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Monday 11 May 2009

Sarah McDermott | 18:35 UK time, Monday, 11 May 2009

Here's news of what's coming up in tonight's Newsnight:

Immigrant Song Contest
Move over Eurovision, tonight we kick off our inaugural Immigrant Song Contest. Going head to head are six bands, with six very different stories - the cream of immigrant musical talent, all vying to be crowned Newsnight's champion.

Up tonight are the first two bands: Font from Iran and Ya Freddy from the Democratic Republic of Congo. You will hear the stories about why they came to Britain and see their rock'n'roll prowess, as they play their own music and a Eurovision Song Contest cover from yesteryear.

There will be two more bands on Tuesday, and two more on Wednesday. Then on Thursday, during our special programme on immigration, our panel of three judges will select a winner to play the programme out.

Throughout the week we want you to help our judges out by telling us what you think and who your favourite is, which you can do by clicking here.

The judges will read your comments and take them into account, but they will have the final say in selecting a winner and they will decide based on a wide range of criteria consistent with the BBC Code of Conduct on Competitions and Voting.

Honourable members?
Also on the programme we will be examining the latest twist in the ongoing MPs' expenses scandal. Jeremy Paxman will be asking if there really are any "honourable" members left in the House of Commons.

Do join Jeremy at 10.30pm on BBC Two.


  • Comment number 1.

    What did the Pope say? What is he reported as saying? Why does the difference matter both for reporting and for rationality?

  • Comment number 2.


    Is that their defence is EVEN MORE SCURRILOUS than what they are defending. It is not THE RULES that need changing, it is the WESTMINSTER ETHOS - the whole damnable charade. If I thought Newsnight had any thingies, I would urge you to bust the whole lie wide open - but then, you are INSIDE THE LIE.

    We need a real champion.

  • Comment number 3.


    Ask any politicians who have the gall to appear, to choose: Fool or Knave (and then - in the name of God - GO). They fiddled personally, or they knew there was fiddling, and connived, or they didn't know.

    This is not about rules - it is about integrity.

  • Comment number 4.

    #2 Barrie

    Wee Jimmie Broon thinks the whole thing is terrible and needs changing. It's a shame he hasn't had any power such as Chancellor or PM for the last 12 years. If he had he would have been able to do something about it years ago.

    Leo the Lion

  • Comment number 5.

    for 12 years blair and gordon thought the rules were good for the country? prudent? shows what his idea of the good is?

    immigrant songs- its a kind of labelling by white people?

    Just one cornetto
    from my ghetto
    we'll like to blend in
    not be made to stand out like a sin
    race and class
    the uk
    its a farce
    i'm made to sing just one cornetto
    by the good doing class, you know.

  • Comment number 6.

    barrie (#3) "This is not about rules - it is about integrity"

    You know that, I know that, but.......Referential integrity and transparency are integrally related to the root problem of intension. Seriously. If people do not see what the problem of intension is, they will never inderstand why integrity is so important (see #1 links). Most scientists grasp this quickly because they strive for extrensionality and their jobs reinforce this. Politicians (and most of the general public, sadly) really haven't got a clue in my experience. That's why religion used to exist.

  • Comment number 7.

    THE LAND OF THE PROFITS sounded like he said that...

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    barrie (#3) Actually, to legislators (and making laws is a lot of what they do in both Houses remember), creating rules and being on the right side of rules/laws, plus knowing how to avoid being prosecuted by the SFO, FSA, CPS etc (who won't proceed unless they think they stand a very good chance of a conviction), really is mostly what politics in Liberal-Democracies is all about these days.

    If you want real change, you're going to have to demand a lot of change, i.e major regime change as I keep saying. I don't get the impression that the electorate is ready for that do you? They just appear to want to moan a bit. mention statism and they get all shirty and start freaking out over Hitler, 'gas chambers' (de-lousing chambers actually, but still, lice are God's creatures after all), The Gulag (prison system in Russian, every state should have one) etc. Sadly, politicians know all this, so nothing ever really changes - just the odd feigned apology here and there, some lofty rhetoric about change etc ..

    But you know all this errr... why........?? ;-(

  • Comment number 10.

    Whats the Caper 2night auntie beeb.

    As I thought Fear, Scared I could with great ease go DEEPER n DEEPER n DEEPER but YOU CANT, Y ? FEAR.

  • Comment number 11.


    People can work out how much enegry they're using now! They just need to write down what their gas or electricty meter says before and after they use their ovens etc. All these meters do is use a bit of RAM etc to store and display readings.

    We really are getting less smart.

  • Comment number 12.

    of your job

  • Comment number 13.

    erratum (#6) extensionality (urbane 'fury' shows up in some of the Parliamentary technical committees when specialist work gets 'translated').

  • Comment number 14.

    there are no honourable members, there never was only us riff raff believing that these charletans actually had some moral fibre about them when the vast majority were just feathering their nests whilst the rest of us were at the mercy of their disasterous policies, which protected them with their index proof, guaranteed pensions, their property portfolios and their greed, their ugliness and their decimation at the ballot box...hopefully

  • Comment number 15.


    "Speaking at Yad Vashem, the memorial to the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis which crowns wooded hills in west Jerusalem, he specifically called for their suffering never to be denied.

    But his remarks failed to satisfy the chairman of Yad Vashem. Rabbi Israel Meir Lau said there was "something missing" in the Pope's remarks and complained the pontiff had not expressed an apology or even regret."

    There you go, they're on to him, now he's for it!

  • Comment number 16.

    #6 JJ

    Once you said I had never done any research. I can assure I have. I have designed metals that 'did things'. Stealth technology, when I was 19, that is still in use today. I can't say what it was/is.

    This was so secret I was just asked to go away and come back with the results. The Chiefs of Staff of MOD wanted it doing, operational decisions and lives would be based on my research.

    Now I was paid by and working for the company who the MOD wanted the 'facts' from. Now this was covert stuff and I worked on my own, no peer review, no supervision.

    Now I could have fiddled the results in the interests of the company. Making things seem better then they were. But would this have resulted in people dying?

    But I was a scientist and carried out each step precisely and totally and accurately to the standards, guidelines and procedures laid down.

    No one has ever been killed as a result of any failings in my research.

    That is scientific evidential integrity. Which may have been the reason I was asked to do it.

    All I see outside is male cow poo. I see police 'evidence' which has no relation to the truth or facts. Just made up to secure 'false' convictions to fabricate crime stats.

    I see a world were those who command the media are lauded for their skill in duplicity and deceit, coupled with their ability to get away with it.

    We no longer have a society where truth and integrity are respected. We have a society where the opposite is valued. Lies and deceit, coupled with the skill of being able to get away with it.

    We will soon all be washed into the sewer. Where our society belongs.

    Leo Lion

  • Comment number 17.

    Why is the BBC spending all this time on one issue - MP expences? There are so many other issues. Yes, this is news, but most of it seems to be a great advert for the Telegraph. It may have a place on News at 10 (but not the top item) but to spend almost the whole of tonight's Newesnight on this issue is just a waste of time and money. Who's wasting the TV Licence payer's money??


  • Comment number 18.

    Build MPs grace and favour apartments in London (for those who live too far away to commute) and expenses would no longer be an issue.....

  • Comment number 19.

    It would have been interesting to find out what Baroness Helena Kennedy -the former paid Chairperson of The British Council - thought about the very curious decision by The Speaker to block release of information on
    MP's overseas trips paid for by The British Council:

  • Comment number 20.

    Paxman - Newsnight - BBC - PR management for the establishment, which for Britain of course is the aristocracy. Tonight, it's never been so clear.
    Carry on, talk Eurovision nonsense when the nation requires the fiercest of examination of our political class.

  • Comment number 21.

    Re: MPs expenses

    George Carmen QC put his finger right on the button in his closing address to the Jury in the Hamilton v Al Fayed case:

    Here we have a [group of men and women] who are on the make and on the take (words in brackets being my words).

    The question how we minions control or stop it? It is so widespread and endemic that it seems to me that the mother of all Democratic Parliaments is disappearing in a stinking mess of filth and insincerity. This stench almost makes me ashamed to be British

  • Comment number 22.

    The story on MPs expenses is of vital importance. Contrary to what your guests tonight were saying, there are a few MPs who haven't taken gross advantage of the system. Hilary Benn is reported to be one. If he sees no need to fiddle, flip, and get the taxpayer to fund his moat dredging, mock tudor beams, portico, and kit-kats, then why do others have to?

    It's infuriating to see these MPs and their apologists blaming the system. They also say, as they did tonight, that they deserved a pay rise long ago but public opinion wouldn't allow it, so they use the expense system as a means to wangle the extra pay they think they are entitled to.

    It is my view that as the public pay their wages, the public are perfectly entitled to say whether or not a pay rise should be given. And they, as our public servants, should accept that verdict, not try to get a pay increase through devious and deceitful means. Because it's not as though they are hard done by. They earn at least 3 times as much as the vast majority of ordinary people in this country.

    All ordinary MPs get paid around £64,000 a year, and ministers get a lot more. That's enough for anyone, even if they do need two homes. If they think its not enough then stand down, there will be plenty of others more than happy to take their place.

    It's crucial for us all to remember that the MPs who brought in the Freedom of Information act then tried to circumvent it and use devious means to prevent this information coming out, to try to cover up this wrongdoing by themselves. We must all be grateful to those who campaigned to get the information, and to the Telegraph for lifting the lid on this and letting us see our MPs as they really are.

  • Comment number 23.

    Hurry up and hang this lot...torture speaker martin on a rack, then draw, hang and quarter the ignorant fool. Put his parts on display... spread out to the four corners of the these Islands as a warning to the next lot...not to take liberties or there will be consequencies...can we do it now please? Love Steven Fry (in a blokey non-gay way) and I do understand his point about there are bigger issues for us to get hysterical about, but he is coming from the perpective of a seasoned BBC luvvie, not your average Man/woman...the rest of us are raging...RAGING!

    I purchased a sofa at the weekend from that old fav furniture retailer DFS (spend some money and do my bit for the economy) Got a good deal and some discount for cash. Intend to try my luck with slipping in the reciept as part of my expenses (£993)...No harm in!

  • Comment number 24.


    Speaker Martin: epitome of Westminster, tells us all we need to know about the nature of our Parliament. I'll say no more on that. Then, considering that Brown is the top of that heap - what does it say about the composition of the rest of it? And that wannabe MPs, having seen the nature of Parliamentary protocol and the party way (particularly: subservience to whip, dogma, leader etc) BEG to be inducted into that demeaning situation, says all about them. Honorable individuals, of integrity and substance, would NEVER hitch their wagon to such a smelly beast. What kind of person just wants to be a party cipher; a rosette stand; an acolyte? Remember Bluebottle in The Goon Show? We have a parliament of Bluebottles. Once in, they saw the sweetie jar and, just as in a Robert Winston TV show, could not resist.

    So what did we get on Newsnight? A 'bit of Fry' (WHY?) defending the indefensible with a diversionary tactic. Is he going for a gong? (I gather he is chummy with Fixer Campbell.) Isn't he supposed to be derribly, derribly intelligent dear boy?
    Then we had Shaun Woodward disingenuously parroting the new New Labour mantra of Blears et al: "Rotten System".
    Helena Kennedy tried valiantly to make the point that Westminster need demolishing, but Steel showed his flimsy mettle by joining in the chorus of 'Rotten system'. (He's not too bright either it seems? Or is he a chum of Jimmy Brown?)

    The Royal Palace of Westminster, its ethos, its cipher inmates and its legacy of corrupt governance, that gave us Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown MUST BE SWEPT AWAY. Or we shall go round again as part of a downward spiral.

  • Comment number 25.

    I have just watched newsnight, discussing MPs Expenses. It saddens me
    to think that these people were supposedly voted in by the People for the People.This is obviously not the case.

    The expression "rotten System" should not apply. Its too easy & too
    late to blame "the System". MPs ,the only thing rotten about this
    whole charade is You. You have become corrupt & Greedy.
    Has anyone thought how much of tax payers money has been squandered
    over the last 6 years. If "Joe Bloggs" had claimed for Non-allowable expenses, the Tax man would issue fines ect but if you
    are a MP , a simple Public apology will do.Thats UK Justice!.
    Signing off, just got to go & work out how to pay this months
    mortgage & to generate some work to pay the bills.

  • Comment number 26.

    The Immigrant Song Contest was excellent. Never thought I would like a Eurovision song contest song.

    The expenses piece was excellent and I hope the speakers days are numbered.

    Michael Crick just needs to hunt down McBride - is he in the country and who is paying the bill is so, if you are out of work its hard to have a long holiday.

    The BNP didn't launch their election gamble (funding?) in a field - did the owners of the venue know what they had signed up to? Was the thirty minutes notice to the media because Griffin fears one of his rivals? Kemp? Darby? But who cares as they are irrelevant.

  • Comment number 27.

    24. At 11:43pm on 11 May 2009, barriesingleton wrote:


    Who do you have in mind to do the sweeping away? And, do you have a nominee to fill the vacuum? (Perhaps a flaxen haired pixie-gnome?)

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    What exactly is the point of the "Immigrant Song Contest"? As it isn't a 'news' story, what does "Newsnight" hope to achieve with it and why is this deemed important? Do we have to wait for the thrilling Thursday-night final to find out? I cant wait and I don't think I will. Neither can I wait for what I expect to be the usual insightful and no-holds-barred discussion of immigration. However, you have to love the 'New Labour' style of voting: "The judges will read your comments and take them into account, but they will have the final say in selecting a winner..." You can't beat democracy, although the ruling classes love to try.

    With this time-wasting, Newsnight truly is becoming pointless.

    It's ironic that, with ever more media outlets to disseminate the news, I rely, ever more, on newspapers.

    Just thought: maybe the audience participation, mixed with a positive portrayal of immigrants (look, they make beautiful music), will lessen any of the vitriol hurled about in Thursday's programme. Remember: no matter what is said on Thursday, think of the music and everything will be O.K.

  • Comment number 30.

    I found the situation of the Iranian group in your talent contest summed up a bit of a dichotomy. Denied free speech in their own country they find themselves in a country which denies free speech to other members of the showbiz fraternity in the shape of the American Shock Jock who is banned from entry by Jacqui Smith.

    I suppose they'd better not write any lyrics which she may not approve of or they'll find themselves back in Iran (unless she's so busy scamming the taxpayer that she doesn't notice). Come to think of it they've broken precisely the same sort of law in Iran that Jacqui Smith seems so keen to selectively enforce here.

  • Comment number 31.

    Superb Birthday Edition of Jeremy. Hope he had a lovely birthday :o)
    Favourites of the night were Jeremy with Helena Kennedy & Shaun Woodward and Michael and David's reports on MPs expenses.
    @ 17 Well I'm not surprised the MP expenses was the lead story of the night - it is a major story. What would you rather have? A story on the breakup of Katie Price & Peter Andre???? :p

  • Comment number 32.


    Mustress76uk (#31) "What would you rather have?"

    Couldn't we have had:

    1) just a little bit on how Katya Adler and those who put together teh BBC NEWS24 scrolling bannermisreported what the Pope actually said yesterday? Doesn't it make anyone wonder what other liberties the BBC might take in its 'reporting'?

    2) Whilst no fan of Mr Fry, I admire Newsnight for its provocative masochism/chutzpah - BBC expenses are payed for by the taxpayer, so, in the interest of 'transparency', if the Telegraph (or one of Mr Murdoch's papers?) is not doing a piece on BBC expenses. Would that be covered by Newsnight with the same relish?

  • Comment number 33.


    I suppose, under the current quasi-reality, the Queen could close down Westminster - that would be a start.

    If what you really mean is "It can't be done" then we should stop calling ourselves a major power, civilised, etc. and just settle for 'pathetic'.

    I have 'form' in the area of trying to fill - more than one - vacuum (and we all abhor those don't we?) I won't rehearse it all here - again. Suffice it to say, I only pontificate on the premise: I see an alternative and, while I am yet functional, I will do my bit unpaid.

    But having any influence in this British-style 'democracy' (without joining 'them') is elusive.

  • Comment number 34.

    Post 19 Dont Go There

    shee has her money/gold/blood

  • Comment number 35.

    post 19 add 34 did I forget 2 mention Title



  • Comment number 36.


    neilrobertson (#19) "It would have been interesting to find out what Baroness Helena Kennedy -the former paid Chairperson of The British Council...."

    Aren't MI6 files excluded from the FOI?

  • Comment number 37.

    Why are the House of Commons conducting a criminal investigation into the Telegraph for leaking the story? Is it a theft if the information in question belongs rightly in the public domain according to the Freedom of Information legislation? Throwing a journalist in jail for telling the truth should not happen in a democracy. If the leader of the House of Commons believes otherwise, he should go and work for Mugabe, even better take his sleazy politician friends along with him.
    As for the MPs exposed in the saga, if their claims are proven to be illegitimate after the inquiry, they should either pay back the money, or be sacked or demoted depending on the seriousness of their cases. Is it appropriate for Brown and Cameron to apologize on behalf of the entire House of Commons, when we know there are honorable members of parliament who did not milk the system for personal gains? Moreover, did any MP featured in your video last night apologize for their wrongdoings? No, they only talked about reforming the system, which is really an empty gesture considering most of them will have been voted out of office this time next year anyway.
    PS Happy Birthday to Jeremy!! Thanks to mistress76uk, I found out that we share the same birthday, hehe *_*'

  • Comment number 38.

    Dear Auntie
    How doo you defend Excrement

    I am sorry Eye dont have Clue and neither doo Aye

  • Comment number 39.

    On last night's Newsnight, Shaun Woodward MP - he who married a Sainsbury - suggested it would be outrageous if MPs were to be means tested. No doubt there are Conservative MPs who have the same view.

    Why not, I ask. I am. I get a paltry pension and pension credit which is regularly reviewed.

    Why shouldn't MPs have to fill in boring 40-page leaflets with multiple choice questions?

  • Comment number 40.



    Nothing short of the Queen appointing an interim leading group of selfless unpaid individuals to oversee a seismic shift at Westminster seems be the only answer.

    Is there really an alternative?

    While the present incumbents dig themselves deeper into the sludge, the extremist armies are clearly mustering on several fronts.

    The spectre of civil unrest is sobering.

  • Comment number 41.

    At least we can sack MP's we cant get rid of Ross, Paxman and all the others that were forced to pay insane amounts for. BBC, Arts Council - put A DAMN stop to them and start really dealing with the terrible injustice of deprivation, lack of quality education and horrendous health care realities not just another news story to get through by an over paid smug-mouth-off presenter pretending to on the side of the tax payer. Why don't we do what the Ancient Greeks [ inclusion of women of course ] did and have a vote on all these matters. Come on why don't you let us vote on how much Paxo et all isare paid ? never mind pretend song contests and pretend taking our views into consideration No, because your all punch drunk with the celebrity la la land money god power control thought Oxbridge edit profanity life. You all prove 100% by your existence that you couldn't give more than a sound bite fig about real poverty, injustice and abuse. The Thrill has gone. Its not! WE need to take it away !

    BTW I take my hat off and applaud Heather Brooke's work on FOI

  • Comment number 42.

    Stephen Fry could NOT be more wrong or complacent about the recent revelations of systematic fiddling of parliamentary expenses.
    This is not trivial fiddling, the sums involved amount to many thousands of pounds in some cases. Like the now exposed behaviour of the banks, this has the potential to alienate peole from democracy and undermine the trust between the elected and the electorate at a time when we face an economic slowdown and the potential rise of extremist political parties. This kind of manipulating could undermine the rule of law and will probaby lead to a reduced turnout in the forthcoming elections.
    Stephen Fry should not be attempting to brush this under the carpet and should reconsider his remarks.

  • Comment number 43.

    Enter Shikari

    Nae bad

  • Comment number 44.

    Gallows MMMM

    Nae Bad

  • Comment number 45.

    #36 is right to suggest that MI6 files are excluded from the FOI. But I don't quite see what that has to do with The British Council - which is
    a registered charity - or the offering of freebie trips by them to MPs?

    Perhaps Newsnight should interview the Vice Chair of The British Council Associate Parliamentary Group about this and standards in public life if
    he can tear himself away from affairs of The Public Accounts Committee??

  • Comment number 46.

    As for Stephen Fry ........ one of the best and most diligent of Rectors of The University of Dundee ......... but quite wrong in suggesting that
    fiddling expenses is a trivial matter. NB Where exactly is HM Prison in Pucklebridge ....... and was there a moat when Fry lived in the village?

  • Comment number 47.

    I agree. This is a mini earthquake at the heart of our democratic system and as the public have lost trust in the banks through individuals greed and watched the government mouth warnings that "failure will not be rewarded" - we have also seen how powerless the government has been to stop the rewards going ahead - and using public money to fund them.

    We now see petty greed in some politicians which is proving to be just too much for the public to tolerate when within the same week we have already been warned about austerity during the coming years, higher taxes or working until we are 70.

    I can recall the 70's when the country felt equally ill at ease with itself, for different reasons, but the general thought was "Who can we get to sort this mess out?"

    I'm not sure who is there for us today, but I do feel we will see the effects of this collapse of confidence in some of our main institutions for a generation or more.

  • Comment number 48.

    neilrobertson (#45) "#36 is right to suggest that MI6 files are excluded from the FOI. But I don't quite see what that has to do with The British Council - which is a registered charity - or the offering of freebie trips by them to MPs?"

    MMMM Not for your eyes only then?

  • Comment number 49.

    Flippin' Politicians.

    Fry is wrong in the sense that this kind of attitude comes into everything else they do? which is more likely to lead to wrong judgements in the bigger more important things? although care for public money meant for the poor and needy, one might assume, is an important thing?

    immigrant songs

    ah its about promoting western values? what values are these then? or must that be kept vague?

    no jihadi rap then?

    Et Tu Polly?

    removal of gordon would be the end of those polices based on market fundamentalism brought in by thatcher whose light touch regulation led to the market crash?

  • Comment number 50.

    #48 As they used to say when British Council ran libraries: "Shush!"

  • Comment number 51.

    And I thought Newsnight was a news programme! If the staff want to run Not Britain's Got Talent why not propose that to management.

    Is there no real news happening? Nothing happening in Parliament? Or could it be that there is an election coming up where UKIP & BNP are expected to do remarkably well - both being committed to ending most immigration?

  • Comment number 52.

    neilrobertson (#46) Stephen Fry, like Katie Price, appears to get air-time disproportionate to his natural talents.

  • Comment number 53.

    #40 The Queen is not exactly squeaky clean I suspect on the second home front - but one alternative put to Speaker Martin by Patricia Hewitt MP
    was the appointment of 'citizens' juries ... one for each region' to be adjudicators on MP's allowances and expenses ....

    She didn't get the chance to expand on this idea however before the clearly horrified Speaker slapped her down as well.

  • Comment number 54.

    neilninepercent (#51) "Or could it be that there is an election coming up where UKIP & BNP are expected to do remarkably well - both being committed to ending most immigration?"

    Will they be enacting and enforcing 'Compulsory Copulation, Pregnancy and Staying at Home (For Over 100 IQ Females)' legislation to compensate?

  • Comment number 55.

    Mr Fry has completely lost the plot. I'm sure many professionals fiddle expenses BUT they are not claiming it from the Taxpayer. The minimum wage is going up to £5.80. Let Mr Fry tell people on the minimum wage who have to spend over a Days wage (for a monthly bus pass) on travelling to work in order to pay tax which is squandered by MP's who earn four times their salary.

    MP's are saying you need high pay to get high calibre, this excuse has been used by teachers (my former economics teacher) and public sector workers who say in the private sector they can earn more with their qualifications- well go and try then. I'll be an MP for £65K. About a pound a year per constituent is a pretty fair basic salary.

    The greatest tragedy is that MP's greed and inability to tackle difficult issues has opened the door to the BNP who will win a Euro seat in Lancashire.

  • Comment number 56.


    Oh dear, more NewSpeaking reporters peddling pseudo-science... As we share the basics of our emotional brain with reptiles, 'emotional intelligence' goes together something like 'politicical transparency', and 'celebrity bashfullness'.

  • Comment number 57.

    #52 Well even after he disappeared from public view for a while after he quite 'Cell Mates' Stephen Fry continued to turn up to University Court
    meetings as the elected representative of Dundee University's students.
    He won a second term for that(unpaid) post. Worthy successor to Ustinov.

    But he is still wrong about this scandal being a trivial matter .......

    [I think many folk will miss the happy banter of Peter André and Jordan.]

  • Comment number 58.

    Fridays NN blog #86

    Hi Jean

    Sorry for the late reply , but I got caught up trying to understand a Austrian School of Economics idea (I post a link to it at the end of this post).

    Back to Mondays post -

    Size of the state in the economy

    "Yes, but one has to look at quality as well as quantity of staff. The effect has been to reduce the quality of staff and thereby increase the ineffectivity of delivery of public services. That has been a useful tool to help justify progressive privatisation or market-testing. This, I suggest, is what has really been going on. Ask some experienced Civil Servants if you can find any left."

    When I read above I thought of 1970's British Layland , would that be a fair a comparison ?

    "Sadly, through low/skewed birth rates (differential fertility) we have a swelling underclass and denuded upper half of the abilty distribution. Lowish ability is like childishness - impulsivity, inability to plan, hedonism etc. One ends up with more delinquent behaviour even though they are technically adults."

    Do you agree if you have a skill and you don't use it for years , when you come to use that skill again you find you have lost the ability to use it and you are less confident of using that skill again ?

    "Have you watched the scaremoneging 'Hayek' cartoon?"

    No I had not , the link you posted to "The Road to Serfdom" cartoon sadly did not work , but I found a copy on youtube. I have not read the book, but I have heard alot about it from peoples posts before, now I have an idea what it was about. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction to find it though.

    Was it really scaremongering.
    Was that not what happened in Germany during the 1920 - 1930's ?
    Should we not be afraid of the same things happening again somewhere (like here) ?

    Austrian School of Economics
    I also came across a video of a lecture at the mises institute about dumping fiat money and going back to the gold standard (pre 1970's) and also reintroducing private banks to issue their own currency (pre 1870's behaviour I believe) instead of the state. I am not so keen on the last option myself, I remember someone saying "those who control the money supply control everything else" or words to that effect.

    I can see why you could conclude they are anti-state and pro free-markets (is that anarchic or good ?).

    It looks like I got alot more reading (listening) to do so I can start to understand all this subject better.
  • Comment number 59.

    Why o why can't the treasury or some govt dept buy a set number of 2 bedroom apartments or have a block of serviced apartments for all those MP's outside the M25 area. So when elected each MP gets his/her apartment , the only thing the MP has to do is Personalise is it with his/her OWN money ... If i am right there is a Block of serviced apartments going up right next to Westminster. Or better still use the spare rooms in the Royal palaces....Chelsea barracks development hey presto lets Put them all in there....

  • Comment number 60.

    #58 The von Mises crowd will certainly keep you posted about reading lists to help them through the crisis .... but Piero Sraffa made more money than Hayek ever did by investing wisely in Japanese junk bonds?

  • Comment number 61.

    MP Expenses

    I normally don't care about people getting paid more than me , even ignoring when some people can vote for their own pay rise ,pension rights, expenses and their own holiday entitlement.

    But it should be related to a persons or a collective group's performance.

    We have been told over the years that MP's need to be rewarded to attract the right people into politics , that all looks very bad now.

    Resolving This Problem

    I think publish all the data and call a general election , if a MP can not justify their costs with their performance in the eyes of their electorate , then the electorate should have a chance of getting rid of them (sacking them).

    It's the easiest and quickest way to restore confidence in who's sitting in our Parliament, in my view.

  • Comment number 62.

    Steve-London (#58) British Leyland:- it wouldn't surprise me, but I don't don't. The 70s didn't seem all that bad to many. There are ways of making good movements look bad - major money is put into PR as you know. I'm as sure as I can be about what's been done to the UK Civil Service. The consequences are inevitable.

    "Do you agree if you have a skill and you don't use it for years , when you come to use that skill again you find you have lost the ability to use it and you are less confident of using that skill again ?"

    The term 'skill' is widely abused. There's very strong evidence that 'cognitive' abilities are largely genetic. It's certainly difficult to apply skills if they're not required in a currupt culture, and we almost definitely have a corrupt/dysgenic culture.

    Was it really scaremongering. Was that not what happened in Germany during the 1920 - 1930's ? Should we not be afraid of the same things happening again somewhere (like here) ?

    I'm strongly suggesting that it was, and that much that we take for granted about Germany in the 1920s-1940s (and later, the USSR after 1947) is the consequence of systematic black propaganda/PR which served two related purposes:- 1) promotion of free-market anarchism and 2) discouragement/vilification of socialism. With the apparent collapse of communism (cf. China!), we have been lulled into anachistic self-destruct I fear.

    One has to look very critically at what the assertions are. If and when one does, one can't come away without asking some very difficult questions, and rational answers are rarely forthcoming - instead, one usually gets a lot of invective and ad hominem nonsense (always revealing) ;-).

  • Comment number 63.


    Hi Neil

    Thanks for that link, Mr Sraffa did wait for a epoch moment for his wise investment.
    His timing is something to keep in mind.

  • Comment number 64.

    Post 36 How doo you Defend Excrement?

    eazy init Excrement (charges 2 the tax payer)

    Excrement Defends Excrement

  • Comment number 65.

    #63 These old guys understood economic cycles .... and in Piero Sraffa's case he was in retrospect right to believe in Japan, planning and Nissan
    - even though he rode a bicycle himself into his eighties in Cambridge;
    and as an old friend of Gramsci always had the wages of Fiat workers in
    Turin at the back of his mind as well no doubt ...... But the Austrians
    are worth studying - particularly the work of Schumpeter on creative destruction, business cycles and socialism ... and Hayek had insight
    even though that cartoon version of 'Road to Serfdom' is overstated.

    Sraffa and Gramsci were of course fierce anti-fascists - and Piero
    was a refugee from Mussolini (they fell out over an article Sraffa
    wrote in The Guardian about banking policy ....) just as Hayek had
    to flee fascism in Germany and Austria. The debates were productive.

    [See: 'The Collected Works of F.A. Hayek Volume 9 'Contra Keynes
    and Cambridge: Essays, Correspondence - edited bby Bruce Caldwell,
    University of Chicago Press 1995]

  • Comment number 66.

    Steve-London (#63) Just remember, they're anarchists, asset-strippers, wreckers-in-suits, i.e. Satanic destroyers of worlds ;0)

  • Comment number 67.

  • Comment number 68.

    IT has ALL gone quiet in the Excrement corner

    Aye wonder Y

    any loose change (not frm me)

  • Comment number 69.

    If the principle behind paying MP's an allowance for a home in London is to allow people from all walks of life to represent us, rather than just the rich why should millionaire or landed gentry MP's be given a hand out at all? Surely they should be means tested to see what benefits they can receive as everyone else in the country is; and if they can afford it, could fund their own accommodation?

  • Comment number 70.

    Cameron has done what I suspect the vast majority of people were wanting to hear - ordered his team to pay back the money or be sacked ..... That
    really does put the ball back in Labour's court with a vengeance ......?

  • Comment number 71.

    neilrobertson (#67) Yep, I reckon it's a brain-gender thing (C6p21, CYP21, NCAH etc). Stalin was busy purging these anti-statist anarchists in the 1920s, 30s and even 40s. I still don't think we've seen/heard the whole story.

  • Comment number 72.

    There is now clear blue water in the moat, one might even say .... what we now need perhaps is Newsnight to start ringing up Labour Ministers -
    starting perhaps with Kitty Ussher, Tony McNulty, James Purnell and the Work and Pensions Department soliciting their views on benefit thieves?

  • Comment number 73.

    Jean 54 to my 51 - Are you suggesting that there is some hereditary factor in IQ? The political correctness police will be on to you. ;-)

  • Comment number 74.

    neilninepercent (#73) "Jean 54 to my 51 - Are you suggesting that there is some hereditary factor in IQ? The political correctness police will be on to you. ;-)"

    To quote the standard text in behavioral genetics:

    "The evidence for a strong genetic contribution to general cogntive ability (g) is clearer than for any other area of psychology.....few scientists now seriously dispute the conclusion that general cognitive ability shows significant genetic influence."

    Behavioral Genetics, Plomin et al. 5th Ed. 2008. p.172

    The 'political correctness police' are either ignorant, or else anarchistic, 'free-market' people.

  • Comment number 75.

    I've never heard any free market supporter say it but the James Watson controversy got a lot of the ignorant & PC out.

    Which one of those the director of the Science Museum was when he decided Watson's belief in heredity was "beyond the point of acceptable debate" I will leave to readers.

  • Comment number 76.

    neilninepercent (#75) People managing public bodies (like museums, schools etc) have a difficult task here as large parts of the general public have great difficulty grasping statements which are inherently statistical. To say that Africans are less intelligent than whites, or that East Asians are more intelligent than whites is a statistically true statement. However, this does not mean that some African people are not more intelligent than some whites etc. The Race Relations Amendment Act requires public bodies to promote good race relations, which prima facie is a very sensible policy. The same goes for males and females and promotiong sex equality. However, the differences do matter when one looks at random sampling from groups or random immigration from countries, or random recruitment from these classes - then the differences show up, and with these mean differneces ather behaviours covary - e.g. crime in males. Discriminating against (or in favour of) someone simply on grounds of their sex or race however, remains wrong, alas, for reasons which some people just do not understand. :-(

    Nick Clegg has just been on in a party political broadcast talking about how angry reconviction rates make him. What makes me angry is that he (and politicians from other parties) say silly things about offending and recidivism, but that won't stop any of these politicians making the misleading aspirational statements which they do. :-(


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