Peace

Does trade promote peace?

In this video treatise Professor Pavel Yakovlev from Learn Liberty expounds the benefits of the ‘Capitalist Peace Theory’ arguing that free trade leads to prosperity and world peace. For this theory to flourish we could do well to heed Richard Cobden’s advice that “people should have more to do with each other and governments less”.

The tarriffs and duties that used to hamper free trade have been usurped by more sinister barriers delivered to us by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels and Whitehall. Tens of thousands of regulations emanating from Brussels have eroded our global competitiveness. In the UK we implement around 3000 such dictates a year piling the burden of red tape on business. Martin Beckford in this Telegraph article from October 2010 cites a research paper which “calculated that between 1997 and 2009 the number of EU regulations and EU-related Statutory Instruments varied from 2,296 a year to 3,497.” 

In short Professor Yakovlev is 100% right about the benefits of free trade but we ignore the ‘herd of elephants in the room’ that is red tape at our peril.

Society

A ‘Cobdenian’ Solution to Seeking Work

It was Richard Cobden’s view that “Peace will come to earth when the people have more to do with each other and governments less.

Cobden said this in the context of International relations but the same sentiment is relevant when applied to an overbearing meddlesome state that attempts to mollycoddle its citizens from cradle to grave. The result is that people are emasculated, not empowered — just look at Britain’s high levels of unemployment. The poorest in society have become entrenched in economic dependency, rather than set free from the shackles of poverty. Worklessness is at the very heart of Britain’s problems, we have an ever widening gap between rich and poor, and no amount of complex benefit provision has served to reduce the gap. Quite the opposite is true; the Centre for Social Justice report “Dynamic Benefits” flags benefit withdrawal rates as a key disincentive to work:

The swift withdrawal of benefits, offsetting earnings from work, creates a deeply regressive system that punishes low earners who are trying to earn more. Today’s complex benefits arrangements often result in a participation tax rate of more than 75% for low earners – which means that their increased income from working is less than 25% of their earnings. The first steps into the world of work for many in a low hours/low pay job are all but pointless.

The ONS Labour Market statistics report from August 2009 showed that there are 10.4 million working-age people not working in the UK. Of these, 5.9 million are claiming out-of-work benefits.

Alistair Darling said in his pre election Budget this year that income tax had contributed £146bn to the exchequer and a few breaths later mentioned that welfare had cost £196bn!!

What can we do about it?

Well, clearly paying our taxes and expecting that Government will take care of all of society’s ills on our behalf hasn’t worked. We cannot just pay and expect that this abrogates us from community involvement. Cobden was absolutely right when he said that we need to have more to do with each other — the “haves” helping the “have nots” is just as important as paying taxes, and should have a profound effect on reducing the overall tax burden.

A ‘Cobdenian’ Solution

On the 15th July 2009 I opened a job club in my local town. This small club has just celebrated its first birthday with its 33rd member finding work out of a group of 41 participants. I now run three Job Clubs, am in the process of opening three more, and now network with thirty plus Job Clubs nationwide. I am extremely grateful for the encouragement received from Cobden Centre colleagues in setting up the charity GB Job Clubs, particularly from Steve Baker MP  who serves as a Trustee, and Toby Baxendale  who has kindly agreed to Chair our Advisory Board. Here is an overview and progress report:

What is a Job Club?

A Job Club is a group of individuals who get together on a regular basis to support each other through the job hunting process. No two Job Clubs are alike – run by volunteers, they are local groups, run in, by and for the Community.

The Job Club enables members to expand their network of contacts whilst acting as a support group. A Job Club nurtures confidence, self esteem and optimism all of which are essential in the job search process.

Job Clubs can improve people’s chances of finding a job. Their efforts are strengthened by the sense of belonging to a group and job searches tend to be shorter. 30 percent of people who lose their jobs find another one through friends, family or social networks. Only 10 percent acquire new jobs through Job Centre Plus. ‘Who you know’ still counts for a lot.

Job Club also helps members keep work ready by arranging voluntary work. Volunteering not only provides valuable help to local organisations and charities; it brings purpose, raises self esteem and speaks volumes to a potential employer about the drive, tenacity and potential of the volunteer / job seeker.

Why do Job Clubs work?

“Empowerment” – pure and simple instead of a top down prescribed state solution people are empowered to help themselves. Taking responsibility for their own job seeking in the safe environs of a Job Club works on several levels:

  1. Individual responsibility brings purpose and serves to raise self esteem
  2. Helping one another expands networks, allows rejection/failures to be shared and successes celebrated. The spin off is that it improves social cohesion within the community.
  3. Engaging with the community to help find work is also good for social cohesion everyone shares in the process. It is important therefore that  Job Clubs foster good relationships with local Chambers of Commerce, major employers, Job Centre Plus, CAB, Local Councils and other relevant organisations.

What has been achieved in the past year?

The network of clubs numbers 36 with more in development. Job Clubs have a high success rate for members finding work within six months and often much sooner.

At one stage the Conservative Party’s “Get Britain Working” campaign was responsible for around fifty job club initiatives. Most notable are Banbury and Bicester; Towcester and Warrington founded by MPs Tony Baldry, Andrea Leadsom, and David Mowat.  The very transient nature of Job Club membership suggests that clubs will come and go; however we are delighted at the take-up of the concept by other community groups particularly Churches. It is our objective to support any inclusive voluntary Job Clubs which are free to attend, and not affiliated politically or otherwise.

There is absolutely no doubt as to the effectiveness of the Job Club self help ethos in enhancing the path back to work. Some clubs report success rates in excess of 80% of members finding work (this must be taken in context as they are served by JC+ and often DWP contractors simultaneously) but a number of barriers exist that prevent Job Clubs from truly gaining traction:

Apathy

Many jobseekers are trapped in economic dependency and will not take a low paid job as they do not consider it worth their while and would rather remain on benefits.

Funding and infrastructure

GB Job Clubs has founded a support network for voluntary job clubs and will help access basic start-up funding where possible, often from Local Authorities and most recently with the support of The Church Urban Fund. Most Job Clubs cost very little and require only a few volunteers and a venue.  Some Job Clubs have attracted donations in kind from local businesses.

A start-up budget of £500 buys a wireless-enabled laptop, which we load with Microsoft’s donated software and their digital literacy curriculum, 5000 A5 flyers, and GB Job Clubs “How to run a Job Club” guide.

Our development team also visits new and prospective Job Clubs to help new leaders and provide hands-on advice. The objective is to provide ongoing support and resources such as expert guest speakers on subjects including CV writing, interview techniques, presentation, job-seeking on the internet, well-being, understanding benefits and debt advice.

The cost of setting up the charity and serving the existing network has thus far been met from within. Apart from myself I have one other volunteer Jane Gould who has joined me as full time Development Director. Our ‘not for profit’ company was registered at the beginning of July 2010 and our charity application is now awaiting approval by the Charity Commission. Once granted we will fundraise in order to recruit, resource and maintain a regional development team plus core administrative staff. Where possible we will look at pro bono input.  The charity will also administer ‘The Jericho Programme’, our start-up business finance and mentoring project.

The Jericho Programme

This business incubator has been established to allow Job Club members to set up their own ventures by providing simple access to community help. Often the barrier to a good idea coming to fruition is a small amount of capital and mentoring to demystify basic business disciplines such as bookkeeping, marketing and compliance. ‘Jericho’ provides both by recruiting a mentor from the local business community and providing a start-up loan.

I am pleased to report that our first pilot project is now underway. CK Garden Maintenance has been given a loan of £1200 for equipment and marketing. The remaining barrier for our two intrepid Edenbridge Job Club members is for one of them to pass a driving test. Thankfully, funding has been received for an intensive driving course which assuming a successful outcome will allow the business to flourish.

Two other entrepreneurs are now in the process of having their projects evaluated:

  • A ‘mosaic parties for kids’ concept from a Richmond Borough Job Club member.
  • A cleaning business proposed by an ex-offender introduced to us by our friends at Alpha for Prisons and soon we hope to be a member of the Job Club initiative we are backing on the Isle of Wight.

In both cases suitable local volunteer mentors have been identified and recruited and funds are available for both businesses to launch.

What Next?

We have come a long way in twelve months and look forward to a bright future. The work achieved by colleagues in Job Clubs up and down the country has been inspirational but all agree that we are barely scratching the surface. The new Government, in particular Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions, has an excellent understanding of the issues facing the unemployed and the overbearing complexities of the existing welfare system.

We look forward to innovative community-led solutions that encourage people presently entrenched in economic dependency to take their place in the workforce, knowing that they will benefit both economically and through enhanced well being. We look forward to playing our part and continuing to support “Big Society” solutions.

At time of writing and having recently addressed the Welfare to Work Convention in Liverpool, I am aware of the ‘enthusiasm’ of many DWP contractors to set up and run Job Clubs.  I would strongly warn against this. I believe that Job Clubs are best left in the hands of the people who use them, i.e. the unemployed who are discovering the empowerment that comes from helping themselves and one another. Imposing an overarching structure and prescriptive methodology delivered by the state or their chosen contractors will only serve to further emasculate these determined job seekers and is contrary to the Coalition Government’s stated localist aim for a Big Society.

Chris Neal
Executive Director
GB Job Clubs
01732 866201 direct
07855 421530 mobile
chris@cjneal.com

Economics

Sound familiar? A Challenge to Tribal Politics

Peter Joyce and Geoffrey Sell describe an Eton and Oxford educated Party Leader thus:

A long-term opponent of statism, the view that social advance could only be brought about through the action of the state. His opposition to state action was partly based on the belief that this enhanced the power of bureaucracies, transforming those who received state services into the passive recipients of handouts, devaluing their humanity by depriving them of the ability to take decisions which affected their everyday lives. His firm belief in the importance of participation and the need for individuals to possess freedom of choice resulted in him viewing communities as the key social unit in which individuals could intellectually develop their full potential by sharing in the pursuit of common goals…

He found in small self-sufficient communities paradigms against which he measured the lunacies of central government and the welfare state…

He deserves credit for placing on the political agenda issues such as how Britain should handle her relative decline in the world and how government should be brought closer to the people…

I was struck by the similarity of the Big Society not Big Government message from David Cameron and these quotes from the excellent Joyce/Sell Biography of the late Liberal leader Lord Jo Grimond found here.

I believe it highlights the flawed tribal nature of our politics. I feel truly sorry that the Liberals have abandoned such a rich political heritage for the politics of envy entrenched in their 2010 Manifesto. They now espouse a misguided socialist agenda of taxing the rich and disincentivising enterprise with policies like Mansion tax and more than doubling capital gains tax. Surely we have all learned the lesson from Labour’s mistakes of the 60’s and 70’s that to “tax the rich until the pips squeak” does not work. This is even more relevant now that we recognise the potency of global competition which even Gordon Brown acknowledges now that his claims to have ended “boom and bust” have been trashed by “global events”. Wealth creators can simply up sticks and locate in tax and regulatory friendly jurisdictions. We need to encourage enterprise as well as foster philanthropy and promote sound stewardship.

Nick Clegg says this in his foreword to the Liberal Democrats Manifesto We’ve had 65 years of Labour and the Conservatives: the same parties taking turns and making the same mistakes, letting you down. It is time for something different. It is time for something better.”

If he truly wanted to do “something different” he would have stuck to core Liberal ideas and not filched old Labour policies. With luminaries such as Richard Cobden and Jo Grimond in their past they have a rich vein of truly innovative and now timely ideas on which to draw. Sadly, enticed by the prospect of power they have ditched ideas of gravitas and integrity for a more populist polemic.

If I were to summarise the 2010 manifesto’s for my 83 year old father and ask him to identify the Party he would probably identify the Conservative manifesto as old Liberal, the Liberal manifesto old Labour and the Labour manifesto as – well at best it is a poor attempt to cobble together enough populist ideas to cling on to power

Through it all is an electorate so disenchanted with politics and politicians that if they bother to vote at all they will either vote tribally or be influenced by the televised debates where image not policy is King. Political selection now has more in common with TV shows like X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and in Lord Mandelson’s case Strictly Come Dancing.

On the plus side this is just the right time for efficacious change. Our Nation has been shaken for sure, we have seen the imperfections of the banking system and Politics has been thrown into disarray by the expenses scandal. Yet a wind of change is blowing life into the embers and fresh ideas are being debated. The Cobden Centre is dedicated to promote “Honest Money and Social Progress” – let the discourse continue!

Economics

‘Heroes’ helped to help themselves!

I have just listened to the Budget Debate and quite frankly am growing more and more tired of the political point scoring arena that Parliament has become. It was unbridled electioneering, totally populist and I am sure none of us are fooled.

The implied nonsense that Belize are now cooperating with UK tax authorities to ensnare Michael Ashcroft when he has done nothing contrary to current tax laws was pathetic. Do they think we have forgotten that the Labour Peers Paul and Cohen are also non-domiciled for tax purposes? To use the Budget which should present a sober look at the Nations books for such gerrymandering is an insult to the shareholders/electorate they purport to serve.

I therefore exercise my right to express an opinion and to look objectively at how the current ‘management’ are looking after my interests; after all I have been obliged by them over the years to contribute lavishly  to their misguided vision for our wellbeing!

Quite simply if this was an AGM and I was a shareholder with voting rights I would back a motion to sack the lot of them based on performance. In that sense I cannot wait for the forthcoming election to register my vote of no confidence. I am particularly unhappy at the parlous state of our benefits-driven society. The Conservatives are at least offering some reasonable solutions to tackling the welfare state thanks largely to the excellent work undertaken by Iain Duncan Smith’s think tank the Centre for Social Justice. The Party are undoubtedly more compassionate than they were in the Thatcher era and, unlike Lord Tebbit’s solution for the unemployed “get on your bike and find a job”, contemporary caring Conservative Policy prime facie is to ride alongside!

I watched Channel Four News last night and was captivated by John Snow interviewing some of the good folk of Luton; a large number of his interviewees stated that they wouldn’t vote. How many times do politicians need to hear that people don’t bother voting because of the mess they have made of our democracy before they listen to vox pop and try to understand our frustrations with politics and politicians? Our Cobden Centre colleague Douglas Carswell MP sets out the reasons why people have disengaged in ‘The Plan’ the book he co-authored with Daniel Hannan MEP. They correctly deduce that voter apathy is mainly due to the inability of politicians to effect change. Carswell quotes doorstep comments such as “you’re all the same”, “it doesn’t matter how I vote, nothing changes” and “you make promises but you never deliver”. Carswell and Hannan go onto unpack the route that led to this apathy and make some sound policy recommendations to effect rapid change but, sorry chaps, this is not rapid enough for me so I have decided to go one step further motivated in part by the following:

  1. (updated)Approximate UK Income Tax receipts £146bn versus welfare payments £196bn. However well the Chancellor spins these numbers this shareholder ain’t happy!!
  2. Benefits saved Tax and NI gained per person returning to work >£8000 per annum (source CSJ). ((NI – National Insurance is a clever idea that helps citizens save for benefits, retirement and other social needs. It is run by the Government in much the same way as Bernie Madoff ran his quaint little investor scheme except, as it is run by the state, it is entirely legal. Therefore none of the people running it will be held accountable and go to jail for 150 years when the shareholders realise that all of their money and more is being spent straight away and not invested for their future benefit.))
  3. NHS cost per capita £860 per annum this doubles for the unemployed perhaps because they constantly need to prove they are sick to continue receiving benefits as well as the inherent problems some genuinely face to their wellbeing by being unemployed. For a thorough evaluation, read the CSJ reports.
  4. Pure and simple, ‘helping one another’. do you remember that old-fashioned and now outdated idea ‘neighbourliness’?
  5. The parable of the talents: Matthew 25:14-30 so good it was repeated in Luke 19:12-27.

It is entirely correct that a caring, prosperous and civilised society should look after those unable to fend for themselves but when in 1945 Atlee’s Post War Labour Government began implementing the recommendations of the 1942 Beveridge report they weren’t up front about this creeping socialist agenda that has led to an unacceptable reliance on state handouts sadly not by the deserving in society but the most devious who often exhibit brilliant cunning and guile at exploiting our overly complex system. Oh that those talents could be harnessed elsewhere for good! Others newly unemployed soon see how they work the system and join their ranks. “Up to three generations of some families have never worked and are entrenched in economic dependency” this is oft rolled out, well known and needs proactive solutions. We can trust some politicians like Iain Duncan Smith, Philippa Stroud, Steve Baker, Douglas Carswell and Frank Field amongst others to make their voices heard in the corridors of power but we should not sit back and wait for them to legislate a way out of this mess.

I have come to the conclusion that instead of raging at the machine we should attempt to solve our own problems in our own communities and not rely on politicians and the state.

Why? Simply because problems like unemployment are corrosive not just to those going through the process but to communities, society in general and we as ‘shareholders’ cannot afford to fund it anymore.

This thought process and the closure of my own business due to the downturn allowed me the time to set up a Job Club in my home town Edenbridge, then neighbouring Oxted, now Richmond Borough and soon Sutton. I have also founded a charity GB Job Clubs to train and resource other volunteers to set up clubs in their own communities. This was all inspired by a Conservatives Social Action seminar on ‘How to Start a Job Club’ in March 2009.

Remember David Cameron’s speech to the Open University on May 26th 2009 advocating localism? The Conservatives have been very proactive in encouraging social action as this doesn’t require legislation or an election to implement. Iain Duncan Smith encapsulated this when he said,“Our approach is based on the belief that people must take responsibility for their own choices but that government has a responsibility to help people make the right choices.”

Well said Sir, however, I come from the viewpoint that the Government is not there to provide everything for us; if we take control of our own destinies then we might actually wrestle some control back from the state who continue in their desire to nanny us from cradle to grave. If we serve ourselves more and rely less on state provision we can shrink Government, yep that’s right fewer politicians, dismantle quangocracy, reduce red tape oh boy the list goes on! Maybe in time we can insist on a reduction in the funds we are required to invest to keep UK Plc afloat!

I recently compared notes with some fellow Job Club leaders and between our six clubs discovered that we had helped 105 folk back to work over the last six months. If the cost/saving benefit is £8000 per annum per person we have saved the exchequer and more importantly ourselves as tax payers/shareholders £840,000 per annum. That is the result of only six Job Clubs run voluntarily at little or negligible cost to anyone. That’s right there is hardly any cost involved in setting up and running a Job Club and we don’t want ‘government funding’ or put it another way some of our tax bucks back! Why not? It would probably require our application and subsequent performance to be assessed by one of those quangos or an army of civil servants wrapping us up in red tape and emasculating our ability to deliver.

GB Job Clubs now has 25 ‘Get Britain Working’ inspired Job Clubs listed on the Directory page of its website, www.gbjobclubs.org. If the success rate of our six clubs is replicated in all 25 , we would save ‘ourselves’ £3,500,000 per annum. How about 500 clubs up and down the country each succeeding to get just one person per month back to work that equates to a saving of £48,000,000.

Now I like numbers like this and, as a shareholder, they excite me! Detractors will point out that finding people jobs is reliant on the economy and that £48m is a drop in the ocean in an overall spend of £185bn. I know, but every single person we have helped is worth much more than money. We are seeing lives transformed by opportunity and communities in a small but visible way impacted by helping one another and this is undoubtedly great for social cohesion. This can spread like a virus. Just imagine that, instead of aspiring to be in gangs and earn illicit money from delivering drugs, the new role model is someone in a community who has set up his/her own business and can legitimately employ someone.

I have used GB Job Clubs as a launching pad for a microfinance and mentoring project named the Jericho Programme where we incubate small ventures in communities up and down the country. The first pilot scheme is now underway in Edenbridge where we have backed two heroes from the Job Club to start their own garden maintenance business. It takes guts to wean yourself off state support especially when you have three children as is the case with one of our entrepreneurs but they are going for it with gusto. All it has taken is encouragement, support from a mentor, a small loan for equipment, a van donated by the local council and the goodwill of a community. Cobden Centre founder Toby Baxendale has joined me in funding six such projects in the UK and once we can prove they work we will set about raising funds and recruiting fellow mentors to empower these latent entrepreneurial heroes that exist in our midst.

We can’t cure all our problems ourselves but we must take more control of socio-economic issues where we are able. We will reap great dividends and that has got to be great news for all shareholders!

Politics

Comparing Powerful Words

Chris Neal offers a personal perspective on bloated EU regulation.

I am reading ‘God Stories’, a wonderful book by Andrew Wilson and last night enjoyed the chapter entitled “Concerning His Son”.

In this Andrew unpacks a passage of Scripture that in a “mere 40 Greek words” summarises the entire Gospel.1

He compares this “mere 40 words” of highly effective language to the Magna Carta’s 4000 words, the American Declaration of Independence at 1321 words and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address at 267 words.

Let me add some more examples:

  • Pythagoras Theory – 24 words
  • The Lords Prayer – 66 words
  • Archimedes Principle – 67 words
  • The Ten Commandments – 179 words

Andrew’s final example is the EU directive on the sale of cabbages – yes that’s right ‘cabbages’ – which extends to an incredible 26,253 words!

I found this quite amusing in the context of Andrew’s writing last night but this extraordinary fact has played on my mind all day. How did we ever get into the position that we allow the ‘Eurocracy’ to conjure such useless and lengthy pieces of legislation for us to then implement and police? Furthermore, what does this persistent and systemic interference from the EU cost the British tax payer?

Richard Cobden campaigned for the repeal of the Corn Laws: best we set about EU veggie directives sooner rather than later!

  1. Romans 1:1-4 translated from 40 Greek to 54 English words:

    “The gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” []

Economics

How and why China will flood the gold market

Via How and why China will flood the gold market:

As you read this, the Chinese government is doing an extraordinary thing… something nearly unheard of in the modern world.

It is encouraging citizens to put at least 5% of their savings into precious metals.

The Chinese government is telling people gold and silver are good investments that will safeguard their wealth. After last year’s meltdown in the stock market, people believe it. After all, Chinese citizens don’t receive government retirement money… and they don’t have company pension plans like people in many other countries do.

This is why folks in China are lining up outside of banks, post offices, and the new official mint stores to buy gold and silver (they especially like silver because it’s cheaper per ounce).

Economics

Hands off our banks! Neelie Kroes decrees that Britain must split and sell rescued banks now!

Chris Neal outlines his tax payers’ revolt.

In October 2008 Messrs Brown and Darling assured the British tax payer that we had a reasonable chance of recouping or even making a profit on the £50 billion plus we were pumping into rescuing our banks. Sweden was held up as an example of how this was possible from the state rescue of their banks in 1992. In actuality, Swedish tax payers only recouped about half of their ‘investment’.

The Swedes did not have to deal with an unelected Brussels official able to mete out decrees based on stringent European Commission rules on competition and state aid. Dear Neelie Kroes (pronounced Nelly Crows) has it seems now told Darling that he must sell. Even yesterday Alistair Darling told us that he would take a “longer term view” in selling the state owned banks selling only when “the price is right” and “It’s not going to happen tomorrow morning but it is going to happen over the next three or four years”. He went on to say this “Because the taxpayer had to put a lot of money in to stabilise the system, equally the taxpayer ought to get that money back.”

Quite right Alistair, glad you’ve worked that out.

Nelly last week almost ended the hopes of Lloyds essential capital raising dangling her Damaclesian sword by threatening to impose draconian conditions on UK banks rescued by the government. Nelly has a loud whistle and loves nothing more than to interfere in the game by blowing for penalties and describes herself thus “My job is about acting as referee. If we think of the European economy as a football match, I set and enforce the rules of the game. We make sure it is a fair match and that there is punishment for people and companies that break the rules and spoil the game for others.” I couldn’t but help notice her use of the Royal “we”!

I have no problem with correct controls being in place to protect and encourage competition and can see the justification for a Competition as well as a Monopolies and Mergers Commission. It may well be good for competition to see the British banks split. What is implicitly wrong here is that the timing imposed by this unelected unaccountable Brussels official is likely to cost U.K. tax payers billions by not waiting until the recovery is complete. Why should Nelly have the right to interfere in this way?

The suitors are made up of foreign banking groups, large retailers and I expect Virgin, will we see Spain’s BBA, a Chinese bank, Tesco or maybe Sir Richard smiling broadly as we are forced to sell more of our Crown jewels? They will be buying British tax payer assets at knock down prices and able to make billions out of us going forward.

The Tax Payers’ Revolt

Nelly, Alistair, and Gordon need to be told that they are our banks so please get your hands off!

If you intend to give them away then give them to us, the tax payer, the shareholders and the customers of all the composite parts.

We want a nationwide mutual and by the way we want the Post Office as well!

Our business model would ensure current accounts have 100% deposit cover and savers can choose to lend their money via mutual funds that lend to businesses or individuals within our community responsibly.

We will go to tender to appoint the management of our bank to an operator in exchange for 15% of our net profits, establish a community charity fund with 10% and share the remaining 75% amongst ourselves.

The European Question

New Labour have emasculated Parliament, led us into a federalist interfering European state that preaches democracy but is anything but and betrayed us by denying us the promised referendum and for what purpose? Could it be to elevate Blair and Milliband as European President and Foreign Minister, unelected, unaccountable and even more uncontrollable, or to leave any future British Government and Parliament with no more power than a local authority beholden to top down dictates from Brussels by the same people who have presided over the last twelve years? Neelie Kroes is just one example of how Europe will impose its will.

Tim Montgomerie wrote this weekend on Conservative Home:

I’m told to expect a “muscular” response to Lisbon’s ratification and a manifesto commitment to fight for repatriation of key powers from Brussels. One member of the shadow cabinet told me that ‘we don’t need a mandate to renegotiate from a referendum… A manifesto mandate will be just as good’. CCHQ is worried that a referendum could easily become about issues other than Europe. ‘Imagine,’ said one key official at CCHQ, ‘if we are in the middle of very, very difficult budget cuts. The unions and our political opponents would urge voters to use the referendum to kick the Tory government in the teeth. A manifesto mandate is safer, cleaner, less distracting.

This has to be the correct way to deal with Brussels as once the Constitution/Treaty is ratified then it is indeed a case of stable door, horse bolted. If all else fails then I have found one clause in the treaty to encourage my classic liberal colleagues “the Treaty of Lisbon explicitly recognises for the first time the possibility for a Member State to withdraw from the Union.”

Oh for Cromwell to wander into Parliament and confront this Labour Government with an updated version of his speech from 20th April 1653:

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of our democracy, and defiled by your practice of top down government; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country to the Brussels federalists for a mess of pottage and a title; and like a Judas betray your Queen and country for a few pieces of money; is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you?

Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more sense of democracy than my horse; you have sold our Gold; which of you have not barter’d your conscience for the whips? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil’d this sacred place, and turn’d Parliament into a den of impotent lickspittles, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?

Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do; I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place; go, get you out! Make haste!

Ye venal slaves be gone, not to Brussels by Eurostar but to your shires to beg the forgiveness of the people you purport to represent! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!

Further Reading

Society

Britain’s Business Community – Your Country Needs You!

Chris Neal explains how the reports of the Centre for Social Justice and Conservative Party policy are converging in a direction which tends towards Cobdenism: people having more to do with one another and the government less.

The Centre for Social Justice’s 2007 “Breakthrough Britain” report identifies five pathways to poverty: family breakdown, economic dependency and worklessness, educational failure, addiction and serious personal debt. This seminal work has led to the development of over 190 policies to reverse social breakdown.

The CSJ’s influence at the 2009 Conservative Party Conference was evident with their policy recommendations influencing much of the modern Conservative approach unveiled in Manchester. Decentralisation, Social Action, Accountability, Housing, Welfare Reform, Family, Law and Order, Schools, Skills, Re-training, Apprenticeships were among the topics on the main agenda for this Conference and it was clear that Breakthrough Britain had permeated Conservative Policy on each. Iain Duncan Smith has shown great courage in tackling issues of social justice head on with his team at the CSJ and was rightly acknowledged by David Cameron who said about IDS in his Conference speech “I am proud to announce today that if we win the election he will be responsible in government for bringing together all our work to help mend the broken society.”

David Cameron vowed to devolve power to communities in his landmark speech to the Open University on 26th May 2009 and this again was underlined in Manchester. Empowering local people and communities to take control or as Iain Duncan Smith puts it “Our approach is based on the belief that people must take responsibility for their own choices but that government has a responsibility to help people make the right choices.”

This all makes great reading and when combined with Tory promises to sweep aside great swathes of bureaucracy and quangocracy would have been music to the ears of ‘Manchester Liberals’ such as Richard Cobden. But are we ready for this as a Nation? Has society become too reliant on economic dependency and worklessness after 12 years of top down government? Are some of the poorest Britons now so emasculated and devoid of aspiration that they won’t be able to adapt to a less intrusive state, one that encourages enterprise and personal choice?

The modern Conservative message makes a lot of sense and could doubtless see the revival of our Nation’s fortunes. Prosperity based on production rather than spiraling debt and replacing a culture of instant gratification with one of hard work and thrift. A Government committed to rewarding social responsibility, families, savings and enterprise. Government can create the framework but unless corporately we embrace the opportunities on offer all the elegant oratory heard at the Conservative Conference and the profoundly accurate conclusions made by the Centre for Social Justice will amount to nothing.

David Cameron in his Conference speech on Thursday 8th October spoke about opportunity “I know how lucky I’ve been to have the chances I had. And I know there are children growing up in Britain today who will never know the love of a father. Who are born in homes that hold them back. Who go to schools that keep them back. Children who will never start a business, never raise a family, never see the world. Children who will live the life they’re given, not the life they want. That is what I want to change. I want every child to have the chances I had.”

Opportunity has been missing for the poorest in society and they need more than a lottery ticket to escape poverty. I am not talking just about the children growing up now but the preceding generation, the so-called NEETS and NINJA’s. They are entrenched in economic dependency with no motivation to work as frequently they are better off financially by staying on benefits. Many aren’t interested in working even when offered the opportunity, as the old saying goes “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. Well they certainly know how to drink but they have never been led to water! What would happen if real opportunity came crashing in on their lives? Opportunity in the form of skills training, mentoring and micro venture funding. The opportunity to begin apprenticeships without formal qualifications. Opportunities that can build respect, self esteem and encourage ambition. Some would respond and through hard work begin to benefit from the change in their circumstances, in turn maybe their success would rub off on others.

Top down state solutions do not work as public servants have to tick boxes for ministers and are not free to react to individual needs. Those of us in the business community however are unencumbered by bureaucracy therefore allowed to think laterally and react appropriately to individual needs. Stop for a moment to consider your own situation and how you might be able to contribute. I was inspired by the Get Britain Working Campaign to set up local Job Clubs and can testify first hand the good that comes from people getting alongside one another when facing the difficulties bequeathed by unemployment. I have introduced a second strand to the Clubs where those prepared to start their own ventures have the opportunity to be mentored and even funded by members of our local business community. Mentoring in itself is socially cohesive creating friendships between people whose paths would not otherwise have crossed. This is more a case of leading someone to water and having a drink with him! Could you start a Job Club in your community or support budding entrepreneurs?

We assume Great Nation stature in times of adversity and maybe this deep recession will manifest the legendary but dormant British qualities of cooperation, courage, determination and hard work to overcome looming economic and social bankruptcy. David Cameron’s vision of a modern Conservative Britain deserves to succeed and we must take responsibility to make it happen.

I would enjoy hearing from anyone who might consider forming a Job Club: please use our contact form.

Further Reading

Society

Henry John “Harry” Patch (17 June 1898 – 25 July 2009)

Chris Neal commemorates Harry Patch, who understood the human cost of violent conflict, asking, ‘What must Patch have thought about the loss of life on our streets through knife crime? Young men carrying knives claiming that they only do so to protect themselves, will they heed the words of Harry Patch that no confrontation is “worth one life”?’

Harry Patch, an apprentice plumber, was conscripted aged 18 into the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and taught how to fire a Lewis Gun. He must have been taught well — as evidenced in the documentary ‘World War One in Colour’ — when coming face to face with a German Soldier he recalled Moses descending from Mount Sinai with God’s commandment, ‘thou shalt not kill’, and couldn’t kill the German. Instead, he shot him in the shoulder, which made him drop his rifle. The German kept running towards Patch’s Lewis Gun, he then shot him above the knee then the ankle. Patch exhibited remarkable clarity of thought in this intense encounter and said of the incident “I had about five seconds to make the decision. I brought him down, but I didn’t kill him.”

Patch himself was injured in the groin from an exploding shell on 22 September 1917 which claimed the lives of three of his friends and comrades. Patch referred to 22 September as his personal Remembrance Day describing the 11th November Act of Remembrance as “just show business”. He kept silent about the War for eighty years only breaking his silence in 1998 for the BBC documentary “Veterans”. He was an ordinary man whose ordinary life was made extraordinary by his longevity and his message of peace.

Before Prime Ministers Questions each week we hear the PM and Opposition leaders name and pay tribute to our brave soldiers giving their lives in Afghanistan or Iraq. Can you imagine a list of names that grew by three thousand a day? Harry Patch fought in Passchendaele where there were around 250,000 British Casualties. He witnessed first hand a loss of life that brings a cold perspective to the cost of war.

British forces evacuated an Iraqi civilian casualty. This man died.

British forces evacuate an Iraqi civilian casualty. This man died.

“Too many died. War isn’t worth one life,” said Mr Patch.

He said war was the “calculated and condoned slaughter of human beings”.

“The Germans suffered the same as we did,” he said.

He understood the human cost, what must then he have thought about the loss of life on our streets through knife crime? Young men carrying knives claiming that they only do so to protect themselves, will they heed the words of Harry Patch that no confrontation is “worth one life”?

Whether the conflict is caused by a lad straying onto another gang’s turf, a nation wishing to impose its will on another, or federalists stealthily emasculating the sovereignty and liberty of member states, Harry’s message is to be heeded.

Richard Cobden (1804-1865) had it right when he said “Peace will come to earth when the people have more to do with each other and governments less”.

Rather than seeking to control one another, we should engage. By encouraging free trade and honest money, we will see peace and social progress.

Harry Patch spent the last eleven years of his remarkable life building bridges of peace throughout Europe, being honoured by those he met and honouring fallen comrades and foes.

Let us seek to perpetuate his memory by continuing to foster friendships. We believe in free trade as a way to develop these friendships: The Cobden Centre will commemorate Harry Patch’s Remembrance Day each 22nd September with a dinner dedicated to free trade and peace.

Do contact us if you would like to attend.