Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas & A Prosperous 2011!

Or if you prefer...

Best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral, winter solstice holiday, practised within the most joyous traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, but with respect for the religious persuasion of others who choose to practice their own religion as well as those who choose not to practice a religion at all; plus... A fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted calendar year 2011, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions have helped make our society great, without regard to the race, creed colour, religious, or sexual preferences of the wishees.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms:
This greeting is subject to no further clarification and while it may freely transferable with or without any alteration, the sender's right for its withdrawal at any time with no explanation is reserved. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others and is void where good tidings are prohibited by law. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first. Warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher. Any injuries or distress caused are purely tough luck.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Dear Luke Pearce

This is in response to a letter by Luke Pearce to Sir Philip Green as published on

Dear Luke Pearce

You do make a poor argument. You will undoubtedly carry out your purchases from another, possibly very similar business to the Arcadia Group, which will have their own ways of minimising the impact of taxes on their bottom line.

As with all outgoings in a business, tax is just another expense. This, combined with other expenses affect the cost of products, the wages of staff and the profitability of shareholders (many of which, if not most are ordinary people like you and me), who actually own the business. Sir Philip Green's job is to minimise these costs to be able to (a) provide a return to shareholders, (b) keep prices of his products low and competitive and (c) generate enough money to be able to pay his workforce in line with or above market rates.

The assertions in your letter seem to suggest that Sir Philip Green should voluntarily pay more tax than he legally owes. Why would anyone in the their right mind structure their business in a way to maximise costs? How absurd would that be?

Please note the distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Tax evasion is non-payment of taxes due and a crime. Tax avoidance is a way of structuring your finances in a way so that you don't pay more than you have to. As allowed by law.

Sir Philip's partner, born in South Africa and a resident of Monaco is not liable for taxes in the UK. You are assuming that £285 million is untaxed. That's wrong. It IS taxed. In Monaco. Are you suggesting Her Majesty's Government tax people who are not British and not resident in Britain?

As a public servant, you are not driven by the need for growth and profitability as people who risk their all in running a business are, but I am sure you understand what it means to reduce costs. You do it too, when you shop around for food, clothes, mortgage deals, benefit entitlements, etc. Or buy cigarettes and liquor from trips to the European mainland. Okay, I'll admit there's a difference in scale but the principle is the same.

I don't see how you see yourself as 'shortchanged' and a victim. Was it your money that he earned? I wonder if you have ever voluntarily paid more tax that you were legally obliged to. I think not.

What if I suggested that every time you make a purchase, donate a percentage of the cost to the HMRC? It's the same thing - if Sir Philip Green pays more taxes, his products will cost more. Eventually it is YOU, the customer who will have to pay more.

On another note, you were able to shave off a whopping £120,000 or 45% of your non-staff and overtime budgets. I can only imagine the amount of flab there might have been for you to be able to almost halve that. And I suspect you already know you're going to better that.

If you must protest, then do so to bring down taxes in this country so we are competitive internationally. And if we're all in this together, surely there are 'culprits' other than Sir Philip Green's wife (who dutifully complies with the law of the land), who you could be targeting. For example, that great bastion of the left - The Guardian Media Group's parent company is one half of a joint venture that is incorporated in the Cayman Islands. Eden Bidco, the holding company formed by the Guardian Media Group and private equity house Apax last year to acquire Emap, is also registered offshore.
I wondered if you knew.

Yours sincerely

A very concerned citizen

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Graduates, here's one view

Graduates are ten-a-penny these days and half of them cannot spell to save their lives. University has become one big 3-year long drunken haze for most young people. I know, because I've hired a few over the last few years. Imagine, a literature graduate who didn't know where "One may smile and smile and be a villain..." came from! None of the people protesting seem to have done the sums on the new proposals. That's how bad their level of functional maths is... Pay for it and only then will you make it pay for you.

There are of course a lot of graduates that actually go to university for the right reasons and none of this is about them.

The Liberal Democrats' pledge does not matter. It really does not. They did not win the election, so they can't be held to it. What they have done in terms of concessions from the Conservative manifesto is laudable. If anything, Liberal Democrat voters should be proud. A lot of things have to be cut, a lot of sacrifices have to be made. Some of it WILL be driven by ideology, some by pragmatism and some simply because there is no room for any kind of manoeuvring...
They would have probably kept the pledge at the cost of something else - HAD they won outright, which we all know was highly unlikely. So why is university funding a more emotive issue than cuts in primary and secondary education or weekly bin collections or cuts in speed cameras? Well that's because some interest groups are more easily led (and mobilised) than others. Students are a classic case. They say that if you aren’t a liberal at 20 you have no heart. And if you’re aren’t a conservative at 40, then you have no head.

The tragedy is that most students in the UK have no idea what it's like to want an education so badly that you'd walk bare feet for 10 miles and study under street lamps. What they're objecting to is freebies being withdrawn. Like a spoiled child. The truth is nothing is free. Someone ends up paying for it. The old system makes posties and cleaners pay for educating doctors and diversity officers. What do they get in return? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Yeah, the argument is that we need doctors, we need teachers, doctors, dentists, etc. But we pay them handsomely for it, through our taxes or incomes. Should we pay for their degrees too? I don't think so.

This isn't about Tory-Labour-LibDem. It's about being so fanatically socialist (liberal?) that peoples' sense of responsibility is usurped and they end up completely impotent and dependent on the state. I'm no Neocon, but I don't think a race towards the lowest common denominator is the right way for any society.

I talk from experience in the real world. Actual people, actual capabilities, actual claims of competence. And actual let-downs. A few days ago, I got into a discussion with a sales assistant who said her 3-year, £18K, 'Meeja studies' degree was a way of 'finding herself' and a hobby', and I'm thinking - "I helped pay for that? Sheesh!"

A few days ago, I was debating this with a group of young people, one of which was a protester. I asked him if he'd read The Browne Report. His answer? "Wots dat?" A truly jaw-dropping, facepalm moment.

What students SHOULD be protesting against is the level and standard of education (dumbed down GCSEs to break records each year, Mickey Mouse degrees that mean nothing in the real world).

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Do you speak-a my language?

A few days ago I was on a train out of Paddington towards Oxford on my way home, when I overheard an interesting conversation.

A few seats away from me, sat two young east European women, they couldn't have been older than 25. They were discussing their day, who said what, who did what, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary, except they were struggling to speak in English. I of course assumed English was the only common language they had - they were probably from different countries.

A middle-aged Asian man sat opposite them, ogling at them, wishing he was a couple of decades younger and some 25 kilos lighter. I didn't think he was paying any attention to their conversation, but then he interrupted, "Excuse me, where are you from?" He sounded like James Caan from the Dragon's Den.

The girls weren't surprised, nor did they pull a face and ignore him. Instead one of them replied, "We are from Lithuania."

"Oh, that's nice. Both of you?"


"I'm an English teacher in Reading."

Okay, he wasn't ogling. Nor was he wishing he was younger and lighter. Something had caught his attention - the same thing that caught mine. He continued, "You are obviously finding it difficult to talk in English, so I thought you were from different countries and English was the only common language between you."

I turned my Kindle off and tuned in with my full attention.

"Oh no, we speak many languages - Rashan (Russian), some German, some Polish, and Lithuanian."

"I'm curious, why struggle with English when you can speak in your mother tongue?"

"We try to speak English so it can become better."

"That's very impressive. I wish some of my students would do that. Did your teacher ask you to do that?"

"No, but all Lithuanians coming to London speak in English as much as possible. We try not to speak Lithuanian or we will not learn."

And at that point we'd reached my stop. I got off, smiling at the man I had wronged. I think he suspected what I was thinking because he scowled back.

Walking home I was thinking about this little exchange. "All Lithuanians coming to London speak as much English as possible. We try not to speak Lithuanian or we will not learn."

10 years of working with large numbers of immigrants, living in a community that is so insular and isolated, with levels of integration close to zero, I couldn't help comparing ourselves with the east Europeans. Admittedly, we have a strong work ethic, but it's about far more than that. Adapting, learning, integrating, assimilating have a lot to do with the way you behave, the way you conduct yourself and who your friends are.

I often joke that after 10 years of living in England, I would expect my dog to bark in English. Unfortunately many people I love and care about don't get it. Not because it's hard, but because they don't care, don't need to, don't want to and the laws of the land don't require them to.

Sadly, the only people reading about this little episode and my thoughts on it will be the ones who don't need the lesson contained in it. This more than anything else has led to the fragmentation of society, creation of ghettos and no-go areas and fed the general contempt people have for others not within their culture. A common language is a unifying force for any country. Somehow our politicians and leaders have forgotten that regardless of where we come from, we are one nation, and if we are going to be this one nation, there has to be something that binds us together.

There is a lot more that unites us than what divides us. I wish I could spread this message further.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Going West

I've moved home. After 10 years in the East End of London, I have finally taken the plunge and gone west. It's a bit manic now, but I will try and find some time to write some more about the where, the what and the why. Especially the why.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Funding Education: Getting businesses involved

I've just had a brainwave... let me explain; I'll try and keep this simple.

It is a well-known fact that the private sector has a far better record of resource allocation and optimization than any centrally planned structure. I think a system that enables and encourages individuals and businesses to fund higher education (i.e. university) by using money that is otherwise headed for the taxman, could work very well.

For example:

Let us assume I am a businessman, running a small business and my projected Corporation Tax for the year is £30,000.

I pay for the university education of an individual to the tune of £6,000 per year for three years. This amount that I pay comes straight out of the Corporation Tax due, reducing it to £24,000 for the year. Of course the net result for me will be nil, so as an incentive my Corporation Tax is further reduced by a percentage of the funds I commit towards university fees. This could be from a scale ranging from 10% to 50%, dependant on the student's circumstances (various criteria apply, explained in next section*). Let's assume the reduction is 40%. This would further reduce my tax bill by £2,400. Instead of 30,000 I pay £21,600.

Everyone in the loop benefits:

(a) Me: I pay £2,400 less, but because I am paying for a child's education, I will choose who I sponsor carefully, I will ensure they do well by providing all the support I can provide - work experience during the course and possibly an apprenticeship or even a job at the end of the degree to gain real world experience from the word go!

(b) The student: Completes a degree with no debt. Has the backing of a business, opportunities of learning practically alongside the academics and a route into employment. The student is better able to make the connection between learning and using their skills in the right context.

(c) The Government: Doesn't have to wait for the individual to earn a certain amount before they start paying back the student loan. There is no student loan! Admittedly, the treasury recieves £8,400 less, but surely this £8,400 has just been spent in the most efficient way possible, with little beaurocracy, no wastage, is targeted at an individual who will make full use of the opportunity and helps create a route into the world of work. No government intervention required!

Now this is just me. Imagine this multiplied over thousands and tens of thousands of businesses and companies.

This can be devilishly simple to implement, possibly through the university admissions systems (UCAS?). Again, no additional government intervention required. For maximum benefit to the sponsor, to society and to individuals, there would have to be certain eligibility criteria to adhere to. Students from poorer backgrounds, areas high deprivation, generational unemployment, lack of education within the family (uneducated parents, etc) should attract a higher rebate (see * above), while those in better circumstance would attract a smaller deduction.

I don't know if such a system exists or if there are serious flaws in my idea, but it sounds good to me!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Taxes cuts for the rich. Really?

I read this explanation of tax cuts some years ago and I thought I'd share it with everyone...

Whenever a new government announces tax cuts we hear this a lot: "It's just a tax cut for the rich!" The leftie press kick up a frenzy and the average wage-earner simply accepts it to be a fact. But what does that really mean? Just in case you are not completely clear on this issue, I hope the following will help. Please read it carefully.

Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner and the bill for all ten comes to £100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay £1.
The sixth would pay £3.
The seventh would pay £7.
The eighth would pay £12.
The ninth would pay £18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay £59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by £20." Dinner for the ten now cost just £80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six men; the paying customers? How could they divide the £20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that £20 divided by six is £3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to eat their meal. So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid £2 instead of £3 (33% savings).
The seventh now paid £5 instead of £7 (28% savings).
The eighth now paid £9 instead of £12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid £14 instead of £18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid £49 instead of £59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a quid out of the £20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "but he got £10!"
"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a quid, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than me!"
"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get £10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"
"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, lefties and pinko-commies, sandle-wearing tree-huggers and armchair economists, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start eating at restaurants overseas without you.

I found this video from How The World Works.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

'Ten Cannots'

by Rev. William J. H. Boetcker (1873–1962)
  1. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence.
  2. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
  3. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
  4. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
  5. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
  6. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
  7. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by initiating class hatred.
  8. You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
  9. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
  10. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.
LibLab, take heed.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Why I am a conservative

Election fever is upon us and no gathering is complete without at least one discussion on the debates, parliament, MP's expenses, immigration and so on. A lot of my friends appear surprised when they discover whom I support. I have to admit, some have reacted with shock - you know - eyes opening wide and jaws dropping, "What?!!" As if I'd announced I'd been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

It got me thinking though... why do I vote the way I vote? I am from a migrant ethnic minority. Surely, I should be a Labour supporter. Aren't they the party of the downtrodden, the disadvantaged and the weak? Don't they look after people at the lower end of the social strata, the immigrant populations, the lowly workers? Aren't they a more tolerant, more liberal and more representative of the common-you-and-me than any other party? Aren't they striving for equality for all? Well no. You believe that and it suits them just fine.

I often get hit with this: "But the Tories are the Nasty Party!" Which is of course the same as saying, your name is Khan and so you are a terrorist.

So why am I a conservative? Let's see...
  • I don't believe anyone who hasn't lived my life knows anything about MY values, the importance I place on MY traditions and the respect I owe MY elders. I am the sum of MY experiences. Similarly, I don't believe that such a person can tell me how I should conduct myself. I don't think any politician has a better handle on what to do with my money - the money I earned - than I do.
  • I like to believe that I can become whatever I want, rise to whatever heights I can reach and even beyond. I don't want to slow down to let someone who can't (or won't) catch up. I don't want to stop striving for excellence because it might make someone else feel bad.
  • I don't want my son to be embarrassed to raise his hand in class because he knows the answer in case it upsets someone who doesn't. I want my children to learn how to be competitive, how to push themselves further to achieve excellence. I want schools to have a vested interest in my kids' education and achievement. And I'd rather neither of my kids brought back certificates from school every other day(!) for inane, meaningless achievements like 'sitting quietly in class'. They're warping the real sense of achievement they would get if they were sufficiently pushed.
  • I don't resent wealthy people. No, not at all, you see, I want to become one of them one day. It isn't the government's job to make me successful; it's the government's job to create an environment that allows me to make myself successful.
  • I believe in equal opportunity. I also believe that some people will be better than me at creating opportunities for themselves. Some people will be worse. I can't sing, dance or play football. Big deal. I'll find something else I'm good at. I don't need you to tell me.
  • People of all races should be treated equally and any law, that states otherwise is immoral, unnatural and unfair. I don't believe in special treatment. Especially legally sanctioned special treatment. I want to hire people based on their abilities. I do not want people with no business experience telling me my staff or my Facebook friends' list does not represent the ethnic mix of my local area. I will befriend who I want, hire who I want based on my OWN perception of benefit and pleasure. Not some artificially created set of parameters created by someone who understands nothing of my business or the community it serves.
  • I do not believe that dumbing down to the lowest common denominator helps anyone but the politicians hoping to look good. It throttles ambition and innovation - something that made this country great. You may deny this is happening; here's a simple test: Take a 1997 GCSE Maths paper and get someone who got an A* in 2009 to do it. Education, education, education indeed!
  • I believe that as an ethnic minority, I am not automatically a victim. I need my government to stop treating me like one or even suggesting to me that I am victim. I believe that if I fail to integrate, I take no steps to learn what is needed; it is my own fault and my own responsibility. All I want the government to do is level the playing field for me. I do not want special treatment. I'm better than you think. If I'm not happy with my life, I'd like the opportunity and responsibility to sort my problems out myself. Thank you very much. If I want help, I'll ask.
  • I believe that if I am ever down and out, my government should be there to help. I voted you in, remember? I want a safety net, NOT a hammock. I believe laws aimed at ‘protecting’ minority groups render them impotent. I also believe that this is deliberate and keeps poor people poor and dependant on the state.
  • I do not want my government creating policies based on how 'nice' they make the academic thinktanks and unelected QUANGOS feel. Policies should be based on how it feels on the ground. Policies that I want for me. Policies that make life easier, make work easier and make society fairer. Oh, and I'd like them to ask ME first, seeing as it affects me. Not someone with an artsy-fartsy degree and a theory. Most new ideas tend to be inferior to the traditional responses which they propose to replace. To replace the wisdom of generations with a brainwave conceived over champagne in an ivory tower is ludicrous. I don't believe in sudden, knee-jerk reactions to social anomalies. Nature has a way of correcting problems in a much better and sustainable way.
  • I am a citizen of the United Kingdom before I am a citizen of the EU. I'd like my own neighbourhood sorted before I lend a helping hand to others. Splinter, log? There's some sense in that you know. My priorities are my family, my community, my country and then the rest of the planet. In that order.
  • I am shocked at the way children are treated like adults and adults like children. Respect for your elders is easily eroded when parental authority is undermined. I'd like my government to stay out of the way I raise my kids. My parents raised me without the fear of the state. My siblings and I turned out okay.
  • Private industry almost always does a better job of allocating resources than the government could ever hope to do. It's their ass on the line. Bureaucrats have nothing to lose when things go wrong. It's not their money you see. I'd like my government out of business and industry and back into ensuring everything runs smoothly. I want my customers to come back. I will provide a good service. Let me.
  • Having a government that is too involved in my life is far more of a threat than a government that isn’t involved enough. I will choose the temperature of my bath water myself, thank you very much. Now get out of my bath.
  • I'm paying too much in taxes. If a third of my income goes in personal taxes and nearly a fifth is lopped off the rest when buy things, I'm not really working for myself or my family. If the government can't operate at a reasonable cost to me, they should cut back. Just as any enterprise or hardworking individual would. Simply put, I can't afford a big government; I'd like a smaller one please.
  • I believe in educating people to my point of view. Not forcing them into compliance. The last guy who tried this started a world war. The one before him created a monster superstate.
  • I believe in equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes. Please stop using silly statistics to illustrate the bloody obvious. "90 nine to 11 year olds believe that 'obesity' is offensive' and may demotivate overweight children." Really? So we're going to call a spade a shovel then? I’d rather my taxes not be spent on such drivel.
  • I believe when the government employs a significant chunk of the working age population and absorbs more than half the GDP to run, something is seriously wrong. One department takes money from me in the form of taxes and yet another department gives it back to me in the form of tax credits. Both departments employ an army of people who could be working to better the competitive advantage of my country and leading the way to technological and industrial advancement instead of shuffling figures.
  • I believe that many seemingly ‘noble’ and well-intentioned policies of appeasement of special interest groups are simply very well disguised methods of securing vote banks. Divide and rule at its best. I’d like my government to not manipulate minorities in that way. It angers me that the bulk of my own community is goaded into supporting the very ‘regime’ that undermines them.
  • I believe that the more the government tries to 'help' us with new laws and systems, the more of our personal freedom we barter away. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither." Think about it.
All of the above is quite simplistic, in no particular order and not the entirety of my opinion. I could go on and on... Also, you can tell, I have not had the sophisticated education nor the fancy words some of the people who will refute my points usually come armed with. But maybe some straight talking is all we need.

What do you think?