THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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March 2007

Social Justice -v- Justice

Link: University education could cost an arm and leg | Dt Opinion | Opinion | Telegraph.

Img_0347A young man grew up in a Labour constituency in the North. None of his ancestors went to university. One grandmother, admittedly, went to teacher training college and taught at a primary school until marriage. Another was a piece worker in a textile factory, the muscular operator of a steam press. One grandfather worked as an unskilled labourer in the Rolls-Royce factory. Another lived on a disability pension.

His father was a small-town builder, a time-served apprentice. His mother left school at 15 to work as a book-keeper in a factory, was then a housewife and later kept the books in a menswear shop.

Our young man attended a comprehensive school and was taught in mixed-ability classes. He was the subject of modern educational experiments, learning maths - for example - from Cuisenaire rods. A bright boy, he read extensively to supplement the educational diet on offer and obtained the equivalent of three modern A grades at A level plus a distinction (without tuition, on the basis of private study) in the equivalent of the modern AEA.

His chances of  a place at Oxbridge under Labour's proposed new class apartheid would be excellent. As Charles Moore points out, there are fewer than 1000 such candidates on offer each year.

This same young man married the daughter of an unskilled factory worker and a sales assistant in a menswear chain. His wife was from the same disadvantaged part of the North. He met her at the same proletarian school. She had a talent for languages and did just as well in her A levels. She would be another shoe-in under the proposed new system.

Now consider these two young people. Their father is a partner in a City of London law firm. Their mother, formerly a teacher, is now a well-dressed woman about town; a lover of fine literature and a much-travelled cosmopolitan at ease anywhere in the world. Their parents have dedicated a large part of their resources to sending them to a major public school where they have benefited from one of the best educations on offer. Their chances under Labour's proposed system must be minimal.

The honest son and daughter of toil are my wife and myself. The two privileged scions of the elite are my children. Charles Moore therefore struck a chord with me when, in the linked article, he wrote:

...this will feel even worse for those who are first-generation graduates than for those who took it almost for granted that they would manage to get into a university. The first-generationers will remember the struggles, the sense of opening horizons, the delight of their own, less fortunate parents. They will feel bitter indeed that their success will now tend to produce their children's failure.

Dead right, mate. My wife and I also know that, while we are passably bright, we are nothing compared to our children. Yes, they have had the advantage of parents who value education above all other goods and have the income to afford the best. But they have undoubted talents nonetheless. They have the ability to add value to, as well as to adorn, any society in which they live. Punishing them for their good luck is not justice, any more than it would have been just to reward their parents for what only a nasty-minded Socialist could regard as their "bad" luck. Luck isn't the problem. Government education policy is. We know from our own experiences that Charles Moore states the simple truth when he writes: is indeed the case that people from poor backgrounds have bad, and worsening, educational opportunities. This is deprivation indeed. But who is doing the depriving? A government and a state education culture which is actively opposed to everything that is meant by a good education.

A society prepared to play politics with education is doomed. Britain, for my whole life, has done little else.

Manchester taxpayer? Here's where your money goes.

Dscn0403In the world of public sector "investment promotion", some of the money that is taken from businesses in taxes is spent on persuading them to invest again (so as to be taxed again).

I hasten to stress that Manchester is by no means the worst culprit. You should see the scale of the "marketing" efforts of London, Paris and some Russian cities you will never have heard of. The Manchester yacht, for all I know, may well be at least partly sponsored by private companies.

Still, I thought Manchester's council tax payers might like to see where some of their city's public servants are this week.

Cameron considers tax hikes on air travel

Link: Cameron considers tax hikes on air travel | Uk News | News | Telegraph.

I may be about to set a record for the shortest membership of a political party. This week, David Cameron having recently announced a policy I agreed with, I sent off my form to join "Conservatives Abroad." Before the form has even reached London however the Conservative Party has managed to infuriate me. According to the Telegraph:

The Conservatives will also suggest - most controversially of all - rationing individuals to as little as a single short-haul flight each year; any further journeys would attract progressively higher taxes, a leaked document entitled Greener Skies suggests.

If this is true, Dave Cameron has lost all touch with reality. The Shadow Chancellor is saying that the proposals will target "frequent flyers," i.e. people like me who fly at least once every month. Anyone who lives that way will tell you we don't do it for frivolous pleasure. We do it because our businesses require it. Businesses that send money back to Britain because our services constitute the country's "invisible exports."

Imperialairwayslugglabel4_smallThese proposals would spell the end for the City of London. New York is the biggest stock exchange in the world, but only on the basis of American business. The biggest international exchange is in London. Why should that exchange, and the banks and professional firms that serve it, remain in a country that penalises international business? How will they visit, on competitive terms, the foreign businesses they serve?

These proposals would damage Britain's exports generally. Goods don't sell themselves and services need to be delivered in the shape of people flying to the customers to provide them. Better to locate the companies in countries that don't make that as difficult and expensive as possible.

Misr2These proposals would spell the end for airlines based in Britain. Since the Tories are talking of penalising anything more than "a single short-haul flight" per year, they would spell the end of a lot more besides. Britain has more expatriates than most countries, because its business is more international . Will Britain's mobile business people be prepared to expatriate, if they and their families will be increasingly cut off from home?

How can a conservative party, supposedly in favour of free markets, seriously advocate rationing? It's quite insane. As they are saying over at Samizdata, the Conservative nostalgia for the past has gone too far:

The Conservative Party has long been regarded as having a certain nostalgic, and some would say romantic, yearning for the past. I had no idea that this included a desire to drag us all back to the 19th Century

Fortunately, before they ever get the chance to kill the City of London, British exports or Britain's international business culture, these policies will kill the Conservative Party.

graphics from the collection of David Levine

Blair aides ‘plotted’ to foil police

Link: Blair aides ‘plotted’ to foil police-News-Politics-TimesOnline.

Foxhunt11_1I am beginning to feel sorry for these people. Who in their right minds would write down a conversation like this?

'Lord Levy, Tony Blair’s chief fundraiser, allegedly asked the prime minister’s most senior advisers to lie to police by telling detectives he had no involvement in the honours system. A written record of the discussion reveals his suggestion was overruled by Ruth Turner, a senior No 10 aide, who drew up what she believed was a more “credible” strategy.'

The sub-editor at the Times must have put quotation marks around 'plotted' in his headline, not to mark it as an allegation, but to signal that this childish effort was unworthy of the word. Inspector Yates must feel that someone shot his fox. Actually, for the first time in hunting history, the fox shot itself.

Africans still waiting for 'chief' Geldof's help

Link: Africans still waiting for 'chief' Geldof's help | International News | News | Telegraph.

HypocriteBob says there's a misunderstanding, and he's right. The African villagers thought he was a philanthropist. He's actually just a has-been pop star. It's one thing swearily to demand that Governments expropriate money from their people to send to Africa. It's quite another to spend your own.

If you think "has-been" is too harsh, consider the following (from Wikipedia):

In July of 2006 Geldof arrived at the Milan's Civic Arena, a venue capable of holding 12,000 people, to play a scheduled concert to find that the organisers had not put the tickets on general sale and that only 45 people had showed up. Outraged, Geldof refused to play the concert.... Two concerts on the island of Sicily, as well as one concert in Rome were also cancelled due to lack of interest, the latter having sold only around 300 tickets.

Later, in August of 2006, two thoroughly advertised concerts in Denmark at Århus Stadion and Farum Arena, with seating for 20,200 and 3,000 people respectively, were cancelled as well after only 29 tickets had been sold.

If you think his spokesman's comment that:

The notion that he could in any way develop Bisease is ridiculous. He wouldn't promise something that he could not do, could not deliver. fair enough, then please consider this - also from Wikipedia:

Geldof's wealth was estimated by Broadcast magazine, in 2001, to be £30 million [5], a position of 18th in a list of UK broadcasters. How much of his earnings he donates to charity is not known.

Give them your f***ing money Bob.

So who did write the "brilliant" letter?

Medical From the Daily Telegraph online letters page:

"Correction: In yesterday's paper, we published a letter purporting to come from Mike Hallissey, a consultant surgeon in Birmingham. In fact, the letter was not written by Mr Hallissey and did not reflect his views. We apologise unreservedly for the embarrassment this will have caused."

So who was the brilliant joker then, who took such elegant revenge on Mr Hallissey? Why revenge? Well, as "Chair" of the West Midlands Basic Surgical Training Committee, he may have been instrumental in creating the current MMC ("Modernising Medical Careers," better known to young doctors as "Massive Medical Cull") farce. Or then he may just have rejected some bright young doctor with a sense of humour.

Either way, I think we should be told - even if there are 8,000 suspects.