While I'm on BBC Free Speech tonight...
I thought I'd leave some notes for viewers to check out if they happen to take note of the site...
Dear Free Speech viewer,
I realise you may be watching this while I'm on tonight, and no, I'm not tweeting from the stage - it's all automated. But in case I didn't get a chance to make certain points while I'm up there, I thought I'd leave some notes on the subject matters at hand, so that you can decide for yourself what's what...
ON LADY THATCHER
There are a lot of myths that float around about the Thatcher years. They range from the sinking of the Belgrano to what free-market capitalism really means, from how the former Prime Minister addressed trade unions (and why) and indeed what legacy she left Great Britain.
Some excellent articles have been written on the subjects, and I highly commend the Adam Smith Institute's, 'Ten Myths about Margaret Thatcher' blog which you can click here to read.
But there are some other points that people keep raising and it's important to set them straight. Thatcher, according to many sources, called Nelson Mandela a terrorist, and supported apartheid in South Africa. This is simply untrue. There is no record of her calling Mandela a terrorist, and Mandela himself never broached the subject upon meeting Lady T.
Yes, it is true that she once referred to the ANC as terrorists, but Winnie Mandela herself used the vernacular of terrorists, refering to hanging tyres around the necks of opponents and setting them alight - literally terrorising people. This wasn't a reflection on apartheid though, it was a reflection on tactics used by the ANC. Thatcher in fact called for the release of Mandela, and was ahead of many world leaders in calling for such a thing. The BBC has an interesting article here about it.
The Lady's legacy for the country was one of economic growth and the empowerment of the individual. People like you and me. There was a reason that the old, rich, hereditary Tory folk disliked her. She helped smash class barriers. For all of us. An incredible documentary about this aired recently on Channel 4. I suggest everyone watches it.
Oh and if you think she screwed over the miners, look at what Labour did.
ON LONDON HOUSING
It's a problem, make no mistake about it. We have so many people cramming themselves into our nation's capital that no longer does the Tube feel like a tin of sardines - a lot of the city does too. But London's burgeoning growth has often also been its saving grace. We have more immigrants than ever, which is no bad thing to my mind, provided that the requisite efforts are made to naturalise - you know, speak the language and such.
But Brits and Londoners alike need to realise - you are not entitled to buy a house in London - and the government does not exist to ensure you can do so.
If we want more homes built, we have to give home-building companies a reason to do it. And when you talk about things like rent control, or even the "living wage" - these dissuade businesses and the housing sector from investing. After all, we've all got to try and make money, right? So do they. The big corporates or super-rich landlords don't care either, by the way - it's the small landlords you hurt, people like you and me in 20 years time who have saved enough to buy a house and rent out a room - or indeed a second property. That's who gets hurt by rent controls.
Instead, we have to realise that as the population grows, the rest of the country must take some of the weight too - not just London. This is why things like Crossrail and HS2 are decent ideas. They'll help people who want to work in London, but can't afford to live there, do it. And they'll help dissaude people who need to be in London for a few days a week from moving there altogether.
Government enterprise zones are encouraging businesses to invest elsewhere in the country, creating jobs, new nightlife, culture and more in plenty of places other than London. And to be honest, I've lived in London all my life but I wouldn't have a problem, if need be, moving elsewhere in the country. We have some great towns and cities in the UK - we need to drop the capital-centric attitude that most other Western nations simply don't have.
And just one more thing on this - remember the housing bubble? Remember the recession? That was in part caused by government creating supply (building more homes) and then artificially creating demand (backing sub-prime mortgages) to a point where everyone felt like they could whack down £10,000 and be set for life. It's not that easy. It takes time, it takes savings. There are no shortcuts.
ON THE MINIMUM WAGE
As I intend to state on the programme tonight - the minimum wage hurts the poor. It hurts small businesses, it hurts job creation, it drives up prices and from a philosophical perspective, it is another instance of the nanny state telling you what you can and can't do with your own labour.
Let's be clear - we're all sovereign over ourselves. Most of us are able to recognise when we're getting shafted by employers (as I have been, many times!) and most of us are able to navigate our way through those situations. Whether you choose to negotiate as an individual, through unions, or in another way - there are mechanisms that keep people happily and gainfully employed. But one so-called "progressive" mechanism is ruining it for a lot of people.
I'll give you this example:
I was once working at a retail store in West London. I had worked for the organisation in question for about three years. After two, the minimum wage had risen significantly, and costs to the business were spiralling. For a small-medium business, this was untenable. We could no longer afford to have eight staff on the shop floor, so people lost their jobs. That meant the remaining four of us had to work twice as hard - and for what? And extra £1 an hour? It was madness.
Alongside this, prices started to rise. Because as our wages went up again, the business had to make up the money elsewhere. Head office jobs were cut, advertising was cut, cleaning budgets etc. Now I'm not saying this was all because of the minimum wage - a lot of other factors played a part (including an increasingly competitive industry) - but it did play a role. Suddenly products went from £29.99 to £32.99, or £34.99 or £39.99... and people... normal people... were feeling that in their pockets.
The minimum wage operates on the basis that it stops "exploitation" but it discourages employers from employing, it stops you and me being as competitive in the price of our labour and efforts as someone who is willing to work "off the books" or "cash in hand" - that's a real tragedy of human capital.
I'm not saying it should be axed overnight - that would create another crisis in itself. But there should be mechanisms whereby if two candidates for the same job are equally matched, one is able to undercut the other. Right now, you can't do that. It's an artificial floor, and it's stopping the economy from growing.
There's a great debate about it (for both sides of the story) on Intelligence Squared, here.
As a Manchester United fan (boo?) I would say this - but we need more managers like Alex Ferguson in the game. Managers unafraid to challenge their bolshy, overpaid players. And we need a Football Association who wil back them.
Suarez has long been a bane in the side of decency in football and while I'm glad to hear that the FA has banned him for 10 games, I fear it's not enough and I fear Liverpool has abdicated its responsibility to the footballing (and wider) community, trading off against whether or not they can afford to lose Suarez.
If people want to combat this, do what many are doing. Buy shares in your club if you can - or stop buying season tickets in protest. Make your voices heard that these overpaid egotists aren't worth tarnishing the beautiful game over, and they're certainly not worth holding up as role models for young people.
If I was sitting in my office and someone annoyed me, and I decided to bite them, I'd rightfully be done for assault. If we're tired of different rules for politicians (which I know we are), then we should be tired of different rules for athletes and celebrities.
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