Boris Johnson thinks mansion tax is ‘absurd’

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry the Mayor of London said: "The OECD now officially rates Britain as a high tax country with average earners now paying more than Sweden.

"We should have taxes that are low but fair and it is absurd to suddenly be whacking up taxes on cash poor people who happen to inhabit expensive houses in London when firms like Google are paying zero," he added.

His speech comes after David Cameron promised to sweep away rules, reviews and checks that are holding business back.

Mr Johnson urged the Government to go further in its efforts to support an "Age of Enterprise" by cutting personal tax rates and exempting new homes from stamp duty.

Not a single penny more for the EU’s begging bowl

This is a budget so riddled with fraud and malpractice that in 18 years it has never been given a clean bill of health by the European Court of Auditors. Bear in mind, moreover, that this Court is itself an EU institution, with nothing like the resources it needs to invigilate the local politicians, farmers, business people and all-purpose crooks who are in receipt of funding from us all.

According to this toothless Luxembourg watchdog, there are at least 5.2 billion euros that go astray every year — and the proportion is rising again, not falling. The bureaucrats speak plaintively of a certain Spanish sheep farmer they came across. “A farmer was granted a special premium for 150 sheep. The court found that the beneficiary did not have any sheep. The corresponding payment was irregular.”

Irregular! It wasn’t irregular — it was a swindle. It was theft from you and me. You only have to imagine the ludicrous scene, of Luxembourg officials scrabbling over some dusty Spanish hillside in search of 150 non-existent merinos to see that they have only scratched the surface of the abuse.

There are fields that are forests that are meant to be farmed. There are forests that are meant to be fields, and we are paying subsidy for both. Last year the Commission itself confessed that EU spending on Romania — €515 million — had been almost all the subject of fraud or abuse of one kind or another. Hand on heart, said Brussels, it looked as though only about 10 per cent of the cash had got through to legitimate destinations. The EU budget will never be properly policed because the cash doesn’t properly belong to any nation — it belongs to “everybody”. And since it belongs to everybody, each individual country cynically reasons that there isn’t that much harm if its own citizens quietly loot as much of it as they reasonably can.

Which leaves it to the central EU institutions to try to police this Ottoman structure. They don’t have a hope. It is no particular comfort to learn that the Health Commissioner, a Maltese called John Dalli, has just resigned under a cloud, amid allegations of an attempt to rig a decision in favour of some Swedish snuff tycoons. Meanwhile, here are the officials of the EU Commission, arriving in Athens in their taxpayer-funded executive jets, with their message of hardship for the people of Greece. They wag their fingers at the Greeks, and tell them that they must mend their ways.

They must stop the waste and the fraud, says the EU Commission, before they have any hope of more bail-out funds. And yet these same EU officials preside over a vast and larcenous abuse of public funds, and now have the effrontery to tell us that they need a massive above-inflation increase to pay, inter alia, for the great unreformed caravanserai between Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg.

There is absolutely nothing to be lost from a veto. It may be impossible to cut the budget, since there is no other country actively proposing this excellent option. But there is no reason at all why EU spending should not be frozen exactly where it is.

The worst that can happen is that the existing budget will be rolled over, a month at a time. It is time for David Cameron to put on that pineapple-coloured wig and powder blue suit, whirl his handbag round his head and bring it crashing to the table with the words no, non, nein, neen, nee, ne, ei and ochi, until they get the message.

Not a single penny more for the EU’s begging bowl

This is a budget so riddled with fraud and malpractice that in 18 years it has never been given a clean bill of health by the European Court of Auditors. Bear in mind, moreover, that this Court is itself an EU institution, with nothing like the resources it needs to invigilate the local politicians, farmers, business people and all-purpose crooks who are in receipt of funding from us all.

According to this toothless Luxembourg watchdog, there are at least 5.2 billion euros that go astray every year — and the proportion is rising again, not falling. The bureaucrats speak plaintively of a certain Spanish sheep farmer they came across. “A farmer was granted a special premium for 150 sheep. The court found that the beneficiary did not have any sheep. The corresponding payment was irregular.”

Irregular! It wasn’t irregular — it was a swindle. It was theft from you and me. You only have to imagine the ludicrous scene, of Luxembourg officials scrabbling over some dusty Spanish hillside in search of 150 non-existent merinos to see that they have only scratched the surface of the abuse.

There are fields that are forests that are meant to be farmed. There are forests that are meant to be fields, and we are paying subsidy for both. Last year the Commission itself confessed that EU spending on Romania — €515 million — had been almost all the subject of fraud or abuse of one kind or another. Hand on heart, said Brussels, it looked as though only about 10 per cent of the cash had got through to legitimate destinations. The EU budget will never be properly policed because the cash doesn’t properly belong to any nation — it belongs to “everybody”. And since it belongs to everybody, each individual country cynically reasons that there isn’t that much harm if its own citizens quietly loot as much of it as they reasonably can.

Which leaves it to the central EU institutions to try to police this Ottoman structure. They don’t have a hope. It is no particular comfort to learn that the Health Commissioner, a Maltese called John Dalli, has just resigned under a cloud, amid allegations of an attempt to rig a decision in favour of some Swedish snuff tycoons. Meanwhile, here are the officials of the EU Commission, arriving in Athens in their taxpayer-funded executive jets, with their message of hardship for the people of Greece. They wag their fingers at the Greeks, and tell them that they must mend their ways.

They must stop the waste and the fraud, says the EU Commission, before they have any hope of more bail-out funds. And yet these same EU officials preside over a vast and larcenous abuse of public funds, and now have the effrontery to tell us that they need a massive above-inflation increase to pay, inter alia, for the great unreformed caravanserai between Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg.

There is absolutely nothing to be lost from a veto. It may be impossible to cut the budget, since there is no other country actively proposing this excellent option. But there is no reason at all why EU spending should not be frozen exactly where it is.

The worst that can happen is that the existing budget will be rolled over, a month at a time. It is time for David Cameron to put on that pineapple-coloured wig and powder blue suit, whirl his handbag round his head and bring it crashing to the table with the words no, non, nein, neen, nee, ne, ei and ochi, until they get the message.

Smearing an innocent man’s name is the real tragedy here

You know, I am afraid that they still don’t get it. The people at the BBC show no real sign of understanding what they have done wrong, let alone making amends. We have heard an awful lot in the past 24 hours about the personal calvary of George Entwistle. We know of the agony of Lord Patten, who has told us that the resignation of Entwistle was “one of the saddest evenings” of his public life. We have been told of the grief of hundreds of BBC journalists, the anxiety, the anger, their fear for their jobs. Everyone at the BBC is agreed on one thing: that it is a “tragedy”. Yes, it is a tragedy for the poor old BBC.

To call someone a paedophile is to place them, these days, in a special category. We loathe paedophiles, as a society, because we know more and more about their crimes. They groom and manipulate vulnerable young people. They are cunning, plausible, selfish and ruthless. They cause appalling physical and psychological pain to children – people who should be getting protection and support.

Paedophiles, therefore, do the rest of humanity a sort of service, because they confer moral superiority on absolutely everyone else. A convicted paedophile is a “nonce”, and a “nonce” is the person that every other prisoner – burglar, rapist, murderer, you name it – can spit on and feel good about it. Paedophiles are there to be jostled, beaten up and shanked in the showers, and the rest of the prison population will whistle and look the other way.

If so, it shows utter contempt for its listeners and for the intelligence of the British public. On the afternoon of Friday November 2, it was “tweeted” that a senior Tory politician was to be exposed on Newsnight as a paedophile. It wasn’t a vague allegation about a “ring” of paedophiles. It was about a particular individual, who was supposed to have committed a series of specific and vile crimes against a former occupant of the Bryn Estyn children’s home in Wales. “McAlpine” was the name of the mystery millionaire who had surfaced in the 2000 Waterhouse report into the scandal. “McAlpine” was the name the programme’s makers fed out to various Left-wing tweeters and bloggers; and within hours of Newsnight’s bizarre broadcast, people such as Sally Bercow and George Monbiot were pointing the finger at the bewildered and utterly blameless figure of Alistair McAlpine, 70, who is spending his retirement running a B&B in southern Italy.

You can’t really blame the tweeters and the bloggers. “McAlpine” was the steer they were given, and it was Alistair McAlpine that Newsnight had in its sights. It was no protection of McAlpine that he wasn’t explicitly named in the first broadcast – and it should be no defence of Newsnight, either. A twitstorm, a blogstorm, an internet hurricane howled around the former Tory treasurer. The whole of Fleet Street started to torment their readers with ever more prominent stories about this Top Tory Paedo, while those who used the web could see who was intended. The Prime Minister was dragged in, and immediately instituted an inquiry.

The whole thing became so unbearable that Lord McAlpine was forced to break cover, and point out that Newsnight was wrong. It was not just wrong: it was a slander more cruel, revolting and idiotic than anything perpetrated by the News of the World. The programme makers hadn’t taken account of the real anxieties about the reliability of their witness, as expressed by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, who led the inquiry into Bryn Estyn. They hadn’t shown him a picture of McAlpine. They hadn’t even put the allegations to McAlpine! Unbelievable! And why not? It was, as they say, a story that was too good to check. It wasn’t just that it showed Newsnight taking up the cudgels against paedophiles, after the embarrassment of the axed Savile exposé. It went one better. It pushed all the buttons. It was like a dream come true for any vaguely resentful and Left-of-centre BBC producer. It was a chance to pour unlimited ordure on a man who – in their book – jolly well had it coming. He is rich, he is a toff, he is a Lord, he is a Tory, and – joy of joys – he is an EX-AIDE TO MRS THATCHER.

The journalism was so shoddy, so cretinous, so ready to let the wish be father to the thought that the Beeb really now has to show that Newsnight was not acting with malice. The BBC cannot minimise what the programme has done. There will be people out there who will continue to believe that there is no smoke without fire, that Newsnight would never have broadcast such allegations unless there was something in it. The BBC owes it to McAlpine to grovel and keep grovelling until the public gets the message. Everyone associated with the “paedophile” segment on Newsnight should be sacked instantly. Then Chris Patten should make a penitential pilgrimage to McAlpine’s Italian B&B, on his knees and scourging himself with a copy of the BBC charter. This tragedy is not about the BBC; it is about the smearing of an innocent man. The BBC needs to grasp that first.

Listen up, Mitt – because I’ve got the key to the White House

This is the stage at which you would expect people to start to rally behind the incumbent, to stick with what they know, and to decide that Obama may not have been as dazzling as he promised, but he has been far from disastrous and deserves another term. It is Romney, therefore, who needs to show something extra – and I suggest that extra ingredient is a sudden flash of global statesmanship, a surprising and gratifying awareness of the granular detail of American foreign policy.

Look at the world, rather than Ohio, and there is nothing remotely close about this race. If the population of the planet were allowed to vote on its most powerful political post, Obama would win by a landslide. According to a recent study by UPI polling, Obama has support running at an amazing 90 cent in France, and he is almost as huge throughout the rest of Europe. Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, and, yes, the UK – we are all apparently firmly in the Obama camp, with about 70 per cent support. The incumbent would romp home in Australia, China, Latin America, Canada, Mexico, and virtually the entire Middle East. He would win in 31 out of 32 countries, in fact, and the only nation to come out quite strongly in favour of Romney is – as you may perhaps have guessed – Israel.

The reasons for this are intuitively obvious. The world as a whole is leery of Republican foreign policy, because it is associated – rightly or wrongly – with a general willingness to bomb Middle Eastern countries. The yellow-bellied world has listened carefully to what Mitt Romney has to say about Iran, and decided – rightly or wrongly – that it sounds worrying. In Israel, of course, they have listened to Mr Romney’s talk of military action against Iran and think that it sounds very positive.

Now, Romney can respond to this in two ways. He can take it as a badge of honour that the world so clearly favours Obama; indeed, he could stress that he will be a president for Americans and not for foreigners. Or else he could say something that shows America is listening. He could show that America is not the arrogant hyperpower her enemies suggest, but a country that understands her place in the comity of nations, a country that is willing to muck in, a country that is willing – in the immortal words of President J F Kennedy – to pay any price, to bear any burden in the cause of reconciliation.

Mitt needs a last-minute symbolic act of American humility and goodwill, and the one I propose is relatively painless. He doesn’t need to sign up to the International Criminal Court, or the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. He doesn’t have to close a single military base, and he doesn’t have to resile one bit from America’s amazing and arrogant doctrines of extra-territoriality on everything from extradition to personal taxation.

With one small but significant stroke he can outflank Obama on the environment and stand shoulder to shoulder with the majority of the world’s law-abiding nations, from Sweden to Kuwait to Brazil. He can abandon the flagrantly illegal stance of previous US administrations, and do the right thing by the hard-pressed London motorist.

Romney should announce now – just as those febrile Ohioans are making up their mind on that secondary but still important question of whether or not the Republican will bring reassurance around the world – that as soon as he sits down behind that desk in the Oval Office, he will sign the order for all American diplomatic vehicles in London to pay the congestion charge. He will instantly write a cheque for the fines that US vehicles have incurred, now standing at more than £7 million, in the course of about 61,000 infractions since the scheme began. And if he does, Mitt will have my support.

Mind you, I would support Obama if he did the same.