re 80 or 90.” You could even question the notion that inheritance tax can be called a “death tax” at all, when it is not paid by the unfortunate dead but by the fortunate living. Emmerson, who is studiedly neutral on the question of inheritance tax, runs through these arguments and counter-arguments and then pauses a little wearily. “Maybe it’s just a badly understood tax,” he says.

October 09, 2007

Strike out Royal Mail?

As anyone waiting for post will surely know, Royal mail and their Stikeworker’s unions have still failed come to any agreement. Yesterday they went on 48-hour strike, and next Monday the union’s head threatened continuous strike action. This is just the latest stage in the battle between the Royal Mail’s Unions and their bosses. There was another 48-hour strike last week, and in July was a series of staggered strikes. The industrial action of an army of 130,000 postal workers is predicted to cost the company up to £230 M, one can thus deduce that the cost to the greater economy must be much higher.

The cause seems to revolve around the management’s drive towards modernising reforms (such as making the jobs the workers do more flexible, so they may not know what job they are doing one day to the next). However the workers complain that the proposals will cost 40,000 jobs. There are disagreements over the pay increase also.

What should we do, if anything? Does these events acts as a signal justifying the privatisation of the service? If it was privatised then the management would be much more empowered to get the job done, as they wouldn’t be accountable to the government who are in turn accountable to the Unions. They would still be accountable to the democracy of the marketplace; the only difference is that now the wider consumer interest would take precedence over the narrower union interest.

October 08, 2007

Gordon's election fix.

After weeks of allowing public speculation to gather over whether he Gordonwill call an election or not, Gordon Brown now finally given us an answer: No. He has, if we can believe what they say, annoyed the leaders of the other parties. Cameron has said: ‘He was not being straight… everybody knows he is not having an election because there’s a danger of him losing it’, while Campbell said: ‘[Gordon’s] lost his nerve’. The resent polling data may confirm this, with the Times saying that the Tories has a three point lead over Labour.

The worrying thing is that these speculations seems to be well founded. Brown said that he was seriously contemplating an election. It seems a bit unfair that he can call an election whenever he wants, such as seriously contemplating it when the polls are in his favour but then deciding not to when things go the other way. In the interests of having fair elections should their dates be exogenously determined (e.g. at May once every four years)? Indeed this is what the Lib Dems are arguing for.

October 01, 2007

Conservative conference – Inheritence Tax

The Conservatives tried to grab headlines today to support their flagging pre-election campaign through, primarily ‘aspiration taxes’ (inheritance tax to you and me).

It is very easy to get into arguments about the moral standing of taxing the estates of the deceased, and one that isn’t easily finished. To me, it’s the prime example of where taxes should be used, but that’s beside my main point.

Instead of waffling on about how the government is taking advantage of the hard-working ‘middle englander’ and how the Conservative will come to the rescue, we should tell it how it is. This would be a tax cut for the top 6% most priveleged members of our society.

It is no good talking of how increasing house prices will mean Joe Public will now be facing a charge, since this is simply not the case. The housing boom has near enough peaked, in some areas starting to reverse, and still only 6% of estates pay the taxes.

If the people to whom inheritance tax is a travesty against hard work accepts this reality, I am very willing to have a discussion, but otherwise there is not much point.

September 26, 2007

Support Burmese Monks?

Hello. A fresh new academic year and a fresh new author for the ICA monksblog. I’m the treasurer of the ICA [International Current Affairs] discussion society also the one responsible for maintaining the blog. We in the ICA society holds weekly meetings (in S0.13, Wednesdays at 2pm) to discuss for an hour about the passing week’s current affairs, followed by going for a drink at the Graduate. We normally have a newsletter written out with a brief outline of the three top topics of the passing week’s news, which we then email out to all our members a couple of days before the meeting. If you enjoy discussing current affairs, politics, or whatever, please feel free to pop in any time.

Most weeks I will post some topic on this blog that will nearly always be able political current affairs. To start this trend off its about the Burmese monks. As most of the front pages of newspapers have shown, the past few weeks has seen escalating protests in Burma against the dictatorship. On Monday there were 100,000 people protesting. This was sparked off on 15th August when the government doubled fuel prices. This led to protests. The government cracked down, harming three monks. This eventually led to tens of thousands of monks protesting. This induced others to join them. Widely unpopular, could this see the beginning of the end for the dictatorship?

Problem is, however, that this has happened before. In 1988 there was mass protests, government cracked down by killing 3,000 people. Many speculate that history will repeat itself. Gordon Brown has threatened to impose sanctions on the Burmese dictatorship if they do. But the US at least have already been doing this since 2003, and to no effect. Indeed do sanctions even work? They haven’t in North Korea or Iran. Is there anything more active we can do? Or are we so far away that there is nothing practical we can do, we just have to talk about it as we passively watch events unfold?

January 20, 2007


Writing about web page http://www.irrepressible.info

This box contains information from Amnesty's database of examples of censored material on the internet.

Screw internet censorship

January 15, 2007

BAE accused of corruption

So, what’s new then?

It’s true that it’s not that revelationary to highlight corruption in the arms trade, but the Guardian has a good piece on a Tanzanian deal that is now under investigation.

The alegations are serious. Apparantly, BAE paid $12m (representing 30% of the contract value) to a middle man, whilst securing a deal that would see Tanzania, a country higly dependant on foreign aid for most basic services, buying a sophisticated radar system. Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for them to buy this technology. Most seem to agree that a basic civilian radar system, for a fraction of the cost, would be suitable for the coutries needs.

This story comes almost immediately after the Attorney General dropped all investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into extremely dodgy looking deals made by BAE to the Saudis.

My worry is not that this allegation, if true, will go unpunished. My fear is that the investigation will proceed wholeheartedly. Either the allegations will unfounded, or BAE will be punished in some form. Either way BAE can stand up and make claims of the legitamacy of its business. Meanwhile the authorities (and the public) will continue to ignore the (more serious) allegations in regard to the Saudi deals.


Also, for more government pandering to the Saudis, have a look at this report on Sandy Mitchell, Bill Sampson and Leslie Walker, three British expats, accused of terrorism by the Saudi authority. They were then tortured before they ‘confessed’. Posessions were confiscated and they were made destitute. No help has been provided to these British citizens by their own government in their search for justice.

January 11, 2007

Temporal Motviation Theory?!

According to the upstanding news source that is the Metro, Piers Steel (great name), a lecturer at Calgary university, has worked out a formula for procrastination… Naming it Temporal Motivation Theory.

Given the expectation of suceeding at the task (E), the value in completing the task (V), the availability of the task (A) and the person’s sensitivity to delay (D): Utility = E x V/AD..

Thought you’d all be interested in that, but anyway, back to my assignment..

January 08, 2007

The ICA Newsletter

Want a copy of the ICA newsletter for free? it turns out that you are in luck…

ICA Newsletter

Welcome back to the new term, if you didn’t get Scott’s e-mail then you might be interested to know that the meeting will be on Wednesday at 2-3 but in S0.18; that’s different, and possibly exciting…

I thought we might start with some of the biggest news from over the Christmas period, being the hanging of Saddam Hussein. It took a fairly long legal trial and quite a lot of bloodshed, but was it worth it? I thought the main areas for debate here would be 1) if the execution itself was a good thing, 2) if the manner of the execution has compounded a bad situation or if it could contain some benefits, 3) if the trial could have more usefully have been held in the Hague or if that would have made a bad situation worse.
The video of the whole execution is on YouTube as I understand it if you feel desperate to look it up.

Secondly to some newer news of the former secretary of state for education (the cabinet minister in charge of education), Ruth Kelly, who has decided to send her child who has special needs to a £15,000 a year private school. Kelly’s choice has outraged many Labour backbenchers who disagree with the move. Labour has closed at least 70 special schools for children with special needs since it came to power in 1997 – a move which has lead a commons select committee to say that the system is “not fit for purpose”. Is it right that Ruth Kelly is making this decision – even though it runs counter to the requirements of justice and the fact that she created (or at least didn’t fix) the system which obviously fails badly enough for her to opt out – if it benefits her child?


Finally another story in the seemingly never ending saga of “Princess” Diana who died in 1997 in Paris as a result of a car crash. Despite the fact that at least two separate investigations have confirmed the previous statement and no reliable information can show that anything suspicious happened it seems a large amount of the population just can’t let it go (not least the Daily Express who seem to have Di on the front page at least once a week, often far more). Do you still have any doubts that this accident was just that? Do you worry the Queen might be trying to kill you? Do you ever get the feeling the whole of the ruling elite might be giant lizards?


Anywho, come along, we look forward to seeing you at the meeting

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