Teck Khong will be addressing March For Democracy on Saturday 13th April 2019. The event commences at 10am at the The Forest Park and Ride NG7 6AQ (free all-day parking) with the March setting off at 11am and arriving at the Old Market Square, Nottingham NG1 2LN at around 1pm. Teck will be speaking soon after 10am.
You are most welcome to attend!
We are pleased to include in this edition our first article from a fellow subscriber; Thomas Howell, who has since joined our growing team. We now have nineteen team members, and still growing.
You will have noticed that this newsletter is occasional at best. That is because we have been busy with building Sovereign and completing its registration as a political party with the Electoral Commission. We are pleased to say we are on the home straight and plan to officially launch by the end of this month and open our doors for members. There has been one big disappointment for us completing this necessary process, as we were unable to register a party with Sovereign in its name. Rather than delay the process with legal challenges we chose a different name, not quite as iconic as Sovereign, but one that is at least as totemic if not more so! We will therefore be announcing the new name for the Sovereign Party on a special launch day, along with our new website which is currently under construction. The existing thesovereignparty.uk will still be in existence for a time but there will be an automatic redirect to the new site.
The next newsletter, which will be published on the day of the official party launch, will include details that momentous event and plans for the party.
Thereafter, we will endeavour to publish the party newsletter on a more regular basis.
A final word: the articles published here are the views of individual contributors and they do not necessarily reflect the policies of the party.
The United Kingdom has an extensive intercity rail network with trains operating at speeds of over 200kph (120 mph) so it could be argued high-speed rail already exists across the nation. An EU Directive (96/48/EC) defines high-speed rail as having track dedicated to high speed travel with trains operating at a minimum line speed of 250 kph (155 mph). By that definition the U.K. has one high-speed line (HS1) that operates between London, Paris and Brussels via the Channel Tunnel.
High Speed 2 (HS2) is a high-speed railway which will connect London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. The scheme is scheduled to open in phases between 2026 and 2033 with high-speed trains travelling at up to 400 km/h (250 mph) on 330 miles (530 km) of track.
HS2 is coming under increasing attack by politicians and parts of the media but it is easy to forget that HS1 also went through periods of controversy. Perhaps the difference is that while HS1 had a clear logic to it, when the Channel Tunnel was built the French side had a high-speed rail connected the portal at Calais to Paris, whereas the conventional rail connection on the UK side was a bit of an embarrassment.
HS2 has never really enjoyed the same clarity in terms of what it sets out to achieve and the project is now expected to cost £56 Billion, almost double the original estimate while there is now increasing doubt about its future.
Sovereign believes in the value of high speed rail but phase 1, the link between London and Birmingham, offers poor value for the taxpayer. There is already sufficient capacity on this route that operates at high speed, and HS2 would only shave about one quarter of an hour off the journey between the two cities. The cost of this miniscule advantage works out at a couple of billion pounds per minute. Notwithstanding our doubts about the journey time we feel the London connection is a suboptimal design; it does not have a direct connection with HS1 but seems instead to have become the flagship for a major property redevelopment scheme at Old Oak Common in West London.
HS2 does however have support when you look at some of the other phases. In 2013, the Department of Transport commissioned HS2 Ltd to undertake a feasibility study into improving journey times to the north of England and Scotland. In 2018 Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced that two of the better options would be studied more deeply to determine costs and technical feasibility. South of the border, advocates of the Northern Powerhouse initiative are also strongly supportive of a high-speed rail network to connect the northern cities.
Sovereign believes that HS2 is unlikely to deliver value for money with its current approach, but do not think the scheme should be killed off completely. Phase 1 should be halted while the Scottish Government should be assisted in completing their feasibility studies and preparing their business case with a view to obtaining funding. Sovereign would also accelerate the work on the phases that link Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds since these enjoy more public support and offer much better value to the taxpayer.
Social Housing for the disabled
At the moment there are over 1.1 million households on local authority waiting lists across the UK, a large number of those waiting to be housed are disabled or have disabled family members, some waiting for over 5 years to be housed in social housing. We have seen a decline in the numbers of social housing units being built over the last 20 years.
We allow these big construction companies to build tens of thousands of homes each year, making them extremely large profits along the way. Out of all the homes built last year, 57% of those built was for affordable rent, 14% of those built was for social rent, less than 1% of all homes built was especially designed for disabled households or adaptable for the more severely disabled person.
What local authorities are doing is putting disabled people in properties built for able bodied people, such as ground floor flats that are not wheelchair friendly at all, and they can’t be adapted to suit their needs. So, they are left having to manage the best they can, as there are nowhere near enough disabled bungalows/properties available for social rent and nowhere near enough being built. It’s as if the disabled are looked upon as second class citizens and are lucky to get what they are given. Local authorities aren’t building this type of property as it requires more land per home than a row of terraced houses or a block of flats that hold large numbers of homes in each one. It is not cost effective to build disabled bungalows/properties with private gardens as they can build more homes for a lot less on the same piece of land used for single homes. It’s all about their profit margins instead of being about the cost of the damage caused to families with disabled family members, being made to live in unsuitable homes.
What we should be doing is building more social housing for social rent than we do for affordable rent, so I propose the following. We lower the percentage of affordable rent homes from 57% to 26%, raise the percentage of social rent homes from 14% to 35% and we will then commission the 10% needed as new build social rent homes for those who require a property for the disabled.
If we can build at least 175,000 social homes for social rent, then we can give homes to over 1.5 million families over the next 10 years. What we must also do is empower the local authorities across the UK, to start rebuilding their social housing stock numbers to an acceptable level, and not relying on housing associations to provide all the social housing needs. It’s about time that the local authorities took some responsibility, for the health and wellbeing of not only their disabled residents needs but of the needs of all households needing a social rent home.
This can be achieved with thought and planning, keeping to tight timetables and making sure that the local authorities are meeting the required targets for new build social housing, that’s on top of the social housing being built by local housing associations across the UK. We also need to cancel the right to buy policy as the local authorities are not using the income from the sale of these properties to replace the homes that they have sold. If we as a Party work together for the good of the working people who keep the UK going, we may not solve the housing problems entirely but we will be well on the way to making sure that having a home is not just for the wealthy, and that everyone has a right to a place called home knowing as they require it.
The Law. Is our society broken?
‘At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.’ – Aristotle
There is no doubt that that law and order is amongst the top concerns of the general public. One only needs to read the daily newspapers or watch the news on TV to be aware of the increase in crimes generally and, more worryingly, the noticeable escalation in violent crimes, many of which involve the use of firearms or knives. Deaths from shooting or stabbing in London exceeded one per day last year and we are seeing similar rises in these offences in all our major cities. Particularly tragic is the fact that a majority of these awful deaths involve young people as either victims or perpetrators. Are we, as a society, failing our young people? It would seem so.
What are the causes? What are we, as a society, doing to make our streets less dangerous? More police on the streets? Harsher punishment? Throw more money at the problem? Our politicians promise much but the problems won’t go away. Stories of bloody stabbings bring out cries of shock and concern and, for a while, these horror stories make the headlines. But soon, killings become commonplace and the stories merit but a few paragraphs on page six. It takes a particularly horrific incident such as the violent death of a young man barely out of childhood to bring the subject back into the public eye. Much hand wringing and outcry follows but more horrific, more bloody, more evil acts are seen and it all becomes a sadly normal part of life in many of our cities.
So, what is the answer? Oh, if only it were so simple to find the answer. The truth is, just as there are many causes of crime, so there are many answers and many government departments that need to be involved. At the end of the day, it is us, every citizen, our society that must take responsibility to bring about changes or face the consequences. Do we want our urban areas to become no go areas at night, do we want to live in fear for our lives or our children’s’ lives? Those that cannot afford to move to the suburbs or the countryside will be forced to exist in the violent ghettos.
I believe that, for all our shock and horror and possibly our good intentions, we underestimate the depth of the problem. We put plasters and splints on the injuries when a whole new health regime would be a better prescription!
Let’s start at the beginning. We are all born innocent; it is only through poor parenting, example and education and the influence of those close to us in our early years that some of us take the wrong path through life. So it is perhaps here we should first look for answers to some big questions:
- Are we spending enough money on childcare and education? It seems not if we are to listen to nursery owners and school teachers. Money spent here will save us billions on putting things right in years to come.
- What is the purpose of our education system? Is the system fit for purpose? The current system is aimed at achievement of targets. It is probably true that a good education, as represented by good exam success leads to better life opportunities and a lesser likelihood of a life of crime, but perhaps we should focus less on exam certificates and more on producing well rounded young people with good educational results AND good social and life skills. Surely, we should be producing people who can interact with others in society. What’s wrong with creating a sense of good citizenship in our young people? There is a lot to say about honesty, good manners, respect for others. These qualities don’t hinder progress and individualism, they enhance them
- Are we getting the right people to teach our children? Do we rely too much on graduates who might be proficient in academic subjects? Perhaps we should consider employing ‘teachers’ from a variety of backgrounds where their qualifications and skills have been learned in ‘The University of Life’. After all, life is what faces our young people after their school years.
- Is there room for a ‘carrot and stick’ approach in our schools? With all the good will in the world, encouragement, praise and reward do not always eliminate destructive behaviour. Currently, our schools have their hands tied by the political correctness and liberal brigade when it comes to discipline. I am not advocating a return of the sadistic teachers of my young days who would whack your knuckles with a ruler of throw a book or board duster at you just because they could. But there must be provision for schools to keep good discipline. This is a place where young people can learn an early lesson of how far they can take things, what their boundaries are and what can be the results of unacceptable behaviour.
Parents have the most effect on a child’s life. Along with schools, they provide them with education. Their own behaviour sets the example and standard for their child’s behaviour. Along with other close family, friends, teachers, employers and everyone they come into contact with, parents have great influence on how a child progresses in life and what path they take.
Ideally, in my mind, every child will have two parents, a mother and father. I know, in recent years, just saying this is almost a crime but there is evidence that it works. My own preferred option is a family with a married mother and father who put their children’s upbringing very much first, much like my own childhood in the 50s. I use the word ’married’ in a wide sense, to mean married to their family, a contract to responsibility raise their children until they are adults. That is not to say other family units cannot work; any loving, caring, close knit family is more likely to turn out well-adjusted adults. I don’t want to go into this tricky subject much further today. My intention is not to be contentious but to proffer the old idea of family is still worthy of consideration in this subject of reducing the chances of young people falling into a life of crime.
One of the unfortunate side effects of the idea of gender equality is that young females are coming more into the criminal picture. Regardless of that, it is of course young males who tend to get involved in the serious crimes like assault, violence and homicide. There is strong evidence that boys who have a good relationship with their father have a better chance of staying out of trouble. We need to be investing in ways to encourage family units.
As with education, we need to look at the contribution of parents in producing good citizens and conversely why other kids end up on the wrong side of the law. We can ask some more questions:
- What makes a good parent? They put their children first. They feed them, clothe them and keep them safe from harm. They teach them how to behave, how to socialise, be respectful and have good manners. They encourage and motivate their children, they praise them and give them self-esteem and confidence, they set boundaries and standards and lead by their own example. Most of all they love them and the children always feel that love. Sadly, many parents fail in many respects, either through their own childhood experiences or marriage breakup or a myriad of other reasons. We need to help more families who need help if we are to stop the rot. Again, we are talking of investing more money at this most important stage. Help with childcare, decent living wages, family counselling, realistic benefits when unemployment or illness strikes. Encouragement and opportunity for parents to engage with their children’s schools, time off work for all parents to attend school events such as sports day, school plays and nativity and even school trips. Treat parenting as a job, training and remuneration and benefits included.
- Who is responsible for a child’s behaviour? In my view, always, but always it is the parents. This is not something that can be delegated. And this is where the carrot and stick approach is again important. So, good provision and training is available to assist parents to do a good job from day one. However, just as in any job, there are consequences for poor performance or bad behaviour. Fines, remedial lessons, whatever works, of course making sure there is minimal knock on effect on the welfare of the children. I’m not a great fan of social services as it is set up now, but there is a case for a lot more involvement with all families, especially problem ones. I’m not for one moment suggesting involvement in a big brother way, but more caring, encouraging and helpful to those that need it. Somehow a balance needs to be struck between this and the sadder cases of intervention in cases of abuse and neglect, which would hopefully be less with more helpful and timely well-meaning assistance.
Loving, responsible parents and good nurseries and schools need to be supported by the local community. The very people who would be affected by crime can be part of the answer to lower crime levels. I’m talking here about giving youngsters alternative outlets – scouts, guides, youth clubs, sports clubs. Why have these alternatives become less accessible or less popular? Maybe the right sort of motivated adults are put off by the fear that now pervades society about working with children. I think it particularly puts off men, as is the case in junior schools where there is a lack of male influence due to a scarcity of make teachers and teaching assistants. It’s vital that this imbalance is fixed. Money and facilities should be made available for community led youth activities and projects. If young people feel valued and feel part of their community, they will be far less likely to disrespect that community.
‘You prevent kids from joining gangs by offering after-school programmes, sports, mentoring, and positive engagement with adults. You intervene with gang members by offering alternatives and employment to help redirect their lives. You deal with areas of high gang crime activity with real community policing. We know what works.’ – Greg Boyle
I’m not saying that I have all the answers, far from it. But investing in parents and children from day one must be a good start. At the same time, we need to seriously look at some other key areas:
- Drugs. A very high percentage of crimes are drug related. All governments have not given this issue enough attention. Too many people die from drug use, too many lives are ruined through drugs. Society is being infected by this evil enemy. Young people are particularly vulnerable to the effects of taking drugs or being involved in gang violence fuelled by the lucrative drug trade.
- The Police. It is no coincidence that crime levels have risen and solving crime has dropped at the same time that police budgets have been slashed and officers have all but disappeared from our streets. It is common sense to suggest that budgets and staff should be restored to effective levels. Public confidence in the police needs to be restored and police officers need to be seen a part of every local community.
- Justice. How many times do we see criminals given incredibly lenient sentences? How many criminals re-offend because they are not deterred by light sentences or easy life in prison? How many times do we see the human rights of criminals take preference over victims’ rights? How many stories do we read about criminals living in better conditions in prison than some of our old folk? How many times do we see victims treated as criminals if they try to protect their property? How many times do we hear of people being accused and named and lose their jobs and reputations even before any trial has taken place? How many times have people been denied justice because they can’t afford a decent lawyer? The whole justice system needs a complete overhaul.
‘Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it.’
Henry Thomas Buckle.
My view on Brexit
I have been asked by Sovereign to put forward my views on Brexit, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to do so.
At this point I should explain that although I have long had an interest in national and international politics, I really didn’t start to think about the EU until the advent of Nigel Farage and UKIP. So, by 2014, I began to consider the entire concept of British sovereignty, apart from financial considerations.
At this point also, I think that you should know where I’m coming from. I am now 75 and can remember my childhood in the late 1940s onward. My family was politely called “respectable working class”, and to my knowledge most were Labour supporters. However, unlike most, we lived in London’s West End next to Soho, which at that time was a working-class area, but with a large contingent of Europeans, so for me, meeting continentals was nothing unusual. When Britain joined the EU in 1973 on the basis of what I had assumed was for a trading arrangement and not a political arrangement I was not unduly perturbed. I now realise that this has obviously been one of Britain’s greatest post war mistakes.
Also, whilst growing from a young child to a young adult, I noticed the post war changes, especially how Britain regarded its past. From being a confident nation, it turned into a nation of self-doubt aided and abetted I must say by the left which denigrated everything it could about Britain’s heritage, and it still does. This is something which I deeply deplore! I think that it is very true to say that Britain won the war and lost the peace.
I think the basis of much of our economic problems is that Britain began the Industrial Revolution, but because of such things as restrictive practices, rested on its laurels whilst others became much bolder in grasping new markets. It strikes me one of the greatest tragedies of Britain in the 20th century is that it focused such more on heavy industries but lacked vision of a future based on new technologies. The computer industry is a prime example of this. Spain suffered the same malaise once it got rich from plundering South America, sat back, did nothing for centuries, and so fell behind other western countries that were forced to look into new opportunities.
It is this national decline which brings me back to Brexit. Brexit encapsulates everything – from stopping and reversing the fall of a great nation which lost its confidence to a rediscovery of its ascendancy.
Negative Income Tax for the 21st Century
In November 1942 The Beveridge Committee published a report that would alter the course of Post-war Britain; after years of hardship that followed World War 1, a British establishment that had barely fought off its own Bolshevik revolution & the rise of a new political movement in the form of the Labour Party, the British public were fed up of the old system of privilege and sinecure enjoyed by the aristocracy whilst many of their number endured horrific conditions of poverty and squalor. It set out to deal with five “Giant Evils” in society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease. This would manifest itself into multiple acts of Parliament by the Labour Party in the post-war reconstruction of Britain that would establish the national health service, national insurance, and the larger welfare state that would define how we’d care for generations of Britons.
We will never know if this high-intentioned intervention into public life has had a net positive or negative outcome – its impossible to gauge the opportunity loss engendered by allowing the state to intervene so profoundly into key areas of social life: taking control of the care of our old, of our sick, of our education – but we do know that we are viewing in terminal decline, in atrophy, in need of severe and profound reform. Which begs the question: how? How do we approach welfare reform in the 21st Century which takes us all with it, which is equitable and fair to the least well off and the most who will inevitably pay for it?
I think the answer lies in what ideas were discarded leading to the Beveridge report; one of the members of the Beveridge committee, Lady Juliet Rhys-Williams, put forward the idea of a Negative Income Tax (NIT), in which the state would guarantee a minimum income to a person by supplementing any income lower than it. An example: if the NIT was set to £10,000 and your job paid you £8,000 the government would supplement that with £2,000, bringing the total to the NIT.
The world renowned American Economist Milton Friedman in his later days advocated for a similar system; in his version the subsidy rate was 50%, meaning with the NIT of £10k as above and you earning that £8k a year the NIT subsidy would be 50% of £2k: 1k added to your income making it £9k. He felt this was necessary to encourage work over idleness.
Several experiments in the US and Canada have been tried with the general outcome being that it tends to decrease the labour supply as income was guaranteed to above poverty levels – so how do you off-set the negative effects of an NIT? It was this tendency to idleness that Beveridge hoped to avoid in what would eventually found the British welfare state.
With this in mind I propose the following: the Adjustable Negative Income Tax, or ANIT to replace the existing raft of ions available: in essence the tax free income goes up to £15,000, with a tiered Negative Income Tax rate between £8 and £12,000 based on incrementally longer working weeks – for every 5 hours a week you work in legally-recognised work (up to 20 hours a week) you increase your income by £1,000 a year pro-rata.
Have a family? If one parent wants to stay at home, keep house and/or raise kids they have a source of income to themselves; better, we could make the tax-free bracket transferable – the working parent could receive theirs and their partner’s tax free income to render their income tax free up to £30k; you could apply the ANIT at a reduced rate to kids (to account for the other sunk costs of education and healthcare) and make it transferable to their parents as a supplement to replace child benefit and tax credits – the ANIT would cut off at the population replenishment rate of 2.1 but continue to apply as a tax free income supplement for more.
Have a disability? This would continue to be means tested but first lead to adjustments of the minimum ANIT rate (I.e. you’d get the top rate if unable to work at all) and then maximum (with severe disabilities leading to the maximal rate it applies and beyond); looking after someone with disabilities (be it a loved one or not) would also be classed as recognised work).
Things like the minimum wage would be obsolete; the minimum wage is a regressive tax on employment that benefits incumbent employers in a market and discourages new entrants who might be unable to hire individuals and introduce disruptive innovations that would otherwise never get off the ground; so how do you stop predatory tactics of employers taking advantage of their employees? In order for work to be recognised it would need to be claimed for by the employer in order for the employee to be paid – it is not unfair to think that the value of the employees ANIT would lower the upper limit at which the top rate of tax would apply: in practice this would have little to no impact on smaller and medium enterprises growing their businesses as the employer would likely not be paying higher rates of income tax in any case; larger employers/shareholders hoping to pass the costs of employment to the taxpayer could expect that to be recouped in a higher proportion of their income tax and/or progressive rates of other taxes, such as dividend taxes, which would both increase as they increased and apply at an lower cut-off dependent on how much ANIT was claimed to pay your employees.
For any new political movement in this country to offer a truly unique and vibrant alternative to the current stale, dying politics of our day it needs to recognise the inter-connectedness of institutions and political economics – with ANIT one such thing should become immediately apparent; with most of the functions and processes in essence flowing naturally out of the HMRC there would be very little need for the DWP, potentially other than as a smaller division with Revenue and Customs tasked with recommending adjustments to rates to the Chancellor; tokenistic, but shrinking the state whilst retaining its function and the objectives of a socially liberal society in looking after its poorest would send a message to citizens that we weren’t uncaring monsters hellbent on stealing benefits but ensuring that, choosing work and self-improvement was always an endeavour that would be rewarded.
There would be no end to the applications: charity shops could be staffed with volunteers earning a living wage and learning useful life skills and work habits; civic-minded individuals could organise the unemployed in winter to clear roads of snow and look after the elderly and infirm; children looking after elderly parents could look after them in their twilight years without fear of being driven to penury.
We need not live within the confines of the current narrative: throwing money at the problem till it goes away is a recipe for more trouble down the road and stagnation; ANIT could be an idea we use to disrupt and innovate out of this staleness.
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