Monday, November 29, 2010

WikiLeaks - Fuss About Nothing?

The Middle East and Korea have made the most interesting items.

I do love the way Iran are taking the latest release of US government files by WikiLeaks seeing it as nothing more than mind games actively authorised by the US State Department. No-one is battering an eyelid that Saudi Arabia doesn't fancy having another nuclear power its neighbourhood so no news there.

It wouldn't be surprising if North Korea has tested the patience of China by failing to do communism properly and haemorrhaging it's dissident population. So if it is true that China is no longer bothered about keeping it as a buffer state to the America-by-proxy South that would make out and out war much more likely.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Liberal Democrats - 6 Months Into Government

The good news for Lib Dems is that they are on the agenda and always being talked about. The bad news is that it's hard to find anyone with a good word to say about them. There is only one debate in town for them since the Browne report on higher education funding and student finance. The answer that the students need to pay more has not gone down well.

Pledge is a horrible word to fall victim to. And fallen they have. A pledge against raising tuition fees which all Lib Dem MPs agreed has been taken as a promise rather than a token of intent. They have failed to create a narrative which would stop this being seen as a broken promise. Abstaining isn't an answer as their pledge specifically states to vote against the rise in fees.

They are going to find this one very hard to get out of. During the lead up to the general election following the first prime ministerial debate the Lib Dems polled comfortably in the mid 20's. Now it is as if the surge never happened. It looks as though they have sacrificed the party for the sake of one term of government stability and a taste of power.

Will they change tact before the next election? They will increasingly find that power sharing does nothing for their aspiration to win an overall majority government in the perceivable future if they are continually forced to renege on their principles.

Their best chance of survival will come from getting everything they need out of the coalition done as early as possible. I'm thinking no longer than 18 months. Most importantly the electoral reforms which Nick Clegg was smart enough to grab responsibility for in his role as deputy. Alternative Vote and evening out constituency boundaries will do make seats easier for them to win. They will also need to get through legislation supporting a couple of their key policies. If they don't then they will have a more favourable voting system but no integrity on which to capitalise on it.

Honeymoon is over, time to get real. Look for the signs by this time next year.

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The State of Student Fees

The problem seems to be a lack of understanding in finance and demographics. This is understandable as the cost/benefit analysis of the graduated workforce is complex. There are two parties which are deemed to benefit from students qualifying at universities:
  • The recipient of the degree
  • Beneficiaries of the services that they have been educated to provide
Ask a potential student who should pay and I've yet to find one that says they should. Other taxpayers have a mixed view that goes the entire specrum of their contribution from 0% - 100%.

Ministers are busy looking to a fair answer to the questions "who should pay?" and "how should it be paid?". As always, the use of the word fair is devisive and used intentionally to obfuscate as fairness is a constant aspiration but rarely pragmatic or even possible.

Of the two parties, the recipient is the easiest to analyse. Evidence should be gathered on how much financially the person gains compared to non-graduates. Halve that then devise a payment method on the sum in such a way as to not prove as a disincentive for going to university.

In some respects all the debate over student fees does little but to add weight to the graduate tax. For example the medical student on Young Voters' Question Time was using the figure of £81,000 for his argument. He was able to do that as Top-up fees and student loans result in an absolute total.
A graduate tax wouldn't lead to a grand debt which must be paid off. So instead of a potential student deciding whether or not to go to university based on a daunting lump some figure, they can do so on a small percentage, 0.5% or 1% of their income.

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

How Did I Miss Andy Burnham Advocating LVT?

Show's how disinterested I must have been with the Labour leadership contest a couple of months back. Turns out Andy Burnham wanted to get radical with introducing LVT. The man has just got way up in my estimates.

Maybe next time.

Guardian article:

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