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


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).



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”.

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.

My conference highlight – Einstein would have been proud of me

photo by bob franklin(Or would he? Discuss)

For my own record, I have made a note below of all the meetings/debates I attended and discussions I had at conference.

The highlight from all of these was the lady from Hunterston B Nuclear power station, on the EDF stand, explaining to me, with the use of moving models, how nuclear power is produced. It really is quite daft that I have never got myself educated on this subject before. The lady was perfectly charming and very patient. The whole thing was fascinating. Einstein would have been proud of me.

Exhibition stand discussions:

Nuclear power
Trustee savings bank
Low wage structure of tied house managers in pubs
Windows 8 and 3d printing demonstration
Carillion energy services
Scotland – better together
High stakes casino machines – Campaign for Fair Gambling
NUT – Education
Howard league for penal reform

Fringe meetings:

Bedroom tax – Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
Prism/tempora/surveillance **asked several questions
Rally – jobs/apprenticeships
Home office and Justice questions **asked a question
Better off in europe
Living well for longer
The cost of education
UK music


Scottish Land reform
Consultation on Immigration, identity and asylum **asked a question
Constitutional amendment – responsibility of members
Learning for life
Protecting children from online pornography **made a speech
Strengthening the economy
Nick Clegg Q&A
British sign language
Tackling domestic and sexual abuse
Schedule 7 **Made a speech


Kelvingrove museum and gallery, including Salvador Dali
Lighthouse gallery, including exhibition on architecture in Anartica

Glee Club:

How not to sing “Trelawny”

Photo by bobfranklin

Nick Clegg's speech affected me so much, I ran at full speed towards the exit

imageNick Clegg’s speech today was very good.

If there is anyone occasionally reading this, he,she or it will perhaps be able to judge that, in my terms, “very good” is high praise.

At last year’s conference I was decidedly cheesed off with a series of leadership misjudgments and skulked in the back row of the hall, remaining seated during the ovation to Nick’s speech.

This year, while not exactly jumping up and down like an American high school baseball cheerleader, I felt comfortable with the speech. It was a good one with some strong passages. I particularly liked the list of things we’ve blocked in government.

I’ve seen Nick speaking four times this conference and I am left with a good solid feeling about his leadership.

Unfortuately, the speech must have started late. It had been scheduled to finish at 15:25 but it finished at 15:55. I had to walk some distance to a hotel to pick up my heavy suitcase then walk back to a railway station to catch a train to get to Glasgow Central station by 16:40.

I therefore left my seat as soon as Nick finished speaking, left the hall speedily with quite a few other people apparently in the same boat (or indeed on the same train) as me. I then was the first to run out of the conference perimeter, prompting a deep Glaswegian:”Take it easy there” from the security guard on the gate.

Suffice it to say, if I hadn’t needed to get my skates on to catch my train, I would have enthuasiastically appaluded Nick from an erect position.

The chap next to me on the train said that counts as an endorsement.

Big Brother at conference

imageI’ve taken a particular interest, at conference, in surveillance and human rights. The Open Rights group and Big Brother Watch organised a fascinating fringe meeting. Alan Travis from the Guardian and Julian Huppert MP spoke, as well as Emma Carr and Jim Killock from the two organisations above.

This morning I spoke at the emergency debate on Schedule 7.

I have three takeaways (as they say nowadays!) from all this:

1. It is remarkable that people in the UK are not more worked up about the whole Tempora/Prism scenario. In the States they are much more exercised. My theory is that this is because in the US people are much more clear on their constitutional rights. Amendment One, for example, gets routinely mentioned in normal conversation. Compare that to the UK. Not many people have a clue what our constitutional rights are, which is not surprising as they are expressed on scores of ancient&modern goat skins and a library full of law books.

2. Jeremy Browne gave a robustly liberal speech, supporting the Schedule 7 emergency motion today. (In passing he gave a welcome rejection of the “go home” vans.) Julian Huppert has been bouncing around the conference like Tigger and is particularly on the ball with these issues. After this morning’s debate I am confident that the Lib Dem parliamentarians are energetically pursuing reform of Schedule 7.

3. Thank God for the Guardian. I have the utmost admiration for their sense of patriotic responsibility, their journalist zeal and their courage over the Snowden/Tempora issue. This debate has a long way to go to allow public understanding of what on earth the state are doing with our communications data.