Here's the couple the Tories are aiming their marriage tax break at

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Brief Encounter 1945

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Marriage tax allowance is outrageous

Built to lastWe know it discriminates against widows, widowers, one in four children living with single parents, those who decide not to get married and those who leave abusive relationships.

But the absolutely crazy thing is that it also discriminates against married couples who both work!

From Don’t Judge:

How will it work?

A marriage (or civil partnership) would only be “recognised” if one of the couple doesn’t pay income tax (earning less than £9,440) and the other is a basic rate tax payer (earning between £9,440 and £41,451). The person earning less transfers their tax allowance to the one earning more. The transferable allowance is £1,000 and it’s worth about £200 a year.

So not all married couples will get it?

No. Most won’t. According to the Conservative party’s own website only a third of all married couples will be able to claim the marriage tax allowance: those with a breadwinner and a homemaker. Two thirds of these are older couples whose children are grown up.

So it’s not a marriage tax allowance. It’s a “homemaker and breadwinner” tax allowance.

So if you live like the couple, Laura and Fred Jesson, in the 1945 film “Brief Encounter” you’re all right Jack.

The bedroom tax implementation – stupidity in action

Bedroom tax demo , all the photos taken with a iphone 5At the Glasgow conference, the fringe meeting which had the greatest impact on me was one organised by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations . It was chaired by our old friend Archy Kirkwood. The representatives there gave harrowing details of how it is impossible to implement the bedroom tax in anything other than a very long timescale (e.g 20 years) without grave hardship to tenants. There just isn’t the housing stock for tenants to move to.

One very good example given was the island of Islay. I quote from an earlier description of this example from evidence to Parliament by Alastair MacGregor:

If you take the island of Islay as an example, we have 329 properties on the island, of which only 66 are one-bedroom properties. Ten of them are sheltered housing, which is obviously allocated differently. We have 19 cases affected by the bedroom tax and our turnover of houses on Islay every year is 19, so our ability to respond in a local situation to move people is constrained. That is one of the challenges we find in a rural area. I think there is an urban-rural difference here. It may be easier in our urban conurbations to move people relatively closely because of more supply of one-bedroom properties, but in parts of rural Argyll that is very difficult indeed. It is a real concern to the housing association that we do not have that option

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That Brighton incident and later statements in full

Stuart Holmes deserves to be lauded. He has attended political conferences for decades and protested outside them about something. It used to be cigarettes, now it’s nukes. Bless him. He’s a national treasure. Bless also his dog.

Iain Dale is still, tantalisingly, some way off national treasure status. He has now apologised graciously about an incident in Brighton. Here is Iain’s full apology.

With the proviso that I feel very sorry for Stuart and his dog, here is a video of the incident:

It is also very interesting to read Iain’s blog post, written shortly after the incident and published at 9:40 on 23rd September. This was before he apologised. It was taken down from Iain’s blog site, but not before 166 people had left comments beneath it. It is now on Google Cache and below (together with the later full statement and apology).

dale1

IT SHOULDN’T HAPPEN TO A PUBLISHER: PROTECTING AN AUTHOR DURING A LIVE INTERVIEW

24 Sep 2013 at 09:40

I knew I shouldn’t have had three weetabix this morning…

OK, so here’s what happened. Damian McBride was doing a live interview on Daybreak on the Brighton seafront. I was waiting in my car to drive him to do his next interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC when I noticed that a protester was holding a placard behind Damian which was filling a lot of the screen and totally distracting from the interview. I assumed someone from Daybreak would intervene to stop him, but no one did. So I did what any self respecting publisher would do, got out of the car, ran across and pulled him out of the shot. He started resisting and we ended up in an unseemly tumble on the ground. I was conscious of the photographers and other cameramen who were present filming the whole thing, but I was determined this idiot shouldn’t disrupt what was an important interview for my author.

I am someone who runs a mile from any form of physical confrontation normally, but I never understand why broadcasters seem to accept without question that someone with a placard or a loud voice should disrupt this sort of interview. Anyone who has seen the pictures and video can see that there was no real violence. I certainly didn’t hurt the guy. He threw a punch at me but missed, and the only injury was when the man’s dog bit him on the bum.

Anyway, now you can see why my publishing company is called Biteback.

In some ways I have committed the cardinal sin of becoming the story myself, rather than my author, and I regret that. But do I regret that I stepped in to protect my author? No I do not. One of the snappers afterwards said to me that I did what they had all been dying to do for years, as he regularly interferes with their professional work. Everyone has an inalienable right to protest, but no one has a right to make a continual nuisance of themselves and interrupt interviews like that.

That would be the recently passed “Powers of publishers to make sure their authors have a clean backrgound shot for live interviews Act”.

PERSONAL
STATEMENT AND APOLOGY
26 Sep 2013 at 12:23

Following the incident on Brighton seafront on Tuesday morning, I have today voluntarily attended Brighton police station where I accepted a police caution. The police have informed me they now regard the matter as closed. I want to thank them for the fair and courteous way they have dealt with me throughout.

But above all I want to issue this public apology for my behaviour.

I want to apologise and say sorry to Stuart Holmes, who is a passionate campaigner and well known to everyone who attends party conferences and was perfectly entitled to do as he did on Tuesday in trying to get attention for his causes. It was totally out of character for me to react to him in the way I did.

I also want to apologise for the blogpost I wrote after the incident. It was full of absurd bravado and in the heat of the moment I behaved in a frankly idiotic way.

I have embarrassed not only myself but my family and my work colleagues and I apologise to them.

I also want to apologise to Labour leader Ed Miliband and his conference attendees.

I did apologise personally to Mr Holmes on Tuesday afternoon and we shook hands. He agreed to let the matter rest, but I have no complaint that he changed his mind on reflection.

Since the events of Tuesday I have gone through what happened over and over again in my mind. Whatever I felt at the time, nothing can justify what I did.

In addition, having accepted my guilt, I feel I should make some sort of reparation to Mr Holmes. I will pay for a new placard for him and also make a donation to a charity of his choice.

Finally, people have questioned why I didn’t remove the blogpost and why I have said nothing more until now. On the latter point, I was advised not to because the police were involved. On the first point, I felt it important people should be able to have their say. I will have to live with the justified criticisms for a long time.

I know there will be many who will never forgive me for what I did and I understand that, but those who know me will know that I mean every word of my apology to Mr Holmes, Mr Miliband, the Police, my family, friends and colleagues.

Thoughts on racism and political correctness, gone mad or not

Double BowsThere seems a heck of a lot of this stuff around at the moment. Godfrey Bloom, Golliwogs in the Shetlands and on student union posters etc etc.

I’ll make two simple, general points.

In this country, we have a fine tradition of politeness and respect for others. Carefully choosing words and symbols so as not to cause offence is a case of simple politeness and respect for others.

Calling someone “racist” is pointless. It is almost impossible to prove and takes the debate down a blind alley. However, it is perfectly reasonable to call statements, actions and the use of symbols “racist”. It is no good claiming that words or symbols in your little bubble aren’t or weren’t considered racist. If they cause the members of another race or colour offence then they are racist. Full stop.

The Scots are a great part of the UK and I want them to continue with us

imagePhoto right: The “Squinty bridge” (aka the Clyde Arc) in Glasgow taken by me last week.

By “Scots” in the title, I mean Scotland, and therefore the people who live there, specifically.

Previously, I have avoided expressing a view on the Scotland independence debate, despite being asked for one. Let those in Scotland decide, unimpeded by me, a Sassenach – I reasoned.

Some of this was motivated by guilt. Believe it or not, some of us in England feel some historic guilt about the Highland clearances, the Battle of Culloden, the suppression of Scottishness in the late 1700s etc.

Part of it was knowing that if I expressed a view on the debate, it would just, in a small way, reinforce the stereotype of the domineering Englishman.

Encouraged by my week in the wonderful city of Glasgow and by the words of Nick Clegg, I have now decided to come out and say this. I am very proud of being in the same union as the Scots and Scotland. I want Scotland to continue in the union because of the immense breadth and depth of spirit and comraderie which the Scots bring to it.

My view is moved by emotion, rather than anything else. We’ve fought in two world wars together. Yes, there should be further moves towards Home Rule for Scotland. But, in the words of Al Green, Let’s stay together.