Something must be done


             As a keen believer in representative democracy, I all too aware of its weaknesses. I think it is the best type of government on offer, but we need to use the freedom of speech it allows to try to keep it honest.

              One of the biggest weaknesses of western democracy is it favours the “something must be done about it approach”, whether the government can and should do something or not. All too many elected Councillors and MPs will feel local or national government has to come up with an answer if a limited number of people put to them a problem.

             Many elected officials find it difficult to reply that government is not able to help or could hinder in any particular case. There is a reluctance to point out that for everyone wanting something to be done there may be three or  four not wanting anything to be done. Sometimes government blunders into fixing the perceived problem, only to find the solution for that problem creates more problems of a different nature for other people and interest groups.

            The something must be done culture is partly created by and reinforced by pressure groups. In the UK the pressure groups that want government to regulate, legislate and punish people more are stronger and more numerous than the groups that want government to do these things less. The pressure groups that want the government to collect  more in tax or borrow more to spend more are more numerous and usually better organised than the pressure groups who want the state to take less of our money in tax and do less. Occasionally a spending promise triggers a lot of protest- like HS2 or some overseas aid – but more normally the email box is full of people who  want extra spending on particular areas they favour or benefit from. Lobbyists specialise in trying to create pressure from the public, and in turn from  groups of MPs, to force the governemnt to spend more. The BBC is also a keen participant in this auction. The BBC rarely grills a Minister for presiding over wasteful or undesirable or not very important spending, but regularly takes them to task for not spending enough.

                Most elected officials agree that they would like to provide public services at less cost and to higher quality, something that should be possible. After all, it happens year after  year  in the private sector in most areas.  The basis  of debate, however, is often framed by lobbyists who regard more spending as good and less spending as bad. This simplified debate makes it  difficult to take the third way of better and cheaper provision, and squeezes out serious consideration of why some elements of public service are so expensive. As we saw yesterday, the railways are a great example of how you can spend collosal sums, because our Net work Rail  on its own admission is 20% inefficient.

           The BBC rushes to find examples of individuals who have suffered because public spending is not high enough. I have not heard an interview following the publication of the £38 billion railway plan asking why it costs so much and why it takes so long to weed out the inefficiencies they have identified. We need more voices who speak up for the taxpayers, who want there to be a sensible limit on how much they have to pay. We need more voices for freedom, who remind us there are limits to how much government can do well.

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  1. Robert K
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for making these points. Most people simply want to be left alone by the government. The problem is that once there are ministries for this, that and everything else, there is a natural tendency for the state to become embedded in our lives. Ministers, and I suspect especially civil servants, will always look at the world through the lens of their department – “XYZ has happened; the Beeb is demanding answers; what are we going to do about it…?”.
    Listening to the radio debate about the health service sums it up – the current question is “how much resources do we devote to A&E compared with drop-in centres”. tomorrow it might be “how many midwives do we need”? Can you imagine a similar national debate in the private sector? Such as “why is food retailing so poor, don’t we need more supermarkets”? Or “why is there never a chartered surveyor when you want one”? It simply doesn’t happen.

    • Bazman
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      It all very well being left alone if you are rich many need the state for income and health, but your fantasy of everyone having access to a midwife in a free market if they can afford one may well prove to be the truth. Why are midwives so expensive and why can I not afford one in this private health fantasy? For this is what it is. The midwives might be giving their current employers the NHS, a strike they understand leading to that situation as a survey by The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) found that staff had increasing sense of alienation in the workplace led 36% of the 1,025 midwives questioned to admit that they often think about leaving their NHS trust and 24% said they were so disenchanted with their work that they would potentially change careers within the next year. Of those with less than 10 years’ service, that figure increased to 29%. This will then free them to do private work and solve the problem.
      Takeaway politics from another fool.

      • Hope
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        Why are there so many MPs on the pay roll if not to buy their loyalty to Cameron? Why are referendum outcomes not mandatory. If we accept what Cameron says, which most us do not, at he will give a referendum nothing requires him to impose our will, look at Ireland and what happened over their vote on the Lisbon Treaty.

        Right to recall, lobbying, clean up politics and reduce the number of SPads seems but a distant memory of promises made by Cameron. No point rehearsing the number of U turn or gay marriage bypassing normal democratic procedures (in 2007 he wanted British people to conform to the British Asian way of life not the other way around). If it were not for the incompetent Miliband the UK would have supported the US in firing missiles at Syria for another regime change exercise that most of the public do not want, and not very democratic as every country has the right to self determination. Yet, Cameron tried to justify his actions yesterday even though he originally claimed he accepted the word of parliament and the people. While there are politicians like Cameron, democracy will remain an inanimate word for the UK.

      • JoeSoap
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        So you think we should have state run supermarkets so everyone can be issued with all they want to eat?

        • Bazman
          Posted November 12, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

          The NHS can be like a takeaway too? Thats a little plane flying over your head. Look!

        • Edward2
          Posted November 13, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

          Yes Baz does think this would be better Joe, as well as a living in a left wing controlled United States of Europe in a pollution and carbon free but no nuclear nation, employed in a highly paid Government allocated permanent job, whilst living in luxurious low rent social housing all paid for by just taxing the rich.
          And this is from someone who regularly calls other deluded.

      • libertarian
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Permalink


        The only reason some people cant afford health insurance is that the government ALREADY took more money off of them in order to provide the service badly. In what universe do you live if you think the NHS or anything else is free? Everything has to be paid for by someone. Socialists like you just don’t want it to be them they want someone else to pay for them.

        I do agree with your post though that the state managed NHS is a dreadful employer, treats its staff badly and would be better off under a private employer.

        • Bazman
          Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

          Private health insurance is going to be better and cheaper than the HHS? We have had enough privatisation fiascos benefiting an elite and nobody else. You can be sure the public will not except your insurance based fantasy and quite rightly too. Its one of the few things that benefits the majority of the population. How is anyone going to pay for this insurance and what if they cannot? Don’t tell me we already have a two tier system as it will not wash.

      • alan jutson
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Permalink


        Those who do leave the NHS soon have a very severe culture shock.

        Private companies work very, very differently from the NHS, as a couple of our Family members found out when they transfered from working from Private industry into the NHS.

        In the private sector the work Culture is very different, people have to be far more productive, work within cost controls, sickness leave is monitored, as is timekeeping, pension schemes are not as generous, staff have to take responsibility, and patients are regarded and treated as customers (even though they are being paid to be treated Privately by the NHS)

        • Bazman
          Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

          When the insurance runs out or does not cover the ailment they are back with the NHS. It’s like selling the Ritz as a good Hotel.
          This privatisation fantasy will see us all working for foreign state owned companies profiteering from services to subsidise their own populations services. We should be providing ourselves instead of paying them to do it and for what? Dogma?

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Did you watch the excellent programme yesterday on the choir in Birmingham? The number of really nice people doing non-jobs all paid for by the people and their lifestyle – the kinds of cars they drove and so on?
    Yup, all their jobs were worthwhile – stopping children being beaten up by their parents, offering green spaces and flowers for people, offering a lovely swimming pool for families to play in. But why could’t these things be done commercially?
    Our local government swimming pool, for example is totally inefficient. It provides all the wrong stuff. It does’t look after what it has got.The employees are far too often offhand and even rude.
    Government is inefficient on the whole. It does’t have the right attitude either. It condescends.
    It is full of silly ideas. And where, pray, is the church in all this? Oddly enough, the Church is efficient, caring and quite outstanding at being there and doing useful work.

    Thank you for understanding and raising this question which is hardly ever asked.

    • APL
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Mike Stallard: “But why could’t these things be done commercially?”


      Mike Stallard: “And where, pray, is the church in all this?”

      Busy wondering if males should marry each other.

      • Livelogic
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        “But why could’t these things be done commercially?”

        Well the tax payer, free at the point of use state “sevices” like the NHS, schools, social housing, trains, sport centres, the BBC have a huge unfair competitive advantage of large tax subsidies. This kills off the competition and they then continue offering a dreadful service and are run are for the convenience of the staff for evermore.

        All paid for by tax payers whether they use them or not.

        • APL
          Posted November 12, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

          lifelogic: “This kills off the competition .. ”

          No, no there is no evidence of ‘crowding out’. That’s why there is a private library on every street corner.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      I did watch that programme, and it struck me was that none of the people involved seemed to have any idea why government funding for the council was being cut. It was as if the money just appeared from somewhere and it was incomprehensible and completely wrong that there should now be less than before. Quite frightening, really, that apparently they had yet not fully taken on board that the government is still having to borrow something like a fifth of all the money it is spending, and that this over-spending and over-borrowing cannot continue forever.

      • Hope
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        Under Labour the debt increased by£1 billion every two days. Now it increases by £1 billion everything three days. Anyone would think we should all be star struck by the house building on very peace of green land to help convince people the Tories haves aced the day. I am stills airing for the spending cuts or the 80/10 split promised by the Tories. I am fed up with over 300 tax rises to pay for Mssrs Cameron and Osborne’s incompetence. Perhaps the message will be conveyed to the men on Mars sent by the Indian space rocket we helped to pay for.

      • lifelogic
        Posted November 13, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Nor I suspect the fact that they are paid 50% more (with pensions) than the private sector people whose taxes largely pay their wages.

    • Bazman
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      Have you seen the prices of private swimming pools? For many it would be a case of no swimming pool. Maybe they should build their own in their houses funded by a ‘pool’ tax. A tax break for building your own pool, thus taking the pressure off the council ones.

      • Edward2
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

        At last a good idea from you Baz
        All round me Councils are closing their swimming pools saying they cost to much to keep open.

        • Bazman
          Posted November 12, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

          Also we will be closing anything you use now or in the future. Like the NHS.

        • Bazman
          Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

          What are children who want to learn to swim to do then? Or adults who would like to stay fit by swimming. This is not a service that would benefit the population and if they cannot pay then tough? Do tell us. How about free medical care for children. Can’t pay? Should have though of that before? Where will your right wing fantasy end. No house tough? No money? Tough. What would happen in the real world should this situation come about? Everyone would just accept it for the best..Hmmm! I doubt it and tell us why they should edward2? You can’t?! Silly boy.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 14, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

            Another of your odd rants Baz, accusing others of holding strange views on things which they do not and then abusing them for holding those fantasy views.

            I’m with you on the closure of pools.
            They should be made to keep them open and find the money from HQ savings, starting at the top.
            Councils have hundreds of thousands to pay salaries for useless top executives and then say they have no money to even keep street lights on as they have to save on the electric.

      • libertarian
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 8:26 pm | Permalink


        You do know there is already a swimming pool tax right?

        You are right though my private pool costs a fortune

        • Bazman
          Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

          You can claim it back in capital gains tax it seems. How about a ‘pool tax’ though? A tax for not having a swimming pool paid by any property without one.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      Usually something is done publically, rather than commercial, because a private company either refuses to do something because it’s not profitable or will turn something open to everyone into something only accessible by the wealthy. It’s naive to believe that the private sector will always be better.

      • Edward2
        Posted November 13, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

        I’m trying hard to think of something the UK State does better (without costing taxpayers a fortune) compared to what a private business does or could do if given a chance.

        Make cars no, Make telephones no, Deliver parcels no, Dentists no, Opticians no, deliver food and drink to a population of 70 million no, Airlines no, run ports and docks no, build homes no, etc etc.
        Education now costs nearly as much in a State school as in a private school despite huge economies of scale in the State sector.
        The NHS costs each of us several thousands per year which could provide us all with gold plated insurance cover leaving the State to deliver health cover for things like A and E and those with chronic disability.
        Each person in prison costs more than if they were put up at the Savoy.

        Can you think of anything Uni?

        • Bazman
          Posted November 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

          In most cases such as infrastructure and defence projects the state employs private companies to do this. The local councils provide services for the benefit of the community via private companies and their own employees. Like the NHS. Getting rid of the councils bus service because it is rubbish and not replacing it with another bus service is not a real answer and neither is telling everyone to get a taxi instead. Have nothing an be happy with it unless you can pay, which is what you propose. Britain is one of the worlds richest countries and this is not acceptable and you know what edward2? We are not accepting it…

          • Edward2
            Posted November 16, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

            Doesn’t really answer my question though does it Baz.
            Essential services, yes I accept Councils provide these services but every area of nationalised business they have tried to run has been an expensive failure.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 16, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

            You need to look at many of the state owned companies run by private companies. Trains and utilities for example are expensive failures propped up by the state and the bill payer putting money into an elites pocket first and the state and user coming a poor second.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 17, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

            Failure of the State again as these are not properly private companies.
            Still no example of a company providing a service or product the State does well I note.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

            Don’t forget who really own the banks and the bankers too after their utter failure in the private market. Not to mention universities that produce graduates and research that benefits private companies the most.

  3. Mark B
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Your article highlights many problems I see with our so called democracy. In fact, recalling some of the points raised, I do not think we live in a democracy at all.

    Of course our kind host will naturally disagree with this, and may even come to its defence. After all, he is a beneficiary of ‘Representative Democracy’ and as such can see little need for radical change. “Just a few tweaks here and there, and things will settle down and go back to ‘normal'”, he might say.

    But our democracy is not a democracy, and it clearly does not wish to represent the people. Certainly not the majority.

    Government has made a ‘rod for its own back.’ It has absolute power, well as far as the EU will allow. And it has absolute right to raise, lower and create and abolish various tax regimes, without recourse to the people who have to pay them. When you become the ‘money-pit’ that you are, those that want access too this inexhaustible supply of FREE cash will gather, irrespective whether their cause is just or not. They will complain and demand that you, “Do something !” What they really mean is, “Spend your (really the peoples) money on me !!!!”

    Because politicians like our kind host cannot see that they are simply being used, and that the people have little control over how monies are raised and spent, we will never see an end to this. What I believe needs to happen in order to break this cycle is, radical reform in the way with which we are governed. Representative Democracy is not the only form of democracy, and it is up to each and everyone who have an interest to seek out and change a system that clearly does not work. Because if it did, why the article ?

    The problem is, government has got itself into a vicious circle of need, followed by tax, followed by spend. It needs to break out of this circle and not seek to blame everyone form the silent majority too the BBC. You need to get back to what you were first elected to do. ie Represent your constituents. And, if not part of the Executive, then hold the Executive to account. Demand why we need to raise taxes and, if necessary, withhold the right of the government to raise more taxes if proper costs cannot be made.

    If you cannot or will not look after the interests of the people you claim to ‘represent’ then, maybe we need to look at other forms of democracy. Forms where those that pay the bills decide on how much is to be raised and what is to be spent upon.

    Government exists to govern, not to act as some sort of large charity, both nationally and internationally.

  4. Andyvan
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    The trouble is in Britain we have a large majority that actually believe that government is the answer. In reality it is the problem. Most difficulties I find when setting up a new business or running an existing one are because of government regulation and taxation (or more accurately- theft). Most problems I have in private life are with government controlled industries like power companies, the NHS and banks. When I travel to a free market country with small government the price of everything is so low compared to Britain it is quite clear just what an enormous amount of tax we pay here and just how much easier life is without the dead weight of government around our necks. Returning to Britain you also notice the incredible amount of surveillance cameras and excessive state presence in daily life. Living in Britain is pleasant and comfortable compared to some places in the world but contrast it with what it could be without our massive big brother state and it is depressing to return from a trip to a free country.

    • Bazman
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      What countries will these be? Monaco, Saudi Arabia Lichtenstein, or Wonderland?

      • Tad Davison
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

        Certainly not heavily-taxed socialist France, people are leaving that place in their droves! We had a similar thing in this country under the high-taxing Wilson Labour government of the 1960s. We called it ‘the brain drain’ where our brightest were leaving for better prospects elsewhere. You’d think those who espouse big government, high tax regimes would have learned their lesson. I think Andy might have a valid point.

        • Bazman
          Posted November 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

          They’re leaving this low wage neo serf country run on a ruling public school elite and a foreign financial aristocracy too you might have noticed?

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 13, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink


      “The trouble is in Britain we have a large majority that actually believe that government is the answer”.

      True and why is this? Because the BBC and the state sector and politicians push out this endless propaganda and create a feeling of helpless dependence.

  5. matthu
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    This analysis ignores the fact that government often welcomes – indeed funds – pressure groups (charities which lobby government) and media organisations that encourage bigger government, turn a blind eye to wasteful spending and promote greener projects regardless of cost etc. etc. and the EU has honed this practice to a fine art.

    In fact the EU is the biggest culprit – totally funded by the taxpayers – and governments are banned from blaming unpopular measures on the EU. When last did the EU advocate lower spending?

    Government (Labour and Coalition) are hand in glove with the EU and David Cameron has no intention of allowing the UK to extricate themselves from this comfortable arrangement, so democratic pressure amounts to nothing.

  6. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    Your post today highlights a major weakness of your party. It is not for lobbyists to make these cases it is for politicians who are engaged by their parties to make these points. If the BBC will not help you make your case then Sky or ITV may. The wires also pick up Aljazeera content and Russia today. It is a political party’s raison d’etre to spread its mantra much like a religion.

    That your party struggles to convince many who contribute to the tax take that smaller government is best and the client state hinders most is an enduring regret for me. Many of my coworkers are convinced by the left that intervention shows we care and is the most constructive solution. The focus that your colleagues aim on the EU may have more impact if widened towards smaller government rather than EU micromanagement.

    Of course it is in most politicians’ genes to be seen to be doing something.

  7. lifelogic
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Indeed we always he that the government will “create” X jobs with HS2, the Olympics, the roof PV and wind subsidies, the green deal …….. yet each one destroys far more jobs as the billions have to be extracted in taxes and removed from far more productive and sensible people & businesses and activities. This either before the spending or more likely after to repay the huge debts they have taken on to fund this nonsensense.

    Have more referendums on things like this, the people are far better judges and do not have friends or relatives with hands in the honey jar.

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Indeed we all way hear (was what I meant to type). Mainly from the state sector or the voice of the state sector the BBC.

  8. nigel
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    This is so true. The discussion on HS2, for example now seems to revolve around “what else could this money be better spent on?”, rather than “do we really need to spend this?”

    • Livelogic
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      The best thing the HS2 money could be spent on is what the tax payers would chose to spend it on or invest it in – if it were not stolen off them in the first place!

  9. JoolsB
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    ” As a keen believer in representative democracy, I all too aware of its weaknesses.”


    If you really believe in representative democracy, can we take it that you and your fellow UK MPs with English seats believe in representative democracy for your constituents instead of the anything but democratic arrangements we have now where 117 unelected and unaccountable Celtic MPs sitting in the UK Parliament can vote on 100% of matters which only affect England but can only vote on 30% of matters which affect their own constituents? Will you and your fellow UK MPs with English seats be demanding they stop voting on things such as£9,000 tuition fees and a lifetime of debt for my kids when theirs will pay either nothing or be heavily subsidised by UK (English) taxes? Thought not!

    With respect John, if you really care about representative democracy, you and your fellow UK MPs with English seats would be demanding at the very least, a NATIONAL voice for England, a First Minister for England and a Secretary of State for England and an end to 117 unelected and unaccountable MPs voting on matters which affect your constituents but don’t affect theirs.

    • eddyho
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      I would go even further. Give the English a referendum on independence from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Let them pay for their free prescriptions. Universities etc.

      • Handbags
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        Well said.

        If the English had a choice Scotland would have been out on it’s ear decades ago. The same goes for the Welsh.

        Without their votes Socialism would never have taken root in the first place.

        • lifelogic
          Posted November 13, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          Certainly the Scots and the Welsh have done more than their share of damage to the UK by constantly returning lefty MPs.

      • uanime5
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

        Given that Scotland has the second highest GVA in the UK due to their oil and gas (third highest without oil and gas) they’ll do fine without England. Whether England can survive without Scotland is another matter.

        • libertarian
          Posted November 14, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

          Ha ha ha Uanime5 that is your funniest post ever. Can England survive without Scotland. Ha ha ha

    • The PrangWizard
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      May I second that.

      • JoolsB
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        Totally agree. I did say at the very least England needs a voice, a First Minister and a Secretary of State but an English Parliament would be preferable. Why should the rest of the UK get all of the above and England gets none? But as our self serving UK politicians at Westminster are determined to deny England democracy, a voice, a First Minister and a Secretary of State would be a good start until we get our English Parliament.

        It will be interesting to see how many of our supine UK MPs with English seats suddenly become English patriots when we do, the same politicians who at present can’t even bring themselves to say the word England without choking.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      Can’t disagree with the sentiment but most Scots are loyal supporters of the Union. As Dr Redwood says, lobby groups have a lot of influence and power.

      Leftist republican revolutionaries such as the SNP do not speak for all of us Scots by any means. It is a case of ‘leadership beyond authority’ with Salmond. Does that slogan sound familiar?
      And we are not all Celts here either – or Jacobites! During the last civil war in mainland Britain it was English and Lowland Scots of the British Army under the Duke of Cumberland who put down the rebellion.

      • stred
        Posted November 14, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

        Max. Yes. Scots differ as much as the English and many of us are actually both. Unfortunately, the Scots politicians seem more like a remnant of the past. One of my ex neighbours is a keen Scots Nat and used to educate me. He told me that about as many English live in Scotland, proportionally, as the opposite. The populations are of course very different in absolute terms. So I suggested England could solve the over population problem by an exchange, there being plenty of room in the Highlands. He went quiet for once.

  10. sm
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Thank you for clearly articulating the view of so many of us.

  11. Alan
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I thought the Conservative party was the pressure group for those who want to restrict government spending.

    • Livelogic
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Not under Heath, Major or Cameron it is not. Tax borrow and piss down the drain everywhere.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

        Lol I love it when the debate spirals down to the use of such words and phrases. I wish the moderators would let me loose occasionally!


        • libertarian
          Posted November 14, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

          You’d ban the awful “C” word would you Tad? Cameron should not be said in polite company

  12. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    JR: “We need more voices for freedom, who remind us there are limits to how much government can do well.”
    Try telling that to Lord Heseltine and other ‘luminaries’ in your party who like nothing better than taking taxpayers’ money and splurging it on anything which they think makes them look good. He was at it again on the Today programme this morning cheer leading for HS2.
    Some of us hoped that your party wouldn’t need to be given such strictures about the role of government and politicians but sadly we have learned that it is no different from the other main Westminster parties. We shan’t forget that the elimination of the budget deficit by 2015, pledged by Osborne, was ditched and that your government is contentedly but irresponsibly clocking up an additional £1bn of debt every 3 days and today it stands at £1,238 bn.

  13. Anthem
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    What I’ve always found bizarre is that people (even in a democracy) can somehow claim the right to tell other people what their life efforts should be spent on.

    What we need is a government that recognises that the money belongs to the people who created it, that there is no such thing as “public money”.

    What we need is a government that says, “If you want something done about such and such a thing, go out and do it. That is not our job. If you want money spent on such and such an area, go out and raise that money and then spend it on your chosen project. That is not our job.”

    It’s all rather sad that Margaret Thatcher tried to get something along the lines of this point across to people almost thirty years ago:

    I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.

    Margaret Thatcher, 1987.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

      Any government that followed your plan would never get elected as the majority of the population have no intention of paying taxes only to be told by the Government to fund any projects the Government doesn’t consider important.

      • Edward2
        Posted November 13, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        Might be a bit more keen to vote them in if their tax bill fell by half perhaps Uni.

  14. alan jutson
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    The simple stock answer to all of these questions is.

    Goverment spending is the spending of taxpayers money, the government has no other money, the additional spending you are proposing will need us to increase taxes, how much extra tax will you be prepared to pay.

    The more this is drummed into people, the more they may realise that there is not secret source of money, someone always has to pay.

    It was mentioned and talked about in the past (in the media) of sending out an annual simple breakdown of where our taxes are spent, for np other reason than to highlight the massive costs of government run organisations.

    But perhaps the most simple of all, is to indicate on all purchase receipts the vat amount seperately.
    Yes I know this is only one cost, but at least it is a start.

    Perhaps we could also show on the entrance of each hospital the cost of a bed for the night in each ward, excluding treatment costs.

    People need to be made aware that nothing the government provides is free.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

      How is your hospital pricing going to work? It you divide the cost of the ward by the number of patients then the more patients a ward has the lower the cost of each night in bed will be. Also how much will it cost the hospital to calculate how much each bed will cost and who will constantly update this sign?

      • alan jutson
        Posted November 13, 2013 at 11:08 pm | Permalink


        Ever heard of fixed overheads ?

        If a company or any organisation is unaware of its fixed overhead costs, then it is managing in financial ignorance, and has not got a clue what it needs to charge to make a profit, or even to cover its costs.

        Come to think of it, this seems to describe many areas of the NHS to a “T” from what I am informed by those who work in it.

        EG: No one really seems to have a clue about financial management and budgets.

  15. Bert Young
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Very few individuals employed in the Public sector have a real knowledge ( and experience ) of what it is like to plan for and expedite an on-going project . They operate to a paper led dictat formulated from very generalised information often politically inspired . When Bill Armstrong was Head of the Civil Service he was very much aware of this gap of experience and implemented a programme of “exchange” with up and coming personnel under his control with personnel from the private sector. The scheme was far from perfect but it added a dimension of understanding that was not there before . At the very top end of the CS a frequent meeting ground ( 10 occasions a year ) was set up between Permanent and Deputy Secretaries and the leaders of Industry , Commerce and the City . The topics discussed were always those most important in everyday concern . The result of these on-going relationships brought about a much improved understanding on both sides and a better focus in the allocation of Public funds . If this is not in place today I suggest it ( or something similar ) is created again .

  16. oldtimer
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    You make very powerful and very true points.

    The rise and rise of the single issue pressure group has been a significant and often baleful influence on UK politics and legislation in my lifetime. Their activities are often skilfully conducted, use sophisticated PR techniques, often make clever use of their charitable status and are apparent masters of techniques to secure large amounts of taxpayers money to promote their respective causes. Indeed it is evident that some political interests are not above using them to generate support for issues that those political interests want to further. Much, if not most, of this activity is obscured from public view. The EU is a persistent offender in this respect as are some UK government departments. It would be helpful if such activities were exposed to the light of day. This could be achieved for all to see, without recourse to the FOIA, by requiring both charities and government departments to declare without how much taxpayers money has been received/disbursed in funding their activities. If the currently proposed legislation on lobbying does not include this provision, then it is deficient legislation.

    • oldtimer
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      I read that a number of the commentators here have suggested using referenda to gauge public opinion. This is a good idea. My local authority used one a few years ago to get voters to set out their spending priorities when local government funding was cut back.

      I read in SpiegelOnline that voters in Bavaria have held a referendum on whether it should make a bid for the 1922 Winter Olympics. It reports:
      “Bavarians voted against a bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in a local referendum on Sunday that reflected mistrust of the International Olympic Committee and concerns about costs.”

      We need more of this.

  17. David Hope
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Thatcher was always quite anti pressure and interest group. But ever since such organisations have had massive influence on policy. Particularly since Blair.

    Government really needs to get some bottle and tell some of these organisations where to go. It’s damaging to freedom and enterprise, because all that happens is the creation of ever more rules. Obviously, as you point out, it is expensive too as it often involves spending more public money. The very worst example is perhaps the most recent one, with a bunch of celebrities caught having affairs getting press regulation!

    It is also massively unrepresentative, it’s quite the opposite of representative democracy in many ways as law is made for the benefit of interest groups not the whole country.

    As an aside, a massive problem of representative democracy as it stands is one group taxing an other. Much of democracy arose because of people fed up with tax without representation. We have long ago entered a new era whereby many people are voting to take other people’s money. It is getting to the stage of being quite oppressive and the potential is for it to get worse with many on the left wanting to add 16 year olds to the electoral register

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      Well at least the government appears to have made a start by telling the SNP where to go over the Navy contracts and separation, much as it may infuriate many people in England.
      And as you mention votes for 16 year olds, allegedly the ‘Scottish Government’ are introducing ‘resource packs’ for schools ahead of the referendum here.

  18. Richard1
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Excellent points. We need far stronger voices for the millions forced in silence to pay a little bit more so the vociferous interest group can have its pet project or subsidy. We should remember President Reagan’s great exhortation to his colleagues and officials: ‘Don’t just do something, stand there!’

  19. Acorn
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    All the time we have a Punch & Judy parliament based on opposing cliques, the governing clique will always be extremely vulnerable to “something must be done”. The real opposition, the media, will push the official opposition party to start the pantomime with a continuous performance of “Oh no it isn’t, oh yes it is …”.

    Before you know where you are, there is a new Act and a couple of dozen SIs to go with it. The government is now doing more and spending a disproportionate amount of money doing it; for what was likely to be have been a media hyped, one in a million risk event, if not a black swan.

    Central government is doing too much and being both purchaser AND provider of commonly required services, never works. Listening to the parliament channel tells me that the HoC is acting more like a County or District Council for a good proportion of its quarter of a million pounds an hour, time. So the sort of stuff that gets sorted in five minutes in the corridors of your county council, becomes another episode of a Punch and Judy pantomime in the HoC. Unify local government and fund it properly. Delgate education and health for starters to local government and get them off the pantomime stage.

    BTW You will find that the officer class at local government level, is considerably better at doing stuff than Whitehall, they have the learning that comes from being at the coal face.

    PS I see we didn’t make it into the top twenty of The Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project. We got a “F” in “Political Stability and Absence of Violence” and a “B” overall. Perhaps the World Bank guys have seen a Punch and Judy pantomime? Christ! even Belgium got a “C”, and they didn’t have a government for ages. Naturall bloody Finland; Denmark and Sweden were the top three with “A+”. Must take a trip to Finland and see how the worlds best government system works.

  20. lifelogic
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    “Take risks and create wealth” says Cameron, I read in the Telegraph today. Well perhaps if he did not inflict expensive energy on us, allowed us to fire unperforming staff (without endless expensive loops to jump through), did not inflict endless silly regulations and the EU upon us and did not waste about half of the 50% of GDP the government takes – then we might well be more willing to take risks with our money in the UK.

    Meanwhile I will put it somewhere more conducive.

    The virtual certainty of Miliband in May 2015 (thanks to Cameoron’s incompetence) does not help confidence much either.

  21. The PrangWizard
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Indeed so. We lack courageous and visionary leaders who can cast aside day to day details and popularism; those who can inspire, who can rise above and challenge the threats and intimidation which come from the enemies of freedom. Where are the orators who speak in sentences and not in sound bites? Where are those in mainstream politics who will speak out for freedom of speech above all? Where are those who make the case forcefully and credibly for a smaller State, where are those who speak against endless regulation and control? Where are those who speak up for our Western and Christian values? We have lost the US which was once a bastion for the former and it seems we can’t rely on the Church for the latter. Voices are not heard. There are people who will follow such a leader and provide encouragement and support.

    There are many commentators and individuals who want an end to the poison of political correctness which creates guilt and demoralisation; which makes us embarrassed to speak out and to put our values first. We, as individuals have pages like this provided for us for which we should be thankful and grateful because there are powers attempting to close down unhelpful debate. The propaganda machine which is the BBC for example, is a major obstacle and radical change must be imposed there as it is incapable of internal reform. It has an unhealthy monopoly over news and debate.

    And I want someone to too speak for England and the people of England who have been ignored, misled and patronised for too long.

  22. Robert Taggart
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Wishing less was done, but, not necessarily nothing…
    Enough has been said about Parliament (both British, European and ‘devolved’), but, for Moi – Councils be by far the biggest meddlers, spenders et al.
    Whether it be the issue of far too many councils – it could be three (County, Borough / District, Town / Parish) in some unfortunate places, or far too many councillors (three per seat – as in our unitary urban district) – nothing has brought this issue of waste to the fore in the public realm.
    Why not ?
    Turkeys, voting and Christmas – comes to mind !

  23. Neil Craig
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I agree that democracy has faults but is the best way of forming government yet devised.

    I also agree that a main fault with UK democracy is that so long as the state broadcaster has an effective monopoly and promotes more government at every turn, we are seeing a mere Potemkin democracy. The BBC monopoly must be ended.

    Free debate is a necessary & perhaps sufficient condition for freedom and I would insist that broadcasters allow the broadcasting of formal debates on subjects chosen by the public – this is anathema to the BBC mindset whose concept of “debate” is 5:1 on a good day only one side represented at all on a bad. I have no doubt that had there ever been honest broadcast debate on the catastrophic warming fraud it would have been exposed decades ago – which is why the BBC always censored such.

    There are other things I would suggest. We have an openly corrupt electoral system designed to entrench 2 parties in power and largely disenfranchise anybody who disagrees – that is not democracy.

    I also like UKIP’s policy of Swiss style referenda – the Swiss seem to have got government under control & are doing very well as a consequence, Unlike UKIP I would tend to limit referenda to policies that do not increase state power, or require a 2/3rds majority if they do.

    I think the point you raise about lobbying for more money could be addressed by having a limit on the % of gdp the state can spend and having that limit adjusted by up to 5% either way, by referendum at each election. Though people may be persuadable (by the state broadcaster) to increase spending for particular hard luck stories I suspect they would cap overall government spending considerably below what their elected representatives choose.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

      The BBC hasn’t have a monopoly since ITV was created. To have a monopoly you need complete control of the market, so as the BBC isn’t the only news channel it clearly doesn’t have a monopoly.

      Care to explain why your free debates can’t be conducted on another channel?

      Given that the majority of the population are reliant on the state in one way or another (schools, housing benefit, child benefit, JSA, NHS, or police) expect the amount the state can spend to be constantly increased.

  24. stred
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    The tendency and futility of ‘doing something’ was illustrated during a recent discussion between the chief officer for licencing houses in multiple occupation and the landlords association in my town.

    The ‘need’ for licensing was brought about by complaints about problems with tenants in shared housing, in the main part students. The problems were of late night noise, rubbish strewing caused by putting it out on the wrong day, and parking. Consultation was carried out and the general public and business supported licensing. Landlords were against it as they knew that they were legally unable to tell tenants to’ make less noise or else’, they already had conditions for refuse disposal and this was ignored, and the car parking problem was mainly caused by parking permits displacing cars to streets with free parking.

    So what had happened since licensing had started and had conditions improved? It emerged that the LA had taken on 5 environmental heath inspectors plus admin’ and spent all the money employing them.The priority had been to find any ‘rogue’ landlords who had not registered. Some landlords had found themselves in a position where their house had been let to families and sharers in the past and they did not know which planning category they were in. The council had decided to make small houses either shared or family both not both. Now they face very large fines for not registering.

    The priority for licensing had been the enforcement of fire precautions, sanitation, and cooking facilities. It emerged that some landlords had been told to enlarge their kitchens in order that all the sharers could cook at the same time. A landlord had taken this to a tribunal and won the case against the council. The average cost of compliance to HMO standard is now around £20k. The fact that the ENTEC report, commissioned by HMG, had found that small shared houses are no more likely to cause death by fire than similar family houses has apparently disappeared behind the lobbying of pressure groups.

    Have things improved after all this effort? Unfortunately, the noise remains the same, as the LA noise department will only attend at weekends and turn up when it is too late, and the police are not interested. The rubbish is still strewn and the dustbin men refuse to pick up bags as they require students to use wheeled bins. The parking is getting worse as the residents permit schemes are extended and the universities expand. And rents are at a record high owing to houses being withdrawn from the sector and the high cost of compliance.

    • stred
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      The above has all been put into operation by the Coalition, which promised to cut regulation when they came into office.

    • stred
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      sorry/ shared or family but not both. (planning categories)

  25. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    The problem with democracy is that in past years our state was good, it still is good and the organisations which represent the public , including government are good, however the pro private people cherry pick faults and bring expensive management in who are more concerned with their own power than delvering the goods . Woe betide anyone who dares to speak out against the companies whose management structure bears more weight than the people they are serving; they can be fixed.
    You are right when you say every individual wants a voice , yet however open minded and fair we some
    times try to be , we as listeners to the problems must understand that the views sometimes derive out of a sense of powerlessness , spite
    and self importance. Some prefer to switch problems and people due to jealously or the old comment which recurs ‘who does he think he is’ or ‘ lets shoot this little bird off her perch’. Lets face it , there are nasty people out there and they are all part of our democracy.

  26. lojolondon
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Just a small correction, John, £38 Billion was the old figure. The new figure is at least £50 Billion, but more often quoted at £72 Billion. That excludes, naturally, the compulsory over-runs.
    Of course, that price also excludes the actual High Speed trains!!!!! (telling you just how corrupt the whole process has been and is!!)
    Once again, no criticism of HS2 is complete without mention that the line will run to a parkway in Birmingham, meaning it will be slower, not faster for a businessman to get from London to Birmingham when connections are taken into account.

    Reply I am using a different figure, the railway spend in the next 5 year period. £50 bn is just HS2 but over a much longer period.

  27. con
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    One way to improve upon Representative Democracy would be frequent use of referenda as they do in Switzerland.
    These would at least reduce the impact of well organised special interest groups and lobbyists.
    Whether or not we penalise people with green taxes should not be because Clegg or Davey ‘really believe in them’. Explain them to the people and then hold a referendum on the whole energy saga.
    The classic completely democracy free zone is of course the EU. There we have officials doing things ‘they really believe in’ and they weren’t even elected, let alone seeking a referendum.
    The UK and European version of Representative Democracy is a complete sham.

  28. Remington Norman
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    The ‘something must be done’ call presents government with clear difficulties given conflicting views on what need doing.

    However, there is rare concord in demanding that whatever government elects to do, it sets about in a properly organised, accountable and cost-effective manner; this has manifestly not happened. Egregious waste of limited resources identified ad nauseam in many areas of public expenditure – notably defence, welfare and countless failed IT projects – and derivative waste – EU financial incompetence and spendthriftness and cost burdens of uncontrolled immigration spring to mind – make people angry. Why are they being hard pressed with poor savings rate, expensive energy and high taxes, when government wastes vast amounts of public money without apparent thought or accountability. If for one moment one had the impression that ministered cared about the resources they control, we might think differently. The overriding feeling is that waste, lack of proper accounting and management ineptitude are hard-wired into the system.

  29. alexmews
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    thx John

    I agree with your post. essentially it comes down to taxpayers being clear enough to politicians at the ballot box that they wont be bribed with their own money. history shows, I am afraid, that this is not a belief widely held by the electorate.

  30. Alan Wheatley
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink


    There will never be a pressure group for “keep it as it is”: that is until someone seeks to change it.

  31. Alan Wheatley
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes the best thing a government can do is to ensure a favourable environment (in all senses of the word) and then step back and let good old British initiative and innovation take its course.

    I guess difficulties for government are twofold. Firstly the timescale can be too long for easy electoral benefit. Secondly, it is more difficult to relate the results to the policy.

    However, good governance is about making the right decision at the right time. And if that is done it should be possible to successfully argue the case and get the political benefit.

  32. Vanessa
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    The trouble is that a lot of the public now think that government is the answer. I was at a Hustings in 2010 where people from the audience asked questions to the panel of “would-be” candidates. All asked “what would the government do …………” All the LibLabCon went into ecstasies about how they would help and fund the problem. The only man to answer in a different way was the UKIP candidate who said: “very little………”. People were shocked but it make them think.

    This is a direct result of the EU government which makes laws for everything and every aspect so we are used to asking “well, what does the law say?” before we do anything. In England it used to be a freedom to do anything as long as there was no law against it. It created a very innovative people.

  33. Alan Wheatley
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    The poor performance, rightly identified, with respect to the BBC is something that should and could be corrected. I think the heart of the problem is not the BBC per se but the Trust. The Trust is supposed to be looking after the interests of the licence fee payer, but whenever I have looked at what the Trust is doing it seems more like consultation is a smoke scene so they can do what they want to do.

    A good example is their appointment of the current DG, who was promoted for his abilities in the arts, and has subsequently announced more spending on arts programmes. This continues a strong arts bias. Where are the technology programs? The BBC made a pig’s ear of introducing HD Sound, and more recently of 3D.

    My solution is to make the Trust far more open and far more accountable to the licence fee payer, and to achieve this having all Trustees elected by the licence fee payer and their meeting broadcast live.

  34. Tad Davison
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m troubled by the seemingly incessant desire by our politicians to confuse and dupe the public. Not so long ago, we were told that we needed smaller government – fine by me – but that was then distorted merely to mean fewer MPs in the House of Commons. In the well-used words of Oscar Wilde ‘The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.’ I am sure we could do more with less, but right across the board, especially with regard to the EU.

    On today’s Daily Politics show, the thorny issue of the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’ came up (refer to it by it’s official title, and many people’s eyes glaze over as they don’t know what we’re talking about). Firstly, a certain university has conducted a study which shows it won’t save anything like its supporters say it will, and the councils such as Leeds City Council have used up all the money granted to it by central government, and have had to find an extra £500,000 pounds to help the most needy. Some parliamentary oversight of this policy is absolutely necessary, and feedback from those who lose out is essential.

    The thing that seems to come up time and time again in ordinary conversations I have, hasn’t been openly mentioned (at least to my knowledge) by ANY Westminster politician, for if they DID mention it, it would cause a storm. I’ll share those people’s concerns with you. Local authority house building programmes have not kept pace with need, hence the shortage. The ‘bedroom tax’ is a way to create vacant larger properties to cater for the anticipated ‘need’ to house the anticipated influx of immigrants come January 2014.

    I could talk about whose fault that is, but I’ll let others pick over it, as I’m sure they will. But this is just one example where we need and MUST HAVE proper open debate, in order to hold our political representatives to account. It simply isn’t good enough to have MPs such as the local MP for Cambridge, Julian Huppert, not to respond to the genuine concerns of their constituents, for fear of losing the argument. If they cannot defend a policy in an open forum, they shouldn’t espouse those views in the first place.

    Attitudes such as these bring the whole political system into disrepute, and promotes the assertion that once politicians are elected, they do what THEY want, and not as WE want. How can we have faith in a system that treats constituents so poorly?

    And let’s face it, if politicians HAD listened to the people they are supposed to serve, does anyone truly believe we would be a part of the EU, our elderly would be dying of the cold and of loneliness, and we’d be so soft on criminals that we are thoroughly ashamed of our joke of a criminal justice system?

    Tad Davison


    • uanime5
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

      Local authorities didn’t build single bedroom houses because until the bedroom tax was introduced there wasn’t a great demand for them as people wanted houses with multiple bedrooms. So far the bedroom tax has failed to move people to small accommodations because of a lack of smaller accommodations.

      • Edward2
        Posted November 13, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

        Do you think it is fair that people who pay all their rent themselves, in private rented accommodation, should have to pay extra rent for extra bedrooms they may not need Uni?

        • Bazman
          Posted November 15, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

          Is it fair that after the person has been evicted for non payment of bedroom tax, the private house with less rooms they are put in is more expensive and the taxpayer should pick up the tab for this dogma?

          • Edward2
            Posted November 16, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

            You have examples of this happening on a grand scale do you Baz?
            Or is this another fantasy of yours?

          • Bazman
            Posted November 16, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

            Barrow-in-Furness is one of the places worse hit as if they do not have enough problems with unemployment health issues and geographic isolation. Is 50 grand grand enough for you?

          • Edward2
            Posted November 17, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

            Nice bit of left wing scare story propaganda Baz,but the actual official figures for people in rent and mortgage arrears have fallen to a new low level recently and the numbers of evictions are at an al time low.

        • Bazman
          Posted November 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

          Figures provided by 114 local authorities across Britain after Freedom of Information (FoI) requests. This is propaganda? The number of private renters and arrears on mortgages is at an all time low, but these are social tenants and this is the point. They are in many cases vulnerable tenants and this is often why they are in this type of housing and cannot pay the few quid extra. Maybe you could show us an example of one who has a large car and goes on expensive holidays to prove they are all scroungers?

      • alan jutson
        Posted November 13, 2013 at 11:17 pm | Permalink


        “….people wanted houses with multiple bedrooms…. ”

        Got it in one Uni.

        Some people want as much as they can get, as long as someone else is paying.
        Thus you have outlined exactly what was wrong with the old system, in so far that it offered to pay for a house larger than was actually NEEDED.

        • Bazman
          Posted November 15, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

          Assumes there is enough one or two bedroom houses available in that area and often there is not.

          • Edward2
            Posted November 17, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

            So Baz, it’s OK you feel for those paying rent to private landlords to pay more for the benefit of living larger properties, yet you feel I and many other taxpayers should help to pay for those in already greatly subsidised rented social housing to enjoy properties that have spare space whilst others with great need of those properties who are currently living in overcrowded accommodation should remain where they are.
            Strange logic for a socialist.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

            They will then find themselves in private accommodation with the extra paid for by the taxpayer. Often the ones who cannot pay are already on the edge for a number of reasons. Is punishing them and the taxpayer a good capitalist answer.

  35. Antisthenes
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    As you admit representative democracy is flawed. It is more flawed than most realize and will not be improved until all of the people are directly involved in the political process. Having just freedom of speech is not enough. What is needed is for parliament and the executive to be divorced from one another. The government to be properly accountable to parliament and members of parliament to be properly accountable to their constituents. In life there are two types of people those who want to control others and those who wish to be left alone and get on with their lives in the way they see fit. With the advent of socialism the former are now in the ascendancy prior to this the parliamentary system we have worked well enough now it does not. We cannot change how these two disparate groups think and act so we must change the political structure so that balance is restored and reason and common sense takes precedence over emotionalism, vested interest and mediocrity.

  36. Richard1
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the Swiss system of regular referenda is the solution. I don’t think HS2 would make it through a referendum, nor would other foolish policies such as forcing high energy prices and intervention in Syria.

  37. Mike Wilson
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Notwithstanding the appalling deficiencies of our current political system, what we need is a government that says NO!

    No, we cannot afford that.
    No, we cannot afford that.
    No, we will never raise tax above this percentage of GDP as it demoralises people and makes it pointless working.

    We need a constitution that sets binding limits on government borrowing with, just a councillors have, personal liability if over-spending takes place.

    It is not rocket science. For a start all department budgets should be frozen for 20 years. If everyone knew that there was going to be no budget increases for 20 years, they’d soon have to learn to cut their cloth etc.

    If, at some point, the NHS budget became so constrained it could not offer the unlimited services people seem to expect as their birth right (regardless of contributions made) – maybe people would lose some weight and start doing a bit of exercise.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

      No political party will adopt your plan Mike Wilson because all other political parties would accuse them of starving the NHS of cash and privatisation by the back door. Thus this part would become unelectable.

      Also due to inflation any 20 year long freeze would involve real term cuts. So expect this to be very unpopular.

  38. forthurst
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    We should all be aware of pressure groups who promote policies which are inimical to the general public interest, but highly beneficial to themselves, so they think. Such a group has promoted changes in the law to facilitate mass immigration and thoughtcrime laws which are designed to prevent opposition and discussion of the consequences of such policies. This country is very much the poorer for having lost its monoculture and its freedom of speech; it may not have much of a future at all as a bastion of freedom and place of general prosperity and calm.

  39. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    May I commend that you and all your bloggers read ‘The Selfish Gene’ by Professor Richard Dawkins. This is the bible of neo-Darwinism and can be read as a justification that there is no need of a God to explain evolution. It can be read from another standpoint, that benign neglect has often led to good outcomes. If you believe that – as I do – then the obvious question to ask is how can good outcomes be achieved in future. By continued benign neglect. The next step is to realise that capitalism, red in tooth and claw, is the nearest thing that we are going to get to benign neglect in the modern world. If evolution was good in the past, why stop it?

    • uanime5
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      Evolution is about adapting to changing circumstances not benign neglect. So if capitalism is to evolve it needs to take into account that constantly reducing wages will eventually result in people being unable to purchase things made by capitalist economies.

      • Edward2
        Posted November 13, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        It is not the purpose of capitalism to reduce the wages of the workers this is a Marxist myth and is born out by facts and evidence that is all around us.

        For example since 1900 to the current day, wages and the standards of living of hundreds of millions of people living in free capitalist democracies have risen enormously.

  40. Atlas
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    John, I heard a nice example of the effects of lobbyists on the Irish radio news this morning. There they were saying that the price that Ed Davey has agreed for nuclear generated electricity was going to be twice what it is now and that this fact would have a big effect in the Irish Republic as well. So all that green lobbying on CO2 is going to push up costs all over the place, since prices usually are proportional to energy costs.

    I don’t think the (silent) majority had much of a say in actions which are really going to depress living standards. And Miliband talks about the cost of living – how brazen !

  41. Acorn
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    “The European Union budget is equivalent to about 1 percent of the bloc’s annual gross domestic product – a small fraction of total EU government spending of almost 50 percent of GDP in 2012. (Reuters).”

    Over half of that one percent becomes farming subsidies. I thought I would throw this in because I know how much you guys love the EU and feel for its orphan currency that has no mummy and daddy to look after it; and, has to live in a care home called the ECB. 😉 .

    On the bright side, the EU budget for 2014 is 6% less than this year. That’s got to be good, isn’t it?

    • APL
      Posted November 13, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      Acorn: “the EU budget for 2014 is 6% less than this year.”

      If they stick to their budget, which they have no intention of doing. They have Eur 217 billion of deferred payments to make.

      So the EU budget is a lie.

  42. Kenneth
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Take today’s BBC headline as an example of the equation being one sided.


    “Labour loses housing benefit U-turn vote”.

    90% of the story is from the point of view of Labour and some Liberals who wish to take more money from taxpayers. Only ONE line stated the government’s viewpoint that it hopes to save the taxpayer £500m

    A story biased by factor of about 9 to 1.

    Mr Redwood, that is one news story amongst hundreds of hours of BBC output every day. We have a mountain to climb.

    The MPs are out there and so are the pressure groups. Trouble is, they are invisible and unheard.

  43. uanime5
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    The BBC rarely grills a Minister for presiding over wasteful or undesirable or not very important spending, but regularly takes them to task for not spending enough.

    I’d say this is more to do with ministers being more willing to talk about what they have spent money on to mitigate any negative feedback; rather than admitting that they’re wasted money, which they can’t mitigate.

    The basis of debate, however, is often framed by lobbyists who regard more spending as good and less spending as bad. his simplified debate makes it difficult to take the third way of better and cheaper provision, and squeezes out serious consideration of why some elements of public service are so expensive.

    When you have policies such as the bedroom tax which punish people on housing benefit for not downsizing even when smaller properties don’t exist it’s no wonder that people are hostile to any attempts to reduce spending. The Government is all too willing to do something cheaper but very rarely tried to do something to the same standard or better.

  44. Bazman
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    The Electricity Act required the council to produce a specified return on capital, employed by taking “one year with the next”. If we had a cold winter, electricity sales went sky high and the excess profit was clawed back by lowering prices the following year.
    With the present system, the companies pocket the excess and are not obliged to put any money into building new power stations. Not a single power station worthy of the name has been commissioned since the design-and-build facility in the Generating Board was disbanded on a whim of free market philosophy in 1990.
    We are now told that we should shop around for cheaper prices. As if. Surely we should be able to rely on politicians to legislate for a continuous and economic electricity supply? That’s their job. They need to stop the electricity companies’ simplistic profit maximisation of a variable energy market, which older and wiser predecessors recognised could never work without constraints.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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