November 18 2008



Party games


If you go on the county council's website ( and click on Your council/county councillors you will be offered the chance to see members "listed by political party".
The biggest of these parties is labelled "Independent" with 39 seats.
It is heartening to see that the county council is at long last facing up to the reality behind the Independent Political Group.
And it rather undermines the theory peddled by these so-called independents at election time that there is no place for party politics in local government.
As I have said before, these people are independent only for the purpose of gathering votes.
Once the votes are safely in the bag, they join together in a political party in order to rule the roost.
One result of the formation of an Independent Party, is that members who were elected as independents, and remained independent in the dictionary sense, are now bunched together under the heading "Not affiliated to any group", though logic would suggest that those who surrendered their independence by joining a party should have been made to give up the title.
Even stranger is that Cllrs Bob Kilmister and Tony Brinsden; two members elected on the Lib Dem ticket, are also listed as "Not affiliated to any group" and not as "Lib Dem, not affiliated to any group".
Though, before the last election, the sole Tory, Cllr Aden Brinn, was always described as Conservative.

Hard pounding

I am not a fan of George Osborne who strikes me as a bit of an upper class twit.
I should say that it is not necessary to be upper class to be a twit, but it would seem to help.
But the attack on Osborne, for daring to say that Sterling could be undermined by the Chancellor's plans to fund economy-boosting tax cuts by increased borrowing, smacks of Stalinism.
Labour MPs have been queuing up to claim that Osborne's remarks break some long-standing convention that opposition politicians don't talk down the pound.
If such a convention exists it should be scrapped in the interests of free speech.
What these labour MPs fear is that Osborne might be right, and they are setting him up as the fall guy, just in case.
However, they face an uphill task if expect anyone to believe that the sophisticated operators of the world's currency markets will take a blind bit of notice of anything Osborne has to say.
In any case, the pound had already fallen 25% against the dollar before Boy George even opened his mouth.

Double taxation


Several readers have contacted me about the county council's proposed "tax" on new houses (A tax by any other name).
One of them was an estate agent who, not surprisingly, agrees with me that, in the present financial climate, an £11,000 charge on a new house would be economic lunacy.
As he points out, such a impost would most affect those developments which are of marginal profitability.
An extra eleven grand per dwelling would tip such sites into loss-making territory and they wouldn't go ahead.
That, of course, would mean less land coming forward for development - exactly the effect of previous attempts by government to squeeze cash out of housing land by means of such failed wheezes as betterment levy and development land tax.
There is an important point in this: that changes in economic activity take place at the margins.
If the price of milk drops by a penny a litre, all dairy farmers grumble, but not all of them stop producing milk.
The more efficient can still make it pay, even if not as well as before.
The people who stop production are those on the margin between profit and loss.
Now, if you you have a nice flat five acre site on the edge of town, worth a few million quid with planning permission, you might be perfectly willing to pay the tax.
But someone who owns a sloping site with poor access might find such a tax pushes the site into negative territory.
In any case, sellers of development land pay capital gains tax; housebuilders pay tax on their profits; and owner-occupiers pay council and national taxes to pay for schools and roads.
And, as another e-mailer points out, a tax on new housing is unfair and discriminatory because existing houses, which are immune from this new tax, also put a burden on education and transport infrastructure.


A couple of weeks ago, Cllr Michael Williams persuaded Grumpette to drive over to Tenby to listen to a speech by Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthenshire East.
The sacrifices I make for my art!
Not really, because I am something of an admirer of Mr Price, who, you may remember, attempted to have Tony Blair impeached for misleading Parliament in the run-up to the war in Iraq.
Unfortunately, the event turned out to be something of a disappointment because, in common with all the other political parties, Plaid seems to have the ability to believe in six impossible things before breakfast.
To give just two examples it believes in a national economic plan and encouraging entrepreneurship, and it manages, by some feat of intellectual legerdemain, to embrace both the idea of an independent Wales with membership of the EU.
The problem is that entrepreneurs are free spirits who like o follow their own plans - once you try to make them fit within your overarching centralised plan they cease to be entrepreneurs.
As for the EU, if some superior body is the source of 80% of your laws, as is the case with the present UK, you cannot be said to be independent in any meaningful sense.
Plaid is not alone in the capacity for double-think - I am beginning to wonder if it is an essential skill for those seeking political success - because I heard Barak Obama saying during an interview on the US government's plans to take over the banks' toxic mortgage debts, that he would be looking to protect the interests of the taxpayers, who now owned these dodgy mortgages, while shielding home owners from foreclosure.
Now, the last line of defence for holders of non-performing mortgages seeking to retrieve their money, or some of it, is to seize and sell the property.
As many of these US loans are to people who are described as NINJAS (No Income, No Jobs or Assets) it would seem that foreclosure might be the only way for the US taxpayers to get their money back.
So, it is contradictory to claim that you can protect both sided of the bargain.

Near neighbours

I was born and brought up in Cumberland (now Cumbria) with Scotland to the north and Yorkshire to the south east.
Both these regions are famous for the tight-fistedness of their inhabitants, so you would have thought your money would be safe with HBOS (Halifax Bank of Scotland).
Perhaps the Scots and the Tykes (motto: If thou does owt for nowt, do it for thisen) have loosened up since I left.
I now find myself living next door to the Cardis; a people of legendary meanness.
What I do not recall is our neighbours being the subject of the sort of jokes that are frequently heard about the Cardis.
My favourite, until recently, was the one about the pub in Cardigan which was celebrating its hundredth birthday by selling beer at a penny a pint - the same as it had been when it originally opened.
Clearly the landlord was not a local man.
A holiday maker was swilling back pint after pint when he noticed a group of locals sitting in a corner sipping from half pint glasses.
"Your regulars don't seem to be entering into the spirit of things", he said to the landlord.
"No", the landlord replied, "They're saving themselves for eight o'clock when happy hour starts".
But that has to give best to story a Cardigan man told me about a visit to an uncle who lived in the town.
When he entered the living room, he found the old man up a step-ladder stripping wall paper.
"Redecorating?" the nephew enquired.
"No! Moving" his uncle replied.


Out of Africa

It seems that news that Old Grumpy can only afford the cheapest of cheapest red wine has reached the dark continent (Missed opportunity) and people there are keen to help me through the credit crunch.
The other day I received an e-mail from one Sani Umar containing an offer that seems too good to refuse.
If this comes off, there'll be no more £3.99 Chilean merlot for me.

Good day my dear friend,

I assumed you are in good health with your family.

I am Mr. Sani Umar I work as the Foreign Operations Manager with the African Development Bank Group here in Burkina Faso. Although the world is very small place and hard place to meet people because you don't know who to trust or believe, but as I have developed the trust in you after my fasting and praying, i made up my mind to confide this confidential business suggestion to you.

There is an over due unclaimed sum of Thirteen Million Two Hundred Thousand United States Dollars ($13,200,000.00) in my bank, belonging to one of our dead foreign customers. There were no beneficiaries stated concerning these funds. Therefore, your request as a foreigner is necessary to apply for the claim and release of the fund smoothly into your reliable bank account as the Foreign Business Partner to the deceased.

On the transfer of this fund in your account, you will take 32% {US$4,224,000.00} as your share from the total fund, 5% {US$660,000.00}, will be shared to Charitable Organizations, Motherless Babies homes,disabled helpless people in both our country and the balance will be for me.

Please if you are really sure of your trustworthy, integerity, accountability and confidentiality on this deal, contact me with your profiles inclusing private telephone (Mobile) number for easy communication.

I am looking forward to read from you soones

Yours faithfully,
Mr Sani Umar.

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