Friday, 20 March 2009

Truly Staggering Statistic

This news on the BBC website has to be a truly staggering statistic if true:

"Half of Northern Rock's mortgage loans will be in negative equity if house prices fall by 10% this year, figures from the National Audit Office show."

So house prices have to drop by only 10 percent (and no-one can guarantee that won't happen) and half of the assets covered by Northern Rock mortgages will be worth less than the value of the mortgage.

But thats a 10 percent drop. I just wonder what percentage of mortgages will be in negative equity with a (wholly believable) 5 percent drop in house prices? Is it a linear increase in negative equity, or is there some exponential curve?

I'd love to see that graph.

I'd also love to see how exposed other mortgage lenders are under the same circumstances.

Doesn't look good at all.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Not Long Until the New F1 Season

Abart from being an old fart interested in politics, one of my other areas of interest is formula 1 racing.

Its an area of sport with quite a few similarites to politics: the in-fighting, the cliques, the cloak and dagger espionage... it has it all.

But this is a straightforward blog saying I wish the new Brawn F1 GP team well on the 29th of March. I used to live down the road from the Brackley factory and I still view them as my "local" team.

Theres every chance they'll do well. Ross Brawn is a hugely capable guy managing the team and they have two very capable drivers in the cockpits. I just hope they get sponsorship and can make a go of it.

Oh, and I notice that Jean Todt has just extricated himself from Ferrarri.... I just wonder if he'll find a position with team Brawn. I do hope so, that would be a thrilling prospect.

Social Housing Waiting Lists Lengthening.

It seems that the obvious fallout of the depression has been picked up at last: the lack of social housing in the UK.

I've always been a staunch advocate of social housing, or at least having some stock. Disregarding the bad management by councils, social housing provides a safety net for poor families and is necessary as part of a mixed housing market.

The housing crisis we're in now is partly fuelled by the lack of social housing. Cheap rented accommodation is a moderating factor. If there is enough of it, it keeps rents in the private sector lower than they would normally be. There also wouldn't be the clamour to own a house, because rents would be reasonable.

I did hope that whe Labour got into power in 97 that they would reverse the Tory rule that stopped councils from replacing council owned housing that had been bought by tenants. But they didn't and so the waiting list for a council house continued to increase.

In December Gordon Brown announced a big spending package to stimulate the economy: public projects would be brought forward and there would be a big push to build our way out of depression. I did vainly hope then that the government would see that there would be a huge wave of people requiring social housing as repossessions rose. I blogged about it back in January in the comments on Nick Robinson's blog.

Instead of bringing projects forward and investing in new ones, the government has actually done the reverse of it's announcements. The aircraft carrier project has been delayed, not brought forward, road widening projects have been cancelled, funding for college building projects has been "delayed".

"Carriers Victim of Cash Crisis"

"Plan to Widen Motorways Axed"

"Colleges in Building Funds Limbo"

My hope was that we would invest once again in social housing ready for the tidal wave of homeless, or that we might invest in modernising empty MOD housing to do the same job temporarily and then leave decent standard properties ready for MOD families. Or as a real last-gasp measure, start to convert commercial buildings vacated thanks to the depression into flats to house the homeless.

There are a huge number of initiatives that the government could be investing in. Should be investing in. Far better to invest in infrastructure where we employ some builder now who puts money into the economy now and leaves a legacy for future use, rather than pour money into bottomless banking black holes.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Mandie says G20 is United

Labour have wheeled out the dark lord in order to tell us everything is fine, there's nothing to be worried about. The G20 countries are all in agreement and united ahead of the meeting in London.

So you can bet your bottom dollar it isn't.

Should be interesting watching things unfold next month.

Unemployment Passes 2 Million

Yes I know it has, I'm one of them and I have been for over 6 months, although I doubt I'm on official statistics. Thats because I'm no longer paid jobseekers allowance. Thats because my wife works. However, I'm still obliged to seek work and sign on every fortnight in order to have my National Insurance credited.

The thing is, I know the job market intimately now. I can see the people pouring into the jobcentre, I can see the trickle of jobs drying up (especially in the past month).

I know that the queues aren't getting shorter, in fact they are getting longer. I know the next set of figures will be even worse.

Its frightening to see the speed of the increase in unemployment and the rapidity with which jobs have dried up in the last month.

I know from bitter experience that when Gordon Brown says that there are 500,000 jobs out there, he's dead wrong.


The BBC have a nifty graphical map here: that shows the trends of unemployment since September last year. Seems the North is getting clobbered badly if those ststistics are to be believed.

Education, Education,Education = Debt, Debt, Debt

So after Labour went ahead and pushed through a whole raft of changes in the funding of university education, the universities themselves are now crying out for more money.

Now I'm not university educated (I had no choice but to go out and get a job at 16), but I would like to think that a decently state funded education system, free to the user with fair access to all is the only option. I argued when fees were first mooted that changing the system into a fee-based one, would cause inordinate problems. The only advantage I could see is to the government, in that they would have another public sector job-creation scheme (or one they could farm out to their mates in the private sector) introducing the department to handle fees, student loans, funding, debt recovery, etc.

I did say at the time that saddling a teenager with several thousand pounds worth of debt is obscene. It doesn't matter if payment is deferred, that student loan debt is there for life until paid. I also said it was more to do with politics than education: a back door way to reduce funding to universities without a backlash on the government. The scenario being that universities switch to a mainly fee-based system, so any shortfall between government grants and actual costs is met by fees. If the shortfall is too great, the universities have to increase fees. Its a decision the universites take, the government can wash its hands and deflect blame. Basically if university education is too expensive for the poor, blame the toffs in the universities.

The other strand to justify student loans was that graduates on the whole earn more money, so should pay back the cost of their privileged education. But if they earn more, they pay more in taxes, so were already putting more back into the exchequer anyway, so the argument was spurious. But a university education isn't a privilege, a regular stream of well educated graduates in the right jobs are something the country needs.

A working, fully funded education system is a neccessity. It is a strateigic resource, the same as weapons, or reserves of money. If we screw education up, we screw the nation up. Our ability to compete with other nations is crippled if we don't have a cache of properly educated people at our disposal. The government AND the educational establishments AND industry need to understand this fact. Government needs to provide proper funding of education with less meddling, the educational establishments need to raise their game and provide a world-class education for students of all ages and abilities and industry needs to stop accepting a degree just as a glorified GCSE. It needs to explain to government and industry why gratuates are being misused in vocational positions.

Currently our education system is failing at all levels, you can see it just anecdotally by the way business now routinely picks better educated foreign youngsters above home grown. You can also see it by the way home grown graduates are put into unsuitable positions that should really be filled by vocational streams.

It needs sorting before we cripple the country for a generation or more.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The Oldest Debate

Last year there was a flurry of missives from the rabid feminist wing of the government about changing the laws concerning prostitution. The basic premise was to make paying for sex illegal. Which is the dumbest law ever, because it broadens the scope of criminality. Not only do the clients of street girls (where the majority of problems occur) become criminals, but also the clients of escorts and other sex workers.

So everyone loses: the high class sex workers and those at the bottom, who still end up victims.

This basically pushes the rabid feminist lie that all men are rapists and all women are victims. It doesn't take into account that women pay men for sex sometimes, or have brains and can chose to enter the sex industry and have a bloody enjoyable and successful time.

The same lies were pushed during the instigation of the law making violet pornography illegal. Not once in the consultation phase was it put forward that women should be treated as equals, might have an opinion and want choice and might like that sort of thing, or indeed partake in it. In fact in the case of violent pornography, the consultation document only cited viewpoints from groups that already espoused the rabid feminist rapist/victim viewpoint and a report from the Police saying the usual "can we have more laws please?".

Switch to New Zealand, where prostitution was decriminalised in 2003 and this positive report by the BBC: showing how positive things were for the women involved.

Now I may be unique, but I would like to think that the New Zealand system where women weren't treated like and forced into the role of the victim would be one we should adopt here. Its a system where everyone wins. Clients aren't criminalised, nor are sex workers. The relationship with the Police improves, the Police can move resources to other areas and if traffiking of girls into prostitution is a problem, then the Police would have a whole industry out there ready to point out unlicensed establishments.

I just can't think of a reason not to make prostitution legal, other than a moral/religious one. But in a day and age where even the church is moving forwards by ordaining female priests, isn't it about time the government's attitude towards prostitution moved in the same direction too?

Monday, 16 March 2009

Terry Waite, the Voice of Reason

Terry Waite has stepped up in support of Gary McKinnon, the hacker faced with extradition to the US for trial. I'm glad someone that has some gravitas has spoken out on his behalf. This really an injustice that shouldn't happen.

Now I've been a supporter of this case all along. I don't see any benefit in extraditing Mr McKinnon to the US at all. If he's a UK citizen and he comitted the crime here in the UK, then he should be tried in the UK. We have an adequate court system here so extradition isn't necessary.

I have an 18-year-old son with autism. I have a rough idea how an autistic's brain works. Although autism works on many levels, the best way I can describe aspergers syndrome it is that the person is normal, apart from holes in their personality. My son is the same. He appears normal but is bloody frustrating when you come up against those personality holes. You are dealing with the same person, but on certain things my son acts 18, in others he hasn't developed past 6.

If Mr McKinnon is the same, he shouldn't be tried in any court. If he's anything like my son, I'm sure he wasn't aware how serious the offence would be. I know my son certainly wouldn't comprehend until the Police booted in the door and hauled him off to jail and even then would have difficulty.

Given the track record of this roll-over-and-beg government, I really think he'll be extradited, to the detriment of justice in this country.

Mandleson and BOE in Car Finance Spat

It seems the Bank of England didn't take kindly to Peter Mandleson telling them to hurry up and lend money to the car industry to help sales:

Now this suprises me (ok, really it doesn't), as I thought when government announced an initiative, that all the discussions would have already taken place. Especially as some of the announcements in his speech in January were actually restating initiatives that had been announced previously.

So in summary, Mandleson announces soothing measures in order to stop the thousands of now unemployed car workers marching on Westminster, but hasn't done the due dilligence bit.

The BOE get the request for funds and then get harrassed by Mandleson for doing due dilligence.

Hardly a way to run a government is it?

This is another of what I call Labour's "aspirational" initiatives. They announce a soundbite as policy to deflect criticism, pass it on to the machinery of government, where for some reason it dies a death. The blame then isn't laid on Labour, its the fault of the BOE, finance houses, manufacturers, or salesmen. In fact anyone except the government. Its a ploy they've used time and time again. Announce an initiative; pass it to an inquiry, announce an initiative; get their mate to chair a committee. Either way its a quick fix to an impending problem without actually having to fix the problem or get blamed for eventually not fixing it.

William Hague did a good job during deputy PMQs in holding Labour to account over how many of their credit crunch initiatives have actually been implemented. David Cameron needs to keep on asking the same question at every subsequent PMQs and bang home the point every time.

The sceptic in me doubts he will, because I'm convinced that he'll use the same "aspirational" strategy once he's voted into power.

I'm Gobsmacked.

I just found this while trawling the internet:

"The Danish government has begun paying compensation to women who have developed breast cancer after long spells working nights.

It follows a ruling by a United Nations agency that night shifts probably increase the risk of developing cancer.

BBC Radio Scotland's The Investigation has been hearing from experts and union leaders in Scotland who said the UK government should be doing more to tackle the dangers."

So, the U.N. thinks it only "probably" increases the risk not definately. But Scottish unions want more health checks etc.

I know breast cancer is a horrible thing, but to start paying out money, when there's no definitive science proving a link just sounds like trying it on for the sake of grabbing cash. Its not like the case with cigarettes, where the risks were known for some time. The other thing is: just why should governments be paying this money? If anything, the employer's insurance companies should be forking out, not governments. They're the ones that want women working nights.

It also brings me to another point: just how many levels of quangos do we pay for? I mean, we have our local government money pits, then central government has a grab for our cash with its old boys employment schemes (sorry, committees), then we have another layer on top of that employing jobsworths in the EU. Now its just struck me theres a U.N. global quango level too? Ye gods!

I definately need to get on that gravy train. Anyone want to vote for councillor Delphius?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Nanny State knows Best.

Now we have the government doing what a Labour government has always done: Meddle in our lives. This time its to stop us drinking more alcohol.

Its in their blood. The poor misguided public can't help themselves, so the state will step in and save us instead. Utter bollocks.

Gordon, stop missing the point. Deal with the drunken, loutish behaviour of the minority. Stop giving them slaps on the wrist, get tough, get serious. But don't punish the rest of us for the misdeeds of a tiny few people that mess themselves up. I'm a grown man, I don't drink to excess, I am responsible. Let me live my life unemcumbered with beaurocratic manure.

Of course the overriding thing is money. I assume that the price of alcohol will be fixed by increasing taxation. Kerrching! More money to fritter away in frivolities.

Like sending millions in aid to Gaza, or another couple of million to Tanzania via the red nose appeal. Stop sending money abroad Gordon. Instead, put the money into social services to benefit OUR abused and impoverished kids eh?

In fact Gordon, stop. For everyones sake, just... stop.

David Davies: Not a Hypocrite after all

Seems I got it wrong, its not THE David Davies Conservative MP (Haltemprice and Howden) wanting to ban protests against soldiers, But David Davies Conservative MP (Monmouth).


Although I still don't agree with widening the law to include protests of any sort. We should have the freedom of free speech, free association and the ability to protest about what we want, when we want.

I'm dismayed a Conservative MP, whose party supposedly stands for less intrusive government wants to extend the law in this way.