Bash the rich and you deprive us of what their taxes pay for

How can he possibly be so stupid? You have to understand, first, that neither Ed Balls nor Ed Miliband have any real experience of business or how the economy works. Balls was briefly a Financial Times journalist, but Ed Miliband has been paid almost entirely by the taxpayer throughout his professional life — whether as a Gordon Brown stooge in the Treasury or as an MP.

They have never run a company, either of them — never come close. They have never had to rise at 5am to get the shop ready; they have never had to go and beg for a loan from a bank; never dreamt of a new product, or a new market, and then struggled to make it happen. Neither of them have had the experience of hustling or pounding the pavements or hitting the phones in search of bigger profits. They don’t even like the idea of profit. They turn their noses up at it. They don’t understand that our whole economy and society — our ability to pay for the poorest and neediest — depends entirely on the willingness of a relatively small number of people to put in the back-breaking hours that will create the companies and drive the innovation that will employ the people whose payrolls yield the taxes that pay for the whole damn caboodle.

They cannot bring themselves to accept that these business people are moved by the forgiveable desire to make money — and that if you allow them to keep a slightly bigger proportion of their earnings, the evidence is actually that they will go out and make more.

That whole way of thinking is repulsive to Balls and Miliband; it is outside the realms of their experience. They think of business as a sort of money tree that it is their right to harvest. They fail to understand that unless government is careful, the tree won’t produce any fruit at all. That is the politest explanation for the idiocy of Ed Balls — that he is ignorant of how a market economy works.

But then there is another, worse interpretation: that he knows what he is suggesting is wrong, but he doesn’t care. Balls and Miliband will have studied the polls, and these show a large measure of support for the 50p rate. Even though Britain’s top rate is now above the EU average, most people back the 50p income tax policy in the belief that it will take more from the rich — despite the Laffer curve showing that the opposite is true. In other words, Labour is planning to hike tax rates not because it is sensible economics, but because they think it is good politics.

Well, I think this is wrong, and that Labour will pay a huge price for misreading the electorate. In the end, people want policies that offer hope, ones that will encourage entrepreneurs to found and invest in great companies. Balls and Miliband think they are being clever by seeming to bash the rich — a group that does not have a great many defenders. What they fail to see is that they are simultaneously sending out another powerful hostile signal, that they would spend their time in office attacking the very operation of the market economy.

People can see this. They can detect the real instincts of the Labour party — now way to the Left of New Labour: populist, anti-capitalist and anti-business. Unlike Ed Balls, people have the common sense to see that you can’t be anti-business if you expect business to employ enough people and make enough profit to yield enough tax to pay for the costs of government.

Confounded by the recovery, Balls is floundering badly. The Government should open up some more blue water, and cut the top rate back to 40p.

Boris Johnson named UK Honorary Australian of the Year

“I was going to say I learnt to surf but I didn’t really master that.”

Australia Day Foundation is a UK-based organisation established that aims to bring together the Australian community in the UK to promote Australia and its national day.

Previous winners of the award have been the comedian Barry Humphries, the critic and author Clive James and campaigner and charity organiser Gill Hicks.

Australia Day is celebrated annually on the 26th of January to mark the arrival of the first fleet of British ships to land in Sydney Cove in 1788 and officially hoist the Union flag.

Traditionally families gather across the country for barbeques and picnics with both the Governor-General and Prime Minister address the nation.

Australia Day's Chairman Philip Aiken said:

“Boris has been very passionate about improving relationships between Australia and the UK.”

Cleggton Keynes in England’s rolling hills? No thanks, Nick

Yes, in that sense the logic of the Lib Dem leader is sound. It is just that he wants to build them in the wrong place. There is no need to impose a series of new cities on the lush fields of the South East. It is far too early to start a war – and it will be a vicious and protracted war – with the green-wellied Swampies of the Home Counties.

Nick Clegg should have a look at the London Plan – which I bet he hasn’t even read – and the further alterations that we have announced this week. He will find a massive 1,000-page vision for addressing the housing shortage. It means accelerating the creation of affordable housing in the capital – on top of the record numbers built in the past six years, under this mayoralty.

The plan is for far more homes for private rent and part-buy-part-rent. It means systematically making public land available for development. And it means making better use of the brownfield sites across the city to deliver, in all, about 47,000 new homes per year.

That is a huge number – more than has ever been delivered before – and reflects the scale of the demand. Much of the UK’s population growth can be attributed to the dynamism of London, where we have a combination of ever-growing life expectancy (there is a ward on the Harrow Road where people are now living, on average, to 97.1) and more live births.

And yet this demand for London housing is not unprecedented. What few people realise is that the population of the city is still several hundred thousand lower than it was in 1939, before the Blitz. It is barely bigger now than it was in 1911. There are still huge areas of Greater London that could take more housing; and indeed, some areas that at one time used to have more housing.

There are at least 33 brownfield opportunity areas in London, and many of them are, of course, to the east – scene of the post-industrial decline that followed the loss of the docks and much manufacturing industry. There are abandoned factory sites, old docklands, acres of scrub and buddleia waiting to be regenerated and turned into beautiful homes. Many of these places are in the hands of the public sector.

These sites have stood idle for decades, because the economic case for commercial development was never good enough. The potential value of the homes was never high enough – because people need money to help pay for a home, and there wasn’t the money because there weren’t any jobs. Well, that is changing now: London is to some extent being literally re‑orientated, as investment floods in to the old docks, and as new jobs are created.

But there is still a huge zone of post-industrial land that has proved impossible to shift and where development has never been viable – and that area would be transformed, of course, by the addition of one obvious motor of economic growth: a new airport and logistics hub in the estuary. At a stroke you would transform the economics of building on the brownfield sites of the Thames Gateway. You would create a 24-hour airport that would finally enable the greatest city on earth to compete properly with our rivals. You would end the aircraft noise misery of London and other environmental problems. You would turn the east of London into an economic dynamo – as it once was – and no, you would not decimate the economy of west London. That is utter nonsense.

West London has always been one of the most prosperous parts of Europe, and was long before Heathrow, or air travel, were even dreamt of. If anything, you would relieve that part of London of some of the congestion and rent gouging that is making life difficult for so many businesses. You would also release a suburban area now occupied by an airport – and you would have space to accommodate 200,000 people, as well as university campuses and hi-tech industry. You already have four Tube stations and Crossrail, as well as the Heathrow Express. It is a superb location, and would be snapped up by the market.

That is where you build the garden city, with an Aerotropolis on the brownfield sites to the east. You would have regeneration in east and west; you would solve the housing crisis. You would not have to build a series of Cleggsvilles and Cleggminsters all over the South East. Why don’t we just get on and do it? One day, having exhausted the alternatives, we will.

Boris Johnson: volunteer and make a difference

Just last week we unveiled a fantastic new development behind King’s Cross – in an area that for most of our lives was a post-apocalyptic haunt of prostitutes and junkies, and that now hums with life; and we announced huge new developments in Vauxhall and at Canary Wharf, including a new tower even taller than the existing One Canada Square.

A new Garden Bridge is to be built in the heart of the city and an Olympicopolis is growing on the Stratford site. There are new hotel chains opening, new restaurants, new tech businesses starting, new university campuses, and in all this seething activity you will not be surprised to know that there are hundreds of thousands of jobs being created – and more to come.

And don’t think this success is good for London alone. It is London’s economy that drives the rest of the country. It is the gateway for investment in the whole of Britain, in every sector from finance to tech, to the arts and culture in which this country leads the world.

All of this presents a phenomenal opportunity for a young person – at least in theory. And so the biggest question for me, as Mayor of London, is what can we do to ensure that those jobs go to the young people who are born and who grow up in what is now becoming the world’s favourite city.

We have far too many young people in Britain who are not in education, training or employment. We have far too many kids who don’t have the basic qualifications for the world of work – who leave school without those essential skills in literacy and numeracy.

Shane Warne serves up an easy one to London mayor Boris Johnson during a Team London event last summer at the Oval in south London

But for many of those young people – at least according to employers – there is a further problem, and one that is not exactly about their qualifications. It is to do with their confidence, their self-esteem, their general belief that they can be winners in the place of work.

Time and again I have had conferences and round-tables with the big employers, and we have looked them in the eye, and asked them: why is it, frankly, that you so often seem to employ people from the accession countries of the EU, and why is it that so many young Londoners seem to miss out?

And they answer quite openly: it’s not so much to do with the pay differentials or the welfare system – though these can make a difference at the margin. It is about aptitude, or attitude, or work ethic – call it what you want. I remember vividly a conversation with one of the most prolific builders in the country, a man who employs tens of thousands of people.

I suppose I was a bit hectoring about the need to employ young people, and he gave good answers. He has helped launch a massive apprenticeship programme, by which we have enabled more than 130,000 young people to find a start in a place of work, with a plan to reach 250,000 by 2016. He takes his responsibilities immensely seriously, and tries to recruit British staff wherever he can.

But sometimes, he told me, he has found young people lacking a clear sense of what is expected of them in the workplace. Through no fault of their own, they sometimes don’t understand the importance of turning up on time, of being smart and presentable, of working in a team, or even flashing one of those indispensable smiles.

Well, we need to solve all that. We need to help our kids; we need to build their confidence and what you might call their all-round employability, and we need to do it fast – because the vacancies are there, and I want to see them go to people born and reared here.

There are all kinds of solutions for communities all across the country: better education, employer-based training, and so on. But there is one activity that can transform the outlook of a young person, and that can help to get them ready for work – and that is volunteering.

Get them on to a project that is fun, that has a goal, that involves team work and self-discipline. Get them to understand that fundamental truth that no amount of training will teach you: that success only comes to those who really want it, who aim for it not because some teacher is bossing them around, but because it is something they have set their heart on.

That is the beauty of volunteering – and that is the inspiration of the Step Up To Serve campaign launched last year by the Prince of Wales, which we in London are supporting with our Team London mission.

The idea is simple: to think of volunteering not as mere do-goodery, but as a route to work.

The overwhelming majority of employers get it. At least 73 per cent of them say they regard volunteering favourably as a qualification on one’s CV. It doesn’t matter what the project is – planting trees, ridding canals of shopping trolleys, teaching little kids to read – a social action programme can teach youngsters about critical workplace skills: delegation, communication, leadership, you name it.

Team London is working with organisations like Free The Children, who go into schools and show them how to get their pupils engaged in some social project; and there are very good results: big increases in the self-confidence of the kids and above all much greater clarity about what they want to achieve and how to do it.

I know that many businesses in London and across the country are already heavily engaged in volunteering programmes of all kinds. But in view of the problems we face in encouraging young people, and the opportunities that are going begging, I think it is time to take it up a gear.

It is fantastic that the Telegraph is leading this campaign. Here, you can read about the astonishing achievements of people like Camilla Yahaya, who arrived here only four years ago barely speaking a word of English, and who has set up her own social action project – Young Citizens – as well as getting outstanding results in her exams.

We need more young people to have the same kind of confidence, gumption and initiative as Camilla. But they will always need older people who have the imagination to inspire them.

We need businesses – and it could be you – to do some simple things to help make 2014 the year of volunteering:

We want you to give staff two days a year in which to volunteer – because so often the problem with the programmes for kids is that there aren’t enough adults to support them. There is a huge waiting list for the scouts, the guides and other youth groups, just because of a shortage of supervisors.

We want you to recognise that volunteering can be a qualification for employment.

We hope that you will build on the volunteering movement that had such an amazing push forward in the Olympic year. Sign up for Team London and see if your firm can be involved in any of our projects.

I am conscious as I write this that it is now exactly 100 years since the greatest campaign to recruit volunteers that this country has ever seen. When Kitchener pointed his finger square between the eyes of the British public, he was answered by more than two and a half million volunteers – and almost a million British troops went on to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

And the truly amazing thing is that the memory of that has done absolutely nothing – in the succeeding century – to quell the desire of British people to do something for their country and for their neighbourhood.

Millions across Britain volunteer every day. Our aim in Team London is to make it as easy as possible to volunteer, to take the hassle out of doing something good.

So let’s mobilise a new army of young people – not for battle, but for social action projects of all kinds, and so to set them on the path to the happiness and fulfilment that comes with the world of work.

You can search thousands of volunteering opportunities in London at volunteerteam.london.gov.uk, or across Britain at do-it.org.uk or volunteering.org.uk

If you’re an employer looking for volunteering opportunities for your teams, or looking to form an exclusive partnership on a programme to build employability for the next generation, contact teamlondon@london.gov.uk

Lend a hand - how you can get involved

We can claim, with some justification, to be a nation of volunteers, as London 2012 showed triumphantly to the world thanks to its Games Makers. These 70,000 purple-clad volunteers, some brandishing outsized bright pink hands, put in eight million hours of work to ensure the Olympics and Paralympics were a gold-winning global shop window on the best of British.

National figures published last year show that 44 per cent of adults have formally volunteered once in the previous 12 months, and 29 per cent once a month over that period. That amounts to 22.7 million people throughout Britain. And, as well as formal volunteering (defined as running or helping at an event, raising money, or taking part in sponsored activity), there are countless more giving their time and expertise informally to others.

So we already have plenty to build on, but we can also challenge ourselves to do so much more. That is the theme of The Telegraph’s Lend a Hand campaign, which will run in the paper throughout 2014.

While the figures for volunteering have been slowly creeping up of late, after a dip in 2010, there are still so many opportunities out there, so many organisations and individuals who could benefit, if all of us could spare a few hours of our time, enthusiasm and expertise.

Volunteering isn’t just about giving back to society. Of those who volunteer, 62 per cent say they do it because they “want to improve things” or “help others”.

But a slightly bigger number – 65 per cent – say that they derive “personal satisfaction” from seeing the difference their volunteering makes.

That is the message that comes over loud and clear from the individual stories of volunteers young and old in today’s Weekend. And we will carry on exploring it further in the weeks and months ahead – urging businesses to encourage and enable their employees to volunteer, highlighting areas where you could direct your skills, and showing what amazing results can be achieved if you give up a little bit of time.

We will be working with various partner organisations, including Team London, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Join In. And, most of all, we will be working with you, our readers, to inspire you to volunteer, and to celebrate the volunteering you are already undertaking.

Peter Stanford

Read more: Volunteering has let me give something back to London

Read more: Sebastian Coe: why everyone should lend a hand

Boris Johnson launches Telegraph Year of the Volunteer campaign

"But there is so much more that can be done," Mr Johnson says.

You can search thousands of volunteering opportunities in London at volunteerteam.london.gov.uk, or across Britain at do-it.org.uk or volunteering.org.uk

If you’re an employer looking for volunteering opportunities for your teams, or looking to form an exclusive partnership on a programme to build employability for the next generation, contact teamlondon@london.gov.uk

Trust the people to decide on Europe? Whatever next!

This issue – Europe – is one on which they would genuinely like a say. All the polls say so. The British have not been consulted on this vital constitutional matter since 1975 – whereas it has apparently been all right to submit similar questions to the Danes, the French, the Irish and plenty of others.

Is there some difference in the cognitive faculties of the British people? Is Labour saying we are incapable of getting to the heart of the matter, and of coming up with an answer that is in the long-term interests of this country? If this is the position – and I defy Ed Miliband to say it isn’t – then it is not only patronising and condescending to the electorate. It is boneheadedly stupid.

As even Lord Mandelson silkily accepted at the beginning of his speech, the EU is in need of reform. It is not just the euro that is a disaster area: one of the reasons that the EU is a global microclimate of relative gloom is the ceaseless production of regulation, over the past 50 years, that is now starting to make the whole continent uncompetitive. The entire enterprise needs to be shaken up, and Britain could lead that effort.

There is a new model to be offered, in which there is plenty of scope for idealism. We should be completing the internal market in services – opening up opportunities for everyone from lawyers to hairdressers to ski instructors. And we should be offering the European public things they actually want – like cheaper roaming costs for mobiles. We should zap so much of the bureaucratic malarkey that is holding European business back. We don’t need the CAP, we don’t need the social chapter, we don’t need the European Court adjudicating in home affairs.

In fact – as almost all politicians, including Nick Clegg, now seem to be saying – we need to recover some control over our borders, and we certainly need to be able to insist on longer derogations before migrants from EU accession countries are entitled to our benefits.

That is a completely reasonable request, and reflects the immense changes we have seen in the EU. When we joined the Common Market, it was a small and relatively economically homogeneous group of nine. There are now 28 countries and a combined population of about 500 million. There is an appetite for reform around the table in Brussels, and I bet there is more than one country that might want to join us in leading the charge.

Instead, the attitude of Labour is resolutely defeatist. Oh, they will never agree to that, say people like Mandelson. You’ll never get your way in the renegotiation, they say, so you might as well not bother.

Well, you certainly won’t get anything if you have Miliband in charge; and you won’t get anything if you have Cleggers in charge, either. But you certainly will get a change if you have David Cameron in charge. And there is one simple way to fortify his position, one gigantic bazooka he could bring into the conference chamber.

Our friends and partners in Brussels need to understand that they are not just negotiating with the namby-pamby elites of this country. In offering new terms of membership, they must understand that they are dealing with the people – the British electorate, cussed and suspicious, who will pronounce in a referendum.

As it happens, I think the people will suck their teeth hard, squint into the future, and go for the kind of prospectus now being offered by the think tank Open Europe – stay in the single market, but axe much of the rest. They will want the best of both worlds. If they can, I think people will vote for staying in – on the right terms. But Britain won’t be offered the right terms unless the people are given the chance to vote. Get the EU to stare down the barrel of a British referendum – or forget about any chance of reform.

Boris Johnson criticises BBC ‘bias’ after Sherlock attack

During the opening sequence of Sherlock, newspapers reporting on bank robberies by the “Water Gang” flashed up on the screen as police officers become increasingly frustrated at being unable to catch the criminals.

The first, visible for only a second, included on the bottom of the page the story headlined “Thames to become a watery motorway”.

The text read: “A new plan by the current Mayor of London to turn the Thames into a bustling water-bound version of the M25 has hit rush-hour traffic as reaction has been damper than a dip in the rat-infested drink.

“The hair-brained (sic) scheme involved chartering disused boats, paying for their conversion into a version of London's famous bus, the Routemaster, but this plan has already foundered after pilot schemes revealed that customers were walking straight off the boat and into the icy currents of the Thames.

“When asked to explain how the system might move forward, or even be profitable, or perhaps even to explain the point, the Mayor, who was at a self-promotion event, was found to be dithering, incoherent, and self-interested.

“He said, "Well the fact of the matter is that Londoners need to recognise our great naval history, rather than naval (sic) gazing, and this will get the traffic moving while invoking memories of Nelson and the like. Huzzar!"

“The plan joins a long list of bizarre concepts including the recently-mocked concept of putting an airport in the middle of the estuary.”

BBC’s Sherlock attacks Boris Johnson as ‘dithering’ and ‘self-interested’

The attack did not seem to be linked to any other content within the episode, which saw Benedict Cumberbatch’s character struggling to write a Best Man speech for Dr Watson’s wedding day.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson (Andrew Parson)

During the opening sequence newspapers reporting on bank robberies by the “Water Gang” flashed up on the screen as the police officers involved become increasingly frustrated at being unable to catch the criminals.

The first, visible for just a matter of second, included on the bottom of the page the story headlined “Thames to become a watery motorway”.

The text read: “A new plan by the current Mayor of London to turn the Thames into a bustling water-bound version of the M25 has hit rush-hour traffic as reaction has been damper than a dip in the rat-infested drink.

“The hair-brained (sic) scheme involved chartering disused boats, paying for their conversion into a version of London's famous bus, the Routemaster, but this plan has already foundered after pilot schemes revealed that customers were walking straight off the boat and into the icy currents of the Thames.

“When asked to explain how the system might move forward, or even be profitable, or perhaps even to explain the point, the Mayor, who was at a self-promotion event, was found to be dithering, incoherent, and self-interested.

“He said, "Well the fact of the matter is that Londoners need to recognise our great naval history, rather than naval (sic) gazing, and this will get the traffic moving while invoking memories of Nelson and the like. Huzzar!"

“The plan joins a long list of bizarre concepts including the recently-mocked concept of putting an airport in the middle of the estuary.”

Germany started the Great War, but the Left can’t bear to say so

Why was it necessary to follow up some rumpus in Sarajevo by invading France, for heaven’s sake? It wasn’t. The driving force behind the carnage was the desire of the German regime to express Germany’s destiny as a great European power, and to acquire the prestige and international clout that went with having an empire. That is why Tirpitz kept increasing the size of the German fleet – in spite of British efforts to end the arms race. That’s why they tried to bully the French by sending a gunboat to Agadir in 1911.

That, in a nutshell, is why millions died in the trenches of the western front and elsewhere, 15 million in all. It was an even greater tragedy for Germany, and for the world, that within two decades of the end of that conflict there should arise another German leader who decided to revive what was essentially the same military/political objective – a massive expansion of German influence in Europe and beyond; and though Hitler was admittedly even more nasty and militaristic than the Kaiser, it was no coincidence that he used a very similar plan: first take out France and the Low Countries, then go for Russia.

In both wars, huge numbers of British people, military and civilian, lost their lives in the struggle to frustrate these deranged ambitions. They were, in essence, fighting on the right side, and it should not be forbidden to state that fact. The Second World War arose inexorably out of the first, and in both wars I am afraid the burden of responsibility lies overwhelmingly on German shoulders. That is a fact that we should not be forbidden from stating today – not just for the sake of the truth, but for the sake of Germany in 2014.

Hunt is guilty of talking total twaddle, but beneath his mushy-minded blether about “multiple histories” there is what he imagines is a kindly instinct. These wars were utterly horrific for the Germans as well as for everyone else, and the Germans today are very much our friends. He doesn’t want the 1914 commemorations to pander to xenophobia, or nationalism, or Kraut-bashing; and I am totally with him on that.

We all want to think of the Germans as they are today – a wonderful, peaceful, democratic country; one of our most important global friends and partners; a country with stunning technological attainments; a place of incomparable cultural richness and civilisation. What Hunt fails to understand – in his fastidious Lefty obfuscation of the truth – is that he is insulting the immense spiritual achievement of modern Germany.

The Germans are as they are today because they have been frank with themselves, and because over the past 60 years they have been agonisingly thorough in acknowledging the horror of what they did. They don’t try to brush it aside. They don’t blame the Serbs for the 1914-18 war. They don’t blame the Russians or the Turks. They know the price they paid for the militarism of the 20th century.

They don’t try to mitigate, palliate, or spread the blame for the conflict. They tried that in the Thirties, and they know that way lies madness. The Germans know the truth about the world wars, and their role. They have learnt, and they have changed. It would be a disaster if that truth became blurred today. I can hardly believe that the author of this fatuous Observer article is proposing to oversee the teaching of history in our schools.

If Tristram Hunt seriously denies that German militarism was at the root of the First World War, then he is not fit to do his job, either in opposition or in government, and should resign. If he does not deny that fact, he should issue a clarification now.