Category Archives: Politics

Banning Frosties Is A Bad Idea

Tony The TigerI was a little dismayed yesterday to read about Andy Burnham’s latest suggestion, to ban Frosties.

Frosties are very high in sugar. That’s the main reason why children (and some adults) like them. They provide instant gratification and energy, but don’t provide long-term energy. Hence, they mean we eat more, get fatter, and consume far too much sugar.Thus, consuming them regularly isn’t a great idea.

However, it doesn’t follow that the government should, because of this, ban Frosties, or Sugar Puffs, or any other sugary cereal or product. Smoking is bad for people, but it’s legal. Alcohol does a lot of people a lot of harm, but that’s legal too. People are free to choose whether they consume these products or not.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, Frosties have their place. Nicola Adams eats them before boxing bouts. The short burst of energy they provide is great for situations where that’s precisely what you need – though granted, breakfast isn’t one of them. However, there is a second, more important reason, why Frosties shouldn’t be banned.

Choice is good. Choice empowers people. Choice gives people the opportunity to understand things better. If the government bans everything that might be bad for people, people will never understand what is good for them, and what isn’t; thus, they will be incapable of making informed choices for themselves. Should government really have a monopoly on the “right choice”? I don’t think so, and nor does the Spectator.

A much better approach would be to use clear labeling, and to educate people about the dangers of consuming large amounts of sugar, for weight and for health. I’m not a fan of the traffic light system, because I don’t think it’s for government agencies to dictate what’s green, amber or red, but I do think the answer lie in labeling clearly, and making clear information about recommended intake of vitamins, sugar, carbohydrates, etc. available to the consumer. Why not produce an information leaflet and make it available in GP surgeries and supermarkets?

Education is often better than legislation, because it empowers people to make their own choices, and to understand them. Yes, people will make bad choices sometimes, but that’s their right.

In Praise Of The Budget

George Osborne

Copyright: HM Treasury

If I’m honest, the general response to the budget in the media has disappointed me. Labour’s response to the budget has been equally disappointing, though highly predictable. Fundamentally, I believe that once you get past the inevitable (but wholly inaccurate) “granny tax” headlines, George Osborne’s budget is a good budget. Let me tell you why.

Higher Rate of Tax

One of the expected changes in the budget was the lowering of the higher rate of tax, from 50% to 45% for anyone earning more than £150,000 per year. Firstly, I don’t think the argument that people high earners don’t contribute enough in tax is a particularly good one. It’s not like these people start paying tax at £150,000. They pay the basic rate to about £40,000, then they pay a higher rate to £150,000, and then they get taxed even more when they hit that figure. They pay far more tax than I do. Yes, I know they also end up earning a lot more, and yes, I do believe those with the most should contribute the most,but to suggest the highest earners don’t pay a fair share of tax even at 45% is disingenuous. Furthermore, the rate 50% was introduced by Labour, and at the time, Alastair Darling said it was a temporary measure. Previously, the top rate was 40%. Labour has hardly been a champion of the 50% tax rate.

Granny Tax

I’ll be straight, I’m all in favour of the so-called “Granny Tax”. This is not about taxing old people, but about being fair to everyone. It is about giving everyone the same starting point. Presently, OAPs are allowed to earn more money in a financial year before their earnings are taxed than people of working age, by quite a significant margin too, meaning according to your age, you could be hundreds of pound better off on the same income, before taking into account winter fuel payments and other benefits. I see no justifiable reason why people should have different personal tax allowances simply because of their age, and the only reason for this backlash is because politicians are scared of the “grey vote”. Good on George Osborne for arguing that everyone should have the same personal tax allowance. Which leads me on nicely!

Personal Tax Allowances

You would think the Labour Party would applaud a rise in personal tax allowances. You would think,vas a party that champions the “working class” (which historically meant people who work), the party would support a measure that seeks to reward people who work but are on low or modest incomes. Well, you’d be wrong, clearly.

Not a single mention of this has been made from the Labour benches, that I’ve seen anyway. Instead, the few responses I have ever managed to receive from elected Labour politicians have elicited one of two responses:

  • It hurts people on benefits;
  • Rich people will benefit too.

So, here’s my response:

  1. People on benefits, unless medically incapable of working, should not be as well off on benefits as people who are working. Working needs to pay, and that’s exactly what raising the personal tax allowance does – it makes work pay. What’s wrong with that? We need to have a clear gap between how much you can collect in benefits and what you will earn at work. That’s not heartless, it’s simply saying that if there is no gap between the two, we my as well all stay at home on benefits. No one should go to work for 40 hours a week and be no better off than someone on benefits who can work, but doesn’t. (I will accept there is a difference between people who can’t find a job and people who won’t take a job – I’m going after the latter group here.)
  2. The issue of people who earn more (especially higher rate taxpayers) also gaining from this change is simply to reduce the threshold for higher rate tax to the figure where it is tax-neutral for this out. That is broadly what the government have done (they’ve not quite lowered it enough to make it neutral, but they have made the effort).

So, I simply ask, why don’t the Labour Party support the risen the personal tax allowance? The coalition have simply reversed a temporary change enacted by the Labour Party (which in itself was blatant electioneering anyway!), started to equalise tax allowances and is looking to make work pay, with those earning the least gaining in real terms.

I congratulate them, and in opposing these measures, I can’t see how the Labour Party can possibly see themselves as a credible economic alternative.

On Independence: A Novel Idea

Flag of ScotlandI’m generally very good at avoiding the news. I used to read a broadsheet newspaper every day, but I must confess, since leaving university and getting a job, I’ve rather fallen out of the habit of reading the news. These days, the news I get is either from the BBC Sport site or from Reuters’ Twitter feed, and that’s generally fine with me.

But, try as  I may, it’s hard to avoid the current debate about Scottish independence. The trouble is, it’s not coming from where you’d expect. The SNP really don’t seem to be pushing the independence agenda particularly hard. This may seem odd, until, of course, you realist they simply don’t need to. The Scottish Labour Party are constantly banging on about independence. Ruth Davidson’s first contribution as leader of the Scottish Conservatives at Holyrood was about independence. Even David Cameron and the Westminster government can’t resist bringing the subject up.

And so, independence is constantly in the news – just what the SNP want, expect they don’t need to do any work. They can claim it is not they, but the other parties who are obsessed by independence, and that, since the others are so obsessed with it; therefore, it must be a brilliant idea.

The unionist parties need to stop shooting themselves in the foot. Shut up about independence. Let the Scottish people forget about the issue. Force the SNP to bring the matter up if they must, because at the moment, the opposition parties are playing right into Alex Salmond’s hands – and they just don’t seem to realise it.

Which is funny, really, because if only they would stop fanning the flames, they would realise that only about one in three people in Scotland would vote in favour of independence at the moment anyway.

If This Is The New Politics, I Want The Old Back

First joint press conferenceDon’t Clegg and Cameron look the happy couple? Who would have realised that only weeks ago, these two men were political enemies? It’s enough to make you weep. And swear. And throw things at the screen. But anyway, that’s besides the point. The point is, they have brought with them the “new” politics – and what a load of old codswallop it is.

When David cameron and Nick Clegg talked of the new politics, they talked about reducing the size of the state, of giving power back to people, or creating, in Cameron’s terms, the “Big Society”. So, as I understand it, they were keen to decentralise power away from the state and into other people’s hands.

Err, except they haven’t. All this talk of constitutional reform is garbage. It does nothing to do this. Every measure is actually entrenching power rather than loosening grip. Funny how things change when you win power, isn’t it? So anyway, here are the measures, in brief, with the explanations to follow:

  • Instituting a referendum on AV for the House of Commons;
  • Appointing peers to the Lords to reflect the vote at the last General Election;
  • Changing the law so that a motion to dissolve Parliament needs 55% to win, rather than a simple majority;
  • Introducing fixed term Parliaments;
  • Changing the rules of the Conservatives’ 1922 Committee so that frontbenchers get a vote;
  • Allowing Government parties access to Short money.

So let’s just take a closer look at those…

Referendum on AV

AV stands for Alternative Vote. It’s worth noting that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats were in favour of this system during the General Election campaign. It is not a proportional system (not that I care – I don’t believe in PR as a form of effective government, but that’s another matter right now), and so it’s not really what the Liberal Democrats want. In fact, a crude version of AV (ie. not AV+) would produce only a very modest change in the outcome of most elections, but still, that’s what Nick Clegg and David Cameron are going to give us a referendum on. Even better, the Conservative Party will campaign against it! Well, isn’t it good to know that our Prime Minister is going to give us a vote on electoral reform, whilst at the same time telling us to stick it?

Lords Reform

We’ve not really heard much about reform of the House of Lords. It doesn’t seem to be a huge priority on that basis, but what we have been told is that the coalition government plan on appointing a number of Lords so that the make-up of the second chamber is reflective of the proportion of the vote at the General Election just gone. Now, if you remember, Gordon Brown as the outgoing Primer Minister is allowed to appoint a number himself, and Labour already have more Lords than any other party. Thus, the coalition government will have to appoint over a hundred Lords in order to do this. I thought we were wanting to elect them these days (again, I’m not so worried about that, but anyhow…)? Furthermore, appointing the House in this way is actually a clouded attempt at gerrymandering to get legislation through the second chamber. People will only be appointed on the basis that they will support legislation. You may as well just abolish the chamber if you’re going to abuse it like that!

Dissolving Parliament and Fixed Term Parliaments

Clever stuff, this. A vote of no confidence can pass with a simple majority, but a motion to dissolve Parliament would only pass with a vote with a 55% – 45% majority. Why is this important? Oh, it just so happens that this minor change means that the Conservative Party could rule as a minority government, and as long as they all stick together, can’t be booted out by a vote of no confidence, even though the other parties could block every piece of legislation they bring to the House. Oh, and because we have a fixed term Parliament, we’re stuck with a lame duck Government. Great. More gerrymandering.

1922 Committee

The 1922 Committee is a Conservative backbench committee. See that important word? Oh, no, not “committee”, but “backbench”. Currently, those on the frontbench can’t votein the 1922 Committee. David Cameron wants to change the rules so that the frontbench can vote. It just so happens that such a move would increase his power over the committee…

Short Money

The Government always has an advantage over the opposition, since it has almost unlimited resources for research and policy-making through the very fact that it is the Government. When you’re in opposition, it’s much harder to undertake the same reasearch because you have less money and manpower. Short money goes to the opposition to redress the balance somewhat. Only thing is, the Liberal Democrats, despite being in coalition government with the Tories, have decided they should get some. Err, right. That, I believe, is theft. Except they know that, so they want to change the rules so they are allowed to. Hmm.

So anyway, let’s recap how this goes. The Liberal Democrats and the Tories, in their coalition Government, will:

  • Give power to the voters! Referendum on AV! Give voters a bigger say – but we’ll campaign against it, because we don’t actually want it!
  • Reform the House of Lords! Give the second chamber credibility – by appointing party loyalists who will vote our legislation through! We won’t bother to elect them!
  • Give more power to Parliament! Except we’ll remove the power to dissolve Parliament so we can cling on to power like Communists clinging on to the last bricks of the Berlin Wall!
  • Take power away from the Prime Minister! No more second-guessing election dates! But it means I can stick it out for five years, whatever happens, however much you hate me!
  • Crush the backbenchers! Pesky, noisy twerps!
  • Steal money from the opposition! We need it for ourselves!

Is it just me, or was the Old Politics better? No wonder they were laughing so much in the press conference. It’s clearly easier to be a Liberal outside of Government. Now, it’s all about how much power they can cling on to.

Picture: Crown Copyright, taken at the first joint press conference.

Noelinho.org Electoral Endorsement: It’s Time For Change

It dawned on me this morning that this week is election week. Yes, I hadn’t really twigged until now that we are forty-eight hours away from the closing of polls in an election race that, if you read everything that’s been written in the media, is too close to call, the three party election, whatever nonsense they feel like writing (I say this – it’s blatantly obvious the Conservative Party will win, with comfortably the most seats, and with a tiny majority, I predict).

Anyway, the point is, there are the three main parties – Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – and the sideshow parties – the SNP, the BNP, UKIP and the Greens. So, as the election draws, who will Noelinho.org endorse? You’re about to find out. So, here is, in brief, a quick run-down of the minor parties:

  • SNP: Nationalists. Don’t like that. Alex Salmond / Nicola Sturgeon – don’t like them either. Their education policy in Scotland has been a disaster. Although they do want to get rid of Trident, which I fully agree with. Unless I can have the red button, and then it’s a different story…
  • BNP: Err…Nick Griffin? Oh, ok, I’ll give a better opinion. I’m not a Nazi, I don’t deny the Holocaust, I quite like Jewish people and I don’t have much of an issue with black people either. I’m not really sure what their policies are apart from deporting people they don’t like, but I doubt I would fit their idea of an Aryan anyway…
  • UKIP: I quite like their policy of getting out of Europe – I can’t stand the European Union. Having said that, it’s about the only thing I agree on, and they’ve not been purer than pure in the Europeam Parliament either…(although did you see the berating of a poor, war-wounded Belgian Prime Minister? That was good!)
  • Greens: Statist, authoritarian eco-chumps. No thanks. On yer bike, preferably off the cliff.

Oh well, that’s four parties down, so we’re half way through! So, the major parties, in a little more depth:

  • Labour: Leader isn’t wonderful, but probably the best of the three main party leaders. Like him or not, he does carry gravitas, especially in the international community, and he definitely has a better grasp of what he wants to achieve and how to achieve it – whether you agree with that plan or not. On the other side of the coin, he is volatile and comes across as detached from the people. Labour’s team, as a whole, is the most impressive. They have done a lot through the tax credits system to try and redistribute wealth and have invested heavily in the NHS with fantastic results. Yet, at the same time, civil liberties have been slowly eroded, power has seeped to the European Union and equalities legislation has turned almost into creating thought crime.
  • Conservatives: Would you trust a front bench of Cameron, Fox, Osbourne and Eric Pickles? Me neither. I wouldn’t trust Pickles with a pie, let alone the country. The party also wants to encourage / reward / bribe people into marriage. Not with my money, thanks. Whatever they like to say, they are authoritarian. They want to renew Trident, wasting more money, and like to tell us at every opportunity that Britain is wrecked / burnt to a crisp / broken / about to be swallowed up into middle Earth unless we vote for Dave and Dave only. I’d rather take the risk. Oh yeah, and “hug a hoodie”?
  • Liberal Democrats: Ah, led by the petulant schoolboy. How many Liberal Democrats would have any clue how to govern? Two, perhaps? I’m counting Charles Kennedy and Chris Huhne, if you’re wondering… See, I thought Liberal Democrats were meant to be Liberal in ideology, but apparently they aren’t. They have thrown their own weight behind thought crime legislation too. All rather illiberal. Still, they are against Trident, but they seem to want to spend the budget twice over. They do want to raise the Personal Tax Allowance to £10,000 though, which would be a great move. Aside from this, they have little to offer, other than amusement when their volunteers get arrested for breaking the law, or for when Nick Clegg says he’ll be Primer Minister, or that the Liberal Democrats will hold the balance of power. They won’t.

So, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…who is Noelinho.org endorsing in this election? Well, after much consideration, angst and heated debate amongst the editorial team (with a few others chipping in), we (I) have decided that it is indeed time for change. Radical change. Change that puts a real smile on your face – and there’s only one party than can do that. The Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party. Why? Here are the policies that did it for me:

  • It is proposed that The European Union end its discrimination by creating a “Court of Human Lefts” because their present policy is one- sided – that got the left-handed vote!
  • Make it illegal for super heroes to use their powers for evil (sensible, no?);
  • Ban tractors from driving on roads, they can drive across their fields (why has no-one ever done this?);
  • Sell shares in Northen rock, buy shares in Blackpool rock – it must be worth more!
  • The Loch Ness Monster should be added to the endangered species list;
  • Everyone in England should buy one hundred square meters (or be subsidized to do so) of France. The English would then own France, saving a lot of arguments, and winning us another UN veto… After owning France, It is proposed that we should rent it back to the French.

My support is not total, for there are some less well-thought policies, such as:

  • It is proposed that the Isle of Man be renamed to “The Isle of Men, Women, Children and some Animals” as not just men live there (equalities legislation gone too far);
  • The Isle of Wight should be changed to: “The Isle of Mixed Races, and Cultures Located off the Coast of Britain” (for the same reason);
  • Government Whips will only be used if a politician has been really bad. Minor offences should receive the political slipper (Parliament is already in enough disrepute);
  • Cricket will be made more interesting by eliminating the use of padding. (and possibly cricket bats) – err, leave my sport alone!

Still, these minor quibbles aside, Noelinho.org does believe that The Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party does present the best vision for Britain.

Unfortunately, they are only standing in twenty-seven seats, though it could be twenty-eight next time around…

Holes In Labour’s Communications Strategy

I saw today that the Labour Party have given their website a new look. On the same day, the party launched their pledge card for the next election. I can’t help but feel that both the website and the pledge card are rough around the edges, lacking an attention to detail sorely missing since the acclaimed “New Labour” days. There are a few things that have slipped under the radar, and Labour’s message suffers for that.

Let’s start with the website. To be honest, the Labour Party always seem to be updating their website, but it never seems to get very much better. With the latest refresh, they have at least got their message and logo right at the top, with a Labour logo and the “future fair for all” banner, along with a logo to go with it. There are two problems with the “future fair for all” banner though. Firstly, the “future fair for all” logo looks, in some versions, like a railway bridge. On the main website, it looks like a setting sun. You know, as in, a sunset. OK, so some people may say it’s meant to be a sunrise, but still, did no-one in the Labour Party see the massive own goal they’re letting themselves in for there?

Three more things on the website. Firstly, the actual slogan, “a future fair for all”. I don’t like it, and I’ll tell you why. It’s not directional. It’s ideational. It’s not practical. It’s ideological – to an extent – but it doesn’t go beyond saying “wouldn’t it be nice if the world was fairer”. It would carry more impact with a subtle change to something like “building a fairer future for all”, as that carries the idea that it is something that requires action to achieve. It gives an impression of purpose and direction. It’s more promising and positive, rather than wishful, which is more how “a future fair for all” comes across.

Secondly, there is a section entitled “Back the Ban”. For most Labour-minded people, backing the ban on fox hunting with hounds is like having a shower when you get up. Decent people do it. Personally, I couldn’t care less about a pesky fox that tears apart farmers’ chickens, and would gladly carry out the equivalent of a Canadian seal hunt given the chance. Still, that’s for another day. The point is, on the website – the Labour Party website – it says, “the next parliament may see legislation introduced which specifically allows foxes to be ripped apart at the teeth of hounds. Will you join us in fighting this barbarity?”. Now I should say, the statement is correct. My response is “no”. But the point is this: Labour are basically saying, on their website, “we might lose”. It is a negative statement, instigated from a negative mindset. It contributes to a mindset that says Labour will lose, best to operate an opposition mindset. This is not the right way of doing things. Instead, Labour, as the governing party, should use that initiative. Turn it on the Tories. It should say, “The Tories want to legislate to allow hounds to rip foxes apart. Help us to fight this barbarity”. This asserts power in a way an opposition mindset isn’t able to do.

Thirdly, why on earth is there a big blue bar going across the website, which, when selected, turns all the words yellow? #FAIL! I see blue, I think of Tories. I see yellow, I think of Lib Dems. I see a bolder yellow, I think of the SNP. The blue shouldn’t be blue, it should be red. And the yellow – well, it’s not so much an issue then, actually. But you don’t go scoring own goals like that. Whoever is in charge of the web team at Labour HQ needs to raise their game and think of brand image a little more.

That said, whoever was in charge of the pledge card should be in even more trouble. have you seen it?

What, at first look, does that look like? OK, forget whether it’s a sunrise or a sunset, what does it look like past that? Does it remind you of old Corn Flakes adverts? or Muesli boxes? I half-expect to see a rooster with a bowl of breakfast cereal, with skimmed milk pouring down the screen – and then there’s the logo on the right, at the top. See what I mean about the railway bridge? It looks strange, adding nothing to the message. Some people will also say that the writing is hard to read, which it is on a screen, but in print, it won’t pose a problem.

There are two main problems with the background image. Firstly, it’s not a great image. It is full of glare and looks like it was taken by an amateur. It is doubtless a stock photo from a website specialising in those kinds of photos, but there is no vibrancy to the colour, no clarity. It looks a little washed out, tired even. It seems to symbolise the ageing days of a condemned administration – not the kind of image you want to give off when you stand accused of being just that! Secondly, the image adds nothing to the message. It is a wasted image. The picture is what people will see first – before the writing – and so it needs to draw people in. It doesn’t. It would be much better to use an image that can back up one of the pledges. Here’s something I knocked up:

Now before I get slated for a sloppy effort, I should say I spent no more than half an hour on this, and it only took that long because I was working in GIMP, which is an image editor and little more. It isn’t designed for content creation, which is what I was really doing here. I would normally use CorelDraw for this sort of effort, but I don’t have it at home, sadly. Anyway, The Labour logo is now in red – corporate colours (and by the way, Labour Party people, your available logos for people to use in publicity through your website is absolutely abysmal and had got progressively worse over the last few years) – with a very simple mask to make it easy to see amongst the background.

On the right are the pledges – slightly modified, if you look closely. For example, “securing the recovery” has always sounded very awkward, why not refer to “strong economic recovery”? It sums up the aim in a much more positive light. Why only raise family living standards? I am a single man, and I’ve just been alienated there. Talk of general living standards, and of families within that.

The last pledge did say “strengthen fairness in communities”. Now I know Gordon Brown is a fan of this fairness, but actually, if you strengthen communities, they should be fairer too. And besides, how do you define “fairness”? It’s a throwaway term. Useless. For every one way you show fairness to have improved, you’ll find then people to show you where it got worse, but it is easy to show that you have strengthened communities, as long as you have.

Now look at the background. I’ll grant you, it’s not the best, but I’ve actually nicked it from other Labour Party material. It’s the best I could find in limited time. It’s a man, and he’s working. Thus, it links in with economic recovery, but also, potentially, with the high tech economy. It would be great to see a pledge card engaging with the high tech economy pledge. I have, as you can see, taken out the “future fair for all” logo. It had no value.

So there you go, a (not so quick) run-down of Labour’s pledge cards and new website. Verdict: must do better. Labour Party HQ, please feel free to contact me to discuss further. And would you believe it, just before I go to publish, a Labour Pledge spoof website has been launched! Have fun!

Think I’m the only one thinking this? Check out Beau Bo D’Or, who has it right on the money!

#CashGordon: Epic Fail In Action

I do try not to indulge to much in blatant crowing, megalomania or melodrama. However, I am completely incapable of doing so. Therefore, so my thinking goes, better enjoy the moment whilst you can.

Today was a very normal day. There was nothing out of the ordinary, for which I was very glad, having worked a 14-hour day on Sunday. I had been vaguely aware of the Tories’ #CashGordon campaign, but I hadn’t really taken any notice, being busy and uninterested in elitist Tory toffs. However, as lunch time approached, I saw a growth in Tweets referring to the campaign. It seemed there were problems. Someone was having a party. The picture, put together very accurately by Meg Pickard, gives a run-down of the timeline and events that followed (click the picture to see a larger version).

Whoever put together the #CashGordon website (which appears to have been plagiarised from an American campaign website, but that’s a different story which I will leave to my online comrade Political Scrapbook) didn’t bother to protect the website from cross site scripting (XSS). Unfortunately for them, this meant people could Tweet Javascript and style information and do anything from changing font sizes to redirecting the #CashGordon website to any other online location they wished. Thus, we had everything from general abuse to “Cameron is a ****” in red, 48pt letters, to redirects to the Labour Party website, Rickrolls and porn.

If this wasn’t enough of a fail, the final nail in the #EpicFail coffin was struck when Conservative Party HQ redirected the #CashGordon site to a news article on their own website. It 404′d.

There is still a part of me slightly in awe of the person who first realised the could execute XSS. What an #EpicFail, followed by a CCHQ #facepalm. The Tories clearly couldn’t even walk the plank in the right direction.

Methodology Is Important

I need to make an admission: I’m not really THAT bothered about climate change. There, I’ve said it. Berate me as much as you like. I know I should care, but I just don’t. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t affect me enough. In fact, that’s exactly what it is. But anyway, I’m a leftie who doesn’t really care about climate change.

That said, knowing I really should care, it’s probably about time I had a good look for myself. Conveniently, the Met Office have released raw data from their weather stations. A perfect opportunity to have a look for myself. More on that later.

However, other people have also had a look. Iain Dale has posted up some findings found by a reader of Iain Dale’s Diary which shows that Oxford is getting cooler. The methodology? To compare the highest temperature recorded in set time periods and compare them. The result? Well, to be honest, the commentary is rather garbled and unclear. It seems to suggest that Oxford is cooler now than in 1938, but that it was warmer last year. So, on balance, it would seem to argue there’s been little difference in temperature over the last 70 years – but that’s just a guess. Like I said, it’s pretty hard to work out exactly what the argument is.

There is one major problem with this method – there is no allowance for extreme values. Extreme values skew data. You can prove anything with them – especially when looking at a complicated issue like climate.

So, here is an alternative analysis of the raw data from the Oxford weather station. It is by no means perfect. It has been done very quickly. I have not subjected it to complicated scientific tests. But it has a method. Which is as follows:

I have taken the last decade (the Noughties) and taken the maximum temperature in June of every year in that decade. I would take the mean temperature, but that data is not available. I have then totalled those ten numbers (this year’s is still provisional, but is unlikely to change significantly) and divided them by ten. This gives us – wait for it – a mean maximum temperature. So, if you take the last ten years, you have an average of what that would be in any given year. Not a fantastic measurement, I accept, but it’s the best I can do with the data available. I have then repeated the process for the first decade of the 20th Century. I have picked these BEFORE looking at the data, so you can’t say I’ve taken convenient data. I have taken it randomly. I have then taken an intermediate value between the two – the 1950s.

On the other end of the scale, I have taken the lowest recorded temperature in each December and applied the same method to achieve a mean minimum temperature. This should provide a (superficial) indication of whether winters and/or summers have got warmer over the last century. By balancing the figures over a decade each time, extraneous values in either direction should have minimal effect. So, for anyone still reading, here are the figures:

Table 1.1 – Absolute Temperatures.

1900s

1950s

2000s

Absolute Minimum Temperature

0.6

-0.7

0.2

Absolute Maximum Temperature

24.3

23.9

27.1

Table 1.2 – Mean Temperatures

1900s

1950s

2000s

Mean Minimum Temperature

2.09

2.45

2.98

Mean Maximum Temperature

21.83

21.59

22.54

So, what does this show? Firstly, comparing the 1900s with the 2000s shows a clear rise in the mean maximum and minimum temperatures. The 2000s, according to this (very loose) data, were warmer. However, the lower minimum temperature in the 2000s suggests there could potentially be more fluctuation in temperature now than 100 years ago. Or it could be an anomaly.

Interestingly, the 1950s featured cooler absolute values for both June and December, the mean temperature in June was the coolest of the three, and the mean for December is halfway between the two.

Verdict: Further investigation required into the 1950s. Investigate possible reasons for anomalies. Clear 2000s clearly warmer than 1900s according to this data. Further comparison of the other decades in between needed to verify this data is not an anomaly itself.

Most of all, though, we need much more detailed data – day by day data is required much more than month by month if any meaningful data is to be extracted from this exercise.

Feel free to comment – healthy (and polite) debate welcomed, but leave essays for your own sites, please. I have no agenda. I just like looking at numbers. Thanks for reading.

Let’s Raise The Personal Tax Allowance

We are currently going through the annual Party Conference season, with the Liberal Deomcrats currently finishing their conference. Whilst I personally find much of the conference season quite dull, it is a good time to see some of the policy suggestions eminating from the grassroots and seeing how much traction they gain.

I personally have been taken by a suggestion that in itself is nothing new – in fact, it has been floated around in a number of places before now – but which seems very practical and universally beneficial given the current economic situation. The proposal? To raise the Personal Tax Allowance to £10,000.

Currently, the Personal Tax Allowance for 2009-10 sits at £6,475. People do not pay income tax unless they earn over this amount in the financial year. Once they hit this marker, they start paying the basic rate of tax which, since the abolition of the 10p tax rate, sits at 20%. By raising the Personal Tax Allowance, anyone who earns more than £6,475 would be better off. Anyone earning over £10,000 a year would be, according to my calculations, £705 better off through such a tax cut.

Now, I know what some people are thinking – how would it be funded? Well, according to the Office of National Statistics, there are 28,891,000 people in employment in the United Kingdom at the moment. Assuming everyone benefits from this, and nothing else is put in place to offset this tax cut, the cost, according to my calculations, would be £20.38 billion. So, scrap Trident and I.D. cards and you go quite some way towards paying for such a tax cut. Trident has been estimated as costing anything up to £120 billion to replace over a 30-year period, thus costing up to £4 billion a year. I.D. cards themselves have been estimated to cost £18 billion, and so scrapping these two schemes would save a good deal of the money required to make such a cut work.

In order to make this work, you would, in all likelihood, need to raise taxes somewhere else. One option would be to lower the Higher Rate of tax slightly in order to re-coup the money. By reducing the Higher Rate of tax from £37,400 to £35,750, you would negate much of the impact of the tax cut on higher earners, but at the same time, avoid raising the level of income tax paid by higher earners (and also minimising the cost to the Treasury). Thus, everyone would experience a tax cut, but it would be targeted specifically at those people earning less than £35,750, and would represent a significant tax break to the very lowest earners.

I would argue this to be of particular importance given the current economic climate. Why? Because work doesn’t always pay. We hear policy after policy about taking benefits away from the unemployed, but little about truly making work pay. But it is in our interests to make work pay now. The more people we have working, the less people we have on benefits, the we pay out, the more tax we collect, the more we have to spend on real public services when money is exceptionally tight. That can’t be mad. Moreover, we provide an incentive to work. Can you bloame people on piss-poor wages for not working when working leaves them with very little extra in their pockets? I don’t. But give them a higher Personal Tax Allowance, show them they will have more money in their pockets – £60 per month – and maybe it will provide that little incentive. £13 a week doesn’t sound like much, but £705 a year soon adds up.

Footnote: I am not a tax expert, but I do have basic maths skills. My calculations make no account for Tax Credits, as I just don’t understand them well enough. But you get the idea. Let the tax boffins work out the absolute finer details of the exact numbers – they can’t be too far off.

Why The BBC’s BNP Policy Is The Right One

The BBC have, understandably, caused quite a stir in the past few days with their announcement that the BNP may be invited to field a guest on Question Time.

The controversy is between those people who take the view that the BNP should not be allowed a voice and those who believe they should. Funnily enough, both arguments are (apparently) arguments built up from the principle of free speech.

On the one hand, you have the people who argue that whilst the BNP is – as some would put it – a scar on our country’s liberal ideals, they should not be denied a platform to speak, but instead should be encouraged to share the same platform as the mainstream parties and defeated by reason as their policies are exposed and unravelled.

On the other hand, there are those who argue that the BNP is a revolting party and so shouldn’t be given the light of day.

I have to say, I have never agreed with the latter argument – although I admit am in the minority when it comes to those on my side of the political spectrum – why does that not surprise me?  I am no fan of the BNP, let’s be clear about that. I don’t agree with very much of their policy platform. Their approach to immigration goes against the entire history of the British Isles and immigration. However, the BNP is not a banned party, they have been democratically elected and thus constitute a legitimate political voice, and, like it or not, they should be represented as such.

It really is as simple as that, no matter how deeply and personally uncomfortable that is. Yes, they may not allow people who are not “ethnically British” to join their party, and that may rest uncomfortably with people, but as it stands, such a policy is not against the law. Furthermore, no matter how much I dislike that policy, it should not be outlawed either, for that would set a dangerous precedent; for we allow black-only membership or certain organisations, we allow women-only membership of others and we allow trade-only membership of yet more. If you say that is is not acceptable to have white-only membership of a particular organisation, then where do you draw the boundaries? What do you do with the National Black Police Association? Are they racist? No-one would call that unfair. What do you do with the Women’s Institute? Is that sexist, and therefore unacceptable? Few would seriously argue that. Should churches allow non-Christians as members? It defeats the point of such an organisation or community!

I can imagine the counter-argument – these are minority organisations. However, that in itself is not a legitimate reason to disallow an organisation. All organisations have a purpose. All groups, whether we agree with them or not, have their own aims. Quite often, completely open membership is not appropriate. With community organisations, we do not have a problem with requirements for membership.

So, the question is, should it be any different for political entities? I can see that many would argue that it should – after all elected politicians are there to represent the people – and that is a fair point.

I, however, do not agree that it should be any different. Labour MP’s have to represent Conservative-voting constituents, and they manage to represent those people even though they will not always agree with their constituents. But, as a representative, you don’t need to. Your legitimacy does not derive from agreeing with everyone, but from the fact that of all the candidates who stood, you won the most votes. At this point, you have more legitimacy than any of the other candidates. That is the nature of our voting system.

That, as far as I am concerned, is a true “progressive” view. I can disagree, but still allow. I can put faith in the people to decide for themselves. I have faith in the ability of people to make up their own minds, faith in the victory of sound reasoning. Thus, as long as political entities work within the constraints of the law as it stands, they should be allowed the right to be heard on an equal platform to others. For anything that is legal under the law should be treated in other instances in the law as value-neutral. Whatever we think. Thus, when the BBC is committed to unbiased coverage, then the BNP should, as a legitimately elected party, be entitled to their moment in the spotlight to be scrutinised.

Let them have it. Let them lay their platform down. Then see how long they last.