Friday, 29 October 2010

It boils down to: Jim Dowson must go

The satirical magazine Private Eye have written up some of the trials and tribulations of the British National Party in their latest issue (Eye 1274).

The article is a typical melange of snide half-truths and valid points. Let's take it in easy chunks...

THE BNP is on the brink of insolvency. But instead of its usual tactic of threatening blacks, Jews and Asians, it is threatening its creditors instead in a letter from its money man, Jim Dowson, to its “highly valued suppliers and creditors” with a record of “commitment to the British National Party.”

It's sadly true that the party is currently in debt, not as much debt as the mainstream parties of course, but in debt none-the-less. But the party does not have a "usual tactic" of threatening blacks, Jews and Asians. Indeed Asians have featured in its political broadcasts, endorsing the party, and it has Jewish members, and has even had Jewish councillors elected. Not only is threatening these minorities not a "usual tactic" in fact the party does not do it at all.

His letter tells them that it does not value them enough to pay them what it owes. A grave financial crisis was forcing the party to close offices and lay off staff, he says. It was unlikely to “pay its outstanding bills in anything like a normal timescale - if indeed at all.”

No, his letter does not say they are not valued, but it's true that the party is having difficulty paying its bills.

Dowson then tells creditors that “lawyers who have reviewed the underlying contracts to most of the outstanding invoices have advised that most are not enforceable. Many creditors who have supplied good [sic] and services and which were used in connection with the activities of the British National Party may never be paid."
And it is no use suppliers hiring lawyers, Dowson warns. Legal action against the party would be throwing “good money after bad in the shape of futile lawyers’ costs”. Creditors must accept 20p in the pound or risk getting nothing.

Not totally true. It is true that the party cannot be sued for payment, but that's because it's not an incorporated entity. But that's actually a good thing if you want to sue, it means you can sue the Chairman, Nick Griffin, personally, and he cannot hide behind the veil of incorporation like a company director could.

Dowson blames the deficit – estimated at £500,000 – on the recession and “hugely expensive politically motivated High Court actions by the Commission for Equalities [sic] and Human Rights” to force the party to change its racist constitution. He is too modest.

That's not true: Jim Dowson isn't modest at all. As for the other bit, yes, the CEHR (pronounced "kur" in party circles, they prefer to be known as the EHRC) has used taxpayers' money to try to drive a legitimate lawful political party out of business by forcing it to incur massive legal bills.

The party is paralysed by internal disputes. Na├»ve critics have been shocked to discover that its fuehrer Nick Griffin behaves like, well, a dictator. Meanwhile busty “glamour model” Shelley Rose, who stood as a candidate in Luton, has posted a video on YouTube claiming Dowson made unwanted Ugandan advances to her at a hotel near Euston. “I thought it was safe to stay with him because he was a religious and family man,” the innocent 22-year old says. Alas, this turned out not to be the case, and she says Dowson accused her of being “frigid” when she rejected him.

Shelly Rose's video can be viewed here. It seems JD has some serious questions to answer. However Jim Dowson is not the BNP. He is not even a member of the BNP. He's a professional fundraiser hired by the BNP - that's all.

Dowson does not mention one preposterous reason for the BNP’s indebtedness. In the general election campaign, Griffin ripped off Marmite’s “Love it or Hate it” campaign by putting out a picture of a Marmite jar with the slogan “Love Britain, Vote BNP”. He scoffed when Unilever, Marmite’s owner, protested; but the firm’s lawyers then hit him with a breach of copyright action, which cost the party between £100,000 and £170,000.

Yes, Nick Griffin played this one wrong. Putting the jar of marmite in the party political broadcast was very funny - as this blog said at the time - but it should have been removed as soon as Unilever asked. That would have been cost free to the party. Getting antsy and going to court made it expensive. However, do note that this was not an unprovoked act. There has been bad blood between Unilever and the BNP for a while, in fact ever since Unilever produced a series of adverts featuring a "Hate Party" clearly modelled on the BNP. They started it, and it seems that despite getting their way in court, they have backed down and are not using the ads anymore, so it wasn't money totally down the drain.

The BNP operates behind various front companies to place orders without arousing suspicion – the most prominent being Dowson’s As a limited company adlorries could be sued, which may be why Dowson is offering 20p in the pound on contracts he claims are unenforceable. As a political party, the BNP is an unincorporated association, which cannot technically be declared bankrupt. However, creditors could hold Griffin as its leader and party members who entered into the contracts personally liable for debts.

Yes indeed, but it does look like Jim Dowson is acting to protect his other businesses here.

If senior BNP figures are taken to the cleaners, they will earn a unique place in the history of European fascism: the first neo-Nazi party to have been destroyed by the makers of a yeast-extract sandwich spread.

The BNP isn't Nazi, nor is it fascist. If you must put a label on the party, it's ethno-nationalist which means it supports the native British peoples in an independent British nation.

And if it's destroyed it won't be the Unilever pinprick - it will be the CEHR sledge-hammer.

That aside, it seems Jim Dowson has outlived his usefulness to the party. He's an effective fundraiser but not a member, nor even an employee of the party. He's a businessman who raises money on a commission basis for the party.

But his role is too significant and high-profile for someone who isn't ideologically committed. There should be a parting of the ways, and if that means the cash doesn't roll in like it used to - so be it.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Tiny crack appears in coalition

Oops, a hairline fracture has just appeared in the wonderful edifice that is our 6-month old coalition government. Simon Hughes, deputy leader of the junior partner, the Lib Dems, has failed to toe the party line and given an indication that he may not be supporting the comprehensive spending review. He doesn't like the £18bn cut in the welfare budget.

Simon Hughes, MP: Concerned about the poor

This tiny act of defiance has caused consternation in government ranks with ministers flocking to Hughes to "explain" their policies better.

Does this rebellion stand a chance of success? Let's look at the numbers: there are 650 MPs in the House of Commons. The Speaker doesn't vote so 325 constitutes an absolute majority. The Tories have 307 MPs so they need an extra 18 votes to govern. The Lib Dems have 57 MPs. Guess how many are ministers? Yes, it's 18. So provided those 18 MPs are now so addicted to their ministerial salaries, cars, country houses and flunkies they won't vote for Christmas the government is safe. (The Lib Dems also have five ministers in the Lords, but they don't figure in Westminster calculus.)

My feeling is this foot stamping is not going to succeed. But it is a nightmare scenario. The government has successfully dragged the country out of the PIIGS group of EU members - the UK is regarded by the financial markers as in a safe pair of hands. If the government falls all that confidence will vanish overnight. There would have to be another general election and if there's anything the markets like less than the wrong person's hand on the tiller, it's nobody's hand on the tiller.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Comprehensive Spending Review

George Osborne has today delivered his much awaited spending review. It was fairly brutal.

Boy George: Undoing 13 years of Labour mis-rule

He intends to reduce the deficit every year until 2014/15 when he will balance the budget. By that time we will be spending £63bn a year just on the interest of our national debt, making the total national debt peak at something like £1.5 trillion.

He ring-fenced four areas of spending: health, education, security and infrastructure. The rest was up for grabs. The MOD are losing 8% straight away but the army in Afghanistan is protected by a special contingency fund. The central civil service will shrink by a third, saving £6bn over 4 years and losing 490,000 members of staff. (Natural wastage is 8% so this will be less painful than you might think.)

The police are losing 4% a year, the FCO 6% a year, international development is actually going up, but China and Russia aren't getting aid anymore. The Home Office is losing 6% a year, the Ministry of Justice is losing 7% a year.

Another £7bn will be raised by clamping down even harder on tax evasion.

The BBC is to have the license fee frozen for 6 years and will assume the financial burden of the World Service and BBC Monitor which monitors the broadcast media around the world. This effectively gives them a budget cut of 16%.

The retirement age is to rise to 66 by 2020 and civil servants will have to pay more into their pension funds which are currently 2/3rds unfunded, but they keep their defined benefit pensions.

The MPs' pension scheme will be completely overhauled; stunned silence in the chamber when Osborne said this! (MPs currently get 1/40th of their final salary per year of service, index-linked. It's just about the most generous scheme in the public sector.)

A lot of benefits are to be cut although some tax credits are to go up. For example at the moment if an unemployed person under 25 claims housing allowance they will be paid enough to live in a room in a shared house. After 25 they get their own flat. The transition age is being raised to 35.

Equitable Life policy holders are getting bailed out at long last. Not the full amount but what they would have got if they had put their money in a different company. Cost to the tax-payer: £1.5bn.

Old people get to keep all the perks that were thought to be at risk: bus passes, free TV licenses (over 75s only), free prescriptions.

The shadow chancellor, Alan Johnson, who was only appointed a couple of weeks ago and immediately claimed he needed to get a copy of Economics for Dummies (or words to that effect) rose to reply but really had nothing to say. He warbled on about how the Tories hadn't been calling for cuts back in 2007.

All in all, this CSR is a big step in the right direction. And after the small print has been analysed it might turn into an even bigger step, the true implications of these things are rarely apparent on day one. Of course, the fiscal situation is only one of the country's major woes. There is also immigration, Europe, ethnic crime etc. But those are outside George Osborne's remit so he couldn't really be expected to comment on them.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Philip Green's efficiency review

Sir Philip Green has submitted his review of government efficiency to the Prime Minister. His report catalogs a litany of wasteful government procurement. But it names no names and its recommendations are superficial and obvious. The report is 33 pages of banality and this blog doubts that the government will do much more than file it and move on.

Sir Philip Green, frequently seen with super-model Kate Moss

Sir Philip, billionaire owner of Top Shop, Burton's and loads of other clothing stores, and wanna-be owner of Marks & Spencer, is best known for his ingenious tax avoidance. (More about this in a little while.) But Sir Philip doesn't seem to know how to make things happen in government. All his report really said was: central government is hopelessly wasteful, which we already knew. (Local government is also wasteful, but Sir Philip didn't look into them.)

What he needed to do was, not say: you're bad, the end. He needed to write a detailed transformation plan to transition HMG from wasteful to efficient. He needed to list departments to be closed, jobs to disappear, contracts to be re-negotiated or just plain cancelled, buildings to be sold, areas of endevour to be abandoned, and he needed to work out the consequential legislative changes required. It was a big task, but he tossed it off in a couple of months and produced 33 pages of trivia.

However his report did contain one interesting chart; a pie chart of where the government spends our money. So I'll reproduce it here.

HMG: What the money is spent on

It's quite rare to see public expenditure broken down by type rather than by function. The biggest item, benefits and grants at £270bn looks ripe for the plucking. A tasty chunk could probably be carved out of pay as well.

So Sir Philip hasn't rescued us from the fiscal abyss. I guess he's more used to being a front man and hires clever people actually to run his businesses.

And finally a word on his tax situation. Sir Philip's wife, the Lady Cristina, is widely reported as living in the tax-haven of Monaco. The press seem to be of the opinion that Sir Philip has his wife own all his assets to avoid tax, but this doesn't have to be the case. Remember, under UK law there is no tax on transfers between a husband and wife. So if Sir Philip owns something and wants to sell it without paying capital gains tax all he has to do is: give it to his wife; she sells it, and gives him the money. If Sir Philip has power of attorney for his wife then he could sign all the paperwork and she wouldn't even know that for a few seconds she was a billion richer than normal.

So this is Sir Philip's true genius: persuading his wife to live two thousand miles away!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Cameron vs Miliband, round I

So, the PM has met the new Labour leader across the dispatch boxes and political blood has been split.

Cameron got off to a good start by pointing out that the wrong Miliband was asking the questions; the Labour MPs wanted David, not Ed. But that was the only blow he landed. Miliband Minor, who looks like a pigeon pooped on his head, got his teeth into Child Benefit and wouldn't let go. He rightly pointed out that a one-earner household earning £45,000 would lose the benefit but a two-earner household on £80,000 would keep it, and asked: where is the fairness?

Answer came there none; although a lot of bluster filled the void. Cameron really had nowhere to go because clearly the proposed implementation of the cuts is unfair. This is manifest. In fact Cameron never said he thought the policy was fair, he just argued for the necessity of the cuts.

The PM ended up asking Miliband about Labour policy. This is very weak. When the PM starts asking questions it becomes clear to all that he hasn't actually got any answers. Miliband should have calmly replied that if the PM wanted to know about Labour policy he was welcome to come around to Labour HQ afterwards and get a full briefing (Hint to Miliband: Don't answer questions from the PM during PMQs; don't even nod your head. These are PMQs, not questions to the Miliband.)

Miliband didn't land a killer blow though. He should have rapidly moved from asking Cameron about fairness to asking if he will reconsider how the policy is to be implemented. He could even have promised that Labour would not exploit a change of heart for propaganda purposes - for the good of the nation, etc. He could have pleaded. He could have begged on behalf of a supplicant country. A pious mantle was there to be picked up, but he didn't.

Cameron is going to have to raise his game though. And the child benefit issue isn't going away any day soon.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

September inflation: CPI 3.1%, RPI 4.6%

The numbers are out. CPI is unchanged at 3.1%, RPI is 4.6%, down from 4.7% in August. This is the seventh month in a row that CPI has been over its "hard limit" of 3% and 8th since it was at its 2% target. And even then it was only at or under target for the preceding five months.

Barbarism in the UK: Halal slaughter

If you have very strong stomach try this video.

(Right click and watch on YouTube for best viewing.)

In this country we have animal welfare rules built up over hundreds of years by a myriad campaigners, but now we have imported a 3rd world population and reverted to the Middle Ages. Throat cutting is a muslim preoccupation. It's how the British engineer Ken Bigley and his two American colleagues were murdered in in Iraq in 2004 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Tawhid and Jihad group.

Countless other "infidels" have been beheaded and their heads kept as trophies.

Let's be in no doubt - they are the animals here.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Male muslim unemployment: 50%, female: 75%

The Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) have shot themselves in the foot again.

They have produced a well meaning report about the state of equality in the UK, and highlighted some significant issues, but inadvertently they have revealed just how dependent on the public purse muslims in this country are:

Unemployment among ethnic minorities costs the economy almost £8.6 billion a year in benefits and lost revenue from taxes. Half of Muslim men and three quarters of Muslim women are unemployed.

They go on to say that, "the country has a strong sense of tolerance and fair play. However, racism and religious prejudice are increasing, while hostility towards immigration has grown."

Well, is it surprising that we are "hostile to immigration" when we are taxed to pay for their comfortable lifestyles?

As documented in previous posts muslim Asians also make disproportionate use of the health service due to their self-indulgent diets and habit of marrying their cousins. Even those in work are unlikely to be contributing enough in tax to pay for what they take from the system.

Muslim Asians also commit more crime and are taking proportionally more prison places than natives, according to stats from the Ministry of Justice.

Considered in the round it seems the UK would be richer, healthier and less crime-ridden if we didn't have Muslim Asians here.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

House prices drop 3.6% in a month

Today's statistic from the Halifax (prop: Lloyd's Bank) says that the average UK house cost £162,000 in September, down 3.6% from August. This means that houses now cost the same as they did in 2004 and the owner of the (mythical) average house lost about £6,000 in the month.

However, that's only according to the Halifax. The Nationwide claim house prices only dropped 0.1% over the same period.

Why the difference? Well, this blog notes that there has been a policy change in the Lloyd's Group. They no longer offer "interest only" mortgages. Now they require a repayment vehicle, such as pension plan, an endowment policy, or straightforward capital repayments every month. This makes houses less affordable, at least to Halifax customers, with a consequential reduction in the amount they are prepared to pay for a house.

Over the last decade a surprisingly large number of home-owners have opted for an interest-only mortgage. This has made housing much more affordable and contributed to a steep rise in prices between 1995 and 2007. Thus forcing ever more buyers into the cheaper I/O option. Such borrowers generally think in terms of paying only the interest on their mortgage until inflation has substantially increased the value of their house and then selling and buying a cheaper house with the proceeds, perhaps when they retire.

Of course this plan does rely on a buyer being found who is prepared or able to take on their own, larger, interest-only mortgage for a decade or two. The market had become a pyramid scheme reliant on ever lower interest rates, which for many years the government obligingly provided.

However the next movement in base rates must surely be up. The MPC met this week and today announced that rates would be held at 0.5%, but both CPI and RPI are way above the 2% target and there are big price increases coming down the line, such as a VAT rise in January next year. Unless the government really lets inflation rip rates must rise sooner or later, and if house prices are falling at 0.5% then they will fall so much harder when interest rates return to a more normal level.

That said, it's possible the government really does intend to "let inflation rip". The trouble is these days wages are globalised; they won't go up just because the prices in OUR shops have gone up. A British worker cannot have a wage rise unless his German counterpart also gets a wage rise because market share will simply move to Germany.

The way out of this is to devalue the currency. If sterling falls but the euro doesn't then the German worker has effectively had a pay rise relative to the UK. The government would love sterling to fall, but unfortunately every other government in the world is also trying to get its currency down so in relative term they are staying the same.

At the moment we're in an undeclared trade war with rest of the world where, instead of erecting tariff barriers against each other we're competitively devaluing our currencies.

The way to devalue your currency is to reduce interest rates. But this is a war we're doomed to lose (except vis-a-vis the USA) because Germany has more cutting room than us. The euro base rate is 1.0% At 0.5% we're nearly on the floor already. And with CPI above target the MPC wouldn't have the cheek to drop another notch.

The Americans have a base rate of 0.25% - they've got even less room to maneuver than us.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Equality Act

On Friday last the new Equality Act came into force, so this blog should probably say something about it. It's a giant dog's breakfast of an Act, 251 pages long, highly repetitive and self-contradictory. It repeals about twenty other Acts of Parliament and brings together and strengthens their provisions.

The basic idea is that there are "protected characteristics" and people must not be discriminated against or victimised due to any of these protected characteristics, which are:
    Sexual orientation
    Gender reassignment
    Pregnancy and maternity
    Marital state, including civil partnerships
    Disability and health
    Religion and belief
"Race", in case you're wondering, is defined as "colour" (it doesn't say "skin colour", just "colour", even the legislators are so politically correct these days they daren't write what they mean in Acts of Parliament!) or "ethnic origin" or "nationality".

The rules apply widely, to employers, to associations (a dig aimed at the BNP here) and to private individuals when providing a public service, or disposing of property. For example it is now illegal to favour a Christian buyer when selling your house. The Act also applies to prospective employers.

The press picked up on this last bit; it is now illegal to ask a potential employee about their state of health. So you have to hire them first, then find out they take every second day off sick because they are chronically ill. Subsequently sacking them would be discrimination because you are then treating them less favourably than a healthy person.

However a few clauses down from the clause which says you cannot ask potential employees about their health is another clause which says you CAN ask them about their health, provided you are doing it to encourage diversity or to discriminate in favour of disabled people.

Although the Act was intended as a stick to beat the BNP with, lovingly crafted by Labour during their last months in office and enacted in Parliament's wash up period, it ironically has put a spoke in the wheel of the CEHR's current court case against the BNP because it repeals the Act under which the action is being taken! That's not joined up government.

A little noticed clause abolishes the common law requirement for husbands to maintain their wives. Wives up and down the country have not been up in arms.

Child benefit scrapped for high earners

It's Tory party conference time in Birmingham and Chancellor George Osborne has announced his latest wheeze: scrap child benefit for higher rate taxpayers.

Of course "higher rate taxpayer" is a bit ambiguous these days, does he mean the 40% rate or the 50% rate? Well, he means anyone earning over £44,000 a year (ie, quite a bit closer to the 40% than the 50%.)

But he's not considering both parents together. So if two parents each earn £30,000pa they get to keep the benefit, but if one parent earns £60,000 but the other stays home to look after the children then they lose the benefit.

This is blatantly unfair and it will be interesting to see if Osborne manages to make his policy stick.

Child benefit is worth about £1,000 per year for the eldest child and £700pa for each subsequent child. The total cost to the country is about £11bn per year. (Most parents are also able to claim child tax credit.)

Child benefit has long been criticized because it is paid to the needy and the affluent equally. So cutting it isn't such a bad idea. But doing it in such an unfair manner is dire.