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Clegg continues march to classical liberalism

By Mark Littlewood
August 28th, 2009 at 4:01 pm | 16 Comments | Posted in Economics, UK Politics

nick-clegg-photoNick Clegg’s (woefully under-reported) initiative in seeking to save taxpayers’ money is yet further evidence that the LibDem leader is taking the party in the right direction.

Thousands of party members will have received a plea for advice from public sector workers on how savings can be made from bloated, excessive and increasingly unaffordable departmental budgets. Nick is honest and up front – money is going to be tight for years, if not decades. Without dramatic cuts in some areas, other services will falter and/or taxes will rise yet further.

But I wish that the consultation had also been directed at the private citizens who use public services, not just the staff who work in them. Customers and consumers are often a better guide to where products and services are going wrong than employees, who obviously have an interest in emphasising their own vital role in whatever-it-is-they-do.

We also need to ensure we don’t buy the “waste myth”. Yes, there is monumental waste in the public sector, but there’s not much reason to believe a government of a different political colour will be successful at weeding it out. Only limited savings can be made by finding cheaper wholesale suppliers of paperclips.

What we need to do is admit that we’ll completely eliminate whole swathes of low priority projects.

I have no doubt that many public sector workers will bemoan the huge amounts of money frittered away on failed IT systems – especially if they are asked to withstand a wage freeze. Fair enough.

But how many public sector workers are going to say “The whole project I’m working on is just not worth the candle. We chew up large amounts of taxpayers’ cash for very limited output.  To be honest, you should sack the lot of us and close the whole thing down. Don’t trim us, don’t audit us, don’t set new targets for us. Just kill us off.”

Not many, I’d guess.

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Gordon Brown: The Macavity Prime Minister

By Mark Littlewood
August 26th, 2009 at 4:39 pm | No Comments | Posted in UK Politics

Readers may recall former permanent secretary Lord Turnbull comparing Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, to T.S. Eliot’s Macavity back in 2007. After a couple of years at the helm, Brown has certainly proved that he’s the Prime Minister who isn’t there. Here’s Liberal Vision’s “tribute”.

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Enjoy your ninety days of porn and violence

By Mark Littlewood
August 26th, 2009 at 12:42 pm | 14 Comments | Posted in Culture

driller-killerThe legislative screw-up surrounding the Video Recordings Act (they forgot to send the European Commission a copy), opens a narrow window (about three months before the government “sorts everything out”) of cinematic freedom.  We should be able to measure whether there is an enormous upswing in violence, rape and murder in that time. Or whether there isn’t.

As Julian Petley points out in the Guardian, the overwhelming bulk of the censorship work in Britain is to prevent adults seeing things. In 2007, the BBFC made cuts to 25% of the films in the 18 and R18 categories.

Fans of Quentin Tarantino’s sublime Reservoir Dogs, might recall that it took two years for a video release to be sanctioned (the fact that Tarantino himself was delighted, because it allowed repeat viewings at cinemas, is hardly the point!)

This enormous Whitehall cock-up provides an opportunity to properly liberalise the censorship regime that exists in this country. But don’t expect our politicians to seize it. Far better to engage in whipping up some moral panic and to drone on relentlessly about child protection.

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What do you get if you put a dictator, a movie mogul and Lord Mandelson in the same room?

By Angela Harbutt
August 25th, 2009 at 3:14 pm | No Comments | Posted in UK Politics

Answer: Pretty much anything they want – it would seem.unelected Business Secretary

 

The latest loony suggestion from the Government, announced today, is to FORCE Internet Service Providers to suspend access to those internet users who illegally download music and films.

It’s a stupid suggestion – forcing ISPs to take action on offenders. If piracy is illegal its surely a police matter – not a matter for business. And who exactly is going to police the ISPs to ensure that they do as instructed, another quango? And in any event who’s to say that those most adept at piracy will not be able to evade ths ISPs ( i dont know how but I’m sure they do). All we are likely to see are the occassional offenders and the inept being caught in this particular trap. Wrong.Wrong.Wrong.

And talking of wrong..  How long can the unelected Business Secretary be allowed treat this country as his own personal fiefdom? He returns to the scene of last years crime (yachts, Russians, George Osborne) to holiday with the Rothschilds. He meets Gaddaffi’s son, and within days the whole Libyan bomber fiasco unfolds. On the same holiday he meets the billionaire producer David Geffen (who co-founded Dreamworks with Steven Speilberg) and before his Corfu tan has faded his department is announcing a major u-turn on illegal downloads.

Hollywood film companies are reportedly losing hundreds of millions of pounds from illegal downloads, and have launched a very active lobbying operation to change the law to make it harder. Coincidence?

Well I for one can imagine the conversation that Lord Rothschild has with his mates… “Fancy a few days in Corfu Mr Geffen? ” ….”No thanks Roths,bit busy”… “Did I mention that Nat is bringing along Mandy from the UK?” …” Really? Shall we say Friday 6pm – I’ll come in the yacht – no need to make up the beds”.

I am sure that the unelected Business Secretary will produce some sneary response and call any suggestion of a link between the meeting and the u-turn on policy as “insulting” “absurd” or some such thing.

But we will remember that he’s said all that before and not once but twice has been forced to quit from UK office (you remember the undisclosed home loan from Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson and the Hinduja passport affair). So here’s hoping his arrogance does for him again. In the meantime it will be well-worth watching where he spends his Christmas break. Ski-ing anyone?

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Police to focus strategy on winning over the Tories

By Angela Harbutt
August 25th, 2009 at 1:10 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in UK Politics

met_police_radio_203x1521An internal report released by the Metropolitan Police under Freedom of Information laws has revealed that  fewer than one crime is solved by every 1,000 closed circuit television cameras per year. Thats a lot of cameras for not very much.

And yes its a pretty shocking waste of money that could have been spent better elsewhere (or better still been in our own pockets). And yes we are way too spied upon, with 1% of the world population and 20% of all cctvs. And yes its laughable that the Home Office have defended the use of CCTV’s, saying cameras could “help communities feel safer”…… But in reality that’s old, if still troubling, news.

What worried me was the part under a section headlined “Strategic Issues”, where it said: “Potential change of Government – the Conservatives are not CCTV friendly – we need to start showing that we are targeting serious crime.”

 So if I get a knife put to my face in the street this evening – that somehow the nine cctvs on my 4 minute walk to the newsagent miss – are the police going to take it even less seriously than they did last time (and trust me that would be pretty difficult even for them)? Answer would appear to be, yes. 

Depressingly here we have another organisation that is clearly intending to spend the next 9 months focusing on ways to “meet targets” and win over politicians, rather than get on with the job of policing the streets and solving crime. Call me old-fashioned but I liked it when the BBC did good tv programmes, doctors did medicine and police did crime-prevention. I dont see how any of them have the time to do their day job if they are all going to be spending  the next nine months trying to second guess what the next Government (most likely a Tory one according to the Met police you’ll note) wants.

Tighten your seatbelts, its going to be a bumpy ride! Oh and be careful when you’re out and about on the streets – and if you do become a victim of crime, best make sure its a “serious” one if you want anything done about it.

 

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