Blair’s kisses for Gaddafi hide his guilt

It is a terrible warning for any leading Arab terrorist. You think you’ve got away with it. You haven’t been associated with the deaths of any westerners for at least 10 years. You’ve been in a perpetual state of paranoia, in case a US Navy Seal should pop out of your plumbing and peg you where it hurts.

You’ve been looking under your car, you’ve been twitching the curtains of your tent in case a Tomahawk cruise missile should be on its way; and just when you think the West has forgotten all about your crimes, they send you nemesis. No, they don’t send Bond. They don’t send an assassin. They send Tony Blair to meet you, and what does he do? He kisses you on both cheeks!

Yes, my friends, that is apparently to be the fate, somewhere in Tripoli, of the Libyan leader, the man Ronald Reagan called a “mad dog”. This is the man whose barbaric regime was unquestionably involved in the murder of hundreds of people, British and Americans, in the sky and on the ground at Lockerbie.

This same Libyan regime was responsible for the shooting in cold blood of WPC Yvonne Fletcher in St James’s Square, and for the shipping of heaven knows how much weaponry to the IRA. And how do we choose to requite him for his crimes? According to last night’s evening paper, Tony Blair is going to hail his “courage” and the pair are then going to smooch faster than you can say Mwah-mwah al-Gaddafi.

What an amazing way to run a war on terror. The Libyans have a leader who genuinely has a record as long as your arm in sponsoring terror; and he gets the kiss from Blair, because Libya has signalled that it is willing to do business with the West.

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New concrete threat to Oxfordshire’s green spaces

PRESS RELEASE:

Government report calls for more development on green fields and Green Belt

Boris Johnson MP warned this week that the Government were planning to remove vital protection against development on Oxfordshire’s green spaces, and take away Oxford County Council’s say on housing by passing responsibility to distant regional politicians.

The proposals were outlined in a report published by the Treasury on measures to change the housing supply in the country. The report calls for a massive extension of regional planning and regional involvement in housing, new centralised housing targets, and more greenfield and Green Belt development.

Boris Johnson said:

“The recommendations in this report will not solve the crisis in affordable housing that has developed under this Government. Labour’s policies and tax rises must take much of the blame for the crisis – for example, the average first time buyer in the Oxfordshire now pays £1,412 extra in stamp duty alone, money that could otherwise be put towards a deposit.

“The Government is adopting a centralist, ‘dictate and provide’ approach in the housing market that will strip local communities of their say, bulldoze green spaces and put areas such as Sanford at further risk of being covered in concrete. In a past adjournment debate on housing in South Oxfordshire, Boris Johnson criticised the Government for failing to trust local people to decide responsibly on local planning matters. A distinction can and should be drawn between bad Nimbyism and good.

“We need more affordable housing, but we should focus on regenerating urban areas and brownfield land, so that the right homes are built in the right places, rather than fuelling unsustainable development.

“But the Liberal Democrat alternative is even worse – they would place VAT on new housing, which would add £14,321 to the cost of a new home in the South East and make home ownership even more unaffordable for young people and working families”.

NOTES TO EDITORS

Barker Review into Housing Supply

The Treasury review into housing supply, conducted by Kate Barker, issued its report on 18 March 2004.

Its proposals include a massive extension of regional planning and regional involvement in housing – de facto centralisation, new centralised targets, a new land development tax, and more greenfield and Green Belt development.

‘Local authorities should allocate a further buffer of land to improve their plan’s responsiveness to changes in demand. Additional land for development would be brought forward from this buffer when there was evidence of local housing market disequilibrium’ (p.43)

‘Planning authorities should show greater flexibility in using their existing powers to change Green Belt designations where there are strong pressure points in a particular urban area’ (p.44).

It calls for ‘planning guidance should be amended to advise regional and local planning authorities on assessing the value of land to society’, yet admits that the value of much greenfield land should be reduced. ‘Building on intensively farmed land would result in far smaller costs. These alternative land values are part of the framework within which the costs and benefits of housebuilding should be assessed. Moving towards an alternative approach, whereby land for development is assessed according to its relative value in society… including the implication that some Green Belt land should be re-designated’ (p.43-44).

The report calls for a massive extension of regional planning and regional involvement in the provision of social housing, taking power and discretion away from local councils and local people.

‘Regional Planning Bodies and Regional Housing Boards should be merged to create single bodies responsible for managing regional housing markets, delivering the region’s affordability target and advising on distributing resources for social housing. The Regional Planning and Housing Bodies would continue to be responsible for the Regional Spatial Strategy and the integration of housing with other regional functions’ (p.37).

‘The establishment of elected regional assemblies will allow various functions and strategies at the regional level to be brought together. However, even in the absence of elected regional assemblies, a streamlined institutional framework is possible and desirable’ (p.35).

Stealth increases in stamp duty

Labour have turned stamp duty into yet another stealth tax. Stamp duty thresholds have not increased with the rate of the rise in property prices. Hence due to fiscal drag, more households are paying stamp duty than ever before. Stamp duty of 1 per cent still kicks in on properties worth £60,000 or more; since the average first time property now costs over £60,000, the average first time buyer has to pay stamp duty on their home. Thresholds remained frozen in the Budget and have not changed under the current Government.

In Q1 1997, the average property for a first time buyer in the UK cost £48,273; by Q4 2003, it has risen to £99,019. Hence, the average first-time buyer is now paying £990 in stamp duty. With the exception of London, the average first time buyer’s property in every region was below the £60,000 threshold in 1997.

Liberal Democrat policy – VAT on new homes

In their own words, ‘the Liberal Democrats want a single level of VAT to apply to all housebuilding and renovation costs. Yes, this would make the initial cost of a new-built home more’ (Liberal Democrats Whips Office, internal briefing document, Focus on the Liberal Democrats, December 2002). Liberal Democrats plans would mean VAT to be levied at between 5 or 7 per cent on all new homes. It would add an average of £9,920 to the cost of an average new home in the UK.

The Treasury has ruled this out, warning it would have ‘an adverse impact on incentives to develop new housing’ (HM Treasury, Budget 2004, p.75).

Liberal Democrats claim that such a tax would affect few people – yet new properties account for 11 per cent of all property sales, and particularly first-time buyers (source: Halifax press release, 26 June 2002). Such a tax would just make housing less affordable, especially those on lower incomes. The tax would do nothing to stop the wrong houses being built in the wrong places.

Housing data sourced from HBOS Price Index, historical data series, March 2004.

ENDS

Green belt or the euro? You decide

… And when we come to the building of houses other than our own, we attain, as a nation, our most dizzying pitch of intellectual dishonesty. With one breath we grieve for the shortage of “affordable housing”. We bewail the lack of nurses, or young police officers, or bus drivers, or even bartenders, who find it so difficult to afford accommodation in London and the South-East.

But as soon as we are told that there is a solution at hand, and that “affordable houses” are to be plonked in the vicinity of our own, we become quite incoherent with anger; not just because of the loss of amenity, the uprooting of those ancient elms, or the threat to the mating habits of the great crested grebes which – or so we assert until we are blue in the face – depend entirely on that open field next door if they are to achieve the slightest romantic feelings toward one another.

No, we object also because we fear that the new arrivals could have an adverse effect on the value of our property…

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Debate: Pigswill and the Foot and Mouth outbreak

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): On 24 May 2001, three months after the outbreak of foot and mouth, there entered into force the Animal By-Products (Amendment) (England) Order 2001. At the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, there perished in this country a practice that has taken place for thousands of years, ever since mankind domesticated animals – the feeding of food waste to pigs in the form of swill feed.

I know that Members on both sides of the House want to contribute in this short debate, so I do not propose to waste time by disputing the logic of that decision, although I believe that it was illogical to penalise innocent swill feeders for the irresponsible behaviour of one, who may or may not have been implicated in the outbreak of foot and mouth. I hold out no hope that the Minister will do the right thing and revoke the ban, but it is right to draw his attention to its adverse effects, which, like so many pieces of regulation, is adding to the costs of business and industry.

Read the full transcript of this debate at Hansard

Paying through the Doge for Europe

All my nostalgia for Venice has been evoked by an article in this week’s Spectator, in which Stephen Glover describes the sybaritic pleasures of his weekend. Like us, he stayed at some terrifically posh hotel, called the Pritti or the Gritti.

Like us, he roamed in the evening mist, and rejoiced in the cosy yellow light of the bars and the enigmatic chuckling from the corners. And like us, his joy was accentuated by the knowledge that he wasn’t paying a penny, neither for his travel, nor for his accommodation.

Because Glover, like us, was attending what is known to the politico-journalistic class as a junket, jolly, freebie or boondoggle; and which is classified, for the benefit of irritable taxpayers, as a conference.

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What’s so funny about the Passion?

When I was six, I had a wheeze. I had noticed that gumboots were impermeable to water from the outside, and deduced that they must also be impermeable from the inside. So my younger sister and I decided to fill up all the gumboots in the hall with water, and then watch some adult putting his or her foot in it.

The scheme was a triumph, and we were pursued around the garden by an adult armed with a stick – I am not exaggerating – as thick as your arm. We knew it would hurt; we knew we were for it in a big way. But our very terror reduced us to helpless and invertebrate laughter.

We both laughed so much that we couldn’t run, and we sank to the grass at the bottom of the garden and were soundly and deservedly thrashed.

I mention this because my mind has been much occupied with themes of terror and laughter, ever since a group of us went to see the first showing of The Passion of the Christ. I am afraid to say that I was late, and, as I entered the foyer of the Odeon West End, a man with an earring broke off from his mobile phone call and said: “It’s all right, Mr Johnson, you’re in time for the Crucifixion.”

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We want Kit Kats – not Veggie Vouchers

It was round about 3pm yesterday and all I had eaten for lunch was some kind of measly chicken sandwich, and as I sat at my desk I could feel my resolve weakening like spaghetti on the boil.

It was there, waiting for me in Rudi’s chill cabinet, not 100 yards down the road. It was an extra large Kit Kat. It was a huge chomping chunk, chocker with choccie. Compared to the misery of a chicken sandwich, it was a taste explosion of sugars and fats and scrummy cocoa solids and buttermilk. It would be so gooood, I thought to myself; but no, no, I reflected. It was bad. It was naughty.

No sooner had I decided finally and irretrievably not to go down to the shop than wham, by some teleporting process beyond my comprehension I found myself in Rudi’s, handing over the change, ripping off the wrapper and scoffing that Kit Kat like a psychopathic Bunter.

And across the country, every moment of the day, shopkeepers are witnessing similar disgusting scenes of weakness of will. We know we shouldn’t do it, but we just can’t seem to stop. As our collars swell, and our chairs groan, and our very cars turn into giant inflatable condom-style people carriers, the Labour government has decided that we must be restrained.

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Our teachers are defenceless in class

No doubt there will be many readers who will say that this is milquetoast stuff, and will happily supply reminiscences of “Thrasher” so-and-so, who used to lay about him with a golf-club, jokari bat, crow-bar etc; and no doubt there will be some who say that six of the best never did anyone any harm, made them what they are, etc etc.

My point is not to take issue with them, but simply to show what a yawning gulf has opened between the world then and the world now. There was one truly marmalade-dropping story in yesterday’s paper, and it concerned the poor special needs teacher in Cardiff.

We see her depicted in the defeated pose that newspapers reserve for anyone who is supposed to have been caught out doing something truly inexcusable. She is head down, clutching her handbag and her shopping, keys out, and clearly ambushed by the photographers camped on her doorstep. Her crime? She briefly applied masking tape to the mouth of an 11-year-old special needs child, Ben Deacy, who was talking so much that he was disrupting the class. The mother has complained, the school headmaster has denounced her, and the incident is being “investigated” by the education authorities.

Does anybody agree with me that the reaction to this affair is utterly hysterical? As the cowardly headmaster himself testified: “The tape wasn’t put the long way over his mouth. It was a small piece, going from the top to the bottom lip, and it wasn’t blocking his breathing.” It sounds to me like a joke; indeed, the matter only came to the mother’s attention because Annie Sturrock mentioned it in her report on the kid. “Excellent work – once I taped his mouth up!” she said.

Shouldn’t the headmaster, and the education authority, have defended their teacher, and made clear to the mother the spirit in which the action was intended?

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UPDATE – Teacher who taped boy’s mouth avoids prosecution: Following an eight-week police investigation, the CPS has decided that there was insufficient evidence and that it would not be in the public interest to proceed against Annie Sturrock.

It’s mean to make us live alone

I have before me a letter from an indignant 68-year-old. Her son still lives with her, and this seems to be an arrangement satisfactory to both parties; except that she has now discovered that her son’s presence is a bar to her financial happiness. Her savings have been eaten away by a series of operations, and the NHS queues were so huge that she was obliged to go private. “The truly savage increases in council tax has added to my difficulties,” she reports.

So she noticed that she was so straitened that she seemed to be eligible for Gordon Brown’s new pension credit. She wrote off, disclosing every detail of her financial circumstances, as the benefit people require. Am I poor enough, she asked them nicely. Has the Labour Government taken away enough of my money for me to qualify?

Wee-eell, said the little tin gods who run the benefits department, that depends on your son. What is he worth, then? They said that he would also have to hand over the minutest records of his income and expenditure, no matter how personal, down to the last fiver. As his furious mother wrote: “I think it is an impertinence for a group of civil servants to expect him to hand over all his bank and financial details for a three-month period. There isn’t a businessman anywhere who would agree. My finances are nothing to do with him, anyway.”

Alas, of course, she has no choice…

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The BBC was doing its job – bring back Gilligan

So there he goes again. The cordite is carried off by the breeze. The dust settles and out of the crater creeps the Prime Minister, beaming his chipmunk grin. He acknowledges the cheers of his back benches, flicks an invisible speck from his irreproachable Paul Smith sleeve and saunters off back to Downing Street.

It is just flipping unbelievable. He is a mixture of Harry Houdini and a greased piglet. He is barely human in his elusiveness. Nailing Blair is like trying to pin jelly to a wall.

For weeks we have been told that his extermination at the hands of Hutton has been as predetermined as the convergence of the Titanic and the iceberg. And now what? The judge has decided that the Prime Minister behaved with complete honour and candour throughout.

Blair, Hoon, Scarlett, the whole lot of them, have been sprayed with more whitewash than a Costa Brava timeshare. Hutton has succumbed to blindness of Nelsonian proportions. As snow-jobs go, this beats the Himalayas.

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