This post is more for my benefit than yours. It’s just a record of some of the documentaries I’ve narrated over the years, before it all gets totally forgotten.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but :
2017 Wild New Zealand: Lost Paradise (Natural History New Zealand)  2016 Britain’s Billionaire Immigrants (Avanti for Channel 4) 2015 Ultimate Animals (Nat Geo Wild) 
2014 Woman Raised by Monkeys (National Geographic)
2013 Ice Age Giants 
– Last of the Giants
– Land of the Cave Bear
– Land of the Sabre-Tooth
2013 Martian Mega Rover (National Geographic)  2013 Hyaena Queen Of The Masai Mara (ORF)  2012 Bird Brain (Parthenon)  2012 Light The Ocean (National Geographic) 
2012 Teen Sex (National Geographic)  2012 Puma! (ZDF)  2012 Secrets of Our Living Planet (BBC, National Geographic) 
– The Secret of the Savannah
– The Emerald Band
2012 Four Horsemen (Motherlode)  2011 Journey Through The Milky Way (National Geographic)  2011 Mystery Of The Murdered Saints (National Geographic)  2011 Iceland Volcano The Aftermath (National Geographic)  2011 Saxon Gold: New Secrets Revealed (Fulcrum TV, National Geographic)  2010 Fireball Of Christ (National Geographic)  2010 Journey To The Planets (National Geographic)  2010 Preventing Armageddon (National Geographic)  2010 The World’s Biggest Cave (National Geographic)  2010 Living On Mars (National Geographic)  2010 Naked Science (National Geographic)  2010 Megastructures (National Geographic)  2010 Inside Nature’s Giants (Windfall Films)  2010 Clan of the Meerkat (MB-Naturfilm, NDR Naturfilm, Studio Hamburg Produktion Hannover)  2010/11 The Truth Behind (Zig Zag) 
– King Arthur
– The Ark
– The Loch Ness Monster
– The Crystal Skulls
2010 Tiger Queen (Grey Films India)  2010 Madness in the Fast Lane (BBC)  2010 Megaquake (National Geographic)  2010 Extreme Universe(Base Productions) 
– Star Gates
– Time Bombs
– Edge of Space
– Space Storms
– Collision Course
2010 The Pack (National Geographic)  2009 Earth’s Evil Twin (National Geographic)  2009 Naked Science – Superdiamonds (National Geographic)  2009 Known Universe – The Biggest and Smallest (BASE Productions, National Geographic Channel, Parthenon Entertainment)  2008/9 How Do The Do It? (Wag/Discovery)
2008 Martian Robots (National Geographic)  2008 Legend of the Crystal Skulls (National Geographic Channel, Picture Films, Smithsonian Networks)  2007 Earth Investigated (National Geographic)  2007 Saved by The Sun (National Geographic)  2007 When China Ruled The Waves (Parthenon)  2007 Silence Of The Bees (UK version) National Geographic
2007 Valley Of The Wolves (National Geographic)  2007 Engineering the Impossible – The Alhambra (national Geographic)  2007 Naked Science – Birth of the Solar System (Steadfast Television)
2006 Inside The Green Berets (National Geographic, UK version)
2006 I Smack And I’m Proud (ITV)
2006 The Girl Who Never Ate (BBC)  2006 Pitch Battles: England vs Germany (TWI)  2006 A Tudor Feast at Christmas (Lion Television/BBC)  2005 Kings Of Construction (Wag)
2005 Holiday Airport (ITV)
2005 The Secret Life of an Office Cleaner (BBC)  2005 Science of Star Wars (Evergreen Films in association with Lucasfilm)  2002 The Ship (BBC), directed by Chris Terrill  1998 The Cruise (BBC), directed by Chris Terrill 
If somebody has a special talent, and they work really hard it and they excel – maybe they’re a brilliant sportsman, or they’re a comedian and they make millions of people laugh, or they invent something we all use. Or they start some business that brings benefit to everyone, I don’t think anybody resents that person making a great deal of money.
What pisses people off is those that have done sweet FA for what they have. It’s an objection to what is known as ‘unearned wealth’.
And I think in the current raging inequality debate it’s very important to differentiate between wealth that is earned and wealth that is unearned.
Defending Owen Jones
The Guardian columnist Owen Jones is getting a lot of flak at the moment because, in terms of earnings, he has joined the so-called 1%. And being part of that 1% is in some ways a contradiction of his socialist principles.
I would defend Jones and say that he has earned his place in the 1% by writing books and columns that people want to read. And by going on TV and saying provocative things that people want to hear.
If you born with nothing the only way you have of bridging the wealth gap is by working. But if you’re tax at 45% on your labour, while those that own assets go untaxed, bridging that wealth gap is very hard to do.
I’m going to describe a system of taxation now that would result in unearned wealth being distributed and shared, while earned wealth is kept.
It’s called land value tax – LVT. And it’s extremely difficult to explain in a pithy way that people understand – which is one of the reason no politician who wants to get elected has ever really made it their cause.
It’s based on the thinking of 19th-century American economist Henry George. He called it a ‘single tax’ because it replaces all other taxes.
You’ve heard of the mansion tax. That derives from LVT. But the proposal was that it be in addition to other taxes. LVT – in its purest form – should replace other taxes. So there’s no income tax, no NI, no VAT, no fuel duty and so on.
The philosophy behind ‘Georgism’ is that wealth you earn or create is yours. You do with it as you see fit. But the wealth that nature has given us, in particular land, is unearned. No individual or company made the land; there is no cost of production to it: nature gave it to us, so it should belong to everyone. By building or farming or mining on it, many have improved it, but the land itself was always there. LVT ignores the house, the farm or the factory, whatever is on the land. Tax is paid simply on the rental value of the land itself. If the annual rental value of the land is £100, the tax payable would be a percentage of £100.
Some land is more valuable than other land, it has a higher rental value. But as it is the needs of the community that push the value up, the land value should go to the community and not the individual.
Kensington Palace Gardens – aka Billionaire’s Row – the most expensive street in London.
The 17th-century proponents of LVT were known as the physiocrats – physiocracy meaning ‘government of nature’. The ‘unearned wealth’ given to us by nature – the mineral wealth, the airspace, the broadcast spectrums, the space orbits – belongs to the community. Why should the oil under the sands of Saudi Arabia belong to a few princes? It is unearned wealth that should have been spread among all its people.
Of course, there are huge costs and expertise that go into finding and extracting minerals, just as building and flying a plane or transmitting through a broadcast network involves great expense and technological innovation. Such endeavours, if taken on successfully, are compensated commensurately by the reward of profit in the market.
But if you want the right to exclude others from a plot of land – i.e. for it to be ‘yours’ – and you want government to protect your title to that land, then a rent needs to be paid to the community that reflects the value of that land. Once you’ve paid that rent, the profits of your endeavours are yours.
A simple explanation of how LVT would work.
Every parcel of land in the country is assessed for its rental value – not the buildings, crops, drainage or anything else – just the land. If the land is undesirable scrubland in a remote location with no planning permission, it will have low rental value. If the land is in a prime area, is very fertile or is rich in minerals, demand for access to these features will be high, so the land’s rental value will be high too. Valuations are based on current market evidence. If there are two parcels of land in the same street, both the same size and with the same planning potential, yet one is developed and the other not, they are still both given the same rental value. Tax is then levied as a proportion of the annual rental value of that land.
A four-bed family home of around 2,000 square feet in a pleasant part of London, might have a rental value of around £35,000 per year; similar property in an undesirable part of the country rents for £10,000.The difference between the two, around £25,000 per annum, gives you a rough guide to the premium that the London land commands, i.e. the land value of the London property. You would then pay a percentage of that land value of £25,000 in tax each year. That is the only tax you would pay.
What percentage? That depends on how much government needs for its spending. And again that depends on your view of what government spending should be. I believe in small government and individual or family responsibility, so I tend to argue in favour of low spending. There are others, particularly on the left, who thinks government should spend more. That’s fine.
Total governmentt spending last year was about 750 billion. To levy £750 billion in LVT, you would add up the annual rental value of all the 60 million acres of land in the UK.
You then divide the annual rental value by the amount government needs.
If the total annual rental value of all the land in the UK is £7.5 trillion and the government needs £750 billion, then the rate of tax payable will be 10% of annual rental value.
If the total rental value of all UK land is £1.5 trillion, then rate of tax payable would be 50%.
If a government is going to try to levy a 50% LVT, then good luck to it in trying to persuade its people to agree to that. That is one of the many beauties of LVT. It is direct and transparent. There is no concealment. The cost is felt directly by those that pay it. A government spending too much will find itself quickly pressed by its electorate to stop doing so.
In the UK at present, 50% of land is unregistered, according to Kevin Cahill in his book Who Owns Britain. 50%!
A generation of people – now known as generation rent – cannot afford a house. Yet there are over 600,000 homes sitting empty. Many companies are sitting on potential building plots and not developing them, instead waiting for its value to appreciate.
LVT will pressure existing landowners either to put the property to good use, or to make way for someone who will. It might cause dilapidated inner-city sites, for example, to be redeveloped, which in turn reduces strain on green-field and other environmentally sensitive areas. LVT makes for more efficient use of land and existing resources.
Inheritance tax has failed to redistribute the ‘unearned wealth’ of 70% of the land that is owned by 0.6% of the population. If those lucky people, companies or trusts who own this land want exclusive rights to it, pay tax on it to the community. If they don’t want to pay tax on it, sell the land to someone who is happy to. This is a quick, efficient route to redistribute this ‘unearned wealth’ through the community via natural market forces, rather than by the incompetence and moral minefield that is state reallocation.
It one that should appeal to the left – as it redistributes unearned wealth throughout society – as well as to the right. Milton Friedman described it as ‘the least bad tax’.
Milton Friedman – LVT is ‘the least bad tax’.
A natural source of public revenue – and an efficient tax
It is also a simple tax to administer. Once the system is in place, revaluation of land, which would probably have to take place annually, is the only issue.
Not only is there less bureaucracy, there is very little evasion. Land cannot be hidden or moved offshore.
It could also stimulate economic activity away from costly city centres towards depressed, remote areas, where land has little or no value, thus bringing all sorts of badly needed revitalization. Again, the effect would be to spread wealth and power.
Speculation in real estate, often a consequence of loose monetary policies, is probably the single biggest driver of the boom-bust cycle. While the unequal distribution of land is the most obvious manifestation of the wealth gap not only here in the UK but everywhere.
‘Tax land, not labour’, runs one of the LVT campaign slogans. It is a tax on consumption, not production. I see it as a morally preferable use of the coercive force of taxation to income tax.
See it as a fee, based on the current market value, for the right to occupy exclusively a piece of the land that belongs to everyone.
The idea of the proceeds of LVT going into a central government pot may seem contradictory to some of the other minimal-state views I go on about. What does government then do with its revenues from LVT? This raises the question, ‘What is the state for?’
Government should spend that money on whatever is deemed right at the time: it might be spent on roads or infrastructure; it might be spent on the protection of people’s private property rights; or it might simply be returned to shareholders – the people – in the form of dividend. Now that really would be socialism!
Pure LVT is unlikely to happen. But LVT in conjunction with a low, flat-rate of income tax is achievable and that’s what I think should happen
Here are nine reasons to like LVT:
Unearned wealth is shared by the community.
Productivity is not penalized through taxation, but incentivized
You are taxed on the land you use: on what you consume.
It is transparent. Costs are felt, not hidden.
Once the system is in place, it is simple to administer.
There is little tax evasion or avoidance.
It makes for more efficient use of land than we have now.
It disincentivizes speculation in houses.
Taxes are lower; people are empowered.
The philosopher John Stuart Mill said in 1848 ‘It is not the fortunes which are earned, but those which are unearned, that it is for the public good to place under limitation.’
Erskine Childers was an amazing man. I don’t use that word lightly.
He was born in Mayfair in 1870, educated at Haileybury and then Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became chairman of the debating society and editor of the Cambridge Review, the university magazine. His father, an oriental scholar, died of tuberculosis when he was six; and his mother, who was from an Anglo-Irish landowning family, of the same disease when he was 11. After her death he would go to the family home in Glendalough in Ireland to stay during school holidays.
He was a keen sportsman, in particular a rugby player, but sustained a sciatic injury, so he took up sailing. He taught himself in the Thames estuary, in 1895 he crossed the channel alone, and in 1897 made the first of many voyages to the Baltic, along the German coast and around the Frisian Islands (where the name, Frisby, comes from by the way). These trips along the German coastline would become the inspiration for his book, The Riddle Of The Sands, which was published in 1903. Widely regarded as the first spy thriller, it has since become one of The Observer’s Hundred Greatest Books Of All Time, not only motivating politicians such as Churchill – who later said the book was the reason they installed naval bases in Rosyth, Invergordon and Scapa Flow – but also inspiring authors such as John Buchan (The 39 Steps) and Le Carré . The Riddle Of The Sands predicted war with Germany and called for British preparedness. (The authorities should have listened). It still reads well today.
Motivated by his expectation of war with Germany, Childers wrote two books on cavalry warfare, both strongly critical of what he saw as outmoded British tactics. Given the disasters which befell the cavalries of all armies in WWI – again – if only they’d listened.
With this aristocratic, public school and Cambridge background, having fought on the front line in the Boer War, with contemporaries such as Churchill, who at this stage greatly admired him (and who as first Lord of The Admirality in 1914 had Childers draw up plans for an invasion of Germany via the Frisian Islands) , a degree in law, with this tremendous gift with words, this foresight and this imagination, the hit novel of his generation under his belt, having now had several years experience rising through the ranks in the House Of Commons, and even winning a Distinguished Service Cross for his work in Gallipoli in WWI, the platform was there or him to become on of the great men of the British Empire.
But he didn’t. Ever his own man, he chose another path. This champion of the British Empire became one of the most extreme Irish nationalists, devoting his life to Ireland in its fight against the British for home rule and independence. This was a choice that would eventually cost him his life.
It seems this change was gradual. An early disillusionment with Britain’s empire policy was his realisation that, given more patient and skilful negotiation, the Boer War could have been avoided.
Perhaps the first major deviation from the “chosen path” came in 1912. “Childers resigned his post as Clerk of Petitions to leave himself free to join the Liberal Party, with its declared commitment to home rule, and in May 1912 he secured for himself the candidature in one of the parliamentary seats in the naval town of Devonport,” says Wikipedia. “As the well-known writer of The Riddle of the Sands, with its implied support for an expanded Royal Navy, Childers could hardly fail to win the vote whenever the next election was called. However the Liberal Party, although relying upon Home Rule MPs for its Commons majority, in response to threats from the Ulster Unionists of a civil war, began to entertain the idea of exempting some or all of Ulster from Irish self-government. Childers abandoned his candidacy and left the party.” He was ever a man of principle.
In 1914 he was even running guns for the Irish, smuggling 900 rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition on his yacht, the Asgard, from Belgium to Hoath near Dublin to arm the Irish Volunteers.
In 1919 he became ill and retired from London to his family home in Glendalough in Ireland, where he was introduced by his cousin, Robert Barton, to the Irish revolutionaries, Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera and, eventually, Arthur Griffith. But, on account of his Englishness, he was never quite trusted, particularly by Griffith.
In 1919 he was made Director of Publicity for the First Irish Parliament. In 1920 he published Military Rule in Ireland, a strong attack on British policy. And in 1921 he was elected to the Second Dáil as a Sinn Féin member.
In 1921, when the time came to negotiate the Anglo-Irish treaty, Childers was in many ways, as both a man of the Empire and a man of Ireland, the ideal man to do it. But he was shut out of the negotiations by both sides, who, for various reasons, both seemed to fear him. He was vehemently opposed to the final draft of the agreement, particularly the clauses that required Irish leaders to take an Oath of Allegiance to the British king, and he fell out very publicly with Arthur Griffith. The treaty continued to divide Sinn Féin and the IRA, and Ireland descended into civil war on 28 June 1922. Childers became the inspiration behind the propaganda of the Republican movement (IRA). But he was hated – and feared – by those in Sinn Féin who had now become his enemies, even though they all ultimately wanted the same thing – an independent Ireland.
In November 1922 his whereabouts were betrayed and he was arrested for “possession of a fire arm”. This was a pistol that Michael Collins had given him many years before for his own protection, when the two were still on the same side. But “possession of a firearm” had – deliberately it seems – just been made a crime punishable by execution. He was sentenced to death on November 20th and four days later, before his appeal could be heard, executed.
Some men are strong. Others aren’t. Childers was a strong man, right up to the last. As he stood in front of the firing squad, clearly framed, refusing to be blindfolded, the soldiers struggled to do what they had been ordered to do. “Stand forward, men,” he told them. “You’ll find it easier that way”.
Looking back at the problems that have dogged Ireland over the last 100 years, the thousands of deaths that have ensued, it seems Childers was right to be so uncompromising about Home Rule. If the British and the Irish had listened, who knows what might have been? And who knows what Childers might have gone on to become?
Winston Churchill had actively pressured Michael Collins and the Free State government to make the treaty work by crushing the rebellion. He said of Childers : “No man has done more harm or shown more genuine malice or endeavoured to bring a greater curse upon the common people of Ireland than this strange being, actuated by a deadly and malignant hatred for the land of his birth.” Is that right?
Eamon deValera, the head of Sinn Féin, said: “He died the Prince he was. Of all the men I ever met, I would say he was the noblest”.
He was the one they feared the most, the able, principled traitor.
On Thursday November 22nd the following docu-drama was broadcast on TG4, the Irish language TV station, about Erskine Childers’ life: Erskine Childers – Damned Englishman. Directed by Jerry O’Callagham with Ronan Fox as D.O.P., Jessica Regan as Mollie Childers and yours truly as Erskine. It lasts 50 minutes. Enjoy it.
I never knew anything about the man before I got to Ireland in July 2011, but ending up developing this a close bond to this amazingly talented and multi-faceted, uncompromising man. I can’t thank Jerry O’Callaghan enough for giving me this opportunity and for giving me one of the most fantastic fortnights I’ve ever had. I fell in love with Ireland then. Jerry cast me without ever auditioning or even meeting me. “Ah well,” he said. “I knew you could do the voice. And you look like him. I saw your picture on the internet.” If only the BBC or, better, Hollywood worked like that.
And here is part 3 of the Michael Jackson Fairy Stories.
This is the last one I make before I get a commission. (The idea is to re-tell the life stories of 20th century icons as though they are fairy stories. Please contact me if you’re a commissioner interested in developing it).
“The King Of Music”
Written, narrated and produced by Dominic Frisby
Designed and animated by Pola Gruszka
Audio mixed by Adrian Sear at soundtracks.co.uk
Music by MJ , friends and family (thank you!)