Thursday, 28 March 2013

Spare Subsidies?

A brief look at the ridiculous furore over "the so-called 'bedroom tax'". Only "so-called" because the BBC and the left media immediately picked up Ed Milliwho's illogical soundbite and ran with it, "so-calling" it from the rooftops. Immediately it was announced, the BBC was trailing "bedroom tax" across its News 24 screen and hasn't stopped referring to it since.

No chance of calling it what it is, which would require some neutrality from those we pay nearly £150 each for the pleasure of their supposedly apolitical views. As Cameron stated in the Commons, only Labour (and its propaganda wing) could think a reduction in benefit (read "free, unearned money") could be called a tax.

Also only that same group of innumerate, economically moronic people could happily pretend there is no problem with social housing. The bill is astronomical. A large part of this is that successive Governments have failed to build more housing stock and instead the taxpayer is paying private landlords a king's ransom to make up the deficit. This failure to build was exacerbated by housing being removed from the system through the admirable intent of the right-to-buy scheme. More housing still has been removed by stealth over the years through the far less admirable home-for-life policy that the Tories are trying to change, but people on the left (like Bob Crow) think absolutely fine.

In fact, this is really just an extension of one of the first Coalition policies - to stop needy families on the social housing waiting list being kept on the list because individuals or couples wish to continue to live in a house that was built for more people. In the private sector, if you want an extra bedroom, you pay more rent or a higher purchase price. In the public sector, Labour think there is no reason why these basic principles should be even vaguely considered. The left see nothing wrong with complaining one day "granny evicted from house she has lived in for 70 years by heartless Tories" and then the next "heartless Tories fail 5 million poor, hard-working families on social housing waiting list".

The two concepts just run around different parts of their teensy little brains, and ne'er the twain shall meet to discover their contradiction.

It's pretty simple. If the state has been generous enough to lend you a house, it seems only right that you don't take the piss by having one bigger than you need. This would be true even if there weren't 5 million people on the waiting list. Which there are. These are the needy people the left pretend to support, but singularly ignore for political convenience.

If you live in a council house that's bigger than you need, you have no right to stay, regardless of how long you've lived there, or indeed if you are now wealthy enough to pay your own way. There are people who need that space more than you. If you live in a privately rented house that the Government is paying for because there aren't enough social houses, and it too is bigger than you need, you have no right to stay there and charge the taxpayers of this country (many of whom would love a spare room but can't afford to pay for one of their own, so don't have one) full whack for it. It stands to reason that if you are in this position, you can help pay the bill. If you want your spare room that much, pay for it like everyone else. Otherwise, remember that you are living at the generous largesse of the taxpayers and stop whining.

There are huge inefficiencies in social housing, which if solved would massively decrease one of the single largest draws on Treasury expenditure - social housing costs. Fuck tinkering with the MOD, its budget is dwarfed by the interest on our debt alone. We spend more on housing than on education and defence combined. If you don't think we could do with finding some efficiencies here, you are mentally sub-normal. Not only are the general populace paying for the huge cost of this over-generous gift, but some of the neediest in society are without proper housing because of it. The left should be ashamed of their intentionally mendacious slurs about a totally sensible policy. Only as we know - just look at Tony Blair - they don't really do shame.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Banking on European Stupidity

There are various reasons behind the EU's decision to limit bankers' bonuses. It's just that none of them is any good. There is the populist angle where politicians in search of votes wish to tap into the envy and vitriolic revenge that are so prevalent in today's society - both at home and abroad; the EU dreamt this horsecrap up but damned if the Libs and Labs don't want to hitch a ride on the bandwagon. Then there is the anti-UK angle, one that the UK-based Libs and Labs have overlooked in their fervent approval of the first approach; we stand the most to lose from our financial sector losing competitiveness. Then there is the 'throwing a dead cat on the table' angle that the Mayor of London mentioned here, disctracting the public with something irrelevant; in Europe from the catastrophe of the Euro and in the UK from the Government who fashioned the economic disaster now seemingly totally pinned on 'the bankers'.

First, it plays well in a recession to bash the rich. It's a shame, but it's true. When people aren't doing so well, it's far easier to look to blame others and demand more from them than to introspect and to do something for oneself to improve one's own position. This is the default setting for much of the country it appears. It plays nicely to the lower financial layers of society mockingly sympathising with those with £1,000,000 wages being restricted to just £2,000,000 bonuses.

The reality, naturally (not a concept Ed Milliwho is too familiar with) is vastly different. What both Eds frame as a great new law to stop high pay does exactly the opposite. All the bank bonus limit does is mean banks will have to increase base salaries. It won't really affect gross pay. It will just mean that their baseline costs, those which they are contractually obliged to pay out every year are higher. The bit they have discretion over, will be lower. So even in the poor years when they could severely restrict bonuses, they will still find themselves vastly overcommitted to their payroll. They will be less flexible, more cautious and have to hold onto more of their funds. Thus not only will they not be able to be as competitive, but thy will likely decrease lending too. It's very, very simple. You can't claw back salary like you can bonus, you can't link it as easily to long term performance, and you can't incentivise working harder as easily.

The problem is as usual, the policy goes after the easy headline win rather than the issue. Nobody is doubting there was a lack of restraint with pay and a failure to link pay to long- not short-term gain. This has been taken in hand though; it was the area needing revision and it has more than received it. Despite the banks having done what we asked, we are now to cut off our nose to spite our face. This is a foolish populist policy that will only do damage when the real problem it pretends to be solving has actually long been addressed.

Second, the production of virulent anti-UK policy at a time when we are rightly making noises about the actual worth of being in the shady underworld that is the EU is blatantly punitive. London is by far the financial centre of Europe, and at the same time, a vitally important contributor to our GDP. This policy will do nothing but undermine all European banks and thus hit us hardest. If you were looking for any current examples of being ruled by moronic people you never did or would vote for in a way that is totally contrary to the interests of the UK, one can only say thank you to the EU for providing one so obviously.

The third reason, which Boris elucidates in his article, is to distract everyone from something more important. As he discusses, the EU is desperate for everyone to focus on these evil bankers and how they ruined everything, when it is increasingly clear the central tenet of a common currency for vastly uncommon economies (size, type, development etc) is completely and fatally flawed. Yes 'the bankers' deserve some of the blame, but nobody should be fooled (yet many are) by this clear distraction act. In the UK, Labour pounced upon this intervention like manna from heaven.

"The Tories are going to have to defend the bankers - number 10 here we come" - you can almost hear Labour's delight. It presented another opportunity to pretend that their tax and spend election buying hadn't placed the economy in such a perilous position that when the bust came, there was no money to deal with it. That and to gloss over their complicit part in lax ragulation and the encouragement of the housing boom that was so important to the crash.

All in all a pretty unedifying affair. A terrible law with petty political motivations and no grounding in financial common sense. It is as disappointing as it is unsurprising that it finds support from the usual suspects like Balls and Milliband, as like most of their previous policies (I don't think they have any current or future ones) it will be nothing but economically damaging.

Monday, 25 March 2013

George's Taxing Decisions

George Osborne's budget must have gone well last week, because one of the main things Labour are making a point over is the fact that an Evening Standard employee broke embargo to tweet Budget information before Georgy Porgy got to his feet in the Commons. Naturally, it's hilarious to hear that according to politicians of both sides, nobody has ever intentionally leaked budget data before the actual budget. This is despite the fact that in the run up to most budgets various treasury insiders angling for a straw poll or ministers angling for public outcry at their budget being trimmed take the same approach to secrecy as your average C list celebrity selling the mundane details of their tawdry lives to glossy dentist reception magazines. But that's beside the point as it is perfectly normal to pre-release to news institutions with strict provisos and controls in place. That a Standard employee broke the embargo is a matter for the Standard and maybe the police. You can blame George for a lot of things I am sure, but this isn't one of them.

The thing that struck me about the commentary on the budget though was the pathetic language of the entire press corps, whatever their political colour (you don't see any red in the Torygraph and it's all you can see at the Peoples' Commissariat for Public Information - the BBC). It seems that no matter what the news, no matter how generous a budgetary move is, anyone who doesn't benefit from it muct be a victim or a loser.

For example they are all up in arms at the "discrimination" of choosing to put 10p more tax on wine but take 1p of beer. There is little talk of the fact that wine bars are doing just fine, as is the wine producing industry, and those who tend to drink more wine can probably live with the 10p increase. No talk of the fact that the lower financial echelons disproportionately drink more beer than the better off. Nope, when the stats aren't in our favour we ignore the class envy angle. Nor will you read much about the benefit (though 1p is more symbolic than financially meaningful) that our flagging pub industry will receive from this cut. The important one here is that women drink wine and men drink beer. So this cut in beer duty is... a discriminatory attack on women. You simply cannot win with this bunch of whining liars who seem to set out to deliberately misrepresent policy for a mix of profit and political propaganda.

Newsflash: As I have mentioned before, the word discriminate, means to choose, nothing more. That is the job of Government. They decide from whom they should take money and how much, then to whom they should give it and how much. Otherwise we could just have a system designed to extract a flat amount (or rate) of tax, and then to redistribute it evenly, so as nobody can be accused of making a choice, which by definition would be "discrimination". That would unfortunately put the cat amongst the 'fair tax' pigeons. It would also mean we may as well not pay the people to take and give back in equal measure, because their pay just reduces your rebate. Let's have no Government - it worked pretty well for Belgium.

Flippant yes, but the point is that Governments make decisions every day - it is what they are elected for - where they prioritise their many competing demands against their limited resources. Increasing funding for cancer research is not a vicious attack on all diabetes sufferers. Buying new science textbooks for a school is not a slap in the face of the teaching of humanities.

Unfortunately we continue to characterise all such funding decisions exactly so. Why? Because we are a nation of spoilt, selfish children. We cannot be happy for anyone else unless we get the same or more. Watching politicians, journalists and the general public discussing public spending is like watching a bunch of poorly brought up children fighting over who got more sweets, or complaining that the other kid gets all the presents on their birthday.

This is much like the talk of "real terms cuts" - when what we need are actual cuts. All these people talk about an increase in this benefit or that as a "real terms cut" because it is below the level of inflation. This again puts me in mind of a kid in a sweetshop. Every year the child grows, and its appetite with it - inflation. Mother hands out some of her hard earned cash to buy a bag of penny sweets, but as the years go by, and mother adds 5 pence to the bag per year, the child complains that the percentage its stomach is growing is larger than the percentage increase mother has gifted. In today's society, this means mother is evil. She is a horrible bitch who is starving her children - and should probably have them taken away from her. And even that analogy is without going into whether, if the child wants more sweets, it might be better off taking a milk or paper round rather than constantly demanding more from its mother...

We have NO MONEY - have we forgotten that? How short are our memories? Labour gave it all to their key demographic to ensure election victories and the exacerbation of most social ills during their time in power. Where did all that money go? Is anything tangibly better (apart from Tony Blair's bank balance, of course)? The Tories, fighting with one arm tied behind their backs thanks to having to pass everything by the bizarrely powerful, finanicially illiterate and very unpopular minority Lib Dems, have somehow allowed the press to say they are cutting deeply and we have real austerity in this country when we are actually increasing out debt and increasing our spending.

The result; no spare money to pay for growth policies like tax cuts because of such largesse and no votes at the polls because everyone believes they are slashing budgets left, right and Chelsea - the worst of both worlds. God, it's enough to wish Alastair Campbell was a Tory - this party are so poor at getting their message across, they couldn't sell water to a man dying of thirst in the desert.

Back to the point… even more furore has been kicked up over the new childcare tax rebate. I read everywhere of the unfairness to all stay at home mothers. Apparently this policy will penalise them.

Bollocks. Plain and simple.

If you stay at home, you don't need sodding childcare. That's your job. Women have campaigned, quite rightly, for homekeeping and childrearing to be considered a job and not a cop-out for the workshy. So how on earth, if you have decided that this will be your full time job, could you are you being unfairly penalised by not receiving something for which you have no need?

It is akin to an able bodied person complaining when an amputee receives a prosthetic limb that they don't also get one. They need that to bring them up to nearer your level. The key is, these whiners don't want the spare leg; they just want to stick it on eBay and pocket the cash. That's what this is about. The Government is rightly saying that the disgracefully high cost of childcare in this country is one of (if not the) biggest barriers to going back to work. So to help women, who as we all know are very under-represented in full time work (primarily because of this), they are giving a small helping hand back into work. What thanks do they get? They get greedy (and, yes, I do mean greedy) people complaining that that money should have been theirs rather than acknowledging a positive step in helping women back into employment and a much needed rebate to help defray the obvious costs of doing so.

It is shameful that a supposedly responsible media happily gives these people a prominent voice without even the hint of balance or even pragmatic and sound financial analysis. Even if there were enough money for Gordon Brown's style of dowsing voters in borrowed cash in return for votes but no progress, it is morally bankrupt as a policy. Instead, we are actually bankrupt by any normal standard which means there certainly isn't enough money for such profligacy.

We have to target the spending better - this is Government's job. Just as they were right that if one of you earns £60k (and therefore about 130% above the national average income; and as much as it would help and you'd like it), we cannot afford to give you child benefit, so they are right here. Yes, that means some people will get stuff you didn't get, and because it is too expensive to get everything perfect, it also means you can find seemingly unfair anomalies. But that shouldn't be the story - because ultimately you don't need it. Like people with two legs don't need spare prosthetic ones and stay at home mothers don't also need help paying for childcare. Childcare is crippling, and help is welcome for those who want or feel they need to go back to work and who can earn enough to make it worthwhile. Anyone who thinks it isn't is a spoilt brat.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Unwanted Liberal Advances

Nick Clegg's Lib Dems have managed to hang onto Eastleigh, and thus Nick Clegg has managed to hold onto his Lib Dems, despite the Huhne/Price and Rennard scandals. Whilst holding a seat is not so much an advance as a maintenance of the staus quo, with the incumbent MP heading off to jail and defending a tiny majority and polling nationally in the single digits, this was quite something for the Yellow Terror.

The main point, though, about both of these stories was that it is very clear that lots of people (his own people I should stress, not Tory or Labour malcontents) say that Cleggo knew about both of these in pretty vivid detail. Weirdly, he has come down with a touch of the Murdoch's and can't remember being told any of it. Convenient because if the very many people who essentially say he is lying are being truthful, Nick would be in a spot of integrity-based bother. And the Lib Dems are all about integrity. There are 3 possible conclusions:

1. Nick Clegg is not suited to Government as he simply cannot recall even the obviously most important things he has been told.
2. Nick Clegg is not suited to Government as he runs such a loose ship that he doesn't want to properly investigate serious allegations made about very senior party members, or else his deputy, 'Quad-member' Danny Alexander, doesn't bother telling Clegg the important bits once he has investigated them.
3. Nick Clegg is not suited to Government as he is telling whoopsies, the lying little tyke.

The whole unsavoury affair brought to light an interesting point though, which Toby Young tried to explain a couple of weeks ago (not particularly well) to the Labour Party Conference (Question Time audience). This was that we should be a little careful over calling an amorous advance a sexual assault. There is a big difference, and screaming "how dare you, you chauvenist rape-condoning pig" at anyone who points this out does nothing to help those victims of actual sexual harassment or assault.

Think back - have you ever thought "I'm in here" and lunged at the object of your fancy? Maybe you were 15, at a party in the room with the coats with the pretty girl from French class, maybe you were 25, dancing the light fantastic with a fellow reveller in a nightclub, or simply 35, trying "to steal a kiss" as you dropped off your dinner date at her door. Now that was rather ageist of me to suggest that only teens do house parties, 20 somethings go out clubbing and 30 somethings do dinner, but you see the point, no doubt?

You have not always asked for written permission to go for a kiss I will wager - and nor should you. Or (for those kissing girls - because the way we are hard wired means it is generally boys who have to chase girls) when kissing to go for the hallowed ground of the boob touch. Now "no" means "no", but we must agree that working out sexual signals is a dark art, and one which backfires sometimes. Etiquette dictates you go very red in the cheeks, become very very English and mutter things like "I'm terribly sorry...I thought I saw you catch my eye...too many sherberts...I'm awfully embarassed...etc" In normal circumstances, getting it wrong is not a sexual assault - crossed wires are just that. We cannot legislate the (un)knowing glance.

Now clearly I'm talking about Lord Rennard and his alleged Lib Dem activist fetish - presumably for him there is something enduringly sexy about a moronic idealist with discalculia. Clearly one can go too far in trying one's luck, but just trying it is no crime (I'm not advocating forcing yourself on someone, but leaning in for a kiss or stroking a leg is flirting, and you are allowed to get it wrong if you behave correctly immediately on finding out your error). It is irrelevant that he could be mistaken for Eric Pickles from afar, or that in trying his luck he would be attempting to commit adultery. If he only propositioned these women and tried unaggressively to kiss them, on the criminal side of the ledger if he is guilty most of us should be locked up.

The more important charge is that it does seem likely, if these allegations have any substance to them, that he has abused his position of power. That is very different to the general commentary in the press which is incredibly worrying and has all the hallmarks of a society on the march toward "sexual thought crime." Romantic misunderstandings are par for the course, forceful abuse of power is not, nor of course sexual assault. Let's not mix them up though, eh?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Civil Disobedience

Hot on the heels of my NHS rant I feel we should opt for some thematic consistency and stay with the public sector - and what better example of overpaid, bloated, self-perpetuating beauracracy than the not so Civil Service. The news now a couple of weeks ago (almost current this blog - so relevant, no?) is that they are beginning a series of strikes, starting with budget day. Why? Are they being indiscriminately fired? Is there rife abuse of power, sexual harassment and so forth perpetrated against the voiceless and penniless Bob Cratchet types staffing the Home Office workhouses? Perhaps they are working 23 hour days and are forced to send their babies down the pits at the Energy Department? Which Herculean task is ahead of them? Which ignoble wrong must these Trade Union leaders right? Surely it must be some great disservice being foist upon these loyal, industrious bastions of our society? Oh no, my mistake, they want another enormous pay rise. What a bunch of pumpers.

Yup, yet again the Trades Unions are going to war with the Government over pay, holding us all to ransom for a 5% pay rise in a recession when there's clearly no money to pay for it. Everything else is fine. There is no point in their existence other than a way of finding jobs for quarter-wits (think Len McClusky) and holding the country to ransom over eye-watering pay increases for their members whilst everyone else has to live in reality (not something with which Bob Crow is particularly au fait) and tighten their belts during tough economic times.

We've been here before.

Please try to remember, when the BBC plaster wall to wall coverage on Budget Day and thereafter of these "vital cogs" in our society explaining that they are being "victimized" by the Government in a public vs private, divide and conquer strategy, and they are just trying to "make ends meet" and "put food on the kitchen table" and "clothe their children" and other such shit, that everyone is trying to do that yet they are demanding a pay rise none of us could hope for in this climate.

And they want it from you. From your pocket. Big pay rises to them mean less money for education, for public transport, or to keep fuel prices down. It's why there is no money for a tax cut for anyone, why child benefit is no longer universal, and why the upcoming budget will be no better news than the announcement of the next series of Big Brother. It's just pure unadulterated greed - and the Beeb will sell it to you in its standard, tawdry "it'll only hurt the children" mantra. Just don't buy into it. Because if you do, we'll all end up paying for it.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Farewell the Deserting Rats

A rare, but sensible criticism of the military here. The grumpy old codgers moaning about the 7th Armoured Brigade's history of tank warfare need to look back at the regimental annals. Regiments get re-roled, as do their other Service counterparts. Tradition is very important in the forces, but not at the expense of any forward movement. Parts of our armed forces are centuries old - but they have had to adapt to survive. We have cavalry units complaining about losing tanks now. Would they rather we went back to horses?

I am the first to admit the defence review might have been somewhat hurried and may prove in the long term to be somewhat of a poorly effected hatchet job, but both cuts and change are necessary in some measure - anyone can see that. If we upheld everyone's claims that "we've been doing x since blah blah blah", there would never be any change and the Armed Forces a worse place for it. The only way is to embrace the change and try to work with it rather than against it. Tradition will not always be your best defence in trying to divert the axe.

As an example look at the Rifles - now one of the most prestigious and over-subscribed infantry groups after under 10 years since formation. The writing was on the wall at the turn of the century that there were too many small infantry regiments and amalgamation and maybe disbanding would be inevitable. The Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry, the Light Infantry, the Royal Gloucester, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry and the Royal Green Jackets chose their bedfellows. They embraced change and created a fantastic fighting unit with a real sense of union. Others had it forced on them and tangibly lack the success that cohesion brings.

So let us have less sniping about the sideline matters, it only serves to drown out the more important arguments over future size, structure and funding. That, too, is not only a lesson for the Armed Forces. Other departments would do well to remember to pick their battles and not sweat the small stuff, or else people will have stopped listening to their cries by the time the real wolf does come along.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Those in Glass Houses

Over the last few years the Clergy have been increasingly vocal in their voicing of political views. The last Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams seemed drawn to public political statements like a moth to a flame. Bishops positioning themselves for high office it seems likewise like to make tactically timed public comment about Government policy. It seems the new spiritual leader of the Church of England is no different.

Whenever I hear a churchman talking about the ills of Government policy I cannot help but think of gay-yet-gay-bashing paedophiles hurling sanctimonious stones out of their glass houses. Just saying - it's the image that pops up. I wonder perhaps if they might consider staying on line for a spell and putting their own houses in order?

Now as Iain Duncan-Smith pointed out this week, it is certainly right that church leaders (and all men and women of the cloth) are concerned for their flock and indeed those outside it, especially the meek, poor, weak and needy that the Bible and other religious texts points out could do with some help. But it is the manner of their intervention that is so unseemly.

A few weeks ago the Bishop of Liverpool condemned the Government because the welfare cuts fell disproportionately on the poor. Yes. They do. Because poor people use welfare more than rich people. It is a non-point. The fact is most public money goes to those with less (it's the hallmark of a generous and humane society), but that does mean that cuts in this largesse will also work in the reverse. It is disingenuous and moronic to pretend it is a ghastly thing or indeed avoidable.

If the Government spent public money on providing Beluga caviar and Cristal champagne for all those earning £200,000 a year, it would be eminently sensible to cut that budget first. But they don't. The fact remains that the rich subsidise the poor through taxation, and take little draw on the public coffers, so cutting their take is pretty tricky. When it comes to decreasing spending (and it is clear that must happen, because our economy and therefore tax take is not about to jump 15% to cover the shortfall between spending and income) the Government can only decrease what it does spend money on, which naturally is stuff that more poorer people benefit from.

The other side of the coin is certainly the question of whether more money could or should be extracted from the richer in society. But, as mentioned here before, with some of the highest tax rates in the world, not only are "the rich" already doing more than their moral "fair share", but they also will not produce more by an increase in taxation. We are already well beyond optimal levels of taxation for money gathering and economic growth purposes. Pretty much all tax rises now are essentially economically self-defeating in the long term and politically- (masked as morally-) motivated in the short term.

The latest church intervention by Justin Welby mirrored these type of comments, condemning the welfare reforms for sharing the burden incorrectly. He is right it is shared incorrectly, but not in the right direction - half the tax collected in this country already comes from just 5% of us and 1/2 of us take more than we give. He has rowed back somewhat since his comments last weekend, qualifying that the welfare system is shot to pieces and requires reform, but he is still out of lane.

If he thinks his words were not political or guaranteed to be used politically, he is far to naive for Lambeth Palace. The church's (all churches, not just C of E) place is not in politics, despite (no more obvious now than with the recent Papal elections) politics being rife within the church. It would do well to tend to its own dwindling flock and its failings than try to draw attention away by one-eyed, economically unsound political point scoring to divert attention and raise personal profiles. If they really want to help the poor, they could always sell some of their lovely golden clothes...

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Horses for Courses

There has been a lot of water under the bridge since my last outburst, and I have felt the rage building at story after story until I could no longer hold back, despite my new, joyous 4 hours of daily commuting rather depleting my hours available to blog. Like a hardened con waiting for his 'basic human right' of a conjugal visit, there's rather a lot stored up.

So where to start? Well we should probably go with the story that had the most direct and dire consequences for the public at large - likely widespread criminal behaviour in one of the most important sectors. A vile underbelly of corruption masquerading in a great illusion of quality forced on the unknowing British public. I speak, of course, of the HORSE MEAT SCANDAL! You'd be forgiven for thinking I meant the appalling NHS Mid-Staffs affair - the report detailing the horrific standards of care and indeed lack of basic human compassion reported that led to at least 1,200 deaths. You see, whilst that seems important, it appears we don't care very much about that, based on the column inches. No, we care much more that unscrupulous people have been selling Shergar in place of Daisy the cow.

Not to belittle the affair, but nobody is dead. Horse meat in general is perfectly edible. Clearly the issue is with mis-selling (and making a profit from selling a cheaper meat as a dearer one) and quality (if you don't know what is in it, you don't know how good it is or if it is safe/organic/volunteer beef). Fair enough there's been a bit of a hoo-hah about this, but the perspective is very wrong.

We don't mind eating chicken nuggets (some of us), and having carved a chicken up last Sunday, I certainly didn't find any naturally occuring ones. We knowingly put in our mouths things which are labelled one thing because of a sometimes rather loose connection with one of the ingredients - think turkey twizzlers, beef kebabs and value pork chipolatas. There are all sorts of filler put in cheap meats the world around - to use my favourite quote that I crowbarred into every history A level essay I wrote; "laws are like sausages, it's best not seeing one made".

Otto von Bismarck's erudite point is certainly true of the (no pun intended) ghastly horse trading that today sees 1/2 a Lib dem policy and 1/2 a Tory policy put together to ensure the alienation of both sets of supporters in conjunction with an utterly useless piece of legislation. It is no less true of cheap meats, and has ever been thus. That someone has found that they can pass off selling horse is no surprise considering how much water-blasted shin gristle, 'reclaimed' scampi and sawdust-based fillers we've probably eaten in our time.

Surely there is a suitable legal chain whereby shops have a certain requirement for due diligence in confirming what they are being told they are receiving really is just that (they cannot personally monitor every animal from cradle to gravy, so it has to only be a reasonable level of diligence). If they have done that (as dictated no doubt by the FSA (not the banking one)), they're in the clear and can then sue their suppliers for reputational damage, whilst the courts can prosecute those who intentionally deceived them. If not, they're in hot water too. No matter how many people in the chain, the process works the same. Not surprising, not terribly important in the grand scheme of things and already perfectly well catered for in law. Move on shall we?

The actual big story though, is the elephant in the room. The Tories are so concerned by their lazy but extrmemely adhesive image of the nasty poor-bashing party that they dare not do the right thing over Mid-Staffs. It seems you simply cannot say that there are some useless people in the NHS. You also cannot say there are some nasty people in the NHS. No, every worker in the NHS goes to work wanting to do good.

Quite how everyone is content that every single one of the 0.5 million banking sector employees in this country go to work with greed and class-based hatred in their hearts, yet cannot countenance even one of the 1.5 million NHS employees not being 'an angel' is beyond me. We are a nation of morons, intent on buying into themes, not listening to facts and making sound judgements. It's how Labour are ahead in the polls where everyone thinks the economy is the most important thing but cannot see Labour have not produced a single economic policy in 3 years of Opposition since they totally ruined the country's finances for generations to come.

The Tories refuse to point out that whilst Sir David Nicholson certainly is accountable over all the deaths to a degree, what is far more important is that at least several hundred medical professionals are vastly more culpable in individual cases. No, the "system" and the "culture" wasn't right in many ways, and top management (and all the levels in between) have to take responsibility for that. However, to allow someone to dehydrate to death in bed, to give someone a vase of flowers to drink from, to allow someone to not be moved for days at a time causing fatal bed sores, to fail to monitor properly the care of over a thousand people (and they're only the ones who died - I dread to think how many suffered and survived), that is cold-hearted, even evil, certainly sackable, definitely culpable and probably criminal behaviour. And it must have been perpetrated by hundreds of nurses, doctors, ward sisters, health workers, care assitants etc.

Sod the "we don't learn by blaming" - I don't remember such restraint (still ongoing) regarding 'the bankers' (catch-all for every single person in the financial services, all misanthropic, all went to Eton (they must have big classrooms), all earn £1,000,000 a year, all eat babies and love Jimmy Savile). There are people in this "envy of the world" health system of ours that deserve to go to prison, not just fired and never again allowed to work in healthcare. But no, the Tories don't want to give the Grauniad et al the "nasty Tories turn on the NHS" headline they are dying to print. Which of course is why DC still won't cut their bloated budget despite the damage it is doing to other departments.

And the other reason we are quiet over the hundreds of awful and culpable workers? Because if we convince ourselves only the chief exec who will never have even set eyes on a single one of the victims is to blame, then as he wasn't also the chief exec of all the other hospital trusts, there's no chance this exact behaviour isn't mirrored in all parts of the country. If, however, we admit the NHS is a very sodding long way from perfect and throwing money at it doesn't cure it any more than applying a soothing balm constituted of £50 notes cures cancer, we might have to look under a lot more stones and find a lot more willful neglect and in some cases, outright abuse. And more dead people, naturally. And we wouldn't want that - we'd rather moan about pony arrabiata.