A new year -time to go for new spin?

I do wish the media and journalists would sharpen their questions for 2012. I am getting fed up with the old spin that seems to have been hanging in the air for so many years.

Wouldn’t it be good, for example, to put behind us the old lie that we have to accept everything the EU dishes up because 3 million jobs are at risk. Why don’t the interviewers who are given that tired old line ask:

Do you think Germany would stop selling us BMWs and France stop selling us wine if we demanded a change of relationship with the EU?
Wouldn’t WTO rules protect our export jobs to the EU?
How come China and the USA can export to the EU successfully when they are not members?
If more than half our goods exports and a bigger proportion of our service trade is with non EU countries, isn’t that a plus as the rest of the world is growing?

In response to the line that the UK only has influence in the EU and the wider world if it is a full and keen member, they could ask:

Does that mean that the UK by opting out of the Euro has ceased to have any influence in the world?
Has the US stopped asking the UK to help it out in its wars and diplomacy, now that we have opted out of the Euro?
What influence within the EU have we wielded? Why is the CAP still unreformed? Why is there no deregulation at EU level? Why does the EU budget still keep going up? I thought the UK wanted less regulation, a lower budget and a market friendly CAP from the EU.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if instead of always demanding more public spending and spreading stories about cuts, we heard some of the following questions:

Why has current public spending gone up by £29 billion a year in the first year of the Coalition, and by an additional £23 billion a year in the second year? Where did all the extra cash go?

Individual public service providers should be asked where they think the waste and inefficiencies lie in their service, and pressed if they decline to answer. They should be asked how come productivity in making planes or cars keeps on going up, but has not risen overall in many public services.

Senior public sector managers should be asked about numbers and levels of remuneration of managers in their service or area, and put on the spot about it as commercial CEOs are regularly by the media.

Public sector managers should be asked how come Hammersmith and Fulham have been able to cut the Council Tax every year for six years without cutting main services.

How about the lie that the Credit Crunch was simply caused by the Bankers? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to ask:

Why did the Competition regulators allow mega mergers, when some commentators and City experts were warning that these banks would be too large to run well or to control?

Why did the Bank of England allow easy money until the middle of 2007, creating a bubble,and then tight money, causing a crash?

How can people claim that the problem was deregulation, when the 1990s and 2000s saw an explosion of additonal financial regulation, and the creation of new regulators by the Labour government on assuming office in 1997? Why was the regulation unfit for purpose?

Finally, to all those who argue the Coalition government is cutting too hard and too fast, it would be good to hear the following:

How does borrowing more get you out of a crisis brought on by borrowing too much?

How much more would you like the state to borrow, given that the Coalition is planning to borrow an extra £563 billion over five years (Public sector net borrowing)?

Why should we have things today and make our children pay for them tomorrow when they have to pay back the borrowing?

It would make understanding the problems and finding solutions for them so much easier if we call current public spending spending and not investment, if we call extra cash spending an increase and not a cut, and if we remind people that far from cutting the debt the government has only made a small dent in the extra debt or deficit.

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151 Comments

  1. bhagwhan
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Has anybody ever wondered as to why Germany was until recently the world’s greatest exporting state. Was it by any chance that its businesses looked for orders outside of Europe too?
    This is another reason I really hate the “elite” in this country, an Oxford PPE degree usually identifies them but all that does is indicate they have the practical value of a YTS. They are supposed to be the “best and the brightest” but their “we cannot leave the EU as it will kill off our exports” whine gives another example as to why they are truly useless. Have they not realised yet that the EU is no longer the prime market it used to be e.g. poor demographics, big debts without mentioning the future of the Euro?

    • uanime5
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Other than the developed countries outside the EU the rest of the world isn’t a prime market. Even the BRICS make poor trading partners due to the low income of most of their population.

      • David Price
        Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        I disagree that the BRICS are poor trading partners, it all depends on what you are trading. You sell telecommunications systems and power stations to governments and utilities, not individuals. These sorts of infrastructure solutions then enable the rest of the populations to grow in prosperity and buying power.

        On the other hand, the EU countries seem to be far more protectionist than the non-EU countries and we would likely be far better off trading with the rest of the world.

      • libertarian
        Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        You really do talk the most insuffrable nonsense. You haven’t got a clue about business, work or enterprise. You’re a student aren’t you?

        1) Only members of the public buy things?
        2) There are 196 countries in the world 27 in EU, you work it out
        3) There are 500 million in EU leaving 6.5 billion in rest of world
        4) India currently has 300 million people with PPP the same as UK
        5) Russia currently has 100 million people with PPP the same as UK

        When you say other than the developed countries outside the UK as if these can all be ignored as irrelevant you know countries like USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Israel, Argentina, Mexico etc etc in fact MORE than the 27 EU countries with a larger combined population with equal or greater PPP

  2. lifelogic
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Quite right but the BBC won’t do any of this far too ingrained with pro EU, Guardian think.

    You ask “how come productivity in making planes or cars keeps on going up, but has not risen overall in many public services.” Well if you make a cheaper better car you sell more and make more money so the mechanism encourages this.

    In the state sector (and certain protected professions like law) you usually get more money, staff and resources the bigger the mess you make and the more absurd and complex the system becomes. There is simply no mechanism to encourage efficiency. Usually the exact reverse, the mechanism encourages you to amplify and exaggerate the problems that you are there to solve. Certainly never to solve them. Better still if your problem, like CO2, is not actually even a real problem in the fist place just an imagined or vastly exaggerated one. Better still if the responsibility is split between say ten bodies in many places and countries.

    Reply: Many in the public sector not only think spending more is the same as better service, but think it their main job to argue to spend more regardless almost of what they spend it on.

    • zorro
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      This is my experience where I work. People are brought in from outside with big, impractical ambitions which are not grounded in our core function. They screw up monumentally, waste millions, and get promoted. It is endemic. They always pretend to listen to experienced staff, then studiously ignore them and find spurious reasons to justify their actions. Vanity projects going nowhere whilst the core purpose of the job is ignored.

      I have seen this over the last ten years particularly. Horrendous amouunts of money spent on systems which were soon abandoned. To my mind, it is a form of vandalism. They are vey good at dismantling functioning systems but hopeless at improving them. The statistics, if you know where to look, never lie….

      Zorro

      • APL
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        zorro: “They are vey good at dismantling functioning systems but hopeless at improving them. ”

        The thing is, a new manager has no interest in suggesting that the systems and procedures put in place by his predecessor were perfectly fine.

        Anyone been in any organization long enough will have seen the change for the sake of change phenomena.

        • Posted December 30, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

          Putting the rabbit in the hat and then asking for money (and praise) to pull it out again

      • uanime5
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

        Are you talking about the public or private sector? Some private sector companies have made very poor choices for their CEO.

    • Robert K
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      You can’t blame the public sector for their spending habits. With no market mechanism to determine the value of the services it provides, the only measure left is the amount it spends – i.e. the more the better. The only way out of this headlock is to reduce the proportion of state spending as a percentage of the total economy – I would like to see a target of 25%, down from the current level of 50%.
      I agree absolutely that the terms of the debate need to change radically. We need to re-assert the virtue and moral superiority of individual liberties and free markets over socialism and an overweening state.

      • Posted December 30, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        A few years ago the Taxpayer’s Alliance had a very good stab at measuring the NHS performance by looking at outcomes. It was all evidence based.

        This attempt at intelligent debate was soon strangled: the broadcast media pretty much ignored it, preferring the measure of ‘spending on the NHS’ and waiting times.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      To reply:- Indeed there is no effective control over the state sector and its expenditure. The only control mechanism is a vote every 5 years to choose MPs who perhaps just set the general agenda. This is so weak as to be almost non existent. So much of the state sector is effectively totally out of control and just looking after its self interests and those of their staff. Their idea of a “public service” is a £130 parking fine for someone one minute over on their meter, perhaps because their child needed the loo urgently or something.

      • lifelogic
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        You say the public sector often “think spending more is the same as better service” well for them it is – the money is usually spend on and by them in their interests – so it is a better service for the staff. The public sector as a machine (individual employees often do have and can be very good) has no interest in the service the public actually gets or even if it is something the public ever even wanted – beyond being able to justify the existence of their jobs at next years spending review.

        The state sector machine is just as happy supervising the giving out grants for pointless wind turbines as it will very soon be giving out grants to remove and recycle them to improve the views and enhance the countryside and to save the lives of the Birds and Bats they kill. The “State Machine” does not care one way or the other.

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      That’s outrageous John! This government’s attitude of relentlessly attacking the public sector is despicable.

      It’s this government’s job to deal with the problem individuals at the top of the public sector so they should do that rather than promoting them because the incompetent and self interested ones are the only ones who’ll tell Gove what he wants to hear.

      People in the public sector would absolutely love to see a far more effective and efficient Ofsted which operated in line with the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act (2006) to which they became obligated in 2009. But it doesn’t suit this Government does it? Because a properly reformed and efficient Ofsted wouldn’t be able to force schools to follow inappropriately narrow agendas which were in the interests of politicians rather than to focus on the interests of their students.

      Please don’t degrade yourself by joining in the rant that inefficiency in the public sector is the fault of the teachers on the front line who have worked away on high quality practice and policy through their elected representatives year in year out only to see it all swept away yet again by ignorant politicians and their representatives systematically ignored.

      People in education are not arguing for more spending. They’re arguing for vague coherence in policy. Don’t obfuscate the issue.

      Reply: I do not recall mentioning teachers. The public sector has to strive for continuous improvement and to use limited resources well, as the best already do.

      • Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

        Your comment was this John:

        “Many in the public sector not only think spending more is the same as better service, but think it their main job to argue to spend more regardless almost of what they spend it on.”

        I put it to you that in many cases spending more does lead to better service and spending less compromises the quality of the service those working in public sector.

        I also put it to you that the public sector is undergoing heavy cuts and that in most cases little or no objection is being raised by those who will see the quality of the service they are dedicated to providing compromised.

        Where there is protest, this protest is focussed on areas in which those in the public sector find that this government does not understand the very obvious consequences of cuts it is proposing and that the normal consultative routes by which intelligent conversation would happen have been shut down. That people in the public sector are speaking up in these circumstances despite the very negative personal consequences for themselves is indicative of high quality professional practice on their part.

        Who are these people who “think it their main job to argue to spend more regardless almost of what they spend it on”. There is a very small number of people with extremist views who turn up at the major rallies. Is that who you mean? Sounds like unnecessary and counterproductive straw manning to me John.

        Reply: Just listen to public sector representatives on the media. They often say their service is poor or will be poor owing to the budgets, but very often if you probe you find they will have more cash to spend next year than this. Yes, too little spending can cause poor service. We have just shown over the last decade that spending much more can still deliver poor service – that is the issue the public sector needs to tackle. It’s not just the quantity of money that matters, but what you do with it. I cut my MP office costs by 25% over two years, without adversely affecting service levels, mainly by adopting more new technology solutions, and commonsense ideas like switching from first class to second class post.

        • Jeremy Hummerstone
          Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

          “I also put it to you that the public sector is undergoing heavy cuts…”
          And if “putting it” adds weight to an assertion, I put it to you that it’s not.

          • Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

            As one of the many people who has lost their public sector job during the cuts Jeremy, I suggest you make your point with specific figures.

          • Posted December 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

            I do accept your point about the style of my language but am genuinely curious as to where all this extra money is going in the state sector given the real terms wage cuts and job losses being experienced.

            We are, of course, well aware in education of the money being spent on Michael Gove’s personal chaotic follies. Especially given the bibles the state is kindly providing to each school with his inscription and personal message inside which schools feel it would be inappropriate to burn and will therefore survive as a long term tribute to his cost efficiency in every school.

          • alan jutson
            Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

            Rebecca

            You have hit the nail on the head,

            If there are huge cuts going on, with lots of people being made redundant, where is the additional money going.

            Clearly extra money is being spent, is it really being put to good use, are things really changing, are the cuts really happening on a large scale or are we just tinkering around the edges with huge sums still being wasted, for no productive or service gain..

        • Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          I’d like to hear which representatives of teaching are saying that John. In general education in a good state but the barriers to progress caused by inappropriate government intervention, poor practice in regulation and the over emphasis on high stakes assessment remain as our union leaders keep saying.

          I think you need to be more specific about which areas of the public sector are behaving in the way you describe.

          • libertarian
            Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

            Rebecca
            I’ll make a point with specifics.

            You did NOT lose your job at Manchester, you gave it up and they then readvertised it at £42k pa. If I remember rightly the reason you gave was because it wasn’t economic to travel from your home to work.

            So you do yourself no favours by making these claims like your ridiculous claim that a government which has been in power 18 months has already had such a devastating effect, so what was going on under the last Labour government?

            In the south east there are still teacher shortages and lots of recruitment so where are all these teachers being made redundant ?

          • Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

            Since he used to be a Cabinet Minister, I’d imagine he’s talking about senior Whitehall/Council/Quango folk that lobby Ministers for money.

          • electro-kevin
            Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

            Rebecca – If I may.

            I have found all of the teachers who have taught my boys have been excellent. I also find that teachers now form a significant part of my social peer group and not one of them fits the Daily Mail Lefty stereotype. They all, however, share my concerns about exam grade inflation and the shift away from teaching students how to think for themselves rather than answer questions ‘properly’.

            Sorry to hear that you’ve lost your job and I wish you good luck in finding another.

          • Posted January 2, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

            Please don’t publish defamatory lies about me libertarian.

        • Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

          Rebecca – allow me to remind you about the Swedish Free Schools idea which was personally supported by Rachel Wolf and Newschools Network and Michael Gove personally (I was in the room) in March 2010.
          Thanks to the Civil Service, the idea has now been all but shelved and lots of parent groups (including ours) have been badly let down, after being played with.

          What we were aiming at is this: Morrisons took over from the Co-op in our town in June. By December, there is a huge new store full of happy workers providing excellent fare for Christmas.
          We had hoped that our organisation (IES) would be allowed to do the same. IES budgets to open new schools – taxes just support the pupils.

          No.

          We still have the stale old Comprehensive (GCSE pass= 23%/ Bacc pass = 1%) and no free school.

          • Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

            Hi Mike,

            There’s a forum called the Local Schools Network where stories like this are being discussed in detail.

            I strongly suggest you post your story in the views section there so you can explore your thoughts and concerns at length.

            The quality of the discussion is very high.

            I’m sorry you’ve been disappointed.

      • Bob
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        Heard on LBC this morning that seventeen teachers have been fired for incompetence over a ten year period. Now, I don’t know what that means in terms of percentages, but I’m think probably very very low.

        As far as the pupils are concerned, how much would it cost to allow discipline to be restored to state schools? Nothing is my guess, just let the head teachers remove unruly pupils and the rest would fall into line.
        As the old saying goes, “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch”.

        • lifelogic
          Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

          Indeed and it is not just bad teachers – it is the whole of the state sector and the private sector who find it very hard and expensive to get rid of bad staff. Further the existence and tolerance of these bad staff de-motivates the good ones.

          Change the hire and fire laws now for goodness sake.

        • alan jutson
          Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

          Bob
          So from what you suggest, it took them 10 years to fire them after being found out, otherwise why suggest 10 years of incompetence.

          Just think of the damage these teachers did to those studets in those 10 years, because someone did not fire them when it was first proved they were incapable.

          The management was also clearly incompetent for 10 years.

          Were the school governers also aware, if so, they also to a degree failed.

          School inspectors did they know ? etc.

          See how it goes down/up the line ?

        • uanime5
          Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

          The problem with removing unruly pupils is that they never get a job due to their lack of education and remain on benefits for their whole life if we’re lucky; if we’re unlikely they become criminals and go to prison which is much more expensive.

          • Bob
            Posted December 31, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

            @uanime5

            As I said, one bad apple spoils the whole bunch.

            They need not be taken out of education, just moved to a special needs environment where their challenging behaviour can be properly addressed. This will allow the rest of the school to get on with the business of education.

            Anyone who has experienced disruptive behaviour in the classroom will know what a negative effect it has.

        • Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

          Did LBC report on how many very gifted teachers had been put through breakdowns by being labelled as being failing teachers by Ofsted Bob?

          Discipline is an interesting issue in education. At a superficial level it can seem that if all the children are sitting quietly working in silence and doing precisely what they are told (and are excluded if they don’t) then the quality of education is excellent.

          Others would argue that it’s better/necessary to have an atmosphere in which boundaries and are explored and negotiated, transgressions expected and exclusion is a last resort.

          Pre-Ofsted what often happened was that you got a very strict school next to one with more a more liberal culture. Most children actually thrive in either but for those who are struggling the switch from one culture to the other very often helps.

          • Bob
            Posted December 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

            @Rebecca
            Why are OFSTED victimising talented teachers?
            Is it connected to “office politics” ?

            As for discipline I don’t mean rows of silent children sitting in silence, I mean not attacking the teachers (as a starting point). Then perhaps we could progress to not attacking anyone.

          • Posted January 2, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

            In essence Bob the current Ofsted inspection system is configured in a way which does not reliably assess a wide variety of types of excellent practice. The teachers who use those methodologies are therefore very vulnerable to being misjudged by the current system.

            After the Hampton review (2005) Ofsted should have changed its practices to take on board recommendations for best practice which are specifically designed to prevent this problem in inspection and regulation but despite becoming obliged by law to these standards in 2009 Ofsted has, under Michael Gove’s direction, moved away from implementing the reforms Hampton recommended.

            Are you aware of how many assaults on teachers there have been as a direct result of intervention by Ofsted Bob? I’m personally aware of four and am wondering how many others there have been that have been covered up. At one school I was at we were particularly lucky that a haemophiliac teacher didn’t get hit in the head by the chisel thrown at him by the child returned to his lesson after the inspector directed the withdraw procedure in place be shut down. Directors of Ofsted misrepresenting their own obligations and practice? Never. ? http://mathseducationandallthat.blogspot.com/2011/08/ofsted-part-2-journey-to-heart-of.html

      • libertarian
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        It amazes me that we require an organisation like Ofsted to exist at all. Its a shame the teaching profession can’t be trusted to manage itself effectively, being as it is more intent on politicising its teaching and being self absorbed. If each school was self managing and parents/pupils had a real choice through vouchers the system would very soon empty itself of the money wasting middle management layers, poor teachers and restrictive practices.

        Rebecca a serious question have you ever worked for a private sector organisation? The reason I ask is that I have worked in the public sector as a direct employee and a consultant. I know many teachers and some Ofsted inspectors and I talk to lots of public sector employees and ALL of them agree that there is massive waste and poor management so I’m not really sure why you seem to be the only one that doesn’t see it.

        • uanime5
          Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

          The voucher system won’t work as long as there are parents who don’t care where their children are educated, parents who don’t know how to determine which school is the best school for their children, a lack of good schools in an area, and there is a finite number of pupils a school can teach.

          One of the most ironic things about giving parents more choice is that the good schools becomes oversubscribed, so the class size is increased and the quality of teaching goes down. By contrast bad schools get smaller class sizes which may improve the quality of the education they can provide.

          • libertarian
            Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

            EXACTLY, by jove I think he’s got it!

            You are totally correct the choice will eventually lead to the improvement of a majority of schools. Your point about poor parents is valid but no reason to penalise the 95% + who are good parents

        • Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

          Haven’t we had this conversation before libertarian?

          Before I became a teacher I worked for a number of well know organisations in London (and some not so well known ones). All private sector.

          These days I’m a private consultant working for a variety of mainly private companies, as you can see from my linkedin profile and other links I’ve given you before which seem like advertising I give them so I won’t here. I’ve also taught in a private school in Hong Kong and I have a degree from Cambridge in management.

          I totally agree there is huge waste and bad management in the public sector. I think few would like to be managed by Gove.

          • libertarian
            Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

            Yes we have had these conversations before which is how I know you aren’t being, how shall I put this, exactly honest about your own job circumstances.

            If you agree there is waste and bad management in the public sector then your arguements are mostly invalid as its that waste with has caused your pension to be marginally reduced, its that waste and layers of management which prevents good teachers being paid their true worth. Its poor management causing the problems with the education system not this weeks Secretary of State for Education

          • Posted January 2, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

            My pension has not been reduced.

            If you would like to claim that Michael Gove’s policies regarding the provision for local democracy in education planning are coherent or efficient or coherent then please provide some information to back that up.

            The shift from planned, consulted and locally accountable education planning to pressure groups getting what they want by appealing directly to Michael Gove is neither coherent nor economically efficient.

    • Disaffected
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      The budgets and accounting of the public sector has not changed from top to bottom. If you do not spend your budget it will be cut next year, so always spend the money no matter what it goes on. All the quangos that are meant to supervise or check public sector bodies are really a waste of space. I have seen it for years. The inspectorate bodies do not even want to criticise if it can at all be avoided. Ofsted have not improved schools, ofgem have not improved value for money, ofwat is a complete disgrace look at your water bill increases, no real improvement in water capture or supply, DeFra,joke and so it goes on. Local authorities have a licence to print money (community charge from us) and the government do nothing about it. This mish mash about localism is a sham and costs us all a lot more money. Look at the tiers of government- EU, Westminster, regional assemblies, local authorities, parish councils. How many levels do we need? In each level of government there are huge amounts of staff in back office non-jobs to provide bean counters for the tier of government above them.
      John, you are correct in what you have written, but this has been going on for years. About time politicians earned their money and run the country as they are paid to do in a cost effective way. So I blame inept politicians who create this mess.

      In line with the stupidity of government costs is the government’s determination NOT to make it pay to work.Why are the LibDems so adamant in providing welfare lifers a 5.2% pay increase? With all expenses (outgoings) going up ie train fares and tax increases VAT, energy, fuel etc and a free for all to all immigrants who have paid nothing in the tax pot, people start to think why bother?

  3. Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Locally our papers are in sharp decline. Little more than pictures of the kiddies doing Christmas Silly Things. Or Bert Slappe doing something rather pathetic for charity. Semi literate letters flood the middle pages. Then there is news from the villages (unpaid correspondents), and some very lazy court reporting from people who were not there. Over half the paper is ads. It seems that the journalists are just a very few middle aged bureaucrats in an office. They do not go out fossicking.

    I suppose being a London journalist is about the same: so easy to be lazy in your office with your computer, spewing out the same old rubbish without much thought. Rocking the boat is not what bureaucrats do.

    People who do think are “controversial” and hard work. Hence the exclusion of your good self from the BBC.

    • Jeremy Hummerstone
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      “…pictures of the kiddies…
      And they won’t be allowed for much longer, the way things are going.

    • Bazman
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Cat Stuck In Tree. Is front page news in Wisbech!

      • libertarian
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        You need to read “Whitstable Mum in Custard Shortage”

  4. zorro
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    John, with regards to the BoE’s actions from 2004 – 2007, why did it happen?…Incompetence, rear view mirror driving, or something else?

    Zorro

    Reply: Partly rear mirror driving.I also suspect the government wish to keep interest rates down influenced them, and Labour enthusiasm for “success” stories like Northern Rock, taking financial services into their heartlands.

    • Willy Wireworm
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      And also perhaps a belief that Alan Greenspan could not be wrong, so why not imitate him?

      • zorro
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:03 am | Permalink

        I tend to agree that there appears to be an international flavour to this (following the US agenda) rather than looking at what was best for our economy. I just think that we have been poorly served. The BoE monetary committee has no credibility. It is invariably wrong in its predictions and is clearly not fulfilling its core objective.

        Zorro

        • Willy Wireworm
          Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

          Well, the committee’s basic remit was to control inflation. As we now know, low inflation is compatible with a massively leveraged asset bubble.

          • Robert Christopher
            Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

            At least it was (officially?) independent ….. which meant that the government couldn’t be held responsible.

            Well it could be, and should be for setting up the structure, but you know what I mean!

    • zorro
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      A laudable aim which was poorly conceived and implemented……the Northern cities have visibly improved their appearance (Liverpool looks a lot better now and has good museums and venues) now, but at what cost…..?

      Zorro

  5. BENGO
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    It would be handy to have an E.U budget audited and signed off for a starters.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      It is audited and signed off every year by the Council of Auditors.

  6. Martin
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Maybe amongst the Westminster village types the EU is big thing. My experience is different. A lot of folk regard the obscene difference in pensions between private sector workers toilet paper pensions and the more generous arrangements in the public sector as the big issue. It has ended up as a sort of Soviet system where the state employees have have all the goodees for themselves.

    P.S. Sir Humphrey (who really is in charge) has decided that Nelly the elephant (private sector worker) isn’t getting a pension either ! http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/coalition-faces-court-fight-over-refusal-to-ban-circus-animals-6282997.html

  7. Alex
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I agree with all the above.
    So what is Lord Patten doing to reduce the BBC’s political bias?

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      One cannot imagine Lord Patten doing anything other than increasing the absurd BBC bias on the EU, big government, anti business and the green exaggeration. He clearly seems to have learned little in Hong Kong beyond a better knowledge of Chinese restaurant food.

      A shame he did not look at the very low tax rates, increasing wealth and the booming economy and ask why this was so.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Lord Pattern is absolutely convinced that there is no BBC bias, as could be see from his replies during a recent appearance before the Select Committee.

      He also asserted that he is in no way beholding to the EU, and dismissed conditions relating to his EU pension as inconsequential as to his role as Chairman of the BBC Trust.

      • lifelogic
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

        He must I assume be doing quite well on pensions and income thought. With an MP’s, ministers, EU and all those other positions and now a BBC trust one too. Having big state, pro EU, pro green exaggeration, left wing views certainly seems to pay very well rather like the Kinnocks. Why on earth did Cameron appoint him? I can only assume he reflects Cameron’s views.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      Probably the same thing Murdoch is to reduce bias in his company.

  8. Stephen Almond
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    John, splendid stuff!
    I wish you could use your influence to bring this post to the attention of someone with clout in the BBC. There must be someone there who knows and cares?

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      The only people I have seen, who seem to speak any political sense, paid (I assume) by the BBC are Andrew Neil (sometimes), Ruth Lea and Prof Philip Stott (on the green issue) all the rest are irreversible infected with BBC/Guardian, equality (of outcome) think – it shows in every political question they ever ask their guests.

      • Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

        The BBC thinks of itself as a newspaper. It feels compelled to provide an angle. It feels compelled to employ columnists at considerable expense.

        I think that Nick Robinson is a fine journalist but I don’t think his opinions should be broadcast by the BBC.

  9. Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Excellent piece. On the matter of where all the extra cash has gone, maybe you could kindly ask the govt that. We’re being told by Labour/BBC that there are cuts when we know there are increases. What extra value is the taxpayer getting for the extra money he’s spending (at the same time as he’s having to be careful what he spends)? Indeed, isn’t it time for a cost-benefit analysis on the UK state, especially welfare, health and education? What would we get if it was all private?

  10. David Price
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    I agree with the direction of your questions but …

    Perhaps a large part of the answer to why interviewers don’t ask different and searching questions is simply that they are employees dependent on their salaries.

    As an empolyee you do what your employer, ie your management, requires as long as it is lawful. If you want to keep your job let alone advance you do what is expected.

    If a pro-EU chairman is installed in the BBC trust what signal does that send for example?

    81 rebels was a good start and two MPs showed they were willing to put the country first at the cost of their position, but even MPs are clearly not immune to pressure from their management … so what chance for us lowly types to change things?

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      That’s exactly the problem, and it’s not just the journalists – it affects everyone in public life, including those who are critical of the BBC.

      If you are in public life, whether you are a politician or you want to sell a book or you are a PR person/CEO for a commercial enterprise you MUST get on the right side of the media. As the news media is dominated by the BBC, you would be mad to directly criticize it. This is especially true of most journalists who will always see the BBC as a potential employer with money to spend.

      The ones to that do have a go are those who are retired or close to retirement. Examples are Peter Sissons and most recently Michael Buerk

      Of course Peter Sisson’s book was hardly mentioned on the BBC and Michael Buerks comments, as far as I can tell, have not been reported at all.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      So what’s the excuse for every non-BBC interviewer not asking different and searching questions?

  11. Pete the Bike
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Public sector managers should be told – repeat TOLD that they have to make efficiency savings of an absolute minimum of 5% per year every year (in many cases their departments are so unnecessary 100% would be better). Given the massive flab apparent in every part of our bloated civil service 20 or 30% savings should be easy.
    Regulation and taxation are by far the biggest restraint on economic growth so every surplus pen pusher that has to get a real job is a nett gain to the economy

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Fire one in two almost at random and tell the rest to work out how to cope.

      • alan jutson
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic

        Whilst your suggestion sounds a little crazy, there is a certain logic to this.

        Most people work better to sensible deadlines and under a degree of pressure, and they then find that only minimal information needs to be retained/recorded to make the whole system more efficient.

        Thus it makes people think of an alternative way of running things out of neccessity.

        To prove a point in reverse, Mr Browns 1,000,000 extra people employed in the Public sector over the last few years, does not seem to have made a jot of difference to the performance of any department/service. So you could argue that you could cut a million jobs straight away, without any fall off in performance if you really wanted to.

        • uanime5
          Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

          People under pressure make more mistakes, have more sick days, and are more likely to cut corners. Many airplane crashes have been caused by pressuring pilots into flying in unsafe conditions or with unsafe planes.

          • alan jutson
            Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

            unanime5

            In my experience most people work better when they are given a goal to aim for.

            Clearly any target has to be achievable, extreme pressure I would agree is a negative for all concerned, but just to let people take their own time to complete tasks is also a failure and gross mismanagement.

            The sad fact is weak management will often put upon the willing and able, and leave the less willing and less able to bump along as they please (an expensive mistake)

        • lifelogic
          Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

          Indeed put them under pressure to find better methods of service delivery and real efficiencies they will not do so unless forced to. Even the ones paid off will surely be happier and doing something more useful for society.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      Given that the easiest way to reduce your budget by 5% is to reduce the quality of your services expect the public sector to do less with less money.

  12. Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Here is another possible question. “Given that the credit crunch was caused by excessive and irresponsible borrowing, is it not totally and completely lunatic to try to solve the problem by cutting interest rates and implementing QE so as to encourage more borrowing? Or put another way, if the cure for imbibing some poison is to take even more of the poison, does this principle have any sort of broader application: like forcing those with lung cancer to smoke fifty cigarettes a day?

    • APL
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Ralph Musgrave: ” was caused by excessive and irresponsible borrowing, is it not totally and completely lunatic to try to solve the problem by cutting interest rates and implementing QE so as to encourage more borrowing?”

      I for one think so.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      Sounds a bit like “homeopathy” which the NHS seems absurdly keen to spend large amounts of tax payers money on.

      • Robert Christopher
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        Off topic, and incorrect in every way!

        • lifelogic
          Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

          Copied from:- http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/45/4504.htm#a4

          In June 2009 the Guardian reported that the NHS had spent £12 million on homeopathy in the period 2005-08.[16] According to the Society of Homeopaths, the NHS spends £4 million on homeopathy annually.[17] It appears that these figures do not include maintenance and running costs of the homeopathic hospitals or the £20 million spent on refurbishing the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital between 2002 and 2005.[18]

          Homeopathy is a 200-year old system of medicine that seeks to treat patients with highly diluted substances that are administered orally. Homeopathy is based on two principles: “like-cures-like” whereby a substance that causes a symptom is used in diluted form to treat the same symptom in illness[6] and “ultra-dilution” whereby the more dilute a substance the more potent it is (this is aided by a specific method of shaking the solutions, termed “succussion”).[7] It is claimed that homeopathy works by stimulating the body’s self-healing mechanisms.[8]

          Perhaps I am missing something but it sound like a complete waste of money to me.

          • alan jutson
            Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

            lifelogic

            Your explanation sounds like if suffering from too much borrowing, then borrow a little more.

            I am sure that there is more to it than you describe, but I would agree any treatment under the NHS needs to be of proven benefit.
            Those who pay for their own treatment, can use what they please, that suits them best.

          • lifelogic
            Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

            Alan – I agree entirely but very many treatments the NHS fund have no proven benefit what so ever. Many also are pure vanity treatments and many are correcting the complications made through private vanity treatments. Even virginity reconstructions are carried out at tax payers expense.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      The poison/drug analogy is interesting. Here is a different slant.

      Those imbibing will enjoy the company of fellow imbibers more than those who don’t. The more who do the more it will seem to be an OK thing to do. Those actively campaigning against imbibing will be seen as hostiles and be subjected to counter attacks.

  13. Antisthenes
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    “make our children pay for them tomorrow”

    I do not believe it will be the just next generation who have to foot the bill my prediction is 2012 is when pay back time will arrive and we will all suffer for the follies and greed and selfishness of vested interests of the past. In fact austerity is already effecting most to a lesser or greater degree that is only going to become worse.

    As for the amount of lies and misinformation that abounds it amounts to no more than ignorance, stupidity and tactics to achieve and end, ends that are generally not desirable.

  14. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    So many good points; the problem is that neither front bench would answer them directly if any journalist or broadcaster could stir their loins, let alone brains, to ask them. Asking the questions verbally in parliament would seem no more likely to produce an honest response. You need to find another avenue to get the message across. Your website is probably viewed by a small limited audience. Some time ago we discussed the possibilty of a you producing a ‘youtube’ presentation; Farage has done well recently albeit recorded at the EU parliament. Something is required to redress the bias which is sadly perpetuated by our so-called free press and media.

    • D K McGregor
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      You tube presentation is a good idea , I’m sure we could make it go viral. Bit of a moneyspinner too.

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      Daniel Hannan has the most popular YouTube political posting globally. That’s more even than the U.S. President. The BBC has pretty much ignored it (it had a grudging mention on Newsnight in the summer and a more generous mention in the minor pages of the BBC website the other day).

      The result is that few people have ever heard of Daniel Hannan. Tv is still king.

      I have come to the conclusion that the BBC problem can only be tackled if a very senior member of the cabinet confronts it directly on live television – i.e. Question Time.

      The problem is this: if this leads to a national debate (at last), guess who will be chairing the debates, inviting the guests and asking the questions (re John’s post)??

      • libertarian
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        One does wonder by Sky or ITV have not spotted this and staged their own political debate on these questions.

        Do Sky and ITV even have political programmes? ( sorry I don’t watch TV, I just pay for it)

      • forthurst
        Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

        “I have come to the conclusion that the BBC problem can only be tackled if a very senior member of the cabinet confronts it directly on live television – i.e. Question Time.”

        The BBC are past masters at the art of the ambush and of leaving off-message content on the cutting room floor. I can only recall one occasion when the BBC was stitched up and that was when a dimblebody was counter-attacked by Jimmy goldsmith who had had the foresight to demand a live interview.

        Forget the BBC, forget the MSM. The future is with those with sincerity and a determination to tell the truth. They can only be found on the www. Here is a dying man making his last plea for people to start listening and stop behaving like sheep

  15. alan jutson
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    All very sensible Questions.

    Shame no one is asking them.

    But then who would give an honest answer from the Government ?

  16. Mike Fowle
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Quite agree, JR, and also with Mike Stallard. Looking for something positive, it may be that increasingly blogs such as this and the internet generally will supplant the tired old same old stuff from the press and the BBC.

  17. Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Nice post! But I’m not sure all that is ‘spin’. It’s more like a kind of political correctness where it is deemed impolite to challenge such views/assumptions.

    Sometimes I get forced to go on equality/diversity type training courses, or ‘meet the senior managers’ kind of event or something else ‘important’ or with ‘important’ people present.

    Before I do my manager always begs me to keep my mouth shut as my views/opinions are ’embarrassing’ for her! I do try, but sometimes I simply can’t resist.

  18. Jim (Spain)
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    “We have no money – so we’ll have to think”

    While you have lots of money – even if it’s borrowed money – you can avoid the painful necessity of thinking.

    Thinking is very hard work so most of us will go to some lengths to avoid doing it. (Shaw said, “I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week”.)

    Being in the euro is easy because a lot of the thinking gets done for you … Democracy and self-determination meanwhile are hard work – facts have to be faced, realities weighed and then decisions have to be made … It’s a lot easier just to do what you’re told.

    Darwin, I heard once, found that facts which fitted with his theory were easy to remember. But facts that didn’t fit tended to be forgotten. Being Darwin, he noticed this and took to writing down these awkward facts in a special notebook which he forced himself to look at every day. By thinking hard and regularly about them, he eventually came to see how his thinking could be expanded and enriched to incorporate them.

    There are one or two an awkward facts about the euro that some will do anything to avoid thinking about … But if the money dries up there will, finally, be no alternative ….

    • uanime5
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      Given that the ECB can print more Euros the money will never dry up.

      • alan jutson
        Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        uanie5

        Its that sort of thinking that has us in the current mess.

  19. oldtimer
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Nothing will change. The producer interest, and its control over the organs of propaganda, is too strong to be overcome. The same is true of the global warming scam, a product of other pressure groups that have secured control of related EU directives and propaganda as well as the UK government agenda for the past 15 to 20 years. Combined these baleful influences will sink the UK and the EU to relative poverty and irrelevance over the next 25 years – if not sooner.

  20. Atlas
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    John, what you list is too true.

    However, I can well remember in the late 80s and early 90s purchases of computers (for a government purpose) from good suppliers being frustrated by a purchasing system (introduced and trumpeted by the then government) which resulted in (known) incompetent suppliers winning the contracts and then failing to complete to satisfaction.

    No complaint of this failure was to be allowed as it would have brought the wisdom of the government’s policy into question. Overall, this purchasing policy was an expensive folly.

    Perhaps those Ministers never realised what a mess it was, as very senior civil servants have a habit of telling Ministers what they want to hear?

    • libertarian
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      You are right , public organisations where told to purchase mainframes from the UK’s only large computer manufacturer ICL.

      ICL no longer makes computers, this company is now called Fujitsu and there are NO large computer manufacturers in the UK. So much for politicians and protectionism

  21. GJ Wyatt
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    It was Brown as Chancellor whose newspeak for current public spending was “investment”. I haven’t noticed the current government doing that, though it still echoes in leftish commentaries. However the epithet can be justified when referring specifically to education or training (i.e. human capital formation) despite contravening the national accounting convention.

    On the debt/deficit confusion, it would help if the term “deficit” were replaced by some such term as “overspending” in broadcast commentaries. Mr Balls could not then mislead people into thinking he would reduce the debt by saying he would “pay down the deficit”.

  22. Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    A desirable wish list but one unlikely to be filed by the MSM.

  23. A.Sedgwick
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    You are on form today – good stuff.

    I have just been to the bank today, which is of course open had a discussion with my neighbour, who put his overflowing bin out and I told him no collection this week. The roads and pavements are covered with rotting leaves – health and safety anyone. I live in a short road and we, the residents, sweep it through the autumn – probably against the law. Driving back saw a BMW police car, reminded me why the hell do the police forces not buy British. I doubt if the German Police buy anything but BMW and Mercs.

    Happy New Year to everyone – we Planet Earthers.

  24. Peter T
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    But to get these questions asked do we not need to restructure the BBC and ensure that it takes its Charter seriously? I believe we do and I believe the evidence is there to be examined.

    • Bazman
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      What will you then do with the internet and other off message sources?

    • Frances Matta
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      Hear hear. There is an e-petition ” BBC Bias” which just about says it all. I have signed it.

  25. NickM
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    A top class post. This should be a newspaper article as well.

  26. Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    The press could focus on topics such as how we plan for the stability of the £ once the focus of the wolves shifts back our way.

    Or it could consider Scotland’s currency issues as it moves towards its vote on full independence.

    Would anyone else like to add some fresh topics which would benefit from media focus and discussion in replies to this comment?

    • Bazman
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      Scotland’s new proposed currency is rumoured to be called The ‘Swaly’.

  27. sm
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Ask the right questions and the answers will be evasive,misleading or avoided and interviewee will state something not asked?

    The EU, ECHR, Politics, the 3 line whip, and the party system have removed the representative democratic control of government (if it ever existed). I will cite the EU and uncontrolled immigration & population growth as issues that come to mind.

    Give the people the power to remove/recall less than impressive MPs and they will. Standards will start to improve.This should be written into the contracts of all Senior Publicly employed Quangocrats, Council CEO et al. They may just sharpen up or at least cost much less.

    The BBC for me was a big part of the problem but not just confined to the above.

    I would like to see more forensic interviewing skill, where obvious factual errors are ruthlessly exposed and the BBC starts to set standards and plays the ball not the man. Irrespective of individual or group bias in the media or public or sections thereof.

    Any obvious and blatant factual inaccuracies identified in a pre-recorded program should be annotated to the program.

    Its more than the BBC its our Parliament systems and representatives that are the problem. Hence the intractable nature of the problem. Why else do bloody revolutions occur?

    • uanime5
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

      The system you mention won’t work unless the population of the UK is sufficiently intelligent enough to make it work. Though most people know who their MP is few know what they are doing on a day by day basis, which makes it difficult to judge whether they should be recalled.

      Councils and Quangos are even more difficult for the public to control as most people have very little understanding or interest in either.

      Modifying the BBC to be able to identify factual errors will be difficult as the BBC will need a collection of experts on a wide variety of topics who can evaluate every claim. Though this will be opposed by ministers who won’t like people explaining why their ideas won’t work.

  28. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I too would like to see sharper questioning.

    This is unlikely to happen on the BBC, leaving aside issues of bias, because editorial policy is such that that key players are generalists. So while they are in many ways vey competent people, as interviewers of specialists they will always fall short.

    Even chairing a debate between experts representing the spectrum of viewpoints they regularly fail because they are unable to understand expert contributions and direct the debate so as to fairly represent those viewpoints.

    Sometimes Jerry Paxman is at his best when he simply shuts up and lets his two interviewees debate the point between themselves, only jumping back in to stop the discussion drifting off topic or when it starts to become repetitive.

    It is interesting that when the topic is of personal interest to the presenter (opera springs to mind) the questions are far more effective at bring forth interesting and informative replies.

    It would also help if those who ask questions actually knew how to ask a question!

    • Willy Wireworm
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      My impression is that Paxman may have had a teeny-weeny road-to-Damascus moment re the EU. He is frequently rude to the upholders of orthodoxy in a seemingly heartfelt way. I think Newsnight’s coverage of the crisis has been consistently good, with some of the most articulate sceptics being treated very fairly. Andrew Marr by contrast is completely unreconstructed – of course he is Scottish.

    • Duyfken
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      I wonder why there are now no decent current affairs discussion programmes on ITV (presumably not good for audience ratings). If we had some counterweight from ITV or others to take on the BBC , we might have less about which to complain, but even Sky – Boulton etc – is less than helpful in countering the BBC’s overt partiality.

    • Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      It is for this reason that I believe we should bring back the 14 day rule which recognises the primacy of Parliament as the nation’s debating chamber – and NOT tv and radio studios.

  29. Daniel McKean
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    On Christmas Day my uncle (who had a long career in the Bank of England, followed by the FSA before writing a couple of books with Howard Davies) suggested that we should stay in the EU. Unfortunately my Eurosceptic father disagreed rather loudly and what could have been an interesting discussion came to an end. A couple of things my uncle said were that Nissan would leave and that the City of London would be finished if we left. Has Mr Redwood heard these claims amongst the pro-EU lobby? If so, what are his thoughts?

    Also, I take the point about our high spending. However, isn’t the debate a little too focussed on the big question: “to cut or not to cut”. At the end of the day, if there is no private sector recovery neither strategy will work. Shouldn’t the focus be on the private sector rather than the public sector? The government should make it a lot more attractive for people to create businesses and jobs.

    Reply: They said the City would be finished if we did not join the Euro. Do not believe these silly scares.

    • Bazman
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      Other silly scares put about by The City themselves could be mentioned.

  30. Luke Hutchison
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article Mr Redwood. You have explained what the BBC seem to have been ignoring for years. Why not just have a free trade agreement with our European neighbours and warm relations?
    Tony Blair took on an extra 1 million public sector workers when he came to power. Why are the coalition only cutting 600,000 jobs?

  31. Damien
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    JR: As you probably know we are buying fewer cars from Germany and imports of ‘old world’ wines have fallen commensurate with increases in imports of ‘new world’ wines.

    WTO rules do allow tarriffs on non-eu countries.

    The US usually can rely on UK support as we are the second largest producer of arms in the world although budgetary pressure both here and especially in the US means that this sector is under pressure.

    China and the US export to the EU because they have economies of scale and can produce goods cheaper than many of those produced in the UK. As you correctly say most of our exports are outside the UK however a percentage of those exports are financial services.

    The UK has an obvious advantage over the US and China given our proximity to the EU market however as you also identify our public finances are in a mess and red tape makes it costly to do business here. The tax burden on individuals and companies leaves less money available to invest.

    It is dissapointing that public spending keeps rising but that is the nature of compromise in a coalition. I have lost count of the number of policy u-turns in the past year. The latest u-turn slipped out on Christmas eve was the the right-to-buy discount is now to be capped at £50k rather than the 50% announced last month.Allowing for house price inflation here in London this is a worse deal than under Labour but again this is the predictable grid lock of coalition government.

    I have just become aware that the planning reform that has taken place in E&W has not been copied in NI. Clients looking to invest in NI are experiencing higher costs related to obtaining planning permission because of fewer ‘permitted development’ provisions under the Use Classes Order (NI). An excellent ‘Land law report NI’ was produced in 2010 making recommendations for reform.

    When we talk of ease of doing business we should be mindful that a lack of coherence though out the UK can deter investment. NI is in talks to reduce its corporation tax but this should be coupled with urgently removing barriers in its planning and land laws and improving productivity in its planning decision making department.

  32. Magnolia
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    There is no general mechanism to improve productivity for hospital doctors working within the NHS.
    Case loads can vary widely and they’re never measured or evaluated for appropriate performance and even if they were, there’s no extra reward for good quality high productivity within the pay system.
    No hospital doctor wants a medical management role who is capable and thinking because the financial reward for the extra work is very small and the usual clinical job just keeps going and gets in the way. Most tend to feel like they’re heading for a mental breakdown after a few years and for good reasons.
    Management/admin would not let you do anything radical because red-tape, regulation, and political dictat would tie everything up.
    Work colleagues would take their bat home if you tried to tell them to improve their working and skilled highly qualified staff aren’t easy to replace.
    Most staff work hard and do excellent work but some are slow, lazy or useless and some bunk off with inappropriate sick levels or failure to get to work during snow or simply because they’re too busy cleaning up at the local private hospital.
    At the moment productivity is being ‘increased’ in the NHS medical frontline by management just leaving posts vacant as they empty and loading up the work on to every one who’s left.
    The work is starting to back up.
    That work may be someone’s life.
    It’s very sad to see the inertia that exists as the whole thing slides downhill.
    Soon the system won’t be fit for any of us.
    I suggest you start collecting the data and publishing it.
    Case loads per doctor.
    Mistakes or errors per doctor.
    Each case will have a complexity which will determine the time required and the possibility of a certain outcome (good, bad, dire etc.).Allowances need to be made for this.
    Make doctors clock on and off to check that they are where they should be.
    Pay bonuses by results with safeguards against those who just churn out loads of inferior work to increase their workload amounts.
    Make medical management a desirable career by making it highly paid (in relative terms) and hand over the power of the departmental budget and hiring and firing capacity to this boss. Fire her/him if they fail, back to the clinical job again and repeat as necessary.

    • JimF
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      I think the worrying thing is that we voted in a new government of sorts because we weren’t getting answers from Gordon Brown and Labour on these questions. Brown had largely contrived events to take this course, by pumping a credit boom and spending taxes in ballooning public-sector non-jobs, so no surprise these questions lay unanswered then.

      Nearly 2 years on now, you are asking the same relevant questions to a government in which your Party has a majority stake and you’re still not getting answers. These symptoms signal a democratic deficit and remedial actions there will be needed in order to cure the disease itself.

    • Farmer Geddon
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      Most medical ‘errors’ represent system failures. We all know how the NHS destroys the careers of whistleblowers. Trusts are increasingly making referrals to the GMC on some trumpted up charges if they have a ‘problem’ with a particular medic.
      Bonuses for productivity are already paid via merit awards which have been politicised.
      Clocking on/off is a quick way to demotivate a professional workforce who mostly work extra hours for the NHS. Are they going to be paid for all of the additional hours highlighted by closer monitoring ?
      The NHS is run by politicised management & medics have few opportunities to improve the service. You should find some more appropriate targets. How are the MPs suffering in this age of austerity ? Are they being asked to contribute more to their lavish pensions for example ?

      Reply: Yes, MPs are being required to contribute more to their pensions

  33. forthurst
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    “They should be asked how come productivity in making planes or cars keeps on going up, but has not risen overall in many public services.”

    Perhaps they should also ask why this has not compromised the quality of the end products, on the contrary.

    Perhaps they should also asked why British companies involved in airframe manufacture and car manufacture were very heavily punished by the market after meddlesome and incompetent politicians had ‘reorganised’ those companies and Trotskyite saboteurs had been given free reign to wreck them from within by the aforementioned politicians such that there are now no major British owned car manufacturers and only one (military) airframe manufacturer.

    The truth is that government cannot be trusted to run anything.
    For one thing its own objectives are frequently misguided and as often as not, ignoble. They are too often prey to pressure groups and special pleading. It is certainly true that many government departments are highly inefficient, but this is the responsibility of ministers. The first question to be asked about a government department is whether it’s actually necessary? Is the DoE necessary? Why? Private schools manage without its guiding hand and in many cases now, do not even set the public exams prescribed by the DoE because of their lack of academic content.
    They can also shield their children from the grooming on history and society inflicted on publicly educated children. What is the cost of educating a child well at a modest private school as opposed to one at a state school, after adding in the overhead costs of non teaching staff from the ministry down? Would a private school ever negotiate a highly disadvantageous PFI contract with a financial spiv? The truth is that much government service consists of little more than job creation schemes whose abolition would not be missed and much of it is preventing efficient delivery of services to take place.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      Private schools manage because they have much more money and can be very selective regarding who they allow in. If private schools only had the budget of a regular schools and could only accept local children they would have a similar pass rate to most comprehensives.

      • alan jutson
        Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        unanime5

        Wrong, most private schools (heads, teachers, parents and pupils) have very different priorities and attitudes, when compared to your average comprehensive.

        No I did not go to private school, and neither did my children, but my grandaughter does.

        The biggest influence in any school is the headmaster, a good one and you usually have a good school, a poor one and you usually have a poor school.

        In addition, if parents pay directly (in effect pay twice) for educating their childeren, they tend to take a greater interest in that education system and the school, than those who do not.

        Thus success often breeds success, and good teachers are retained.

      • forthurst
        Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        The question of how much money an individual school has to spend per pupil on teaching is not germane. The issue is the total spending including the cost of an entirely superfluous hierarchy starting at the DoE and including the LEAs, together with the costs attendent on poorly negotiated precurement contracts. Furthermore, private schools in my experience do not tolerate disorderly pupils and do not attempt to teach bright and dull children together as they have widely differing inductive capacities.

        Private schools also tend to provide the most beneficial education appropriate for a child, whereas state schools frequently use their children to optimise their standings in entirely artificial and inappropriate performance tables quite apart from the cultural grooming which they throw in for free.

        As to entry criteria, you are getting confused between the most familiar and the ex-grammar schools which do set moderate to high standards of entry and the many others, unfamiliar to most people, that do not.

  34. Bazman
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Spent a fortune on banking and supporting bankers after letting them do what they like as they are the experts and it’s still crap.

  35. Reaguns
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Superb article. This is one to keep a link to. I haven’t met anyone yet who can counter John’s BMWs and wine argument, or his USA and China EU trade argument.

    All I’ve heard is that Nissan (and the like) would close their factories if we couldn’t sell in to the EU. I have made an argument that this wouldn’t happen even if trade DID stop between us and the EU (because rather than buying peugeots and selling nissans, we’d buy nissans) but of course its covered by John’s argument anyway.

  36. Matt
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Yes too many interviewers just skim the surface – like sound bite news.

    Maybe we should return to the detailed analytical interviews – set pieces that Robin Day and Brian Walden used to do – with such interviews politicians’ couldn’t get away with throwing out flack

    Andrew Neil is pretty good at asking balanced questions as is Jeff Randall so it’s not all bad.

    • Reaguns
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 1:04 am | Permalink

      Andrew Neil is the best I’ve ever seen. No wonder Cameron insisted on all those conditions before agreeing to an interview – only for Neil to reveal them and make him look daft! (And scared.)

      Two of the best interviews I’ve seen this year were when he tore Ed Balls apart on his borrowing/deficit plans, but best of all was when he slaughtered Andy Burnham on the “predator/producer” line.

      Susprisingly, way back in the labour leadership campaign I thought Ed Miliband did reasonably well in his interview with Neil on this week – only for Michael Portillo to stick the boot in at the end!

  37. Phil Richmond
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Im waiting for the Conservative party to go on the offensive against the BBC. How long are you just going to take their bias?
    Might win you a few new seats!
    Lets hope 2012 brings in a new Conservative leader.

  38. Vanessa
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    I could not agree with you more! I keep saying the same to people who swallow all this drivel from the MSM. And also the lie that more than half our exports are with the EU, they do not know about the Rotterdam effect where so much goes through Rotterdam (in the EU) to go on to the rest of the world – why don’t people ever enquire whether any of it is true but just accept it, is beyond me.
    Why are we still a member if a new government is not bound by the one it replaces?
    Why are we still giving aid to Brazil when their economy has now overtaken ours in the league table? Is everyone in the government asleep or stupid?

    • Bob
      Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      They probably hope that Brazil will lift it’s ban on Falkland Island transshipments.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      Why would you send something to Rotterdam if you wanted it to go to somewhere other than the EU? Wouldn’t it make more sense to send it directly to the non-EU country?

      Reply: It is about ship size and container loads.

      • Bob
        Posted January 2, 2012 at 1:12 am | Permalink

        Have you any commercial experience?

  39. Paul
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    A new year – time for a general election and/or Tory leadership challenge? How long can the so-called Tory EU-sceptics just sit there and let Cameron (who’s about as Conservative as Dennis Skinner) carry on fooling the British people with his pro-EU agenda and high levels of borrowing with the Lib Dems who shouldn’t even be in government.

  40. Martyn
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    John, you ask (amongst many other salient points) “What influence within the EU have we wielded”? Well, in truth we, the voters, have no say in the appointment of Commissioners and the President of the European Commission (EC) who now exercise supreme power over us. Accepting that the EC as a whole must be approved by 18 of the 27 Prime Ministers, and that the European Parliament must approve the EC as a whole by an absolute majority, it is a dismal fact that the elected MEPs who approve the EC are largely unknown to their voters at home and their pre-election campaigns says more about their home party politics than anything about EU issues or concerns.
    The Nice treaty allowed governments to propose whom they wanted as their commissioner. Under Lisbon governments can only suggest whom they want as a Commissioner and it is the EC President who decides who is to be appointed, whilst reserving the right to fire a Commissioner if he or she fails to toe the preferred EC line during their period of office.
    EC directives are binding on member states who must implement each them, with limited rights of planning their implementation with no right to reject or amend the directive. Of the more than 32,000 legal acts in the EU, 12,000 Court verdicts and 48,000 international standards, over 80,000 have been applied over the years without our consent. cannot be rejected or modified by the UK Government. The EC alone can propose a change in EU legislation, not a National Parliament, not the European Parliament and most certainly not the voters of member states. For instance, the UK government has no say whatsoever over our fishing rights, because the EC has made ‘biological resources in the sea the exclusive competence of the EU’ and has forbidden any national legislation in this area. The dictatorial term ‘forbidden’ leaves no leeway whatsoever for the UK government to protect our national interests in the seas around us. No democracy there, then and any MP or Minister who implies that change is possible is either misinformed or spinning something over which they and we have no control.
    No Minister appears to want to face the truth and admit that they can do little more than s they are told by the EU and that we have lost control of our national destiny. It is quite extraordinary that Ministers and many MPs continue to tell us that our EU membership brings untold benefits which would be lost if we pulled out of what is, in truth, an undemocratic, unaccountable and seemingly corrupt organisation (if that be an apt word). They should tell the truth, which is that our democratic way of life arising from a thousand years of history, the Magna Carta, Habeous Corpus, the Petition of Right, trial by jury, English Common Law and our national sovereignty have all been arrogated to the EC. Truly, we are lost and unless enough MPs gather together to bring all this home to bring Ministers to account there can be no change in their relentless pursuit of handing the last remaining vestiges of our sovereignty to the EU.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      Each member state has 1 EU Commissioner that they nominate, which has to be approved by the EU Parliament. So we have a lot of control over our EU Commissioner.

      Though the Commission can make directives they have to be approved by the EU Parliament, who can amend or reject these directives. Your claims that the Commission can make any law it wants without needing the permission of any other part of the EU is totally wrong.

      Finally most laws in the UK are made by the UK Parliament with no input from the EU. This is because the EU only has a small influence on UK law.

  41. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    If the eurosceptic side resorts to spinning, shouldn’t the pro-Europeans do the same? I’m to busy enjoying la douce France at this moment, but I could help the pro- EU Brits later on (although they really should be able to themselves).

  42. uanime5
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Regarding your questions John:

    If the UK leaves the EU we’ll lose access to 26 countries who purchase 53% of our exports (worth 10% of the UK’s GDP). By contrast 25 EU countries will lose access to one country that purchases 5-7% or less of their exports (though 16% of Ireland’s exports are to the UK). So even though the UK is a net importer leaving the EU will hurt the UK significantly more than it hurts the EU.

    The WTO hasn’t protected the export jobs from Africa, Asia, or anywhere else outside the EU so it’s unlikely to help us if we leave the EU.

    China and the USA can export their products to the EU due to bilateral trade agreements which are subject to quotas. Given that the UK’s exports will be only a fractions of those from China and the USA, and we’re a much smaller market this makes our bargaining power much weaker. Thus any trade agreements will be on the EU’s terms.

    Productivity in making cars and planes can be increased by automating various processes; something that can’t be done in education, healthcare, or social work.

    A different Simon explained yesterday that Hammersmith and Fulham has been cutting main services to achieve their savings.
    http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2011/12/29/the-two-michaels-george-and-boris/#comment-76428

    In you list of questions about the financial crisis you forgot to ask why the Conservatives never opposed any of the deregulation and were campaigning for even less regulations.

    It’s possible to borrow your way out of debt by investing in something that will produce more profits than its initial costs plus compound interest.

    • Mark
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      Productivity in making cars and planes can be increased by automating various processes; something that can’t be done in education, healthcare, or social work.

      In education, productivity has gone backwards because standards have been dumbed down: it now takes about two extra years to achieve the same standard. Automation certainly has a part to play. Once children achieve basic standards of concentration and behaviour, they can learn from interactive video made by the best teachers.

      In health productivity too has gone backwards. The numbers of employees have rocketed – yet the quantity of health care delivered has been static or even falling in recent years (look at the data on deaths, and note that the majority of lifetime health care is provided in the last two years of life). Automation has revolutionised such things as lab testing, and other advances have made many surgical procedures far less invasive, requiring much reduced hospital stays.

      In social work too productivity has gone backwards. Why have one person looking after a case when you can have half a dozen so that none of them gets the blame when something goes wrong?

      • uanime5
        Posted December 31, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

        There’s a reason why private schools don’t use interactive videos, it’s because they don’t work.

        Most people need more care at the end of their lives because old people have more health problems than young people. They also have more chronic conditions.

        It’s not automation if you need a human to control the robot. This is an example of better equipment.

        The purpose of having multiple people look after a case is to prevent one person missing something.

  43. Frances Matta
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    A New Year – time to go for a new spin?
    Yes, but you won’t be given a seat in a BBC limo.

  44. Posted December 30, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    as the BBC receive some of their money from the EU they have a vested interest and should disclose it.
    they wont and so the propaganda and lies will go on.
    mrs.T was all for abolishing the licence fee but one of the wets talked her out of it.
    it may have ben howe.
    the pro EU brigade are similar to the global warming doomsayers.
    theirs is the only way and if you disagree you are somehow unhinged and need treatment !!

  45. electro-kevin
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the Tory party should thank heavens that the same broadcast media aren’t reporting the truth on soft criminal justice nor the relaxations on immigration under the present regime.

    Having already lost supporters of public services they’d have no voters left !

    I did say that Mr Cameron was conning the British public when he said he would put a cap on immigration but prefixed it with ‘non EU’.

    It also seems helpful to Mr Osborne and his credibility with the credit rating agencies that the UK media is howling about ‘cuts’ and ‘austerity.’

  46. Caterpillar
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    ‘Talk to Al Jazeera’ has shown that (reasonably) solid interviewing is possible; interviewing both Klaus Regling and Marcus Kerber.

  47. Javelin
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    The EuroZone is the most rubbish empire ever!

    It’s designed to destroy its own economy.

    Honestly the Romans would be laughing their heads off.

    300 more years !!!

  48. Tad Davison
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    John,

    I have tried to get my local pro-EU Lib Dem MP, Julian Huppert, and the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, to engage me in debate, to see if they can give me an answer to this and many other questions. They haven’t done so as yet, and I won’t hold my breath!

    Happy New Year to everyone.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

  49. Paul Harris
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    The issue about those 3 million jobs is partly right, but also partly wrong in my opinion. If we were to drop out of the EU completely I would expect some sort of trade sanctions. They do charge tariffs to countries outside the EU, and remember the institution is run by socialists, which will all agree to ‘get Britain’. We have seen this with the Tobin tax. They hate the fact we dominate financial services, and they become jealous. Remember socialism is driven by jealousy, so it is a reasonable possibility.

    In the blue corner we do have the WTO and pressure from other countries, and most especially America. We also have the fact they are very short of cash, and so beggars can’t be choosers. They would not wish to upset other countries around the world because they have to ask them to buy their bonds, and already bond sales are looking shaky. Italy’s last round saw Italian bonds at 7%, the figure that is considered danger level.

    Anyhow if they imposed trade sanctions on us and increased protectionism then they would be shooting themselves in the foot. I don’t expect them not to shoot themselves in the foot, as they seem well capable of doing this. If they did then they would become poorer and become greater beggars, but we would be OK because working in a capitalist system the trade would just reorganise itself. We would simply pull out EU investment and plonk it somewhere more advantageous, so many of those 3 million jobs would end up simply doing slightly different jobs. In my estimation it would be a small blip with a perhaps a few hundred thousand at most lost initially, but quickly and more than made up for by all the opportunities that are created with greater liberalisation of trade in general and freedom from all of that regulation. So it is nothing to worry about.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 31, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      Why would countries with no interest in finance be jealous of a country with a large financial sector? Also by your logic every other EU country should be jealous of Germany’s manufacturing industry and be actively trying to destroy it.

      Given that 53% of our exports go to the EU unless we double our exports to every other country the 3 million jobs will be lost forever. Also if the capitalist trade system does exist it will fix the problems the EU suffer from the loss of the UK long before the UK can fix the problems it will suffer from the loss of the EU.

  50. Barbara Stevens
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    John, I could not agree more. Like many others I’ve hit the sales, but haven’t bought a thing, now that’s a first for a woman I bet? However, during waiting in the queues, many people who were being served had cards rejected, they offered another to pay for the goods. It makes you think does it not. Arms full of goods all paid for via cards, debt! When the bills come in then the reckoning will come too. I’m glad to say my cards are all clear, not that I’m miserly, not at all, I just don’t spend willy nilly, I’m careful. Resulting in no debt, and it’s nice not to have any I can tell you. Like you say John bills have to be paid by someone eventually, and it’s a pity different governments don’t follow that creed of thinking. To be free of debt is like flying on the wind, and when I shut my front door I know no one will come knocking, that’s enough to please in it’s self. May be this government will show the way and stop spending money we don’t have, and show the nation debt is evil, it grinds you down if you let it, but being without it is a wonderful feeling. I know I’m debt free, we can’t afford debts, refuse to have them, what we don’t have we go without.

    Reply: It’s cheaper to save and buy rather than to buy, borrow and repay.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

    Promoted by David Edmonds on behalf of John Redwood both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU

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