Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I urge you to Sign this petition!

To ask Tony Blair, the Prime minister to stand on his head and juggle ice-cream, because If he's not going to resign, the least he can do is provide us with some entertainment. You can sign the petition here!

It was suggested by Tim Ireland who's blog is here.

Hat tip to kjh on

Is the Smith Institute history?

Well, I watched this 12 minute broadcast by Iain Dale on 18 Doughty Street. It is devastating.

The Smith Institute is a charity. As such it gets certain benefits, (see this article for more)

A charity is supposed to do things for the public good. It can engage in political activity such as advocating particular policies. Fair enough. Amnesty international does that all the time, as do Oxfam and numerous other charities. What they are not allowed to do is to be politically partisan. As in supporting one party or politician.

On it's website the Smith Institute claims to:
"The Smith Institute is an independent think tank, which has been set up to undertake research and education in issues that flow from the changing relationship between social values and economic imperatives. In recent years the Institute has centred its work on the policy implications arising from the interactions of equality, enterprise and equity."

Fair enough. Can't argue with that.

However watching Iain Dale's report is shocking. It details meetings held by the Smith Institute which are clearly partisan, for example Bob Schrum setting out way of dealing with and attacking David Cameron. If that is not politically partisan I don't know what is.

Of course as MiniTrue points out here there is a potential get out for the Smith Institute in that it may not have organised the event, it may have got a company called SI Events, wholly owned by the Smith Institute, to organise the meeting. In many ways that would circumvent the need to be nonpartisan.

However that question does need to be answered, (was it SI events or not?) after all it is possible that they overlooked something. I expect the Charity Commission to have a look. The other question has to be why oh why the Smith Institute gets so much more access to No 11 than everyone else put together. (Apart from Gordon Brown that is).

You can't stone women in Canada

Apparently. I have just read this on the BBC. I did not realise Herouxville town council needed to pass rules stating the obvious.

Mind you perhaps it was legal to stone women to death last weak? I think I would have heard about it if it was though.

The rule also appears to have come about because of 1 immigrant family moving into a town. How bizzare taht someone would want to get on their high horse about that?

Not a very nice welcome at all if you ask me.

Cash for Peerages, Wednesday morning update.

Well, you will already know that Lord Levy was arrested today for perverting the course of justice.

Well, according to a couple of news papers, who seem to have missed the significance, he was arrested for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

That involves the accused and at least on other. Ruth Turner was arrested for perversion of the course of justice, so it is possible that she is the other alleged co accused.

It should of course be noted that the police having reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place does not mean that one has, nor does the fact that they have reasonable suspicion that a particular person is guilty of a crime mean he is.

We are innocent until proven guilty, at least whilst Tony Blair has not implemented guilty until proven innocent.

However I digress.

The conspiracy thing is very interesting. We sill see how it pans out.

The daily Mail carries the most damaging information, citing John McTernan's interview as the reason for the Ruth Turner arrest and leading to today's arrest.

The Mail also seems to speculate that there is a significant email trail linking Lord Levy, Ruth Turner and Mr Powell to the enquiry. They may also mention K's and P's.

Well, mostly regurgitation, missing the conspiracy side of things but some very interesting things in the Mail (if you can get past it's lack of style)

You can read what the Times has here, the Telegraph here, the Daily Mail here, and the Guardian here.

I must admit it is quite amusing to see the news papers rehash old news, when those in the blogosphere say see this article I wrote earlier for more.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cash for Peerages, Lord Levy Arrested Again!

Well, would you believe it! This time however he was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

This could well end up like Watergate.

He was bailed later though. What I do not yet know is when he was arrested or how long he was questioned for.

This is looking decidedly bad for Labour!

The BBC has this, Guido has this, whilst Iain Dale has this.

For more articles and background on the cash for peerages scandal see here.

More later as I find out the details!

18 Doughty Street's Tax attack advert

Just in case you were not aware, the good people of 18 Doughty Street have now put their "tax attack advert" online. You can view it here.

I thought it was an interesting ad, aiming to show all the things that could end up getting taxed in a very effective way. In many ways in fact all the things they did show are already taxed in one way or another.

There is of course an interesting other angle. People at the higher end of earnings tend to get a tax return to fill in, which asks lots of questions about what you do. People at the lower end now get to fill in lots of intrusive forms as well to get tax credits.

You can give feedback of what you thought of the add here. Tim Montgomerie has this piece in the Times today covering what he thinks of the current political spectrum here.

The tax payers alliance website is here.

The NHS, Burning our money II

Just in case you missed BBC Radio 4's Today program report on wasting money in the NHS, this is their report today. (Available as audio only)

The report covers private Independent treatment centers (ISTC's), like the Netcare one in Greater Manchester.

The main bone of contention with these is the way the contract has been negotiated. The first wave of contracts are for a fixed number of operations, in this case 44,863. They get paid for them whether they are carried out or not.

Part of the problem that these centers face in their early days is that they won't get all the referrals they could handle on day one. In fact according to comments from the man running the center, in the first 3 months they may have been operating at 25 to 30% capacity and are now running at 85% of capacity overall. That means that they have been paid for 15% of operations that have not happened.

In practice this is a waste of money, but the people running the Netcare center hope to get to running at over 100% of their contracted rates so as to make up the shortfall.

In the next wave of contracts these treatment centers will only get paid for the operations they carry out.

We will have to see how this policy pans out. All change costs money (something seldom factored in enough) and if this one is going to be about for 5 or 10 years, it may be worth it.

However I do have some clinical concerns about some ISTC units which only handle people for the operation and do not then go on to handle after care. You do hear reports of NHS clinicians slating "bad work". That may be fair or unfair, but unless the whole care and after care package are delivered by one provider you always face the danger of one blaming the other if things go wrong, leaving both the patient and the NHS bewildered as to what to do next.

Monday, January 29, 2007

18 Doughty Street on Newsnight

And there it was. I got the tip it would be on from this post on Ellee Seymour's blog! (I would have thought I would have heard it on Iain Dale's blog first).

Made quite interesting watching. Tim Montgomery of 18 Doughty Street, also of Conservative Home was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman, along with some Labour MP who's name *cough* I can't quite remember.

Tim made the point that in a political world where all the leaders of the political parties seem close on controversial issues, a lot of voters feel cut out. He cited tax and gay adoption as two issues. I agree. I think that there seems to be too much political unity (though I think the Conservative position on tax is fine as far as it goes).

However the beauty of the blogosphere is the debate rages here!

18 Doughty street are running a weekly series covering issues that it does not feel the establishment are covering adequately, if at all. This weeks one is tax. Next weeks will be party funding. You can get involved by looking at the issue, putting in your tuppence worth, and then voting on the proposals. See here.

Personally I think it is a great idea. I certainly think that the state funding of political parties is a very very bad idea.

Cameron's bombshell speech

Well, I don't think David Cameron can be accused of sitting on the fence on multiculturalism.

In a speech in Birmingham he roundly attacked the concept of multiculturalism, and also more importantly tackled the issue of those groups that purport to represent British Muslims, like the Muslim Council of Britain for not representing Muslims very well, and also their more hard line and vocal members drowning out the voices of the more moderate and reasonable.

You can read more here.

Fudging the gay adoption issue

Well, it seems David Davis has come out in favour of an "opt out" for the Catholic church in the gay adoption row, whilst David Cameron on the Today Program said basically there should be no block exemption for the Catholic church.

however as a get around to keep the Catholic adoption agencies, they could have three or four years to adapt, by twining with other agencies. The effect would be that if a gay couple went to a Catholic agency, they would get referred to the "other part" that dealt with those things.

Personally I am not convinced that we need the law in the first place. I have not seen the case made. Further more I am against compelling people to act against their religious beliefs. (And no I don't mean one made up last week.)

This whole debate seems to be stirring up division. You only need look at this Yougov poll here. The Scotsman has this report here which indicates that the Catholic Church in Scotland will use the European Court to get around it's woes. This story will not have a happy ending.

You can listen to David Cameron on the Today program here, or read the Telegraph report here.

The NHS, Burning our money.

BBC Radio 4's the today Program is running a series of reports at 7.30 every morning on the NHS, burning our money.

You can read the print article here, and listen again here.

Interesting numbers. Of the £19 billion increase in budget since 2004/5 to 2007/8 only £5.9 billion has been spent on increasing services. The rest has gone on various forms of cost increases such as a £6.6 billion in wages.

There will be some other interesting facts coming out during the week. Apparently the Today program has had trouble getting people to speak on the record because they are scared.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I just love Top Gear!

I have to say it is one of my favourite programs!

I particularly likes tonight's episode with the film of Richard Hammond's crash, and the sense of humour that surrounded it. It is very easy to get depressed about danger, and very British to laugh about it afterwards!

I particularly liked the pre accident shots where the Hamster suggested he might be facing the biggest accident ever, and it was only the last run, you know he one he shouldn't have done which caught him out.

Still, I am so pleased he is well, and not only that but back!

Cash for Peerages, Yet Another Sunday morning update.

Well, here is the position. The Sunday Telegraph claims here that Yates of the Yard has found a hand written note that links Tony Blair into the investigation.

I won't be salivating yet however because it is clear that it is no nail in the coffin of Tony Blair. It may only result in him being a witness at any future trial.

However from the report, it appears one cabinet minister is concerned that this story is killing Labour, and the longer it runs the worse it will get. He is at least right.

We will have to see where this part of the story goes. Personally I think the only way Tony Blair will get charged, or indeed arrested, is if a canary sings.

You can read more about the Cash for Peerages scandal here.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

NHS burning our money!

Well, certainly it seems to be hemorrhaging cash on an epic scale. According to this report originally in Friday's Telegraph one NHS trust is asking it's workers to do some days for free or consider taking a sabbatical. The reason is that it needs to reduce it's deficit so that it can pay rich bankers lots of money start a PFI new build hospital. Needless to say some staff are up in arms.

However BBC Radio 4's The Today program has been doing some digging. It seems to have been working on the basis that the NHS has been flooded with cash, so if there is a cash crisis some must have been wasted. It is going to be running stories on NHS waste every say at 7.30 AM next week. it will make interesting listening.

Of course the NHS being in crisis is nothing new. You only have to look at stories like this or this from Dr. Crippen's NHS Blog.

If you have any information on how the NHS is wasting money please Email Me!

Branscombe beach looting: We need more laws allegedly

A lot of people have been understandably horrified at the looting or salvage of cargo that has happened as a result of the beaching of the MSC Napoli of Sidmouth.

It appears that the police were unable to stop this happening.

As a result people like George Pascoe-Watson, editor of the Sun have suggested we need new laws to cover this.

When I hear things like this it horrifies me. As it happens the police now appear to have found that they had the powers they needed and have taken action to stop the looting. Passing another law to allow them to do the same "with nobs on" really is not going to help. The more complex the law is the harder it is to find the needle in that haystack of a power that it is you need. We need a smaller haystack, not a bigger one.

This government has passed so many more new laws it must be very hard to keep up. The police service knows well the laws it deals with every day. That which turns only very rarely is going to be difficult to figure out. There may be a case for a small central agency of some sort which can look up and research the more esoteric situations, but one thing we do not need is yet more laws.

Home Office's novel news management strategy

You have to wonder just what is going on in the Home Office these days. Well perhaps they are trying a novel news management strategy. Keep the bad news stories flowing so thick and fast that the seriousness of the last one is lost as people move on to discuss today's latest blunder.

The latest one we have is the failure of the passport agency to do anything to stop convicted drug traffickers from traveling, after a court has made an order that they can't.

Apparently most are still in prison, or at least are supposed to be, while 15 need to be tracked down.


The BBC has this here.

Cash for Peerages, heat turned up

Just in case you had not heard, there are some interesting stories about. For example the Telegraph today has this story about how the police may end up getting a warrant to search Downing street. If that happens that will be politically devastating in and off itself.

Also Downing street has denied having a "secret" email system. Well Guido seems to have found one here, as well as evidence of other accounts here.

Hmm.. I wonder if Guido is keeping Yates of the yard informed? I do hope so.

The other interesting little fact is that John McTernan, the director of government relations, has been questioned under caution. Again!

Will the story be the cover up not the crime as it was in Watergate?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Another nail in the coffin of the Magna Carta

All the while the home Office has been burying it's own bad news in other bits of it's own bad news, and the gay adoption row has dominated the headlines you may have missed the fact that The Fraud (Trials Without A Jury) Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons yesterday. The BBC has this.

The government does not believe that juries can handle long complex fraud trials. The fact is that this is rubbish. American juries handled Enron. (See the BBC here) The real problem is that our lawyers don't appear to be able to organise it properly.

It seems a bit like the Home Office saga. Labour can't run the Home Office so wants to split it up rather than fixing it, except of course that trial by jury was enshrined the the Magna Carta (Great Charter) back in 1215. So there we go. Another vital part of our constitution down the pan because this government can't fix simple problems and learn from others.

Any information please!

If you have information you would like to get "out there" or think I should be looking at a particular issue, please email me with the link on the right hand side.

Home Office in crisis again. Can it get any worse?

Well, we have had all sorts of bad news about the Home Office in recent days. For example they are now in a panic over prison places, or rather the lack of them, (see here) that has now led to a man convicted of downloading child pornography getting off with out a prison sentence (See the BBC's article here). It seems that sentences are being set by the number of prison places.

A man who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a teenager has been released on bail. The judge said that last week he would have sent him straight to jail.

We now have the Rod Morgan, head of the Youth Justice Board resigning because the system is being "swamped" by minor offenders who would not have ended up in prison in the first place before 1997.

Why are we in this situation? Well, in short Labour have been talking very tough on crime, and sentencing but have not provided the prison places to back up the rhetoric. Whether or not the policy is a good one is another matter. If you want to send more people to prison for longer you do need more places.

Government has had advance notice of this looming crisis for years. However there is also a real problem in our system is that there is no time and space to rehabilitate people, particularly young offenders. We can't afford to have 10 year olds locked up in prison and not rehabilitated moving on to a life of crime. This is just very wrong and wasteful of future tax payers money.

We also have worsening crime figures as well. You are apparently more likely to be a victim of crime this year than last, the first rise since 1995. (See the BBC's article here)

Can it get worse? I think it can, we will have to wait and see.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Rise of Secular Fundamentalism

It seems to me that the gay adoption row is indicative of another force working behind the scenes. That is secular fundamentalism.

As with all fundamentalists they are very absolute in their views, and seem to be forcing their belief system down everyone elses throat. That seems to me as bad as any other form of fundamentalism, because it denies any one else the right to take a different view.

Hence we have this gay adoption row, where apparently there can be no compromise. Well there is on abortions. Doctors who don't want to do abortions for religious reasons don't have to. Is some one planning on changing that?

Then we have the hounding of Ruth Kelly because of her faith. It would seem the secularists don't want someone of strong religious convictions in government.

Is this all not just as bad as saying we can't have gay people in parliament or as ministers?

Gay adoption row, what is all the fuss?

If I had a pound for every time someone with either a politically correct chip on their shoulder or some ideological position talked rubbish, I would be a rich man.

We have at the moment a row over new "Equality" laws going through parliament or rather sub regulations etc.

These laws are designed to "end discrimination". There should be no opt outs. yada yada yada.

Well, there is discrimination as a matter of law. For example someone who is 15 can't legally buy cigarettes, someone below 18 can't vote. Someone who is 15 can't marry or enter into a civil partnership and if there is no parental consent they have to wait to 18. If you are over 70 you have to have regular medical check ups in order to be able to drive. Even if you are 95 and have a drivers licence you may find no insurer to insure you. These are all age based discrimination.

We also discriminate on country of origin. If you are not British, you do not have equal rights. You may for example be deported, you don't have the same rights to health care or anything else.

If you are a Roman Catholic, you can't marry the Monarch or indeed any one in line to the succession.

I could go on. In short there are all sorts of ways in which people are discriminated against. Quite a few of them make sense.

The question then becomes "Do we need more anti discrimination laws?"

Well do we? What is the motivation behind this latest set of controversial laws?

Apparently it bans discrimination on religious grounds. Personally if someone has a problem with me being a Roman Catholic I would rather know at the outset rather than finding out later on that my food had been spat in. Some of the more loony fringe of the Baptist and evangelical movement have some very strange ideas about us Catholics and are frankly quite anti Catholic. Legislation wont change that, and I don't want it.

It will also ban people from discriminating on the grounds of sexuality in the provision of goods and services. (As well as religion).

In the year after this ill thought out legislation has been passed there will be all sorts of silly stories about the unintended consequences of this law. For example will a restaurant be discriminating against a Muslim or Jew for not providing a Halal or Kosher meal?

You have to ask what ill this law is supposed to cure. The 1861 protection of the people act is quite clear on what ills it seeks to deal with, and judging by crime figures it is necessary.

So what is the gay adoption row all about then? I seem to get a schizophrenic response.

On the one hand we should not discriminate against gay couples. Well, how many gay couples want advice from a Roman Catholic on adoption? On Usenet I have been quite happy to provide legal advice to gay people but would they want my moral advice? I see no queue at the door.

They can go elsewhere, and indeed Catholic adoption agencies currently pass their details on.

So how big a problem is this really?

Then there is the "welfare of the child" argument. This is also spurious. Firstly happy married heterosexual families are excluded from adoption for all sorts of bizarre reasons, like they are too old, may be unhealthy and so on. If the welfare of the child was a real concern the more silly restrictions on adoption would be lifted. Secondly going through the adoption process is as I understand it more like the Spanish Inquisition than a test of whether you would be a good parent. It is a very draining process for adoptive parents. Now maybe that tests their commitment, certainly the adoption agencies have a duty of care, but maybe it is just a tad harsh.

However, if a child is not placed with a gay couple by a Roman Catholic adoption agency then it can be placed with the same couple by many others. So where is the welfare of the child argument? It is rubbish as well.

You have to ask yourself how equal a society we wish to be. What if, for example I set up an IVF clinic tomorrow, but stated as policy that we would not consider implanting an embryo in a homosexual man. Should that be illegal?

Update 16:43

Apparently the Scottish Executive have given the Catholic church the nod that their will be an exemption in Scotland. So this is an England only law. Hmmm. Divisive devolution.

Is Respect the ghost of Labour's past?

I have just watched Gorgeous George Galloway on BBC News 24's Hard talk. I have to say i find George interesting.

I loath his politics, and disagree with him on many many things, but I also have a strange admiration for the man.

I particularly the way he dealt with his examination in front of a US Senate committee hearing.

However, he claims Respect speaks for millions of people, the people that Labour has forgotten. He claims that he is also hated by Muslim extremists because he draws angry Muslims away from the extremists who would have them be suicide bombers. Well I can believe the last claim at least, as extremist Muslims do not believe in democracy.

George is always good for a quote. When asked if he could rejoin Labour, he said he would never say never, but he would not rejoin under Gordon Brown, as he felt that "Gordon and Tony are two cheeks of the same backside".


He did also claim that Respects website was the busiest. Busiest of what would be the question. I hear the BNP gets huge amounts of traffic and I have not heard of Respect being mentioned in political website traffic reports.

Mind you to geeks like me I find it fascinating that respect has a .org website. As any fool should know .org are reserved for American non profit organisations. The UK equivalent is

Update 00:43

Respect is along with the Stairway to Heaven memorial Group, campaigning for a permenant memorial for 173 people who died on the 3rd of march 1943 trying to get into the shelter at Bethnal Green tube station. I agree.

You can visit Respect's article here, and the Early Day Motion here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Has Guido finally got the Smith Institute?

Well, it seems he is getting closer. Guido Fawkes has this article on his blog tonight, highlighting a piece on BBC 2's Newsnight tonight.

Apparently Guido has been requested to hand over what he has on the Sith Smith Institute by close of business on Thursday the 25th of January. In return the Charity Commissioner has handed Guido a 2 inch thick answer to a freedom of information request.

However unfortunately Guido does not use labels so I can't link to all he has done on the subject easily. Also Guido has not quite fully explained the background. It is this:

The Smith Institute is apparently a charitable foundation formed as a think tank in memory of John Smith, the Labour party leader between 1992 and 1994, who died of a heart attack. (As in the one before Tony Blair).

Why is it a charity? Well, being a charity has large tax advantages. If you get given money on gift aid, you can get the tax the donor has paid off the treasury as well, boosting your coffers even more. Lots of charities do it, and it is effectively free money for them, and fair enough.

Guido's problem is that he believes they are a politically partisan organisation, organising seminars at No 11 Downing street and getting special access for its donors.

Now if that were correct, then the Smith institute is in big trouble as are all who may then be connected to it. This may end up including people close to Gordon Brown.

This is after all the second time the Charity Commission has investigated the Sith Smith Institute, and they seem to be looking closely.

Some interesting facts of note, in the last 6 months there have been 20 meetings at No 11 by "Charities", of which 11 or 12 were by the Smith Institute and the rest by 8 or 9 other charities. No other think tanks met there at all.

Of course this is just an investigation and it should be noted that any investigation is looking to find the truth, and may well exonerate the Smith Institute.

Of course this does raise issues of why think tanks should be charities at all.

Update 25th January 2007, 14:34

Guido has a video of the Newsnight piece here, whilst the Guardian has a piece on it here.

Update again at 15:58

Guido now has this post with links to all his stories on the Smith Institute.

Home Office in more crisis

You will no doubt have heard that John Reid the Home Secretary, Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, and the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith have sent letters to magistrates and courts asking them not to lock up so many people. if you haven't you can read the BBC's article here and the Daily Mail here.

Well, this just smacks of incompetence and muddled thinking. For quite some time now convicted criminals have been getting longer sentences and prisons have been filling up. In fact a government study in 2000 predicted we would need 100,000 prison places by 2006. Well we only have 80,000.

Norwich prisons A wing, condemned and closed as unfit has had to be reopened for remand prisoners (these are people who may well be guilty of no crime, but seem to get the worst prison places).

This government has had plenty of warning that it is running out of places but has done nothing.

However the letter makes interesting reading. It points out that prisons are an expensive resource. They are. It says that only dangerous and persistent offenders should be locked up. I agree. However you can't have sentencing policy decided by the number of prison places. What about all the first time non dangerous offenders who were locked up last week? It is bizarre. What is more when you have a resource as expensive as prison, you must make sure it is doing it's job correctly which it can't do if they are too full.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Is Bob Piper Toast now?

Just though I'd ask. I have just read this on Prague Tory's blog.

If you remember the storm over the minstrels and a "blacked up" David Cameron last year, well it seems Bob was very upset with Prague Tory.

In fact so upset he sent him an email saying this:
Don't threaten me sonny, because if it is a war you want to start, believe me, wars have casulties and you are right about kicking. I will not forgive you for comparing me to the BNP, and as far as I am concerned you can boil in your own bile. So light your fucking fire... but your name will be emblazoned across the internet and the national media.

In fact I was telling a few of the lads in the Sack of Potatoes this lunchtime that you thought I was a racist and Linford and Muzzy said they would like to talk to you at the Bartons to put you right.
Well, is that Bob threatening physical violence? Oh dear. I wonder what the Standards Board of England say?

Bob Piper's blog is here.

Update 16:04:

In fairness to Bob, he has replied, in the comments, but I thought I would put them here:

Bob Piper said...

If you look at the sequence you will see that PragueTory first used the phrase 'kicking'. I neither took that to mean a physical kicking, (the giveaway is in the line 'you are right about kicking' nor did I suggest a physical kicking... I simply used his terminology.

I had not planned, despite what my Party leader's predilictions are, to 'start a war' either, just in case you wanted to continue stretching the truth.

As for The Barton's Arms... PragueTory had actually invited me to have a drink with him and his friends there, and when I explained that to my mates they suggested we went along so that they could explain that I was in no way racist.

Having said that, PT has made it plain he never called me a racist, so there was no need.

Finally... please don't confuse me with anyone who cares what the Standards Board of England say.

Do gay people feel discriminated against?

The reason why I ask is all the heat, and it seems to me, very little light over whether the Catholic Church ought to have an opt out of "anti discrimination" regulations due to come into force.

The Catholic Church argues it should have an exemption for its adoption services, whilst it seems that many in Labour think there should not be one.

Not being gay I can't see what all the fuss is about. Do gay people feel they can't get access to services because they are discriminated against? If so, how and where?

If the Catholic Church does get an exemption that does not mean that gay people can't adopt, what it does mean is that they will have to go to another agency. Is that a big problem?

Is society big enough to have people of diverging views on what is and is not moral?

The BBC has this here.

Has the Scottish Executive taken leave of it's senses?

I ask because ChrisD on highlighted this article on the BBC.

It appears that the Scottish Executive decided to move Transport for Scotland from Edinburgh to Glasgow.

Well, OK. They have done so for social and economic reasons.

I presume that means that it will end up costing less whilst providing employment in Glasgow. Fair enough so far.

That is until you read the bonkers small print, or in the case of the BBC article most of the story.

Of the 150 people relocated 57 of them appear to get their travel expenses paid but what is more presumably the same people, possibly more or less, get to start work on their commute.

It seems that as soon as they start catching up on "paper work" on the train, they are in the office. Obviously they can leave early as well to make sure they get enough time to catch up on their way home.

Thing is most commuters who need to already have to do this, do so, but start their commute to get in on time.

The train is not a secure place to do confidential work either. However if they can work on the train, why not forget coming into the office at all and work from home? After all with technology as it is today (I know, I set this sort of thing up every day) why travel when you don't have to.

Also the payments for people to stay put draw into question two key issues. The economic and social benefits of the move. There is little economic or social benefit to have an office commute in and out of a given area. It just costs more. If on the other hand they got all the employees to move, then yes that would or rather could have both economic and social benefits.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Panorama, Polonium and Alexander Litvinenko

Just watched Panorama on the polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.

It was quite interesting and revealed a few facts I did not know.

For example it looks like a teacup contained the poison, Alexander Litvinenko may have wiped his mouth after drinking it, leaving his hand highly irradiated, as well as everything else he touched.

Also all the people who came into contact with the cup would have been irradiated and spread it about as well.

What I found most interesting was how much they think was used. 4 billion Bequerrels (Bq's). That is an astounding level of radiation. 4 billion decays per second.

But how much Polonium 210 is that?

Well, 27 millionths of a gram. So little you would not even notice it!

Of course Panorama seemed to find a trail back to the Kremlin, no surprise there. I would have though that it would take a very very daft bunch to try that though.

However it is very rare and hard to get hold of. Apparently quite a lot of it comes out of Russia.

You can read more of my articles on Polonium here.

Update 23 january 2007, 01:10

I forgot to mention that Alexander Litvinenko accused Romano Prodi, Italy's Prime minister of being a "KGB agent". Needless to say this has been denied. The Russians presumably would not wish to be associated with any Italian Government.

I understand Romano Prodi has also denied it.

You can read the ITV report here.

New Conservative policy on the NHS

Well, David Cameron has announced a policy on the NHS. You can read the statement here.

It sounds a lot like fundholding GP's. This was a policy brought in under the previous Conservative Government. Labour criticised it for a number of reasons including claiming it led to a postcode lottery, and *cough* would cause unnecessary bureaucracy!

The fact is that where ever you go in the land, your postcode decides how hard you will have to fight for certain types of treatments if you can get them at all. As for bureaucracy, doctors are now more than ever snowed under with pointless bits of paper.

Labour ended fundholding GP's in 1999. Then they put lots more money into the NHS. If you actually look at productivity growth in the NHS, it was good up until 1999, when it collapsed.

The other thing that the Conservative party will do is stop all the minute target setting nonsense this government go in for, and just leave the one, looking at patient outcomes. Seems far more sensible to me.

One of the biggest problems in the NHS is that it is perceived as being free, so if you don't get good service, well tough luck. It isn't. By giving GP's the funds they look after their patients. If the GP doesn't, then the patient can take their slice of the money elsewhere.

Update 16:46

The BBC has this on the announcement.

Defence spending on 70 year low

Well at least the headline in this article in today's daily Telegraph claims that is the case.

This is measured as a proportion of GDP. We are compared to several other nations in the article including the United States of America.

Frankly I think we can exclude them as a comparison.

However we are spending less than France.

At this point you have to think about the number of "hot" wars we are in compared to France. The answer is two to nil.

We also have vast ongoing commitments in the Falklands, Sierra Leone, and Kosovo.

We need to think carefully. If we are not prepared to spend the money needed then we have to live in a world where the USA acts on it's own. I find that scary.

Mind you, the MOD needs to be fixed. It has not been fit for purpose since the Crimean war. It leaks money and wastes paper on an epic scale.

Sack 'em all I say, and start again.

Many thanks to ChrisD on for the link to the Telegraph article.

Home Office split, is it a good idea?

Well, there has been a lot in the media over the last few days about Dr Reid's alleged plans to split the home office into two parts.

Some bloggers (such as Iain Dale here) have suggested this may be to bury bad news.

Well what ever the news management merits of the case, is there a case for splitting the home office.

Well, for the split are John Reid, Lord Falconer, and Tony Blair. (oh, and some weird centerish party called the Liberal Democrats, you won't have heard of them)

Against are David Blunkett, and the Conservatives.

What was interesting about David Blunkett's comments was that he objected to the weakening of a senior cabinet post, possibly leaving only the Prime minister and Chancellor as senior members in the cabinet. He thinks that would be bad for representative democracy. I don't often agree with Blunkett but here I do.

William Hague for the Conservatives pointed out that the issues the Home Office is currently facing are primarily lack of communication between sub departments within the Home Office, so he was unclear on how splitting them up would help. I also agree there.

However, if you look into the detail what is actually proposed is to create two departments, one responsible for policing, terrorism, and immigration, the other responsible for the Courts, prisons, probation, rehabilitation and sentencing.

This is no split of one department into two, it is in fact handing tricky bits of the Home Office over to what was the Lord Chancellors office and is now the Department of Constitutional affairs.

The issue here is that the Lord Chancellor is there to represent the courts in government, which despite it seeming odd has been for 1400 years a useful thing. Now that particular role is being changed beyond recognition for no particularly well explained reason.

However, there is also another issue. The Lord Chancellor has never been responsible for locking people up. If he (or indeed she) was then you run into the problem of sentencing being unduly influenced by prison places, and indeed departmental budgets.

At the moment they are not. The courts apply sentences according to guidelines based on sentences. If prisons get over crowded that is someone elses problem. It is a firewall if you will. It is there to give the public some sense of confidence.

However, the real issue has to be, will handing Lord Falconer more work fix the problems? The answer is no. If the Home secretary can't get the individual bits of his department to cooperate then how is that going to get better if it is complicated by having to talk across departments?

The real problem is that John Reid can't sack his ministers, after all if he could, surely he would have got rid of Tony McNulty? He seems to have had his hands on all sorts of disasters but is still there!

Of course, the real problem that the Home Office has, is that Tony Blair can't sack Dr John Reid because he has not got the political capitol left.

Meanwhile the BBC has this, and the Ft has this.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Cash for Peerages, Sunday morning update. It gets worse

Well, there are some interesting pieces of news in the Sunday Times here, and Sunday Telegraph here.

According to the Sunday Telegraph the police ended up having to "hack" No 10's computer systems to get the information they felt they were not getting from No 10 itself. (Also hat tip to Iain Dale, who wrote this)

This was before Ruth Turner was arrested. You have to presume that they had very good reason for arresting Miss Turner.

Let us however consider that a bot more. Yates of the Yard was so concerned he was not getting the information it asked for from No 10, that it hacked their computers! What is more, that process seems to have led to an arrest.

It may well be that Ruth Turner is never charged, and we have to start from the assumption that she is innocent, (something Tony Blair would like to change it seems) the fact that a hacking exercise seems to have netted information not voluntarily given speaks volumes about the integrity, or rather lack of it, in Tony Blair's No 10.

This is serious stuff indeed. Many have started comparing this to Watergate, where the cover up did for Nixon, and no one can remember what the robbery was about.

The Sunday Times story covers the war that seems to have broken out between No 10 and Scotland Yard. There are yet more choice quotes from Len Duvall.

Oh, and by the way, Tessa "what Mortgage?" Jowell ought to shut up as well. (Just heard her jabbering away again on News 24).

Update 02:22

The Observer has this on the row over the arrest between No 10 and Scotland Yard.

The interesting thing is that the papers and commentators are picking up on the fact I wrote about yesterday that if you suspect someone of perverting the course of justice, asking them to pop in is no good because they might destroy more evidence before popping in.

The Observer also has some speculation that a group of back benchers may ask (Surely beg?) Tony to leave early.

hat tip tip ChrisD on for the link to the observer story.

Remember the promise in Afghanistan?

I wrote about it here, where Tony Blair promised that our troops in Afghanistan would get what they needed to defeat the Taliban.

At the time I said this:
It is interesting to note that Tony Blair felt it politically necessary to go public with a pledge to provide anything our boys needed in Afghanistan. I suspect the idea was to look good in the media.

What is fascinating is that the response "We could do with more helicopters" came back over the megaphone that is the mass media. You have to wonder if the commander concerned thought St Tony may have been spinning so thought he would pin the fella (or words to that effect) down.
Well, according to the Sunday Telegraph here, the promise has not been kept. Our troops are short of all sorts of equipment and requests for more seem are being turned down on cost grounds.

For example requests for more helicopters and thermal imaging equipment. What is more, the 4 armoured vehicles for getting troops out of mine fields in Helmand province are all broken down.

This is a disgrace. We need to win in Afghanistan as Tony Blair indeed said, and we can't with out the right kit.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Cash for Peerages, Labour squealing like pigs!

Well, You will no doubt have have heard about the dawn arrest of No 10's Ruth Turner, which I wrote about here.

The BBC has this article whilst today's Telegraph this.

Since then various Labour figures both big and small have been squealing like pigs, and spitting blood over the arrest.

For example, from the articles above we have:
Former Downing Street aide Lance Price said: "It does look a bit theatrical.

"Ruth Turner has co-operated with the inquiry all the way through up until this point. There's been no suggestion that she wasn't willing to give police any help that they asked for.

"So it does seem pretty extraordinary to do the sort of dawn raid that we associate generally with people who are about to abscond justice and fly on a plane to Bermuda or something."
What? Given the police any help they asked for? Why then do you think she was arrested on suspicion of Perverting the Course of Justice? What do you want the police to do? ring up and say "Hello Miss Turner, we think you have been either lying to us or destroying evidence, possibly both, could you pop along at your own convenience for a chat, and don't destroy any more evidence?

Clearly that is bonkers. If they have a suspicion of an offence as serious as that they make an arrest when the suspect is not expecting it.
Lord Puttnam, who has worked with Miss Turner, said she was a woman of "complete probity". He added that the early-morning swoop was "the stuff of movies".
Clearly the police are not quite as convinced of her probity, hence the arrest for perverting the course of justice. However Lord Putnam goes on:
"What about turning up at 9 o'clock, or what about phoning and saying: 'I wonder if you'd mind coming into the police station, we'd like to talk to you'? Why do you send four policemen at 6.30 in the morning to arrest a perfectly nice woman? It's ludicrous. I think they're into theatrics."
*Cough* see above. If the police have reason to suspect someone is perverting the course of justice, they don't get an invite, they get pulled in.

Still, however our noble Lord continues:

"I have known Ruth a long while. She's one of those half-dozen people I would stake my life on. I think the police should put up or shut up."

Well, if Yates of the Yard feels he has enough to charge her and it goes to court then you can give a character reference there. Until that time, it is time for you to shut up.

Now all this of course looks like a rather cack handed attempt to put pressure on the police to stop their investigation or play with kid gloves. I hope they don't, it would be very very bad for the rule of law and democracy in this country.

The police are now hitting back, or at least people are doing so on their behalf. We have had this from Len Duvall, the Labour politician who chairs the Metropolitan Police Authority, who called on others not to try to "manipulate or pressurise" officers. In a statement, he told critics that "no one in this country is above the law".

The Metropolitan Police federation has also weighed in by saying this was not an appropriate time to make such comments. They are right. If Yates lays off now, it will look very bad for all concerned.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Cash for Peerages, Canary arrested?

Well, there are rumours gong about on the blogosphere that one of the people I think will "sing like a canary" has not only been arrested again, but charged!

Will she be singing soon?

More details here.

Hat tip to HenryG who tipped this on

Update 15:11

The BBC has this story confirming the arrest of Ruth Turner, but says she was released without charge.

Update 15:34

Some key points which have been added to the story;

Ruth Turner was arrested at home at 6.30, and was then questioned into the afternoon.

She has been arrested in relation to offences under the Honours, Prevention of Abuses act, AND for Perverting the Course of Justice!

She has been released on Police Bail (So they can go and search her home and offices as they please).

The interesting part of the Police statement is :
"As a result of this new development additional investigation will be required before a final file can be submitted to the CPS."
Don't expect this to be over any time soon. Also expect more arrests!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Why the NHS pay matters to me

Well, I thought I would pen a quick article because after I wrote this, I found I was linked to by Dr Crippen'sNHS blog in this article. Well, thanks for the link.

What interested me though was this story entitled Arrogant, lazy, over paid and dishonest : the truth about doctors.

It seems that what he took from this article in the Independent was somewhat different from my take. It seems to have got Dr. Crippen's back up because it looks like New labour spinning all the problems of the NHS on lazy useless Doctors.

Lets be clear on this. The contract negotiations that led to this had two parties in it. The first was a lazy useless bunch of arrogant twits, and the second the Doctors. If I remember correctly these deals were negotiated when Dr John Reid was in charge of health. That does not say much for him.

However, paying doctors much more than they were earning is no solution to the woes of the NHS. In many ways each individual hospital has it's own unique problems as well as success areas. What is needed is good forward thinking management, that leads rather than pushes.

I was quite impressed with what Gerry Robinson achieved in his program Can Gerry Robinson save the NHS. Particularly with his budget.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Big Brother racism row

I have been hearing about the Big Brother racism all day now. I have to say it bores me to tears.

All sorts of politicians feel they have to comment, of which David Cameron's comment as reported by the BBC here:
Answering questions sent in to the BBC he said there was "a great regulator called the off button", adding that people had to "take responsibility".
Mind you all sorts of other politicians have been asked how they feel about it. Gordon Brown is in India, where there are all sorts of protests, and he has had to get involved.

I have just watched a little of Big Brother, as much as I could bear at least. All I saw was Jane Goody being her obnoxious nasty self which is why she got to be famous after losing a Big Brother series.

The shame of it is that it involves a famous Bollywood star, Shilpa Shetty and India seems to be getting upset about possible racism. Well, I have just heard Nick Robinson's report, and if the quotes are correct they are not good.

All this diplomatic row over a couple of chavs on a TV show?

Oh dear.

However it is interesting to note that Gordon Brown ran away from the inflation figures as I wrote about here, he appears to have run into another storm in India.

Does Ken Livingstone want gridlock in London?

Well, possibly according to this press release from Hammersmith and Fulham Council, and possibly not according to this one from The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone's office.

At the heart of the issue is the fact that London is running out of landfill sites, and will have them filled by around 2010. That is 3 years away at most.

It is clear from the press release from Ken Livingstone that he is very much against incineration. His press release bangs on and on about fantastic green ways of dealing with rubbish, including turning it into bio gas, recovering heat from it (How? cooling when it is composting? surely not? In Northern Europe you generally have to heat this sort of stuff to get the right temperatures to produce bio gas and decent compost).

All well and good. Those nasty Tories at Hammersmith and Fulham Council, together with The Western Riverside Waste Authority should be ashamed of themselves!

The problem with all of this is that at it's very heart this looks like a power grab by Red Ken to get more power for his office. He thinks London needs an overarching waste authority, reporting to him of course. He would like a bill going through parliament now amended to give him that power, the Greater London Authority Bill. So at least we know his motivation.

Ken is right that councils are not using the "latest" emerging technologies to deal with waste, but that is because they have not yet been run on a sufficiently large scale and need development. If there were a budget for developing renewable energy from waste on a large scale that would be good.

So what does London do when it runs out of landfill? Well if the incinerator at Bexely isn't built it will have to be shipped out in 100,000 trucks causing yet more traffic in London.

In any case the incinerator planned is one which will generate electricity for a medium sized town so is in many ways a green way of dealing with waste.

That is the problem. Even if the GLA bill were modified it is very doubtful that Red Ken could have some alternative means of waste disposal available in the time. If he has some proposal up his sleeve he should say so.

Please note, the Hammersmith and Fulham Council is not yet on the web, I will add a link as soon as I can.

Gordon Brown's Coronation part II

During most of last year I thought there would be a challenger to Gordon Brown for the Prime minister's job. There has been much speculation on the issue over at Many names have been mentioned. All for one reason or another appear to have fallen by the wayside. The last notable example being John Reid with his series of Home Office farces. (See here and here for example).

I had always thought there would be a Challenger because there would be a deputy leadership election, and there is not much money to be saved by only having the one vote. You may as well have two, one for leader, and one for deputy.

Then in December last year I spotted this article on the BBC, where an ex minister, John Spellar said he thought there should be no deputy election to save money, the post should be abolished. I wrote this, along the lines of "well, if there were a leadership election, then not much money would be saved by having no deputy election. Therefore someone wants to knock both elections on the head."

Well, Andrea over at political betting highlighted this article today, form the Evening Standard. Basically it says that the potential left wing challengers to Gordon are having trouble getting the required 44 MP's to stand. All the challengers on the right have been hobbled, so that leaves a coronation.

The story also flies the kite that there could be a communist style leadership election with just Gordon on the ballot, but some figures I have seen suggest this would cost £2 million, so I can't see it. Also what if the vote is less than a ringing endorsement? I don't think Gordon would want that! Do you? After all Gordon has a habit of running away when bad news is in the air, hence being in India when the inflation figures were announced. (See here)

Which largely goes to explain why in my other predictions for 2007 I though Gordon would be PM at the end of 2007, and there would be no deputy.

Home Office in Meltdown part 94

Another person, not actually convicted of anything has absconded from a control order.

It gets better (or worse, depending on how you look at it).

According to Iain Dale here, getting the government to admit to it was a bit like extracting hens teeth.

The BBC has this article.

From it we can get these quotes
The orders were brought in for cases where there was not enough evidence to bring suspects to trial.
I see. So innocent under the "Old School" rules of innocent until proven guilty.
"In the latest case, the suspect absconded shortly after being served with a control order."
Well, there are only 18 of these in place, according to Dr John Reid, so why is thee a problem. It is not like they are swamping the system.

"The control order was designed to address the risk posed by an individual who had recently been radicalised and wanted to travel abroad for terrorism-related purposes."
I see. no problem here then. How exactly do we know he wanted to commit acts of terrorism abroad, as opposed to being very upset at what happens overseas? What does radicalised mean exactly? having a chat with your local Socialist Workers Party newspaper salesman, or chatting to a member of some radical Islamic group?

"The individual is not believed to represent a direct threat to the public in the UK at this time."
So why is he the subject of our most draconian laws then?

Mr Reid said public safety was the "top priority" for the police and government.
You do jest don't you? After all we have had the foreign prisoners fiasco, followed by the criminal records fiasco.

He said police were trying to track down the suspect and "an anonymity order is in place".

After consulting the police, the government is currently not seeking to overturn the order, added Mr Reid.

No kidding? He is so dangerous that he is subject to our most draconian legislation, but you don't want to tell us who he is or show his photo so we can tell you where he is?

A Home Office spokesman said: "Control orders are essential where it is not possible to prosecute individuals for terrorism-related activity and, in the case of foreign nationals, where they cannot be removed from the UK.
Right, so you have no evidence but just know their wrong uns. Hmm.. lots of coppers have ended up with egg on their face with that sort of attitude.

"However, we have always made clear that control orders were introduced as a next best alternative for dealing with suspected terrorists."

What is the next best way of dealing with them exactly?

"We have sought stronger controls to deal with suspected terrorists who cannot be prosecuted, but have been prevented by Parliament and the courts."

Really? You have lost three people on control orders, out of 18, that is one fifth, or 20%. The latest of whom is no threat to us in the UK, and you wonder why Parliament refused stronger measures? I wonder why they just did not tell you to f*ck off, you incompetent useless bunch of w*nkers who would seek to find any excuse to bring in a police state.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said: "Far from getting a grip since John Reid took over, the Home Office has been marked by murderers walking out of open prisons and suspected terrorists escaping from control orders."

He said the control order legislation "has achieved the remarkable double of being both repressive and ineffective at the same time".

He called for the absconder to be named.

"Unless there are special circumstances, such as if it could prejudice another trial, this individual should now be named," said Mr Davis.

"If there is sufficient suspicion that this man is involved in terrorist activities to restrain his activities, there is sufficient suspicion to name him in the interests of protecting the public."

Well, all I can say is I agree. If they are so dangerous, why not do that? Because he is not.

Control orders are a sham. They are there to stoke up fear. They need to go.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tony Blair to hang around like a bad smell

According to reports of Tony Blair's monthly news conference, he is still going to be PM in June. Personally I think he won't go until the last possible minute which means very late August at the earliest.

This will of course go down like a bucket of cold sick with Labour activists and supporters who were demoralised at the last elections as it was. Needless to say we can expect heavy Labour losses in May.

The Guardian has this here.

Update 21:16

I forgot to hat tip HenryG who pointed out the article on

Gordon Brown goes into hiding!

Joining up the dots of some of today's news, and indeed blogosphere can be quite interesting.

Today is the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union between England and Wales, on the one hand, and Scotland on the other. It is sure a good cause for celebration. In fact Gordon Brown sent out invites to a party to be held at Number 11, according to this from Iain Dale.

But then the inflation figures come out, and all of a sudden Gordon is off to India, and Tony Blair is not available either. Mind you with Scotland looking to kick Labour where it really hurts in May, perhaps this is the anniversary for a couple about to divorce so little celebrated. Shame really. I like the Union.

Inflation hits 15 year high

According to figures just published by The Office for National Statistics, the old style Retail Price Index (RPI) has hit 4.4%, its highest level since 1991. (Including mortgage repayments).

Also the Consumer Price Index has hit 3%, it's highest since it was introduced. It excludes mortgage repayments.

Whilst a lot of the increase could well be down to fuel costs, which is not primarily the governments fault, there are other causes for concern such as the ever increasing cost of housing, and how it is moving firmly out of the reach of first time buyers.

If you want to calculate your own personal inflation rate you can use the Office for National Statistics personal calculator here.

Not good news for Gordon then. It also explains the interest rate hike last week which caught the city by surprise. Expect interest rates to rise again by at least another quarter of a percent within the next two months. Some think it will hit 6% by the end of the year. Not good news for the economy at all, and not good news for Gordon Brown.

The BBC has this story here.

Update 11:55

I forgot to mention that according to today's Telegraph here, banks and building societies are withdrawing fixed interest rate mortgages. There is lots of speculation as to why, but one very firm reason has to be that they think interest rates will rise again and soon.

Also the Telegraph has this on the rise in inflation.

Update 13:23

The Evening Standard also has this, claiming RPI is the highest in 16 years, and this on banks ceasing fixed rate mortgages.

Scarlett refuses Blair this time!

There is an interesting article in today's Guardian here, which says that John Scarlett, former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee responsible in part for the dodgy dossier, and now head of MI6 does not endorse the government line that continuing the Serious Fraud Office inquiry into Saudi Arms deals would damage security cooperation.

Oh gosh!

Well the man has his Knighthood, so why would he? Seasoned observers will remember comment, particularly after the Butler report, that Scarlett was too easily Lent on because he could still move up, and so should never have been Chairman of the JIC.

Well, it now appears he does not want another promotion and recognises that Blair is history as well.

Just nice to know that someone who would sell his soul to Tony Blair is still prepared to deliver a well placed kick when the man is down!

Update 14:25

I note from this story on the BBC that Tony Blair has defended his position of the Saudi fraud scandal.

I was most amused by this quote:
Asked if the secret intelligence services knew - at the time the probe was dropped of any specific threat by the Saudis to cut intelligence links with the UK, Mr Blair said: "I won't get into discussing the intelligence aspect of this.
What? You mean like producing some sort of dodgy dossier for public discussion? MI6 not helping you out so you don't want to talk about intelligence any more? Git!

but then we have this comment from Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats:
But Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: "If these reports are true, they seriously undermine the government's case for ending the investigation into allegations of corruption involving BAE and Saudi Arabia.

"In particular they undermine the reliability and credibility of the prime minister who publicly took responsibility for the decision and publicly sought to justify it."

What? The Prime minister hasn't got any credibility left to undermine surely?

Monday, January 15, 2007

MI5 stops leaking information, but continues to spread fear and terror

On Tuesday the 9th of January I wrote this article entitled MI5 and emailing the culture of Fear.

IanP kindly pointed out that there was another story here as well, in that MI5 were sending all the details of people subscribing to the email service unencrypted to a marketing company in the United States. It was also on spyblog.

Well according to this BBC article here the campaign by Spyblog worked and they are at least encrypting the data and don't appear to be sending it to a marketing company.

The issue I am concerned about remains. The fact that MI5 will send out terror alerts by email will be used by all sorts of people including terrorists who will send fake terror reports much like we already get lots of phishing attempts.

The possibilities are endless to those who wan to make mischief of such an ill conceived plan. Perhaps if spyblog drops by, they could point out this rather obvious and stupid flaw in the plan.

Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti execution botched

I note that the execution of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti has been botched.

The trick with hanging is to get the length of the rope right, or else they either die of strangulation if the rope is to short (as used to be the case) or they get their heads ripped off as in this case, if the rope is too long.

The British developed manuals with tables of weights and rope lengths. I understand Malaya still uses them.

Errors were made executing Saddam, this one should have been handled better. The stability of Iraq depends on it.

You can read the BBC article here.

Came from the BBC website?

If you came here from Nick Robinson's blog on Social responsibility, you probably want this link on consumer action here.

We've had ASBO's, now Tony wants Super ASBO's!

According to this article in yesterday's Sunday Times, and reports I have seen on BBC News 24 the government want to introduce something called a violent offender order, or VOO.

This is aimed at violent offenders, apparently including those who have commit ed no offence. You do have to ask just how do you know someone is going to be violent if they have commit ed no offence, but there you go.

From the Sunday Times article we have this:
According to a Home Office document outlining the plan, to be published next month, the measures will ban potential trouble-makers from certain areas or mixing with certain people, alert police when they move house and possibly force them to live in a named hostel, give details of vehicles they own and impose a curfew on them.
Hmm.. Well, technically you have to give details of vehicles you own anyway, though failure to do so is unlikely to land you in jail, but the thing that worries me most is the term "potential trouble-makers".

Surely Hazel Blears is a potential trouble maker, as can be seen from this, Tom Watson certainly has been a trouble maker as he signed a letter saying Tony Blair should go, and now. Hazel Blears is a serial protester against her own governments health policy, whilst Tom Watson was key in the attempted coup against Tony Blair last year.

ASBO's have also been used and abused against protesters as can be seen from the statewatch website section on ASBO's for protesters. It is already a disgusting travesty of justice.

However the report goes on:
A report out today, by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies in association with The Sunday Times, reveals that almost half of the offenders caught by police are getting away without a court punishment, robberies have risen and murders are up by a third. Street muggings remain stubbornly high.
Well, that is a problem, but surely you have to ask why? Half of the offenders? Is this guilt before any process, or is there some other problem like the police feeling a greater need to fill in paperwork or meeting other targets so they have not investigated these crimes correctly? Are the CPS working effectively with the police to bring cases to court?

Further on the article says:
The Voos are designed to be a “preventative measure”, according to the Home Office paper. “It would mean that, where an individual was known to be dangerous but had not committed a specific qualifying offence, restrictions could still be placed on their behaviour,” it says.
Known by whom? And rather more pertinently how? How can you tell someone is dangerous if they have not committed some offence? Also, breach of a VOO like an ASBO will be a criminal offence, and also like an ASBO all sorts of hearsay evidence will be taken into account, so look at some one in what they think is a dangerous way, and you could end up with a VOO.

The article goes on:
Unlike Asbos, which solely cover antisocial behaviour, Voos would be targeted at thugs who would be placed on the violent and sex offender register, a national database for intelligence on people deemed to be a serious risk to the public.

Well, actually ASBO frequently ban people from committing specific criminal acts for which the normal route could well have been taken had the Police and CPS been bothered in the first place, as well as legitimate protest such as this one.
Ministers are concerned that the Asbo regime has failed to give police and the authorities enough powers to tackle potentially violent offenders.
Again the word "potentially" scares me. The police have plenty of powers to lock up people who threaten violence, (affray) or cause alarm , harassment or distress (See the Protection from Harassment Act 1997) so why do ministers feel the need for more laws?

The paper identifies a series of “risk factors” that could lead to a person being targeted for the new order. These include a person’s formative years and upbringing, “cognitive deficiencies”, “entrenched pro-criminal or antisocial attitudes,” “a history of substance abuse or mental health issues”.

I see. Why not just lock up all the Jews, or do a DNA test for homosexuality, perhaps even find people with DNA that says they could be a criminal? Perhaps we could get teachers to inform on misfits, whilst children in the "youth movement" will of course alert the authorities to deviant activity by both parents an teachers?

I have to say this is the most bizarre thing I have heard in a long time. “cognitive deficiencies”? What? are we supposed to lock up thick people? Or just the people who can't quite see the inherent truth in the party line? Surely people with mental health issues should be cared for rather than criminalised?

The article goes on. I suggest you read it.

Needless to say Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty is against it, as I suspect would be most right thinking totalitarian dictators. This is after all a bonkers idea that further strips away what it is to be British.

Cash for Peerages, have they no shame?

Well it seems not.

Seasoned observers of the political scene will have noticed that Labour is a bot strapped for cash, particularly as many donors in the loans for peerages accusations are demanding that their loans are repaid on time. (See much Guido passim)

To the rescue comes Lakshmi Mittal, whom followers of the original cash for favours scandals will remember as the Indian steel magnate with world wide business interests who got Tony Blair to write a letter to the Romanian PM on his behalf.

Completely coincidentally the said Lakshmi Mittal had donated £125,000 to the Labour party a little bit before. (Most lawyers write letters for their clients for much much less)

Well apparently according to yesterdays Sunday Times, Lakshmi Mittal has just donated £2 million to Labour to help out. How nice. According to this article Lord Sleazy Levy and Tony Blair personally negotiated the deal. After all a Romanian steel business has to be worth more than £125,000.

I suspect Guido will be looking for other angles on this tomorrow.

Update 17:39 16/01/2007:

Well Guido has not covered it, but the BBC has this here by way of confirmation.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Home Office in meltdown, John Reid to resign?

Well, Dr John "Comrade" Reid said 8 months ago when he took over the home office, that it was unfit for purpose. A read of today's newspapers indicate that it still is, but ministers are in some bizarre game of buck passing and ducking responsibility. Dr john Reid, Tony McNulty and Joan Ryan all need to go, and soon.

We have of course the latest foreign criminal scandal, this time relating to mostly UK citizens who get a criminal record in the EU, and then return to have their files carefully piled up in boxes to be ignored. I wrote about it here.

Well, more news has surfaced since. The Observer has this about a criminal, Dale Miller, convicted in Switzerland and Germany for violent offences latter went onto commit manslaughter here. Were his record known he would of course have got a longer sentence.

The Sunday Telegraph has this on the buzz of activity around ACPO's criminal records office, or rather lack of it.

Micheal Howard also wrote this opinion piece which lays into John Reid over this scandal but as a foot note tells us that the Assets Recovery Agency is to close, having cost the tax payer £18 million to recover £4.3 million.

Could it possibly get any worse?

Apparently yes. Apparently funding issues will mean a cut in front line police numbers, which may well see crime start to rise again. Remember also that the police are burdened as never before with paperwork. It just makes you weep. The Sunday Telegraph has this whilst the Observer has this.

Update 18:00

According to the BBC a senior civil servant has been made a scapegoat suspended over the criminal records fiasco. You can read the BBC's article here.

it looks like the civil servant is also a member of the First Division Association which covers the arses of serial cock up merchants looks after the interests of the most senior civil servants.

Government Ministers pay to bury bad smell

Well, according to the Sunday Telegraph here and here, the government is looking to offset it's vast carbon emissions from flights by carbon offsetting. A process described by some as like paying the RSPCA and then beating your pet.

Tony Blair may be right that science may well have the answer to global warming, but that is not by mitigating ones sins through paying the pardoner it is by finding alternative ways of producing energy, of which there are many.

However what appears to be going on is that as part of the scheme the government's offsetting policy is to bury some vegetable waste in Thailand and then use the methane gas to provide electricity to the plant producing the vegetable waste. If they did not do this, it would stink. Methane is odourless (Must tick off ignorant Telegraph journalist, methane does not smell to such a huge extent that natural gas has a smell added to it to let you know when there is a leak) but the process of decomposition often produces other gasses such as the rotten egg smell of hydrogen sulphide. (You also get this smell in river estuary mud due to anaerobic bacteria)

Well good. The government is doing two good things. It is preventing methane getting into the atmosphere, and by turning into electricity, is also reducing carbon emissions. Double gin and tonics all round!

However I will make a couple of observations.

Firstly you don't have to go to Thailand to get roting vegetables (John Prescott anyone). I appreciate that many would like to throw them at Labour politicians, however we as a country dispose of vast quantities of organic material a year which can be turned into methane (after removal of hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide) that could be fed into the gas grid or used to generate electricity.

Secondly, if you produced the energy here, you could sell it here, and as you are saving land fill tax, get paid to take the waste away and paid for the energy and compost produced, so the carbon offset would be both cheaper, and more beneficial to our economy.

So nice try David Milliband, if you were doing a GCSE I would give you a C, if you were doing anything more, I would have to say "must try harder to think in a joined up coherent way"

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Government discipline gone to pot over NHS

Well, according to today's Guardian 11 government ministers, and two current PPS's are protesting against various hospital closures. You can read the article here. You can also read my previous article on the subject here.

Two of them are even in the Department of Health. many back benchers are complaining as well. Clearly Patricia Hewitt's policy is not popular, inside or outside of Labour.

The Guardian article quotes Patricia Hewitt's position as follows:
Ms Hewitt has not asked her ministerial colleagues to refrain from dissent before opportunities for appeal against closures and downgradings have been exhausted. "But when decisions are decisions, there will come a point when colleagues need to get behind the solution," the source said.
This is however a massive breakdown in party discipline. At least a couple of PPS's had the decency to resign. Obviously Hazel Blears and John Reid have no such decency.

There is a feeling in the public at large that we face hospital closures whilst at the same time more money is being spent on it than ever before, in real terms and in terms of percentage of GDP.

So who is to blame? Patricia Hewitt?

No. The gibbering fool who caused so much of the cost over runs, for example the new GP contract costing £300 million more than expected and consultants £500 million was none other than the seagull minister John Reid, who dropped into the health department, did some very bad deals and flew off to perches new.

Why a seagull minister? Because he flies in, cr*ps all over the place then leaves.

Friday, January 12, 2007

What future for the NHS?

Remember how Patricia Hewitt said "This is the best year for the NHS ever!" last year?

I doubt she will be repeating that remark.

The question is what is going on in the NHS and will it survive? There was this article in the Daily Telegraph today where it was reported that BMA chairman James Johnson said there was only one year to save the NHS, as it was in financial crisis.

Well, in part the financial crisis is created by the vast wage bill of the NHS, and in particular the increases in pay for GP's and Consultants. You can read what the Independent has to say about it here and here. Then there is the hidden cost of PFI. Apparently spending on the NHS is about to be triple what it was in 1997. It seems clear to me that what ever else you may think might help the NHS, extra money is not it.

As an example a friend of mine works in the local hospital's mortuary. A Consultant from that hospital who used to do post mortems now no longer needs to, as she earns the extra £15,000 per year anyway, so at greater expense they have to get a consultant down from London to do them. So no money saved. As the Independent article says, GP's now get 63% more than they did 3 years ago, but now only need to work 9 to 5 Monday to Friday.

We have had Can Gerry Robinson fix the NHS? It was an interesting series of programs. The main issue is not funding but how things are done. I used to work as a domestic in my local hospital, when I was studying for A levels. I can confirm that the way some things are done in the NHS are bonkers. Gerry found entrenched practices that made no sense and did not help run the hospital. He managed to get waiting times down in the Children's unit from 8 weeks to 2 with out spending a penny.

It seems to me that a lot of the NHS is organised the way it has always been organised, or the way the person who barks the loudest wants it to be organised, rather than in the best way possible for patient and tax payer. Part of the reason for this is that the service is "free" that is that some of the people running the NHS think they are doing you a favour. Well, I have got news for people like that, it isn't. I pay tax, to pay for the NHS, and if people are being treated with MY money I expect them to be treated well.

It seems clear to me that hospitals can't be centrally run, they need good and effective management on the ground. I'll give an example. Missed appointments cost the NHS lots of money every year. Is this feckless patients or a feckless service? Well, it is a bit of both but in my view more of the latter than the former.

If you have an appointment for some clinic or other you get an appointment time. When you turn up you find that everyone else at the same clinic has the same appointment time, you you have to sit around waiting for ages to see this or that doctor, or nurse, then go and queue for a blood test, come back, see some one else and eventually go home. In the mean time you spend a lot of time waiting about. If you had to drive, (in rural areas you have to) your car is needlessly blocking a car parking space, and in any case your employer is wondering where on earth you are.

There is no need to organise things in this way at all. It seems to be organised for the convenience of the clinicians, though it does not seem that convenient for either the clinician or the patient.

Even modern hospitals are not designed to be cleaned. If they were then you would have as many floors clear of any obstruction you that larger cleaning machines could be used. Instead of which dirt traps are all over the floor.

It just takes a little communication, some common sense and will to do these things. Unfortunately there is little good feeling in the NHS which has had to face 9 reorganisations is as many years all parachuted in from the top.