Very basic politics #3: where has all the money gone?

[This was written in hurry: please forgive any typos or other mistakes; better still, point them out in the comments, and I’ll fix them.]

As noted in part 1, the UK’s annual fiscal deficit (the difference between its income and expenditure) is about £100 billion. The population of the UK is 64 million, so that means that as a nation we are spending £1500 per person more than we’re bringing in. To put it another way, we each need to chip in one and a half thousand pounds a year to balance the books.

That’s why Liam Byrne, the outgoing Treasury chief in 2010, famously left a note saying “I’m afraid there is no money.

nomoney

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So how was the Cinderford Music Festival?

Fiona and I played our set at the Cinderford Music Festival yesterday. We were delighted to do it, in part because it’s so local and we like to support local things. (We live 5 km from Cinderford.)

This isn't us -- it's a band called Vevolution playing at the 2014 festival.

This isn’t us — it’s a band called Vevolution playing at the 2014 festival. I don’t think there are any photos from the 2015 festival yet, and probably none of us in any case.

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I’m playing a half-hour set at the Cinderford Music Festival tomorrow at 1:30pm

I’m playing a half-hour set at the Cinderford Music Festival tomorrow at 1:30pm. Fiona will join me to provide backing vocals and flute. Here’s the blurb as it appears in the festival programme:

Mike Taylor sings and plays songs that people know and love — songs by bands like the Beatles and the Kinks, and songwriters like Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. He describes his voice as “adequate” and his guitar playing as “unobjectionable”. Come and sing along.

Please come and join us if you’re in the area! It’s free entry: all the details are on the Festival’s Facebook page, but the venue is the clubhouse of the Cinderford Football Club, Edge Hill Road, Cinderford, Gloucestershire GL14 2QH.

Very basic politics #2: what is government spending for?

Many thanks to all who have commented on part 1 of this series: very interesting discussion. Also to Millennium Elephant for fact-checking my statements about LibDem policies.

Today, I want to look at what government spending is for, and why we have it. The reason that’s important is that lots of people resent taxes, and feel that the government is taking their money away. That’s the means, not the end. It would be more true to say that the government is spending money on your behalf. Why does it do that? Is it a good thing?

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Very basic politics #1: three ways to deal with the deficit

First, a disclaimer. I am not very informed about UK party politics or about how our parliamentary system works. I know people who are much more informed in these matters (but I won’t link to them because they have party affiliations and I don’t want to advocate a particular party).

But I do want to talk about political principles. This is the first in what I expect to be a short series, where I want to tackle the very fundamentals that we vote on.

The key issue underlying much of the electioneering this time around seems to be the deficit.  Continue reading

My quest to become overweight

I am 1.81 meters tall — I know this, because I got the nurse to measure me at my annual health-check a few days ago. For the last decade or so, my weight (or mass, if you’re scientifically inclined and pedantic) has hovered between 100 and 105 kg. At the bottom end of that range, 100 kg and 1.81 m gives me a body mass index of 100 / 1.812 = 30.5. According to the standard categories, that makes me obese — only just, as the threshhold is 30.

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Liberal Democrat manifesto on policing and security service powers

I’m still not 100% sure who I’m going to vote for in the General Election, but if I end up going for the Lib Dems, this section of their manifesto is going to be a big part of the reason why. From page 111:

Liberal Democrats believe security and liberty are two sides of the  same coin: you cannot have one without the other. The police and  intelligence agencies do vital work to protect the public and we  are rightly proud of them. But we always have to be vigilant that  the state does not overreach itself, as it has done at times through  corruption, heavy-handedness or illiberal laws.

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