Finding the party which suits your views

James Graham has been slaving away creating a VoteMatch device for the general election – similar to the one for the Euro elections. You answer “agree”/”disagree” for a list of very relevant and thought-provoking statements, then pick the parties you want to be compared with and: hey presto! VoteMatch tells you how you align with the parties.

I was 91% Liberal Democrat, 60% Green and 56% Labour.

Please visit the devilish device here and pass on the link!

Tories changes of tack ripped apart

There’s a brilliant piece in the Independent by Steve Richards laying into the Tories’ changes in economic “strategy”:

For an opposition that has changed quite so often, tonally and in policy terms, government must seem something of a nightmarish prospect, however badly it wants to win. In power, policies cannot be altered in the way that in opposition words can be unsaid. Perhaps the Conservatives could have won convincingly by arguing for tax cuts from the beginning, as David Davis did in the 2005 leadership contest. Maybe they could have won by sticking with Labour’s tax-and-spend plans. Possibly they could have walked it by proposing spending cuts and insisting that tax cuts would have to wait. They might have won by calling for immediate spending and tax cuts. But to try out all four permutations is quite something.

EXCLUSIVE PHOTO: George Osborne behind the scenes before tonight's debate


 …And can I just say:

How can you have “a tax on dead people”, as George Osborne kept on going on about? Yes, you can tax estates. But I’m not worried about my estate being taxed after my death if it pays for decent care in my retirement. Are you?

Why on earth did Osborne quote the salary of the head of Barclays in relation to banks which we, the public, bailed out? Doesn’t he realise that Barclays didn’t receive a penny of public money during the banking crisis?

Staggering – new MPs expenses regime – it's almost like the real world!!!

At long last, what seems to be the final word on the expenses episode, from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. Hurrah!

I must say that I think it is absolutely crazy that MPs will still be allowed to employ their spouses – it wouldn’t be allowed in business. The IPSA originally recommended to end spouses working for their partners. Their consultation overwhelmingly supported this. But they caved in after pressure from whingeing MPs. It’s ridiculous and totally inappropriate.

Having said that, I’m delighted that we’ve at last got the final word on the whole sordid mess, and particularly cock-a-hoop that MPs will only be able to rent a one bedroom flat in London – and that with production of receipts. Have a look at the market – the £1450 pcm limit will get an MP a nice flat, IMHO.


  • There’ll be a computerised expenses system!
  • Production of receipts for everything!
  • No payment for gardening or cleaning!
  • No payment for travel to/from work!
  • £15 limit for an evening meal if working!
  • No first class travel

It’s almost like the real world!

Pass the smelling salts!

Tories – all over the place on the economy

They used say “deficit” every second word. Now George Osbourne is spraying around largesse without a care in the world as to where it will come from: “efficiency savings, darling” he says, waving away enquiries with a limpid hand.

LibDemVoice reports on Saint Vincent’s response to Osbourne’s “schoolboy economics” plus the IFS view:

The Conservatives claim that the spending cuts can, in effect, be rendered painless by efficiency savings that they say their advisers have identified. Whether or not that is true, using the bulk of these spending cuts to finance the NI cut means that they are not available to contribute to the task of reducing government borrowing that the Conservatives have set such store by. Reducing the deficit more quickly than the Government plans to will therefore require even greater cuts to public services spending, or to greater reliance on welfare cuts or tax increases that might be as economically costly as the NI increases they are seeking to mitigate.

Wearing the crucifix – a national crisis?

There’s a letter from a group of bishops in the Sunday Telegraph

It’s interesting that it always seems to be the same lot: Ah! Nazir-Ali! Ah! Scott-Joynt! Ah! George Carey – bless him! I hesitate to call them “the usual suspects” – that would be unfair – but you know what I mean. When Bishop Mike Hill signs one of these letters I might sit up and take notice.

The letter is about “apparent discrimination against Christians”. I agree with one of their points, as does Shami Chakribati:

Whether personal faith motivates the wearing of a cross, turban, head scarf or Star of David, it is fundamentally illiberal to require people to check such an important part of themselves at the workplace door for no justifiable reason.

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion should protect people of all faiths and none.

We look forward to the Supreme Court demonstrating this by overturning the Court of Appeal in Nadia Eweida’s case against BA.

However, three things pop up here for me.

Firstly, I really do think it is crazy to start talking in terms of generic “discrimination against Christians” in this country. The Church of England is the established church, for goodness sake. The Head of State is its head. This is the only country in the world where religious leaders sit, as of right, in the legislature. The chips are stacked hugely in the favour of the Church of England.

Secondly, they’re talking about a case coming up at a employment tribunal in Exeter. It really is a bit over-the-top for six bishops to be writing to the Telegraph as if there is some sort of national upheaval based primarily on a case which is about to come to an employment tribunal. They could at least wait a bit for it to work its way through the courts, if it does. They could be rightly accused of showing off their muscle a bit unnecessarily (perish the thought).

Thirdly, the bishops write:

To be asked by an employer to remove or “hide” the cross, is asking the Christian to hide their faith.

Well, no it isn’t. Whatever happened to:

by their fruit you will recognize them. (?)

Surely, the main way to display one’s faith is to live it, is it not? And whatever happened to:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (?)

I really think that the way forward on this is to quietly carry on daily with one’s faith with quiet forbearance (turn the other cheek). One doesn’t have to be showy about it and it certainly doesn’t need six bishops writing to the Telegraph to further the faith.

UPDATE: @alexwilock alerted me to an excellent piece on Ekklesia about this. It’s by Jonathan Bartley:

…what of the claim that there have been “numerous dismissals of practising Christians from employment for reasons that are unacceptable in a civilised country.” ?

To my knowledge, even the most extreme pressure groups like Christian Concern for our Nation and the Christian Legal Centre who are stoking and reinforcing the Christian persecution complex, haven’t made the claim that there have been “numerous dismissals”. So far they have pointed to only a handful of examples where there is some alleged injustice. Rarely have this small number involved dismissal. And even where they have, upon further investigation, the claims have tended to fall apart. Indeed, in one case, it even seemed to be the intervention of Christian campaigners which brought the dismissal about, after confidential client details were given to a national newspaper. In another, CLC claimed dismissal and then reinstatement, when dismissal never actually seems to have occurred.

The bishops should cite these “numerous” cases, or shut up. Why?

1. It is bearing false witness to what is actually going on.

2. It is creating and then reinforcing a ‘victim’ mentality amongst some in the churches, which makes Christians fearful, inward looking and preoccupied with their own interests.

3. It is fuelling extremists such as the BNP who are making political capital out of the scaremongering. They are associating, as the bishops are doing too, the ‘marginalisation’ of Christians with the idea that other religions – in particular Islam – are getting better treatment

4. It makes bishops and the churches look stupid. When the claims of ‘persecution’ are scrutinized they usually fall apart. And even if one were to believe that all the claims discrimination were entirely true, their statement it is a clear exaggeration.

5. It polarises and entrenches positions and often destroys any chances of mediation in specific cases by publicly raising the stakes.

6. It is causing Christians to misinterpret honest misunderstandings in the workplace, and react innapropriately when they might otherwise be sorted out much more effectively.

7. It fails to acknowledge that there are usually Christians on both sides of the various cases which are cited.

8. It devalues the real persecution of Christians that is going on around the world, as well as that experienced by Christians historically – sometimes at the hands of other Christians

9. It makes it very hard to spot where there might be genuine cases of victimisation and injustice.

10. It is helping to create a reputation for Christians in the workplace as unreasonable and irrational, whose voice has little validity.

Tories' polling still 41 seats short of an overall majority

Champagne corks are popping in Tory circles as a couple of polls show them on 37% today (for one they’re on 39%). According to UK Polling Report, calculating the latest average, that means the Conservatives will win 285 seats, just squeaking it ahead of Labour on 284 with the LibDems on 50. That’s without taking into account factors such as the LibDem uptick when the ROPA kicks in, the LibDem incumbency factor and tactical voting.

So don’t glug that champers just yet oh Tory friends….

US Senators refuse to work after 2pm

The US Republicans really are being silly, since the Health Care bill passed.

Firstly, John McCain spat his dummy out:

There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year. They have poisoned the well in what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.

Now Republican Senators are refusing to work after 2 o’clock in the afternoon, invoking a little known Senate rule.

So they’re paid generously by the taxpayer to work a full day, but are refusing to do so.

Had it never occurred to them that this tactic might backfire on them?

BBC will have to reveal what it pays its top "talent"

This is a victory for licence-payers. From the Times:

The BBC will be forced to open its accounts to the National Audit Office after the three major political parties agreed that the Government’s spending watchdog should be able to investigate what it pays its stars.

So at least in future, the National Audit Office will be able to see the salary figures. I’d like things to go further so that licence payers can know the salaries. It has been ludicrous that licence payers haven’t known what the BBC is paying Jonathan Ross, Terry Wogan, Chris Myoles etc. They deserve to know. It’s their money. The defence given by the BBC is that it is personal, private information. Indeed it is in a normal situation. But if warning is given through contracts that “top talent” will have their salaries revealed then such “top talent” have an alternative – go and try to work somewhere else which isn’t funded by the licence-payer.

This could, theoretically, lead to a situation where the BBC is starved of a few big names who don’t want their salary revealed. I doubt it. Stars have never kicked up too much of a fuss about telephone numbers being bandied around in the media, as guesses for what they earn. It improves their “marketability”. But even if the revelation of salaries does cause “talent” to go elsewhere, then I think the BBC will survive. The BBC is awash with money and covers a staggering multiplicity of outlets and media. A curb on top salaries, through National Audit Office transparency, will be a great help in bringing the whole industry under a bit more control. Currently, perhaps in the past, the BBC has been paying huge salaries (we don’t know for sure because they have never revealed them). By doing so, they have perhaps artifically inflated the market place for stars. We don’t know, because we have never seen the figures.