British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday his government was likely to act to stop newspapers publishing what he called damaging leaks from former U.S. intelligence operative Edward Snowden unless they began to behave more responsibly.
“If they (newspapers) don’t demonstrate some social responsibility it will be very difficult for government to stand back and not to act,” Cameron told parliament, saying Britain’s Guardian newspaper had “gone on” to print damaging material after initially agreeing to destroy other sensitive data.
- from Reuters
So now it seems even the pretence that the likes of Cameron do not wish the UK to be a police state is felt unnecessary. I may dislike the Guardian for oh so many reasons but I hope they tell the state that they will indeed do the ‘responsible’ thing… which is to say they will continue to publish Snowden’s revelations. And for added kudos, they should invite Cameron to stick his ‘action’ somewhere dark and damp.
Christopher Booker writes in The Telegraph:
What on earth was in David Cameron’s head when, amid raucous Commons exchanges on our soaring energy bills, he shouted at Ed Miliband, “we need to roll back the green charges” that the Labour leader “put in place when he was energy secretary”? Mr Cameron must have known that he and his party cheered every single one of the green charges introduced by Mr Miliband when he was energy and climate change secretary. Along with George Osborne, William Hague and most of his present Cabinet, Cameron happily voted for Mr Miliband’s Climate Change Act, committing us all to paying up to £18billion every year until 2050; in fact, the Tories wanted to go even further
So are the likes of David Davis plotting to remove the catastrophic Cameron? And if Nigel Farage is not intending to make hay out of this I would be very surprised. But then regular readers of Samizdata has long known we regard Cameron’s Tories, the LibDems and Labour as pretty much interchangeable.
If we had state regulation of the press, the BBC would be free to carry on recycling its establishment clichés. But newspapers would find themselves having to answer to the same sort of grandees that preside over the BBC. Is that really what we want to see?
- Douglas Carswell
The BBC seem to have (by and large) ignored this case of another bomber Lib Dem – just as they did the other bomber Lib Dem.
I wonder if they would largely ignore the case of a UKIP councillor who planted bombs?
- Paul Marks
Enjoyable as it is to read Huhne’s opinions on law, order, liberty and privacy, funny he never felt so strongly about the activities of our security services while he was in power and could actually do something about it.
- Guido Fawkes
What is the solution to the housing crisis? Preston Byrne, author of an Adam Smith Institute Briefing Paper entitled Burning down the house, knows what it is not:
Government is not the solution to the housing crisis.
That being the subtitle of his Briefing Paper. In his penultimate paragraph, he expands on that thought:
… government is not the solution to the housing crisis: government is the housing crisis.
Byrne is giving my next Last Friday of the Month talk, on Friday 25th, in other words at the end of this coming week. His talk will be entitled “Mortgage Subsidies: Why They Didn’t Work in America and Won’t Work Here.”
I’m guessing that this, the italicised preamble at the top of this Briefing Paper, is a further clue to what he will be saying:
Help to Buy will not end the housing crisis. The government’s plans to increase liquidity in the housing market will do little to solve the UK’s long-run housing supply shortage – and do much to aggravate high housing prices while improperly using the state as a risk transfer mechanism. Liberalisation, not intervention, is the best long-term solution for the distorted British housing market.
So, not a bundle of laughs. But Byrne, an American who is now a London-based securities lawyer, is an engaging speaker, and I doubt it will be quite such a grim evening as the above quotes suggest. There is, after all, humour to be found in watching politicians carefully placing banana skins in front of themselves, and then running enthusiastically over them. Even if we’re the banana skins.
More Preston Byrne ASI verbiage here, on this and other subjects (see the links top right).
The current lead story for the Daily Telegraph highlights the mixture of hauteur, obduracy and paternalism of an administration which has enacted policies designed to force up energy bills (for those dubious CAGW reasons) and is now trying to advise the public on the results:
David Cameron believes that millions of people facing rising energy bills should consider “wrapping up warm” and wearing jumpers, Downing Street has said.
The comments are likely to provoke anger from people struggling to cope with the rising cost of living.
The last sentence belongs in the “no shit, Sherlock” category.
Heating bills are as high as they are in large part because energy is produced not, by and large, under unfettered laissez faire capitalism – as it should be – but in rigged and heavily taxed conditions. The details are complex, but as far as the UK goes, it has been a Conservative/Labour/Liberal Democrat consensus that certain types of energy (carbon-based) should be heavily taxed. Taxes are costs and as the simplest businessman will know, such costs will either manifest themselves in higher prices, or lower output of services/products, or weaker returns on investment, or some combination of all three. There are, of course, other reasons for high energy bills, such geopolitics and our reliance on sources of oil, for example, from the Middle East.
We have an electricity industry that is now very close to not being able to cope with a harsh winter, according to various press reports. The government, unable or unwilling to be honest with itself about the issue, or face up to the mounting evidence about the dubious science on which anti-carbon ideas are based, is reduced to lecturing the public about wearing more clothes.
The former US president, Jimmy Carter, is remembered for some lamentable things in American life (although in fairness he did at least appoint Paul Volcker to the Fed and some industries got deregulated under Carter’s term). And one thing this man is remembered for is how he wore a woolly jumper in the White House to save on heating bills. He wasn’t doing that out of frugal fiscal policy, which might have been admirable, but because of the-then energy crisis to which his own policies contributed. (Price controls, etc).
David Cameron had better realise that a repeat of an energy crunch in the next year or so (blackouts, freezing weather, people dying of cold), will finish him off and his style of politics for some time to come. As for the rest of us, the demise of his brand of Toryism cannot come a moment too soon. A couple of years ago, when he and his finance minister were making nasty noises about the need to tax low-cost flights, I was reminded of that remark that the Duke of Wellington is said to have made about the-then new railways – he disliked trains as they encouraged the masses to move about. I cannot help but notice a certain parallel with how Cameron views the public – except that Wellington won a lot of battles.
Watching the three party leaders arguing shamelessly over energy bills and climate-change policies is, at points, jaw-dropping. While Cameron mocks Miliband’s proposed energy freeze and points out that in the last Labour government he was the energy secretary who piled extra costs on to consumers, the Tory leader backed Miliband’s green policies at the time and has continued in a similar vein in office. That means that successive governments have been very slow to respond to warnings about Britain’s looming energy crisis
- Iain Martin
Oh what fun… two loathsome newspapers representing thuggish authoritarian corporatist right-statism and thuggish hypocritical kleptocratic left-statism respectively, slug it out. More and faster please!
This lack of information, and therefore accountability, is a warning that the supervision of our intelligence services needs as much updating as their bugging techniques. The state should not feel itself entitled to know, see and memorise everything that the private citizen communicates. We cannot even rely on incompetence as a bulwark for our freedoms. The state increasingly has the capability to retain everything as the cost of computer memory collapses.
I have been shocked but also mystified by Snowden’s revelations. Throughout my time in parliament, the Home Office was trying to persuade politicians to invest in “upgrading” Britain’s capability to recover data showing who is emailing and phoning whom. Yet this seems to be exactly what GCHQ was already doing. Was the Home Office trying to mislead?
- Chris Huhne
The Daily Mail reports:
Lord Sugar faced police racism probe after joking on Twitter that crying Chinese boy was upset ‘because he was told off for leaving the production line of the iPhone 5′
How far we have fallen.
In speaking of our fall, I do not refer the belief of the complainant, Nichola Szeto, that Lord Sugar’s joke was racist: stupid people have always been with us. The joke was not remotely racist. Apple might have cause to whine, at the implication that the company employs child labour, but Apple Inc. probably has enough sense to refrain from going to law at a joke and getting a tidal wave of bad publicity. Poor Ms Szeto herself nearly had the sense to refrain from going to law at a joke and getting a tidal wave of bad publicity. It did take Merseyside’s Hate Crime Investigation Unit two tries before they could get her to ruin her business and reputation:
She was contacted by police on Wednesday but declined to give a statement.
At 8am the next day, she was again contacted by officers who said they wanted to visit her home.
Instead, she agreed to attend a police station in Central Liverpool later that day, where she spent an hour giving a statement to two officers.
I do not refer to the mistaken belief of Ms Szeto that racism is both illegal and a proper noun. State schools are often not very good, and in all fairness how far can we blame someone for thinking that an opinion might be illegal, when the police evidently thought so too? Or perhaps Merseyside Hate Crime Investigation Unit thought no such thing but was just anxious to drum up trade in a slow market. You know times are hard in the hate biz when you get sales calls at eight in the morning. Funny, though, when I have once or twice called to report the old sort of crime it took Plod ages to answer the phone. Why Merseyside police seem keener on home visits to well-toned ladies upset at what someone said on Twitter than on home visits to Toxteth amphetamine addicts beating their women is just one of those unfathomable mysteries.
How far we have fallen when this can be part of the normal operation of the care of a state for its citizen, in a country that once had something like freedom:
However, the remark was in the end classed as a ‘hate incident’ – which means no further action will be taken, although details will be kept on file.
Got that? Not even the zealous young commissars that they send to work in the Hate Crime Investigation Unit could find a enough of a crime to give the boys in the CPS something to work with. What a scalp that would have been: a Labour peer and a TV celebrity. All would have trembled at the power and reach of the law if such a man were brought down. Alas for the Hate Crime Investigation Unit, this time it was not to be. But it is still a “hate incident”. Not an alleged hate incident, or a complaint of a hate incident, an official hate incident. On file, for use if need be.
The child benefit reforms have taken effect. Tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of people must register for tax self-assessment for the first time.
To summarise, if any member of a household earns more than a certain amount, then some amount (possibly all) of the child benefit received by the mother in the household must be paid back by the high earner in the household. The more you think about this, the more absurdities you will notice.
Some will point out that child benefit should not exist. They are right. My wife receives child benefit and I view it as a small reduction in the vast amount of tax I pay. So these changes mean I will be paying more tax.
But the real problem is that I will also have to fill in forms. I do not like filling in forms. My approach to the state is to bumble along following the path of least resistance, because there are too many other interesting things to do. Until now they have had the good courtesy to quietly steal my money without interrupting the quiet enjoyment of my evenings. I think most middle class families do the same: they get on with it and they do not think about it.
Anyone like me following this path is about to get rudely awakened because they will have been receiving child benefit since April without realising that they need to pay it all back, and to pay it all back they need to register for self-assessment.
Importantly, then: if I am to avoid jail, for the first time in my life I have to actively interact with HMRC. Ignoring them is no longer an option. The same is true for a large section of the population who would rather spend time playing with their children.
Now might be a good time to publicise the idea of a flat tax.