Some thoughts on things I’d like to see happen over the next 20 years. Sooner rather than later.
A fairer progressive society
The current parties are divided, with Labour still thinking it will win big if it can get Scotland and the North back, the SNP will insist on another referendum before any changes and the Liberals have lost their way after being shafted by the Tories when in the coalition. The Conservatives quite like it the way it is and will never rush to change – it’s in their name.
What is needed is a compromise within the progressive parties so they agree on what they want to have when in government and also what they are willing to give up to get into a position of power – so that they can make changes to the current policies.
We have to remember Germany in 1932 where the progressive parties were at each other throats and allowed a right-wing (Fascist) party to gain power. In France in the 2002 Presidential campaign where Le Pen looked like she could win signs when up saying ‘better the thief than the fascists’ and although he was hated by the left Jacques Chirac became president as they held their noses and voted him in rather than abstain. The right in this country is nowhere near either of those two parties but the inequality we have will not change with them in power. So to make changes we need compromise.
I’m a social democrat and a libertarian who believes in individual freedom and social equality. If this displeases you please look away.
House of Commons
House of Lords
Britain needs to stop pretending it’s 1904 or 1954 and look at our role in the world as it is now. Politicians, TV and the Press need to stop harking back to the ‘War’ and focus on what we can do in the future with our economic base and our substantial soft power of influence in finance, jurisprudence, science, learning, media, fashion and technology.
We need to accept that we are an important medium-sized European country and our economy is not declining -the rest of the world is catching up and overtaking us due to the effects of free trade and the interconnection of industrialisation.
After our exit from Europe, the EU will look inwards with power focused on its core countries – the net contributors – and the rest, who are in for the security and flow of funds it provides. It will stop the expansion of the EU into Eastern Europe and Turkey as they have realised these countries are unreformed and basically undemocratic to play by their rules.
If I had a magic wand I would disestablish the Monarchy from any part of our political process. We are a democratic country that can pass laws without the need for Royal Assent.
Our democracy is not presidential it is parliamentary and our head of state is the Prime Minister at the time. The forces of state power of the police and the armed services need to swear allegiance to parliament, and nobody else.
However, we are where we are and this is a pragmatic approach to reform because we don’t do revolutions, well not since the 1640s, and they are not much fun.
Funding should be for the core royal family only of the Sovereign and their direct family. Then the Prince/Princess of Wales direct family. Not the children of the heir’s siblings, cousins and second cousins. Same with protection and travel as they should be so low key and unknown as not to need protecting.
They have Fourteen public palaces with over 1000 servants paid for by us. We only need four at the most – one for each part of the UK.
A clear line is drawn between private and public and if a minor Royal wants to use a helicopter to fly from London to Birmingham then they pay for it – not us.
All of the above are audited by the Public Accounts Committee with the accounts made public. This is crucial oversight of the spending of the royal family and its hangers-on. The hangers-on are the people who make a living from being in the royal circle and living a good life off our taxes.
I’m sure the Queen has no idea what is being done in her name with regards to the Royal Prerogative and the ability of her lawyer to change laws to her advantage. They are sitting like some Czarist officials in 1900s changing things to suit the way they see the world works and not the long term effect on the crown and its place in the UK.
The Royals are surrounded by this little industry that is living off the public purse. This is a closed shop for white people and ‘old money’ with jobs, income, access to servants and accommodation they would not get anywhere else. These people will fight any changes tooth and nail because they see it as their entitlement.
The laws of this country applied as they do us, specifically:
Freedom of Information Act applied for information on money spent from the public purse
The Crown Estate owns the sea bed up to 12 miles off our country. This is an outrageous anomaly leftover from the past. Their 15% cut of this revenue is unearned and a tax on peoples energy needs. They need to give this and the Prince of Wales ownership of the foreshore over to the government.
Reducing the size and scope of the Royals, with a public audit of any money spent and the law applied to them as equally as it is to us, would go some way to making society fairer.
We should also rename the medals we hand out to remove the word ‘Empire’ as it is very insulting to the majority of the non-white population and a lot of people who think it is outmoded and not something they would want to be associated with.
(Thanks to Norman Baker and his book ‘what do you do’ for a lot of the inspiration for the above)
Reform of the House of Commons and House of Lords – one small step at a time.
Abolishing the outdated and unrepresentative House of Lords offers a chance to rebalance politics away from Westminster – and create a representative Senate of the Nations and Regions. This is a massive change and needs to be in the progressives parties manifestos to have any chance of happening.
The ideal voting system for both Houses is the Single Transferable vote as it gives a form of proportional representation, voter choice and local representation.
We can start with one small step in the reform process that is: easy to do, cost nothing and has no boundary changes. This is the Alternative Vote system within the existing constituencies.
It has been 10 years since the vote on AV and the campaign was rushed through on the back of the expenses scandal and people lost sight of its key attraction. Ensuring that a majority of the electorate in a consistency voted for the MP representing them in Parliament. Vested interests will object to this as they always will but I feel the majority of the electorate will see its benefit and be happy with the results.
Our current taxation runs at roughly 36% of our GDP with France and Germany having roughly a 42-43% level of taxation. That 6% or 7% less revenue makes all the difference as to how we live as a nation and the fairness in our society. Most of this difference is caused by an unfair tax advantage to a very small percentage of the population.
Tax relief on Pension contributions – £39 billion in lost tax revenue p.a.
Capital gains and the way it is taxed – £14 billion in lost tax revenue p.a.
To put this in perspective this is 40% of the NHS or 25% of our social security budgets. Can you imagine the effect on our society of a 10% increase in both budgets and the rest given to Education and Pensions?
Tax relief on Pensions– scraped as its manifestly an unfair tax break for the wealthy
You can put £40K away each year for 25 years and pay no tax on this. Why is this given to some when most of the population can not even think of earning £40k p.a. never mind saving it in a pension pot? Even the FT thinks it is a bit unfair.
Capital gains – treated as income and taxed as such.
This is unearned income where your money works and you don’t. Currently, there is an annual allowance of £12.5k for capital gains after which a lower rate of 10% and higher of 20% (18% and 28% for all property except your main house) and no National Insurance contributions. This is a big saving in tax what is in effect income described differently.
If you are living off investments and sitting on your arse doing nothing you are paying less tax (as a percentage of income and definitely as a percentage of disposable income!) than the person cleaning your house.
This change might have the effect of less private investment available, talent moving abroad and to some degree companies doing the same. I think they will stay here and enjoy the rule of law, a fun place to live, no kidnapping and safe streets, no need for a bodyguard, or having to live in a gated compound.
With these two changes, which the Conservative chancellor is considering, we will have a fairer society without raising the general taxation burden for the middle and poorer members of our society.
When the news outlets cry out “Something must be done” – I’d say OK, but why us? We need a published Powell doctrine for the UK – as a balance against the urge ‘to do something’.
The Powell Doctrine states that a list of questions all have to be answered affirmatively before military action is taken
1) Is a vital national security interest threatened?
2) Do we have a clear attainable objective?
3) Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
4) Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
5) Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
6) Have the consequences of our actions been fully considered?
7) Is the action supported by the people in the UK?
The Armed forces need to prepare for small interventions when the Powell Doctrine has been met and know why they are fighting and what outcome they are fighting for.
Criticism of this doctrine is that we would not have got involved in Sierra Leone – a good war with few casualties except the bad people.
The benefits would be no more Iraqs/ Afghanistan’s – a bad war with an estimated one million innocent people killed
Every journalist should ask these questions before they write an article saying ‘something must be done’ and spell out the issues from the above.
Our procurement problem
Our military has a problem now with the changes in technology being rapid and very, very expensive. Whatever they buy will be out of date by the time it comes into use – so they have to ‘bet’ on small projects that can keep us in the race and give us the necessary expertise to expand upon when it is needed.
They bet on a new armoured vehicle and it was wrong. The Ajax armoured vehicle was designed/ envisaged as being 19 tons and after changes, it is now 40 tons. You know how it goes – that’s nice, how about a bigger gun, how about more amour, etc. That’s ok, but what the ‘brass’ and MOD procurement have to do is say ‘we fucked up and got this bet wrong so we are going to pull this one and start again’ Fat chance we will end up with some of the crap we had in 1939- and after – that was useless.
Ok, so what, because of our inability to say we made a mistake and – I won’t get to be a Major General or get the appropriate civil service gong for my retirement -we will keep on bullshitting about some of our crap decisions.
The one thing they have to get a grip with is – Drones.
Drones are the biggest change all three services have and the ripple effect of this change is enormous. It will also have an effect on the military-industrial complex and jobs in the UK that the defence budget fund. This is where you might get the biggest resistance to change – as the defence budget is often seen as a way of protecting jobs in marginal seats or for politicians to reward their supporters. (The big – empty – Aircraft Carriers and Gordon Brown come to mind!)
Drones mean there will be no need for big aircraft carriers, ground attack aircraft, reconnaissance assets of all types and highlights the vulnerability of tanks. The latest war in the Caucuses highlights the need for a massive change in military thinking and buying of equipment. We need to learn from this war, stop fighting the last war and think of the next.
- They’re cheap. (Fifty drones £50m, fifty planes £9 billion)
- It was ‘kit bashed’ by Turkey from parts bought all over the place in including the UK
- It resulted in the destruction of 242 armoured vehicles and the air defence system
A few ideas that will save money and make the armed forces more efficient.
We are currently bloated and top-heavy. We have over 450 generals or above each costing £1 million a year in services and staff. This is 8 times what the Americans have for a similar-sized service. The reasoning for this is the various appointment we have to supply staff across NATO means we don’t want to send a Captain when everyone else is a general!
It needs to be cut back to 150 – enough to cover sickness training holidays and expansion when needed.
The army has 510 regular Colonels and 33 regular infantry battalions -that gives 17 to command each battalion. Yes, that’s right 17 each!
Also, the Army has more horses than tanks. The Navy has more Admirals than ships. The Airforce has more Squadron Leaders than planes. Just saying.