The hypocrisy of tuition fees

October 12, 2010

I feel that all those smug people who, having themselves enjoyed a free tertiary education, are now so determined that students should pay for their education, should expiate their hypocrisy by belatedly paying up for theirs. Come on now, Blair and Brown, Cameron and Osborne, Clegg and Cable, even ‘Lord’ Browne, and all the rest of you comfortable, sanctimonious high-achievers. You’ve all had the benefits of being taught, for free, at the finest universities. You all have done well as a consequence. Let’s see you front up now, by volunteering to pay an open-ended, retrospective tax for the full effective period of your earnings since then – based upon whatever rate you elect to impose on the nation’s young. If you fail to do so, I for one will brand you hypocrite.

To expect students to go deep into debt, in their teens, is merely another form of the previously widely-derided principle of hypothecation. Students ‘pay’ for their education in the form of tax paid over a lifetime of work. The more successful pay more because they earn more; well, durrrr! Education is an investment by the nation. We don’t ‘need’ media studies graduates, golf-course managers and charity-workers. We will need properly technically-skilled graduates in useful disciplines which will enhance the country’s earnings over the coming decades.

I have boys in their teens; one wants to study engineering and the other seems to be heading towards a career in medicine. In the absence of a sensible, far-sighted educational policy, I will be tempted to advise them to take the education, and then emigrate from this blighted, benighted, short-sighted country. Their skills will be in demand around the world. As far as I am concerned, subsequent governments can whistle for repayment of their loans. Let them sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.

When I dabbled on the edge of economics, many years ago, one of the earliest lessons learned was that nobody can borrow cheaper than a government. Let’s see the government have the courage to invest in education. If everybody’s tax rate has to go up a notch, who can possibly object? We are, after all, all in this together.

May 12, 2010


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Politicians on the dole

March 11, 2009

When the present government gets heaved out on its collective ear, there are going to be masses of relatively experienced ‘politicians’ (for want of a better word) who are going to be chucked out on the street. So far so obvious.

When the Tories going their thoroughly deserved kicking in 1997, it didn’t matter all that much. The members of the Cabinet were, for the most part, in their 50s and 60s.  They simply shimmered off to the House of Lords and a clutch of non-exec sinecures and chairmanships of worthy public bodies . They’re still around, copping a few quid as they nod sagely through Newsnight and multitudinous ‘recent history’ programmes. Their record was, for the most part, successful and they were able to capitalise on it.

This mob, by contrast, are mostly in their 40s and early 50s – with some even younger. They are, at the moment, staring at a decade either out of power or, in many cases, out of a seat altogether. Their record is meagre at best, and thoroughly discredited for the most part. They will leave behind a nation deep in decades of debt, loathed throughout the Muslim world, despised elsewhere, mired in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, with a declining financial services industry and a vanishing manufacturing base, facing a massive energy gap as the power stations approach the end of their economic lives with no replacements in sight, and with a thoroughly confused transport policy. Education is wretched. Health services are only modestly better.  We are, albeit temporarily (because I’m an optimist), utterly phuqt!

So, we have people like the Milibands, Mr & Mrs Balls, Purnell, Burnham, the risible Home Secretary, the preposterous Blears, Eagles, Primarolo. All very clever, but with 10% of 3/8ths of the cube root of zero common-sense.  They have only a decade of dreadful mistakes as their collective and individual CVs.  They have the implied seniority of middle management, not PLC directors.  They have been indulged and flattered, with no effective brake applied to their simplistic initiatives, and no element of financial objectivity or discipline.  They have no personal hinterland. They have done nothing but politics all their little lives.  The career progression is so limited and limiting: university, non-job, local politics, MP and then, in some cases, the Cabinet.  By the time they can start thinking about a come-back, there will be another generation of gingerbread men and women climbing over them. What will they do?

I mean, I don’t really care too much. I’d rather like them to sit in sackcloth and ashes on College Green for a decade, for the country to throw rotten fruit at, as an admonitory lesson to their replacements. Nevertheless, what will all these useless people do?

Will The Today Programme be generously expanded to 6 hours daily, to give them all a chance to grumble self-righteously and grab a free taxi ride to Broadcasting House, a coffee and a doughnut? Are there enough quangos for them all to sneak a chairmanship? No PLC board is going to want a single one of the talentless, opinionated bunch. Gosh, isn’t it going to be fun to watch them wriggle. The infighting for status, to say nothing of any dreams of leadership, will be joyful to behold.

Popcorn, anyone?

I really don’t want this!

November 24, 2008

That rascal Iain Dale has changed the comment rules on www.order-order.com , which necessitates it, however.  I am not so far up myself that I feel the need to clog the interweb’s bandwidth with daily bombast, opinion and drivel, although I do enjoy joining in the cheerful knockabout of a handful of political and other blogs.

Since this stumbling apology for a blog is now open, despite my long resistance to writing one, let me just make this observation for today; if only because The Times has chosen not to accord it space on the Letters Page (even without the add-on gratuitous swipe at wee, laughable, strutting Norman!):-

How poignant it was to see Kenneth Clarke propose a temporary reduction in VAT to 15%, as he did in his interview in The Times on Saturday – and as now seems inevitable, from the weekend press, will be announced later today.  Those among us who do not have goldfish memories will recall vividly that it was his immediate predecessor as Chancellor, the egregious Norman Lamont, who increased VAT in 1991 from 15% to 17.5% as a strictly limited, one-year expedient to bridge the funding gap between the abolition of the Poll Tax (sorry, Community Charge) and the introduction of the Council Tax.  This temporary measure was introduced to allow a per capita £140 reduction in the Poll Tax (ooops, there I go again).

Lamont did not restore the VAT rate to 15%, however, and neither did Clarke when he replaced him in 1993.

May the reduction, should it come, prove to be just as temporary as the increase.

I am a determined Clarke-ist, by the way, and cannot understand why the Conservative Party failed utterly to select the one politician who could have skewered Blair and Brown at every Parliamentary opportunity.  He was the one man with the blend of gravitas, experience, intelligence and humour who could have got under their skins and exposed their lies.  What did we get instead?  Hague 5 years too early, Duncan Smith and then Howard 5 years too late.  Now Cameron with no gravitas, no experience, plentiful intelligence and a laboured and uneasy humour.  His advantage is now slipping rapidly away, and I fear that the Tories are losing both their way and the plot.

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November 24, 2008

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