Many business commentators have criticised Ed Miliband's speech, saying he clearly does not understand how business works. Dare I say, but no surprises there. Labour has never understood how business works, only how to tax it to raise money to fund its Socialist agenda. And this is where the Labour Party has to break from tradition if it's ever to be elected, and forgive me for handing out free advice to Labour! To set business free and create the wealth and employment that we all want, Labour has got to cut free from the unions, which bankroll the Party, and demonstrate they are willing to look at cutting taxes, red tape, restrictive and punitive employment laws and look dispassionately and pragmatically at the age-old problems of unaffordable pay rises and pensions. There will always be bad businesses and the State should deal with these with a far lighter stick than the one Mr Miliband is proposing to use. Labour should start to look at where it traditionally spends all its money: welfare and the public sector. With carrot and stick we need to get those who use the former into work, and the latter needs to run on the same basis as the private sector, ie not employing people just for the sake of creating jobs, which in the end is unaffordable, as this country has now found out after 13 years of Labour. Here endeth the first lesson.
Posted on 28 September 2011 by Richard Drax
The Gathering Storm
Rather like the phoney war before the real WWII got going, I fear we are living through a strange, Indian summer of signs and portents, which will not become real until the rest of Europe decides whether or not to accept the Geithner plan. Just like the Marshall plan after the war, the Americans have come up with a three point plan designed to save our skins. Europe's banks must be recapitalised, Greece must be allowed to have 50% of her debts written off and then given an amount four times the original bailout and a £2 trillion fund will need to be created to deal with 'worst case scenarios'. Now that the IMF is involved, Britain is on the hook once again, because the IMF is warning that it has insufficient funds to support the scheme without tapping member countries - like us - further. The eurozone has six weeks to decide and then the flak will be all too real. How ironic - and tragic - it will be if our recovery is shot down by the very euro we fought so hard to avoid joining.
Posted on 27 September 2011 by Richard Drax
The BBC has apparently asked its presenters and journalists to refer to the time since Jesus Christ's birth as Common Era (CE) and the period before as Before Common Era (BCE) . This is, apparently, 'religiously neutral,' intended to avoid 'offending or alienating non-Christians.' There are so many things wrong with this, it is hard to know where to begin. Personally, I still believe this is a Christian country. But personal beliefs apart, AD refers to the year of our Lord - the year when Jesus Christ is thought to have been born. These signifiers of a time before and after his birth have been the way we have ordered our civilisation for 1500 years and whether or not you believe in Christianity, there is little doubt that he existed. I find it hard to believe there are millions clamouring to change it. Both the Muslim and Jewish faiths revere Christ - we are all considered 'people of the book'. More importantly, we all consider this year to be 2011 according to the Gregorian Christian calendar - even the Chinese accept it. This is the worst sort of pc- ism and worst of all, coming from the BBC, it will be copied slavishly by others. So far, apparently, Jeremy Paxman and Melvyn Bragg are among the early adopters, while Andrew Marr and Jim Naughtie have refused to countenance it.
Posted on 26 September 2011 by Richard Drax
Reclaim our sovereignty
The utter chaos within the EU, especially the Eurozone, had been predicted by many of us for years. We've of course by pilloried by the Left, whose state the EU is, in equal measure. A federalist Europe has been their dream, a Europe governed at the centre, a vast bureaucracy with ever-increasing powers and and budget. For me and millions like me, the EU was nothing more than a corrupt, unaccountable police state, answerable to no one except unelected officials whose remit was burdening us all with rules, regulations and taxes. Now, as predicted, this unholy edifice is collapsing in front of our eyes and still there are those like Mr Clegg who want to sign up. It really is quite unbelievable. Our country now needs strong leadership and courage at the top to repatriate our political powers and renegotiate a fair trade agreement, which is how we all understood it would work back in 1972. So, I call on the Prime Minister and his team to move and move fast because only if we do will UK plc navigate her way through the current economic storm, able to make her own laws, lower the burden of taxation, control her borders, reduce the red tape and bureaucracy on business, re-visit employment law, re-think the proposed cuts to our armed services and a myriad of other policies which we'd be at last free to pursue to restore our country's health.
Posted on 25 September 2011 by Richard Drax
An urban myth was laid to rest this weekend - and not in a way I would ever have imagined. An Irish coroner has become the first in history to record a death by 'spontaneous combustion'. A 73 year old Galway man apparently burned to cinders in his own home. Firemen were called to the scene when fire alarms went off but found no evidence of outside interference or any use of accelerants. All they found were scorch marks above and below the body. Truly, truth is stranger than fiction.
Posted on 24 September 2011 by Richard Drax
Mr Blair and Libya
Slowly, but surely the past is catching up with Tony Blair. His close association with Gaddafi – long suspected and denied vociferously by Blair’s associates – is becoming clearer by the day and we can only hope that the genie finally escapes completely from the bottle. Over the weekend, we discovered that Blair visited Gaddafi in Tripoli at least twice, flying on Gaddafi’s private jet and staying in the British Embassy AFTER he had stepped down as Prime Minister and resigned as an MP. Whatever he was doing was not on Britain’s behalf – as confirmed by Oliver Miles, former Ambassador to Libya, who was quoted on Sunday as saying “Mr Blair is clearly using his Downing Street contacts to further his business interests.” Certainly, it adds some fuel to Saif Al Gaddafi’s suggestions last year – hotly denied - that Blair had advisory links to the Libyan Investment Authority (a £41 billion fund) and the Libyan Government.
Posted on 20 September 2011 by Richard Drax
Our Coalition partners
Tim Farron, president of the Lib Dems, used his speech yesterday at the Lib Dem party conference as an opportunity to announce that a divorce from the ‘tainted’ Conservatives was ‘inevitable.’ Paddy Ashdown promised to stop the Tories changing the Human Rights Act. Nick Clegg has rubbished Tory anxieties about the EU and ridiculed the Prime Minister. And a whole string of Lib Dems have made jibes about Chancellor George Osborne’s past. This is not what we expect from a party in government, however junior they may be. It is perhaps not surprising that today, almost every newspaper carries references to the Lib Dems’ ‘student politics.’ Standing at 11% in a new YouGov poll, with their leader compared to a puppet and described as ‘weak and indecisive,’ in a new poll of attitudes, I think they should be very careful what they wish for.
Posted on 19 September 2011 by Richard Drax
Foreign-owned wind turbines
To find that that two thirds of all the wind turbines in the UK are owned by foreign companies is bad. To discover that they are there because their owners are benefiting so lavishly from the Government’s generous incentives – half a billion pounds a year – is worse. And to hear that the rewards are so generous due to the ‘green’ increase in household bills for hard pressed citizens of this country is simply outrageous. Only last week, Chris Huhne suggested that British consumers ‘do not bother’ and that they could save £300 per household on energy bills if they constantly shopped around. Today, he denied on the Politics Show that increases in household energy bills had anything to do with the government’s green agenda, despite the Government being signed up to various emissions targets and reductions by 2020. Once again, we are dancing to a tune played by the EU, whatever it does to our country. It is time it stopped.
Posted on 19 September 2011 by Richard Drax
The EU occupying Britain
As the crisis within the eurozone grows, so do the calls for a reassessment of our membership of the EU. There are now thought to be 50 Labour MPs willing to join the 120 Conservative MPs who met demanding a referendum on EU membership that I wrote about last week. Many Tory MPs see the euro crisis as a once in a lifetime chance to renegotiate the deal we have – and I am one of them. Today’s article in the Telegraph by senior backbencher Mark Pritchard, secretary of the 1922 committee, describes the EU as ‘an occupying force’ and demands a referendum. ‘In less than 40 years, and without a shot being fired,’ he writes, ‘Britain has become enslaved to Europe – servitude that impinges and intrudes on millions of British lives every day.’ Without a national vote, he says, David Cameron will face a rebellion from his own party and a backlash from voters. I could not agree more.
Posted on 19 September 2011 by Richard Drax
The Gleision miners
The heartbreaking tragedy which unfolded last week at the Gleision pit in the Swansea Valley reminded us that no matter how many technological marvels we create, nature can always thwart us. The four men who died are thought to have accidentally blasted into a flooded mine, thereby flooding themselves, on Thurday morning. By early on Friday evening, all hope for the men was lost as the last of the bodies was brought out. Coal mining has always been a dangerous game – perhaps the miracle in Chile in 2010 made us, temporarily, forget that. My heart goes out to the miners’ families, friends and communities.
Posted on 17 September 2011 by Richard Drax
This dire threat to the world's economies has been on the cards and predicted for many years. We are not in the Eurozone - thank Heavens - but would still be affected if Greece defaults on her massive debts. Germany and France face a terrible choice: pour more money into this spendthrift state, or throw her to the wolves, leading to economic chaos across Europe. I just hope that our Government has a plan up its sleeve, whichever way it goes. Personally, I see a wonderful opportunity to renegotiate our position in Europe and to repatriate powers. I note that the leader of the Lib Dems disagrees and quite unbelievably thinks we should carry on with this farce. Mr Clegg is a bureaucrat and, like so many of his kind, has never understand the dynamics of economics or the importance and significance of sovereignty. I am a co-author of a chapter in a new book on Conservatism, which will be launched on Monday 3 October at our conference. Other contributors - far larger than I - include the likes of Bill Cash, John Redwood, John Baron, Bernard Jenkin, Patrick Mercer and Brian Binley. The time for true Conservatism is now, as wishy- washy liberalism slides into a black hole, from whence it will never re-emerge.
Posted on 15 September 2011 by Richard Drax
50p top rate of tax
It will come as no surprise to you that I disagree with this top rate of tax, which was imposed by Labour as nothing more than a political gesture.Those who wish to see this top rate retained miss a fundamental point. If national insurance and the removal of allowances are taken into account, the top rate of tax is nearly 70p. This surely is punative in any reasonable person's mind. The government is rightly carrying out an exercise to see just how much money this top rate actually makes. The indications are that the sums are miniscule and past experience has shown that lower tax rates actually bring in more money. People who make money tend to spend it. A large majority of those re-invest it in their business. Everyone must pay their fair share of tax; no one has any truck with that. But robbing Peter - and robbing is what it is - to pay Paul is not the way, either morally or economically. And when economies across the world are facing such dire circumstances, a sensible government would lower all taxes as far as it can to ensure those best placed to boost business and trade - that's you and I - are free to spend more of our money as we see fit.
Posted on 15 September 2011 by Richard Drax
Israeli embassy attack
The Israeli ambassador and 80 staff have left Cairo after their embassy came under attack from a rabble on Friday. This is a very bad omen for the new Egypt. Already there has been a clash on the border, resulting in the deaths of a number of Egyptian border guards. The embassy attack was supposedly in retribution for those deaths but if one thing is certain about Israel, the response will be even greater and more violent. The new Egyptian military government must harness its Islamist partners and insist that their supporters operate within the rule of law. Whatever its failings, Mubarak's government had managed a fragile peace along the Sinai border, with both sides co-operating successfully. The value of that peace to the rest of the world cannot be overestimated - both Saudi Arabia and the USA were contributing funds and hardware to maintain it. We must not turn the clock back in the Middle East.
Posted on 11 September 2011 by Richard Drax
Today will bring unimaginable pain to thousands of people as they recall that terrorist outrage ten years ago. I can recall standing in the news room at BBC South Today, open mouthed with the rest of my colleagues, as we watched the second passenger jet slam into the twin towers. The world reacted with incredulity as the sheer horror of the attack sank deep into the US psyche. As is so often the case, it was the totally innocent who suffered dreadfully on this day ten years ago, and our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected. Regrettably, other attacks since, not least here in the UK, indicate that the battle against terrorism is far from over. For now, though, let us remember and mourn, at the same time stiffening our resolve to protect our way of life, whatever the cost.
Posted on 11 September 2011 by Richard Drax
Tony Blair and the war on terror
Radio 4 devoted a full half hour of this morning's programme to an interview with Tony Blair. It was compulsive listening. Blair refused point blank to countenance the idea that the increased threat from terrorism since 9/11 had anything to do with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He described any suggestion that the wars had radicalised Muslims as 'deeply naive.' Instead, he said: 'They believe in what they believe in because they believe that their religion compels them to believe in it. And they believe in it profoundly.' When asked how the war on terror would end, he said: 'It ends when we defeat the ideology...I think it will take a generation but the way to defeat this idea, ultimately, is by a better idea - and we have it - which is a way of life based upon openness, democracy, freedom and the rule of law.' I must say, on this last point, I agree with him.
Posted on 10 September 2011 by Richard Drax
Libyan arms go missing
Worrying news from Algiers, where last week's conference on security in the Sahel (Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Algeria - the four countries north of the Sahara) was dominated by news that large numbers of Libya's Russian-made surface to air missile systems have been looted - or even sold - from Libyan arms dumps. Tons of Semtex explosive - with which Gaddafi furnished the IRA so liberally in the old days - have also gone. There is evidence that much of it has found its way into the hands of Al Qaeda - an Al Qaeda convoy carrying half a tonne of Semtex was intercepted last week in Mali. Local observers are predicting a dramatic increase in suicide bombings and attacks on civilian airliners over North Africa. Major General Robin Searby, leader of the British delegation to Algiers, acknowledged that the worries are well founded. 'We recognise the heightened concern over events in Libya leading to even greater regional instability,' he said. General Searby is no stranger to the region, having acted as Tony Blair's special envoy to Libya.
Posted on 9 September 2011 by Richard Drax
Michael Gove's free schools
Although Nick Clegg is telling the Lib Dems he has forced the Coalition to abandon the idea of Free Schools making a profit, Michael Gove says that there was never any intention - nor need - for profits. 'We have people who are interested in helping us improve state education,' he said on Radio Five live on Wednesday, adding, ‘Instead of taking money out if education, they want to put money in.' Gove also explained that one of the reasons he appears to be in such a hurry is that new schools need to be set up quickly to deal with 'a massive increase in population due to increase in birth rate and migration.' So far, he has set up 24 schools in one year, compared to Tony Blair's 25 academies in five years and Labour 's 10 city technology colleges in 15 years. I give him an A star.
Posted on 8 September 2011 by Richard Drax
The tail and the dog
We have heard a great deal recently about the Lib Dem tail wagging theConservative dog. And certainly, in view of the crushing defeatwreaked by the electorate in May on the AV vote – once the Lib Dems’holy grail – they are surprisingly ebullient. I suppose that asconference season is upon us, it would be an unusual party which didnot seek to grab the headlines now. However, while understandable, Ido particularly resent Nick Clegg’s claiming of some of Michael Gove’ssuccesses as his own. The Education Secretary has created anextraordinary groundswell of support among teachers and parents forhis new, free schools. Twenty four will open this week and hundredsmore are in the pipeline. The few that were already operating thissummer tripled good GCSE scores amongst their pupils – described bythe Spectator magazine as the ‘swiftest vindication’ of any recentgovernment policy. But Nick Clegg now wants to tie Gove’s hands behindhis back by insisting that such schools are available mainly to poorerfamilies and communities. He wants to reintroduce local councilinvolvement – the dead hand which has betrayed so many of our young.To me, this is typical Lib Dem behaviour – a spoiler – designed toclaim others’ triumphs while at the same time undermining them.
Posted on 5 September 2011 by Richard Drax
The National Planning Policy Framework
The brewing storm over the new National Planning Policy Framework has, I fear, echoes of the furore over selling off the national forests to private interests. I am not sure that ministers such as Vince Cable,who described the reaction of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, The National Trust and now English Heritage as ‘semi hysterical’ helped very much. What is spooking these institutions –and remember, The National Trust alone has 3.7m members - is that the framework talks of a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development.’ The opposers argue that the phrasing simply means a presumption in favour of developers and that councils will just rubber stamp whatever applications cross their desks. I think both sides should calm down. Already, those who protect the countryside have had a great win. The Regional Development Agencies of the labour government favoured top down imposition of vast housing tracts across the land. Those have been cancelled, thank goodness. But with 60,000 families in this country living in temporary housing, we clearly need to do some housebuilding somewhere. The new framework is intended to give locals a say in what happened in their neighbourhoods. But there is no reason not to follow planning guidelines with regard to what the local infrastructure and nearby residents will bear. If necessary, we should redraft the framework to make curbs on developers more clear. But I would still argue that the original intentions were benign and aimed at giving power back to communities.
Posted on 3 September 2011 by Richard Drax
Army Job Cuts
Amidst the sighs of relief at Bovington yesterday – only those who had requested redundancy lost their jobs in the first tranche of cuts to the Army – there is an awareness that more, and much worse, is on the way. I have already spoken about how I feel the Armed Forces must feel profoundly let down by the party which has always traditionally supported them. This was not what I expected when we were elected and certainly, I am sure it was not what those members of the Services who voted Conservative could ever have imagined. Small wonder that those soldiers described by senior military chiefs as the best of their generation – among them a recent SAS commander in Afghanistan - are now vying with each other to hand in their notice first. Now that some perks – such as the 'continuity of education allowance' which meant that no matter where the parents were posted, their children would have a decent education – have been discontinued, some of the invisible threads which bound the top performers to their jobs have been severed. Unsurprisingly, they have worked out that it is better to be first onto the jobs market - before it is saturated with other ex- servicemen.
Posted on 2 September 2011 by Richard Drax