Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 20/08/06

Rant Round-up

(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 all estates.

Byers blames rising house prices. Well, who's been in power while rampant hyperinflation in the property market has gone completely unchecked?

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 - bloody Javascript!) are so-o-o-o typical of oppressed tax payers in this country that their backers include the chief executives of a number of enormous corporations. This is what we judges call 'a clue'.

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 within it.

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?