Thursday, June 13, 2013
Britain's battle over badgers is just another class war
Picture a line of cows’ carcasses, nose to tail, stretching from Piccadilly Circus to Radcliffe Square in Oxford. This image of the 38,000 cattle killed every year by bovine TB is not my own, but that of John Yorke, who owns a farm in Gloucestershire. That horrific toll, he told a Sunday newspaper, is the reason he supports a badger cull.
The reasons why Mr Yorke is a target for animal-rights groups are rather simpler: he runs a 3,000-acre estate, went to Eton and can trace his ancestors back to the Norman Conquest. With a keen sense of PR savvy, activists have decided that while terrorising poor farmers makes them look nasty, terrorising members of the landed gentry will go down very well.
How depressing, if true. Trespassing on someone’s property, armed with vuvuzelas and flashing cameras, may not rank as a serious felony. But I hope no one, apart from a few rabid members of the Stop the Cull lobby, would think that the Yorkes of this world deserve to have their homes trashed.
Sadly, the politics of envy has come to the countryside. Class warriors cleverly conceal their true objective under a sentimental camouflage: saving furry little animals from brutal killing. Yet the new sans-culottes are attacking badger-culling and fox-hunting as the hateful practices of a much-resented elite. The premise is the same, whether it be trotted out by the RSPCA as it prosecutes local hunts, or Stop the Cull, which pledges to trespass on its enemies’ property: toffs with posh accents don’t deserve to be safe in their National Trust homes, any more than astride their thoroughbred horses.
Like hunt saboteurs, anti-cull activists don’t want to wreck a few traps or trip up a few riders – they seek to overthrow the establishment. They can’t get the aristos to the guillotine, so they hope to wrest them from their privileged perches by intimidation. The landed gentry must be made to tremble in the knowledge that activists in balaclavas lurk behind every bush and shrub.
The sad thing is, they might get away with it. Farming has become a minority occupation with which very few Britons have any link. For swathes of urban and suburban dwellers, primary-school trips to petting zoos are as close as they ever get to rural life. The most familiar farmer is Mr McGregor, wielding a pitchfork in Beatrix Potter’s stories.
It’s easy, under such circumstances, for activists to write a nursery tale of their own, complete with cruel humans and innocent four-legged creatures. (Sadly, neither the horses that get injured when hunt saboteurs strike, nor the cows that die of TB carried by badgers, earn a mention.)
It hasn’t helped matters that, when it comes to the badgers, the science behind the cull is confusing – or, at least, the Government’s handling of the science is. First, the Coalition announced a cull, after taking advice from scientists who had carried out a 10-year study of the bovine TB epidemic. When the Badgers’ Trust and RSPCA bared their teeth, ministers took fright and scampered off.
It took the National Farmers’ Union two years to convince the authorities to stop the destruction of their members’ livelihood. Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, has now allowed that culling can make a “significant contribution” to reducing the incidence of bovine TB, and has finally given the green light to two pilot projects in Somerset and Gloucestershire, where marksmen will shoot the pests.
Activists, however, are determined that the reign of terror will descend not on the disease-ridden badgers, but on those carrying out the cull in their mud-splattered wellies and Barbours. And if they overstep the limits of the law, they can always point out that their victim went to Eton. Pity the Yorkes in our midst.
TV's feckless fathers 'give dads a bad name': Programmes attacked for 'casual contempt' of men
It's enough to shake dads out of their slumber and get them leaping out of armchairs with rage. Fathers are routinely misrepresented as useless and lazy in TV shows, according to a survey of parents.
Children in particular are bombarded with the ‘casual contempt’ of men and the damaging stereotype continues in adult programmes - reinforcing the negative impression.
Many parents complain it amounts to form of ‘discrimination against dads’ that would cause an outcry if women were treated the same way.
Children’s programmes guilty of the peddling the unfair depiction include, according to a Netmums report, Peppa Pig, The Simpsons and The Flintstones. The onslaught continues in adult shows such as My Family, Outnumbered and Shameless.
An overwhelming 93 per cent of mums and dads said that the way fathers appear on television, as well as books and adverts, bears no relation to their real-life contribution to family life.
Almost half complained children were surrounded by images of feckless fathers, with over a quarter attacking the ‘subtle form of discrimination’ and a fifth saying mums wouldn’t accept being portrayed the same way.
The Netmums survey - released before Father’s Day this Sunday - looked at the opinions of 1,650 mothers and 500 fathers.
More than half agreed society was becoming ‘more appreciative of how important a dad’s role is’ and that fathers are ‘much closer to their kids than in the past’.
Nine in ten dads said they felt they were working harder than their own fathers to be a good parent. Two thirds said they were proud to work harder to support their family and a similar proportion are ‘happier and more settled’ than before they had children.
One in eight quit smoking and one in 30 overcame a drug habit after learning they were to become a father.
Despite their efforts, a third of parents said mothers continue to be viewed as more important that dads. One in 20 even believe society sees fathers as ‘feckless, lazy or sperm donors’.
An Oven Pride advert for a cleaning product that used the phrase ‘so easy, even a man can do it’ prompted nearly 700 complaints.
Boots also produced an ad for cold and flu products using the line ‘when he’s ill and you don’t have time to be’.
A Chartered Institute of Marketing survey in 2001 found two-thirds of women believed women were portrayed in adverts as intelligent, assertive and caring, while men were shown as pathetic and silly.
And there was a difference of opinion between the sexes about how they viewed their efforts as parents. Nearly two-thirds of men said they were ‘hands-on and fully involved’ in parenting but only half of women agreed.
A quarter of mothers also warned the more permissive attitude to divorce was undermining fatherhood as many dads lose touch with their children following a break-up.
Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard said: ‘The types of jokes aimed at dads would be banned if they were aimed at women, ethnic minorities or religious groups. Some people claim it’s just a joke but there is nothing amusing about taking away good role models.
‘Academic studies show children with involved fathers do far better at school, have a much lower chance of getting involved in crime and have better mental health, so we should be celebrating and encouraging what dads do.’
More multiculturalism in Britain: "All three men were career criminals"
A disabled pensioner has today revealed the terrifying ordeal he faced as he stabbed a gunman to death in self defence during a bungled robbery.
Cecil Coley, then 72, was playing dominoes with a friend after closing time at his son’s florists shop when four masked men burst in and demanded the takings.
A violent struggle then followed which culminated in Mr Coley stabbing raider Gary Mullings in the heart with a knife he used to cut flower stems.
Mullings, 30, staggered outside and was found lying in the street outside. Neighbours tried to revive him but he was pronounced dead in hospital with two stab wounds to the chest - one collapsing his lung.
Mr Coley - known as Roy - was later arrested on suspicion of murder but was freed without charge after he said he killed the gunman to save himself and acted in lawful self defence.
Today at an inquest into Mullings’ death a statement from regular churchgoer Mr Coley, now 74, who was too unwell to attend the hearing was read out detailing his torment. 'I was terrified and intimidated and fighting for my life” he said in his statement. 'I was jabbing the knife wildly in the air. I was so scared I just pushed out and jabbed the knife again.
'I was thinking to myself that I was finished, that this was the last moment of my life. 'I was feeling weak and nervous and I passed out and collapsed.'
The hearing was told the incident occurred at 9.40pm on July 26, 2011, as Mr Coley who helps his son run the Feathers Frills and Flowers shop in Old Trafford, Manchester playing dominoes with 67-year old Neville 'Carl' Marrett in a back room.
The robbers, who were wearing balaclavas, were reportedly armed with at least two hand guns and possibly a knife as they demanded cash.
Mr Coley who is registered disabled and takes 32 prescription tablets, said in his statement: 'I heard a knock at the front door and when I opened it both of us were overpowered.
'I couldn’t force them off and they came in and both of us were hit and I was hit with either a first or the butt of as gun. A man went through my pockets shouting, "where’s the money, where’s the money"?
The man took £260 from his pocket before kicking Mr Coley in his side and around the hip area. The man then pulled off the pensioner’s wedding ring and a ring belonging to his daughter he was wearing on his little finger.
'I then heard the noise of a gun being fired and I felt a stinging sensation on my cheek.
'The knife was still in my right hand. I began to jab the knife and I saw the men going out the front door and closing it afterwards.
'I went outside, I was still holding the knife in my hand. I don’t know why this shop would be targeted by these people, I can only think it was opportunistic.'
Mr Coley was quizzed and kept on bail for six weeks until the Crown Prosecution Service concluded he had acted in ‘reasonable self-defence’ whilst fearing for his life and acted instinctively to protect himself.
In his statement Mr Coley said it was 'stressful’ when he was arrested and waiting to find out whether he would be prosecuted for murder. His health was affected and he battles with worry every day.
A colt 45 pistol and an imitation Glock pistol was used in the raid. Police belive the blank firearm was fired close to Mr Coley’s face.
Mr Marrett who was knocked unconscious and had £40 stolen told the Sale hearing: 'We could do nothing. 'I thought this is it, I thought I was going to die.
'I have got a bad shoulder so I couldn’t lift my hand to defend myself when I got hit - there was nothing I could do.'
Mullings’ two brothers Kyle Mullings, 19, who was also stabbed twice in the raid, and Joseph Junior Mullings, 24, and a fourth man Nathan Walters, 26, were all arrested.
Kyle was jailed for three years and six months, Joseph got five years and Walters was jailed for five years and seven months after admitting to robbery and possession of firearms. All three men were career criminals.
Rent controls are madness, we need to build more homes
It is not just house prices that are out of control, increasing again despite being already dangerously over-valued. An even more pressing crisis is that rents are shooting up, tightening the screws on the growing minority of Britons who rely on private landlords.
Generation Rent, which includes the majority of 20 and 30-something professionals and 15.6pc of all households, is being hit by a vicious double whammy: the average rent in England and Wales is now 3.9pc higher than it was this time last year and yet the average wage in the private sector hasn’t gone up at all, with pay rises grinding to a complete halt.
The squeeze is especially acute in London, where rents are 7.6pc higher and where a quarter of residents rent privately, in Wales (up by 5pc) and in the East Midlands (up 4.1pc), according to LSL Property Services. The cost of renting is now over half the average wage in two thirds of London boroughs.
No wonder, therefore, that we are starting to hear tentative calls for rent controls – compulsory limits on how much landlords are allowed to charge, and caps on annual rent hikes.
Yet, while something drastic needs to be done to tackle Britain’s housing crisis, rent controls would be complete madness: they are one of the stupidest economic policies known to man.
They are based on a denial of a simple reality: if prices (such as rents) are going up, that means that there is a scarcity of available homes to let.
The only way to tackle the issue is either to reduce demand or to increase supply, or both. Yet rent controls would achieve the exact opposite: increase demand (by keeping rents low) and reduce supply (by making it less worthwhile for landlords to let out homes).
The policy has failed with horrifying consequences everywhere it has been tried, including in New York, and is the perfect embodiment of the adage that no problem exists that cannot be made worse through government intervention.
Typically, the reduction in the supply of homes triggers a spike in homelessness. Landlords who are no longer allowed to hike rents are robbed of any incentive to improve homes, many of which are left in disrepair, often to force out tenants; and only the worst, least desirable properties tend to be let out.
Once the Government starts to interfere, rents become a political football and investing in property becomes riskier, requiring higher returns and thus rents to make it worthwhile. Rent controls typically also cripple mobility, with people remaining in homes to avoid higher rents elsewhere, which increases unemployment and commute times.
Polls of economists consistently show that opposition to rent controls is one of the few policies almost all agree on, regardless of politics. The most seminal of these, a survey of 464 economists in the May 1992 issue of American Economic Review, found that 93pc agreed that “a ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available”. There have been other such surveys since.
Try telling that to our advocates of rent controls, however, and you are met with a mixture of economic illiteracy, an antiquated, quasi-Victorian class hatred of landlords, generational strife and downright incomprehension.
Earlier this week, the London Assembly’s housing and regeneration committee, a Labour and left-wing dominated sub-group, called on Boris Johnson to adopt a pilot scheme for “rent stabilisation” – in other words, rent controls. The Tory members of the committee rightly put out a dissenting report, cogently arguing that such a policy would chase away the investment in extra rental properties – especially by large institutions seeking to professionalise the market – that is so desperately required to bring rents down and improve security of tenure.
Yet the writing is on the wall. If rents keep on going up, such calls will become more common, and will find increasing support among struggling tenants.
Ed Miliband recently called for local authorities to gang together to reduce the rents they are forced to pay to place their social tenants. On the face of it, this may appear a sensible means of ensuring taxpayers get value for money but it has been welcomed privately by some on the left as a first step towards increasing intervention in rents. While not currently Labour party policy, it is a fair bet that rent control would end up on the agenda if Miliband becomes prime minister in 2015.
Instead of focusing on the manifestation of the crisis – higher rents – politicians need to focus on its causes.
There were just 101,920 housing starts in the 12 months to March, down 3pc, a scandalously low figure. With the population set to go on rising, prices are being pushed up and far fewer people can afford to buy: the share of owner occupiers fell to 65.3pc of UK households in 2011-12, the lowest level since 1987 and down from a peak of 70.9pc in 2003.
In turn, this has pushed up rents: the scarcity of homes is affecting both the owner-occupier sector and the rental sector.
The answer is not to build more council flats, which people don’t want to live in, but to allow the construction of far more private homes of the right kind and in the right places, pushing down prices (for those who can buy) and rents (for those who can’t).
It would be absurd to blame buy to let investors: they provide a valuable service, risking their capital, and their rise is partly a symptom, not a cause, of a dysfunctional housing market.
The fundamental problem is an antiquated, almost Soviet planning system stuck in the 1940s, combined with hidden taxes and levies, which push up the price of buildable land and construction costs, and create a myriad of perverse incentives, including the erection of tiny flats and land-banking by developers, who know their holdings will be worth more in the future.
Liberalisation is essential. Land needs to be released for construction as it is needed and continental-style self-build needs to be made much easier, creating competition for developers.
House prices would soon fall to more sensible levels when compared with incomes, as would rents. The housing benefits bill, which has risen in tandem with rents, would also start to drop. The vast numbers of people on these benefits – currently 5.06m – could be reduced as rents become more manageable.
In the 1930s, after the last great meltdown, a boom in private housebuilding had a hugely beneficial impact. Nick Crafts of Warwick University has shown that terraced houses in London could be bought for £395, at a time when average earnings were £165, allowing a new generation of working folk to own their own home for the first time. Rents also fell.
Like every other problem in economics, the answer to our housing crisis can be found in the laws of supply and demand.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.