Saturday, 6 December 2008


This article is a sad indightment of the effects of university top up fees on social mobility and I certainly applaud the Scottish government's abolition of tuition fees. However, the report referred to in the article appears to be recommending that money raised from top-up fees levied on students at Universities in England (thanks in part to the votes of MPs from non-English constituencies) be shared with Universities in the other nations of the UK where students receive free higher education (unless I am completely misunderstanding it). This seems like an unfair and rather bodged way of correcting the imbalance in funding. Surely the fairest solution would be to abolish tuition fees in all parts of the UK and return to funding higher education from general taxation.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Alexis de Toqueville and the West Lothian Question

This evening on Radio 4's Analysis programme, former Labour MP Tam Dalyell stated that Scottish devolution has increased the momentum towards Scottish independence because of the fact that politicians of whatever hue, inevitably desire and seek more power for the institutions in which they find themselves 'serving'. I think he is absolutely right and what he said reminds me of a quote I once read from Alexis de Toqueville which went something to the effect that revolutions always occur after a period when the situation of a given population (such as the French in the 1780s) has recently become relatively easier and freer than previously, rather than in response to a period of increased hardship and oppression. Scotland has had a taste of autonomy; it's only natural that it should want more.
Given the inevitability of further Scottish and Welsh freedom to govern themselves (eg. in the form of fiscal autonomy for Scotland or increased legislative powers for the Welsh Assembly) the unfairness of England continuing to be governed by the UK parliament will become increasingly stark and it seems likely that the call for some form of redress will become ever louder and more difficult for politicians to ignore.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

It's the economy, stupid

I must be stupid because I just don't get it. Everyone from Chancellor Darling to Bank of England governor Mervyn King is saying that in order to 'kickstart' the economy and climb out of depression, we need to somehow get the banks to start lending more money.

Banks will always lend money when they think that by doing so they will make a profit (ie. that they will get their money back, with sufficient interest). The only time a bank is not willing to lend money is when it thinks that the loan will not be fully repaid and that the money will therefore have to be written off as 'bad debt'. So, if the government succeeds in pressuring banks into lending money when the banks are reluctant to do so, surely the result is likely to be an increase in bad debt. But isn't that exactly what got us into this mess in the first place - too much money being lent to people who proved unable to make the necessary repayments?

Clearly, I must be missing something.

1 comment:

Defend Council Tax Benefits said...

Its more simpler than that, Governments need to stop cutting back, employers need to employ people and cease increasing the price of their goods to allow people to buy goods that generates income for banks to lend money to people in employments and businesses and not suffer bad debt.

The government in not cutting back allows businesses that supply government and local authorities can continue to employ people that in turn become consumers, by keeping prices low and not making the mistake of putting up prices as well as manufacturing not putting up prices, the economy will recover.

The key here is manufacturing companies and retail need to stop putting up prices, this is what stifles recovery, greedy chains and retailers asking too much for products slows sales down.

iPhone is a good example, why pay £500 for something that is worth no where near that amount? If companies want more customers, they need to be asking realistic prices, sell more and they can make a profit and order more from the manufacturer. The manufacturers need to look at a longer term process of sales and R&D recovery, stop paying high dividends to share holders who should understand that just because they invest, they should not expect to get as high a return but expect a lesser more sustainable return on the investment.

Greed is one of the hidden factors, it is placed at the wrong end of the supply chain, if the consumers appetites are not wetter, then you have no consumption of goods, no sales means no production and no production is bad because investors and banks suffer, unemployment rises...

The full picture is a bit more complicated but the fact remains that the keys to regrowth lay with employers and manufacturing and government.

Posted by Defend Council Tax Benefits 3 July 2013 10:50

Friday, 16 May 2008

Cup Fever

On the BBC News this evening it was announced that both the Welsh and the English national anthems would be played before kick-off at tomorrow's FA Cup final between Cardiff City and Portsmouth. As far as I'm aware, there is no English national anthem. I presume the newsreader was referring to 'God Save the Queen', which is the British anthem and so should be equally applicable to both teams. I think this might be something to do with trying to boost the TV viewing figures by turning the match into a quasi-home-international.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Class sizes in England and Scotland, compare and contrast

Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted this post. It was about how the SNP government in Scotland were placing an upper limit on class sizes which was much lower than that of England. (If memory serves, the limit in Scotland was to be 23 while the upper limit in England had been increased to 35 - I don't recall whether that also applied to Wales or Northern Ireland.)
I went on to quote from a newspaper article (from The Times, I believe) about how the UK Department of Education believed that increasing class sizes was not a problem as long as a sufficient number of extra Classroom Assistants was provided.
I went on to argue that the real reason for the UK DoE's different approach to that of Scotland was money. I quoted from another newspaper (from The Scotsman, if memory serves) about how spending in Scotland was £6000 per child higher than in England (again, I don't know how this applied to Wales and N.Ireland) and to point out that providing extra Classroom Assistants was no substitute for reducing class sizes in terms of educational benefits as Classroom Assistants are not actually teachers.
The post was not, of course, intended as a criticism of the Scottish government, whose commitment to improving educational standards I strongly admire. It was intended as a criticism of the UK government for failing to show an equivalent level of commitment.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The man in Whitehall knows best‏

In yesterday's debate in the House of Commons prior to Wednesday's vote on whether or not to ratify the Lisbon Treaty already signed by Gordon Brown, Europe Minister Jim Murphy dismissed calls for a referendum, saying that "the place to make these decisions is in this chamber - not on a crane half way above the city sky of London (referring to protesters who had earlier scaled a crane and unfurled pro-referendum banners)."
What he really meant was, even though 88% of the public apparently want a referendum, it should not be up to the public to decide these crucial matters concerning the country's future because the Government knows what is best for us. This, in spite of the fact that even a Labour MP (Gwyneth Dunwoody) has stated that the debate on the various aspects of the Treaty was being "cut short in the most brutal manner" and the Europhile Lib-Dem foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey described the Government's rushing through of the bill as "damaging to the pro-European position."
How it's possible to be "half way above" something, I have no idea.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

The 'English Question'

In 1997 the Labour government held referenda in Scotland and Wales which led to the creation of the Welsh Assembly in 1998 and the Scottish Parliament in 1999. The Northern Ireland Assembly has also recently been re-established. This has led to what has become known as the West Lothian Question (named after the constituency of Tam Dalyel MP, who first asked it): How can it be right that in the House of Commons at Westminster, MPs representing Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish constituencies can vote on matters which affect England, but which do not affect their own constituents, as the latter come under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly or the Northern Ireland Assembly?
The situation has led to several bills being passed into law (eg. the Act which allowed for the creation of Foundation Hospitals and the Act which introduced university top-up fees) which were only passed as a result of the votes of MPs for Scottish constituencies (even though in Scotland, top-up fees have been rejected by the Scottish Parliament.)
In 1998, Labour's Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, said that the best answer to the West Lothian Question was to stop asking it, and so far the government has certainly not shown any great desire to address the issue of 'asymmetric devolution' although a number of opinion polls carried out throughout the UK in recent years have found that the majority of those polled consider the constitutional anomalies resulting from the current constitutional settlement to be unfair to the people of England.
The Conservative Party have hinted that, should they achieve power at the next general election, they would introduce a system whereby legislation affecting only those living in England could be voted on only by MPs representing English constituencies. This policy of 'English votes on English laws', however, would not be without its own problems. It would create a de facto English parliament where one party might effectively be in power in England, though without the usual trappings of government (eg. the power to run departments or the ability to implement a planned programme of legislation) while another party could be in power as the official government of the UK as a whole.
Recent polls have suggested that the people of England's favoured solution to the West Lothian Question is the establisment of a formal English parliament with similar powers to the Scottish one. However, this would be to turn the UK into a type of federation, with one of the partners in the Federation (ie. England) dwarfing the other three in terms of population and geographical territory.
Another proposed solution has been the idea of regional devolution within England, with the regional authorities holding similar powers to those of the current devolved bodies.
It is clear that there is no easy answer to the West Lothian Question but it is equally clear that the current post-devolution constitutional arrangements could potentially lead to outcomes that are less than optimally democratic (and, arguably, has done so already) and to leave them unaddressed is to invite possible unfairness and resentment in the future.
I have transcribed the comment from my old blog below:

Tally said...
Your humble opinion is also the opinion of many people in England.
Welcome to the Witangemot.

07 January 2008 00:20