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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Wednesday 25th February 2015

The great luvvie love-in: Why do the Oscars ignore the films most of us want to watch?

Ever since I wrangled my way into the Vanity Fair Oscar Party one year and rubbed shoulders with the A-listers inside, I’ve made a point of trying to stay up for the Academy Awards.

The live ceremony is the equivalent of the World Cup final for movie-lovers. In my weaker moments, I still fantasise about what I’ll say when I collect my Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

But fending off sleep is becoming harder and harder, and not just because the programme seems to get longer each year. It’s mainly due to the gulf between the popular films I enjoy and the politically correct fare that is celebrated at the Oscars. (To read more, click here.)

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Tuesday 24th February 2015

Douglas Carswell is manoeuvres. But will his pro-immigration rhetoric sink Ukip?

Douglas Carswell says Enoch Powell was wrong about immigration. “He was a distinguished soldier, linguist and classicist,” he wrote in this morning's edition of the Times. “Yet in his pessimism, Powell was wrong.”

This is a potted version of an immigration speech the Ukip MP is due to give this evening at a Left-of-centre think tank, and it looks like a thinly-veiled attack on Nigel Farage. Ukip has suffered a dip in popularity in the past week following the broadcast of a satirical docudrama on Channel 4 and a fly-on-the-wall BBC TWO documentary, both of which gave the impression that Ukip is a racist party. (To read more, click here.)

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Monday 23rd February 2015

Now Ed Miliband is trying to weaponise cash for access

I didn’t take Ed Miliband long to weaponise the latest cash-for-access scandal.

He’s written to the Prime Minister this morning to tell him that, if elected, he will pass a law banning all MPs from holding paid directorships or consultancies and placing a cap on all outside earnings.

This follows hot on the heels of Miliband’s latest vote-winning wheeze, announced yesterday, that he’s appointed John Prescott as a special advisor on climate change.

Is that the same John Prescott who writes a weekly column for the Mirror? The same John Prescott who became a rapporteur for the Council of Europe after leaving the government in 2007? The same John Prescott who became famous for driving two Jaguars?

Even by Miliband’s standards, this is breath-taking hypocrisy. (To read more, click here.)

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Thursday 19th February 2015

Is tax avoidance morally wrong? I want to say so, but...

On the face of it, the moral case against tax avoidance seems pretty straightforward. If you’re a UK taxpayer and benefit from public goods and services, then you should pay your fair share of tax. If you’re paying less than that, then you’re a free rider. You’re breaking the social contract.

But what do we mean by “fair share”? The standard defence of tax avoidance is that it’s perfectly legal – if it wasn’t, it would be tax evasion – and the social contract only obliges people to obey the law, not to pay more tax than they have to. To maintain that people are morally obliged to pay an additional amount of tax, over and above what they’re legally required to pay, is a tricky position to defend.

For one thing, it means we’re all guilty of tax avoidance. I’m not just thinking of people who buy whisky in duty free or take out an ISA. If the “fair” rate of tax is higher than the actual rate, and anyone not paying the “fair” rate is “dodgy”, then everyone who fails to make a voluntary donation to HMRC on top of their annual tax bill is at fault. (To read more, click here.)

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Friday 13th February 2015

My ding dong with Owen Jones about tax avoidance

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Friday 13th February 2015

Why Scotland's schools won't benefit from copying the 'London challenge'

I suppose we should be thankful that Nicola Sturgeon has acknowledged there’s a problem with Scotland’s public education system, even if she’s hit upon the wrong solution. Earlier this week, the First Minister announced that the Scottish Government would be trying out its version of “the London Challenge”, a programme carried out by the last government, to address the chronic underachievement of Scotland’s most deprived children.

In the past, the SNP has deflected criticisms of its education record by pointing out that Scottish 15-year-olds did marginally better than their English counterparts in the 2012 PISA tests. But the difference between the two groups is miniscule and both have declined dramatically since PISA first started testing in 2000. More recently, the Scottish Government has been embarrassed by the error-strewn roll-out of the Curriculum for Excellence. The Highers linked to the new curriculum were supposed to be introduced last year, but half of Scotland’s local authorities still haven’t managed it.

It’s not surprising that Sturgeon has alighted on “the London Challenge” as the model for improving Scotland’s schools since it involves giving local authorities more money, rather than schools more autonomy. (To read more, click here.)

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Wednesday 11th February 2015

Let's hope Spitting Image Mark II is as fearless as the original

The news that a Spitting Image spin-off will shortly hit our screens fills me with a combination of excitement and foreboding. I’m excited because there are so many ripe targets for its particular brand of satire ¬– just think what fun the programme could have with Harriet Harman’s Barbie battle bus, for instance. But I’m also worried the new version won’t be as fearless as the original and will steer clear of material that some people might find “offensive”.

Nothing was off limits when the show was first broadcast in the 1980s. I’m not just talking about political figures, who we’re told will feature just as prominently this time round. I mean religious figures like Robert Runcie and Pope John Paul II and – crucially – Islamic religious leaders like the Ayatollah Khomeini. The Ayatollah was a regular target, usually portrayed with his hands dripping with blood. In one famous sketch, he presented ‘Miss Islamic World’ in which all the contestants wore full burkas so no part of their faces were visible. (To read more, click here.)

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Sunday 8th February 2015

Let’s raise a cheer for pushy parenthood

The problem with being a pushy parent is that you often end up feeling rather foolish. I spent several weeks preparing my daughter Sasha for the egg-and-spoon race at her first sports day. The mistake that most children make, I told her, is to run too quickly. They drop the egg and have to go back to the start. “Slow but steady wins the race,” I said.

On the day, she did everything I’d taught her. The other children raced ahead, dropping their eggs almost immediately, whereas Sasha inched forward, her face a mask of concentration. What I hadn't bargained for is that the rules had changed since my day. (To read more, click here.)

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Sunday 8th February 2015

Mylene Klass should keep quiet and cough up. Life's bleak enough without shopping for kids

I don’t understand why Myleene Klass objects to being asked to bring a cash gift to a child's birthday party. Does Klass actually enjoy traipsing round Westfield on a Saturday morning looking for a suitable gift for a child? I have four children under 12, each in a class of 30, and the custom is for each of their classmates to invite all the others to their birthday parties. So that’s 116 parties my children are invited to each year, and 116 presents I have to find. If one of their parents suggested I simply give their child £10 instead I would fall to my knees and thank god.

Come to think of it, I’m going to do exactly this when my son Ludo turns 10 next month. The amount of presents my children get on their birthdays is staggering, all of them worthless tat. And children are notoriously reluctant to part with anything once they’ve received it, so re-gifting is out. No, a place must be found for each plastic car and stuffed animal, with the upshot that their bedrooms now look like junk heaps. At the last birthday party our youngest son had, my wife and I managed to hide all the presents from him and when he went to bed I took them all to the local charity shop in a big black bin liner. He’s still none the wiser. (To read more, click here.)

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Thursday 5th February 2015

Like Arthur Daley playing Garry Kasparov: why I won’t miss Harry Redknapp

I can’t say I’m surprised by the departure of Harry Redknapp. Since I started supporting QPR in 2008, we’ve gone through six managers – 12 if you count the caretakers. Indeed, it’s a miracle he’s lasted this long. The club was relegated during his first term in charge and we only returned to the Premier League thanks to a last-minute goal by Bobby Zamora in the play-off final against Derby at the end of last season. I was at that match and Derby were easily the better side.

If Harry had been sensible, he would have announced his retirement after that game and gone out on a high. But what Enoch Powell said of politicians is also true of football managers: their careers always end in failure. QPR have been dismal this term, in spite of the £36.5m Harry spent on new players over the summer. We’ve lost our last 12 away games, a premier league record, and are currently languishing second from bottom. Avoiding relegation will now take a miracle, particularly as Harry only brought in one first team player during the January transfer window and then tried to give him back on deadline day. (To read more, click here.)

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Twitter RT @politicshome: Rupert Murdoch claims Ed Miliband embarassed him with 'over the top flattery': link link  (2 hours ago)


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In defence of my sister by Dominic Lawson - Daily Mail
Data briefing: free schools by the numbers -
Malcolm Gladwell's books are books are analgesics for those who seek temporary relief from abiding anxiety by John Gray -
Bring back the National Liberal Party by Nick Boles -
The hypocrisy of Mehdi Hasan by Guido Fawkes -
Ed Miliband is a copper-bottomed loser by the New York Times -
I'm a proud Yid, even if I hate Spurs by Anshel Pfeffer -
Pro-BBC article in the Mail shock! - Daily Mail
Ed Miliband is no leader. He's a vulture by David Aaronovitch -
21 more middle class problems -
Intolerance of humanists who attack faith schools by Brendan O'Neill -
Glenn Greenwald's dishonesty by Louise Mensch -
Arrest of journalist's partner price worth paying for national security by Dan Hodges -
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MC Gove in da house by Michael Deacon -
The criminalisation of journalism by Mick Hume -
Michael Gove gives Sir Humphrey lessons in letter-writing by James Forsyth - Daily Mail
Why educationalists hate Michael Gove by Frank Furedi -
Ed Miliband is the new Neil Kinnock by Trevor Kavanagh -
Check my privilege? B****cks to that by Louise Mensch -
Wind farms are a waste of space by top climate scientist - Daily Mail
Profile of Nigel Farage by Edward Docx -
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Britain's draconian new press regulations will stifle freedom of speech by the New York Times -
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Profile of Michael Gove - Daily Mail
David Cameron is a man of principle among pygmies - Daily Mail
The mafia links of a former Hollywood mogul by Bryan Borrough - Vanity Fair
The Wired magazine article that inspired Argo by Joshuah Bearman -
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Julie Burchill's censored article on the trans lobby -
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Fairness is at the heart of Osborne's strategy by Matthew d'Ancona -
Jim Dowd MP v the Spectator by Fraser Nelson - The Spectator
The Guardian has become the Vichy Evening News by Dan Hodges -
Spectator would defy new state regulator by Fraser Nelson - The Spectator
The Leveson Inquiry is the Left's chance to avenge itself on the Right by Benedict Brogan -
Daily Mail investigation into the Leveson Inquiry - Daily Mail
The hight-minded, Left-wing paedo hunters by Frank Furedi -
Britain's press must remain free by Tim Luckhurst -
Obit of a legendary Labour whip by Nick Robinson -
Referring to students as "learners" is infantilizing by Denis Hayes
Toby Young for Prime Minister by Jake Wallis Simons -
Ed Miliband's house is worth £2.3m! - Daily Mail
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JK Rowling despises everyone poorer than her by Charles Moore -
JK Rowling's new novel is boring, Left-wing agitprop by Jan Moir - Daily Mail
Getting rid of Cameron would be electoral suicide by Simon Heffer - Daily Mail
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Gove Levels - Daily Mail
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Posh-bashing is usually hypocritical balls by Hannah Betts - Guardian
Five conservative messages smuggled into Dark Knight Rises by John Boot -
Multiculturalism? Nonsense. The Olympics are a victory for patriotism and common British values by Dan Hannan - Daily Mail
Dissenters are cast out in the name of "inclusion" by Melanie Phillips - Daily Mail
Martin Durkin's dyspeptic view of the Olympics opening ceremony -
Batman: The ultimate conservative hero by Robert Colville -
Why the Tories need to grow a pair by Dan Hodges -
The day Gordon Brown came to power by Damian McBride -
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Why Britain shouldn't be part of a European super-state by Charles Moore -
Fixing Britain's character flaws by Anthony Seldon -
The shame of Britain's public school elite by Matthew Norman -
In defence of Murdoch by John O'Sullivan -
In politics, you're either up or down by John Kampfner - The Independent
James Lovelock recants - Daily Mail
Let's give Polly Toynbee the Britain she wants by Tim Worstall -
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Free schools are breaking down barrier to decent education for all by Charles Moore -
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Lasagne-gate - Daily Mail
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Osbornism by Matthew D'Ancona -
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The Magnificent Victory at Cardinal Vaughan by Charles Moore -
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Phone-hacking rage is Caliban raging at his own reflection by Dominic Lawson - The Independent
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"Ideological" is Labour's empty insult by Dominic Lawson - The Independent
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Leader of UK Uncut is middle class Oxford graduate - Daily Mail
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Topic of Cancer by Christopher Hitchens - Vanity Fair
The perils of being a freelance journalist by Richard Morgan -
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