The Judge RANTS!
(Although all these stories have emerged today. Timing, huh?)
Item: Racial profiling of airline travellers has
been suggested as yet another panacea in The War Against Terror (or
T.W.A.T. for short). There's been an outcry, of course, with one senior
police officer of Sub-continental descent claiming that it would
effectively create a new offence of 'flying whilst Asian' (does Constable
Savage now advise the Home Office?).
There's no need to waste our money on creating a whole new squadron
of outsourced officials to do this. Just let the other passengers on
the plane decide who's suspicious or not.
It seems to have worked here.
That's right: two men hauled off a plane because the other
passengers said that their behavior was 'suspicious'. And they just
happened to be 'of Asian or Middle Eastern appearance'. They were
dragged from the Airbus and interrogated by Los Polizontes for
hours on end...before being allowed to fly home anyway. And they won't
tell us what the 'suspicious behaviour' actually was.
I've no doubt that their fellow passengers on the Airbus now have
that warm glow that everyone gets when they've grassed up someone they
don't like the look of. I'm also sure that they're all back on
curtain-twitching duty, well refreshed from their achievements.
By a coincidence, my brother told me a story earlier this week
which was told to him by one of our local police officers. They'd heard
one evening that a pack of youths was on its way up from town to one of
the villages looking for trouble. So two squad cars and the dog van
were scrambled to the village. The officers started their patrols from
opposite ends of the village.
They found the youths in one of the pubs. When approached, they
were puzzled by this intense interest in their movements. "Well",
said one of the policemen, "we were told that there was a gang of
you coming up here for a fight."
The youths all looked blank, and then one of them said, "Oh!
That's that nosy sod in the Jockey" [one of the town-centre pubs].
"What do you mean?", asked the rozzer.
"We told him we were coming up here because it was a mate's
birthday, and we were going to give him a fright!"
Item: Stephen Byers, another one of the serial
incompetents to have held ministerial office under Blair, wants to
abolish Inheritance Tax. He says that it's deeply unfair to people who
have estates of more than £285 000 to have to pay tax. The number
of people whose estates fall within the scope of Inheritance Tax has,
apparently, doubled in nine years. However, this is still only 6% of
Byers blames rising house prices. Well, who's been in power while
rampant hyperinflation in the property market has gone completely
So, rather than raising the threshold at which it starts to become
payable (which is what the Government says it intends doing anyway),
Byers wants the tax abolished altogether. Even the wretched rump of the
Tory Party has shied away from that. Byers' only allies appear to be a
group of mad rightists calling itself The TaxPayers' Alliance
who, if you look at their website (and if you can navigate around it -
payers in this country that their backers include the chief executives
of a number of enormous corporations. This is what we judges call 'a
What they (and Byers) want is for the hyper-wealthy to once again
be able to get out of paying their proper share for the maintenance of
a half-decent society. The tax shortfall resulting from the abolition
of Inheritance Tax would have to be made good either by raising other
taxes or cutting public services, both of which measures would
disproportionately hit those who do not have an MP's salary or pension
to subsist on, or the backing of company directors.
Just as in the huge shift of the tax burden in the early 1980s from
Income Tax to taxes on expenditure, this is a proposal designed to let
the well-off hang on to their loot at the expense of the rest of us
who, no doubt, will be blamed by the beneficiaries of any such policy
change for the decline in the quality and availability of public
services. But, then again, they'd all be able to make private
arrangements with all the extra dosh they'd have.
Item: Speaking of the undeserving, one of the
practicioners of the 'dismal science'
has published an article
claiming that the middle-classes are suffering a far higher rate of
inflation that the rest of us.
Professor Richard Scase of the University of Kent (for it is he),
says that rising fuel costs, Council Tax and school fees mean that, for
these poor unfortunates, the real rate of inflation is
something like 10%, rather than the official figure of 2.something %.
Well, pardon me while I blow my nose.
Look at that list of factors again.
Rising fuel costs? Well, perhaps if so many of them weren't intent
on buying cars which are far larger and more powerful than they need
just to show off (and probably buying more than one car), then they
could cut their costs at a stroke.
Council Tax? They could try 'downsizing' to a house which is more
in keeping with their actual needs. As Council Tax rates are based on
property values, this would mean that not only would they pay less in
the immediate future but that such a move, if widely practised, would
bring about a fall in house prices as well, and hence a reduction in
Council Tax for more people.
School fees? Well, I thought the middle classes say that they would
sacrifice everything to put young Jasper and Jessica through
the very best schooling that money can buy? So why are they whinging
now? They've made their choice like good consumers, and surely they
should have factored things like this into their calculations before
deciding that their local state school was simply not of the right
social cachet for their little darlings, and plump instead for
4x4-ing their progeny halfway across the county every day.
We all have to pay the increased fuel costs passed on to us
with such alacrity by the private energy cartels. We all have
to pay Council Tax which rises out of proportion to the amount and
quality of service provided. And many of us do not have any
choice (either real or illusory) in where our sprogs go to school.
I've no doubt that there is a NuLab 'think'-tank being set up right
now to ameliorate the worries of these over-consuming grabbers.
Because, despite the fact that they are still a minority in this
country, the middle classes have a dispropotionate influence on the
formulation of public policy. This is not only because of who they
know, but because of our thoroughly loopy and discredited electoral
system, whereby a couple of hundred thousand people in less than one
sixth of the parliamentary constituencies determine which party will
hold power. Only when that insult against democracy is erased
will we see govenments which have regard for the needs of everyone,
rather than the greed and cupidity of a small but vociferous group
In the meantime, if the middle classes feel badly done by, then why
don't they try living within their means, like they've been telling us
groundlings to do for the past twenty-five years, instead of thinking
that not only can they have it all, but have some sort of divine right
to do so?