Tuesday, 30 April 2013


In the 90 gruelling minutes on the treadmill this morning (I know I don't look the type, but hey, just humour me, okay?), the sounds of the neighbour mowing his lawn drowned out by Billy Idol snarling through my headphones, a myriad of thoughts filled my brain.

The smell of the freshly cut grass, perhaps the first in the spring of 2013, which is neither here or there, wafted through the air and I suddenly felt homesick. I missed my Mom, my Dad, my brothers, my sister, my friends from school and my childhood haunts.

While the Rock 'n' Roll blared and I peeled away the kilometres under my feet, between sips of Berocca infused water, I took stock. Who am I? What am I doing here? What have I got to show for myself? Some of the answers, damning as they were of my inadequacies, faults and inconsistencies came loud and clear. Thoughts of betrayal and backstabbing, of fallen idols and ruined friendships, dark as they are, are part and parcel of my life as anybody else's. It was too early in the day for this kind of morbidity though. There were better things on my mind too.

The other answers were thankfully, much more forgiving. I have a lot to be grateful for. For memories, for family, for friends, for those who rely on me, trust me, love me, the respect of legions of people who look up to me. And I'm in love. I have been for more than two decades. I have my health - well I'm working on it - I have gainful employment, I can see and feel and smell and touch and I have people I can fall back on. I've had setbacks and outlived them. I've had children and I've raised them. I have staff and I'm able to take care of them. I have billions of synaptic connections in my head I wouldn't trade for anything. I am me. I think I'll be okay. 

The view from the treadmill brought home the sobering realisation that my field of dandelions needs tending. Unkempt gardens were never really my thing.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Message In A Bottle

This has been reproduced from Battersby's blog, When I Am King. The original post can be seen here. Battersby is also a great guy to follow on Twitter. Check him out.


“This is our story. We started out with just a hundred survivors. A hundred people stranded on a deserted island, fortuitously gifted with pigs and goats and edible fruits. A paradise... unless your former life revolved around Twitter.

“It turned out that Steve used to be a pig farmer and he had a way with an errant sow, so off he went to round up the wild pigs. Eric had a smallholding back home so he began investigating and cultivating the local flora with a view to greater yields. Alison discovered there were chickens so she busied herself with collecting them all together and protecting them from predators so we could have eggs for breakfast.

“Among the rest we had a couple of engineers who quickly rigged up some irrigation and drinking water and some builders and roofers who managed to knock up shelter in a time which would have made them either pariahs or heroes back home, depending on which planning rules they’d circumvented and on whose behalf.

“About eighty of our survivors had no specific skills but were willing to give of their abundant physical energy and were happy to follow orders, but a few were genuinely unwell and unable to work. Luckily, we had a few carers amongst our numbers and a makeshift sanatorium was erected.

“Remarkably, within a month we had all stopped starving and we began to build a successful settlement. Everybody was happy and the island supported our needs. We began to plan for rescue despite some of our more widely read colleagues predicting we’d never be found. A moot point because discovery and rescue were not within our gift. After a couple of years we accepted our fate and resolved to make the best of it.

“By now we had it pretty well sussed. We had food and fuel and shelter and while some yearned for their smart toys, nevertheless we accepted our fate. In fact we celebrated our deliverance from the corrupt, venal world from which we’d abruptly been severed and began instead to make the most of what we’d got. It was a small world of plenty and as long as we husbanded our resources wisely we could see a future.

“As we became relaxed in our new home we began to pair up and despite our primitive state our population grew. And we worked and worked and worked to improve our lot. We welcomed each new arrival with joy and afforded the parents some respite from work, others glad to shoulder an extra burden for a while. After all, a new mouth to feed would eventually grow to become a valued member of our little community.

“ But a strange malaise began to creep over us as focus shifted from mere survival to increasingly comfortable life styles. The largest families were invariably produced by those who were the least economically productive. They made themselves look busy, of course, spending time raising children, tending the sick, decorating their huts and dreaming of rescue. Soon the bulk of their time was spent in meetings where they began to award themselves meaningless titles and grant themselves various entitlements, none of which put food on the table.

“Away from camp, out in the fields, those most engaged with keeping us alive were working ever harder and longer hours to provide food and drink and were too busy and tired to get around to breeding. Being on an island our resources were finite indeed and working hours increased to make the most of them. There came a time when the workers, the non-breeders, realised they were virtually slaves to those who saw it as their right to procreate without restraint. So they withdrew their labour in protest.

“After a few threats and a few beatings, the decision was made to cast out the stubborn striking workers, the twenty percent who just didn’t fit in with the majority view that the creation of babies was more important, more vital and more noble than crude food production, which anybody could do. This was democracy in action

“The engineers and the farmers, the builders and thatchers were rounded up and forced to built a makeshift and suicidal raft and we threw them on the mercy of the sea, never to be heard of again. I wish I was with them because now, nothing works any more. We have growing needs and dwindling resources and open mouths and failing crops. The chickens have flown their coops and the swine have returned to the wild. Meanwhile, having no other example to follow, we continue to breed.

“Everybody now continues to blame the departees (especially the thatchers, now that the roofs were beginning to fail) for our plight, spending more time in committee meetings, dreaming up more inventive ways of stretching what we’ve got between us. We’re all equal now. And we’re all starving. Something will surely turn up.

“If you find this message, please help.”

© Battersby MMXIII
Reproduced with permission

Friday, 12 April 2013

Friends, Britons, countrymen...

He who controls the present, controls the past; and he who controls the past, controls the future. In other words, history is written by the winners. 

In 1997, the re-branded Labour Party were the winners. For the next 13 years, much was said about the legacy of Margaret Thatcher and Thatcherism. Everyone, especially those born in the late 90s - the young people of today - were bombarded with tales of horror and emotive stories of milk grabbing, mine closing, factory shutting, warmongering, racist and misogynistic Tories. The Left of course had at their disposal, the press, state television, a fast growing public sector, unions still smarting from the decade past, teaching unions and swathes of the population demobbed from dying sunset industries. In the "Things Can Only Get Better" era, misinformation was easy to peddle. Half-truths and selective memories were fixed into hearts and minds as true historical fact. An entire generation would grow up with an inherited hatred and the Nasty Tory meme seeped deep into the psyche of a nation.

This is not to say everything about Margaret and the then Conservatives was perfect. Politics never is. Democracy doesn't work that way. I will not dwell on the negatives - there is no need. We have been subjected to it for long enough and those arguments will continue for decades to come. There is not a single politician on the face of this planet that isn't above reproach. Saints do not become leaders of state. Here, I will talk about the circumstances surrounding the Britain Margaret Thatcher inherited. The part BEFORE Left-wing history lessons about Margaret Thatcher begin. 

This is the prequel.
  • Britain in the 1970s was in total chaos. In 1979 alone, 12 million days were lost as a result of strikes. Power cuts were widespread and frequent. Homes and businesses had to use candles to light their rooms. If you picked up the phone and your neighbour was on it, you had to put it down and wait. 
  • Industry was in terminal decline, pretty much all over Europe. In 1980, state owned British Steel lost £545 million had £5 billion in debts written off (paid for by taxpayers of course). Against this backdrop, unions went on strike for a 20% rise in wages.
  • Bin bags piled high. Dead bodies remained unburied. The State was excessive. Watch this short video clip. Government owned our phones, many of our homes, our airline, our energy companies, our recovery services and paid scant regard to how much things cost. The taxpayer would foot the bill. Personal taxes were as high as 83%. 
  • The Government even controlled how much money we could take out of the country when we went on holiday.
  • Unemployment in 1980 was 2.24 million.
  • Britain was facing double digit inflation which seemed to be the norm, an almost accepted feature of British economics. Under Callaghan's Labour government, inflation peaked at 26%. By 1979 it was still stuck stubbornly at 17% and crippling our economy. One restaurant owner said, "We couldn't even print our menus; the prices changed every week."
  • The Miner's Strike will always be associated with Margaret Thatcher in government. Yet the simple economics of the problem prove that it couldn't have been avoided. Harold Wilson, the former Labour Prime Minister, closed three times as many pits as Margaret Thatcher, rendering many times as many miners unemployed. You don't hear that in the anti-Thatcher tirades you've grown up with. Thatcher inherited an industry rendered uncompetitive and inefficient by successive government failure and the forces of globalisation. It is extremely difficult to justify the continued subsidy of an industry losing, in those days, £250 million per year. 264 pits closed between 1957 and 1963. 346,000 miners left the industry between 1963 and 1968. In 1967 alone there were 12,900 forced redundancies. Under Wilson one pit closed every week. By the time the Tories were elected into power, mining production had fallen by two thirds. At one point, the industry was losing £1.2 million per day. Its interest payments amounted to £467 million for the year and the National Coal Board needed a grant of £875 million from the taxpayer. The Monopolies and Mergers Commission found that 75 percent of British pits were losing money. 
  • Subsidies and other industrial policies were attempted, yet the fate of mining was already decided years before Thatcher became Prime Minister. Margaret Thatcher simply turned off the expensive, taxpayer-funded, life machine. Of course, the impact on specific communities was tangible and deep, but a British Prime Minister had to put the national interest first.
  • The welfare state that Left are so proud of couldn't function under the above circumstances, just as it can't today - but that is another story for another day. In the 60s and 70s it was mainly sustained by the overhang from the Industrial Revolution and British colonialism - the exploitation and impoverishment of a billion plus people and their resources - the out-of-sight-out-of-mind people living in remote villages all over the world, which goes a long way in explaining the guilt Left wingers always find themselves saddled with. That party had ended. We'd given up on the Commonwealth and embraced Europe. No longer would colonies, now former colonies like India, be expected to provide cheap raw materials. Margaret Thatcher was, perhaps the first person to acknowledge that.
  • European journalists regularly labelled Britain the 'sick man of Europe'. The firemen's strike leading to a State of Emergency, Grunwick strike, Ford strike and lorry drivers' strike within just two years of Callaghan's reign. There was a defeatism, a sense of inevitable decline. A notion that Britain would never be as great as it once was. This consensus was incredibly damaging for the British economy which continued to skydive but also British society.
  • Meanwhile, on the world stage, communism was bringing untold misery to millions in Eastern Europe.

There was no hope. No patriotism. No aspiration. One woman sought to change this.

Here's what happened then:

Real wages in Britain between 1979-1994, according to Access to History Britain 1945-2007, rose by 26%. This is compared to just 2% in France and 3% in West Germany. The United States suffered a 7% fall in real wages. Sky News reported figures which showed average earnings rocketed by 181% under Margaret Thatcher compared to 61% in the 11 years previous.

Everyone became wealthier under Thatcher, including the poor. The Institute for Fiscal Studies states that median earnings rose faster under Margaret Thatcher than they did under John Major or under Blair's credit-fuelled artificial boom of his second and third terms of office.

Britain grew by 23%. We grew faster than our main competitors, comfortably quicker than France or Germany. Borrowing fell from around 4% of GDP to 1%. Debt, as a percentage of GDP, fell from the high 40s to 26%. Thatcher presided over a net jobs increase of 1.6 million. We were parachuted to being the world's fourth largest economy. British factories boosted their output by 7.5pc between the second quarter of 1979 and the third quarter of 1990, when she left Downing Street, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Unemployment in 1980, as I said above, was 2.24 million; by 1990 it was 1.85 million.

In 1979, the number of firms was 1.89 million; by 1989 it was 3.09 million. The number of people self-employed rose from 1.91 million to 3.5 million within the same period. Thatcher created a situation where businesses and individuals strived to make a better life for themselves.

Her Right To Buy policy gave millions of ordinary people the chance to own their own home, a stake in society. This unleashed the aspirations of many, urging them to get a better life for themselves. Home ownership grew by 2.5 million under Thatcher and continued to rise. This was fundamentally a "property owning democracy". This is the case for many aspirational working people.

Given the transformation and modernisation of the British economy under Thatcher, with inflation tamed and aspiration ignited, perhaps Nissan or other manufacturers who operate in the North today would not have invested had we continued with the strike ravaged, union-run Britain which Thatcher inherited in 1979.

In 1984, Energy Minister Peter Walker put forward a package of voluntary redundancies and an £800 million investment in mining, and said “I think this meets every emotional issue the miners have. And it’s expensive, but not as expensive as a coal strike”. Thatcher replied: "You know, I agree with you." Scargill rejected this pragmatism and led his union towards categorical defeat. It is important to recognise that Arthur Scargill was totally unreasonable in the negotiations over this dispute and he is to blame for the bitterness and ill-feeling of this conflict. His attitude was dogmatic and ideological. When asked how much a pit could make in losses before it was closed, he commented “the loss is without limits”. This demonstrates the unreasonable and uneconomic nature of his position.  The culpability for the social impact of the Miner's Strike does not rest with Mrs Thatcher or her Ministers, but a militant Marxist union leader.

Famously declaring at an EU summit in Dublin, "I want our money back", Margaret Thatcher fought tirelessly for Britain within Europe. To this date, Margaret Thatcher's EU rebate has saved this country's taxpayers some £75 billion. 

Time Cover Credit: Michael Leonard
A further achievement is that of defending and liberating the British people invaded by a fascist military junta. Margaret Thatcher stood tall against Argentine aggression, and Labour's calls for negotiation, to demand that our islands be liberated. The Falkland Islanders have always and to this day remain grateful and thankful that they had a leader of such strength and conviction to liberate their homes. Margaret Thatcher saved those islands, AND, always remember this: at the behest of those islanders. Yeah, she sunk a boat, but does anyone have any idea of the body-count caused by British ordnance during the 13 years of Labour? Let's not go there.

In forging a close relationship with President Reagan, Britain's place in the world rose sharply. Her bold and unwavering 'peace through strength' stance against the oppressive communism of the Soviet Union was regularly tested, yet she was unflinching. There was a real worry at the time that a nuclear war was imminent, that the two grand players of the US and the USSR would ultimately clash. In recognising Gorbachev as a man she could "do business", along with Reagan, she successfully brought to an end one of Europe's most worrying conflicts. Thatcher is highly regarded in the Eastern European states of which she helped to free from tyranny. Yet another example of the freedom and democracy she came to represent. The Berlin wall came down on her watch. The Soviets were driven from my homeland on her watch. The world over, Margaret Thatcher is held in higher regard most Britons will ever know.

Margaret Thatcher resuscitated the sick man of Europe.

At the end of this, I do have a question for the Left and the myriad of Labour MPs who would deride her legacy, criticise her policies and her vision. If the direction she took was so fundamentally flawed and inherently evil, why did Labour simply continue with them? Why did Tony Blair, interviewed recently, say his job was to "build upon not reverse" Margaret Thatcher's achievements? Actually, don't bother answering that. I already know the answer.

The truth is, Margaret Thatcher won three elections and was never voted out by the British people. Despite not playing the popularity sweepstakes and sticking to what she believed to be right, Margaret Thatcher remains the most popular Prime Minister ever. She transformed a sclerotic and declining nation into a powerful, competitive global player built upon aspiration, freedom and democracy. Margaret Thatcher did not cause decline, nor did she limit it, she reversed it. Margaret Thatcher did not just help Britain, she saved Britain. 

Update (15/04/2013): On Saturday, the 13th of April, Channel 4 aired a brilliant documentary titled, 'Margaret: Death of a Revolutionary' by Martin Durkin. Watch it here

On Wednesday, the 17th of April 2013, we will bury the Iron Lady. I hope you will have read this by then.

I owe most of the content of this blog post to Tom Chapman, whose original, extremely well-researched article appears here. In some parts I have simply quoted him verbatim. For a much better informed opinion, you can follow Tom on Twitter. Tom is one of the good guys.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher 1925-2013

Picture from Guido Fawkes Blog: www.http://order-order.com/
Baroness Thatcher has died. 

Here's to a life well lived. I'm not going to cry. She wouldn't approve. RIP Iron Lady, we will never forget you.

See this excellent obituary by Paul Goodman.

"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 them, 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."

A friend of mine posted the following as his Facebook status update:

With the passing of Maggie, I'm going to treat myself to a few days away from message boards and social media and avoid the ignorant trollings of spotty-faced little herberts who weren't even alive when she was in office and know fuck all about which they speak.

Regardless of your political bent:

If you're a voter, you should recognise that she was the last of her kind - a politician who did what they believed was right rather than one who slavishly followed opinion polls and chased votes. Since her, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron - each of them more desperately craving adoration and votes than the last.

If you're a Brit, you'd better be sure that she was the last leader of this country as a world power, rather than a joke nation living on past glories and imagined "special relationships".

If you're a woman, or the father of one, you should recognise that thanks to her you and your daughters now know no limits to the heights they can achieve.

And if you're a man, she had bigger balls than you'll ever have.

I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Khud Ko Kar Bulland Itna

There is a fascinating 'shér' (couplet) by Allama Iqbal that goes:

Khud ko kar bulland itna ké har taqder sé pehlé
Khuda bandé sé yé poochhé, "Bataa, téri raza kya hai?"

खुद को कर बुल्लंद इत्ना के हर तक़दीर  से  पहले
खुदा बन्दे से यह पूछे, "बता, तेरी रज़ा क्या है?

Translated, it means:

Raise thyself to such heights, that before writing your fate,
God asks, "Tell me, what would you have me write in yours?

The small-minded assume it means the acquisition of wealth, of 'things' and of status.

The average minds assume it means position within the hierarchy of human society - a job title or anointment as a leader, both of which are transient and often temporary. 

The ones who get it right are the ones who enrich themselves with the pursuit of higher knowledge - culture, art, music, debate and discourse.
Most that know me, will know I am firmly of the 'No-Fate-But-What-We-Make' camp and they're right, I do feel strongly about Iqbal's couplet. My motto in life is this poem by William Ernest Henley. Facing the fears of your perceived deficiencies in your financial or social status is not scary at all. True terror is in realising that you have no lessons to give, no wisdom to impart, no-one looking up to all that you stand for or believe in or that you are an inconsequential fool.

If you've got nothing to say, or you consider your opinion or your beliefs to be worthless, you're dying a slow death inside. If you're blindly following popular opinion just so you fit in, you're nothing but a statistic, one of the sheep. As Eleanor Roosevelt is credited to have said "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people." 

I'm aware of my inadequacies and that's why I put myself out there - to be challenged, to be pushed and to be contradicted - or validated.

I hate my comfort zone.

Friday, 5 April 2013

A whole new season of stupid

My interest in how welfare worked was sparked off pretty much as soon as I landed on these shores as an immigrant, but I started taking it more seriously when I'd moved up the ranks within my chosen field of work - employability. One of the watershed moments for me came when Lord Freud crossed the floor out of utter frustration with the Labour Party's feigned impotence over welfare reform and joined the Conservatives. In the decade I have spent working with the unemployed, the underemployed and the disadvantaged, I have watched the Labour Party make a hash of many opportunities to make welfare work. My experiences have convinced me that this was deliberate. Maybe this will be something I talk about at a later date.

For now, there's something more immediate: Stupid season is upon us again.

The thing is, Welfare Reform has ALWAYS been a subject of discussion in the UK. Labels like 'feckless scroungers' have ALWAYS been bandied about. The Daily Mail has ALWAYS maintained the tone it does - for as long as anyone can remember. None of this is new. 

Of course, the rhetoric on both sides intensified after 2010, but that was expected.  Welfare Reform has ALWAYS been a key Tory plank. It was always going to attract the worst of Labour and the Left. But then, just when you think the Labour Party and it's associated shills couldn't sink any lower, they turn around and surprise you. The latest opportunity presented itself in form of the gruesome murder of 6 young children by their father, girlfriend and a close - too close, as we have learned - family friend. 

Yes you're reading this correctly -
 it is the LEFT that is making political mileage out of this horrific tragedy, not the Right. Before I explain why I think so, I need to touch upon something else.

The language of the Leftons (my collective term for Labour voters, Lefty journalists, tweeters, unions, bloggers and communists) is quite bizarre. Here are two examples:

The first example relates to housing benefit. Under Labour, people renting homes in the private sector could claim housing benefit for a fixed amount of rooms, depending on family size and composition. If you choose to rent a dwelling with more rooms, you make up the difference - housing benefit will not cover it. Rents in the private sector tend to be higher than council housing, so families were careful when making decisions about the kind of houses they rented, should they ever need to claim housing benefit. Each local authority produced (and still do) printed grids that matched family size and the gender divide of the children with the number of rooms they would pay full housing benefit for.  Allowable benefit rates (LHA - Local Housing Allowance), subject to geographical locations were provided to claimants. The LHA if you lived in Kensington & Chelsea was higher than if you lived in Waltham Forest. These, I have to say, were generous and in part played into the hands of private landlords and the buy-to-let market, fuelling house prices - especially in London. Again, this is another story for another time.

What the Conservatives have done, is extend the same rules relating to the number of bedrooms you can claim housing benefit for to public housing, where the rents are a fraction of market rates anyway. Housing benefit will only be paid for a fixed number of bedrooms, depending on size and composition of family. If you choose to rent a dwelling with more rooms, you make up the difference - housing benefit will not cover it.

That difference is what the Leftons labelled as Bedroom Tax. However idiotic that sounds, the name stuck and the Lefton poison seeped deeper into the nation's psyche.

The second example is that of the reduction of the 50% tax rate for higher earners. Higher earners only ever paid 40% - which was changed only during the death throes of the last government - knowing fully well this would be unworkable, unsustainable, undesirable and unpopular. The term 'scorched earth' comes to mind, for what they were certain of is that the next government would scale it back, and that they wouldn't be the next government. This would give them plenty of ammunition, which it did.

George Osborne's decision to reduce it - not back to the 40% which it has always been - but to 45% - still higher than anyone had ever paid, even under 13 years of Labour, elicited the predictable outcry - and the spin that comes with it. 

What did they do with that? They labelled it as a "£42,000-cheque-for-millionaires".  Almost in unison, every Left-wing blogger, tweeter, journalist, politician and commentator picked up the disingenuous phrase and ran with it. Online, on TV, in the papers, in their blogs and on social media. And the Lefton poison sank deeper into the nation's psyche.

This is exactly what they've done with this latest incident. We're all aware of the Philpott story. For a moment the entire nation held its breath in incredulous disbelief as the scenes unfolded on our TV screens and our newspapers. And then the Daily Mail, as the Daily Mail is wont to do, printed a headline.

Philpott was already a celebrity of sorts. He was the subject of a BBC documentary - his sordid lifestyle was public knowledge, he played the system openly and unashamedly. Everyone knew. 

This should have sparked off a debate, about how it was possible for this man, who'd never worked a day for the past 20 years, to have lived the life he did. How he fathered 17 children without an income or the means to raise them. He lived loud and he lived big, right in the public eye. There was no such debate. Instead the Lefton Brigade - the press, the blogsphere and Twitterverse hijacked the issue and turned it into "The-Nasty-Tories-Are-Tarring-ALL-Benefit-Claimants-With-The-Same-Brush."

Philpott and his accomplices were jailed, but even as the sentence was read out, the Chancellor was asked if this horrific case raised questions about the welfare state which sustained the killer’s odiously degenerate lifestyle. His reply, measured and calm, included, "There is a question for government and for society about the welfare state, and the taxpayers who pay for the welfare state, subsidising lifestyles like that. That debate needs to be had."

George Osborne did not say the system created Philpott’s evil. He said Philpott was ultimately responsible for the deaths of the children. And then he simply raised a question about a system that allowed Philpott to live as he did for so long at the state's expense.

Tarring all benefit claimants with the same brush?

Ed Balls, piped in with how he thought George Osborne was being ‘cynical’, acted ‘desperately’ and had ‘demeaned’ his office. This is same man behind the relentless rape of Britain's economic fortunes during his time in power.

Welfare reform is ALREADY underway. Welfare reform is a widely popular policy. The vast majority of tax payers AND benefit claimants are appalled by how Mick Philpott, well, took the mick. 

This will backfire on Labour and the loons appearing on TV and in the press. They've forced themselves into a corner where they find themselves defending the status quo, which according to swathes of the British population, is indefensible.

Neither is the cold-hearted cynicism with which the Ed Balls and Owen Jones of this world are using this to score political points. Completely indefensible.