Monday, April 30, 2007

Rail Privatisation saved lives

To those on the left it will come as a stunning claim, but it is not in fact mine, it comes from a statistical study covered on BBC Radio 4's More or less. You can listen to the program here, or look at this weeks page here.

The argument is that whilst there was a downward trend in accidents from the 1960's onwards under British Rail, from 5 a year, by 5% a year, had that trend continued to date, with the increased traffic involved there would have been many more accidents and about another 150 fatalities.

Makes you think doesn't it?

However none of that will make the relatives of those who have died on the railways feel any better.

Admiral Sir Jonathon Band admits he has shamed Navy

The Telegraph carries this article, citing a letter sent out by Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, the hopefully soon to be former First Sea Lord, admitting that the selling the sailors story fiasco may not have been the Royal Navy's finest moment, and he accepts responsibility.

Good. Now resign.

For more on the hostage crisis see here.

John Reid kills Labour!

And I have to say well done. Apparently according to this article in the Telegraph, John Reid is not only not going to stand against Gordon, but unite behind him. As is Tessa, soon to be out of a job, Jowell. (How will that affect her husbands, David Mills earning power?)

I must say I am over joyed at the news! My Score bet with Mike Smithson is looking safer still, not withstanding the deal between Labour's two key no hopper's, Meacher and MsDonnall to both vie for a very small number of nominations.

I do know for a fact that this stitch up is causing problems with the grass roots. The local elections will also decimate the grass roots.

You can't win an election without the grass roots. The Referendum party had bucket loads of cash, but no grass roots and all they did was cost us Conservatives a few MP's. Anyone who thinks grass roots are not important is losing it.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Never Again!

After the Holocaust, we said Never Again!

After Rwanda, we said Never Again!

After Srebrenica, we said Never Again!

I have no doubt that after Darfur, we will also say never again.

Nothing it seems will be done to stop it though.

The BBC has this.

Postal Vote fraud in full swing

According to this article in the Sunday Times, Labour are at it in Leeds. They are "helping" people fill out their postal votes.

What is more the article highlights the way in which some community networks gather in postal votes and make sure they all vote the "right way".

Postal votes are not a secret ballot. They are open to mass fraud. This brings our democracy into disrepute.

I wonder what the Polish election observers would say?

hat tip to Brummie Bounder on for the link to the Times article.

For more on voting fraud see here.

Cash for Peerages, Palace warned Number 10

The Observer carries this article on its front page, saying that a senior courtier at Buckingham palace, Sir Robin Janvrin, told Johnathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief of staff that Yates of the Yard is a bit of a pain, who is relentless and dogged.

It is said Yates turned the palace inside out. Well, he was investigating a high profile case, so he should have. He is doing the same now. Good.

Clearly Yates is the right man for the job!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Liberal Democrats panicking in Ashenground!

As I said earlier, I was out on the campaign trail earlier today canvasing in the ward in which I am standing. (My running mate is Katy Bourne.)

If the frantic leaflet delivery is anything to go by, and yes Ashenground is getting more deliveries from the Liberal Democrats than it has before, including some expensive ones, they are in a bit of a panic!

I like a good campaign and a good fight, and that is what is happening!

On the campaign trail!

Today I will be out on the campaign trail again. The response on the doorstep is very positive, so I will be trying to get around as many doorsteps as possible!

Later I will be posting a Liberal Democrat campaign photo, in a bring your own litter and then clear it up shocker!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Weasels bill delayed until May 18th

The bill to exempt Parliament from the Freedom of Information act will not be debated today, but has been delayed until May the 18th. With a bit of luck it will then be kicked into the long grass.

The BBC has this.

You can read more about it here and here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bloggers on the trail of the terror leaker!

Bloggers are on the trail of the man who leaked details of the terror raid in Birmingham, (See here and here) in the Home Office. I suspect it won't be long before it is all over the press.

Iain Dale has this article with correspondence between Shadow Attorney General Dominic Grieve and John Reid of the Home Office in which after quite some delay John Reid denies that any of his staff leaked. Iain then goes on to say that many in Westminster and the press know exactly who he is.

Guido on the other hand has noticed a missing special adviser, Steve Bates. Surely a coincidence?

I suspect that DAC Clarke will also be very interested to find out who in the met leaked to the tabloids as well.

Junior Doctors information leaked, and they want us to trust them with our ID?

You will have heard the shocking tale that junior doctors who had applied online for training posts had all their personal information displayed for all the world to see.

The BBC has this, whilst Dizzy has this.

I just can't believe that this government wants us to trust them with all our identity information and indeed medical records! No way! This is sheer lunacy!

A government spokesman did say that the ID card system and medical records system would have different protocols. This means that either the people responsible for the medical recruitment database are just pants and were not properly managed or supervised, or that this is an empty promise and trusting government with your information is madness.

Who leaked the terror leak?

The Guardian has this interesting front page article on who leaked that terror leak.

In essence it names aids to Dr John Reid and a senior officer in Scotland yard (me, scratches head, wonders who in the Met could be so infected with New Labour's culture of spin? Um.. Blair is pm, Blair in charge of the Met.... Um... )

Obviously the Conservatives are still insisting on a leak inquiry, the Liberal Democrats are still insisting on a criminal investigation. Fair enough on both counts.

What made me laugh though was the Liberal Democrats and their press cuttings of "terror leaks". There have been 60. I can just imagine an earnest Ming Campbell cutting out and sticking paper clippings in his little big scrap book. Most amusing. I don't know which is more sickening though, the fact that there have been 60 leaks of very sensitive national security information,
or that I, and indeed every one else, has become so accustomed to it that not only are we not surprised, we laugh when someone tots them up?

Loose lips sink ships. This government is a danger to national security. It needs to go, and go now.

Appalling maths

I read this article on the BBC website and was appalled. Just what have we done to our education? Just how bad does it have to be before we notice that this government is letting a whole generation down.

It seems that pupils who want to study science at university are no longer told that maths will be mandatory, so they don't do it beyond GCSE. So when they get to university to study say chemistry, the chemistry department seems to want to find out if they can count to 11 without taking off their shoes.

Compare these two tests, one for a Chinese university entrance exam, the other to work out just how bad the maths of the UK student is.

The problem I have is this, the Chinese one, I think I could just about do, if I got my old A level maths books out, and worked hard to revise foe a week or two.

The UK one, I can do off the top of my head without the aid of a piece of paper, pen or calculator. It is obvious. Firstly it is a 345 triangle, so if one side is 3 and another 4, then the missing is one is 5 (this only works if there is a right angle between the 3 and the 4) but you can replace any of the missing sides.

Area of the triangle, well half the rectangle, which would have sides of 3 and 4, which would have an area of 12, half of which is 6.

The trick question is what is Tan 90 degrees as a fraction. It is in fact infinity as Tan =Sin/Cos and the cosine of 90 is 0.

I could have answered that question after the most basic of trigonometry. I can't quite remember if I was 11, 12 or 13 when I studied it to that most basic level (well, 345 triangles will have been very very early, tangents possibly as late as 11, 12 or 13).

So what is going on? Is our education system so bad that a 12 year old of 20 years ago could whip a science undergraduate at maths now? Is this what new Labour have done to our educational standards?

Just how are we supposed to compete with people who are still taught to old fashioned British standards?

The BBC has this. The government on the other hand has not got a clue.

Update 01:31

Read the last question too fast. Sugar. (Or words to that effect) it is not in fact the angle between lines A-B and B-C that they are asking for but the angle between lines A-C and C-B, and at this time of night I can't do that off the top of my head!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Blair says there is no evidence that should cause a leak inquiry

When asked if to confirm there was a leak inquiry in progress today into deliberate leaks of classified information related to anti terror operations, Tony Blair declined to confirm.

He seemed to want evidence.

Evidence of what exactly? We know that information has been leaked, we know it should not have been. We know it interfered with a police investigation! What we do not know is who released the information, and the only way we are going to find out is to investigate. Looks like Tony is trying to avoid yet another investigation.

I did listen to a Labour MP, and member of the Home Affairs committee (and apparently ex Home Office minister) bluster about how a leak inquiry was inappropriate as the leak was criminal. Does she really want another criminal investigation that could lead to the heart of government? That would be fun.

Meanwhile tomorrows Guardian will be running a story speculating that it was either one of John Reid's SpAd's or someone in Scotland Yard. We know that SpAd's have form for this kind of thing and we know that the Met has its issues, so it could be either.

What is clear is that we need to find who is responsible, and should have been looking for them as soon as the leak happened.

The BBC has this.

Terror Chief, Leaks put lives at risk

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke of the Metropolitan Police has hit out at leaks related to anti terror raids, with some choice quotes as follows:
[There were a] "small number of misguided individuals who betray confidences. By doing so, they had compromised investigations, revealed sources of life-saving intelligence and "put lives at risk" during major investigations.

"The recent investigation in Birmingham into an allegation that a British serviceman had been targeted by a terrorist network is but one example of this,"

"On the morning of the arrests, almost before the detainees had arrived at the police stations to which they were being taken for questioning, it was clear that key details of the investigation and the evidence had been leaked.

"This damaged the interview strategy of the investigators, and undoubtedly raised community tensions.

"I have no idea where the leaks came from, but whoever was responsible should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves."
At the time of the Birmingham arrests there was also some marked disquiet in the police, which I wrote about here, and an allegation in a journal that the leaks happened to distract from the cash for peerages inquiry.

From reports I have heard the journalists in Birmingham and the Midlands were not getting "all the juicy details" from their contacts, the information was coming from London based journalists, and we can all guess where that means.

After that, an the sale of stories in the Iran hostage crisis, it seems Whitehall leaks first, and thinks later, with terrible consequences for all concerned.

The BBC has this on the speech by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, you can read more on the war on terror here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Liberal Democrats on the run in Ashenground!

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that I am standing for the local council elections on May the 3rd in Ashenground ward, in Haywards Heath, for the Conservative party.

I have been out on the campaign trail and delivering leaflets along with the rest of the Ashenground team for some months now, and it appears that the Liberal Democrats have only just noticed. It is currently held by the Liberal Democrats at both town and district level, but up until a couple of days ago they had only delivered one election leaflet.

Well, now all that has changed. They have now rushed out a big A3 glossy leaflet and appear to be running around like headless chickens!

I would not mind quite so much though, if they were not so sailing quite so close to the wind in terms of the truth, or rather implied lack of it.

Lets be clear. Their leaflet tells no lies, but it is close. For example in one of the candidates biographies, Richard Bates is said to have campaigned against changes in waste collection. The quote is:
Richard campaigned against black sack refuse scheme and says that the 2 weekly wheelie bin collection will make the streets even less appealing
Grammar aside, (after all you would expect them to proof read a leaflet) the problem with this is it implies the Liberal Democrats are against the 2 weekly collection doesn't it? It does not actually say that though. The problem is they are not. All party groups are behind the scheme and this is nothing more than cheap political point scoring.

Then there is this, on defending services, and in particular the services at the Princess Royal Hospital, (under a picture of a very small number of banner waving Liberal Democrats amongst 7,500 members of the Conservative group, Labour group and members of the public)
Lib Dems at last years rally in support of the PRH. Liberal Democrat councillors have been in the forefront of the fight to preserve local health services in Sussex. As Christine McLean says, "We have fought for many years under both both Labour and Tory governments for adequate funding and locally accountable health services"
Where is the problem? Well all party groups have been out campaigning in support of the Princess Royal Hospital, a lot of the work has been done by the Conservative group, including the setting up the Support the PRH website. You will note that the front page of that website you will see a picture of the 3 MP's who are backing the campaign, Nick Herbert, (Arundel and South Downs) Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) and Norman Baker (Lewis). Nowhere does it mention parties, nor should it, as it is a cross party campaign.

Lastly there is this on supporting local groups:
"Grants to the CAB increased due to campaigning form (sic) the Lib Dem Town Cllrs. Lib Dems argued for more help for community groups. Steve Griffin says "All this can be funded from within the present budget without the need for tax rises"
What he does not say is that it is Liberal Democrat policy in the town to give town councillors an allowance, or where that money will come from!

Still, that is what I have come to expect from Liberal Democrat campaigns.

Heart Surgery league tables lead to better results

Apparently heart surgery league tables are leading to better results, as in less deaths. This is impressive though the opponents of publication did point out that this may lead to surgeons cherry picking their cases to get better results.

However according to this article on the BBC website, more hard cases are being taken on, not less. So far so good. It looks like good news.

We will have to see what other research there is.

Weasels are trying to escape scrutiny again!

Apparently the bill to exclude Parliament from the Freedom of Information act has been revived as there are no other private members bills to be heard this Friday.

I wrote this on the subject before. The excuse is that they want to protect constituents private information. This is of course rubbish as that information is protected by the Freedom of Information act itself as well as the Data protection act. There is only one motive, to hide information that should rightly be in the public domain.

You can sign the petition against it here.

The BBC has this.

Hat tip to Lennon who posted the news on the website.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Labour meltdown to 27%

Yes Labour are at their lowest poll rating virtually ever, making Michael Foot look like an outstanding performer.

The full scores are:

Conservatives 36% (+1)
Labour 27% (-4)
Liberal Democrats 22% (+2)
Others 15% (+1)

Which on Baxter gives
Conservatives 328
Labour 223
Liberal Democrats 66
Others 33

A Conservative overall majority of 6!

That said this is a Communicate Research Poll, and should be read with a certain amount of caution as they tend to be a bit of a roller coaster pollster.

You can read the poll here.

I did say in this article that I though Labour would dip below 30%, possibly as low as 28%. 27% is beyond my wildest dreams and I suspect Labour's darkest nightmares. I await an ICM or YouGov poll to see a trend though.

Hat tips to UK Paul, Andrea, and ChrisD on this thread on

Update 23:00

Anthony Wells election calculator gives:
Conservatives 302
Labour 254
Liberal Democrats 61
Others 33

Which leaves the Conservative's 23 short of a majority.

David Cameron is Dead Right!

David Cameron gave a speech today in which he discussed social responsibility and how the state is infantalising society by treating everyone like children. It has some interesting ideas. (The BBC has this)

At it's core is the idea that individuals should not ask what the country can do for them but what they can do for the country (now where have I heard that idea before) because the tendency to assume the state can fix all ills has caused ever increasing amounts of legislation and the state pocking its nose further and further into peoples live.

The effect of all this is that many people leave too many things up to the state which is then not able to provide.

What I found most interesting is that whilst Labour were casting scorn on the ideas as mere "fluff" the Sun has clearly taken on board Cameron's message. (Not that I take that much notice of the Sun), in its leader here.

The Sun says:
DAVID Cameron is dead right.

British society has become pathetically hooked on the State.

Police officers no longer collar villains to avoid form-filling. Teachers can’t discipline yob pupils for fear of reprisals. Kids run amok on our streets and public transport because no one will stop them.

And it’s always “the Government’s fault”.

Britain is Great because of its people. We have always been a stubborn bunch who get the job done. We have never been a nation of handwringers. Nor have we turned our back on those in need.

Every single one of us has a duty. A duty to say what’s right and what’s wrong.

JFK said “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

He was right then. And Cameron is right now.
Clearly the message resonates with people, who instinctively feel it is correct. Good. It is.

Boris Yeltsin is dead

According to the BBC here Boris Yeltsin, former and indeed first president of Russia died at the age of 76 today.

The most memorable moment of his career was when he prevented a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev. However many people suffered during the economic reforms of the 1990's and he left office being despised in his own country. Such is the fate of world famous leaders.

Is the UK Economy skating on thin ice?

I read this report on the BBC's website, and that made me go and look for this report from Ernst and Young Item club.

It makes interesting reading. The BBC headline is: " UK economy 'skating on thin ice'" and covers all the negative aspects of the report. You do have to wonder whether the BBC has decided which way the wind is blowing and wants to make sure it is not going to get a kicking when the Conservatives get back in.

Some key quotes from The Item Club's chief economic adviser Peter Spencer are:
"The bottom line is that we are all living beyond our means."

"Ultimately we are all skating - not to say wobbling - on thin ice,"

"If the Chancellor is forced to borrow so much when the economy's so sweet, what will happen when it turns sour?"
That said there is some good new forecast in the report. For example growth is going to be strong this year, and inflation as measured by the CPI will according to the report fall back to at or near 2%.

The bad news is that this is still funded by massive public and private borrowing, at times of continued economic growth started under Ken Clarke. The problem is that can't go on forever and is very vulnerable to a change in conditions.

Those on the left often accuse me and indeed the Conservative party as a whole of being doom mongers. We are not, we are pointing out the danger. In fact I have been banging on about some key fundamental issues like borrowing for ages. It is not because it guarantees failure but risks it, and risks making it deeper than it would otherwise would have been.

This also shows where the problems are going to be for an incoming Conservative government. (Also for an incoming chancellor as well). The money has been spent, the public sector purse must be tightened, whilst taxes must remain at their current level. The UK current account has not been in this bad a state since 1991, during a recession. So we can't promise tax cuts, we have too fix the public sectors finances first.

However we don't know what sort of country we as a party are going to inherit. The next labour chancellor is going to have to squeeze the public sector, and having raised expectations that is going to cause problems for them. As ken Clarke says, Labour chancellors always run out of money.

Fisking David Milband

When I wrote this article yesterday about David Miliband throwing in the towel and backing Brown. One of the articles I linked to was written by David himself, and now I am about to Fisk it, or rather bits of it, for the rubbish it actually is.
2009 gives us the opportunity to create a whole new political landscape, by showing that the Tories cannot win, however telegenic their leadership, because their core values and philosophy offer nothing to modern Britain.
Interesting statement. The problem is that neither do yours. Whether you like him or loathe him, John Major was the most popular prime minister in history whereas Tony Blair has power on the lowest share of the vote on history.

Whether those in politics, and I include myself in that, the reality is people are interested in what you are going to do and how they are affected. They have not studied politics and pay scant attention to it from year to year. Frankly they care what a party's core philosophy is. They care about the pound in their pocket, crime, their local schools and hospitals. So if David thinks the general public has undergone some "fundamental realignment" he will of course be "fundamentally realigned" himself when the next general election comes.
In 1997, people felt that voting Labour was a vote for change. In 2007, we need to recapture that sense of vision, hope and excitement. To do that, we need a political project broader and deeper than New Labour 1997-2007. It is New Labour Plus: the good things about New Labour, from a strong economy to investment in public services to help for the poorest, plus new emphasis on the power of individuals and communities to shape their lives, from climate change to social care, supported by effective government at national and European level.
Well, that sounds all fine and dandy, but the problem is that this government has done more to restrict the rights powers and choices of the individual than any other. For example the tax credit system discriminates against people who want to stay at home to look after their children, whilst on the other hand we have never been more spied upon and watched. What is more, that is set to get worse with ID cards, radically altering the nature of the relationship between the state and the individual, in the states favour.
We need to broaden our agenda because people's concerns and aspirations have moved on. Economic stability and confidence have created the space for people to demand a greener, more ethical economy, with jobs that offer more personal autonomy, fulfilment and flexibility.
Your way behind the curve on this one, David, as er.. David Cameron has already been making speeches on that sort of subject already.
The Climate Change Bill, which provides Britain with the world's first eco-constitution, has wide support in part because prosperity no longer feels so fragile.
Bit of a shame that you don't understand the physics of it though isn't it? It's also a bit of a shame that your department is one of the many in Whitehall that has increased carbon emissions. Perhaps if your government took climate change more seriously others would as well.
Investment in education and health has raised expectations of public services, with people wanting more and better.
Well, yes it has. They don't expect to be talking to teachers who say education has got worse since 1997, with the number of pupils getting any GCSE's up but the number getting key GCSE's down, after all that cash. They don't expect to see their hospitals under threat either. Where has the money gone David? It may be fine for a man living in a £1.5 million pound house, but it is different on the streets.
Migration has fuelled economic growth and cultural diversity, but also strengthened the need to create activities and institutions that bring citizens together.
Interesting, except that it has fueled economic growth for the economy not the individual.What is more, no one was asked if they wanted it. The two aims are diametrically opposed. As in if you create cultural diversity you move people apart. It takes quite a lot of work to then get them back together again, and so far this government has not paid any attention to that at all. The fact is though that immigration in its current form is hitting the wages of the poor hardest. Even Liam Byrne, a Labour minister has spotted that. So who feels the economic benefit of the quadrupling of immigration? Well, it is not the man in the street. The voter. The one you have to persuade to go and vote.
And the consequences of success can create problems, too, for example, a housing market increasingly unequal in its rewards and increasingly difficult for some people to access.
You shouldn't start a sentence with "and", no wonder education is going to hell in a hand cart, we have some one in charge of global warming who lets his departments carbon dioxide emissions rise whilst not understanding the science and English is not his strong point either. Still, we will move on.

The housing market is very hard for almost anyone without a house to access, without seriously over extending themselves. If they do, they could face a severe crisis if interest rates rise. Professional people like teachers, firemen and nurses simply can't afford to buy houses in most of the country and what is more, neither can a lot of other people.
We also need to deepen the reforms we have begun. We have only just begun the massive project of turning political ideas into a long and enduring process of social and economic reform.
It seems to me that so far you have conclusively proved that throwing money at things does not work, that you can start wars without a clue how to finish them, and that you can sow so much social division that whilst the BNP had no representation in even local government when you came to power but now have their sights on an MP's seat as well as large representation on councils. I would humbly suggest that what ever you have in mind isn't working, and you should stop.
The common thread is actually simple: a recognition that inequalities of power are as stark as inequalities of income in Britain today. If the 1945 government was motivated by the popular cry: 'I need', the 2007 government needs to be driven forward by people saying: 'I can.'
Good slogan, but the problem is that if some on thinks they "can" they get mired in all sorts of paperwork, like either employment regulations (some of which are simpler to be fair) or tax credit forms. So they generally don't.
The second task is to get an honest reckoning about what we have done as a government. When Tony Blair used his party conference speech to remind people about Britain in 1997 - people working for £1.20 an hour, no government for London, falling overseas aid, people dying waiting for heart operations - you could see people thinking: 'Oh yeah, forgot about that.' We need to get our pride back in the fact that the country is richer, fairer and more confident than 10 years ago.
Well, some people who reside in this country are sex slaves, much more so than ten years ago. Why is a "government for London" important? What is more, that statement totally ignores the shambles that this country was in in 1979, where the Unions could hold governments to ransom, and frankly the country was not working. If you want to get an honest reckoning of this government I'd suggest you start by giving the last government an honest reckoning.
We will only get the space to defend our record if we are clear about what hasn't worked as well as what has. Teacher recruitment has been genuinely transformed, so too school buildings, but school is still boring for too many pupils who become statistics of underachievement.
So let's get this right, you have thrown all that cash at education, but there are now less children getting 5 good GCSE's than in 1997, (as in 5 above grade C, including maths, science and a foreign language) and you want space to defend what exactly? You utter, dire, nay sheer incompetence? I suspect you may not get that.
For 10 years, we have been remedying the problems we inherited.
Not that we inherited any problems then? How nice of you to leave so many problems for us to clear up. We have education which is producing more and more children who are not literate in anything other than text speak, who's arithmetic is appalling, public sector debt hidden all over the place, whilst we have had a strongly growing economy. This would not have been quite so bad if education had actually improved, because we could have been moving to a knowledge based economy. The problem is there are many graduates who can't get jobs, and youth unemployment is still very high.

Happy Saint Georges Day!

Just thought I would say that!

Happy Saint Georges Day to everyone.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

On the Campaign Trail!

It has to be said there is an awful lot of walking in a campaign, so many people to see, and so many leaflets to deliver.

Still, in the ward I am standing in, Ashenground in Haywards Heath things are looking interesting. We are seriously out delivering the Liberal Democrats on leaflets and what is more the canvas returns are very positive.

We shall have to see how the election goes on May the 3rd, though we will not know the result until the count on May the 4th.

I expect I will have worn out some shoes by then!

Is Meacher trying to wind me up?

I heard a report on todays World this Weekend on BBC Radio 4 that Michael Meacher thought he was certain to gain enough votes to be able to challenge Brown for the leadership of the Labour party.

It is my understanding that the only nomination he is definitely going to get is his own, and currently he may have three in the bag. So all he is in fact doing is making me a little more concerned about my bet with Mike Smithson of where I bet that Brown would be unopposed.

I also rather amusingly heard that Brown also "expects a challenge", nay welcomes one! Which is a bit odd given the lengths his camp appear to be going to, to ensure there isn't one. (See here and here for example)

Voting fraud, 1 million ghost voters

I have been concerned about voting fraud for some time now, but my concerns were limited to votes being stolen or people having their votes "checked" when using postal votes.

There is however another danger which is the danger of ghost voters highlighted in the Sunday Times today. Studies indicate that there may be between 1 and 3.5 million people on the electoral role who either have no right to vote or may indeed not exist at all.

In 1997 I think we all had a fair degree of confidence in our electoral system, now that is collapsing. It may well be the case that people who should not be on the electoral role are there through their own error or ignorance of the rules, but rather obviously people who don't exist did not get there by mere inadvertent mistake. Councils can be won or lost by one or two votes in key wards. There is a real danger of elections being stolen.

How is it that we have come to the stage when we have Polish election observers and some compare our elections to a banana republic?

The system needs reform, but not just to get turnout up, but to stamp on fraud. If we want to get turn out up, then we can change the voting day.

For more on voting fraud see here.

Cash for Peerages, Weekend papers speculation

There has been some interesting speculation in the papers this weekend over who will be charged in the Cash for Honours/Cash for Peerages affair.

When I heard the news I speculated that three people would be charged, and yesterdays Daily Mail carried this article claimed detectives were demanding the same people, Ruth Turner, Lord Levy and Sir Christopher Evans be charged. (Well that is the terms the Daily Mail used)

Needless to say the Crown Prosecution Service (The CPS) is now an arms length prosecuting authority and has made it clear that it decides and takes no recommendations from other agencies. (See Sky news here)

I didn't bother writing about all that yesterday because I had already covered the main points the day before here.

However I did speculate that two others could be charged and one of those in the frame would have been Tony Blair's chief of staff Jonathan Powell. The Sunday Times carries this article saying detectives believe there is enough evidence to prosecute Powell, quoting senior Whitehall sources.

All this is very interesting. Johnathan Powell is in the frame after that meeting with Turner and Levy last year which caused Ruth Turner to write a memo saying that Lord Levy was effectively asked her to lie. (I broke the injunction story here, then more details leaked here, The Times accused Lord Levy of trying to get Ruth Turner to lie, and I said that if Levy did not sue for Libel we would draw our own conclusions here.)

It's all good fun isn't it?

The question is when will the canaries sing?

You can read more on the Cash for Peerages here.

After more smears Miliband throws in the towel

David Miliband has been smeared before over adoption and faced a potential new smear over a hypothetical new adoption. Then in Yesterdays Daily Mail he faced yet another attack over avoiding inheritance tax on his parents home which is now estimated to be worth £1.5 million. (It is amusing that his father was against property ownership!)

Of course David has denied all the allegations against him. It is however clear that he has enemies who are prepared to hit well below the belt. I suppose that is politics.

He has however now made it clear that not only will he not stand, but he will vote for Gordon Brown even if Labour take a drubbing in May's elections. (See this in the Observer and this by David Miliband himself which I will Fisk a bit later.)

So that is that then. I thought my tenner was so safe in fact, I upped it to a score!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Are Savings becoming worthless as inflation hits 16 year high?

I was quite interested to hear BBC Radio 4's You and Yours reporting that inflation had hit a 16 year high as opposed to the silly claim that it had hit a 10 year high.

However the program also highlighted the issue of savings not attracting enough interest to cover inflation (certainly after tax) which means that you may as well spend money now and not save, as money in the back will lose value.

This is not good. It is already the case that there is no longer any point in many people saving for a pension as they will lose any benefits in means testing. It is therefore no surprise that the savings ratio is low and likely to decline.

Interest rates are set to rise next month which may address that, but it will also cause a lot of pain for people who are already over extended on their borrowing. Part of the problem is the economy only has blunt levers to control it. When they move, people will be hurt. The only questions are how many, and how badly.

Brown hobbles opponents to keep my tenner safe!

Sometime last year I came to the conclusion that Gordon Brown would be crowned Labour leader unopposed an would do so, not by being so brilliant that he was the unanimous choice but by making sure there was no other choice.

I even went as far as betting Mike Smithson a friendly £10 that Gordon Brown would be unopposed for the Labour leadership.

It seems that Gordon Brown's campaign team headed by Jack Straw has sewn up all the votes and nominations and according to this article has outed anyone who dare not declare their absolute loyalty to the Dear Leader, Gordon.

This will deny an real choice to Labour's rank and file members, and will not impress the electorate. What is more is that the over zealousness of Brown's team stops Labour having the cathartic period of a leadership election.

I have to say I am very pleased, if I could pick anyone to lose Labour the next general election Gordon Brown would be it. What is more the nature of his succession will just demoralise Labour's troops. Well it works for me!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cash for Peerages, File handed to CPS!

Yes, Inspector Yates of the Yard has handed his file over to the CPS. They will make the decision whether to charge bring charges or not.

The file is a 216 page report with supporting material. The police have consulted the CPS throughout the inquiry so clearly the contents of the file will come as no surprise.

There is, in my view a high likelihood of 3 people being charges. Ruth Turner, Lord Levy and Sir Christopher Evans. Quite possibly for perverting the course of justice rather than anything else. There may also be another 2 people charged.

The BBC has this.

For more on Cash for Peerages see here.

Weasels try to escape scrutiny

It appears some MP's are supporting a private members bill, laid before Parliament by Former Conservative chief whip David Maclean, a man who ought to be thoroughly ashamed of himself.

The bill allows MP's exemption from the Freedom of Information Act, so that we can't find out how much MP's get in expenses and what for. This is trying to roll back transparency and is clearly wrong.

Regular readers will remember that Norman Baker, (Liberal Democrat) MP for Lewis spent two years trying to beat the expenses information out of the House of Commons which spent £17,000 resisting!

Anyway, there is now an online petition you can sign to register your disapproval of this bill, here, I have signed it and I urge you to sign it as well.

Fortunately there are many members across all parties who think this is a very bad idea as well.

The BBC has this

Tony Blair to resign on May the 9th?

Well, at least announce he is going to go on Wednesday May the 9th, the day after devolution restarts in Northern Ireland. That is according to this story by "the Mole" in the first post.

Senior ministers and figures have cleared their diaries, and so on.

Well, I am not sure. He could well go then, but he could hang on. He has confounded all those looking to predict what he was going to do so far and I can't see why that would change. What is more, my understanding is "the Mole" is closer to Number 11 than Number 10 Downing street.

Still, not long to go until the local elections now, when it is widely expected that Labour will take a Drubbing.

hat tip to Mike Smithson of here and ChrisD here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Speed cameras, are they working?

The short answer is it is hard to tell. If you look at the detailed figures and dig around a bit it seems at best marginal, though the proponents of speed cameras have a plethora of statistics they use to back up the claim they are effective.

There is one fascinating key statistic. In the decade before speed cameras were introduced road deaths fell by over a quarter, whilst in the decade since they have only fallen by 8%, despite all the new safety features on cars.

Even the injury figures seem in doubt as doctors have looked back at their records, and the drop claimed by police figures just are not borne out by the doctors records.

Then of course there is the way the figures are presented. They tend to lump deaths in with "serious injuries". The issue is of course what is a serious issue. It turns out this could go from a broken arm to paralysis. The former I would regard as unlikely to be serious whilst the latter always is. Lumping events like this together looks like manipulation.

What is more, cars are a lot more friendly to passengers than they were in the past, so you would expect the level of injuries and deaths to drop because of that alone.

There is of course another issue. The increase in speed cameras has been mirrored by a reduction if traffic police. The problem with this is that the cameras can't spot all the other sorts of behavior that leads to road deaths that traffic police can, like for example erratic or drunk driving. In fact they can even spot people driving so slowly they are obstructing the highway or obviously not paying attention to the road at all. None of these can be spotted by speed cameras.

See this article on the BBC.

Join in the great facebook race!

There is apparently a race on face book to see which political party gets to 5,000 members on facebook!

Click the above link to join in the race on the Conservative side, and pass it on to your friends!

If nominated, I shall run to Mexico. If elected, I shall fight extradition

Now that is a denial! It was said by Mo Udall when asked if he would run for president of the United States of America in 1984 (He did run in 1976, but was beaten for the Democratic nomination by Jimmy Carter).

It comes from this article on the BBC's website on non denial denials which is exactly what David Miliband has just done again on the question of whether he would run as a candidate for the Labour leadership.

I still don't think he will run, I think he would be made to run, but then I think Labour are mad to sleepwalk into a Brown premiership.

Labour's favorite Chancellor

It's amazing what you find on the Internet. I came across this article from the Independent on November the 26th, 1996, entitled Ken Clarke's Secret Fan Club.

Here are some great quotes:
Among his more open Opposition supporters is a distinguished array of eminent Labour economists. Meghnad Desai, professor at the London School in Economics, once economic adviser to John Smith and a former spokesman for the party in the House of Lords, is an outspoken cheerleader for Chancellor Ken: "We've had the best three years of economic growth almost ever, due to a combination of common sense and boldness on the part of Kenneth Clarke. He's been quite brilliant."

John Wells, lecturer in economics at Cambridge and a former Labour adviser, is another unabashed enthusiast: "The man has a degree of self-confidence that Gordon Brown lacks. Brown is probably terribly insecure about his grasp of economics, while Clarke is prepared to follow his intuitions and isn't afraid to stand up to people. He's also a bit more of a Keynesian, too."

Austin Mitchell is one of the few Labour MPs devoted (or just plain reckless) enough to admit it. "Oh yes, I am a fan," he cheerily confirms. "Ken's got panache, and a greater ability to take risks and get away with them than any previous Chancellor, Labour or Tory."

"Gordon Brown is so orthodox that I think he's going to be awful. And Ken's more left-wing than Gordon, of course."

Such closet treachery is not confined to the powerless back-benches, either. Take the following blunt response, from a frontbench spokesman when asked if he expects the Shadow Chancellor's handling of the economy to match Clarke's: "No. Gordon doesn't have the economic grasp that Clarke has." Or even this, from a Shadow Cabinet member. "I think I'd rather have Clarke as my Chancellor any day, but if you say I said that, I'll sue."

It makes interesting and amusing reading!

So when Labour claim to be the sole authors of economic success they are of course wrong, but what is more worrying is that key indicators such as inflation and public sector debt are seriously going the wrong way.

Hat tip to Witan on for the link to the article.

Another NHS pay blunder?

The Daily Mail carries this story on NHS pay, and in particular consultants pay, which has risen by £20,000 in the last 2 years for less work.

This is because apparently the number of hours that a consultant worked was underestimated by the government so when it tightened the hours it got it wrong.

According to the National Audit Office the consultants are getting 27% more pay for less work, rather than more. The NAO blames ministers and health managers.

Mind you I knew about this years ago, and assumed every one else did as well. I know of one consultant who used to do autopsies for the money, but now no longer needs to as she has that money as of right.

They ship in a consultant from London to do them once a week instead.

The law of unintended consequences. Brilliant.

Dr John Reid was in charge at the time. Sort of explains why the Home Office is so well run now.

The BBC has this.

For more on the NHS see here.

Another bloody day in Iraq

Up to 200 dead in one day.

An eye witness described seeing a swimming pool of blood.

It need not have been this way.

There could have been a competent plan for the peace.

There was.

It was thrown in the bin.

Shame on you Donald Rumsfeld.

Meanwhile here in the UK, the good folks in New Labour keep asking us to hold the bombers and their backers to account.

We would if we could, but as I understand it, they are not standing for elections in the UK, so how are we supposed to do that?

We will hold to account, a bloody account, the politicians who had a plan for a short war, but no plan for peace. Such arrogance and stupidity must be punished.

I wrote this a long time ago about why we are in this mess in Iraq. Then Ken Adelman, former Assistant Secretary of Defence blamed us for not forcing them to notice how badly the US was doing the job in Iraq, it was our fault, cheeky, but he had a bit of a point.

The BBC has this, and you can read more articles on Iraq here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Labour finally notice impact of immigration on the poor

Liam Byrne, immigration minister at the home office has noticed that large scale mass immigration adversly affects the poor.

How nice of him to notice and indeed say so. It is something that has been observed for a long while by those of us on the right though. Immigration is fine. The problem comes of course when it is too large in scale. The reason for this is the sudden impact it has on a lot of peoples lives. If you work to settle people, get the cooperation and acceptance of host communities and ensure that services are there for all there tends to be less of a problem.

Thing is that has not been done since 1997. Asylum seekers have been "dispersed" and for that you should read dumped, all over the place in some of the poorest parts of the country making existing problems worse whilst adding racial tension as a whole new problem. For what ever reason the resource to deal with the problems has not turned up on the ground.

However economics is frequently used as an argument for immigration. As an argument for bringing in some people with skills, yes I agree, but mass immigration to keep wages down in certain sectors just keeps the poor poor. It also tends to prop up uneconomic businesses that can't pay the staff a living wage. So instead of dealing with those issues so that they can pay a living wage, they just get in cheap Labour from elsewhere to prop them selves up. I can't see the point.

Quite a lot of the immigrants who come here are quite highly qualified, but many still end up doing menial jobs because they pay much better than what ever they did at home. Ultimately this just prices people already hear out of the market place. Particularly those who are entitled to benefits.

The Times has this.

For more on immigration see here.

Inflation at 15 year high, as unemployment rises

On the BBC news bulletins I have heard they keep saying inflation is the highest in 10 years. That is of course wrong, and is based on the fact that it is the highest measured by CPI in 10 years because we have only been measuring inflation that way for 10 years.

If you look at the RPI figures, it is in fact the highest in nearly 16 years, in fact it is the highest since July 1991. So why is the BBC saying it is only the highest for 10 years? Why are they letting Ed Balls spout rubbish about inflation on the basis that it is only a 10 year high rather than a 15 year high?

What is of more concern is that inflation is going the wrong way and needs to be brought under control.

The problem is that means raising interest rates, whilst unemployment has just risen. An interest rate rise is not going to help that.

Virginia Tech Massacre in perspective

It is of course extraordinarily sad that 32 people, young people have been murdered in cold blood.

There will no doubt be many calls to do something.

At a time like this we need to have some perspective, the reality is that in the last 50 years there have been 500 "spree killings" worldwide.

This includes Columbine, Dunblane and Hungerford.

In the same time over 150,000 have died on the UK's roads alone, in France we are looking at nearer 300,000, Yugoslavia just does not bear thinking about as the death rate on the roads in the former Yugoslavia make every where else look like a safe place to drive!

Virginia Tech has just become a "weapon free zone". The problem is of course, is that only applies to those who follow the regulations, it does not apply to those who don't.

In all the spree killings the one thing that is common is that the perpetrator is better armed than the victims.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Off to a book launch, The Political Punter by Mike Smithson

I am off to a book launch this afternoon at the National Liberal Club in Whitehall of a book published today.

It is called the Political Punter, by Mike Smithson of, and should be a good read.

I should also meet quite a few other bloggers, including Iain Dale and Guido, as well as Mike Smithson himself.

Should be fun, if I can get any drinks before the journalists quaff it all!

Inflation in 10 year high, interest rates to rise

According to reports inflation as measured by the CPI has hit 3.1%, the highest it has been since the measure was introduced in 1997. RPI, the former measure has hit 4.8% (a rise from 4.6% last month).

Firstly this means that the Governor of the Bank of England will have to write a letter to Gordon Brown explaining why the 3% mark has been breached. It got close back in January when inflation hit 3%, but eased back reducing fears of an interest rate hike. It is clear now however that there does need to be a rise in interest rates, and arguably that there should have been one last month.

The last time inflation peaked in January I wrote this article, pointing out that inflation as measured by RPI was the highest it has been since 1991. It is not 0.4% higher and so is the highest it has been for at least 16 years. As soon as I get hold of the Office of National Statistics Website I will check, but it is obviously being flooded right now.

So much for Gordon Brown's economic miracle. Inflation now higher than when Norman Lamont was Chancellor!

Update 11:00

The Office of national Statistics report is here, and inflation as measured by RPI is now the highest it has been since July 1991, almost 16 years ago. (See here)

Labour on lowest poll rating ever

According to this poll in the Times today. It puts Labour on 29% (-1) Conservatives on 37% (Also -1) and the Liberal Democrats on 20% (+2).

According to Martin Baxter's election predictor here, that gives a seat break down of 321 seats for the Conservatives, 243 for Labour and 53 for the Liberal Democrats. That puts the Conservatives 5 short of an overall majority.

Last Tuesday, in this article I predicted that Labour would go below 30% and they have. They have hit their lowest poll rating ever and I still predict that they can fall from here. The only question is can the Conservatives capitalise on Labour's woes.

Mind you I am still waiting for my favourite pollsters ICM and YouGov to produce polls as they will make more interesting reading.

Monday, April 16, 2007

So should Swiss Toni, aka Des Browne resign?

My view is yes, and here is why.

There are three separate areas of failure.

The first is the capture of the service personnel in the first place. As I have commented before, during the first gulf war our forces did not stray into this area and the Foreign and Commonwealth office had a desk to monitor positions of inbound shipping and say which ones could and could not be intercepted, based on position. This procedure seems not to have been followed, and Des Browne and others have failed here.

Also worthy of note is that the helicopter providing air cover had to return to the HMS Cornwall because it was running out of fuel. Clearly it is daft to have forces exposed in or near disputed waters, near a country that has form for taking our Marines hostage, without adequate protection.

There will be an inquiry into this, but ultimately Des Browne has not secured enough funding to carry out the task at hand. Had he done so then there would have been more hardware in the areas.

The second area of failing is the nature of the training for the personnel involved. They were clearly in a front line role, with the risk of capture, without the necessary training to survive it. This is doubly concerning in the Royal Marines involved as they definitely should have been so trained.

Lastly there is the fiasco surrounding the sale of the stories. Des Browne appears not to have known or inquired what the rules were on the sales of stories. Had he done so he would have none that the circumstances must be exceptional, and He was the only person who could have approved them.

Now it is true these circumstances were exceptional. They were so because as far as I can remember never has a member of Her Majesty's forces nipped on telly so fast to apologies quite so fast. The rest of the circumstances are not exceptional.

Newspapers regularly wave cash under peoples noses for stories, it has happened before in MOD cases and will happen again. The stock reply in the past has been no. What for example happened to our captured marines who were held for 3 days? Did they get such permission.

We have had soldiers captured before and released before. Nothing exceptional there.

In fact the only thing that is exceptional is how easy it was for the Iranians to get the captives cooperation. It has been said by many commentators that they had a hard time. Compared to what? A walk in the park? Well yes a much harder time than that. Compared to Flight Lieutenant John Nichol who was shot down over Iraq in the first Gulf war and physically tortured over months? I don't think so. Indeed the Iranians have there own just released captive who claims to have been tortured over months. So the reality is that for the line of work, they did not have that hard a time.

So what were the Admirals who hatched this propaganda plan thinking? They allowed the stories to be sold and according to some reports encouraged it, to counter Iranian propaganda, by showing that the sailors and marines only broke after appalling treatment. Clearly they did not debrief either Faye Turney or Athur Batchelor properly, because had they done so, and realised what they were going to say to the press they would have denied permission.

Now not only is there the embarrassment that some of our service personnel are so ill disciplined that they carry iPods, and think it noteworthy that they are taken when captured there is the rather obvious effect on the morale of all our other service personnel who bear their situation with much more fortitude. No one seems to have asked how they would feel upon hearing that people were being paid for being captured, and crying like a baby? I can tell you that they are more than a tad upset!

There may be inquiries, but as Liam Fox, Conservative Shadow Defence minister said in today's House of Commons debate, Des "Swiss Toni" has shown a lack of political judgement.

Tony Blair doesn't want a with hunt. Well that is just tough. I want heads to roll, both in the Admiralty and the MOD, including Des Browne. I can't agree with Iain Dale who thinks that he survives for now. he should have gone already.

For more on the hostage crisis see here.

Defence Chiefs backing Browne

Apparently the defence chiefs are backing Des Browne, according to this article on the BBC's website.

He has done some good for the military such as get them pay rises for example.

Seems to me that is missing the point. The Admirals, Generals and Air Chiefs don't fight wars, it is the sailors soldiers, and air crew who do. It seems that many of them are deeply unhappy about the whole Iran hostage thing, and have no confidence in Des Browne. So unless the defence chiefs fancy getting in the front line themselves, perhaps they should consult more widely.

I was listening the the Today program on BBC Radio 4 this morning and caught an interview between two people, one of whom was Lewes Page, author of Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs, and formerly of the Royal Navy . He thought that Des Browne resigning would be pointless, but did say that Admirals could as the Navy has more than a few.

One of the curious things about our armed forces is that we still have roughly the same number of chiefs as we did in the Second World War. Clearly this costs a lot of money, because these people not only have salaries, but they also have staff. In short in needs looking at.

For more on the Iran Hostage crisis see here.

Des Browne to resign!

Yes you heard it here first!

Des Browne, the Defence Secretary is set to resign. We know this because Number 10's spokesman has said Tony Blair has full confidence in Des Browne.

As soon as the BBC has more, I will add a link.

On a more serious note, Des Browne will clearly have a rough time this afternoon as he gives his statement in the House of Commons, over the whole Iran hostage crisis, from how and why they were captured in the first place to the selling of the stories afterwards.

There are many questions to answer. Mine would be why are we fighting so many wars in so many places on such a tight budget?

More on the hostages can be found here.

Update 13:51

The BBC has this on the defence chiefs backing Des Browne which also covers Tony Blair's "full support".

Olmert and Abbas meet to please Rice

Apparently Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas have met to discuss the nature of a Palestinian state.

The BBC has an optimistic report here, whereas Ha'aretz carries a more battle hardened and cynical viw here based on a closer relationship with the protagonists.

In essence it is of course big news that these two have met, however they have met after considerable pressure from the US, and clearly the Palestinians feel that the Israelis are just going through the motions to tick the right boxes to keep the Americans happy.

That said, maybe Ha'aretz or the Palestinians are wrong?

The facts are these.

The Palestinians are tired.

The Israelis are tired.

The USA needs a solution.

So where is the problem? Most Palestinians and Israelis could agree on 98% of the solution tomorrow, in somewhat less than 35 minutes!

The problem is of course the significant minority on both sides who want it all.

Israel and Syria 35 minutes away from peace?

Well according to Bill Clinton in an interview with the London based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. Regrettably their website does not yet carry the interview, but Ha'aretz carries a report here.

Apparently peace could be close bar the influence of Iran. Well, they were close in 1998, the reality was a few hundred yards of shoreline on the Sea of Galilee.

However what I found interesting in the Ha'aretz report was Bill Clinton's take on why the Israeli Palestinian peace process got nowhere. According to Clinton Yassir Arafat trusted Yitzak Rabin, and his assassination caused the problems.

I look forward to reading the interview when it is online.

Update 13:28

Anthony has very kindly posted a link to the story in the comments.

the Interview is fairly brief but interesting. You can find it here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

That Goat story is number one, again!

You must have heard the story about the man caught "having sexual relations" with a goat in the Sudan, who was when caught, forced to marry the goat.

Well, it is back as the number one most emailed story on the BBC news website AGAIN!

I bet he is pleased the BBC don't have a picture of him, because he would be world famous in a very bad way otherwise!

The story was last updated on Tuesday the 7th of November and has been the most emailed story many many times.

Anyway the story is here, and if you want to see what is currently the most emailed story see the BBC news website here.

Browne in the brown stuff

According to the spin from the MOD Des Browne merely noted a decision made by the Royal Navy's top brass, he could have stopped it, but it was not really his decision.

The problem with that story is that it is not true. According to Saturday's Telegraph here, and The Sunday Times here the rules show that the sale could have only gone ahead with the specific authorisation of Des Browne.

The Sunday Times also lays into Browne some more with this castigating comment from General Lord Guthrie, attacking the way that both Des Browne and Geoff Hoon have used the MOD press office to protect their handling of things rather than the MOD or armed services in a culture of spin.

The Sunday Times also has this on how Mr Bean sank the Royal Navy.

However it gets worse, according to the Sunday Telegraph, Des Browne "went AWOL" when the cash for stories drama broke.

I would not want to be Des Browne on Monday when he gives his explanation to the House of Commons. This story still seems to have plenty of mileage left in it.

For more on the hostage crisis see here.

Fools Gold, how Gordon Brown flogged of the gold reserves against advice

I am not quite sure what the story is here.

It was clear at the time that the way the gold reserves were sold off were not that clever. Well according to this article in the Sunday Times, Gordon Brown was warned in a note of a meeting he couldn't be bothered to turn up to that selling the reserves off then was mad, as it was the bottom of the market and even if you did want to sell it off, you would do it quietly so as not to depress the price further.

The advice was ignored. What a surprise!


Is that the story? Well yes to some extent it is, but there is a bigger picture. In fact arguably speaking there are two. The first is Gordon Brown's history coming back to haunt him, and then there is a paper in the Murdoch stable, albeit more editorially independent than the rest going for Gordon Brown's jugular.

As Iain Dale observes, there is "More Trouble at't Mill for Gordon Brown"

Charles Clarke on Leadership elections and long weeks

Charles Clarke has written this long but interesting article for the Mail on Sunday about party leadership elections, and how the week that nominations for the Labour party leadership election will be a long time.

It makes interesting reading and I would recommend it.

The headline is:
Brown is NOT a dead cert to be Prime Minister

Which is of course a statement of the obvious. He is almost a dead cert though. However the irritating git had a "love in" with George Bush, which is not a problem to me, but will make him less popular with Labour's electoral college. What is Brown trying to do? Lose the leadership so Labour have a chance of wining the next general election? I think we should be told!

Cash for Peerages, Charges soon!

Well, according to page 12 of the News of the World they will be.

They speculate that 3 people will be charged with a high probability of another 2. Papers are to go to the CPS in about a month.

When I go shopping I will be armed with a notebook and will hopefully have more.

I wonder what Michael White would say if they are right?

NOTW, We can't afford another Diana!

Well that is the headline in the News of the World.

They then spend the next 9 pages speculating over the split between Prince William and Kate Middleton, which is exactly the sort of behavior that led to the tragic death of Princess Diana.

Well, even if it is rank hypocrisy it seems to sell papers.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Media to speculate why Kate and Prince William split

Apparently according to one report I heard, someone from the Tatler was quoted as saying that now the media will be in some sort of frenzy trying to work out why Kate Middleton and Prince William had split.

The irony.

It seems these fools can't work out for themselves how much pressure the media speculation of the last few years has put them under. It must be very distressing to have all sorts of journalists and photographers following your every move and then writing it up endlessly.

The BBC has this.

Iran Hostage Crisis, what they are saying in the Gulf

And I expect elsewhere as well. Ted in a comment on this article highlighted this, in the Gulf Times. It does not make comfortable reading. However here are some extracts.
Lot number two, the highlight of this unique auction, ladies and gentlemen of the press, is a female sailor, 26, who is instantly recognisable after auditioning for various parts on Iranian television recently. Indeed, her on-air endorsement of Camel Lights drew rave reviews from media buyers across the world.

Now we know what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meant when he said he was giving Britain a gift for Easter by releasing the 15 sailors and Marines held in Tehran for 13 days.

He was in fact giving the rest of the world the opportunity to observe a country whose moral judgment was finally declared bankrupt.

The Ministry of Defence, once the upholder of everything that was revered about the British Armed Forces, treated hundreds of years of tradition with derision by allowing the released hostages to sell their stories to the media for up to a reported $500,000.

It was in stark contrast to the Royal Air Force pilots shot down during the early stages of the first Gulf War in 1991. They appeared battered, bruised and heavily sedated as they were paraded with one foot in the grave in front of cameras for the world to see.

Did they bring shame to their profession? No, they were barred by the MoD from talking to the media and have shared the mental scars only with family and friends ever since.

So what has happened in the intervening years? A MoD official was quoted as saying to the father of one of the hostages: "Go out there, tell the truth and make the money."

Every year on November 11 Britons celebrate the lives of lost soldiers with Armistice Day. Every year the number of those who served and survived in the First World War becomes fewer and fewer. Those with the faculties to understand what the ‘blood money’ negotiated by the military personnel of today represents have every right to feel abandoned. As do the families of all the victims of war.

For the record, the standard payment to a serviceman losing an arm in combat is about $100,000.

That puts the shameful auction of Easter weekend into proper perspective.
It is shaming that we can't really argue with that isn't it?

For more on the Hostage crisis see here.

If you did not feel like doing it before, please sign this petition here, and support my campaign to boycott the Sun and the Mirror next Friday, and try and get other bloggers to as well.

Brown on Celebrity, preaching to the converted

There is an interesting article in The Guardian today featuring Gordon Brown's comments on celebrity in politics and how he thinks the time of celebrity if over and it is now the time for serious politics.

He is of course preaching to the converted in the Guardian, and with a bit of luck he will shore up his leadership bid. As a Conservative the last thing I want is for Labour to stumble on someone electable. Mind you I am not sure they have any one more electable than Brown but I don't want to find out!

There are some interesting quotes in the article though. Like this one:
Asked about the contrast between his writing and the prime minister doing Catherine Tate impersonations on Red Nose day, he replies: "I think we're moving from this period when, if you like, celebrity matters, when people have become famous for being famous. I think you can see that in other countries too - people are moving away from that to what lies behind the character and the personality."
Well, even if that was the case, the fact is that many can see what lies behind the character and personality and I don't think they like it. There was after all the Robbing the poor to give to the rich budget, and the great pensions Smash and grab. I get the feeling that know when Gordon Brown speaks people check their wallets to see how much he has stolen. Then there is the fact that when anything tricky comes up, he is just not there, like Macavity.

In short the voters can already see what lies behind Gordon Brown, and they don't like it.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Tony Blair responds to petition!

Or rather he doesn't, the team that manage the petition website recycled what he said on TV on Wednesday. You can read the response online here. But I will quote and Fisk it below:
Look, I didn't actually know about the decision until after it was taken but really that is not the point.
Well, the person taking it can't have known about it until he took it can he? The question is did you know they were thinking about it?
The Navy were trying to deal with a wholly exceptional situation in which the families were being pursued by the media to sell their stories and the Navy took the view that it was better to manage the situation rather than let it happen.
I see. So the media trying to buy the story was a shock was it? The fact is that they had several days notice of the problem, because the media were trying to buy the story before the hostages were released. They could have taken advice on the matter from people like Max Clifford who would have told them that if you sell an exclusive to one paper then all the papers who put in a bid but did not get it would set about trashing the reputation of the person selling the story. It has happened before and will happen again. In short the situation has not been managed at all.
Now with hindsight was that a good idea? No, precisely because people would then misrepresent that as somehow the Navy encouraging people to sell their stories, which they weren't doing at all.
Well, Arthur Batchelor feels that he was encouraged to believe just that, and though everyone else was doing the same. Otherwise he would not have sold his story.
Do I believe it will happen again? No.
Good, but it is a bit late now though isn't it? The damage has already been done.
But were people acting completely in good faith and honourably so far as the Navy was concerned? Yes, they were.
So what? They made a blunder of catastrophic proportions, and have lost the respect of the armed forces. It does not matter how well meaning they decision was it was very bad, and heads should roll!
Now I think we've had days of this now and really it's time to move on.
You wish! The media and the public will decide when it is time to move on, not you.

You can read more on the hostage crisis here.

We should boycott the Sun and the Mirror

We should boycott the Sun and the Mirror, because by waving large amounts of cash under the noses of impressionable young people they have helped bring shame on the nation.

I therefore call on all right thinking people to say no one should buy the Sun or Mirror on Friday April the 20th.

With a bit of luck the campaign will gather enough steam that these people will learn.

Pass it on.

That Iran Hostage Navy Crisis, sign this petition!

Some one has got this petition listed on Number 10's petition website.

Sign it!

It says:
We the undersigned consider the statement to allow members of Her Majesty's forces to sell their stories to the media to be a major government failure -and PR disater for the Royal Navy - and "heads should roll" at the highest level.
I agree, I have signed.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

NHS Hospital building scandal

The news is awash with stories about how the government appears to have been favouring Labour areas with hospitals instead of Conservative and Liberal Democrat ones.

The BBC here, quotes it as £3.5 billion of a total of £4.1 billion on new hospitals being in Labour areas.

The Independent also has this.

There is a point there, though there is also the defence that Labour have more MP's and up until 2005 had substantially more MP's than the other parties combined. Having said that the disparity is 85% Labour to 15% everyone else and clearly they have never held 85% of the seats.

What is worse is that Hazel Blears, chairman of the Labour party was in meetings with Department of Health ministers and officials over making sure that hospital closures and cuts did not occur in sensitive areas. Then of course we had the scandal of Labour ministers campaigning against their own cuts. (see here also)

What concerns me more is the habit of building new hospitals whilst closing or downgrading others leaving less hospitals and or hospital services. That in my view is the real scandal, building new hospitals to cover up for the fact that more old ones are being downgraded and closed.

For example the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath is now under threat. It may lose key services like maternity. Anything could happen from nothing to closure by the death of a thousand cuts.

Is it any wonder then, that now according to this article from Iain Dale that only 7% of Doctors would vote Labour whereas 43% would vote Conservative?

Labour really are in trouble if they are losing the public service vote to that extent.

Iran Hostage Crisis, It's time to move on

According to Tony Blair who has now said today that in hindsight it was not a good idea.

Really? A demented chimpanzee would have had enough foresight to know it was a cataclysmicly bad idea to allow the sale of the stories, what is more some of them should have been suppressed. Didn't anyone tell Arthur Batchelor that saying you had your ears flicked, being called Mr Bean and thinking they were making a coffin for you does not mean you tell the whole wide world that you "cried like a baby"? If not why not? It makes the Royal Navy look bad. Very bad indeed.

In fact I think Arthur Batchelor has been very badly let down indeed. Apparently he is not leaving his house out of fear, regrets giving the interview, he was led to believe that all the hostages would be giving interviews. I suspect he will not be in the Navy for much longer, and will lead a life of depression, possible addiction and quite possibly suicide. It is a grim prediction and I hope it does not come to pass. The man will need a lot of support.

Anyway, is it time to move on? No, not until we have had at least two heads on pikes, Des Browne, and the Admiral who suggested that the stories should be sold.

Obviously, what with the damage done to the reputation and morale or our armed services as well as the reputation of the country any self respecting honourable Prime Minister would also resign, but as we haven't got one of those, he wont.

The BBC has this here. The Grauniad has this.

For more on the Iran Hostage Crisis see here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Iran hostage Crisis Des Browne accepts responsibility!

In an interview in the last hour Des Browne, the Defence Secretary has accepted responsibility for the selling of the stories!


The BBC has this.

It also appears that Tony Blair knew on Sunday that the stories were going to be sold, though Des Browne only spoke to him about it on Tuesday.

I wonder if anyone is going to resign over this? Some how I doubt it.

Having said that the key issue is the actual abductions and making sure they never happen again. They should never have been in a position where there was no air cover, and indeed there may well have been no need for them to have been in that particular part of the gulf.

For more on the hostage crisis see here.

Iran Hostage Crisis, who knew about selling stories?

Unsurprisingly Liam Fox, Conservative Shadow Defence Secretary is keeping up the pressure on the government about the whole hostage crisis including the original capture. He is demanding an inquiry.

I am not sure how much we need one, as the reasons for the capture are clear, but someone does need to take responsibility which they will not do unless they get criticised by an inquiry.

The other interesting aspect is the question of who knew what and when, and who gave the green light to the sale of the stories.

We know that the suggestion came up from the Navy, (or at least we think we do) and went to a defence minister probably Des Browne. However Downing street is refusing to answer questions on whether Tony Blair knew or not.

Now the decision has become a bit of a stinker it seems every one wants to distance themselves from it.

The BBC has this here.

For more on the hostages see here.

There was always going to be a loser in a case like Natallie Evans' case

I would hope that all people with charitable hearts would feel for Natallie Evans today, she has after all lost all chance of having her own baby, that is of her own flesh. It is not like she has not tried, not fought the fight, she has taken it as far as she possibly could.

I would also like to think that all good people with charitable hearts would have felt for Howard Johnston had the case gone the other way.

There are times in the affairs of men when these things happen. You have to balance the rights of one person against the other and no matter what the outcome it will never be satisfactory to all.

You see, had he had testicular cancer and were no longer able to impregnate he would have been in exactly the same position.

With a bit of luck and a following wind both sperm and eggs will be stored unfertilized just in case relationships split. It certainly seems to be the prudent thing to do in the light of all the circumstances and I would argue that it would be negligent of any fertility clinic not to offer such a service.

The BBC has this rather sad story.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

How low can Labour go?

What with all the bad news in the press around Labour, and indeed Yougov's brandindex ratings on Gordon Brown and Tony Blair falling like a stone (see here) you have to wonder what the next sensible poll is going to show?

By sensible poll I generally mean Yougov and ICM.

The bad news has been deafening over the last few weeks. Any poll carried out in the next few days has got to show serious damage to Labour. Personally I think they could go below 30%, and even as low as 28%.

I don't know how much the Conservatives will score, but if labour are below 30% and the Conservatives on or above 40% that will cause serious waves in Labour's ranks.

Bring on the next poll I say!

For the three who retained their dignity

In my despair at the actions of some of the 15 released hostages and indeed the MOD, I had forgotten that 3 of our boys acted with dignity throughout. They did not suck up the President Ahmadinejad, nor sell any stories.

In short they retained their dignity in difficult circumstances.

Well done!

See also, Bel is thinking here.

Hostage Crisis, Stable door bolted after horses have bolted

Apparently the Cretin* Des Browne, currently Defence Secretary (though possibly not for much longer of Tony Blair had both sense and power, though he appears to have neither), has now banned the selling of stories by servicemen.

Well it is a bit late now isn't it?

Not only is there the morale sapping issue of many many service personnel who put their lives on the line on a daily basis not getting windfalls for surrendering** who must wonder what the armed services have come to.

Then there are all the relatives of those who have lost their lives and received at best a widows pension. They have taken their loss with dignity. We as a nation owe them our thanks.

What is worse however is the stories they have told. I have not read the scum media that paid for the stories myself because they make me sick, however I am led to believe that the youngest soldier complained of having his ears flicked, being called mister Bean and fearing they were measuring him up for a coffin. He then related how he cried like a baby in his cell. Ah bless.

It is one thing all this being true, it is another blazing it across the red tops. What was he thinking? He has made all his colleagues look like wimps as well as himself. They must be livid. It hardly brings glory to our armed forces, nor is it likely to strike fear into the enemy is it? Prat.

Faye Turney apparently was stripped to her underwear and feared she would never see her daughter again. Well that is a risk run in the armed services. If you don't like it get a job doing something else. People in the armed services die, it goes with the job.

The other thing is that this was all a bit predictable. I heard Max Clifford on BBC Radio 4's one o'clock news this afternoon, whilst I was out digging in my allotment.

I am not quite sure whether he said he was consulted or whether he was saying what he would have said if he was, but over the course of the interview he made a number of key points.

Firstly that the selling of the stories was some kind of counter propaganda attempt that has obviously gone badly wrong.

Secondly and more obvious with foresight rather than hindsight,if you sell a story for cash, it has to be an exclusive. If it is an exclusive then there are a number of tabloids who don't get the story and set about destroying it, and the people involved. This is in part happening.

He would or did have strongly advised against.

Meanwhile the papers have the following:

The Times front page has this, with this inside on how the officers involved did not want payment, and this leading article which says ministers can't escape responsibility.

The Daily Mail has this by Richard Littlejohn, who is pleased his father is not alive to witness this, this on the U-turn and this reaction from the mother of Eleanor Dlugosz who died on the day the 15 were released.

The Telegraph has this.

* If any cretins are offended by being compared to Des Browne, I humbly apologise and am truly sorry for any offence caused.

** I am not suggesting that in the circumstances there was another option other than surrender, it is however not an event we should be dwelling on.