Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Ministry of Silly Offices

So our illustrious Chancellor, George Osborne, today announces the creation of his latest non-quango guango - the gloriously titled "Office of Tax Simplification".  It could come straight out of a Yes, Minister script, or even better, Monty Python.  This announcement follows hot on the heels of the independent Office of Budget Responsibility, whose independence from ministers is guaranteed by it being situated in, you've guessed it, the Treasury.  And whose first head, Sir Alan Budd, quit amid rumours that he felt his independence was being threatened.

So now we have the "Office of Tax Simplification". The Big Bad State is dead..."Long Live the Big Bad State"!  It seems the only way the Government can deal with problems such as complicated taxes, is by setting up an official 'Office'.  If it were that easy to solve the alleged problems of an over-weaning state, I think that someone might have thought about setting up new offices.  It seems that quangos and their ilk are only bad if the other side created them.  Good quangos can actually reduce bureaucracy, increase efficiency and make the world a better place.

But I'm all for giving our new government a fair chance.  I have some suggestions for them as to some new bureaucratic solutions to some of our nation's most pressing problems: the Office of Ending Badness; the Office of Social Responsibility (aka the Work House); the Office of Goodness; the Office of Fair Play; the Office of the Big Society (watch this space, this one's coming, for sure); the Office for Bureaucratic Excellence and Reform; the Office of Hard-Working Families; the Office of New Offices.

That's enough sarcasm for one morning.  Over and out.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The Times publishes my letter on the implications of the Raoul Moat case for British policing


Andy Hayman is right. It is likely that the tactics used by police in the Raoul Moat case mark a dangerous turning point in modern British policing.   Such disproportionate and overwhelming force should only be deployed in exceptional circumstances, such as a national crisis, not due to one lone gunman yet to attack the general public.

Short of declaring a state of emergency, it is hard to conceive of how the tactics in this case could have been intensified further, from which we might conclude that a gang of criminals or terrorists could prompt a declaration of martial law without the public being consulted.   The police should remember that they police our communities only with our consent and in the manner of our choosing.  However well-intentioned, we must not allow the pursuit of police and community safety to overturn these centuries-old and precious principles which form the bedrock of our democracy.

Yours faithfully,

John Slinger

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Over-reaction in Raoul Moat case?

Is it an over-reaction when the police summon up hundreds of highly armed police,  dressed like soldiers, to deal with a man who while dangerous, is not targeting the general public but the police themselves? How is it that police can summon up such a huge presence at such short notice and such huge cost, turning an area of Britain into a virtual war zone, when cases like that of Fiona Pilkington and her disabled daughter shows how difficult the police can find it to deal with the wanton anti-social behaviour that blights so many of our communities and affects so many more lives than Raoul Moat ever will?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Housing benefits vs commuting

I believe in the welfare state and want to protect it.  But when I read comments by Karen Buck, Labour's MP for Westminster North, saying that the Coalition Government's proposed cap on housing benefit will  "lead to social cleansing on an unprecedented scale, with poorer people shipped out in large numbers to the outskirts" I am a little dumbfounded.  I work in Westminster and earn a good (though not immense) salary.  My wife-to-be is a school teacher -our family has two professional salaries.  And yet we can barely afford to live in a small terraced house, in the town of Rugby - some 85 miles away.  I spend 3 hours hours commuting daily, at great expense, to London.  What I resent is the argument that housing benefit ought to help people on low incomes live in expensive areas at a time when the fiscal deficit means there is less money available for public spending.  I'm sure I would love to live within walking distance of my place of work.  But I simply cannot afford it.  I cannot even afford to live in the outer boroughs to which Ms Buck and others believe the Government's reforms will consigned people in a "mass exodus".  Surely there are higher priorities for our money than ensuring that lower-income people live in some of the most expensive post-codes in England, if not Europe.  It's amusing that recent mentions by Government ministers of Norman Tebbit's "get on your bike" to find work argument causes such outrage.  I get on my train every day for three hours so that I can work in a suitable job.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

This blog in The Guardian Diary today over Cameron's dodgy 'joke' about the German footie team

I got a mention today by Hugh Muir, editor of The Guardian's Diary column for my spot of David Cameron's rather dodgy joke in a speech on Wednesday.  Let's just put it this way, "progressive" Dave wouldn't have got away with his joke if he'd said, "you know, half the English players are actually African, or Dominican".....