Wednesday, February 28, 2007

That School Lottery

The BBC has been carrying this story about Brighton and Hove Council, currently Labour controlled, which has decided to end allocation of school places by catchment area and instead use a lottery.

At the last general election the Conservative party also wanted to scrap catchment areas in favour of parental choice but not a lottery.

The reasoning is clear. With a catchment area system what happens is that people with money buy out the catchment area and less well off people don't get a look in. It's clearly daft as people are effectively buying state provision.

Apparently some parents are going to mount a legal challenge. I have a bit of a problem with this. Firstly the council is democratically elected, so ought to be able to decide on local policy, but secondly and rather more importantly there is an election there in May so if the policy is unpopular, the council can be thrown out.

Update 20:10

I hear, (but it may be wrong) that the two most deprived areas in the city of Brighton and Hove, Moulscombe and Whitehawk have their own schools and are not within the new catchments areas of any others even under this new scheme.

If true, it is nice to know that Labour in the city are doing their bit to keep social exclusion going.

If any one can confirm this rumour I would appreciate it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sorry about the lack of articles yesterday

BT had broadband issues across a number of exchanges in Susses, Portsmouth and bits of London. All in all 15 exchanges were affected.

The problem was fixed overnight.

Now I can get back on the net, by 'DT's' are just about going.

Family Policy, Labour just doesn't get it!

We have, for a while now been hearing the Conservative party speak on both family issues, social justice and indeed youth crime.

In some ways a common factor has been that children do better, in fact far far better if they grow up in a married family than any other alternative. The statistics speak for themselves. That said what they do not say is whether the problem is couples not getting married, or the couples who have children. After all there whilst there may be a relationship, it does not mean a causal link. (For example global warming has happened in an inverse relationship to the decline of piracy, ergo we can cure global warming with more pirates. See here.)

Well the Observer has this article suggesting a split in cabinet over marriage. Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary apparently has come out backing single parent families. Fantastic. On Tuesday he will be giving a speech to Relate. Some choice quotes are:
'Family policy should not be based on the prejudices of yesterday's generation' or hung up over whether parents are married or not, but focused on what children need.

"It's the parenting, stupid"

Really? If it is focused on what children need, then time and time again the studies show that children need both biological parents. They tend to do better. In fact much better. This is not about bashing single mothers, or indeed the increasing number of single fathers, this is not about bashing people who have split up or got divorced. What family policy does have to be about is recognising what works and works well, and supporting it, and no, not just through tax breaks, but by creating a positive view of marriage in society, school, the tax and benefits system (so that it does not discriminate against) and perhaps rather interestingly our divorce courts which seem to punish men who are getting divorced even if they are at no fault and did not want the divorce in any case.

Talking about the prejudices of the past isn't helpful either. The wheel is an old idea, seems to still work now. Families are an old idea, they still work now.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

No plans to abolish The SFO

According to this rather scurrilous article in the Guardian last Friday, Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney general was planning to abolish and or merge the Serious Fraud office. Some may think that is a fit of pique after the row over the BAE corruption investigation row.

Well, he has kindly written to the Guardian to say he has no plans to do so, and it is not like he would change his mind on a whim, by for example saying one week that an invasion of Iraq would be illegal only to say it would be perfectly legal next week. Oh no, our Lord Goldsmith is made of much sterner stuff than that! Isn't he?

House of Lords Reform, Another train wreck?

Well, according to to yesterday's Guardian it may be. In this article, headlined "Labour fears another Lords train wreck", "Labour MPs will warn Jack Straw that he faces another "train wreck" on House of Lords reform unless he changes his voting arrangements for a second time."

Good. I hope Jack ignores them. What we do not need is more constitutional fiddling.

I have also written these articles on House of Lords Reform.

Trouble at Casino!

Apparently there is trouble at mill (well Westminster) with Manchester's surprise win in the Super Casino bid. It seems according to this report in the Sunday Telegraph that the House of Lords and indeed many Labour backbenchers are in revolt.

It also seems the Dome's owner, Anshutz failed to meet with the right ministers. The favored Manchester bidder has had 12 meetings with ministers.

The big thing about this will , of course be the smell of sleaze. Butter up enough of the right ministers, and it matters not how many other ministers your competitors have buttered up. Labour is smelling very badly right now.


I will of course have more scandal on the dome later. Particularly the actual people building it, and their qualifications.

hat tip to ChrisA on

Trouble for Labour in Scotland

According to the Sunday Herald in this report, Steven Lawther the "spin doctor" and electoral strategist in charge of Labour's campaign north of the border has resigned for "family reasons".

Well actually according to the report it is because they just don't get on up north, well, in the Labour party any way! The loss of local talent means that Labour's campaign in Scotland is in the hands of Labour's London mob, for example John McTernan. Readers of this blog and Guido's will have heard of him. He is a little bit involved in the Cash for Peerages scandal. You can read this, or this or indeed this.

Needless to say Alex Salmond and the SNP are over the moon, as indeed all Labour's opponents must be. Some are saying it is the worst campaign they have seen in 20 years.

May's elections are going to be like watching a slow motion train wreck for Labour supporters.

Hat tip to Marcia on

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Cumbria Rail Crash

There is no doubt that the rail crash in Cumbria was horrific, not least for the passengers and their relatives waiting for news of their loved ones. Sadly on person, Margaret Masson of Glasgow, aged 84 died whilst 8 others remain critically injured in hospital.

We do need to keep some perspective though. The last train accident causing fatalities was in 2004, since then at least 6,000 people have died on the roads. The trains are the safest way to travel on land in this country.

We obviously need to get to the bottom of the causes of the accident and if appropriate take action to prevent a re-occurrence. However the railway is very safe compared to the alternatives.

The BBC has this.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Quoted in the BMJ!

I have to say I am some what flattered that my musings on the NHS have been quoted in the British Medical Journal, out tomorrow.

You can read an extract of the article by Rebecca Coombes here.

It is about Tony Blair promising 24 hour a day surgery to cut waiting times, which I commented on here. Unfortunately you will have to subscribe to read the article by Rebecca Coombes in full, though it quotes from my article here!

If you came from the BMJ website and are looking for the quoted text, in context, click here.

Stop bashing Fathers!

Much has been made of the Conservative party's line on family breakdown, youth crime and social justice.

The way the media reports it, and some of the language used in this article on the Conservative party website (here), is unfortunate in that it seems to lay the blame for family breakup solely on fathers. This is not the case. Family breakdown can be caused by either partner. Furthermore fathers who have left, or possibly been forced out of the family home can be denied access to their children by mothers, sometimes in the face of court orders requiring that the mother allow access.

That said what we do need to be concerned about is the number of family breakdowns and preventing where possible, that happening. In the past we as a society and indeed the family courts have worked on the basis that children need their mother. In fact there is increasing evidence that children also need their father. The only way to achieve both is of course to keep the family together.

The Centre for Social Justice has just published an interesting report on family breakdown and it's links to social dysfunction, and rather more interestingly observations on schemes in other countries to tackle family breakdown. The report is here.

We do need to make it clear that marriage is the best environment in which to bring up children. We need to support marriage in all sorts of ways. It is clear from Iain Duncan Smith's report that there are in fact things which government can and should do both to encourage marriage and to keep marriages together happily.

The conclusion of the report is also interesting. It says:
Punitive measures to curb anti-social behaviour and youth crime will, like purely economic measures to combat poverty, fail to address the cultural drivers of the problems. Family circumstances in general and family breakdown in particular have tended to be neglected dimensions in policy initiatives which are preventative in their focus. We need policies which implicitly assume the worth of long term domestic stability and which therefore support and encourage healthy marriage as the relationship most likely to deliver that social good. We are not treating marriage like a magic bullet: the Social Justice Policy Group is tackling debt, educational failure, addiction and economic dependency, all of which lead to family breakdown, and establish the cycle of deprivation.

We believe that unless we try now to understand how important stable families are to reducing crime and particularly youth crime, we risk making young people the target. It is the child who grows up in a broken home with an absent father involved in crime who is most likely to commit crime themselves - and become a father himself at a very young age. Unchecked, the cycle looks set to continue and to multiply in its effects. Just threatening to lock young people up will not break the cycle. Of course criminals need to face penalties for their actions but we desperately need to deal with the reasons why they are committing crime in the first place. Otherwise we move from being "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" to being "tough on headlines, soft on the causes of the headline."

For further articles on family police see here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tony Blair disingenuous over Iraq mess

I could not believe my ears this morning as I listened to Tony Blair's interview on BBC Radio 4's the Today program, with John Humphries.

When asked whether he should apologise for the state of Iraq, or took any responsibility for it he trotted out the line that it was not him, us nor the Americans who were responsible, but the insurgents and extremists.

That is a bit like saying, after all the families valuables have been stolen that it was not the fault of the pratt who left them at the end of the drive for any passer by to steal, but the sole responsibility of the thief. It is of course specious nonsense.

Let us be clear on this, and occupying power has a legal duty and moral responsibility to provide security over the territory it occupies. Blaming people who are against you or who have a vested interest in your failure is childish in the extreme. We knew, or at least ought to have known that there would be those who would try to wreck Iraq. We should have been prepared. We should have secured the borders and ammunition dumps from day one, as well as the infrastructure which was so badly looted. We should have brought in Marshall law from day one, until we had an effective police force to deal with law and order.

There is in fact so much we should have done that we did not do. I wrote about it here.

In fact in an interview with the Telegraph today, here, Sir Jeremy Greenstock echos many of my points. He says:
"In the days following the victory of 9 April [2003] no one, it seems to me, was instructed to put the security of Iraq first. To put law and order on the streets first. There was no police force. There was no constituted army except the victorious invaders.

"And there was no American general that I could … establish who was given the accountable responsibility to make sure that the first duty of any government – and we were the government – was to keep law and order on the streets. There was a vacuum from the beginning in which looters, saboteurs, the criminals, the insurgents moved very quickly."
Yet Tony Blair still seeks to shirk any responsibility. Words fail me. (Well printable ones do at least)

If you want to listen to the ducking and diving of Tony Blair in that interview you can listen again here, or read listeners emails here.

You can read more articles on Iraq here.

Links and things

Firstly, if you have linked to my blog, and I have not linked to yours, either email me or leave a comment and I will fix the problem.

I will also be adding a blogroll of "public service" blogs, that is doctors, nurses, NHS staff, police, magistrates teachers etc.

If you know of any blogs of this type I ought to include, please email me or leave a comment.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

ID cards Tony Blair is not listening

But he is emailing his propaganda to any one who signed the anti ID cards petition! Well, here it is, with my comments in between:
The petition calling for the Government to abandon plans for a National ID Scheme attracted almost 28,000 signatures - one of the largest responses since this e-petition service was set up. So I thought I would reply personally to those who signed up, to explain why the Government believes National ID cards, and the National Identity Register needed to make them effective, will help make Britain a safer place.
So bugger off, we don't care what you think, here is what you should believe.
The petition disputes the idea that ID cards will help reduce crime or terrorism. While I certainly accept that ID cards will not prevent all terrorist outrages or crime, I believe they will make an important contribution to making our borders more secure, countering fraud, and tackling international crime and terrorism. More importantly, this is also what our security services - who have the task of protecting this country - believe.

Right, so it won't prevent all crime or terrorism, but it might help. What is more, I can show you a dossier I downloaded of the Internet which will be about as believable as Iraq having WMD. The problem is this, the security services may or may not think ID cards would be a good idea. To some extent they always have. Ever since Winston Churchill scrapped ID cards they have wanted them back.

In any case how is it going to make our borders more secure? We don't monitor them all the time in any case, people can and do get in via unauthorised entry points in any case. If securing the borders is the intent then surely we need a border police force rather than ID cards?
So I would like to explain why I think it would be foolish to ignore the opportunity to use biometrics such as fingerprints to secure our identities. I would also like to discuss some of the claims about costs - particularly the way the cost of an ID card is often inflated by including in estimates the cost of a biometric passport which, it seems certain, all those who want to travel abroad will soon need.
I see. So if I disagree with you I am foolish. How nice.
In contrast to these exaggerated figures, the real benefits for our country and its citizens from ID cards and the National Identity Register, which will contain less information on individuals than the data collected by the average store card, should be delivered for a cost of around £3 a year over its ten-year life.
Loyalty cards are not compulsory, and neither is the data captured used by an agency which can remove your liberty. By the way, is the £3 per year a commitment? Does it include for dodgy chips?
But first, it's important to set out why we need to do more to secure our identities and how I believe ID cards will help. We live in a world in which people, money and information are more mobile than ever before. Terrorists and international criminal gangs increasingly exploit this to move undetected across borders and to disappear within countries. Terrorists routinely use multiple identities - up to 50 at a time. Indeed this is an essential part of the way they operate and is specifically taught at Al-Qaeda training camps. One in four criminals also uses a false identity. ID cards which contain biometric recognition details and which are linked to a National Identity Register will make this much more difficult.
Firstly, Tony, you should not start a sentence with 'But" let alone a paragraph, it's lazy. Secondly the ease of ID theft has more to do with people not having open fires on which to burn sensitive documents, and just putting them in the rubbish than anything else. Other culprits are the ease with which people can obtain credit on the Internet or via post without having to turn up anywhere. It is difficult to see how ID cards will fix either of these problems, as the person, ID card and vendor will not be in the same place, let alone have the equipment to verify the ID even if they were. What is more, you do not need ID cards to solve this problem, you just need to make it a requirement that credit should be applied for in person, which is what you would have to do to verify ID with a card in any case.

Criminal gangs and terrorists move undetected across borders, not because of a lack of ID, but because we have little control over our own borders. (See above). As for criminal gangs and terrorists using multiple identities, you would have to get them in a position to verify their ID in any case. Given the state of the borders, there seems little point in doing that until the borders are secure, which would be a better use of the money.
Secure identities will also help us counter the fast-growing problem of identity fraud. This already costs £1.7 billion annually. There is no doubt that building yourself a new and false identity is all too easy at the moment. Forging an ID card and matching biometric record will be much harder.
No it won't. Either you don't understand how ID theft currently occurs or you are just plain lying. As above, ID theft happens because of lax checks on ID and people getting services in someone elses name without having to attend with any ID what so ever. What a national identity register will do is provide a single point where ID data can be mined if a criminal gang can get people on the inside (as they have done in call centers) or some pratt walks out with all the data on a laptop as has also happened for it to be stolen.
I also believe that the National Identity Register will help police bring those guilty of serious crimes to justice. They will be able, for example, to compare the fingerprints found at the scene of some 900,000 unsolved crimes against the information held on the register. Another benefit from biometric technology will be to improve the flow of information between countries on the identity of offenders.
I see, we are all to be potential criminals are we? Usually the police have to have reason to suspect an individual before they can acquire this sort of information. We are all to be suspects now. The Guardian has this on the subject, whilst the BBC has this. People say "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear." It is a trite statement, it is also rubbish. Whilst we may all be happy that what is now criminal behaviour should be, what if we have a government that makes protesting against government policy illegal? Think I am mad? Well now you can't do that without police permission in many places already.
The National Identity Register will also help improve protection for the vulnerable, enabling more effective and quicker checks on those seeking to work, for example, with children. It should make it much more difficult, as has happened tragically in the past, for people to slip through the net.
Sorry, this is just more spurious nonsense. The sex offenders register is supposed to deal with this problem, and any failings in the system have been procedural, rather than something to do with false identity. Again, the money to be spent on on ID cards would be better spent fixing the actual problem rather than parading ID cards as a solution to all ills.
Proper identity management and ID cards also have an important role to play in preventing illegal immigration and illegal working. The effectiveness on the new biometric technology is, in fact, already being seen. In trials using this technology on visa applications at just nine overseas posts, our officials have already uncovered 1,400 people trying illegally to get back into the UK.
There are other checks diligent employers are required to use to make sure they do not employ illegal immigrants, and those who do wish to employ illegal immigrants do so on the black market already, and are unlikely to stop unless caught. I can't imagine them wanting to check any ones ID any way. That is an argument for biometric passports, not ID cards, but again, how about securing the borders? Would that not be better? In any case it will not prevent illegal working unless it is a requirement for all employers to have the relevant equipment to check peoples ID cards prior to employment.
Nor is Britain alone in believing that biometrics offer a massive opportunity to secure our identities. Firms across the world are already using fingerprint or iris recognition for their staff. France, Italy and Spain are among other European countries already planning to add biometrics to their ID cards. Over 50 countries across the world are developing biometric passports, and all EU countries are proposing to include fingerprint biometrics on their passports. The introduction in 2006 of British e-passports incorporating facial image biometrics has meant that British passport holders can continue to visit the United States without a visa. What the National Identity Scheme does is take this opportunity to ensure we maximise the benefits to the UK.
I think there is a large misunderstanding of why commercial companies use biometrics for access to systems going on here. The issue large firms face is that your average computer user is a fool, who can't remember a secure password without writing it down for all to see. So if you have large amounts of valuable or sensitive data, and a lot of employees it makes sense to give them a way of getting into the system that they is not obvious (like someones first name as a password) or written down. Other countries that already have ID cards may be looking to have biometrics on them, but that is no argument for ID cards. The fact that passports may or may not need biometric data is a completely different issue as well.
These then are the ways I believe ID cards can help cut crime and terrorism. I recognise that these arguments will not convince those who oppose a National Identity Scheme on civil liberty grounds. They will, I hope, be reassured by the strict safeguards now in place on the data held on the register and the right for each individual to check it. But I hope it might make those who believe ID cards will be ineffective reconsider their opposition.
grounds. I have dealt with all the I see. Well, I oppose ID cards and the National Identity register on both civil liberties grounds AND practical grounds, and frankly the argument for them in practical terms is weak. I have dealt with the alleged 'fors' above. Also I have no confidence in the supposed safeguards as there already appears to be mission creep for the scheme. Let is be clear, ID cards will not solve the problems that Tony Blair claims they will. In fact so far, this is about the biggest non argument for ID cards I have heard. Note to Tony, must try harder, some of us aren't stupid.
If national ID cards do help us counter crime and terrorism, it is, of course, the law-abiding majority who will benefit and whose own liberties will be protected. This helps explain why, according to the recent authoritative Social Attitudes survey, the majority of people favour compulsory ID cards.
The majority of people favour hanging as well. Not much of an argument is it? Besides which the majority of people have not had to cope with ID cards yet, nor have they heard the arguments against. In any case the argument that it protects the liberty of the many is spurious. It doesn't. It makes us all suspects for a start.
I am also convinced that there will also be other positive benefits. A national ID card system, for example, will prevent the need, as now, to take a whole range of documents to establish our identity. Over time, they will also help improve access to services.
Firstly this is mission creep, secondly a lot of people get access to services without any ID over the internet already, which leads to the problem of ID fraud. If we are talking about government services, I can't think of many I have had access to requiring numerous forms of ID anyway.
The petition also talks about cost. It is true that individuals will have to pay a fee to meet the cost of their ID card in the same way, for example, as they now do for their passports. But I simply don't recognise most claims of the cost of ID cards. In many cases, these estimates deliberately exaggerate the cost of ID cards by adding in the cost of biometric passports. This is both unfair and inaccurate.
The difference between ID cards and passports is that I don't have to have a passport to live here. You have always had to pay for passports, you have not always had to pay to live here. Tony may not recognise the figures involved, but then the actual costs involved are not released as they are shrouded in "commericial confidentiallity", so no one can scrutinise the figures.
As I have said, it is clear that if we want to travel abroad, we will soon have no choice but to have a biometric passport. We estimate that the cost of biometric passports will account for 70% of the cost of the combined passports/id cards. The additional cost of the ID cards is expected to be less than £30 or £3 a year for their 10-year lifespan. Our aim is to ensure we also make the most of the benefits these biometric advances bring within our borders and in our everyday lives.

That is an argument for biometric passports, not ID cards. The costs argument is dealt with above.
Yours sincerely,

Tony Blair
I don't find any of your arguments sincere at all I am afraid.

You can view the petition here, which got 27, 985 signatures. I will be fisking the road pricing response later.

Cash for Peerages, poor Ruth Turner questioned again!

Yes, according to this breaking news the canary, Ruth Turner has been questioned again on suspicion of perverting the course of justice when she answered bail on Tuesday!

Oh dear, poor Ruth.

The BBC has this here.

No charges have as yet been made against her.

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

Road Pricing Petition Closed at 1,792,263 signatures

Yes, the road pricing petition has closed, with 1,792,263 signatures, which it appears will not change government policies one jot, but will get us all an email from Tony saying why we are mistaken.

Fantastic. I will look forward to it. Not!

The petition is here, whilst the BBC has this.

For more see here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The great Council House debate

This seems to have some to the fore recently since a minister who seems to have profiteered by buying not one but two social housing units for herself now wants to debate who should and should not have council housing.

I was listening to Jeremy Vine's phone in on BBC radio 2, and had to stop as it was making me a tad angry. So I thought I would add my tuppence worth.

Firstly why do we need council housing or social housing at all?

In short, regulations. Or rather planning regulations and laws. In the 1930's if you could get a plot of land you could build on it. People did. They frequently started with things like railway carriages and small buses. In some parts of the country you can see odd houses with many windows so close together that it looks like a railway carriage with a house built around it. That is because it is.

These days you can't do that, so the planning system rations land. That makes it very expensive for people to get their own houses, in some jobs and in some locations.

People witter on about council houses being subsidised. That is rubbish, or at least it is in part. The "subsidy" that there is is related to the cost of the land. Try ringing up a land agent and tell them you have an acre of prime building land, for residential use in a town in the South East. They will price it at between £1 and £3 million. Tell them it is designated for social housing, and they will tell you to go away. So that is where the reduction in price comes from, the government gets the land cheap because it has planning blight. If you will, they are saying that only "poor" people can live there, and the land price falls.

People go on about passing the "house" on in a will, to a son or daughter. In fact that is not quite right. Firstly less council house tenants have wills than the average, secondly the succession happens as a matter of law* at the previous tenants death. In the case of a council house, covered by the 1985 Housing act (as amended) the right of succession extends to any family member, from grandfather to grandson, uncle to cousin who lived at the property as their primary or sole residence for a period of at least 12 months before the death of the tenant. However this only applies if tenant was not themselves a successor to a previous tenant. (For example if a wife inherits by death even if she is a joint tenant, then no one else can, though if a wife is assigned the tenancy under the 1073 matrimonial causes act, that is not a succession). If it is an assured tenancy, under the Housing act 1988, as is the case with most housing associations the right to succeed only extends to the spouse.

Then some people would like to see people move on when their circumstances are better. This seems to be a desire to have some on going means testing to see if people are allowed to live in council houses. There are some legal difficulties with this. Firstly will the new legislation be retrospective? If not it won't make a lot of difference. Secondly is it desirable? People can and do move on in any case. If you live in an area where your rent would double moving from the social sector to the private sector then saying if you earn more than X a year you have to move to less secure accommodation is an extension of the benefits trap. I also heard people say that people in council houses should be made to look for work. Well I have some news for that sort of person. Many people in council houses do already work. It tends to be in lower paid or semi seasonal work, but as I say, depending on the area quite a lot do work.

Also, if social housing is to be means tested then all social housing estates will become ghettos of the unemployed or low wage earners as opposed to the more mixed areas they became after the Right To Buy was introduced. That would be a retrograde step.

If you want to see an and to social housing then either unskilled wages have to go up, or house prices need to collapse. Either you pay more for your burgers and fries, or to have your grassed mowed, or you accept social housing.

Any way, here endeth the rant for now.

(* there is an exception. tenancies transferred from councils to housings associations on Large Scale Voluntary transfers ended up with a protected right of succession, but this is not automatic and is buried in procedure and in some case well hidden in the tenancy so that the RSL can point to the last clause which is discretionary rather than a right)

Does the Guardian hate Brown as well?

Well, the latest ICM poll as reported in the Guardian here is good news for the Conservatives, and bad for Labour, giving us 40% (+3), Labour 31% (NC) and the Liberal Democrats 19% (-4).

However when David Cameron and Gordon Brown are mentioned as leaders you get Conservative 42%, Labour 29% and the Liberal Democrats get 17% (*cough* perhaps Ming is not a superstar after all?)

Fair enough but the Cameron Brown question may be a bit false. However just look at the Guardian front page. Doesn't hold any punches and neither does the article itself here. Grim reading in the Brownite camp I fear!

Image shamelessly ripped from Politicalbetting .com.

Blogging with some power!

When at home I have been blogging with a second hand fairly old Dell laptop, in fact a Latitude CPT. Not bad but with only a 600 Mg Hz processor and 128 MB of RAM, some shared with the graphics card, I am so pleased to have upgraded.

I still work on recycled hardware, and still on Linux, (Arch Linux) but now have an AMD Athlon 2200+ and 1GB of RAM. In fact I have an ATI Radeon graphics card with 128MB of RAM on it.

Needless to say, this machine flies by comparison to my old one! (Which will not be scrapped, but reinstalled and put on lighter duties)

Lords Reform to be Shelved (Hopefully)!

I hear from the BBC that Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons has shelved plans for having a preferential voting system when the Commons, and indeed Lords decide to vote on which of the dogs breakfast of options that are on offer.

It seems a victory for David Clelland Mp, who I mentioned in this article as being against the preferential voting system.

However I take the view that there won't be enough people agreeing on one system being better than what we currently have, because there is not a single better system. I do accept that you would not have ended up with what we have by design though. It does work.

Now all we need is to have Frank Fields option as well, so the status quo is an option. I think that would be popular.

You can read the BBC article here.

Congratulations to all the kids who were born in the 1940's, 50's, 60's and 70's!!

I got this in an email, I thought I'd share it.

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a tin, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking .

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

Riding in the back of a van - loose - was always great fun.

We drank water from the garden hosepipe and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cakes, white bread and real butter and drank pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because...... WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem .

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no text messaging, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents .

We played with worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

Made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not poke out any eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Local teams had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And YOU are one of them!CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good, and while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Tony Blair promises more on the NHS

I have to say i was a bit perplexed to read that Tony Blair was promising to get theaters working around the clock to make waiting for procedures a thing of the past.

Having watched the BBC program, Can Gerry Robinson save the NHS? and knowing that routine surgery only takes place days a week where he was I had to laugh. After all, why get then working 24 hours a day when you cant get them working on Friday afternoons.

However this report from the Sunday Times does make interesting reading. I wonder what Dr Crippen will think of it?

Tony Blair is making a pledge to cut waiting times from a GP deciding to send you off to a consultant to surgery (if that is what is recommended) to 18 weeks or less.

I have to say I am sceptical. The reason why this does not happen at the moment is not that hospitals can't cope though some no doubt can't, but so many PCT's have run out of money to fund the operations so they just don't get done. Again from Dr Crippen is this sad sorry tale from Yorkshire of all sorts of basic operations either not available for now or for ever, to save money.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

London's £8 baby tax!

Various people have been commenting on Ken Livingston's extension of London's congestion charge to cover the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

For example Iain Dale has this article citing issues like a reduction in business for traders and shops in Kensington and Chelsea as well as the fact that a large number of residents of that borough will now be able to congest the city center with out extra cost, thereby spreading congestion.

There have been protests as well including go slows. Local traders will not only be hit by their customers paying the charge but could well have problems traversing the congestion charge borders. Will jobs be lost?

However there is another problem and it is this. Kensington and Chelsea contains a major hospital, The Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, whose catchment area contains Hammershith and Fulham. So if someone in Hammersmith or Fulham needs to drop a baby, and has to be driven in to the hospital, that's £8. If they have not planed in advance and booked, and don't pay on time the charges mount.

In short, this is going to end up look like a regressive tax on the poor, and is going to be full of unintended consequences.

Fortunately for me I don't live in London and no longer drive there.

For more information see this press release.

New measures to tackle gun crime

Apparently Tony Blair is about to announce new measures to tackle gun crime, according to this report from the BBC.

This is of course in response to a spate of gun killings primarily in London and recently involving a lot of teenagers as victims.

The thing that concerns me is that what ever will be announced will have been rushed out to meet negative headlines and will be half baked, reactionary, authoritarian and rather more importantly unlikely to work.

There has, since 1997 quite possibly before, been trouble brewing with both guns, criminality and our youth. The reasons are many and varied. For example family breakdown will form a part of the problem, as will the breakdown of discipline in schools.

However what ever has led to this spate of killings is complex and the solution clearly can't be some knee jerk headline catching trailed response. The problems run deeper and need more thinking about.

The Sunday Times has this.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Something right on the Railways

I went to the Brighton Model World exhibition at the Brighton Center in, well, Brighton.

In previous years I have gone by car. This involves either struggling with the various one way systems designed to annoy motorists and cause havoc, or alternatively to provide clear bus and taxi routes (depending on who you chose to believe), or going via Hove and then sitting in a queue of between a half a mile to a mile for half an hour before getting an extortionately priced car parking space.

Well, this year I took my children by train, as I did to Alexandra Palace last month.

£3 parking at Haywards Heath, £7 for the train (for all of us) and that was it. So much easier than driving into Brighton, but then where I was going was not a long walk from the train station and the weather was good.

I certainly would not want to have to go that way to get to the hospital in Brighton if I could help it, as you would have to get a bus or taxi afterwards if there is one running.

That said there was one thing that made me titter at the Railways. The train I caught was a First Capital Connect train. The train arrived on time but left late. The driver apologised and blamed this on a signal box at Three Bridges favouring Southern Trains!

I am Sorry I have not posted for a few days

I have been ill. Still never mind. I am back now and will trot of a few articles.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Judge slams sham nuclear consultation

Well, I was quite interested to hear that a judge in the High Court has ordered that the consultation over whether or not we should have nuclear power to be done again. In a damming indictment of the process the judge labeled it as amongst other things, misleading, seriously flawed and procedurally unfair.

Tony Blair's reaction? he said:
"this won't affect the policy at all"
So the consultation will come to the same conclusion.

Fantastic. Another sham consultation. I can just see green peace preparing their next Judicial Review as clearly the government has not got the idea that the point of a consultation is to listen, not just provide a forum for whingers which you then ignore.

I wonder how much tax payers money is wasted on these sham consultations?

The BBC has this here.

What is it with this stupid blogwar?

I note the stupid blog war rolls on. It seems it started because one Tim Ireland got the hump with Guido. Diddums.

It has now involved Iain Dale and 18 Doughty Street, as objects of ire. The pratts people who appear to be involved include Tim Ireland, Tom Watson, Bob Piper and Unity on Minitrue. Now Tom Watson, in an example of utmost immaturity has "outed" Praguetory. Praguetory also has this.

Firstly just who does Tim Ireland think he is defining what people can and can't do on the Internet? What sort of jumped up person thinks they can define how someone should behave on their own private website? If you don't like someones blog, don't read it. Simple. (Well for most people it is, but apparently not for tiny Tim.)

Then why "out" anonymous bloggers? Just because you can? Does it make you feel hard Tom? Grow up.

Lastly, if you don't like someones message attack the message not the messenger. If necessary on your own blog. Don't get jealous because someone elses is more popular.

I should also add they are now attacking message space, the advertising agency which places ads on political blogs. Is this because they don't get any add revenue of their own? Oh dear, diddums.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The light bulbs are coming down in the NHS

You have to laugh! Remember the Sun front page in the run up to the 1992 general election, with the headline "If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.

Well, accoring to this article on the BBC website, Epsom and St Helier NHS has started to remove light bulbs to cut down it's electricity bill!

You just could not make this up!

OECD agrees Tax Credits are rubbish

Well, according to this report in today's Telegraph the OECD have issued a report on the tax and benefits system and how it affects people with children looking to get back in to work.

The position with family tax credits if you are a wage earner is this. Lets say you earn £20,000 per year and so get say £2,000 in tax credits (less than what you pay in tax and national insurance by a long way). If you then do some overtime or get a pay rise of say £1,000 then you pay tax at 22%, plus National Insurance at 11%. Total deductions 33%. So far so good. However then there is the tax credit claw back of 37% meaning that out of that £1,000 you are left with £300. Hardly worth it, is it?

I thought that stank until I read the details of the OECD report. Apparently if you are a stay at home partner going back to work you can lose a whopping 89.5%, which means out of the £1,000 extra earned example above, you would get £105, even less worth it! For £5,000 they would take home £525. Now that stinks.

But it gets worse. For a single parent moving into work, once you take account of the lose of benefits the effective tax rate is 101.3%. So if a single parent earned an extra £5,000 they would be £65 worse off than if they did nothing at all.

The telegraph report finishes with this:

Stuart Adam, a benefits expert from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: "Since 1997, the Government's tax and benefits reforms have acted to weaken work incentives on average. The single biggest thing driving this are the tax credits reforms."

Well, that is Gordon for you.

Hat tip to HDF on

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Road Pricing Petition, we're all stupid Apparently!

I have just read this most excellent Fisking, by Dizzy thinks, of a gibbering fool, Steve Richards, who wrote this article in today's Libdemograph Independent.

The Fisking is very good, I suggest you read it. However what irritates me most is the silly arguments about the road pricing scheme and why the petition should be ignored. Firstly Steve "let them eat cake" Richards isn't bothered about the poor being priced off the roads as he can get where he wants to go quicker. Fantastic. Pratt.

Then there is all the nonsense that the petition only got over a million signatures because of a scare mongering "viral" email. Tosh. I oppose road pricing because it is a regressive tax on the poor. I did not get the email, so my vote was not on the basis of what was in it.

However, unless the plan is to erect toll booths on every road in the land, then data is going to have to be gathered on where people travel, in order to send in a bill. This information will be in the hands of the state. They may not misuse it yet, but that is no guarantee that it won't be misused in the future.

We keep hearing of looking for suspects on the basis of profiling, and indeed looking to "prevent" crimes being committed by people who have no criminal record. What with all your data in officialdom being gathered in a central database and your every car journey being tracked, it won't take long before people have restrictions placed upon them because their "profile" suggests they might commit a criminal offence.

I have also written this on road pricing, whilst I wrote this on ID cards.

Where have all the Coppers gone?

The Telegraph today carries this article saying that as few as 3 officers are available on night shifts in some of our towns. To those of us who live in Sussex, particularly in places like Mid Sussex this is not news. Sometimes we have only 3 or so to cover the whole of Mid Sussex.

So where are they? Filling out paper work. According to the report, despite Home Office pronouncements to reduce bureaucracy the situation seems to be getting worse.

Mind you, it does not help that police officers are issuing fixed penalty notices like this one here for a student who made a phallic snow sculpture. Bystander, a magistrate thinks he should not pay and go to court where it won't stand up!

Hat tip to Bystander's most excellent blog here.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Support this Early Day Motion!

Write to your MP and get them to support this Early Day Motion, proposed by Frank Field MP for Birkenhead.

The motion's text is:
That this House believes that whatever proposals come forward on House of Lords reform, any indicative vote should include on the ballot paper the option to support the status quo.
I have written on the subject of Lords reform here. I think this is a great idea. After all, if it isn't broke, don't fix it!

You can contact your MP via They work for you, here.

Hat tip to Dizzy Thinks, here.

Freedom of Information Act under threat

Yes that is right. This government which brought in the Freedom of Information act in 2000, is now looking for ways of curtailing it.

They want to set a limit on "FOI" requests in terms of costs to £600 for central government and £450 for local government and other agencies. The issue is how you arrive at that figure. They want to allow for management time as well. Staff time will be "charged" at £25 per hour. So if you ask a sticky question like where has all this money gone, or how much have you spent on something silly, that did not work out, they can have a management meeting with say six people for two hours, racking up £300 before they have asked a lawyer for advice.

They will also ration FOI requests by "group" and push unhelpful questioners down the list.

Now there is a cost argument as you could send in hundreds of requests and pester a department to it's wits end, but in fact the total cost saving of cutting the infringing FOI requests is estimated at £12 million, which in terms of a government budget of circa £500 billion is peanuts to get transparency.

In short it is a great way of getting out of answering awkward questions. Its wrong.

For more see Ellee Seymour's excellent article here.

Meanwhile I am still waiting for my first answer on an FOI request. Apparently the Home Office only starts the clock ticking once they have worked out which department should deal with it!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Profile of Guido Fawkes

BBC Radio 4 has just broadcast a profile of the notorious blogger Guido Fawkes. Personally I like Guido's blog, and read it daily, though generally not first thing in the morning because he seems to start later than I do.

You can visit the program website here, and listen again here.

Guido's blog is available either here or here.

I have to say the most interesting thing is that the main stream media is reporting on bloggers and blogging. Obviously political blogging is making waves and ruffling feathers. It seems some in the establishment are upset. Good.

Martin Salter MP seems to be upset whilst there is talk that the powers that be wish to curtail political blogs. China here we come! The whole bloggosphere needs to turn around from right, left and center and say No way!

The program outed Guido, but then I suppose that has been done to death and everyone who wanted to know probably already knows his name. It also described him as an anarcho capitalist. Interesting description.

Any way. Listen to the program.

Cameron did cannabis allegedly

So what. It was when he was 15, and there is no suggestion that he scored the stuff.

Big non story splashed all over the papers.

Does anyone care?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

And they want us to trust them with ID cards?

The Department of Work and Pensions has apologised for sending personal details, including banking details of 26,000 pensioners to the wrong people. (See the BBC report here)

The Home Office is in meltdown with on fiasco following another, (See here) and these people think we ought to trust them with some of our most sensitive data!


Road Pricing Petition, I have signed, have you?

There is much in the news about the anti road pricing petition which has got over a million signatories, and the government is set to ignore.

I have signed, and I urge anyone who has not to do the same.

I have signed it because I have the following objections to the scheme.

  • It is a very regressive tax hitting the poorest hardest, particularly in rural areas where having a car is almost mandatory, particularly if you have a young family.
  • It is technically complex and will not doubt cost a lot to implement, over run any budgets set for it and not quite work as intended.
  • It is far too intrusive into peoples daily lives allowing government to know where people are all the time they are using their cars.
  • If it were about green issues then you need to tax people on the fossil carbon people use, and you can do that by increasing the fuel duty on fossil fuels (whilst reducing the tax on bio fuels)
If you want to sign the petition you can sign it here.

The Telegraph has this on ministers ignoring the petition here whilst the Times has this. Let us try and get this up to two million signatures!

Ian Richardson Dies

It says something about an actor that when he passes away it creates so much interest and comment in the political world as if he was a major politician who changed the landscape.

Ian Richardson was a fine Shakespearean actor who had a long and glittering career. However for many people he will be remembered as Francis Urquhart, the Conservative Chief whip in House of Cards.

It says something for the man that he filled the role so completely that Francis came to life, to be both quoted and compared to other real politicians.

I do like his oft quoted "You might think that, I couldn't possibly comment."

In a rare Friday evening in I watched Chanel 4 news last night. They had Nick Brown on, who as we know was a former whip. I can't remember the exact words he said so I shall paraphrase.

Jon Snow asked if there was any one in the Labour whips office who could compare for Urquhart's Machiavellian ways. Nick Brown thought of Peter Mandelson, but said there were two differences.

  • Firstly Mandelson was not good as a whip. The chief whip liked him so little that he did not even give him a desk, and none of the other whips would pass him information.
  • Secondly he said Urquhart was a "high Tory" who had principles. Apparently no one has ever accused Mandelson of that!
How catty!

Any way, we have lost a fine actor, who was about to put in another television appearance on Mid Sommer Murders. I do hope the BBC will be repeating House of Cards.

Meanwhile Iain Dale has this, the Telegraph has this, and the Times has this and this. Apparently the Sunday Times will have this.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Before and after of a parcel bomb

Before After

Well, police have released before and after pictures of the parcel bombs sent to 7 locations so far.

I am very grateful. However I am not sure how useful it is. I suspect most people opening something that goes bang would put it down as a bomb with out having to refer to the after picture!

Quotes of the day

Something Iain Dale normally does, but I am feeling a bit ill, so I thought I'd have a go!

David Milliband on Tony Blair "people will be saying 'wouldn't it be great to have that Blair back because we can't stand that Gordon Brown."

David Cameron on Tony Blair "The Prime Minister is fond of comparing himself to Margaret Thatcher," said the Tory leader. "But there's a difference between a conviction politician and a politician who's about to get a conviction."

Brilliant! Hat tip to Iain Dale, here and Conservative home quoting the Telegraph spy here.

Sorry about the lack of posts. Normal service will resume either later today or tomorrow.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lib Dems want to rip flowers up!

Well, almost. Here is the background.

Muster Green is a green in Haywards Heath, legend has it King Harold mustered his troops there on his way to the battle of Hastings. It is a triangular green with a war memorial at its point, and has been a conservation area since 1979. Not only that but it even gets a mention on the Royal Horticultural Society website here.

From spring onwards it gets it's flower beds planted with a colourful display of bedding plants. Looks very good. What is more, as the old flowers die, they are replaced.

Well, apparently that is not what the Liberal Democrats on Haywards Heath Town Council want. They don't want flower beds any more, they want a Shrubbery. Well that is fine for the Knights who say Ni, but frankly for the rest of us it would be a bit dull, a bit like the Liberal Democrats.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

House of Lords reform

Jack Straw MP, Leader of the House of Commons has come up with some proposals for reform of the House of Lords. He says that if we miss this opportunity to reform the House of Lords then we will miss it for a generation. Good. Lets miss it then.

In this White Paper and speech he has proposed a number of options.

  • All 92 hereditaries to sit in the new chamber until they die off
  • Current 605 life peers could choose to stay or leave with a generous redundancy package
  • A smaller chamber of 540 Peers * 50% to be elected, 30% nominated by Party leaders and 20% by an independent commission
  • Peers to be elected in batches of 90 over three elections every 5 years. Term limit of 15 years
(Borrowed from Iain Dale here)

The problem is of course we have been down this road before. No one option is liked by a majority in the House of Commons (or the Lords for that matter) so each alternative gets voted down by a majority and nothing changes.

He has proposed to change the voting system in the Commons for it as well, so that instead of vote for or against each separate proposal MP's have to rank each in order or preference. The least unpopular presumably winning.

Well, as David Clelland Mp for Tyne Bridge, (Labour) does not like the idea of fiddling the voting system to get something. He will be voting against the procedural change and I hope a lot of other MP's do as well. There is a sound reason why there is no agreement thus far. Most MP's think the current system is better than any proposals so far put to them. I agree.

Meanwhile some Labour MP's wishing to do grave damage to our constitution suggest abolishing our house of Lord's and moving to a unicameral system. That is one with only one house. There are clear reasons why that is a bad idea. It would lead to the dictatorship of the mob, or perhaps party machine. The House of commons needs checks and balances. If you want to see what sort of company we would be in if we had a unicameral system, Dizzy has this helpful map. I for one do not want to join that club.

My take on the whole thing is this. If you wanted to create a second chamber today you most certainly would not come up with the House of Lords. However you have to look at what it is for, and what it does. Fundamentally it is there to prevent government doing stupid things, at least with out a fight. It does not stand in the way of manifesto pledges but will seek to amend and alter bills particularly where daft or over authoritarian or both (like the various bits of anti terror legislation).

In an ideal world the commons would hold the executive to account, but frequently it does not because the executive commands a majority in the House of Commons. The Lords does it frequently and well.

Many say we must have elected members of the house of Lords, or that having a combination of hereditary peers and appointed ones is bad. So what? Does it work? Yes. The only thing that you could do is make the Lords more powerful. I am not sure that is a good idea, or less, which I am sure would be a very bad one. Others complain of the name. They think we are a laughing stock in the 21st Century for having a House of Lords. Well what about the monarchy? Are we to lose that too? What of all our old buildings, not very "modern" either.

We were a laughing stock in Europe when we had a parliament in the first place, why should we care what anyone else thinks? We are a separate country with our own traditions and institutions. Other countries have evolved their own. Why do we need to be sheep that follow? Why can't we keep on doing our own thing?

The BBC has this here.

nourishing obscurity has this here.

Labour campaign against NHS reforms

As strange as it may seem, having had many members of Labour's cabinet campaigning against NHS reforms (See here), last nights Channel 4 News pinned down Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South, and indeed minister in charge of the reforms. He is of course campaigning against the possible closure of his local maternity unit whilst peddling the policy of closing down others to make super units.

How nice. So he wants to close my local one but wants his local one to stay open. Is it any wonder why people are losing trust in this government?

The Channel 4 report is here.

That Friendly Fire incident

By now I suspect that you will have seen the cockpit video of the friendly fire incident which caused the death of Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull.

Four things strike me.

Firstly the two pilots concerned were US National Guard. Effectively our equivalent of the Territorial army. May be good, but don't train every day.

Secondly they seemed not to know about the orange marking system at all. Probably because of lack of training, so had no means of telling friend from foe. An "accident waiting to happen".

Thirdly their air controller had no clue that our boys were there. There is a huge danger when two armies on the same side are fighting in the same space if there is not the fullest cooperation up and down all chains of command. That is very tricky. NATO forces are supposed to work that way, but these national guards men seemed not to be in the loop.

It looks to me to be half baked training for NATO type operations and a half baked attitude to communication. Just what you would expect of Donald Rumsfeld. I don't think the pilots were to blame, but then I have not seen their training records.

Fourthly and most bizarrely, having had the world, his wife an their pet dog watch the video on TV or the web, the Americans will allow the inquest to see the video but only if it is a closed court. How strange. Giving grieving relatives the run around does not impress me much either.

The BBC has this, whilst the Sun's video is available here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Cash for Peerages, Des Smith escapes charges

According to this report from the BBC Des Smith, the Head Teacher who was involved in the City Academies Project is not to be charged.

Undercover reporters from the Times posing as potential sponsors of city academies recorded conversations with him in which he appeared to suggest that people sponsoring academies would get an honour.

It appears that for the CPS this is not enough. Personally I can't see why. That looked liked the nearest thing to bang to rights to me. However, the conversation was over a boozy lunch apparently.

Cash for Peerages, Powell to be interviewed again

Just in case you had not heard according to the Times in this article Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief of staff is to be interviewed again, and under caution.

The article also says that the police have passed files on three people it expects to be charged to the Crown prosecution service.

There is also lots of speculation of whether or not the prime minister would resign of one of his aids were charged.

Friends say he won't because being charged is not the same as being guilty, and in any case that might seem like an admission of guilt. Innocent until proven guilty and all that!

Two things are odd. Firstly how come the papers are now full of a running commentary of this on a hit by hit basis, and secondly Tony Blair standing by innocent until proven guilty when it seems that he thinks it is an outdated concept.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Conservatives to scrap ID card scheme!

David Davis, Conservative Shadow Home Secretary has announced that the next Conservative government will scrap the ID card scheme immediately.

With that in mind David Davis has written to Sir Gus O'Donnell making our position clear, and also asked what provision is being made for the scheme being scrapped early, and pointing out the obligation not to waste public money.

Fantastic. Many will have noticed that I am against the scheme as I have a No2ID banner on my blog!

Also it will be interesting to see how the civil service reacts to being put on such notice.

You can read more on the Conservative party website here.

Hat tip to Iain Dale who has this here and Guido who has this here.

Cash for Peerages, a Terror cover up?

I read this interesting article in the New Criminologist. It appears that West Midlands police and its anti terror unit were not happy about the tabloid press getting advance notice of their terror raids, or the early breaking news before they had rounded up all the suspects.

They are left wondering whether it was leaked to the media to push the cash for peerages scandal off the front pages.

Yet many Labour people criticise about police leaks in the cash for honours scandal.

You just have to wonder!

48 Hours to question a suspect!

Just in case you missed it as it has been hidden in the reports of the terrorism arrests in Birmingham this week, but none of the suspects arrested were questioned at all for 48 hours after arrest.

No doubt John Reid will be asking for more than 28 days to question suspects, and insist we need 90. Well, if when they have 28 they waste 2 I have to say no. In fact, if they still only had 14, I suspect they would have started interrogation well within 24 hours. The longer they have the longer they will take.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Cash for Peerages, Charges to be made!

Well speculation is rife in the Sunday papers this morning over the cash for peerages allegations.

The News of the world has this, which speculates that John McTernan's evidence to police has been most helpful, and led to the arrests of Lord Levy and Ruth Turner as well as the second questioning of Tony Blair. There is some speculation about what will happen to Chris Evans, the bio tech millionaire and Labour Donor. The paper also suggests involvement by Jonathan Powell.

The Sunday Times believes there was a meeting to discuss a cover up, with Lord Levy, Ruth Turner and possibly John McTernan. It's article is here.

The Independent on Sunday has this, largely backing up the others papers take on things whilst the Sunday Telegraph has this on how things are going in the Downing street bunker.

I must say I am constantly amused by those who insist this investigation will, or should come to nothing. It appears they were wrong.

Guido also has this, and Iain Dale has this. (In fact Iain seems to have the whole NOTW article which is handy, becaus they don't seem to have an archive.)

Neil Kinnock, Cure for Insomnia?

I had heard that Neil Kinnock, would be interviewed by Andrew Neil on BBC News 24. I sat down to watch it at 1.30 AM this morning.

I waited with baited breath to see if he would say anything interesting. Alas I was asleep within 5 minutes!

Still, to be fair to Neil, it is entirely possible I was just too tired!

Neil Kinnock, was Labour leader from 1983 to 1992 and is credited with getting rid of the hard line left wing image of Labour. He was also a bit gaff prone, and the press seemed not to take to him.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Cash for Peerages, Pressure grows on Blair

It is quite interesting hearing of the angst of Labour party members over how long Tony Blair will stay on, what with the cash for honours scandal and the local elections coming up in May.

For example the Telegraph today has this. David Cameron is quoted as saying "It seems to me it's got to that point where everyone in Parliament, everyone in government, everyone in the press, everyone in the country is thinking 'Hello? It's over"

I agree. For the good of the Labour party, but much more importantly the country Blair should go, and go now. Obviously this slow motion car crash does help the Conservative party, but it also damages politics, and the government seems rudderless.

The problem is there is no way to force Blair to go. They would need to organise a conference to force him out, and that is after mustering over 70 MP's to call for it.

No matter how obvious it is that Blair must go, this is just not going to happen. Instead Labour will hold on, hoping that Tony Blair will get the hint. he won't. He will hang on as long as he can regardless. It's a shame, but there you go.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Tony Blair on the NHS

I must admit I am not Tony Blair's biggest fan. It was interesting listening to him this morning on BBC Radio 4's the Today program. this morning. (You can listen to the interview here, and Nick Robinson's review here)

He spouted lots about public services, and in particular the NHS. One of the beauties of the blogosphere is that people who know he is talking rot can and will answer back.

Well, unsurprisingly Dr Crippen has on his blog. I suggest you read this article here. Below is a brief extract:

Tony Blair has defended his record on the NHS, and said it was in much better shape than when he came to office.
[Not true. It is worse than it has ever been at any time in my medical career. Some waiting lists are shorter. I cannot think of anything else that is better, but could give you an endless list of things that are worse]

I suggest you read the rest.

I was also talking to a teacher. She has been in education under both Conservative and Labour, and thinks that overall education is worse of under Labour. So there you have it. Want decent public services? Vote Conservative. Or at least don't under any circumstances vote Labour.

Personal Insolvency at all time high

You may have missed the latest story on personal insolvencies, that is bankruptcies and IVA's, as it appeared in the FT here.

Insolvencies are at an all time high, reaching 29,804 in the last quarter of 2006. That is a 7% increase on the previous quarter and a 44% increase on the previous year. That brings the total for the year to an eye watering 107,288.

For some historical perspective, the figure for 1991, the height of the last recession was barely over 25,000. It then peaked at 36,794 for the WHOLE of 1992, declining to a low of 24,441 for the whole of 1997. Since then it has risen every year under Labour, part of Gordon Brown's record I suspect he would rather not shout about.

Some people blame the Enterprise act 2002. I am not convinced. The personal insolvency rules contained in that act did not come into force until April 2004, whereas the numbers have, as I said been increasing every year since 1997. Also, to go insolvent, you have to be insolvent. I do not accept that people are running up debts with the sole aim of using the new law.

Should we be worried? Well it is not news to cheer us up. Rising insolvencies means someones bills are not being paid, and some houses are being sold in "fire sales". Also it can be an indicator of looming trouble ahead.

(Figures for 1992 to 2002 obtained from the Office for National Statistics here)

Update 15:44

The BBC has this article here. It also points out that repossessions are up to 91,200, a rise of 29% over 2005. That is a clear indicator that all is not well with the world.

Update 17:06

I have been doing some digging.

According to both the DCA (Department for Constitutional Affairs, formerly the Lord Chancellor's office) and the Council of Mortgage Lenders, whilst the number of possession orders granted is 91,195. However the number of houses actually repossessed is 17,000. This is a 70% rise on 2005, and is the highest since 2000. House repossessions peaked in 1991 at 71,540.

See the Council of Mortgage lenders statistics here, and the DCA statistics here.

The Attorney General and the Saudi arms deal

Apparently, according to the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, in a House of Lords debate yesterday it was the Director of the Serious Fraud office who decided to drop the corruption investigation in to the Al Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Apparently on grounds of national security.

Hold on. What is the Director of the SFO doing making decisions like that? It surely is not within his remit, nor does he have the intelligence information to back up such a decision. This is just plain wrong.

Now, if the cabinet met, and decided to drop the investigation, or the Attorney General decided on his own, fair enough. They are accountable and they will have the information, but the director of the SFO? I am sorry I just don't buy that. he should not be making decisions like that.

If it was in fact an executive decision, then the executive should stand buy it, not try and pass the buck.

The BBC has this report.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Charity Commission to investigate The Smith Institute

Well it is according to this notice on the Charity Commission's website posted today!

This is the second time the Charity Commission has investigated the Smith Institute as well. No doubt Minitrue will bang on about it being a wing nut plot. We will see.

The Charity Commission's statement says this:
The Charity Commission for England and Wales has opened a formal inquiry into the charity The Smith Institute today.

The decision to open an inquiry was taken in the light of new information we have received which raises concerns about some of the charity’s work.

The scope of the inquiry is to determine whether The Smith Institute is both established and operating as a charity advancing the education of the public in the field of study and research into the economy of the United Kingdom.

The Commission has informed the charity of this decision. The Commission has been and continues to engage with the charity in relation to the issues raised.
Well Guido will be pleased. He has this article on his blog.

hat tip to Carlotta Vance on

Cash for Peerages, Blair interviewed again!

Apparently on Friday the 26th of January. The police wanted a news blackout. Very interesting indeed.

The BBC has this.

More news as it comes in!

Shocking stuff. We do not know any further details, for example we do not know if it was under caution.

For more on the Cash for peerages scandal see here.

Update 12:30

It appears that the interview lasted for 45 minutes, and was not under caution. Tony Blair and a civil service note taker were present as well as an unknown number of police.

The police requested the media blackout. That was lifted today. We do not as yet know why they made the request or why they lifted it today.

The Telegraph has this, the Daily Mail has this whilst the Times has this. Guido must be loving it, and he has this here. Iain Dale has this.

Update 13:19

According to Nick Robinson on Radio 4 the police presented a document or documents about meetings discussing peerages and possibly donations in which Lord Levy was present. He also pointed out that Lord Levy is the only person so far arrested for Conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. For there to be a conspiracy there must be at least two people involved.

Who, one wonders, are the others?

Murkier and murkier!

Update 14:55

Nick Robinson has an interesting piece on his blog, with more on what was put to Lord Levy when he was arrested. See here.

It was Al Qaeda!

Well, you may well have heard about the latest news on the arrest of some people accused of offences under the various anti terrorism acts. The BBC has this here.

Well the Daily Mail thinks that Al Qaeda was behind it, with this report.

Reports indicate that the plan was to kidnap, torture and behead a British Muslim soldier, all for the benefit of an Internet broadcast.

That would, if true, be horrifying. In fact universally horrifying.

The fact is that what the "Muslim extremists" want to do is to separate the Muslim community from the rest of society. However what Al Qaeda found was that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's tactics revolted the Muslim world, and indeed drove it back to us.

Therefore I somehow doubt Al Qaeda would want to help us unite Muslims against the extremists.

That said, this tactic has happened before with the Indian High Commissioner in Birmingham in 1984.

The plot looks real, I just doubt Al Qaeda was behind it.