August 17, 2009

Bubble Theory

I took my dogs for a long walk yesterday in some nearby woods. (Perhaps I should avoid walking in woods as long as I am writing this blog. I have already upset some senior members of our elected elite).

Dog-walking time is thinking time, for me, at any rate, my dogs don't think much. (They are content to roll around in deer poop). And I got around to mulling over what those 646 actually get up to in Westminster Village. Not much, was my conclusion. I tried to put myself in their position and I came up with my very own theory. I call it the Bubble Theory. It probably isn't unique, but it makes sense. To me, anyway. I meander a little here, but bear with me. We'll get to it shortly.

My theory is based on what I see, read, and hear. And what I see, read, and hear about mostly is how badly things have gone wrong in the last few years. I think it started after Labour won their second election. My observations are based on certain timelines. I like timelines. I know they are simplistic and A does not always lead to B, but sometimes, particularly if you are looking at a graph, it leaps off the page at you. All of a sudden the activity you are trying to pin down races up and to the right on the graph. I did this with pub closures. I was monitoring them after the smoker bans were enacted. In 2005, things were fairly normal. Around 100 pubs closed in that year. Not bad considering there were 58,000 of them. In 2006 it doubled, to 200. Still not bad. Then, in the second half of 2007 there were a whopping 1600 closures. What happened in the middle of 2007? The smoking ban. The closures got worse and worse as hundreds of publicans caved in to the inevitable. They had thrown away their biggest, most loyal customer base. For this to make sense you need to know that whilst smokers make up around 22% of the population, the demographic changes disproportionately inside pubs. Many landlords reported that 50, 60, 70, or even 80% of their customers smoked. I put this down to smokers who didn't smoke at home. The pub was the only place they indulged. For a myriad of reasons. In late 2007, closures crept up to 20 a week, Then 30. Then in 2008, they went up to 39 a week, In 2009 the number is 53 closures per week. Customer numbers, it almost goes without saying, sped down and to the left on my graph. Unprecedented closures, and unprecedented numbers of customers staying away from pubs is not a good mix. Mass closures don't make sense in a growing population, either. Usually, pub attendances are good during recessions. Folks need somewhere to meet, to bitch and to moan, and where better than the pub with your pals? Before you all shout at me, I do not think that the smoking ban, in isolation, is the cause of every one of those 53+ closures now. There are other variables in play. I do contend that it is the single biggest reason. Over 4,000 are now closed. These are net figures, they allow for new openings too. Workingmens Clubs, that last bastion, has been savaged too. 92, most with very long histories, have closed down. Bingo halls, the refuge of mums and grannies a couple of times a week, have been similarly butchered. Over 90 of them are gone. Each one a loss to the Chancellor of £1 million. Each pub closure means Uncle Alistair loses around £500K per year in various taxes. The smoking ban has cost us dear. For me, the price is too high. For many publicans, it cost them everything. The right thing for HMG to do, ironically, was nothing at all. The market had been steadily creating non-smoking venues and would have normalised all on its own. That is the nature of markets. They react to customer demands. Until the bans were brought in, smoker prevalence was falling. After the bans, smoker prevalence began to grow again. This was something that had not happened for decades. A failure on every level.

This will look unrelated at first glance but hopefully I will pull all the threads together in a moment.

20 years ago I worked at BP Exploration. There were around 3000 people in my building. I was a contractor, that is to say, I was not directly employed by BP. The vast majority, at the time, worked for BP. I hadn't been there long before BP announced that they were outsourcing the IT & Telecoms Division. Some 400 people. Well, the world had ended for most of them. This was pure calamity! There was much gnashing of teeth, and "Woe is me!" was a phrase I heard thirty or forty times a day. Many had been there for 20-25 years and had never once contemplated another employer. BP was, as far as they were concerned, their world. There was nothing beyond it. Nothing! BP was the only employer in Britain. "What will we do? What will we DO?", people asked me daily. "Relax", said I, "You'll be fine". Few believed me. The outsourcing company came in, held weeks and weeks of consultations and eventually, everyone had simmered down. BP, you see, was giving everyone a fat wad of cash, to ease the pain of parting. Those longest serving members did well. The lowest payment, I recall, was £18K, and the highest that I heard of, was £61K. Most paid off their mortgages, booked fancy holidays, or bought new shiny cars. Here's the kicker: every one of those 400 that were "fired" on Friday afternoon returned to BP on the Monday morning with fresh new jobs with the outsourcing company. Usually, I heard, with an increase in pay. So, the widespread panic, and the rush to learn how to compile a C.V calmed down. Normality resumed. The sky was not falling in after all. If you have never heard 400 people sigh at the same time, try and catch it one day. It's an amazing sound. They all settled in again, and life was good. CV's were trashed, calls to job agencies were cancelled, and the workload over at HR reduced by about 2000% overnight. Routine was re-established.

This leads me nicely on to Bubble Theory.

Westminster is a unique place. Its' employees spend months begging their constituents to vote them into parliament, having made more promises than a lovesick teen, and, as soon as they settle into their offices, promptly forget all about those that put them there. This may not be instantaneous, but it seems to happen pretty damn quickly. The plebs who voted for them can now be safely forgotten until election time rolls around again. There is stuff to be done! They are lawmakers now! And make law they do. At an alarming pace. The trouble is, I now know that they barely make time to even read about whatever statute it is that is going through. Party Whips run around and herd them all together and "advise" on whether to vote Yea or Nay. No-one reads this stuff. The average statute is 80 pages long. They make for dry reading. I know. I have read several. They are written in legalese, and without a translation, the average MP is clueless. During NuLabours tenure they have ejaculated an average of one statute per day. Do you think that any MP has read this all of this stuff? Over 3,500 new statutes? Me neither. If they did, more than 75% of these "laws" wouldn't see the light of day. What's important is to appear to have done something. Something vital. "Lawmaking" ticks that box. They are swallowed up in their little world. Here they are safe. They get very nice salaries, unbelievably generous pensions, and super expense accounts. They may even have time for second jobs, or seats on some company board or other. Most put in a couple of days a week at the HoC. Meals and drinks are heavily subsidised. Grace and favour houses, or generous housing allowances, are given to them, they never need to spend their own money, Joe/Jane Public are conned out of the billions thrown at them. In short, it is a safe, happy, secure little existence. The only danger comes when interacting with Joe & Jane and that can (and must) be avoided at all costs. Nice work if you can get it. They are insulated from real life at every turn. Over 85% of them have never had a proper job. They went through schools, on to Uni, then they hit the streets for a few months before entering parliament. They have never known anything else. They are no different from the lifers at BP. They are cocooned. They are cosseted. They are pampered. They are protected. My theory is that because they have lived in this entirely false little world, they cannot communicate with those of us that have normal lives. Hell, they think their lives are normal. I conclude that they can never understand me. They can never understand how normal people get by. None of them understood our anger at the expenses scandal. None of them understood just how damaging that was to British politics. And why should they? I got tired of hearing them say "Well, I did nothing wrong, but look! Here is my cheque for £15,231.81p. I'm repaying it even though I don't need to! Aren't I generous?!"

One small story, (greatly, perhaps criminally under-reported at the time) was of a single mum who had applied to the Social Fund for a single bed for her daughter. (Bear in mind that claim for moat cleaning as you read this). She was told that she qualified for a bed, but not a mattress. Her little girl slept on the springs. That story alone told me that these muppets were so far out of touch there was absolutely zero chance of them ever connecting with those who elected them.

I have used a fairly broad brush there and I do not mean to tar them all. I used what I believe is a poor statute, enacted with no evidence that it would do what it said on the tin (it didn't), and showed you what happens when people do not do what they are paid to do. Think first, and legislate only as a last resort. The outcome of the Health Act 2006 (Smoking Ban) was obvious to me because I researched outcomes in other countries. Why could they not have done that?

There are good ones. There are MPs that do care and genuinely follow a vocation. Sadly though, they are a distinct minority.

We need to burst their bubble. We need them to see us and we need them to hear us. Moreover, we need them to obey us. But I fear it is too late for that. If we elect the Conservatives to office, we are merely replacing drones with drones. That is not fair on the British people. They deserve much, much better.

I think the kindest thing to do is to fire them all. All at once. They can be replaced with apolitical citizens that have no idea how to lie, spin, trough, and ignore. A non-party affiliated Administration made up of people who have no axe to grind, no wishes other than to serve the public. People who know that quango's and fake charities are unnecessary and unwanted warts that must be burned off. People who realise the value of a multicultural society but also realise that the immigration door should be gently, but firmly eased shut, at least until we can determine those that want to contribute from those that don't. People who realise that we really don't need 3,500 new crimes to be created every ten years. People who realise that less government is better, more effective than a bloated civil service, created only to ensure votes for whoever gave them the jobs in the first place. People who have never inhabited a bubble. People who want 99% of decisions to be taken at the local level, where the decisions count for something and are meaningful. People who don't want to be spied on, by neighbours, or by 4.3 million cameras littering out streets and cities. People who don't want to carry ID cards. People that prefer to be presumed innocent instead of guilty. People who think a top rate of 10 or 15% income tax is more than generous. People who are tired of watching this government give £2 million per hour to the EU. People who are sick and tired of reading about the billions this government wastes every year.

People, in other words, like you and me.


Anonymous said...

I agree with pretty much every single word of that.

I really wish they were all gone. Every single last one of them.

Captain Ranty said...


Wishes come true now and then. We might just have to lend some assistance...!

Pesky Anonymous said...

Another great post again Captain.

Your above comment sums it all up for me.
But how on earth can we lend some assistance? I am at a complete loss.
*They* have been working on the game for so long, they probably have every eventuality stitched up.

At the risk of sounding like a loony, I cling to the hope that something magical and mystical happens. 2012 and all that. That one day a great majority of people will inexplicably wake up and think differently. Some hope I know.
But like Gandhi said (approx): *We are the change that we want to see happen*

Captain Ranty said...

Thanks Pesky.

I am only now starting to read up on 2012. Not sure what it all means yet. I am not convinced it will be End Times. I have read about dozens of those.

If I can gather enough (sensible) data I will do a piece on it.

If you (or any other readers) have links about 2012 please let me know.

Pesky Anonymous said...

Here's the best overall view of the 2012 concept I know of:

Nothing else springs to mind right now, but if I can find anything else worthwhile I will post it.

Pesky Anonymous said...

To answer your response more fully:
As for *end times*, I don't really go for them myself.
I suppose it comes down to whether you buy the cyclical theory (as per vid), or the linear theory (as per Darwin).
There are no end times in a cycle. If there are, one then has to ask; the end of what exactly? I would suggest that it could simply be the end of our old methods of perception.
No, I hope I don't appear as a purveyor of apocalyptic theories.

I watched the vid again myself, and realised it did not mention 2012 once.
I will try to find something more specific, or post again with a few pointers.

What fascinates me is this:
Let's say for a moment, that something big IS going to happen around 2012. One would think we would see some signs of this today, back here in reality.
There is a school of thought that believes the very reason they engineered the financial slowdown, lessened our rights, introduced new laws, and are monitoring us closely, etc.etc., thus putting us under more stress, is precisely because they know something big is going to happen in 2012 too.
Frightened they are going to lose power and control, they dumb down education, saturate us with nonsense TV, sedate us with food additives (etc.), and fill our days with trival ritual rubbish. Anything to try and stop us having anytime to think and reflect upon what is going on.
Briefly: They know if we wake up and say no - they're fucked.

Now it seems to me, that the rate at which things develop (and/or disintegrate) is increasing faster and faster, like an exponential curve.
Whether I am correct in these observations, and if I am, then whether it is to do with the approach of 2012 or not, who knows?
But this is my little wish that I hope comes true, and I don't have long to wait and find out.
The alternatives appear grim.

Henry North London said...

Are you a libertarian Ranty?

Captain Ranty said...

Henry, I dont think it is possible for another human to be more libertarian than I am. This is not a boast. It's become a way of life for me.

Look at what I am doing. The uneducated and the unthinking accuse me of wanting a free ride, or worse, they call me an anarchist. Nothing could be further from the truth. I accept responsibility, FULL responsibility, for my own actions. I dont just want small government, I want ZERO government. Look at ZaNuLabour. They have destroyed my faith in (almost) all politicians.

They are an abomination.

I had hoped that my libertarian streak shined through in my writing but maybe it doesn't.

Maybe I should write more plainly.

Henry North London said...

It shines through I was just asking... Just wondered if yo'd joined our party.

Im much like you I dont like having regulations and policies that strangle me.

I find I tread on other peoples sensibilities because they are inured to slavery and Im not.

Captain Ranty said...

I really, really like the look and feel of LPUK. I will have to make a decision soon. I'll wing you a note when I do.

My mission is to screw up the current administration, and if they are replaced by the Tories, I am honour bound to screw them up too. If I join LPUK there is a small risk that you will be accused of all sorts. I wouldn't want to bring harm to you and your party.

I dont mind regulations that make sense. I am just averse to mountains of Statutory Instruments that have absolutely no common sense. And they have puked out thousands of those.

I am still enslaved, but I have started to chip away at my chains.

But at least I am free in my mind.

The rest will follow.....