Monthly Archives: October 2006

Caroline Spelman: “Me Am Bizarro Minister”

One of the more annoying Superman villains is Bizarro. Not really a villain at all, he’s a kind of bad copy of Superman who just does the opposite of Truth, Justice and the American Way.

Unfortunately, it would appear that Caroline Spelman has decided that this is the perfect job description of a Shadow Cabinet Minister. Don’t actually apply any logic, just oppose everything. Even more unfortunately, no-one appears to have shut her up.

For a while now, the Tories have been shouting to anyone who will listen about the nasty way the government is revaluating the rates in Northern Ireland and making dire predictions that they plan to do the same in England. This is epitomised by this quote by Spelman:

“If Labour introduce this invasive system fully in England, your council tax bill will depend not just on the features of your house, but whether you have good schools or clean streets, and whether you have low or high rates of crime.

“This is the hallmark of an oppressive and greedy government – finding ever more stealth ways to tax working families and pensioners, and trampling over privacy when it suits them.”

Where does one begin with a juicy quote like this? Firstly, the existing system of council tax was a) introduced by the Tories and b) is based on property values. It is a fact, however inconvenient, however poorly measured it might have been in the past, that property values are contingent on “whether you have good schools or clean streets, and whether you have low or high rates of crime”. Always has been, always will be. That’s where the phrase “location, location, location” comes from dear.

There are two alternatives to a system of taxation that is dependent on such things. One is a local income tax, which the Tories condemn with equal venom. The other is a poll tax, where everyone pays exactly the same no matter what. Is this what Bizarro Spelman is suggesting she would prefer?

But it gets worse, because if you analyse this quote she seems to think that it is BETTER to tax people on the basis of the features of your house than external factors.

This is complete, arse over tit, economic Bizarro-logic. Think about it for a second. What she’s saying is that you should be taxed for installing double-glazing but not for benefiting from good local services. I’ve spent quite some time trying to figure out what she would actually approve of, and I’m completely stumped.

Because any changes to the council tax system is ultimately just a change to how the cake is carved up, the only thing one can conclude she is calling for is for poor people living in grotty areas to subisidise rich people living in nice areas to a greater extent than they do now. In this respect, she is less Bizarro and more good old fashioned Tory. Plus ca change.

UPDATE: Oh God, it get’s worse, with Andrew Stunell joining the circle jerk. This is a particularly choice line:

“They often have spent many years in their own home and would now simply become the victims of house price rises over which they have no control at all.”

Run that by me again? People who, due to no effort on their part, see their property values rising exponentially are VICTIMS? Where do I send the condolence card?

Seriously, someone needs to tell Andrew that it is Lib Dem policy now to SUPPORT the principle of property taxation.


You’ve got to be pretty bloody barking to be able to make Jack Straw look like a liberal by comparison. Fortunately however, we have Tory MPs Julian Lewis and Liam Fox. This pair of halfwits are calling for the BBC to be bitchslapped over their decision to broadcast an interview with a Taliban leader.

I watched that interview. It was part of a piece that was very sympathetic to the British troops in Helmand province. It illustrated only too well of the sort of people they are up against. How Lewis and Fox thought this equated to broadcasting terrorist propaganda is anyone’s guess.

It brings back memories of the 1980s when the Tories banned Sinn Fein’s voices from being broadcast, leading to all the news agencies broadcasting footage of Gerry Adams and co with their voices dubbed by actors. Utter moronic, and illiberal, stupidity.

This isn’t just some dinosaur backbencher spouting off. This is Cameron’s hand-picked defence spokesperson. This is what Cameronian Conservativism is all about: be nice to gays (although not that nice), but ban freedom of the press. And chocolate oranges of course.

I (don’t) predict a riot

Trevor Phillips was confidently telling Sunday Times readers this weekend that Muslims will be rioting in the streets as a direct result of politicians saying beastly things about veils.

The thing is though, Phillips seems to have been predicting race riots about pretty much everything, from Polish plumbers to the 7/7 attacks, for the past five years. It’s become his catchphrase, causing me to do that most rare of things, agree with Ken Livingstone.

I’m not convinced that this is a responsible sort of thing for the Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality – or anyone for that matter – to say. When riots do happen, they happen for lots of different reasons and the biggest factors tend to be local. Talking them up merely increases racial tensions and, if anything, actually increases the chances of them happening.

40 years ago some bloke started making confident predictions about racial unrest. Instead of ‘streets of fire’ he talked of ‘rivers of blood’ (actually a misquote IIRC). He was accused of stoking up tensions and completely ruined his political career. Trevor Phillips on the other hand is about to get a promotion.

It doesn’t seem to be the colour of Phillips’ skin that makes him immune from the sort of public roasting that Enoch Powell endured, as this sort of rhetoric is becoming increasingly common from politicians of all racial backgrounds. But we do appear to have crossed an invisible line that we wouldn’t have dreamt of crossing 20 years ago. Perhaps that will ultimately prove to be a good thing in the long run, but it is producing a lot of confused nonsense at the moment. For example, it is deeply ironic that Phillips in condemning politicians here, seems to be committing the very act that he claims to disapprove so much of.

A few weeks ago, I was inclined to defend Jack Straw and his position on veils. I did think the stuff about asking women to remove their veils before talking to him was a bit off, but he was careful in his language. The fact remains that has triggered a lot of nonsense. In the long term, debates such as this can be healthy, but the onus is on everyone to use measured language. Even the CRE/CEHR Chief.

Standards Board Apologists

Earlier in the year, I bemoaned the fact that Graham Tope and Simon Hughes were jumping up and down defending the Standards Board’s ruling to suspend Ken Livingstone.

Now that the whole thing has been overturned on appeal, is there any chance we’ll get to hear similar echoes of “justice has been served” from the London Lib Dems? Not a chance.

Oddly, Tuffrey wants to have it both ways, arguing that not only should the case have never been taken up by the board, but that it was all Livingstone’s fault for saying what he said in the first place. I find it breathtaking that not one syllable of criticism is being aimed at the people who submitted the complaint, forcing the issue.

This is very dodgy territory here, as it is coming close to calling for curbs on freedom of speech. I’m not saying that Livingstone is immune from criticism here, far from it. But such criticism should be dealt with in a political forum – like an Assembly, perhaps – not in some quasi-legal forum like the Standards Board.

And I expect to hear clarity, defending freedom of speech unambiguously, from the GLA Lib Dems, not all this dog whistle stuff aimed at the zany end of the Jewish community.

Give Balls the Snip!

Photo of Ed Balls: New Balls PleaseFor some months now, I have been worrying about the fate that is expected to befall that bright, upcoming MP Ed Balls.

Ed, you see, is due to see his constituency wiped out in the next boundary changes. His repeated appeals that he is a Very Important Person and that This Sort Of Thing Doesn’t Happen To People Like Me have fallen on deaf ears. It now looks like he will have to find a new seat if he is to remain an MP after the next General Election.

This presents him with a bit of a problem. You see, the Labour Party is committed to imposing on its most winnable constituencies All Women Shortlists. Ed, however, is not a woman. And of course Labour would never dream of making special dispensation purely on the basis that the person in question is one of Gordon Brown’s bezzie mates. It would be unthinkable. The fact that last time round Ed Balls managed to get a seat next door to his wife, Yvette Cooper, is a pure coincidence and should not raise any eyebrows at all.

I however have come up with a great new plan. If we can’t have Ed in the Commons, what about Edwina? My research tells me it would cost £15,000 for a sex change operation. If we could just get 15,000 people to put in a quid each, all his problems would be solved!

What do you think of this idea? Let me know in the comments, or better yet, spread the word.

UPDATE: I see Guido is promoting this noble campaign. And I’ve now set up a pledgebank page on this, as requested.

CODA (1 December 2014): I just came across this blog post and, looking at it again, would like to apologise for any offence it may have caused. Not to Ed Balls, but I like to think that I’m more aware of trans* issues these days and would not dream of making a crass joke like this these days. I considered taking this down, but considered it to be the cowardly option. So I’m going to leave this here as an occasional reminder to myself to do better.