Thursday, May 31, 2007

Off to a wine tasting in London

Well, this evening I am going to a wine tasting in London. Should be good. I will be blogging more later.

International Statesman and nutter meet in Libya

Tony Blair, on his tour of Africa met with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in the Libyan desert yesterday.

Now the big question is, who is the deluded nutter and who the statesman?

The Telegraph has this.

Wales to go Blue, Green and Yellow in rainbow coalition!

It is with some amusement that I find that the Queen has congratulated Alex Salmond on hos election win in Scotland, but both Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have only found time to congratulate Rhodri Morgan for hanging on by his finger tips in Wales (See this by Guido).

Well, it seems that Wales will only go Labours way for a little while.

The executive of the Liberal Democrats decided not to go through with a coalition deal with Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives but have now been over ruled by their members so have no choice. All we need now is Plaid to have a vote in favour and Rhodri can be chucked out on his ear!

I wonder if Gordon Brown will be so keen to congratulate Rhodri's successor?

Perhaps not!

The Telegraph has this.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Damascene conversion of the Conservative party?

George Osborn gave a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank today, in which he said that the Conservatives are the true "heirs to Blair" on public service reform, whilst Gordon Brown is the road block to reform.

He was of course not talking about a lot of the things this Labour government has done or is about to do, like ID cards or scrapping grant maintained schools and fundholding GP's.

What I found exceedingly funny was watching and listening to David Milliband wittering on about how for the last 10 years the Conservative party have been voting against Labour policies and calling Tony Blair all sorts of things and so on.... so who is going to believe in this Damascene conversion?

The reason why is that we of course opposed reversal of the public service reforms we put in place. We could hardly keep on opposing when this government brought our policies back, like for example allowing some schools to opt out of LEA control.

Telegraph backs Cameron shocker!

Just something I noticed last night. Today's editorial in the Telegraph seems to support David Cameron and his stance over grammar schools (albeit grudgingly).

I wonder how Simon Heffer will be feeling?

The Telegraph also has this.

Why doesn't Jon Cruddas wear his glasses in public?

Quite a few of us are optically challenged, to one degree or another.

For example, I am moderately short sighted, and need glasses to pick out fine detail at a distance so I wear glasses for watching TV, playing pool and driving. Of those I would only be really upset not to be able to watch TV without them though it would be touch and go as far as reading a number plate at the required distance for a driving test in a hurry without them I can see well enough to drive and play pool.

In short I need glasses a little so do not wear them as a rule but when in company in the circumstances I normally use them, I use them. (even when at college I found I could no longer quote make out what was on the blackboard from the back of the class at speed and had to wear old fashioned horn rimmed NHS glasses).

Jon Cruddas wears glasses most of the time, you can tell. He also wears metal framed glasses where the side arms attach in the middle of the eye and has plastic lightweight lenses.

What is most striking about them however is that they are far too narrow at the front for his head and face.

Now to be fair they could be a cheap pair of off the shelf reading glasses in which case I am sorry for this article, but if that is the case, why does he wear them so much, but not in public?

Graham Brady and the Great Grammar School "sacking"

I understand from this article on Iain Dale's blog, that not only had Graham Brady been reprimanded for speaking out on grammar schools, (fair enough, he was not towing the line) but that information had leaked into the media which is far from fair enough.

What is worse is that the media had been told he would be "sacked" at the next reshuffle in 6 weeks.

I agree with the party policy on grammar schools, (though have yet to articulate my thoughts on this and am open to discussion) however I am at a loss to see this loss of party discipline.

Let us be clear. Graham Brady overstepped the mark. For that he needed talking too. If he chose to resign, fine.

What is not fine is that news of the reprimand leaked and what is deeply troubling is the news of the impending sacking.

The party leadership can't ask for internal discipline if the party machine is briefing against members of the front bench.

If you are going to sack someone sack them. End of. No spin.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Sun talks hogwash over Diana pictures on Channel 4

I want to make it clear I do not buy the Sun, but do scan read bits of it when I am buying my lunch.

On the issue of Channel 4 screening a documentary on the death of Princess Diana the Sun Says:

Good 4 nothing

SEEDY C4 bosses are desperate to boost flagging ratings.

They have already insulted us with Penis Week and Designer Vaginas.

The channel had to abandon squalid W**k Week — and apologise for its rip-off phone-ins.

Now, after its humiliation over Big Brother racism, it is attention-seeking again with pictures of tragic Princess Diana’s last moments.

Producers don’t care about the distress to Wills and Harry — or whether it adds a jot to what we know of their mother’s death.

And this was the public service broadcaster launched with lofty promises to raise standards for the discerning viewer.
I agree with every word.

So why do I take such a negative view?

Because the same bunch of hypocritical scum published the very same photo on their front page last year!

Don't buy the Sun, it obviously thinks its readers are too thick to remember what it did last year.

You can read what the Sun says here.

Be afraid. Very afraid!

I have been considering the news, reported on Sunday in the Mail on Sunday, that the government has set up the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre.

This deals with people who have a fixation with people who are famous and in power, for example the Prime minister, cabinet and Royal family.

In some, if not many ways that is fair enough, however this unit has attached a number of psychiatric staff, who between them can do all the paperwork it takes to section someone.

Again, in principle, if a unit is looking for mentally unstable people who could pose a threat to VIP's, it makes some sense to have someone on hand to be able to assess if they are mentally ill.

So far so good. Ish.

Then, we have another issue which is the upcoming new Mental Health bill. According to the same article Andrew Lansley, the Conservative shadow Health Secretary has expressed concerns that the bill may include as mentally ill people who hold odd cultural, political or religious beliefs.


Here are my serious concerns.

Firstly, that a psychiatrist attached to a unit can sign the paper work rather than passing the responsibility to an independent practitioner who has no axe to grind or targets to meet.

Secondly I have a very large problem with the extension of the definition of mental illnesses that could lead to people being sectioned to people with 'odd' views.

Those who know will know that the one country that could guarantee your human rights, freedom of speech and so on, because it was written in 10 foot high letters of flame in the constitution, was the USSR.

It got around its own laws by having removed any independence of its judiciary, (issues have been raised about the creation of the Ministry of Justice) and by locking up other people on the grounds of mental illness.

We need to be very careful about what happens next.

Dizzy has this, and Guido has this.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Metropolitan Police refuse to investigate deceptions under £40,000

Sources tell me that the Metropolitan Police will not investigate deception cases under £40,000. So if someone writes you a bad or forged cheque for less you had better hope you are covered some other way.

In many ways this policy, not officially announced of course is at best misguided because it allows people to commit a series of offences costing real people real money and essentially get away with it.

What is worse is what this money could be used for. Terrorism is a clear possibility as is organised crime.

The real problem is that many people can effectively have their savings stolen and be left destitute and the Metropolitan police will not lift a finger.

Clearly there is a problem here and it is one of resource. The police are clearly very busy elsewhere.The question is what can be done to increase the resource. Do we need more police in the service, or is there a problem with bureaucracy, or quite possibly both.

I am pleased I don't live in London.

Macavity's not there while anti terror row storms

It is interesting to note that whilst there is a storm brewing about the latest loony anti terror proposals to allow people to stop and question anyone without suspicion (if a policeman has suspicion they can as I understand it stop, question and arrest, something they have been able to do for quite some time).

The news media have been making much of Peter Hain's intervention when he said we did not want to create a domestic equivalent of Guantanamo bay. Hazel Blears hit back alleging that the proposal came from Hain's Northern Ireland office, where a similar power is about to be repealed.

Obviously the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have expressed concerns about these proposals and also concern that already existing powers are not being used.

In all this where is Gordon Brown? Hiding as usual.

Says it all really.

Mind you, other bloggers have noticed as well, for example Dizzy has this.

The Telegraph has this on Labour splits, the BBC has this.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

When will Frank Field come home?

I have for quite some time now had some admiration for Frank Field, MP for the formerly Conservative constituency of Birkenhead, and had indeed wondered if there was any chance he might defect to the Conservative party.

Thanks to an interview on BBC News 24's Straight Talk with Andrew Neil, I now know that he was originally a member of the Conservative party and child poverty campaigner.

What is more interesting also was that the Child poverty action group pointed out that under Harold Wilson's government between 1966 and 1970 poverty had got worse.

It seems clear to me that Frank is a very intelligent man. I would say he is a Conservative in the best traditions of the One Nation compassionate strand. However he is currently a Labour MP for Birkenhead.

What I found most interesting was some of his comments in the interview. I am currently reading his paper on New Deal. He will go on to publish papers on other areas of welfare and welfare reform. I suggest any one who cares about these things should read them.

Some remarkable observations were these:

From earnings of about £100 to £500 per week there is very little any one can do by their own hand to improve their standard of living. That is solely in the gift of the Chancellor.

Just go back and think about that. It is simply shocking.

A single parent with two children working 16 hours per week will get about £480 per week, after tax credits. A married couple with two children (he didn't say it but I presume both are on the minimum wage) would have to work 116 hours to get the same money. He is not surprised at how many single parents there are, but how many married ones there are.

On the Margaret Hodge affair, he was not surprised at what she said, he was surprised she was being attacked for telling the truth.

He pointed out that now the Bangladeshi community in Bermondsey was making exactly the same complaints that were being made 40 years ago by the white residents 40 years ago, that the welfare system favoured new immigrants.

You can find Frank Field's website here.

I do hope he rejoins the Conservative party. From my point of view, he would be most welcome.

Tony Blair talks rubbish on the war on terror

Tony Blair has penned this article in the Sunday Times entitled "Shacked in the war on terror".

Here are some choice quotes:
The absconding of three people on control orders because of suspicion of their involvement in terrorism has, once again, thrown into sharp relief the debate about terrorism and civil liberty. Within the next few weeks we will publish new proposals on anti-terror laws. Our aim is to reach a consensus across the main political parties.
Well, given that you do not appear to have listened to people who have considerably more anti terrorist experience than you I very much doubt you are going to achieve much in the way of a consensus.
But at the heart of these new proposals will lie the same debate: the balance between protecting the safety of the public and the rights of the individual suspected of being involved with terrorism.
The problem with saying "the individual suspected of being involved in terrorism" is that it appears to try to make it look like it is only a few people. It need not be, it could be anybody. The state can and does make mistakes in these things and the whole point of the British system is to protect the individual from the state.
And, of course, we lost the crucial vote on 90 days’ precharge detention, despite offering a week-by-week court hearing throughout the 90 days.
Yes, there is a reason for that. It is a stupid idea and would be a recruiting sergeant for the extremists.
So when there is an outcry about the three absconding, we should remember that consistently over the past few years, and even after July 7, attempts to introduce stronger powers have been knocked back in parliament and in the courts.
Again there are reasons for that. Firstly control orders that are overly strict will look like house arrest and will be a recruiting sergeant for the extremists. Secondly these people should be prosecuted with the use of intercept evidence. We are virtually alone in the western world in not allowing our own intercept evidence in court though we do allow Belgian intercept evidence. The reason for the outcry over the absconding is that we can't believe that people believed to be so dangerous are not more closely monitored. They are either dangerous or they are not. Keeping people in some kind of limbo for years at a time is simply un British and unacceptable.
So the fault is not with our services or, in this instance, with the Home Office. We have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first.

I happen to believe this is misguided and wrong.
Well you would do, your a fascist prat. Seriously we have to ask what it is we are trying to defend here. It is after all key to how we defend it. Surely we are trying to defend a free society in which people are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

This country is about so much more than warm beer and cricket. To suggest that a suspect loses all his rights simply because he is a suspect is bonkers. Even when asked to prove things beyond reasonable doubt mistakes are made. If you look at the number of people who have been arrested under anti terrorism legislation in recent years compared to those charged the figures are stark, 90% of them being released without charge or charged under much less serious legislation.
It is clear that the police may have reasonable suspicion in many cases but then it transpires they have nothing more than that. Can we really afford to erode our liberties to a point where people can be locked up for long periods of time without charge?
Their right to traditional civil liberties comes first. I believe this is a dangerous misjudgment.
You said that earlier in the same piece, and repeating it does not make it any more more true. I note the use of the word "their" when in fact it will be every bodies civil liberties under threat. After all the police have used anti terrorism legislation to break up legitimate demonstrations.
This extremism, operating the world over, is not like anything we have faced before. It needs to be confronted with every means at our disposal. Tougher laws in themselves help, but just as crucial is the signal they send out: that Britain is an inhospitable place to practise this extremism.
Well I am not sure this is unlike any threat we have faced before but I will let that pass. However what tougher laws does Tony want? It has been the case since the 1986 public order act that you could prosecute and charge people for inciting acts of terror. In fact you can generally prosecute people for inciting most criminal acts.

This government has only used the existing law once. Yet if it used it to tackle the extremism of which he complains then he would be able to lock up those who are recruiting for the extremists. Yet this government for its own petty and stupid reasons does not want to do that, instead it wishes to damage our democracy beyond repair.

Yet more anti terrorism legislation?

Apparently John Reid, with the Fuhrer, Tony Blair's support wants to bring in yet more anti terrorism legislation, according to the Sunday Times.

This follows on from the latest farce where three people have absconded from control orders, who are believed to pose no threat in the UK and may go to Iraq and act as suicide bombers or the like.

When that happened was that John "comrade" Reid promised new legislation within weeks. I am so glad it has been well though out. And so it has come to pass.

We are now promised new legislation to be tabled before parliament which in essence extends the police's powers in Northern Ireland to the UK mainland as they are about to be repealed there. There is the power to stop and question any one in the street, ask for their identity and what their business is without a suspicion that a crime has been committed. Apparently this is an improvement on the current stop and search laws which will need to be used less.

What? Are they seriously saying that stop and search measures are used in terrorist suspects? This both crass and stupid. In Northern Ireland there are 1 million people quite a few of which did not live in difficult areas. The casualty rate was significantly higher than on the UK mainland before those powers were brought in. There are about 60 million people on the mainland it will not help the anti terrorism war one jot. It will destroy what it means to be British.

There is of course no chance of any of this passing into law in the next 6 weeks. The House of Lords will stop it. Thank goodness for the House of Lords. Any one who thinks we want to open that house up to party hacks needs their heads examining.

Tony Blair has written an article justifying his authoritarian position in the Times, which I will deal with in another article.

The BBC has this.

John Cruddas, Real labour?

It appears that the Mail on Sunday has got hold of this story about how John Cruddas MP for Dagenham, and critic of city academies and selection in school has bought a house in Notting Hill, around the corner from David Cameron, sent his child to one of the best Roman Catholic schools in London (as opposed to one in his constituency) whilst his constituency home is seldom occupied.

This is all grist to the mill. No doubt it will create a bit of a stir in Labour circles.

The question is where did the Mail on Sunday get it from? According to Iain Dale when he was doing the paper review on BBC News 24, it probably came from one of the other deputy leader camps.

By sheer coincidence and nothing more Hazel Blears has a puff piece in the Mail on Sunday about how when she were a lass, she appeared as a street urchin in "A Taste of Honey" when she was 5. (It also made the Evening Standard apparently or at least it is on their website)

As can be seen from the sad tale of Fiona Jones, politics can be a nasty game, which is a shame as it puts off a lot of decent people. Still it looks like Labour will start fighting like rats in a sack. Meanwhile I will sit back and watch.

Hat tip to Andrea for links to both stories, here and here on politicalbetting.com.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Wanted, Felicity Jane Lowde



Felicity Jane Lowde is wanted by police in connection with offences under the 1997 protection from harassment act, for stalking Rachel from North London.

She has been arrested, bailed, breached her bail conditions, been tried, in absentia and now there is a warrant for her arrest.

The picture It is circa ten years old. The police are unable to release her arrest photo, but say she has aged and put on considerable amounts of weight since it was taken.
Age 41 ( appears older). 5'8 tall.
Size 16/18 ( overweight for height)
Eyes brown/green with unusual squinting appearance in one eye

Hair mouse/light brown, possibly some grey
She usually uses internet cafes in London, usually between 4pm and 6pm.
Also likely to be found in public libraries and anywhere with cheap or free internet access. She periodically travels to North Oxford, where she lived before the trial

If you see her call Crime stoppers or the local police.

For more information see Rachel's post here.

Many thanks to Mike Rouse for the graphics, and Iain Dale for highlighting the issue here.

Update 28th of June 2007 17:36

For the latest news on this story and news on the sentence please see here.

Brown evades question over Iran?

According to the BBC Gordon Brown has "evaded" questions over whether he would rule out military action over Iran's nuclear program.

What?

What is he supposed to do? Announce an invasion right now or rule out military action altogether?

That is just plain bonkers.

I suspect many people in government, the military and the public would rather not attack Iran, but ruling it out won't help. I don't think sabre rattling will help resolve the issue but not having options other than diplomatic ones is a sure fire way to fail.

The only question is why is the BBC taking this obviously judgemental line in its choice of headline. The article itself is not as bad.

You can read what the BBC has to say here.

Johnson's Independent School gaff

Alan Johnson currently the Education Secretary and deputy leadership candidate gave an interview to the Telegraph which ended up with the headline "Private Schools must share teaching "expertise".

For example novelist (and leftwinger) John O'Farrell, who chairs the governors of Lambeth Academy in South London, seemed to be upset at the implication that teachers in the independent sector are better teachers than those in the private sector.

As usual the headline has obscured some interesting ideas to sell the story both in the Telegraph and indeed other media that has carried the story.

I am not sure if lending teachers is a good idea.For a start I can see it causing even more morale problems in the state sector. Alan Johnson seems concerned about the fact that the independent sector does have enough maths, music, science and language teachers that the state sector seems to lack. That to some extent is true, but the reasons for that are varied. For a start we are not getting the graduates in these subjects in the first place which is a result of science and the like being undervalued in schools in the first place. The reason for that is in essence the way that school league tables work. You get bonus points for pupils passing exams at grade 'C' or above but no reference made to the type of subject. As a result whilst the number of pupils who get 5 GCSE's is up, the number who get 5 good ones is down since 1997, good ones being defined as including Maths, a science and a language. Then of course the independent sector can and does pay what it likes to teachers and can pay more to get a science or maths teacher if they need to.

Universities are being told they have to get more students in and indeed through, again without reference to whether the course studied are useful. The net result is that science and engineering departments are withering and dying in may places. This is a problem because if we are to build the knowledge economy we do need people with technical knowledge.

We clearly need to go back and think about this. There are a number of problems to solve in schools but there are also things which need to be done in our university system.

The next thing that Alan Johnson wants to do is to get the independent sector to share their science labs. Why has the state sector not got science labs? Why is there a problem with teaching sciences in state schools?

Firstly it is not a universal problem. Many state schools can and do have the facilities and teachers. Secondly where there is a problem it is because either the facilities have not been built or more likely they have now been used for other things. There is also a lack of teachers (discussed above). Also the way that risk assessments work make it hard to teach science as well. As a practical subject it needs experiments. There is nothing quite so dull as a theory only science course as there is nothing quite so dull as lumping all the sciences in together so you don't get at the meat of any of them.

There are some good ideas though, for example getting independent schools to set up city academies. This will only work of course if they can apply their own discipline. This tends to be one of the big separators of state and private education, along with class sizes.

The BBC also has this.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Control orders flawed says Reid

Well, at least in that Dr John Reid and I agree. However from there on I think we disagree and strongly.

Apparently "Mr Reid blamed political opponents and judges for stopping the use of tougher measures against terror suspects,"

So it is all someone elses fault, not his. After all the wage bill in the NHS (after he negotiated the contracts) were not his fault, neither is the lack of equipment in Afghanistan for out troops that happened under his watch. Is anything his fault?

Then he promises new "tougher" measures. These will no doubt be more of the same. Lock up people without trial, devalue what it is to be British and so on. These will of course be opposed by all sensible people.

The issue is a combination of two things. The first is that we have tried all sorts of draconian measures before and whilst it may result in some very dangerous people being locked up, recruit far more to the cause. To give you an idea there are about half a million Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland and about one and a half million Muslims in the UK. Alienating them by banging people up without trial is not an option. The other issue is that there are things that could be done which would seem fair.

The Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats have bent over backwards to make suggestions to allow these people to be prosecuted. Alas, the government refuses to take them up even though many are common practice in other democracies. For example, we can use intercept evidence in court from the Belgian police, but apparently not from our own security services. (also see here)

One argument for long detention without charges is that it takes a long time to decrypt computer files if you don't have the password. The Conservative party suggested making the failure to offer a password an offence, whilst allowing people to be questioned after being charged. That offer has been rebuffed.

What would you prefer? People being held, not only without charge, but not being able to see any of the evidence against them or some small modifications to the rules of evidence and police procedure?

Clearly this Government has not only lost the plot but has failed to learn any lessons from previous anti terror campaigns.

The BBC has this
.

Sorry about the lack of articles today

I have been working on a couple of email problems which have proved a little more time consuming than I would have hoped.

Normal service will be resumed soon. I hope.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What do these polls mean?

Somewhere in tomorrows Guardian will be the latest ICM poll of voting intention. The field work will have been carried out over the period of eulogies for Tony Blair which you would have thought would have given Labour a bounce. Well according to the poll it has. The question is, is it Gordon Brown's or Tony Blair's bounce? If the poll if to be believed it is Tony Blair's.

The headline figures are: Conservatives 34 (-3%) Labour 32(+2%) and the Liberal Democrats on 21% (NC)

Feeding that into Anthony Wells election calculator gives Conservatives 250 seats, Labour 308 and the Liberal Democrats 59. In other words a hung parliament.

However when people are reminded who the leaders of the party are you get Conservatives 38%, Labour 30% and the Liberal Democrats on 20%.

Again, according to Anthony Wells election calculator gives the Conservatives 304, Labour 262 and the Liberal Democrats 53.

Like all election calculators they assume a uniform swing. I suspect the swing will be anything but. I expect Labour to be piling their votes to the rafters in their traditional safe seats and seeing them drain away in anything vaguely marginal. That will produce a fairer seat distribution for us Conservatives.

For more detail see political betting here.

I will add a link to the Guardian story when it becomes available.

3 More Abscond from Control Orders

3 more people on control orders have apparently absconded. It seems that two of them, Lamine Adam and his brother, Ibrahim, did not contact their "monitoring company" on Monday night whilst Cerie Bullivant failed to report to a police station. Two others have absconded before.

It seems very bizarre to me that we have people reputedly so dangerous that the government would have liked to have locked them up, but then the extent of the monitoring is that the person on the control order has to report in. Surely they are either so dangerous that they need close surveillance or they are not that dangerous. This government needs to make up its mind.

Apparently David Davis said this:

"It is shocking that yet another three have absconded. John Reid's primary responsibility is the protection of the public. This consistent yet gravely dangerous failure to carry out that duty continues to threaten the safety of the public."


I can't see why he is that shocked. John Reid is a useless prat.

The BBC has this.

HIP's in chaos

This has been making the news somewhat yesterday and is carried throughout the papers today.

In short the home information pack is to be delayed by two months and then to be applied to houses with 4 bedrooms or more.

No matter what anyone says this is a cop out. How many bedrooms does a house have? Does it have 4 bedrooms, 1 living room, 1 dining room, or does it have 3 bedrooms, 1 living room 1 dining room and a study? You can do this sort of exercise for houses of all sizes to re adjust the number bedrooms a house has to suit the circumstances.

That cop out aside, we need to look at the root of what the Home Information Pack is for.

There is, or at least there was a real problem or at least a perception of a problem with the way the housing market worked. Gazumping was, and still is a problem but sales falling through is the major problem.

We now live in a property owning democracy and so anyone who could solve this problem would be popular.

To be fair what new Labour promised when it came to power in 1997 was a simplified system that would get around the problems. To that end they trialled a system that cut some of the paperwork out of the system in the sense that some of the paperwork was already done before the process started.

It has to be said that sounds good, and that is what HIPs is about.

The question is, and always has been, does that solve the problems?

Why do house sales fail? Why does Scotland seem to do so much better?

Well the first problem is that the house as seen may have faults with it that were not obvious to the eye. In theory a prearranged house survey would deal with that, if it was accepted as a decent survey. For reasons I am unclear about it seems they are not. Mortgage companies are not happy unless they instruct their own despite the fact that professional negligence law is clear that a duty of care is owed to all who may reasonable rely on a report.

Then there is the problem of people not getting a mortgage whilst a deal is going through. Again this can be dealt with by people pre arranging a mortgage. Some do some don't.

Then there is the problem of gazumping. If people had mortgages in place and a useful survey was done you could exchange contracts. Part of the problem here is that whilst you may have found the perfect house to move to, or you may have had a very good offer to buy your house you may not have the other. As in you either have found your dream house and have not sod yours or vice versa.

HIPS only really ever addressed one problem. That is why they are a disaster. Of course the author of the disaster, Yvette Cooper, (aka Mrs Balls) won't get the sack, and Ruth Kelly will.

The BBC has this.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Andrei Lugovoi to face charges over Alexander Litvinenko's murder with polonium

I wrote a lot at the time of the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko with polonium. It seems now that the investigation is complete and the files have been reviewed by the Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald has decided that Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB member should be charged.

He is currently in Russia so the chances of him being extradited are slim in the extreme but never mind.

The BBC has this.

For more on the poisoning, polonium and how interesting it is see here.

Conservatives to vote down weasels FOI exemption bill in the House of Lords!

David Cameron has just given a press conference in London in which he has said that the Conservative block in the House of Lords will vote down the Freedom of Information act.

Good.

With a bit of luck that will kill it stone dead. I wonder how all the loyal Brownites who supported the bill will feel, and what of Gordon Brown who has promised more open government but clearly does not believe in it, if you judge him by what his followers do?

Many thanks to Iain Dale who has more here.

You can also sign the petition against the bill here.

Are race campaigners institutionally racist?

The reason why I ask is that there was another fascinating piece on Newsnight last night discussing the rather obvious institutional racism in psychiatry. The figures are shocking. It seems that if you are an Afro Caribbean you are 8 times more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems than a white person and if you are black, from Africa you are 6 times more likely.

On the face of it you would question those in the field. Well, unsurprisingly there are some black and ethnic minority practitioners of psychiatry and others did some research into the subject. After all they presumably wanted to know whether they were working with closet members of the Klu KLux Klan who had just got clever about hiding the bed sheets and pointy white hats. You would wouldn't you?

The research is staggering and turns the "racism in psychiatry" on its head. It is not that it does not exist, but in fact after their research it turns out that if you have any symptoms of a mental illness and are white you are more likely to be locked up.

There are a whole host of knock on problems. For a start black people with mental health issues are likely to not get the right treatment early enough because the psychiatrists are worried about being branded racist. In some cases it appears that instead of getting urgent help some are discharged to kill which is scary.

The other fascinating thing is that immigrants the world over, regardless of colour or ethnicity suffer greater mental health problems then they otherwise would do.

In short race campaigners have spent so much time shouting about racism that they have failed the very people they claim to protect rather than asking for specific research to identify the truth of the allegation.


You can currently read this piece on the Newsnight article but it does not cover the research.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Doctors morale at an all time low

Apparently according to a piece on BBC 2's Newsnight tonight Doctors Morale is at an all time low.

This stems in part from the fiasco over junior doctor recruitment as well as the way that the service is now so target driven.

You do need some targets and some performance management but ticking the boxes is not the point of the exercise, getting the job done is.

I recommend reading this article on the piece here, and the comments as well.

Margaret Hodge under fire over immigration

It appears that Margaret Hodge is under attack from romantic trots in the Labour and Liberal Democrat party over her remarks on social housing and immigrants.

Firstly when Margaret (and indeed I) are talking about immigrants we are talking about recent arrivals not people who have either been here for years or generations.

Now we have these comments from an article in the Guardian (bastion of romantic Trotskyism) today.
But the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, John McDonnell, who tried to challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership last week, said: "This is a deeply reactionary and dangerous statement to make. The issue, however, is not the allocation of housing, but the chancellor's failure to allow affordable house building over the last 10 years - resulting in the present housing crisis."
Well, John does rightly identify the fact that this government has built less social housing than the Conservative government before it. However there are many causes of the current housing crisis and one of those is the increase in number of households, a situation exacerbated by immigration.
Jon Cruddas, MP for Mrs Hodge's neighbour seat of Dagenham, and a deputy leadership candidate, said: "We're in danger of racialising arguments over housing allocation rather than concentrating on the need for greater social housing provision."
The problem here is Jon Cruddas can't see the wood for the trees. This is not a question of race. Poor Jewish families who have been here for generations along with black, Pakistani as well as white are facing similar problems. They can't get housing yet someone who has just arrived in the country can. Race does not play a part in this debate unless someone is trying to close it down.
The Liberal Democrat local government spokesman, Andrew Stunell, said: "There are one-and-a-half million families on the council housing waiting list and the Labour government keeps selling houses off. The first thing to do is start building social housing again, not to blame immigrants for the catastrophic government failure to tackle the issue."
I see. Blame it all on the right to buy. One of the policies which many in Labour including Roy Hattersley now regret ever opposing because they can see the very positive benefits on the ground. The right to buy has transformed many council housing estates and brought hope to them as well as aspiration. It makes me laugh that it is the romantic trots in the Liberal Democrats
have not caught up with the reality that Labour for the most part has.

They do also blame the lack of building social housing under this government which is lower than under the previous Conservative one.

On the bright side from this BBC report, it is clear that Simon Hughes listens to his constituents and despite being a Liberal Democrat is not so much of a romantic old trot that he can't see what is going on. He says:

Lib Dem president, Simon Hughes, whose south-east London constituency recognised that housing allocation was among the biggest causes of racism.

"The worst cause of racial strife and antagonism is when new property is built, social property, and when people who appear to have no link with the community move into it, when other people who may be desperately needing to move, can't get a move",
I have to say I agree. His comments echo mine, and apply equally to some one coming from another part of the country as well as another part of the world. Local people do expect to be higher up the pecking order.

Incedently Hazel Blears also recognises the problem, as you will see from this article in the Times today.

Doctors asked to shop patients?

The Times has had a document leaked to it from Whitehall. It is not hard to see why as it is bonkers.

The proposal is that doctors, council staff and charity workers be placed under a statutory duty to report cases where they believe that someone is at risk of either committing a serious violent crime or becoming a victim of one.

Apparently information sharing could have prevented the Soham murders. Well yes it could have done, but that would have been information shared or retained about crimes allegedly committed that the police were aware of without the need for anyone else to be under any duty to do anything at all. The lack of information on Ian Huntley was because his original local police had not got a clue about their duties under the Data Protection act and so shredded what would have been useful intelligence because they were not intelligent at all.

There are of course a number of practical problems with this stupid and ill thought out proposals like who is going to monitor all the extra information?

However there is another one of principle, and that is that doctors and many charity workers work on the basis of client confidentiality. If they did not they would not get many clients including the ones the government is looking for.

We have one other problem though, and it is this. We are not looking for criminals here, we are looking for potential criminals. If only the police were not so hamstrung by paperwork then they might have a better chance of catching the criminals who already have committed a crime. So why worry about those who have yet to commit one? Learn how to crawl before you enter a marathon.

The really scary thing is that this government seems to be able to stoop to any authoritarian low just to look like it is doing something.

We are sleepwalking into a police state. Frankly I don't like it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Brownites and Blairites at it already?

You would have thought that with Gordon Brown about to take over, without a vote and the endorsement of so many Blairites that all was well within the Labour party.

Not so according to this article in today's Mail on Sunday. Apparently Alan Johnson will let Jack Straw be the deputy PM over his dead body!

Choice quotes from the article include:
Labour sources say Mr Brown is considering giving the DPM role to Jack Straw as a reward for running his leadership campaign - with the new deputy Labour leader relegated to Party issues.

When Mr Johnson was asked about reports that Mr Straw would replace John Prescott as DPM, he replied: "Over my dead f****** body."

"It is a bit premature for Alan to be laying down the law as to who will do what in Gordon Brown's administration,' said one senior Brownite MP.

It looks like the fun will continue!

Hat tip to HenryG for pointing the article out on politicalbetting.com.

Margaret Hodge on immigration

Margaret Hodge MP for Barking and Industry Minister has a problem, and that is the BNP.

The problem is that people in a community have needs for things like housing. They feel, rightly or wrongly that they end up on the bottom of the list in favour of either asylum seekers or immigrants. This feeling is not without some justification either. For example the housing office in Slough is dealing with Eastern European migrants who are both children and pregnant.

Margaret Hodge's intervention in today's Observer calls for local people to be given priority. I could not agree more.

Firstly if a person wishes to immigrate here it must be on the basis that they will contribute before getting the benefits of living here. That means they must factor in the cost of private housing and schooling if they intend to bring a family. (Where there are reciprocal inter EU arrangements that should not apply). They should not be able to arrive and work on the basis that they can have subsidised housing that allows them to undercut the wages of people already here.

However what I find a little odd about this intervention is that in many places that is how it works already. You can't get on my local authorities housing list unless you have a local connection, as in family. It seems to work differently in Barking which is a gift to the BNP.

Without going off the deep end we do need to take a careful and critical look at immigration. It is not good just looking at the upsides of it, there are downsides as well and those need to be considered when making policy. It is not a completely win win deal.

The very sad case of the late Fiona Jones

Fiona Jones was selected as the Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for Newark in 1995. In 1997 she won, taking the seat from the Conservative party.

It seems that her problems started there, except they didn't. They started when she won selection. The next few years are a gruesome tale for anyone who wants to get into politics. It seems that some in her own camp had it in for her from the start.

Then after the election she was accused of election expense irregularities, and investigated by the police. The investigation led to a trial at which she was convicted, though for considerably smaller offences than she initially charged with. At this point Labour seemed to hang her out to dry, deciding not to pursue an appeal.

Her barristers thought otherwise and fought for an appeal on a pro bono basis, winning the appeal. She took up her seat in the House of Commons again but things were never the same. She started drinking.

She got no help from Labour centrally when she stood for election again in 2001. She lost to Patrick Mercer.

Fiona tried and in many ways failed to get some sense of justice by pursuing those who had done her harm, like for example Nottinghamshire police.

She died four weeks before her 50th birthday, alcohol playing a large part in her death, as well as the grave sense of injustice and betrayal.

You can read this very sad account in the Times on the affair here.

You can see why many people don't go into politics when even those on your own side are shooting at you. It makes for a very sad and sorry state of affairs.

Hat tip to Nick Palmer MP for the link to the article. He is also mentioned in it.

David Maclean's little secrets

It appears that the David Maclean, the MP who had his private members bill exempting MP's from the Freedom of Information act has his own little secrets he does not want aired all over the place.

For example he has claimed a £3,000 quad bike on expenses. To be fair he does have multiple sclerosis and the largest constituency in the land, so he can justify the bike, but it smells when he is involved in passing this sort of bill.

If he has spent money and it looks like a lot, he needs to explain himself. People will either accept the explanation or they wont. Hiding it is not an option.

The Mail on Sunday has this.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Another assault on cars by Gordon Brown

Over the last 10 years this government has done just about everything it can o tax company cars of the road.

In some cases these cars were no more than a way of paying an employee by another means but in many more they were a way of the employer providing a vital tool for work. Some of us do have to drive during working hours.

The net result has been that many people who use cars for company work have ended up owning their own and charging the company for using them. It is either that or get heavily penalised in tax. A lot of voluntary workers do the same, providing their own cars and then charging back mileage at an agreed rate.

Well, now the government wants to cut the amount that can be paid in mileage before you start getting taxed. According to the AA they will in fact cut the allowance to less than it actually costs to run a car. The net result will be that the government is forcing employees to either pay more tax by the back door or subsidise their employer.

The Telegraph has this.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Here are the Weasels names

Just in case you are wondering which MP's turned out today to support the MP's exemption from the Freedom of Information act, here is a list (Not completely accurate as the full list is not yet available, this is those who voted on amendments.) See here for the Hansard record of the debate.

Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Janet
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Bell, Sir Stuart
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Burgon, Colin
Burns, Mr. Simon
Butterfill, Sir John
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clark, Paul
Clelland, Mr. David
Cohen, Harry
David, Mr. Wayne
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Duddridge, James
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Fabricant, Michael
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Francois, Mr. Mark
Gardiner, Barry
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hammond, Stephen
Harris, Mr. Tom
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Heppell, Mr. John
Hill, rh Keith
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lloyd, Tony
Maclean, rh David
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Marshall, Mr. David
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McIsaac, Shona
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mudie, Mr. George
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Neill, Robert
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pound, Stephen
Pritchard, Mark
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Randall, Mr. John
Robertson, John
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruffley, Mr. David
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. SiƓn
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Snelgrove, Anne
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Tredinnick, David
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Ward, Claire
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Wicks, Malcolm
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, David
Tellers for the Noes:
Mr. Andrew Dismore and
Mr. Tim Boswell

Why am I not surprised to see Sion Simon, the prat for Birmingham, Erdington voting for this wretched bill?

Weasels may get their bill!

Just in case you missed it the weasels are at it again trying to get MP's, but not MSP's, AM's or councilors an exemption from the Freedom of Information act.

The debate is still going on, and some valiant MP's are trying very hard to block it.

If you have not yet done so, I urge you so sign this petition against the bill!

I have for more information see here.

The BBC has this.

Sorry, my thinking cap is on!

I am of course both considering some issues, as well as crafting my response to others.

I know what I think about education and grammar schools, however I do need to read David Willetts Speech in full before I comment.

Iain Dale has this, Burning our money has this, whilst Labour's Luke Akehurst has this on Harriet Harman and selective education.

I also have a clear handle on what I think of Gordon Brown, I just need to think about what is going to happen next. The FT has a couple of interesting articles, this one about raids on business for tax collection purposes which seem to extend the draconian powers of Customs officers to tax collection officers whilst this one covers how there is going to be yet another reorganisation of government departments.

Seems a bit like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic, but as long as it keeps Gordon happy!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Chutzpah of 'humble' Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown accepted the unopposed nomination of Gordon Brown today. here are some quotes from this BBC article:
Gordon Brown says he is "truly humbled" by the scale of the backing given to him by Labour MPs as their choice to succeed Tony Blair as prime minister.

He said the 313 nominations he received from Labour MPs "shows to the country a party wholly united in its determination not to retreat into the past, but going forward as New Labour".

Asked whether he would have welcomed a contest, Mr Brown said: "At the end of the day it may be embarrassing, perhaps, to have so much support, but... I think you have got to accept that as the verdict of the parliamentary party."

Is this the same Gordon Brown who has ensured that there was no real competition for the leadership? Who warned off all his rivals? Who rounded up all nominations until there could be no challengers?

He expects us to believe he is humble?

Oh dear, oh dear!

Accident and Emergency under threat

It appears that the Conservative party have uncovered why accident and emergency services are under threat up and down the land, including places like Haywards Heath, and the Princess Royal.

According to this article from the Times today it is all to do with how big a catchment area an Accident and Emergency service should have. Currently they have about 250,000 but government guidance indicates they want that to be about 500,000. In short just under half of A & E are under threat.

The reasoning is that the bigger centres will be better able to cope with people like heart attack victims and stroke victims.

The logic is however somewhat flawed.

Firstly your average heart attack victim is no going to take longer to get to A & E to be seen in any case so whilst more will survive who make it to the hospital more will die en route. (The same applies to limiting stroke damage)
Secondly, if there is a benefit to centralising that kind of specialist care, that does not mean that all A & E care need be centralised.

The reality is that this government has made a hash of the way it has constantly reorganised the NHS, and we, the consumer will pay the cost through both increased taxation and lower service levels.

The same is likely to happen to maternity units as well. This government needs a serious kick in the ballot box.

Is the Brown Coronation a good thing?

Well, it all depends on how you look at it.

Is it good for Gordon Brown and the Labour party?

No.

Here is why:

Gordon Brown got to this stage by making sure there were no serious contenders. A combination of Gordon and his team, and to be fair potential opponents themselves have sought to hobble all opponents so they could not run. This inevitably has been a bruising process. Gordon Brown has given more reasons for people inside Labour to hate him, albeit the same people.

Gordon Brown and his team have clearly gone out of their way to close off an election. They have done anything and every thing they could to hoover up every single nomination they could. Some have been through gritted teeth and I have no doubt some will have been beaten out of MP's (metaphorically speaking).

The activists have no choice. It is true that the same was true when Michael Howard became leader of the Conservative party. However the situations are different. The Conservative party felt like it was heading to oblivion. It needed strong and brutal leadership to keep it afloat. It was not in power, nor in fact was it likely to get there. It needed a tough leader to do a no nonsense job, take control, fix a few things and stabilise the situation. It was accepted with mild grumbles. Labour is in an entirely different position. It is in power. Whilst its popularity has dropped it still has power. Power granted to it by the exceedingly hard work of its activists. It is not facing possible oblivion. The odds are that no matter who faced Gordon Brown, he would have won. However the activists would like to have been asked.

The brutality behind the scenes is not going to do Gordon Brown or Labour any favours either. As soon as there is trouble, whether it be in the polls, or some crisis, their will be off the record briefings against Brown. Loyalty won by fear is no loyalty at all, especially in the world of anonymous briefings.

There is trouble ahead for Labour.

If any one thinks that the Conservative party machine has been picking on Gordon and leaving Tony alone, well, you ain't seen nothing yet. Now the war begins.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

So how did I win that bet with Mike Smithson?

Well, I have to give credit where credit is due. I got a tip off a very experienced political punter many many months ago about the nature and character of Gordon Brown, and how he would ensure there was no competition. Gordon Brown does not do contests.

As time went on any challenger around him was brought low and knocked out of the race! The theory seemed right. Then, once you observed Labour party politics though that prism, all became clear. All doubt was removed from my mind and I decided Gordon would get his crown without competition.

So who is this great political tipster who out tipped the great Mike Smithson? Well, It was that famous author of the Political Punter, Mike Smithson, of politicalbetting.com!

Thanks for the tip Mike, it made me £20!

Gordon Brown gets Tony Blair's job unopposed!

Well, it is no surprise to me.

The BBC has this, I will comment more later.

Gordon Brown one nomination short of a coronation

Though some unkind observers might say that he is also one sandwich short of a picnic.

Gordon Brown now has 307 nominations, John McDonnell still has 29, and would need all 16 of those yet to nominate to be in the race. One of those is Charles Clarke who did say he would back Gordon Brown, and there are also 3 in that number who will not nominate anybody.

For John McDonnell the game is up. He is dead in the water and will not get on the ballot paper. Mind you I have had no doubt that Gordon Brown would get a coronation for 6 months now!

John McDonnell Update

Having just listened to BBC Radio 4's World at One, and the nominations run like this:

Gordon Brown 297
John McDonnell 29

That leaves John McDonnell 16 short of the number he needs, and he only has 26 MP's left to get any nominations from. Of those I understand 4 are going to nominate Gordon Brown, (Presuambly Alan Milburn and Charles Clarke who, it appears were not queuing when nominations opened) and 3 are not going to nominate anyone.

So that means John McDonnell needs 16 nominations from just 19 MP's. I very much doubt he can do it.

My £20 is safe!

The BBC has this
.

Blair's Resignation Honours list could damage his reputation!

Apparently when Tony Blair stands down, he will have a resignation honours list. I have speculated about who would want to be on this Dis-Honours list before. It appears that the list will be vetted by the House of Lords Appointments Commission.

What amused me though was this quote from Sir Alistair Graham on the BBC's website:

Former "sleaze watchdog" Sir Alistair Graham suggested it would be better to scrap resignation honours altogether.

"We do not need them and, as we know from a previous Labour prime minister, what you do with the resignation honours list can tarnish your reputation," he said.

Just what can Tony Blair do to tarnish his reputation exactly? Answers in the comments please!

The BBC has this.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

John McDonnell - Will he get the nominations?

The Labour party now has lists of which Labour MP's have nominated which candidates for the leadership of the Labour party.

So far Gordon Brown has 282, to John McDonnell's 27, some 18 short of the 45 he actually needs.

Gordon Brown has made it clear that he will not lend any nominees to McDonnell. There are 352 Labour MP's with 43 left to nominate of which McDonnell needs 42%.

I can't see him doing it. My £20 is safe!

The BBC has this.

Panorama on Scientology

I have just watched John Sweeney's Panorama on the Church of Scientology. It has its heated moments.

I am always just a bit sceptical about "new religions", which after all have not stood the test of time. As a religion I can't think of one much newer than Scientology. It also has to be said that there is nothing that Scientology has done to make me any less sceptical.

I'll give you an example. Scientology used to operate a centre on Duke Street in Brighton. They used to have people out canvasing people in the street, asking what to me seemed like questions a salesman would specifically ask if they were looking for the vulnerable or impressionable.

There were three questions, like "if you could be any one in the world who would you want to be?" "if there was anything you could change about yourself what would it be?"

I can't remember the third. Perhaps I was just born old, perhaps it is the cynical salesman in me, but I just knew those questions were a fishing trip looking for a "buying signal". I was only 18 at the time, and it has to be said that the foot soldiers of Scientology are not trained to look for 18 year old door to door salesman who know a pitch when they hear it.

However the most striking thing about the Panorama program was an interview with a critic of Scientology who was also an ex convict with a remarkable record of lewd crimes as well as drugs. Obviously it would have been wrong for Panorama to present what ever he said as being from a pillar of the community, and to be fair they didn't.

During the interview, which I presume the Church was not informed of, a representative of the church turned up, one Tommy Davis, with a dossier on the man being interviewed.

Just how did they know? Why did they care?

Were they following John Sweeney about?

However you can tip the whole Panorama program in the bin, in favour of a quote from my late father, Bernard, who said:
In 1947 L Ron Hubbard said that the best way to make a fortune was to found a religion, in 1948, he did.
Nuff said.

The Panorama home page is here, and the article on the subject is here.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Times puts Cameron on course for number 10

There is a new Populous poll in the Time tomorrow which shows Labour up in its headline figures to 33% from 29%, whilst the Conservatives are on 37 (Unchanged) and the Liberal Democrats are down to 17% (-3)

Those figures give a hung Parliament with Labour the largest party (though the swingometer may not take account of a geographical shift in support, as I suspect there is with Labour piling its support in safe seats)

However when asked the same question but with a named leader, David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Ming Campbell the figures move to Conservative 42, and Labour 32 (presumably the Liberal Democrats on 15%) giving a Conservative overall majority of 24.

This is the second poll in a week giving the Conservatives an overall majority with Gordon Brown in charge and is very good news.

It has to be said that I would like to see an end to this phony war, Gordon Brown in charge and some sense to the polls!

The election calculator uses is Anthony Wells here.

hat tip to Joe Blogs on Politicalbetting.com.

The Times has this article (Many thanks to Nick Palmer MP for the link)

Why do Labour keep sending me spam?

I am now getting spam from Labour to accounts that they do not know I have.

This is a clear breach of their ISP's conditions, and I will be making a complaint.

I do not expect email addresses given in good faith to "government" to be spamed by the Labour party.

Muslims slam Cross ban

I thought I would use that as a headline just to make it clear that Croydon Council's ill conceived "guidance" on wearing jewelry of religious significance other than some non Christian exceptions has no support amongst any religious community including Muslims.

It appears that Croydon Council has issued some bizarre guidance stating that no jewelry should be worn, which would be fair enough, but for the exemptions for Hindu's, Sikhs and Muslims. There are no exceptions for Christians.

What beggars belief here is that anyone could or indeed would think that such a stance would be helpful? What exactly is it supposed to achieve other than causing discord, and increasing racial hostility?

In short, what were they smoking?

The Daily Express even thought it such an important story that they left Princess Diana off the front page for once!

Gordon Brown to fix John Reid's mess?

The Daily Mail believes that Gordon Brown is about to start fixing the mess Dr John "wreck it and run" Reid made of the GP's contract whilst he was busy making a hash of the NHS.

It will be remembered that the contract was put in place to reward hard working GP's as most were of course lazy good for nothings who did no work.

There were of course two problems with the way the contract was negotiated. Firstly all the work for which extra rewards were on offer were already being carried out by GP's (so perhaps they were not all lazy good for nothings after all) and that the government allowed them to give up unsociable hours for the loss of a mere £6,000 per year. Faced with such a choice they gave up unsociable hours having just had their mouths, pockets and arguably suitcases stuffed with gold.

Well apparently Gordon Brown now wants to fix this. Given that there is already a contract in place I suspect this is yet another eye catching initiative which once it has had its effect will be quietly dropped.

I wonder what Dr Crippen would think?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bio fuels to bring on the end of the world!

There have been a couple of reports on bio fuels recently giving warnings about the environmental damage they could cause.

Apparently they will starve the poor as the price of food goes up, lead to more widespread famines and cut down the rain forests all in one fell swoop, if we are not careful.

This all sounds perfectly plausible. However I am not convinced they are well thought through.

Firstly lets look at food pricing. In Europe food prices are distorted heavily upwards by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) making the poor pay more anyway, whilst the excess is then dumped on Africa so that Farmers there can't compete to grow their own food so starve. (America does similar in some agricultural sectors). The net result is that the poor can seldom afford food because they can't earn money farming.

If our farmers grew something useful and unsubsidised then I suspect the poor in Africa would be in a better position to earn a living and feed themselves. THE CAP and similar also play a part in causing famine by destroying native agriculture. In short a rise in food prices may help the poor as they will be the ones making money out if it. (I know this will not be universally the case but an economy generally starts by being able to feed itself before it can move on.)

Then there is the question of how much land bio fuels would need to use. Europe can already produce far in excess of what it needs to eat. The Ukraine could feed large parts of Europe on its own. The problem here is inefficient agriculture and growing things people do not want to buy.


That leaves the rain forests. There is no doubt that these are easy to exploit for agriculture, and that will require worldwide political pressure to stop. That said, that pressure should be sensitive to the fact that we are in effect punishing those who have still got their rain forests in favour of those who have already cut them down.

We should also be looking at what sort of technologies we can use to bring marginal land back into agricultural use. I am thinking here of the vast mass of desert that we have which is expanding at some rate.

These problems can be solved.

The BBC has this
.

Mullah Dadullah killed in Helmand

Reports say that Mullah Dadullah, one of the main military leaders of the Taleban has been killed in Helmand. His body has been moved to Kandahar so hat this can be confirmed to the world.

Mullah Dadullah was not a nice man. In fact he was one of the most hardline and bloodthirsty in the Taleban. NATO are pleased and cite this as a major blow to the Taleban.

How much of a blow this represents is hard to tell. He certainly seemed a capable leader but then the Taleban operates a loose command structure so the loss of one leader may make little difference.

Where it will make a difference though is effectively shifting the center of gravity in the Taleban command away from the ultra hard liners.

We can but hope.

The BBC has this.

Poll surge as Brown lays out new vision

Is the way the Observer reports the Yougov poll in the Sunday Times I reported on earlier.

You have to laugh don't you?

The article also says that Gordon Brown will lay out plans for new eco towns. As Iain Dale pointed out on BBC News 24 Yvette Cooper, the Housing Minister announced that last year.

Meanwhile he also appears to want to fiddle even more with the NHS. The plan is to give people access to their GP's out of hours and at weekends. This appears to ignore the fact that this government let GP's off the onerous out of hours work if they accepted a measly 22% pay rise.

It seems clear to me that some on the left are in cloud cuckoo land. Mind you that is fine with me!

The Sunday Times has this, with the poll as a footnote at the bottom on Eco Towns.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Is this why John Reid did not run?

The Daily Mail has this article on its website saying that John Reid may have chosen not to run for the Labour leadership, and indeed resigned, because he pestered Dawn Primarolo on more than one occasion, apparently when drunk.

This all happened a long time ago, and as a result Reid gave up alcohol all together. I do have to wonder if this is the real reason but nothing else has surfaced yet.

It does go to show that in politics, your enemies have long memories.

Dawn Primarolo is also known as Red Dawn, and works in the treasury, masterminding such brilliant successes as IR35 and Tax credits.

Hat tip to Andrea on politicalbetting.com for the link.

Poll shows Gordon Brown would hand victory to Cameron

There is a poll out in tomorrows Sunday Times showing that Labour have closed the gap on the Conservatives, giving the Conservatives 38% (-1) Labour 34% (+2) and the Liberal Democrats on 15% (-1). using Anthony wells swing calculator that leads to a hung parliament with Labour as the largest party.

However if asked who they would vote for if Gordon Brown was leader of Labour and David Cameron leader of the Conservatives then the numbers are Conservative 42%, Labour 32% and presumably the Liberal democrats unchanged. That gives the Conservatives a majority of 32 seats!

Oh happy days!

Mind you we will have to wait a while to see the actual trend under Brown.

hat tip to Iain Dale, who has this.

Gordon Brown and the new political landscape

Well, it looks like Gordon Brown is going to take over as Labour leader and soon. The political landscape is changing. There was that silly autocue gaffe yesterday during his launch speech. If it is a one off then it won't matter, but he has also been filmed picking his nose and with one trouser leg in his socks.

If things start to go slightly wrong then these images may come back to haunt him.

Gordon kicked off his campaign with many promises. His loyal ranks clearly loved it, and were delving into the meaning of it all. Quite amusing to watch really.

What is clear is that Gordon is bringing many of his own side with him, for now at least. That has got to be good for Labour, but we will have to see how long that lasts.

My impression is that your average voter does not warm to Gordon though. That might change. We will have to see. I suspect not but I may be wrong.

When I looked through some random local election results last week I did notice something of a trend though. It seems Labour are piling up votes in their safe seats. Given that we know how people voted nationally that means that they are also losing them in marginals which is where it counts.

Many think the current boundaries favour Labour because they need less votes to get an MP elected. The reason for this is in part that turnout in Labour's heartland safe seats is appalling. It would be richly ironic if at the next election the balance shifted, Labour got its safe vote out, but lost in all the marginals handing the Conservatives a victory. It may well work out that way because I suspect Gordon Brown is far better at appealing to his own party than the wider electorate.

Once Tony Blair is finally gone, it will be a lot easier for the Conservative party to win elections.

PFI Problems give Head Teachers headaches

Apparently the Association of School and College Leaders has issued statements highlighting the problems PFI deals are causing schools both in terms of management time resolving issues and cost.

I can't help but wonder how this all came about. When this government came to power it promised to provide new schools everywhere. Well that is fine as far as it goes, and some certainly needed work or replacing but not all did. I can't help but wonder if a headlong rush to build has caused some problems.

However there are other problems with the way PFI schools are working out. In some I have heard of the walls are made of plasterboard and the ceilings are suspended. Fine in an office block but not so good in a school where children will from time to time be a lot rougher with their surroundings.

The BBC has this.

Stop Whinging!

I have just had an interesting evening out at my local pub. I discussed politics with a few people, who are both interested, have a party view, and more importantly vote.

Good.

I also had a chat with someone who appeared to be passionate about what the problems were, but via a combination of not being on the electoral roll, thinking that multinationals controlled the world and other forms of general excuse finding was doing nothing about it.

Well all I can say is STOP WHINGING and get involved.

Politics is hard work. Very hard work. It took me two days to stop dropping off to sleep all the time, after the election campaign. I didn't do it for my health, and I certainly did not do it for the money. Neither did my opponents, who also worked very hard (much harder than they have had to in the past). I did it because I felt that the world and this country needed fixing so I got involved.

So don't whinge, get involved. There are so many ways you can do so now as well. For a start you can start a blog. You can read. You can talk to people. You can join a political party, or just help one in your area. If you get involved you can build influence.

Just don't come and tell me that it is all a done deal, you can't be bothered to vote, either on polling day or with your consumer power, but that you have an opinion.

You can make a difference.

Stop whinging.

Your country needs you.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Drinking at home good for children

Last month Alcohol concern issued a press release saying how underage drinking was on the rise, and went further calling for parents who give under 15's alcohol to be prosecuted.

This at the time seemed to me to be illiberal badly though out nonsense. If you look at a lot of European countries their children learn to drink responsibly at home, normally at the dinner table. Binge drinking in those cultures is not a big problem.

A lot of politicians asked about the proposal thought it was rubbish too. Good.

However Liverpool John Moore's University has just carried out a study, one of the findings of which was that drinking at home with parents tends to lead to more rather than less responsible drinking whilst drinking behind the bushes in the park leads to more irresponsible drinking. I can't say I am surprised. Dealing with underage drinking by becoming more authoritarian seems doomed to failure.

The BBC has this.

How big will the Brown bounce be?

So Gordon Brown will apparently launch his leadership campaign today, which I have to say is not the biggest political shock in history. He will win the Labour leadership, quite possibly unopposed.

When he gets the job of Prime minister, will he get a poll bounce?

The short answer is yes. The eulogies for Blair will have lifted the whole Labour party in the polls. What is more interesting is where he is picking up those votes, which I think are in Labour's heartlands, and how long will the bounce last?

My hunch is that Labour will get a bounce of about 3 or 4%, and that will last for about 3 months. However the votes will be in the wrong places to win an election.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

John Prescott to go!

I know it is not a surprise, but I have to say I am pleased! Not only do I think he has been bad for many things, like the Pathfinder initiative, demolishing peoples homes, frequently unnecessarily, or endless meddling in planning, the railways and local democracy.

The thing that really gets to me is that he is a buffoon. That is not a class thing either. Their are plenty of "working class" MP's from all sides, including Labour who are good representatives of the country. John Prescott just made me look silly.

Interest rates rise to 5.5%

The Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England has put up interest rates again to 5.5%, which I have to say is no surprise given that inflation reached 3.1% on the CPI measure and 4.8% (a 16 year high) on the RPI, which led to Mervin King, the Governor of the Bank writing a letter to Gordon Brown explaining why inflation was so far about target.

We should also remember that the last quarters repossession figures were the highest since 2000, at 17,000 per year. This interest rate rise is not going to help.

Still with a bit of luck it will halt the rise of inflation. We will see.

The BBC has this.

Tony Blair to stand down on the 27th of June

Which looks like a winner for all those who bet on Quarter 2!

Well, I have to say I am pleased in some ways, because whether you like or loath tony Blair, the one thing you have to admit is that he was a vote winner. I don't think Gordon Brown is. So our biggest mountain in terms of winning votes appears to be leaving the stage.

I will wait until he has actually gone to give my full view of Tony Blair.

The BBC has this.

Tony Blair is to go, but when?

OK, we all know that Tony Blair is going to go, but the question is when?

Or rather more specifically when will he actually cease to be Labour leader, and Prime Minister.

The question is important because today we are told he will lay out his timetable. Will me resign as Labour leader, or announce his intention to resign at some time in the future?

This is not an academic debate, because of the way the Betfair betting exchange has managed to phrase the bet on when Tony will go. In essence it is when Tony ceases to be Labour leader.

I suspect he will do no more than say when he is going.

Once he has actually gone, and I am sure he can't make any come backs I will comment on Tony Blair.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Government of the living dead!

Whilst I have not yet had a chance to watch all of today's Prime Ministers Questions I am amused by the clips shown on the news bulletins.

My favourite quote is David Cameron listing the potential outgoing ministers, citing how Gordon Brown's spin doctors have been wondering around handing out current ministers jobs, and going on to describe the cabinet as the "government of the living dead"

It has to be said that during the exchange, it was obvious that Tony Blair enjoys this sort of banter, as does David Cameron.

I wonder how Gordon Brown will fair? After all he normally hides away on bad news days, has lost his temper with George Osbourne and normally has a team of junior ministers to answer all the awkward questions?

Those in Labour (and the Liberal Democrats) who are looking for a saviour for Labour say he will do well.

The rest of us have our doubts!

Tax Credit Fiasco gets worse

According to a report issued by the Public Accounts committee of the House of Commons losses through fraud and overpayment. Apparently another £1.4 billion is likely to be written off.

What actually concerns me more though is the number of people who have no clue, because the system is opaque in the extreme, how much it is they are supposed to be getting. They could after all be getting more or less than their entitlement. If they are underpaid, then they have 3 months to claim the underpayment yet if they are overpaid the money can be claimed back for 6 years! That does not seem fair to me.

It does however get worse. When people have been overpaid, they get new payments stopped or worse still get money demanded with menaces. If you are on a tight budget the last thing you need is a debt collection firm on your back collecting money you did not know you had borrowed, who can effectively deduct money at source with out consulting you.

The net result is that many families are going through difficult times because of administrative errors, not knowing from one week to the next what their income is, whilst many on working tax credit are not claiming at all.

It is clear that at best the system needs a major shake up and simplification.

The BBC has this.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Cameron called on to resign!

Yes, senior figures in the Conservative party have called on David Cameron to resign immediately following dreadful local elections results.

One insider was quoted as saying "500 gains would have been fantastic, but 911 frankly is just not good enough! Cameron needs to go!"

Meanwhile the leadership of Ming Campbell has been praised, having led the Liberal Democrats to a much hailed victory losing 246 seats. Labour's council boost, losing 504 seats has shown that the incoming leader Gordon Brown is sure to lead Labour to a stunning 4th term!

(Ed.. Hold on, this is the sort of drivel that lefty journalists like Poly Toynbee write isn't it? It could have been on the BBC!)

911 seats gained by Conservatives in local elections!

After the declaration of Breckland district council and Warwick district council the Conservatives have gained 911 seats, and Labour have lost 504!

What a fantastic day!

Hat tip to Stewart Jackson MP for pointing out the Warwick count had finally finished, on politicalbetting.com.

Labour loses 500th seat!

Yes all wards have been counted in Breckland District council, where Labour had 8 councilors and now have 3, that is a net loss of 5 taking Labours total loss of councilors to 500 with Warwick still to finish!

Also Conservative gain at least 2 in Breckland so have gained 900 with one council left to count!

Hat tip to Andrea on Politicalbetting.com for watching the numbers as they came in!

Will the Breckland and Warwick counts push the Conservatives over 900 gains?

Counting has restarted in Breckland and Warwick district councils, having been suspended on Friday as the new electronic counting machines broke down.

These two councils look like swinging to the Conservatives and we only need a net gain of two to break the 900 barrier on the night!

The drama is a bit delayed, but it is still there, sort of!

Is it just me, or is the World Snooker final going on a bit?

I know that the snooker is good, particularly the safety play, but I am beginning to lose the will to live watching the John Higgins versus Mark Selby final.

Last night it looked like it would be wrapped up fairly quickly, as John Higgins was annihilating Mark Selby 12 to 4 but today Mark Selby started by pulling six frames back in succession. However the pace of the game has slowed to a crawl!

Update 00:54

Well, John Higgins won!

I have to say some fantastic play, but I was having trouble keeping my eyes open!

Still, Mark Selby looked like he was in free fall yesterday and he came back an awful long way!

Monday, May 07, 2007

So what future for the Liberal Democrats

It is interesting to observe the musings of the Liberal Democrats as they ponder what was a bit of a stuffing.

In Mid Sussex the Liberal Democrats seemed to have a plan, which someone may have communicated to Indigo Public Affairs, who predicted Mid Sussex would be taken by the said Yellow Peril.

The only problem with that of course is that we had one too, and ours worked oh so much better than theirs.

However if they are looking for someone to blame in their own ranks, and on the day of the count some clearly were, it seems that they will pin it on the people in their party, particularly in Burgess Hill, who went independent over "disagreements".

I have to say it helped, but we were not counting on it.

It seems though that elsewhere they are looking for bigger blood. Word reaches me that the leadership is being blamed both nationally and in Wales.

The Arsembly blog has a series of articles here on the ructions in the Welsh Liberal Democrats who have yet to make any progress since their first election of 6 AM's here, and here.

Meanwhile Ordovicius has this tale of blame here and coalition trouble for the Liberal Democrats here.

Then of course there is the slow bubling of noises about Ming Campbell's leadership. Iain Dale has round ups here and here.

I know that in Mid Sussex their PPC Serena Tierney (who rather ridiculously styles herself as Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman*) was surprised at some of our results, particularly in Lucastes because I heard her say so. That made me laugh!

That said they obviously had high hopes and were looking to improve their seat numbers in the council and went backwards instead.


So should they blame Ming, their own internal divisions, their campaigning technique or what?

Frankly I don't care as long as they rip themselves apart, but then again I might be biased!

* To be fair at least the English language has not been garbled here. Spokesman is correct and can apply to both men and women. Spokesperson would have caused a rant on my part!

Did I mention how exhausting elections were?

This was my first campaign. I have to say it was educational. It was also extremely hard work, particularly in the last days when the tempo really hots up.

What you see on the doorstep, in terms of leaflets delivered and canvassers knocking on doors is only a small part of a very large operation.

Leaflets need to be written, set into delivery routes.

Canvass sheets need to be produced, but after they have been filled in, what is on them needs to be entered back into a computer system to make the information useful.

It is a big organisation, and it ticks along all the way to polling day.

Surely that is when the campaign ends? Not a bit of it. Polling day is a day of unremitting hard work, running around getting the vote out. I was literally running at stages in the day! I thought I was so unfit that I could not run out of sight on a dark night, but the adrenaline of election day gives you energy.

So after having worked from well before the polls opened to when they closed some 15 hours later it had been a long and very hard day. Normally I would have gone straight on to the count, but this year that was not to be. We did the count the following day.

The problem is you don't want to sleep straight away! My running mate Katy Bourne, Peter Bradbury, now the newly elected County Councilor for Cuckfield and Lucastes decided to have a drink and a chat. That was good.

Then came the count. I was so tired I missed my alarm and ended getting to the count which started at 8.30 at 10 instead. The count went on and on and on. I still had energy left though, as it was exciting! We had some key battlegrounds we needed to win, as well as being aware we would be squeezed in areas where we did not want to be squeezed.

Since the end of he count and the loss of the adrenaline I have been completely exhausted! I have had an almost complete lack of energy.

That said I am just about feeling it coming back now as I return to normal.