Tory Manifesto – A Wishlist

Apparently, the Tories are planning to fight the coming General Election on much the same platform as the last. One imagines the commitment to the single market will be removed and the immigration pledge will be altered.

This is a mistake.

I will be voting Tory, unless it makes sense in my constituency to vote Labour or Lib Dem to prevent an SNP victory. But they get plenty wrong. They should be willing to admit this and change course.

My wishlist for five things to be removed from, and five things to be added to the manifesto.

Removed

  1. The Pensions Triple Lock
    1. Possibly the most expensive and ill-thought out commitments a government has made. Committing them to raising pensions at 2.5%, wages, or inflation – whichever is greater. Constantly ratcheting up the cost of pensions at a time when the government should be attempting to wean people off dependence on the state in their dotage. A transfer of wealth from the young to the old. And this is the perfect election to get rid of it, the idea that the over 60s are going to vote for the IRA candidate is for the birds.
  2. Get rid of the no increases in taxes pledge
    1. Pledges like this can only lead to backfires. A chancellor should not have their hands tied to the point that they cannot vary the rates for 75% of government revenue is ridiculous. I’d prefer to see taxes lower, but circumstances can change and the government needs flexibility
  3. HS2
    1. An expensive boondoggle that will be overtaken by the market in autonomous cars. There is no need for it or for any mid-distance point-to-point infrastructure investments. Edinburgh/Glasgow – London/Birmingham, sure. But London-Birmingham? Please. Autonomous cars and new ownership models for cars will mean people can travel quickly, cheaply, and in privacy within our current/slightly expanded road system.
  4. Inheritance Tax Changes
    1. The Tories should be the party of earned, not unearned wealth. Yes – parents should be able to give a certain amount to their children without incurring IHT. That rate should be increased with inflation (as should all tax thresholds). But for the party to truly ‘solve’ intergenerational inequality, they need to increase the churn rate of money between generations. More sales of property from the newly dead would increase the number of homes on the market for the newly wed, decreasing prices and increasing the efficiency of the market.
  5. “make sure no-one is forced to sell their home to pay for care”
    1. This goes against Tory ideals that people should be responsible for themselves. People should be incentivised to save throughout their lives for the end of their lives. The family unit should also be placed at the centre of care for the elderly, with the state only intervening when there are no children to help. Making parents the responsibility of their children as in Singapore would lessen the burden on government and prevent feckless children pawning their parents off onto the state

Added

  1. Tax deductibility of mortgages for people fewer than five years into home ownership
    1. Previously I leaned towards total mortgage tax deductibility. This would lead to an incentive to take out mortgages and an increase in the inefficient allocation of capital by banks (more mortgage lending, as it’s safe and into fixed assets which banks can reclaim, means less lending to riskier enterprises that will have greater payback). But making mortgages tax deductible for anyone who has owned a property for fewer than five years would massively decrease the cost of getting onto the ladder and increase their spending power as they got onto the market. It would be costly and would increase house prices, but combined with a campaign to build millions more houses by reforming the planning system this would dramatically improve the fortunes of the young in this country.
  2. Crossrail 2/Heathrow Expansion/Planning Reform
    1. London risks becoming unattractive in the future as a result of Brexit. It will remain one of the two global cities, but could decline relative to Paris and Tokyo to become closer to them and less like New York. This is unacceptable. London pays for the rest of the union. From Cornwall to Clackmannanshire, London pays for it all. An investment in Crossrail 2, in two new runways at Heathrow, a new runway at Gatwick, and a rapid transport system between the two, and a change in the planning system to favour development unless the area is of special significance would save London from any decline and revitalise it – the young could afford to live there, the 30-50 bracket would no longer abandon it. We could steal aviation market share back from Dubai. London is our national champion, and yes there is too much focus on it and not enough on Glasgow, Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Newcastle – but we cannot focus on those without London paying for them.
  3. Remove students from any immigration cap/quota
    1. It’s a stupid policy. The one group of immigrants the country is in favour of. And we’re saying to Chinese and Indian students that they’re not welcome here when we need them to pay for our universities. Change it. And in any immigration reform have any student completing a Masters or PhD offered permanent residence.
  4. Merge DfID, FCO, DfIT under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
    1. DfID needs reform. The DfIT should sit under the Foreign Office anyway. And the FCO needs investment. Bringing the DfID under the FCO should not be seen as a way to scrap the 0.7% target but to make it more effective. With true business cases used for every project and recognition that if the 0.7% target isn’t reached in one year it could be set aside for projects in the future or for acute crisis response.
  5. Diesel scrappage combined with a low cost incentive scheme for PV and EV and a countrywide commitment to autonomous vehicles
    1. Air quality in London and other major cities has become a bigger theme recently. Changes to the Congestion Charge should be combined with a generous scrappage scheme for older diesel and some older petrol cars with an added incentive for anyone turning a diesel over for a new, autonomous ready EV. We should aim to become the global centre for autonomous vehicles, stealing the lead from California with a permissive testing system. As part of our Brexit strategy we should be establishing free ports and should incentivise builders of autonomous vehicles to establish in these zones for export.

 

 

They’ll Like Us When We Win

Freedom must run deeper than the free flow of capital. 
Freedom must mean more than the free trade of goods and services. 
The world will be free when we have freedom of speech for every nation.
The world will be free when there is freedom to worship for everyone.
The world will be free when we finally shake off the rusted 
chains of tyranny.
Whether in the guise of facist dictatorships, or economic slavery, 
or ethnic hostility, or the crushing yoke of Islamic fanaticism.

Andrea Wyatt, Night Five, West Wing Season 3

I have a thing for quoting The West Wing. Season 2 was some of the greatest TV ever made. Then from Season 3 it lost its innocence. 9/11 saw Isaac and Ishmael as the response by the show. But the series took a darker twist as the USA responded to the newfound threat of danger at home.

They’ll Like Us When We Win. Said by Toby in response to his ex-wife’s protest at some lines in a speech the President is going to give. The west has shrunk from intervention, from proudly staking our claim to be the beacon of civilisation. Shrunk because we’re ashamed of our history, too indebted to pay for more intervention, unwilling to stand up for the idea that free speech, democracy, equal rights, pluralism, are good ideals. The election of Donald Trump won’t help, isolationism will dampen that beacon and put it further out of reach.

I’ve made the case for liberal interventionism before. The West should not be afraid to stand up to the evils in the world and say enough. It would require Germany and Japan to shake off their past and proudly state that they were willing to stand up to dictators and despots.

There’s nothing wrong with saying our morals are better. We don’t crucify people for protesting. We don’t hang people for being gay. Let’s impose our morals on people who disagree with us until they agree. Because our morals are better. Simple.

It’s an extreme reaction to an extreme problem. The problems in the Middle East and the rest of the world become our problems when people flee civil war and persecution. Despite our tarnished post-Iraq reputation they still come to us. Extreme reactions work. I will recognise that democracy can’t be dropped from 40,000 feet but you can kill the people who prevent democracy from happening from 40,000 feet. ISIS have been nearly destroyed (despite all the takes from a year ago saying it could take 25 years). Finish the job, destroy ISIS and then say to the rest of the Middle East and every unstable region of the world ‘don’t worry, freedom and democracy will be coming to a polling booth near you very soon’.

Dictatorships are naturally unstable. There are tensions constantly bubbling, and all it takes is one fruit vendor to self-immolate and suddenly you have uprisings and civil wars from Tunisia to Bahrain. My suggestion. Let’s institute a Nuremberg for the Middle East.

‘President’ Assad – you have been found guilty of indiscriminate bombing of civilians. Sentence will be carried out immediately.

‘King’ Salman – you have been found guilty of the oppression of minorities to make money, the oppression of women and the murder of homosexuals. Sentence will be carried out immediately.

Our morals are better. This isn’t complicated. I cannot square this idea that somehow we should shrink from telling the Middle East that crucifixion is wrong. That we should shrink from telling Uganda that homosexuality shouldn’t be a crime. That we should shrink from ensuring slavery is abolished in Mauritania. That we should shrink from telling Myanmar to protect their Rohingya Muslims from Buddhist attacks. It isn’t colonialism to tell countries, even former colonies, that they need to do better by their people or they’re next.

Apply the same set of morals globally. Free speech – containing religious freedom and freedom of the press, equal rights for minorities and women, democratic reforms (though not along the lines of the US system), pluralism. Globalism may be in retreat, but the minorities in those countries will still look to the West to be the shining city on the hill. Instead of stopping them coming to us, let’s bring the city to them.

Ken Clarke said of Michael Gove “If Michael was PM we’d be at war with three countries at once”. Maybe, it doesn’t have to be military power, but we ought to be far more muscular in promoting our worldview. Because we’re right. They’re wrong. They’re strong. We’re much stronger.

They’ll like us when we win.

Enemies Foreign and Domestic

The EU is in trouble. Not because of Brexit, the shockwaves have largely dissipated, the UK invoking article 50 and coming to a deal to leave the EU is priced in. No, the EU is beset by a combination of internal and external problems and potential issues. Some self-inflicted, others foreseeable but not ones the EU can influence.

Some of these could lead to the break-up of the EU, others would weaken it further and in combination with another would lead to the break-up of the EU. The EU is not some permanent part of the geopolitical landscape, no more than the USSR was.

Presented below, in no particular order, and by no means exhaustive, are some of the potential shocks coming towards the EU.

Internal Shocks

Next Slowdown/Recession

There will be another slowdown, or even recession, in the global economy over the coming decade. Whether caused by a trade war between China and the USA, caused by a war disrupting the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz, or caused by the global economy overheating and needing to take some excess supply out of the equation. There will be a recession, as mature economies, the EU is going to be hit. When it is, the financial markets are going to take a long look at Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and France. If they are found wanting (whether their banks or their sovereign debt), there will have to be a massive response from the ECB and the EU to save the countries involved and by implication save the Euro. There could be an effort to force the weakest and most truculent members (I’m looking at you, Athens) out of the Euro. Very rapidly the Euro could unravel, taking with it any semblance of solidarity between the members of the EU.

Probability: Certain

Impact: High (Depends on response)

Hungary

Viktor Orban is a man on a mission, to save ‘Christian Europe’. His opposition to the influx of refugees and migrants won’t destroy the EU, Hungary is now, and will only ever be, a minor player on the EU stage. But the influence it can bring to bear on the rest of Eastern Europe the part of the EU that remains young and relatively rapid growing means the EU should beware. He has changed the constitution to suit himself and is not afraid of standing up to the EU on refugees. A confrontation between Hungary and the EU wouldn’t lead to Hungary leaving or being forced out (despite the wish of some on the left to invoke Article 7 and suspend voting rights) but it could lead to solidarity in Eastern Europe against the demands for sovereignty to flow ever closer to Brussels.

Probability: Med-High

Impact: Low

Marine Le Pen

If Marine Le Pen is elected president of France the EU would almost certainly become an ex-union, pining for the fjords.  A fascist in control of one of the pillars of the EU, one who openly suggests a return to the Franc and leaving the EU, would lead to a crisis within the EU that would be almost impossible to contain. There wouldn’t be time to hold a referendum on membership of the EU/Euro before countries on the periphery, and maybe Italy also had been forced by the bond markets to leave the Euro. France would likely vote to remain in the EU in any referendum, but there wouldn’t be much of one to remain a member of.

Probability: Low-Med

Impact: High

Five Star

The Five Star movement could form, or influence, the next, government in Italy. Less likely to form a government as they explicitly refuse any alliances. Scope for a referendum on the Euro and the EU is limited and would take time, the bond markets wouldn’t wait for a referendum and would abandon Italy (with a staggeringly high public debt and already fragile banks). The ECB would be forced to step in for a country with a government actively hostile to the Euro. Not pretty.

Probability: Low-Med

Impact: Med

Alternativ für Deutschland

Alternativ für Deutschland will not be part of the next government in Germany. I think. If they were, the impact would again, be instantly catastrophic for the EU. Representation in the Bundestag is highly likely, however, and would influence the debate within Germany.

Probability: Vanishingly Low

Impact: High

Russophile Fillon

François Fillon is likely to be the next president of France. His economic policies would have a huge impact on the country (if they could be passed, given the Gallic preponderance for riot and protest). But his stance on Russia could lead to protests from the east. He’s a Russophile and would likely attempt to weaken sanctions on Russia, Eastern Europe (largely) wants Russia contained. They can likely be mollified but if sanctions were weakened it would be a signal that the EU was still a club for the core and not for the East.

Probability: High

Impact: Low

 

External Shocks

And the shocks to the EU that could come from outside the block, ones the EU can have very little influence on.

Algeria

The certain (and apparently imminent) death of Abdelaziz Bouteflika will lead to turmoil in Algeria. Whilst the military may be able to contain the unrest, it is far from impossible that another civil war would break out – mirroring Syria but with far easier access to the EU. The resultant wave of refugees would make their way to France heaping enormous pressure on the EU. France would be compelled to intervene militarily in the former colony and would likely call for aid, the UK would likely stand behind France – the rest of the EU, not so much.

Probability: High

Impact: Med

Syria

The civil war continues. Assad seems likely to win, crushing and gassing resistance with the aid of the odd Russian jet that can actually land on the Admiral Kuznetsov. Further escalation seems unlikely, the most likely scenario is Assad’s fist tightening around Syria. The worst outcome for the EU would be another flare-up, leading to a fresh wave of refugees flooding through Turkey. Turkey has belatedly stopped the flow but this is not guaranteed to continue. More refugees would exacerbate issues with Hungary, France, and AfD. More of a proxy problem than an actual issue.

Probability: Low

Impact: Med-High

Turkey

There are dozens of issues around Turkey, from the government’s hostility to Kurds and Kurdish independence, to the masses of Syrian refugees that Erdoğan loves to use as a threat, to the cancellation of talks for Turkey’s EU membership, to Erdoğan cosying up to a revanchist Russia. A change in the status of Kurds within Turkey would lead to a wave of Kurds heading for Germany, where the huge population of Turks would lead to some spectacular clashes. Erdoğan is likely to use Syrian refugees as a bargaining chip to extract further concessions from the EU. The EU has paid the Danegeld before, they won’t be rid of him now.

Probability: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Impact: High

Baltic States

Commitment to NATO never used to be an issue that came into question, maybe of France, but of the USA? Now, with Donald Trump, it is likely that the US will think twice before responding to Article 5 being invoked by the Baltic States if they’re invaded by Russia. Not so much because of Trump’s ties to Putin, but because he doesn’t see them as worth defending. Lithuania and Latvia both come far below their target for defence spending (about 1% of GDP, target is 2%), Estonia behaves with 2%. Putin isn’t likely to invade, or even to send the little green men as he did to the Crimea. But any move on the eastern front of NATO would need to be met with overwhelming force by NATO. Why is this an EU problem? Because the EU relies on NATO for defence. If NATO can’t provide a response than the EU must. Germany most of all must raise their defence spending and throw off their history to become the regional power the EU needs them to be. Failure to respond to the annexation of a member state would be catastrophic.

Probability: Low

Impact: High

Trump

He could say Gibraltar should be part of Spain. He could grope Angela Merkel. He could withdraw from NATO. The cancellation of TTIP is now all but certain. Who knows what Trump could do, but he’s certain to have an impact on the EU before the planet is destroyed. And by impact, I don’t mean something pleasant.

Probability: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (Depends on his blood sugar that day)

Impact: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (Likely nuclear winter, who knows)

 

Wisconsin & Defending the Enemies of the People

The vote to leave the EU is currently subject to a judicial review. Or so the Mail and others would have you believe. Votes are to be recounted in Wisconsin to deny Trump the presidency. Or so Twitter would have you believe.

No, the method in which the UK triggering Article 50 is currently under review. Is the case being brought by people with a desire to prevent us ever leaving the EU? Yes. Will the case prevent us leaving the EU? No. Will the protest by the SNP prevent the UK leaving the EU? No. Is it right that the case is brought? Probably. Is it right that the case is able to be brought? Absolutely.

The UK is a representative democracy, not a pure democracy. In this case, our MPs delegated the responsibility for the decision to the people. The people instructed the Government to arrange for us to leave the EU. The manner and end arrangements are up for discussion. The Government has to institute the decision to vote to leave the EU in a legal manner. That means allowing the judicial system and legislative system to work. If laws need to be changed to enable us to leave the EU, that’s a minor stepping stone. It won’t make a difference. The government has a mandate from the people to bring the UK out of the EU (whatever that means in practice).

In the same way, the petition to recount votes in Wisconsin is right. Should it have been brought by Jill Stein? Well, I don’t enjoy the idea of denying anyone – no matter how abhorrent or anti-scientific their views are – access to the legal system. But where there are concerns about the votes, it is right that there should be a recount. It is not likely that this will change the outcome, but it doesn’t matter. Faith in the system is paramount. Even if people disagree with the system, it is vital that the legislative, judicial, and executive branches are all able to operate within the law without undue interference from one another.

I voted to leave the EU. But I am happy to see a case brought against the way the government will trigger A50. If the appeal fails, the government should be happy to push a bill through parliament. If the SNP want to frustrate the efforts of Westminster to withdraw the UK from the EU, Westminster can pass a law making explicit that Holyrood has no competency in this area. Powers that Westminster has devolved, Westminster can un-devolve.

This isn’t complicated. It’s how the system works. Governments should be frustrated by their legislative and judicial systems. Anything else is tyranny.

Mr President

So… Trump has won.

Is everyone really as surprised as my Twitter and Facebook feed suggest?

Yes, Trump has won. I believe that he has won for a few reasons mostly, that the public (wherever this may be) are fed up of the politics of modern society. Political correctness allowing the majority to be pushed around, lying and ‘pussy footing’ around important questions. Trump for all of his flaws at least doesn’t care about what he says. He says what he thinks (however bad his thoughts might be).

I will get called sexist for saying this (because people only read what they want to) but I am glad that Hillary is not the first female president. If this criminal who is also a compulsive liar had been the first female president it would have meant that no woman would be allowed in the presidents chair for a hundred years. She would have ended up embarrassing women everywhere, and especially embarrassed women in power.

Reading the news, outlets discuss how Trump has never been involved in politics or is a ‘political outsider’ how is this relevant. People who take up being a politician should simply want to stand for something, some set of beliefs, this is what should make them qualified (if the public votes them in) not how many years they have been standing in the shadow of some other politician.

People this side of the pond discussed how Hillary would have been the ‘lesser’ of two evils. Why not send that whole idea to hell and not let there be only two people that are ‘evil’ onto the ballots?

Charlotte

My question to anyone who riots in this modern day US is why?

Americans are so patriotic… why?

Americans live in a FREE country… really?

Americans always boast this point, that they live in a free country, we all know that this is a load of crap.

Freedom of speech in america is only a licence to get sued.

The police in america shoot people because that is all that they have been taught, they don’t get training on how to subdue a person without lethal force. Which is a serious problem, the solution to which is not going out and endangering the lived of more police officers with violent protest. The solution should be a peaceful one and should be talking to the powers that be rather that hurting working Americans.

Violence begets more violence.

America, train your police better, teach respect for police to the young (but know that this respect must be earned from the public).

STOP SHOOTING PEOPLE! Carry a taser gun.

The selfish doctors

So…

Junior doctors strike action…

The junior doctors will soon have a worse public opinion than tube drivers. This is because when the tube drivers go on strike all that happens is that people are late to work. Junior doctors striking will cause deaths!

Yes, they have gone on strike before, but not for a 5 day stretch.

In the public sector people are given a hell of a lot more cushion than anyone in the private sector. Yet all we ever hear is people in the public sector complaining!

The amount of junior doctors that voted to support this strike action (which isn’t even what happened, they voted to reject the contracts) is less than half of all junior doctors. Yet they will tarnish the entire reputation of out NHS, our ‘world renowned’ NHS.

If these junior doctors had to go and work in another industry for just one week, working in shift environments, they would probably strike after the first day, all they are is selfish and pathetic people who work in better conditions than most other people. They are willing to hurt a large amount of people to line their pockets.

I hope that the deaths that occur directly due to under-staffing during this strike can be counted, and that it be the most published statistic for a long while afterwards so that the selfishness of these junior doctors can be highlighted.

My message to the junior doctors that support strike action is ‘grow-up’.