You are currently browsing the daily archive for April 4, 2022.

On the first Thursday in May 2022, the UK will hold local elections.

It is unclear how well the Conservative Party will do, given sudden cost of living increases across the board, all of which occurred on April 1. Oh, were that this an April Fool joke. Sadly, it is all too real.

On April 3, Tim Stanley recapped the Conservatives’ self-inflicted wounds for The Telegraph: ‘The nannying Tories face oblivion if they refuse to get their priorities straight’.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine, except for Guido Fawkes’s posts below:

The same day the gas bill doubled, it snowed. Oh, and restaurants were mandated to list calorie counts on menus. After 12 years in office, the Tories have gone from trying to fix the state to trying to fix us, so we’ll be less of a shivery, fat burden on the bureaucrats. Don’t eat, they advise; don’t fly, don’t drive, avoid using the heating. In fact, it would be helpful if we could stop existing altogether. The NHS would look good on paper if no one used it, and we’d have a zero per cent failure rate in schools if no one ever sat an exam.

As MPs take a break from Parliament this week, the Tories need to dwell on what they have actually done and what there is to do. This all hinges upon the question of who they truly represent. Considering they were elected to clear up the economic mess left by Labour, it’s a bummer to note that debt is higher than under Gordon Brown, the tax burden rising and living standards crashing. We cannot blame ministers for a pandemic or a war, it’s true, but the Conservative Party’s solutions are near-indistinguishable from New Labour’s, and the alternatives rarely aired. Last week, I sat in on the Treasury Committee’s “grilling” of Rishi Sunak and the two points I never heard made were “you are spending too much” and “how dare you take my constituents’ money to do it”. The anger is not there. No party in Westminster stands for the consumer.

It was heartening to see that Stanley shares my impressions of parliamentary debate — virtue signalling, for the most part, including from Conservative benches:

This is not merely a crisis of philosophy, it is undemocratic. MPs are supposedly elected to do what their constituents want, but too many of them, as soon as they arrive in Westminster, are absorbed into a culture that has a uniform idea of what voters need, a total plan for life that runs from reducing carbon to dropping enough weight to fit into a size six dress (even better if you’re a fella!). Half the debates are toe-curlingly pious nonsense that does the electorate no benefit except to reassure them that their MP is spectacularly compassionate – and the more laws you pass, goes the logic, the more money we splash, the more compassionate they appear to be. Ergo, the most important metric for success in 2022 is how much the Treasury is spending, not the results.

It’s maddening to contemplate that nothing is ever done about situations past and present that affect many Britons:

Where to begin? The Ockenden report has stated that more than 200 babies and nine mothers might have survived were it not for failings at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust. During the lockdown, the Government allocated around £37 billion for the deeply inefficient Test and Trace project. It lost £4.9 billion in loan fraud. Not one police officer has been sacked in relation to the Rotherham child abuse scandal. And the same Home Office that struggles to kick out foreign-born criminals finds it strangely difficult to let in Ukrainian women and children.

And we’re paying for this incompetence, while an independent body that Labour created years ago just gave all MPs a 2.7% pay rise:

You are paying for all this, and likely paying more thanks, despite [Rishi] Sunak’s tinkering, to a combination of National Insurance changes and inflation dragging people into ever higher tax bands. The Chancellor, in his munificence, says he plans to cut income tax in 2024, which means the British government is now handing out IOUs. At the same time, he is also bunging us £200 to help with the electricity bills, a sum that the state will reclaim at a later date, which means it’s also entered the habit of writing “UOMes”. MPs are getting a wee grant of their own. Their salaries will rise by 2.7 per cent, or £2,212.

The Government has become more intrusive and we have less money in our pockets:

… thanks to Covid, the public sector has been calling the shots since 2020, while the burden of wealth and power has shifted decisively away from the individual. Does this feel like a freer society than 12 years ago? Or a happier one? Paranoia and suspicion are not only widespread but encouraged (adverts on the London Underground now warn against “staring”), and privacy is dead. I can remember when we were told to protect our data. Now, just to take a train to Belgium, I have to prove my vaccine status by downloading the NHS app, send it a photo of my driving licence and record a video of my face reciting a series of numbers. Do I trust the NHS will delete all this information once used? Bless you. I’d sooner invite a rabid fox to babysit the chickens

Voters, in the eyes of far too many, are spreaders of disease or pollution (in the opinion of some of the old ladies who glue themselves to roads, we ought even to stop breeding), and pockets of money waiting to be tapped.

What is a truly conservative concept of government?

the old-fashioned principle of offering us the best possible service at the lowest possible price

Small government doesn’t mean “no government” but more efficient government – more effective precisely because it limits itself to a narrower range of tasks at which it can excel. Drawing a line under the Trimalchio’s feast of a Spring Statement, the Tories must spend the time they have before the next election peeling back the bureaucracy where it is not needed, passing the benefits on to the people who have been robbed to pay for it, and coming up with creative ways to encourage the private sphere to revive. I don’t just mean conjuring up new markets in insurance or energy, but also unleashing culture and technology, faith and family, the very things that make life worth living.

Bravo!

Ultimately, Stanley says:

The paradoxical goal of conservative politics is to make politics less important in everyday life, and while it might sound hopelessly idealistic to expect powerful people to surrender power, unless the Tories try to reduce the state, they will eventually lose office altogether. The time will come when voters finally snap, and take it away.

Let us look at a few more news items on this subject.

A week or two ago, someone sent in a letter to The Telegraph illustrating how much the Government is taking in tax. This is an alarming practical example:

https://image.vuukle.com/0fb1f625-47b3-4788-9031-5fe43d5ad981-f54455a1-3822-4557-8d9f-fd2fa4d2fe43

Now let’s look at Net Zero, the Government’s pet project, initiated by then-Prime Minister Theresa May.

This is a practical illustration of the folly of electric cars, written by conservative columnist and broadcaster Iain Dale for The Telegraph:

Back in November, I acquired an electric car, something I never thought I would do … I calculated it would save me thousands of pounds every year … 

On Friday night, I was invited to speak to Beverley and Holderness Conservatives. The main difference when you drive an electric car on a long journey is that you have to plan. In my old car, I could drive 600 miles without filling the tank, but if I ever nearly ran out of diesel there was always a petrol station around the corner.

The equivalent is not true if you have an electric car. You have to plan your journey using apps such as Zap-Map, which tell you where the charging points are, and whether they’re being used, or working. I got to Beverley OK, having recharged the car at Donington Park services on the M1, which has a few charging points. Some motorway services don’t have any.

The return journey proved to be a disaster. I left Beverley at 9am and arrived home in Kent at 7.45pm. A journey that should have taken four hours lasted an astonishing 10¾. It was a day completely wasted. The problem was that the three fast chargers in Beverley were either in use or didn’t work. So I had to use slow chargers to get to the next fast charger, which was 50 miles away. Range anxiety is a real phenomenon. The whole time you’re looking at the screen in front of you, wondering if you will run out of charge before you reach the next charger. And then what?

This week, [Transport Secretary] Grant Shapps announced a target of 300,000 more chargers across the country by 2030, the year when the Government says it will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel powered cars. Fatally, he’s left it to local authorities to make sure the roll-out happens. Mark my words, it won’t. Not without national direction.

My advice is this. If you only do relatively short journeys, then buying an electric car is a good decision. If you regularly travel more than 150 miles, it isn’t. In my experience, the car manufacturers lie about the expected range. My electric car is supposed to do 298 miles. The reality is that it does 206, or 215 if the weather is warm. Caveat emptor.

In other news, the price of milk is set to rise by 50%. The Telegraph reports that crisis talks with EU and British dairy farmers took place in Brussels last week:

Rocketing costs from feed, fertiliser and fuel have stoked fears in the industry of a surge in milk prices not seen in decades.

The cost of four pints of milk will jump from around £1.15 to between £1.60 and £1.70, an increase of up to 50pc, according to Kite Consulting, the UK’s leading adviser to dairy farmers.

Michael Oakes, the dairy board chair of the National Farmers’ Union, agreed that milk prices will likely rise by as much as 50pc.

John Allen at Kite said a 30-year period of low milk price rises is “coming to an end now” as costs surge on multiple fronts. He expects a typical pack of butter to rise from £1.55 to more than £2.

He said: “What is of concern at present is processors are getting inflationary costs as well and also we are short of milk around the world.”

Dairy industry bosses from the UK and elsewhere in Europe flew into Brussels at the end of last week with talks led by Eucolait, the continent’s leading dairy industry group. Dairy processors, which act as a link between farmers and shops, are said to be deeply concerned about soaring costs both at farm level and further up the supply chain, as the war in Ukraine lifts key input costs

UK dairy industry bosses have raised concerns over their costs to the Government, but officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are said to be merely in “listening mode”

Mr Oakes, who is also a farmer, said: “I was paying about £7,000 for an artic [articulated lorry] load of fertiliser, and this year it’s £28,000. It would have been a little bit less before Ukraine happened, but it made another big jump because we’d already seen higher gas prices, which have implications for fertiliser costs …

He added that feed costs have risen 60pc.

As if all that isn’t enough to worry voters, we have the Online Safety Bill passing through Parliament. Guido Fawkes tells us what is happening as Ofcom, the communications regulator, prepares for the not-so-distant future:

Scary.

Guido’s accompanying post says, in part:

According to Melanie Dawes, the newly-appointed CEO of Ofcom, the quango will increase headcount by 400 staff ahead of new powers to police the internet in the Online Safety Bill, which will be voted on in Parliament after Easter. That’s a lot of censors…

Ofcom will have Putin-style powers to block websites from being seen in the UK if those sites fail to uphold their new legal duty of care to remove “harmful content”. The definition of “harmful content”, of course, will be a political question. Will questioning hurtling towards net-zero whilst millions are in energy poverty be deemed harmful content? …

Ofcom’s Melanie Dawes told Times Radio:

We’ve got some tough and strong tools in our toolkit as a result of this legislation. And I think we need those. These very strict and somewhat draconian kinds of sanctions are really only the sort of thing that you would expect to use as a serious last resort.

If you don’t accept self-censorship and comply, your website will be blocked. Chilling.

Then we found out at the weekend that the civil servant in charge of ethics was at a lockdown party.

The Times‘s Patrick Maguire reported:

Were this a plot point in a satire, it would feel much too lazy for any self-respecting reader to get behind. But here we are: the official who was then in charge of ethics on Whitehall has been fined for her attendance at a lockdown-busting karaoke party.

As the first major name to have been revealed to have received a fixed penalty notice, Helen Macnamara — then the government’s head of propriety and ethics, now in the business of neither as director of policy and corporate affairs at the Premier League — is surely a sign of things to come.

For confirmation of her attendance at a leaving do in the Cabinet Office in June 2020 — at a cost of £50 — is a sign that it wasn’t just the junior, nameless and faceless who breached Covid restrictions at the heart of government over that fateful period, as Boris Johnson would much prefer to be the case.

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is also said to have told people who attended a No 10 party on April 16 last year, the day before Philip’s funeral, that they would be given fixed penalty notices: conclusive proof at last that the law was broken in Downing Street itself.

The PM did not attend either do, but the slow burn of revelations from the Met’s investigation is hardly ideal, particularly with elections just over a month away.

“I have 65,000 constituents in west Wales, where I represent, and they are not shy in coming forward and expressing a view about this and a number of other subjects,” Simon Hart, the Welsh secretary, told Sky News this morning.

“And throughout all of this saga of the Downing Street parties they have said one thing very clearly, and in a vast majority they say they want contrition and they want an apology, but they don’t want a resignation.”

The bigger risk, looking at the polls, is that they don’t want to vote Tory

However, there are two bright rays of sunlight in an otherwise cloudy day.

The first is that London’s position as the second most important financial centre in the world is holding steady, as The Telegraph reported on Monday, April 4:

London remains Europe’s dominant financial centre based on factors such as (relative) political stability, labour market flexibility, quality of life, infrastructure and innovation, a ranking by think tank Z/Yen Group found last week. It was ranked second only to New York globally, while Paris came in at 11th place.

The second is that Volodymyr Zelenskyy still appreciates all of Boris Johnson’s efforts for Ukraine. He is contemptuous of Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, as Guido reports:

Guido has the video of Zelenskyy praising Boris:

Zelenskyy’s said the UK has “agreed on new defensive support for Ukraine. New package. Very, very tangible support,” addingThank you Boris for the leadership! Historical leadership. I’m sure of it”. 

It’s too bad that Zelenskyy cannot campaign for Boris’s Conservatives. They could use his help.

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