Saturday, June 30, 2007

Spare a thought for the tow truck crew

One of the things I thought was fascinating about the two car bombs found in London is that one of them was towed away after having been given a ticket and then clamped.

When the crew who towed the car away realise who they are, there will be no alcohol or cigarettes in the house, nor will there be any clean underpants.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Gordon Brown gets a bounce in the polls

According to reports on Conservative home and Gordon Brown has a bounce.

Figures are not yet clear but an ICM poll in the Guardian tomorrow will show Labour on 39% compared to the Conservatives on 35%. Other numbers are not yet available.

I expected some bounce for Brown, but this is a little bigger than expected. I don't think it will last past the conference season, nor is it as big as John Major's bounce in 1990, which took the Conservative party to 49% compared to 39% for Labour. (hat tip to Liberal Tory here for the numbers, but please note that a 17 year old poll is not that good a poll.)

So in essence Gordon Brown does not have the poll lead he needs to guarantee victory in 3 years time and it is touch and go now.

My take is this, Gordon's best chance of getting reelected is to call a general election sooner rather than later. The longer he leaves it the more the "it's time for a change" will count against him.
If he takes this chance and calls a general election for September or October he may get an overall majority, though my money would be on a hung parliament. If he leaves it Labour will lose.

I will add more when I have seen the online reports. There is also a Yougov poll with a Labour lead, Labour 38%, Conservatives 35%, from here.

Is there going to be a Revolution in Iran?

For some time now I and many others have been hearing about rumblings on the streets of Tehran, and indeed other parts of Iran. The population of Iran is becoming younger by the day and frankly they are not happy.

Iran is a religious country full of traditions, but people do need jobs and frankly the economy stinks. Inflation is running at 20 to 30%. Not an issue that would bring about a revolution on its own, but it adds to the mix. Then there is unemployment which is high and growing, disaffection with the rules of the theocracy and last but not least the sudden imposition of petrol rationing.

Iran does not have much in the way of refining capacity so although it produces and exports a lot of oil, it does not produce petrol. The problem here is that it then has to import petrol, which it then subsidises, at immense cost to the treasury. Iran is running out of the cash to buy petrol.

Obviously the answer is simple, or at least it should be, Iran has some very clever scientists capable of building some test nuclear plant and clearly seems to think it has the money to do so, so it clearly can and indeed ought to develop its own refineries. It isn't. Instead it is spending vast amounts of money not only on its own defence, but a nuclear program which is causing the country immense problems and money on mucking about in other peoples countries as well, like hundreds of millions of dollars to Hezbollah to fund the rebuilding the the Lebanon, a war which the average Iranian in the street did not ask for or want to be involved in.

Iran's economy is slowly collapsing when it should be reaching dizzying heights. It is doing so because Iran's government has grand plans of its own. The people don't care. They want jobs and security.

So what happened when petrol was rationed? Well the rationing was imposed without consultation or advanced warning to anyone, including the petrol station owners or the police. The result was riots and petrol stations being burnt down. The text messaging service has been closed down so that people can't organise protests and journalists are being ordered not to report any trouble. Clearly the government is under pressure.

What the Iranian government needs right now is some external threat to unite the people. It had that in the sabre rattling over its nuclear plans, and it helped. We need to remove the obvious threats to Iran so that it can't unite its people (as well as making sure they can a news service that tells them how bad things really are in Iran). In short we need to appear to take the pressure off.

That does not mean we stop working on its nuclear program, it just means we do so quietly and carefully so as not to give the Iranian regime ammunition to unite the Iranian people behind it.

The BBC has this on the fuel protests.

Base Interest rate set to rise, and probably rise again

Sir John Gieve, deputy governor of the Bank of England has said that the Bank of England's base interest rate is too low, and are helping to fuel the demand for loans and credit.

Some analysts expect the interest rate to hit 6% by the end of the year.

The fact is that it has been obvious that consumer debt has been out of control for years as indeed has government debt but not much has been done about it.

The chickens will be coming home to roost. I just hope it is gentle.

The BBC has this.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Felicity Jane Lowde jailed for 6 months today

According to this report in the Oxford Mail Felicity Jane Lowde jailed for 6 months today, been given a 5 year ASBO and has a restraining order against her. This follows on from persistent online harassment of Rachel North.

She was originally convicted in April in her absence as she did not attend court and had sacked her defence team. A warrant was issued for her arrest, hence the wanted campaign, and then arrested in an Internet cafe on Brick Lane on the 7th of June.

Regret ably there is no mention of treatment of help for any mental health issues.

Felicity Lowde did say she was appealing, a sentiment I do not share.

Ministry of Defence Just not important

We have our forces engaged in very difficult fighting situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet apparently Gordon Brown does not think the Ministry of Defence needs its own dedicated minister.

Des Browne, the buffoon who should have been sacked after allowing the Iranian hostages to sell their stories not only stays at defence, but has been made minister for Scotland as well!

Labour sources insist that Scotland is a part time job after devolution. Well that may well be so, but the Ministry of Defence most certainly is not.

What are are troops supposed to think now they have a part timer in charge?

Gordon Brown has made a drastic blunder here.

Cash For Peerages, Tony Blair questioned by Police again! Was it under caution?

Apparently Tony Blair has been questioned again by police according to the Press Association.

I wonder if it was under caution, after all they wanted to question him under caution but did not, (see here) as he was a sitting Prime Minister.

Yesterday I asked if they would now question him under caution and it appears that they may have done.

This could be very interesting.

Many thanks to those on for highlighting the news, Iain Dale also has this whilst Guido has this.

For more on Cash for Peerages see here.

Update 13:04

According to Radio 4's World at One Tony Blair was not questioned under caution.

Update 15:53

Apparently the questioning happened 3 weeks ago, but the news was not released until today.

Good news management?

I wonder if they will question him under caution?

So Tony Blair has gone

And boy am I pleased.

It was quite correct for David Cameron to be complimentary to Tony Blair yesterday at Prime Ministers Questions. Love him or loath him Tony Blair was one of the best political communicators there has been in modern times. I was never convinced by his sincerity but all to many were.

He is quick witted, humorous and I have no doubt would make good company on a long journey.

He is gone now, as as David Milliband said, "people will be saying 'wouldn't it be great to have that Blair back because we can't stand that Gordon Brown."

And yes they will. I am so pleased Tony has gone because it will make the Conservative party's job of winning the next election a bit easier.

That said Gordon Brown is no walk over, he is a political operator of some skill, quote possibly one of the best. He can play all sorts of games and stymie internal opposition like no other, hence being elected unopposed. However he is nothing like as electable as Tony Blair and will not appeal to the general public as well.

I do wish Tony Blair well on his mission in the Middle East. Regrettably the best way of telling if an international envoy is making some progress is how many assassination attempts there are on them.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tony Blair appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern

One of the interesting curiosities of the House of Commons is that an MP can't resign. Apparently that is due to a rule dating from 1623.

However, it seems that if an MP takes office for profit under the crown then he can no longer be an MP and so the seat becomes vacant.

So today Gordon Brown, The Chancellor of the Exchequer has this day appointed the Right Honourable Anthony Charles Lynton Blair to be Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern.

I wonder if he enjoyed signing that piece of paper?

If we double the spending on schools will our children learn more?

It appears to be the governments plan to raise spending on education to the same level as the independent sector.

I scratch my head when people talk like this. For a start, which part of the independent sector? Eaton? The average? Who knows what the target actually means.

The next problem is this, is this not the most facile target you have ever seen?

If I go out to buy a weeks shopping and spend £100, would my children be better fed if I spend £200?

The answer is, it depends. You can buy a given product at all sorts of prices. If I buy a box of corn flakes for £2 are they better than the one I brought for £1 last week.

This issue is really important because throwing money at a problem, and then being proud of it, is not the answer. Holland and Sweeden (along with most of the rest of the developed world) spend less than us on secondary education, but neither country has sink schools. Why? Because schools are easy to set up, and sink schools don't get parents sending their children there so improve or close.

Now will Tony Blair be questioned under caution?

Regular readers will remember that the word on the street was that Yates of the Yard did want Tony Blair questioned under caution, but decided mot to after they were sent strong signals that it would not be a good idea to do so to a sitting Prime Minister.

Well, he isn't anymore, and he is about to disappear to Jerusalem so I hope they question both him and Lord Levy before they are off!

Also Guido seems to think that Ms Courtney Coventry has been questioned again about what she or her husband may have been offered in the way of inducements to donate. (Please note she is not a suspect). I wrote this at the time the story broke as it was very funny!

Lord Davies of Grantham?

I heard Ed Balls on BBC Radio 4's Today program referring to Quentin Davies as Lord Davies of Grantham. This, after Quentin Davies has said he does not want a place in the House of Lords.

Was Ed mischief making or has Quentin got all the moral courage of Harriet Harman?

Will Lord Cohen be the new Lord Levy?

There is an interesting report in this mornings Financial Times about fund raising for the Labour party.

Apparently since Gordon has got the job (well, at least since he was nominated unopposed) money has been rolling in. Apparently big business figures have contributed more than £500,000.

Ronnie Cohen (not yet a Lord, but I emphasise the yet) has been sort of at the center of this, but people close to the situation (is this like sources "close" to Lord Levy? Like remarkably close?) have insisted that what Lord Levy has done will not be repeated and what is happening is merely networking of like minded people.


I suspect Guido will have a field day.

One of the main reasons why political commentators don't think there will be a snap election is money. Labour just do not have any. Well, this could remove that.

It has to be noted though that £500,000 is a drop in the ocean and does not even begin to cover Labour's running costs let alone paying off its debts, but it is interesting to note how Gordon Brown's dark money men are replacing Tony's.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Quentin Davies Defection just does not make sense

Thinking it through, the reasons for his defection are idiotic.

He wants to belong to a party that is affiliated to the EPP (so he joins one that’s affiliated to the European Socialists);

He doesn’t like Cameron’s line on grammar schools (so joins a party that wants to abolish them);

He didn’t like Greg Clark’s praise for Polly Toynbee (so joins a party that admires Polly Toynbee);

He is strongly in favour of the Iraq War (so joins a party whose Deputy Leader said they should apologise over Iraq - though she denies it now);

He doesn’t like Cameron’s policies on pensions or the family (so joins a party whose policies on pensions and the family are far removed from his own);

plus he favours fox-hunting (which Labour voted to ban) and is opposed to homosexual equality (so joins a party that favours it).

It’s a bit like falling out with someone, chopping off your right arm, waving it at them and yelling “there, you bastard, that’ll show you.”

By Sean Fear, originally here, reproduced with his kind permission.

Quentin Davies defection update

Well, there has needless to say been some reaction to this defection.

Conservative Home has the full text of his letter here. It seems one of his prime motivations was David Cameron's fairly Euro sceptic stance.

David Cameron's reply is:

Dear Quentin,

Thank you for your letter. Your decision does not come as a surprise to me.

The Conservative Party has changed, as you say. We need to do more to protect the environment and tackle climate change. That will mean taking tough measures on carbon emissions. And it does mean looking at ways to encourage greater use of alternative sources of energy. Of course, I will also continue to stand up for Britain’s interests in Europe, and work to give the British people the referendum they were promised.

People see that we are now focusing on what matters to them. That is why so many people are supporting us once again – as shown in May, when we won over 900 Council seats.

I am sorry that you feel unable to be part of today’s Conservative Party, and join us in campaigning on what matters to people – for example, against the NHS cuts or for a better deal for pensioners. The big dividing line in British politics is between Labour’s approach of top down State control and the Conservative vision of pushing power outwards and downwards from central government, trusting people and sharing responsibility with them. You have made your choice and the British people will make theirs.

Thank you for your support in the past. We will watch your future career with interest.

Other reactions from this BBC article:
But Mr Hill said: "I think it's a slap in the face for all of those people who supported and went round for him.

"I feel very strongly, I don't approve of politicians who stand under one flag and then change to another flag for their own convenience. It is an act of treachery and betrayal, frankly."

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said he was "extremely surprised" at the news.

Sir Nicholas Winterton, Conservative MP for Macclesfield, called for Mr Davies to resign his seat, adding: "All I say is 'good riddance'."

Tory peer Lord Tebbit said: "This defection will raise the average standard of members on the Conservative side and lower it on the Labour side."

Shadow industry secretary Alan Duncan said Mr Davies was "not socially liberal" and against "a changed Conservative Party".

He added: "And basically he's quite grand and old fashioned, and I'm surprised that he finds that the Labour Party will offer him a happy home for those attitudes."
There are also rumours that he faced deselection in his constituency.

Nick Robinson has an interesting piece on his blog here. Iain Dale also has this interesting article here, and what Quentin thought of Gordon Brown today and last year!


I forgot to hat tip Rik W on for the text of Cameron's letter.

Quentin Davies: Rat Joins Sinking Ship

It seems Quentin Davies, MP for Grantham and Stamford has defected from the Conservative party to the Labour party.

In an open letter to David Cameron he says he is leaving because:
"Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything.

"It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda."
Has he not read Built to Last? Or heard Cameron's speech last week which built on good old solid Conservative principles?

Well, if he can't read or listen, then he does not seem to be much of a loss to me.

The BBC has this.

Fraser Nelson on what David Cameron should have said

I have to agree with Iain Dale that this is a must read. David Cameron was being interviewed by John Humphrey's on Monday's BBC Today Program.

Fraser thinks he should have said this, I agree.

You can listen to the original interview here.

I will write more on the subject later.

The Sedgefield by election

It looks like there will be a by election in Sedgefield. Dizzy has noted rumours of Labour troop movements here and Guido notes it here to.

The reason of course is the possibility of Tony Blair becoming a peace envoy to the Middle East (no, stop laughing) for the Quartet of the USA, UN, Russia and the EU.

Guido dryly observes that some Labour activists will be putting down a Labour win as a Labour gain.

The Guardian has this on Tony Blair becoming the Quartets man on the ground.

Gordon Brown the real master of spin

It was quote interesting watching Mondays Panorama on Gordon Brown.

Just a few points.

Charlie Whelan was quite clear that journalists were briefed on budgets before hand, on the authority of Gordon Brown, whilst before hand any budget leak would have cost a chancellor his job.

Robert Chote, director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies has described Gordon Brown's spin machine as the hardest there is.

He lied about not knowing about the Bernie Ecclestone donation. (You remember, we will ban tobacco advertising in sport, thanks for the million Bernie, except of course in Formula one)

The BBC has this.

The funniest response to my "Two things Brown meme"

I have to say that the funniest response to my "Two things Brown meme" I posted here was from Harry Haddock's Nation of Shop keepers here.

My guess is that Harry is not Gordon Brown's biggest fan, but I may be wrong.

If you are of a sensitive disposition don't follow the link.

Monday, June 25, 2007

To all the Labour activists who voted for Harman, can I just say how sorry I feel for you?

No, really I do, I feel very very sorry that you have been conned*.

After all she made it clear that there ought to be an apology over Iraq and she was** a woman and now she has gone back on the Iraq apology thing within 24 hours of being elected (my that is fast!).

OK, so the words Jon Cruddas used applied to the Labour party, (the ones that she agreed with) and so she did not say government, but that is some spinning is it not? The day after Harriet said there should be less of it too!


If you want to read the relevant transcripts the Guardian has them here, with Polly Toynbee hoping she will be allowed to speak here, meanwhile the BBC has it carefully tucked away here.

* OK, I'll come clean, I am not sorry at all, if you voted for a vacuous spinner like Harman you deserve all you get! You have left us an open goal!

** After Harriet Harman's change of position on apologising for Iraq I would not put it past her to have a sex change scheduled!

"You're an intelligent chap Ben, why do you vote Conservative?"

I posted this article a year and a day ago. Some people who read it emailed me to say it changed the way they thought about the Conservative party and indeed may join as a result, so I thought I would give it a run out again.

Here it is:

I used to get this all the time from a friend of mine, who supported Labour.

Well one night before the May 2005 general election I sat down and explained lots of areas of conservative party policy to him and another "New Labour" friend, and they all agreed the policies were good.

So I think the question says more about the person asking it than me.

I have always voted Conservative in national and local elections. During the 2005 general election I was hoping (against all the evidence) for a conservative win. I had read all the policy documents I could find, and had no problem getting people behind the policy. I then saw Tim Yeo on Newsnight talking about the environment and nuclear power. It seemed he had not read the policy document at all. This made me angry. I emailed the party to say that if they did not pull their finger out and win the election, then I would join and give them all a good kick up the A....

Well I have. I joined around the 15th of May 2005 and have since been to a few meetings.

So why a Conservative?

Well, it's all down to what you believe, and to some extent in what order of priority. I believe:

1. In the rights (and responsibilities) of the individual.
2. In The rule of law.
3. That the individual is best placed to make their own decisions.
4. That the individual has the right to make their own mistakes.
5. The right to create wealth.

I suppose the obvious question is "Why believe that?"

Well, any unit larger than the individual is made up of individuals. In law all sorts of non persons are treated as individual persons, for example a company is an individual person at law.

Given that, individuals need rights and protection from each other. A person doing work needs the right to get paid for it and the person who is paying for the work needs the right to expect it to be carried out to a good standard.

Individuals are better placed to know what they want to achieve, what makes them happy and what is for them a fulfilling life. This means giving people choices.

When making choices we make mistakes. "The man who has never made a mistake has never done anything." Furthermore what may be a mistake to you may be my deliberate choice as an adult.

I think the last point is obvious. Everyone should have the right to generate their own wealth and provide for themselves.

So what are conservative party values?

Well, on the conservative party web site there is an article titled built to last
which starts with these two paragraphs:
"Our enduring values mean we believe in trusting people, sharing responsibility, championing freedom and supporting the institutions and culture we share as one nation.

Conservatives are not ideologues. That is why in each generation we change, applying our values to new challenges."

Well it seems to me to close enough.

The next question will be why not any of the other parties, and perhaps I will post another article on that another day!

You can read the originals comments here.

This blog is a year and a day old today!

This blog is a year and a day old today, has had 37,512 visitors and 54,865 page views and 2,175 comments!

I will be reproducing one or two early posts as some people seemed to have liked them, and there are a lot ore readers now than there were when I started.

Every Silver lining has a dark cloud, Hapless Harriet!

The Sun in its Sun Says editorial does not seem pleased that Harriet Harman has won the Labour deputy leadership contest, it goes on to say:
The trouble is that she is so politically correct some of her MP colleagues call her Harriet Harperson.
And then labels her as hapless Harriet!

Many papers point to Gordon Brown's decisive ruthlessness naming her as party chairman, excluding her from either being deputy prime minister or ruining any ministries. There is no chance she will deputise for Gordon.

The great thing about Harriet is that she is the niece of a Countess, privately educated and rather more amusingly sent her children to either independent or selective schools whilst having the gaul to criticise some for buying expensive handbags.

We in the Conservative party are so pleased that the Labour party have elected her deputy leader, it makes life so much sweeter!

Snap election exclusive to all papers!

It seems that some of the press (rather than all as the headline implies) have taken the view that Gordon Brown will call an election by May 2008.

The Sun thinks it will be in the autumn* though the Times in this article thinks it has assurances that it will not be in the autumn but in spring 2008. The Daily Mail also thinks an election will be called in 2008. The FT also has a little speculation on the idea here based on the same information.

The prime reason the papers seem to be taking this line is that Gordon Brown has appointed Douglass Alexander as General Election coordinator. I may be wrong but I thought he was involved in the Scottish elections with special responsibility for making sire there were as many spoilt ballots as possible.

It has to be said that the Dead Tree press are looking desperately speculative here, though the ones who run it are close to either New Labour or Gordon Brown, except the FT.

Personally I think there is no chance of an early election because although Gordon Brown is an arch political player I don't think he has the courage to do it.

* For those who do not speak English, you may call it "the fall".

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Gordon Brown to call early election!

It seems the Dead Tree press, specifically all those who are close to either New Labour or Gordon Brown are running with the story that Gordon Brown will call an early election either this autumn*, (The Sun) or the spring.

Specifically we have a similar line in the Sun, the Times, and the Daily Mail and all on the front page.

More later.

Telegraph report Dewey in shock win of Labour Deputy Leadership!

In a mirror of the Dewey beats Truman headline of the Chicago Daily Tribune which went to press saying Thomas Dewey beat harry Truman in 1948 The Telegraph website had Alan Johnson winning the deputy leadership campaign. As it happens he lost to Harman by 0.9%.

Well the Telegraph did have this, which looked like this:

Regretably showing no humour or indeed a correction they just have this:

Of course Harriet Harman did in fact win, but the Telegraph's story won't be in print so how will she do this?

Update 20:26,

I forgot to add the Telegraph article's text said this:

Alan Johnson chosen as Brown's deputy

By Richard Holt
Last Updated: 2:21pm BST 24/06/2007

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, has been elected deputy leader of the Labour Party.

Mr Johnson beat fellow Cabinet members Hilary Benn, Alan Johnson, Hazel Blears and Peter Hain as well as justice minister Harriet Harman and left-wing backbencher Jon Cruddas.

Although he will be Gordon Brown's deputy when the Chancellor is announced as party leader, Mr Johnson is not guaranteed to become Deputy Prime Minister.

He will have to wait until Mr Brown announces his new Cabinet on Thursday before finding out whether he will hold both posts vacated by John Prescott.

It is thought that the role of Deputy Prime Minister may go to Jack Straw, the Commons Leader, who has run Mr Brown's "unopposed" campaign for the party leadership.

Mr Johnson, a former postman, was elected at a special party conference in Manchester following a complex series of voting among Labour Party members.

Ballots for the deputy leadership closed on Friday with Mr Johnson frontrunner followed by Mr Benn.

Gordon Brown is confirmed as party leader today and will take over as Prime Minister when Tony Blair steps down on Wednesday.

I'd like to thank Richard Holt for making me laugh!

Also hat tips to Dave Wild for the link to the Telegraph article, and Jack W for the link to the Dewey picture, both on

Harriet Harman the vacuous wins it!

Yes, Harriet Harman who seemed to be standing on the somewhat vacuous platform that she is a woman! (Well so is hazel Blears who at least had the honesty to stand on her own merits)

The amusing thing is that during the hustings she has come across as anti Iraq war and anti many of Labour's current public service reforms.

Life with Gordon will be fun!

Not only that I suspect she is an open goal for the Conservative party as well as being not very voter friendly.

The BBC has this.

Gordon Brown wins Labour leadership shock!

After a 7 week campaign against er.. himself, Gordon Brown has indeed won the Labour leadership.

What a shocker!

The BBC has this.


It seems Harriet Harman may have won the deputy leadership, if so I will be laughing my head off!

Currently the BBC has this.

A referendum, to be or not to be?

The big question political anoraks will be asking is will there be a referendum on the latest EU treaty which many see as a constitution.

The short answer is no, because if there was, it would be lost and by a handsome margin.

However what will I suspect happen is there will be many demands in the press for one, and rightly so. The proposed treaty is in almost the same every detail the constitution that the French and Dutch have already rejected. In fact quoting from the normally biased BBC, quoting a pro integrationalist Kirsty Hughes gives us this:
"It's much worse than the usual European stitch-up," says writer on European affairs Kirsty Hughes, a firm believer in European integration.

"It's essentially the same as the constitution, but many leaders are trying to sell it as something different, in order to avoid a vote. It's a collective lie."
The press are less than impressed. Saturday's Sun says:

WHATEVER deal is done in Brussels, Tony Blair will surrender power to the EU.

Britain will forever lose its right to veto EU laws in dozens of areas — including energy, agriculture and fisheries, transport, culture, tourism and even immigration policy.

The PM and Gordon Brown are right to fight over their “red lines”. But they are not enough.

With every fresh EU treaty, Britain’s sovereign right to set its own laws is being further eroded. And all without a referendum.

Mr Brown becomes Labour leader tomorrow.

This shabby surrender of British power could come back to haunt him.

Note the use of bold text. If the majority of the print media go on this big time then Gordon Brown will be in problems.

The big question on Europe has to be why? Why do this now? It seems that in many ways the EU is trying to grab as many if not more powers than the federal US government. The people of Europe are not interested. Why don't these people who want to make their names in history just stop, and leave that to someone else.

The Telegraph has this, the Times has this and this and the Mail on Sunday has this.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Just why would we do that?

Just why would we, the British, or indeed any one else, want to sign away powers over things like immigration and asylum, culture, fisheries and agriculture to supra national body like The European Union?

It is madness. If we need immigrants to comer here and work and the rest of the EU don't or vice versa why should there be a one size fits all policy rammed down our throats from on high?

The same applies to the other areas, just why would anyone hand over these powers to someone so far away?

Why would a supra national body want the powers, and think that they might be more competent in those areas than a national or local government?

This is madness.

The BBC has this on the signing of the new constitution which has been called a treaty so as not to scare the voters.

Gordon Brown and the Euro Spin Cycle

Dizzy Thinks has this interesting article on Gordon Brown getting Blair to stand up to the French.

Interesting piece, I recomend you read it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Gordon Brown speaking David Cameron's language?

In what has to be a strange turn of events Gordon Brown seems to be speaking David Cameron's language. What is equally odd is that David Cameron in his speech on Monday is really talking about very old fashioned Conservative principles right out of the thinking of Edmund Burke about bottom up rather than top down thinking.

Many in the Labour party think that Tony Blair is a closet Conservative as do many in the Conservative party, but we never suspected Gordon Brown of being one as well!

How much of the Conservative ground will Gordon Brown try to steal? We will have to see how this pans out.

The BBC has this.

Salman Rushdie's Knighthood at an insensitive time!

I have just watched Question time on the BBC, one of the guests was Shirley, now Baroness Williams, former labour party minister and leading light of the SDP and now a Liberal Democrat peer.

On the question of the Knighthood given to Salman Rushdie, she said she thought the timing was insensitive.

All questions aside about whether or not his work merited a knighthood, or indeed whether given the offence supposedly caused (if indeed that should be a consideration) the question surely arises when would be a less insensitive time? Next week rather than last? next year rather than this?

The statement implies that it was appropriate to give the honour, just not now. Well if not now, when?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Human Rights Not Gone Mad Shocker!

I first heard this story on BBC Radio 4's news but have also read it in the papers, for example, the Daily Telegraph has this.

The story concerns an elderly lady in a care home where she was placed by the council, her eviction due to issues between the care home's management and her relatives and the human rights act.

Liberty supported her as did the government.

The Law Lords found against, finding that private care homes are not providing a public service. Let us look at some quotes from those who are upset:
The civil rights group Liberty condemned the ruling saying urgent legislation was now needed to change the Act to prevent local authorities from "contracting out of dignity for Britain's elderly".
Quite possibly but that involves constraining the public body not the private one surely? You can't go around placing the responsibilities of government willy nilly on private individuals.
Help the Aged said it was "a sickening blow to older people and their families everywhere" and that it left "vulnerable older people open to neglect, abuse and eviction, without redress through the Human Rights Act".
Well I have some sympathy for the rhetoric, however older people being open to neglect and abuse is either a matter of criminal law or contractual provisions being enforced. As for eviction, as hard as it sounds, a landlord always needs the ability to evict a tenant if they are causing a problem.
The Government, who had argued in favour of the woman's case through the Lord Chancellor, were also disappointed. Baroness Ashton, Minister for Human Rights said they were now "carefully considering the implications of this judgment".
Quite right too. The government needs to consider what it can or can't contract out.

The judgement is right in my view. The Human Rights act is nothing more than enshrining the European Convention on Human Rights in British law (which is odd) which is nothing more that forcing the principles of English Common Law on Europe. The aim of this was to protect the individual against the arbitrary and unreasonably actions of the state.

The care home is a private care home not a state one. It could accept private or publicly funded residents. It operates as a for profit company. To make a private company that does some work for the public sector operate with the same responsibilities as the state is clearly wrong but also commercially not viable.

Trouble at mill for Ming Campbell

It seems that yesterdays revelations to the Guardian about possible jobs for Liberal Democrats in a Gordon Brown administration has had the brown stuff hitting the fan.

This morning the Guardian follows up with this article which indicates how bad it is getting in the party. Some choice quotes:
The disclosures in yesterday's Guardian threw the Lib Dems into turmoil with one frontbencher describing it as a "hand grenade" which had destabilised the party.

"A lot of people are angry, but no one knows who to be angry with," said one Lib Dem frontbencher. A furious colleague described it as "politically toxic", playing into the hands of the major parties.

His claim that for Lib Dems to join the government was never an option was disputed by government sources.

One cabinet minister predicted yesterday's revelations would hasten the Liberal Democrat leader's departure.
I do hope Ming can hang on, he is doing us loads of favours!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gordon Brown did offer ministerial jobs to the Liberal Democrats!

There was a story in this mornings Guardian saying that Gordon Brown and Menzies Campbell met and discussed offering some Liberal Democrats ministerial posts. What has been clear over the course of the day is that a meeting did take place and jobs were on the table. They were, we are told refused.

This offer was apparently refused, and the Liberal Democrats have also that they did not know that was the subject of the meeting.

We do know that Ming Campbell is closer to Labour than the Conservatives, after all he was on record as setting 5 tests for Gordon Brown and making it clear that he wanted nothing to do with the Conservatives or David Cameron. It would be electoral suicide in my view though as it would make it clearer than ever that a vote for the Liberal Democrats would be a vote for Labour.

Even if it was secretly Gordon and Ming's ambition to form of coalition neither Labour or Liberal Democrat activists would wear it, and Ming now knows that.

So who told the media? And why?

Benedict Brogan of the Daily Mail raises some interesting lines on this on his blog, saying that the Westminster rumour says it was Paddy Ashdown, one of the people in the frame for a job.

Is he so hungry for a ministerial job that he would leak this sort of information or has he got a terminally big mouth? If it was not him could it be one of Brown's team upset at being spurned? We don't know for sure, but it is fun watching the strife it causes.

This is causing much internal strife in the parliamentary Liberal Democrat party (and probably beyond), which is something that grieves me deeply*. Tomorrow's Guardian carries an article to that effect (an update will be made later).

All interesting stuff.

The Times also has this, and Nick Robinson has this on his blog.

*Only joking!

Sack Lord Falconer Now!

Or so the Sun says over the early release of prisoners.

Seasoned readers of this blog, or indeed followers of the rather obvious impending prison space crisis will think this is utter rubbish. For all his faults Cheerful Charlie is the man handed the "hospital ball", "hot potato" or any other metaphor you care to use. One thing is clear is that he is not the architect of the prison systems woes, that responsibility has to lie between various Home Secretaries, Gordon Brown and the editors of the tabloids.

Given that the editor of the Sun has to steer clear of Gordon Brown because Murdoch may want to support him, they set John Reid's agenda and they are not going to resign over their own failings then I suppose that only leaves the poor chap holding the baby!

Nobody was responsible!

It seems that the report into the abduction of the naval personnel and subsequent media storm was unable to find the person responsible for giving the go ahead for the sale of the stories.


We were told that a report landed on Des Browne's desk saying that they should be allowed to sell their stories, and that he did not approve them but did not disapprove either until all the rather obvious fuss kicked off. (see Iran Crisis passim)

Did some mindless typist think oh no I have got nothing to do, I ought not to waste my time playing solitaire or surfing the web, so must type a memo? Oh what should it be about? Oh what has been in the news?

Just how on earth did a note turn up on Des Browne's desk, for him to make a decision (by law it was him and only him who could make it) without anyone taking responsibility for authoring it?

Have New Labour really gone that far that there is no responsibility in government at all? Anywhere?

The BBC has this on the reports into the hostage scandal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The "Two things" Brown Meme

I have been tagged by Arleen Ouzounian of the Regalis Blog (Kings College London Conservative Future blog) to say 2 things Gordon Brown Should be...

2 things Gordon Brown should be proud of:
  • Conning people into believing he is not a spinner
  • Scaring all his opponents into not standing against him.
2 Things he should appologise for:
  • The tax credit fiasco.
  • The high rates of effective taxation on anyone who is on tax credits.
2 Things he should do immediately when he becomes PM:
  • Stop government departments passing new laws unless they are repealing old ones as well.
  • Have a moratorium on PFI projects.
2 things he should do while he is PM:
  • Reform the welfare system to remove the poverty trap.
  • Reform tax credits so that the effective tax rate is much less.
And I will pass this Meme on to Iain Dale, Dizzy Thinks, Ellee Seymour, University College London CF, The Croydonian, Harry Haddock's Nation of Shopkeepers, Fitaloon's Microshaft blog, and The Thunder Dragon. (Sorry, honest:) )

Brown offers too little too late on Prisons

It seems that Gordon Brown is now offering more money for prison building. The problem is that this is too little and too late. The reality is that the Home Office predictions on prison numbers have been showing an impending crisis for years and not enough has been done to avert it.

There are two things that could have been done, one is build more prisons and the other is lock less people up. What we seem to be doing is the reverse of both.

This has two knock on effects. Firstly the prison service just does not have the capacity to rehabilitate people properly, because prisons are too crowded, resulting in more people being re convicted than would otherwise be the case. Secondly people are being held longer than the current rules would normally allow for because they can't complete specific courses they need to complete to get parole, or the probation service is in such chaos that it can't process the paperwork, leading to arbitrary imprisonment. Both these problems make the overcrowding issue worse, adding to the problem.

Now we hear that Lord Falconer is going to release prisoners early, again in a fairly arbitrary fashion, including prisoners who may have not been properly rehabilitated, which will damage the publics faith in the criminal justice system.

This is clearly the worst of all worlds. We have arguably either populist or correct sentencing policy not backed up with anything sensible leading to a reduction in the quality of the prison service and a reduction in public confidence at the same time. Gordon Brown has not been prepared to pay for his governments policy on prisons and sentencing.

Doesn't it just fill you with confidence that he takes over next week?

The BBC has this.

Blair and Brown, the dirt on the infighting

I have to say that I was amused when I read this article in today's Guardian. It is headlined "Sack the chancellor. Cherie Blair's repeated advice to her husband" which under the circumstances seems good advice to me but alas was not followed.

Some interesting bits in the article:
According to Mr Cox, the problems between the two men had begun in 1994 but "became truly difficult after the 2001 election" because Mr Brown wanted "to be prime minister now".

He said: "I had a conversation with Cherie about how difficult Brown had become and was demanding he resign then. And ever since then, it has been continuous. Cherie reacted personally to what she regarded as Gordon's very bad behaviour, she took deep mortal offence".
To which I say Hark at her! Firstly she refuses to curtsy to the Queen, and secondly autographed a copy of the Hutton report into the death of Dr Kelly to raise money for labour party funds in the most incredibly poor taste.

Charles Clarke, a notable Gordon Brown fan* is quoted as saying:
"I would categorise Tony's approach to social entrepreneurship ... that is to say to give schools, hospitals, universities the resource to get on with it and do it. Whereas Gordon's view is much more traditional Labour view. Which means that you can pass a law or make an administrative decision in central government and that will change behaviour."
Which really goes to the heart of the argument. I have heard some air headed Labour supporters argue that the Conservative party is trying to offload responsibility. This is clearly not clear thinking. The fact is that trying to run things from the centre causes problems. The tax payer demands some value for money, and one thing this government has clearly demonstrated is that you can spend money to your hearts content on public services but it wont always deliver results, whilst people are demanding better public services.

This is in part where the rub arises. Public services are free. Except they are not. Even if the person getting the service is not paying for it, there are millions of tax payers who are.

No matter which way you try and deliver public services the issue boils down to this: I have ticked all my boxes, done my job, so if you don't like it, bog off.

That is unfair on many public service workers, but the ethos is still there that the service is free which it isn't. This problem then leads to some kind of them and us attitude. As an example, I can't remember his name, but a black man (former member of the army if I recall) was involved in a fight outside a night club, was hit on the head, taken to hospital where he became difficult and abusive so the police turned up arrested him and the man died on the floor of the custody sweet from his injuries. His behaviour whilst objectionable was entirely consistent with his injury. He died because he was a number and statistic rather than a customer who had money to spend.

The big issue with public services is how to get them to work better. The labour party under Gordon Brown seems to be setting targets based on spending. The current mantra is to increase education spending up to the level of independent schools. The Conservative party is looking for ways of giving the public ways to "kick" the public services where and when they need it. That is to be able to say to a public servant who is not performing, shape up or I will take the money elsewhere. Incidentally that could be a popular message on the streets. Tony Blair's "choice agenda" is along similar lines and in many ways is merely picking up where John Major's government left off.

*OK, I can think of another couple of people who like Gordon more.

Did any one else notice Gordon Brown's collar?

I have just watched Nick Robinson's report on David Cameron verses Gordon Brown as the battle to come.

In it there was a clip of Gordon Brown addressing a union conference in which he was saying that either you can have more nurses or they could be paid better, going on to cite some pay increase numbers (like 4 and 5%) which attracted some boos.

What I noticed as he walked up and down the stage though was that one collar was out of his suit (his left one, on the right as you look at him) pointing at a jaunty angle whilst the other was some what more conventional.

Is this some attempt to look unspun or just unkempt?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Private Debt, the Governor of the Bank of England's warning

Last week the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King gave a speech suggesting that people were borrowing to much, and ought not to be borrowing on the basis that borrowing will remain cheap.

In many ways it was an understated way of stating the obvious. The issue is that private debt now amounts to £1,300,000,000,000. That is a lot of zeros. £1.3 trillion. Hmm.. Quite a lot of that is tied up in housing and quite a lot in unsecured debt.

If the economy runs in a stable fashion and nothing rocks the boat then fine, the problem is what happens if something does rock the boat? Public borrowing is also high, whilst the tax take always seems lower than Gordon Brown expects. This level of debt reduces the flexibility of the economy to respond to a crisis or a change. We need to stop borrowing at these levels.

It is also one very good reason why George Osborne insists that the stability of the economy will come before tax cuts. There are an awful lot of people in an awful lot of debt and they won't be happy with risk takers.

The Telegraph has this.

Progressive Conservatism?

I have to say that my fists normally itch when someone talks of "progressive" politics, because it is the language of the left used to suggest that anyone who does not agree with them is "reactionary". I also tend to find that what ever policies then get spouted forth are not about making progress but state control over peoples lives.

Imagine my shock then when David Cameron appears to be talking about "progressive politics" in this article in yesterday's Observer.

Well, it has to be said this is a clever trick, or rather it is a clever unmasking of a trick that the left in politics for years and years. That is the idea that the left have the ideas that will bring progress and the right don't.

Benjamin Disraeli said, on constitutional reform:
I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad. I seek to preserve property and to respect order, and I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many or the prejudices of the few.
Which I think is a good motto for all Conservatism. Making progress forward by preserving what works and fixing or replacing that which does not.

One of the unfortunate consequences of the welfare state is that whereas it was originally built to stop people falling to low, and it was truly needed it seems now to have evolved to keep people tied into a poverty trap. That is not progress. That said figuring out a way to deal with that problem is another matter.

The Conservative party is, and always has been concerned about lifting people out of poverty, educating people and building a strong society. Now we are making it clear that is progress, that the left have failed, and progressive ideas come from the right not the left.

Anyway, David Cameron is going to make a speech later today outlining some more flesh on Conservative policy and making real progress on societies problems. You can read the text here (Many thanks to Iain Dale for the link)

So there you have it. Conservative Home has this, whilst Fraser Nelson has this. All good stuff.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Failing our troops at the front

I have to say that I am shocked to learn that our troops can take up to 7 hours after being wounded in Afghanistan, and an hour and 50 minutes in Iraq.

This is not how long it takes to get treatment but how long it takes to get them collected from the battlefield. Apparently there is not a dedicated helicopter force to do the job.

The Sunday Telegraph has this, about a report by Lt Col Paul Parker in the Royal Army Medical Corps Journal. It seems that he believes many have died who need not have died for the lack of availability of helicopters dedicated to evacuating the wounded.

It should be noted that whilst we take hours to get a casualty to hospital, in Vietnam the Americans managed to do it on average in 25 minutes. That was 40 years ago.

Whilst the MOD are trying to trash the report Lt Col Paul Parker's colleagues agree, apparently though off the record.

And all this after Tony Blair's promise that our boys in Afghanistan could have whatever they needed. Lying scum.

Iraq: Blair knew there was no plan

According to this article on the front page of the Observer and to a channel 4 documentary next week, Tony Blair knew that there was no plan for post victory Iraq, yet carried on.

I have to say that does not surprise me. It is not hard to tell the neo cons in the White House had not got a clue, which is why I wrote this listing why we are in the mess. Then one of them, Ken Adelman had the chutzpah to blame us for not being hard enough with them!

To name the Father

A Labour think tank, the IPPR has come up with the idea of making it compulsory to name the father on birth certificates.

The reasoning is that children who have an early involvement of their father do better than those who don't. This is a key fact that has been missed by the family courts for years even after the passing of the 1989 Children's Act. In principle the act gave the children the rights (for example to have a relationship with both parents) and the parents the responsibilities. Regrettably it still does not work that way in practice.

The policy would have safeguards in the case of abuse and rape.

It seems that campaigners for single mothers object because it would make life difficult for mothers.

All I can say is get with the program, this is not about the mothers it is about the children.

The BBC has this.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Are the Royal Mail really selling of "lost" items?

According to this article in today's Daily Mail the Royal Mail sells off items of post where it has effectively lost them. It seems this runs to 75,000 items a year.

The case highlighted in the article concerns a £1,500 set of bag pipes, which were sold online in an auction for £60, and then went on Ebay. The poor owner of the pipes could only claim £500 in compensation so he is now £1,000 out of pocket.

Why don't they try returning them to the sender? Perhaps they should suggest a return address should not only be on the outside of the parcel but on the inside as well.

Hamas decree Alan Johnston to be released

I do not usually comment on the Levant because I grew up there and have some strong but in my view well informed views, but I notice that comenting in the area tends to attract some loonies.

I did predict in the very early stages that Hezboulah would "win" in the Lebanon in the sense of achieving their primary objectives (In warfare you do have to understand that victories come in all sorts of shapes and forms) but with no enthusiasm. That said if I thought Israel was going to win, I would have predicted it with the same level of enthusiasm.

It appears that Hamas have "won" a military victory in Gaza. That surprised me, and I have to say I wonder where their new equipment came from. I don't think they will fair quite so well in the west bank, and very much hope I am right.

However we move on to the kidnapping of Alan Johnston.

I grew up in Beirut. (I was 2 months old when my family moved there). I was 5 or 6 when the civil war started and 8 when we left. I can tell you now that I never felt in an personal danger. Neither did my family, in the sense of "being a target". Rather obviously any of us could have been caught in crossfire or by a stray shell or Israeli bomb. The risks were there, but NO ONE wanted to harm US as European and indeed British citizens (the same applied to Americans) deliberately.

Broadly speaking the same ethic applies in the West Bank and Gaza strip though it also extends to Israeli citizens on human rights missions. The Palestinians want people there reporting what is going on, and what is more the day is brighter with a foreigner. I know this myself from personal experience as my family were invited to Southern Lebanon before the civil war kicked off to visit the Shia farmers of the south and the Palestinian refugee camps.

They want their story out there and they want the human rights activists there to protect them when they go about their daily business by just being there.

This all begs the question of who kidnapped Alan Johnston and why?

Well it seems to be a marginalised clan, but one with enough guns to make a mess, and a very real one, should someone try to face them down. They are not as far as I can work out all that politically affiliated in the way most of the clans are. nevertheless they still hold Alan, and it has been obvious since before say one to any party (including both Hamas and Fatah) that kidnapping Alan was a very bad move.

Fatah and Hamas know which clan have Alan, as do the Israelis. They don't know where with sufficient certainty otherwise he would have been freed by now.

Well Hamas has effectively decreed he should be released. What they are saying if that in Gaza, they have whipped all of Fatah's clans, and unless you free Alan, and we know who you are, you are next.

Hamas, like Hezboulah can play politics to their audience very well. This will go down well on the street.

I hope Alan is freed, and last month would not be quick enough for me, but I do fear for the future of the region where I grew up.

The BBC has this.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Immigration, has government finally notices that there may be a problem?

It seems the government has set up a "commission" called the "Commission on Integration and Cohesion" to look into, well community cohesion and seems to have noticed that the number of migrants coming to a particular area may cause problems.

How nice of them to notice the exceedingly predictable.

If you have 10 people turn up somewhere in a town of 10,000 no one is really going to notice, or care. If you have 100, the same, but if you have new arrivals in the thousands it does cause problems, like housing shortages, strain on public service and a feeling that a community is being taken over. All of these lead to tensions.

The issue with immigration is not that it happens, it is how many and how quickly. This government has presided over record net immigration, and it is causing, or contributing to problems.

The BBC has this.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Peak Oil in 4 years? Time to panic!

That well known political pamphlet that on the surface bears some resemblance to a real newspaper, and arguably the only newspaper published in this country, the Libdemograph (Formerly known as the Independent when it reported news and was independent, and indeed I used to buy it) reports that we are a short way of the doom and gloom of peak oil which will lead to much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Well, here is my take. Peak oil theory is rubbish, for one plain and simple reason. As demand surges, or supply seems restricted, the price rises and so more oil is available as it is more economic to extract.

There will be no recession like the 1970's after the Yom Kippur war that led the OPEC price rise of stunning proportions in such a short time.

Prices will rise, as they do other production methods will become viable and the price will stabilise. What will not happen is a jump from $9 a barrel to $40 a barrel in the space of a few days leading to recession.

What is more interesting is that at some point soon, it will be cheaper to grow oil than the drill for it. At that point the question will be where can I get land to grow oil for next to nothing. Then will follow the question how do I get fresh water to this hot and arid destination, when someone will work out that the solution is in the problem.

Guardian reports DOJ to pursue Al Yamamah corruption scandal

According to this article in the Guardian their sources in Washington agree with Newsnight sources I reported on the 13th of March that the United States Department of Justice will conduct a criminal investigation into the Al Yamamah arms deal.

Interesting stuff, here is my original article. As I said then, this could be fun!

Tax Credits, The Telegraph catches up with this blog!

Alas, no one else seems that bothered.

On the 27th of May I wrote this article after watching Frank Field MP for Birkenhead on Straight talk with Andrew Neil.

I said:
A single parent with two children working 16 hours per week will get about £480 per week, after tax credits. A married couple with two children (he didn't say it but I presume both are on the minimum wage) would have to work 116 hours to get the same money. He is not surprised at how many single parents there are, but how many married ones there are.
Today the Telegraph says:
The figures are stark and astonishing: because of the huge bias in favour of single parenthood that prevails in the tax credit system, a single mother with two children under the age of 11 who works 16 hours a week on the minimum wage, receives, largely thanks to tax credits, an income of £487.

A two-parent family, on the other hand, also with two children under 11, in which either one or both partners works for the minimum wage, would have to put in a total of 116 hours a week to take home the same income.
So there you have it. This government has built a system either by accident or design that hates families yet the same cretinous bunch of halfwits shout us down if we try and redress the balance.

The big question is though, why are other news outlets not covering this?

At this time the full report by Frank Field is not yet available online, but I will post a link when I locate it.

Update 11:24

Frank Field's website now carries this press release with this link to a report on the Reform website.

Falkland Islands Liberated 25 years ago today!

25 years ago today, at the turn of the midnight hour, Major General Jeremy Moore accepted the surrender of the Argentine forces occupying the Falkland Islands.

Hostilities continued for a further 6 days until the South Sandwich Islands were recaptured as well.

255 British servicemen died, as well as 3 civilians. Also, 649 Argentine servicemen died. (Incidentally more servicemen from both sides have committed suicide since)
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.
Baroness Margaret Thatcher made a speech today to be broadcast to our troops on active service in which she said that fortune favours the brave. It does. You can read the full text on Iain Dale's diary here.

What was good about the Falklands war was that it liberated Argentina as well!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Weasel's FOI bill looks like it is going to die a slow death!

Well, it seems David MacLean's Freedom of information exemption bill is withering and dying because it is about as popular as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip as far as the House of Lords is concerned!

Who said the House of Lords needed reform!

Iain Dale did point out that this would happen yesterday here. It is definitely good news.

Tony Blair whinges about Alistair Campbell's Frankenstein

I have to say I chuckled when I heard Tony Blair witter on about how the media is destroying our politics and institutions and so on and so forth.

The fact is the man and his machine span against John Major and his government with no regard for the truth, against Dr David Kelly (may he rest in peace) again with no regard for either the truth or common decency.

So whilst I agree with what he said, and heaven truly rejoices when a sinner repenteth, the problem is he has not repented, or at least not enough. He has not said sorry to either John Major or Dr David Kelly's family.

The man is hoist by his own petard and a jolly good job too. Cheats should never prosper, nor liers and charlatans.

The one bit I did think was fair was his criticism of the Libdemograph.

Once upon a time there was a newspaper that had news, and it was broad, good and accurate. Then it had a little comment. It has been perverted beyond all wildest recognition is is now nothing but a daily political pamphlet. It used to be The Independent and is now the Libdemograph.

The Independent has this, and this, and then this and this, however it does have the speech in full, (do you think it riled them?) the Times has this and the BBC has this.

Alistair Campbell's full edited take is available at all bad booksellers.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

And as if by magic, the Physics teacher appeared!

Earlier I wrote about the Civitas report into the dumbing down of education including the sciences. Well thanks to Dizzy Thinks, here is an open letter from a physics teacher to the "AQA" Board which sets the curriculum. The teacher, Wellington Grey has his blog here.

The letter starts:
I am a physics teacher. Or, at least I used to be. My subject is still called physics. My pupils will sit an exam and earn a GCSE in physics, but that exam doesn’t cover anything I recognize as physics.
Depressingly the letter continues with some examples of which this is one:
On topics that are covered by the specification, the exam board has answers that indicate a lack of knowledge on the writer’s part. One question asks `why would radio stations broadcast digital signals rather than analogue signals?’ An acceptable answer is:

* Can be processed by computer / ipod [sic]

Aside from the stupidity of the answer, (iPods, at the time of this writing, don’t have radio tuners and computers can process analogue signals) writing the mark scheme in this way is thoughtless, as teachers can only give marks that exactly match its language. So does the pupil get the mark if they mention any other mp3 player? Technically, no. Wikipedia currently lists 63 different players. Is it safe to assume that the examiner will be familiar with all of them? Doubtful.

And here is another:

Lastly, I present the final question on the January physics exam in its entirety:

Electricity can also be generated using renewable energy sources. Look at this information from a newspaper report.

  • The energy from burning bio-fuels, such as woodchip and straw, can be used to generate electricity.
  • Plants for bio-fuels use up carbon dioxide as they grow.
  • Farmers get grants to grow plants for bio-fuels.
  • Electricity generated from bio-fuels can be sold at a higher price than electricity generated from burning fossil fuels.
  • Growing plants for bio-fuels offers new opportunities for rural communities.

Suggest why, apart from the declining reserves of fossil fuels, power companies should use more bio-fuels and less fossil fuels to generate electricity.

The only marks that a pupil can get are for saying:

  • Overall add no carbon dioxide to the environment
  • Power companies make more profit
  • Opportunity to grew new type of crop (growing plants in swamps)
  • More Jobs

None of this material is in the specification, nor can a pupil reliably deduce the answers from the given information. Physics isn’t a pedestrian subject about power companies and increasing their profits, or jobs in a rural community, it’s is about far grander and broader ideas.

This simply is not physics, nor is it science. What is more the people "responsible" (though irresponsible would be a better description) The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (or rather the lack of any real assessment and no qualifications alliance) seem to think this load of drivel will "provide work related learning" for pupils.

Are they serious? Do they really think that employers want people who know nothing about a subject like renewable energy to sit around all day discussing what a journalist who also knows nothing about renewable energy has to say about it? You just couldn't make this up.

Daniel Finkelstein has this.

Update, Wellington also has another blog here, and you can read the comments on his article here.

Is Education being Politicised?

Yesterday the Telegraph ran a story on a think tank document by Civitas, (the Institute for the Study of Civil Society) entitled "Corruption of the Curriculum" or "School curriculum corrupted by politics". You can read Civitas's full press release here, though the full report will cost you £12. (These think tanks need to get with the Internet age, and publish it online for free!)

It has to be said the press release makes interesting reading, but then so did the BBC's rebuttal piece (surely that should be the Labour parties, or governments?) on Radio 4's Today program.

They wheeled on someone who used to be a number 10 advisor but now teaches history who went on about how he still taught dates, and history in chronological order. To some extent this rings true, because I went to my sons new secondary school last year (he will be there from September) and one of the subject areas I noted was history and how different years covered different date ranges in history so that all seems chronological. Obviously it is no good just teaching events, dear boy with out some background on why they may be significant.

It has to be clear that it is not clear when the curriculum of which Civitas complain is being brought in. (Some research needed, as I ain't paying £12, normally think tanks invite me for drinks and nibbles to discuss their ideas, he hinted!)

The press release makes even grimmer reading when it comes to science which is to be amalgamated into one subject. Again according to the press release they want to get pupils to discuss things like GM crops, and abortion, it seems from an ethical point of view. The ethics of science is an interesting an indeed important subject, but it is a philosophical subject rather than a purely scientific one, and tends to be something taught at universities as part of degrees in science rather than as a replacement to it.

As a physicist, and possibly a chemist I strongly object. Firstly science is about many things but it has to be about scientific method, that is looking at observations, coming up with a hypothesis and then testing them by experiment. It's fun as well! Then there is learning how theories fit together. One of the most fascinating facts I learnt at A level (from a Dr of Chemistry who could not write! Well, with a pen, I always made a point of asking what his illegible notes in the margin said which usually was about being tidy and clear in writing!) was how the man who came up with the periodic table, or at least a version of it, John Newlands noticed a musical octave spaced quality to it. In fact there is a reason for this, and it boils down to quantum mechanics, but I won't bore you with the details, but the next time you listen to a really good piece of music it's the maths in it that makes it sound good.

It has to be said that maths, physics and chemistry became more understandable together, and set in some useful context such as the things and machines we see about us when I was at school.

If we want to build a knowledge based economy, it is not peoples ability to debate the ethics of abortion or global warming that will count. It is the ability to produce technology to produce clean energy and the like that will, and you don't get the knowledge to do that from discussing the ethics.

The Telegraph also has this attack on what is being put in our curriculum by politicians. It does not make good reading.

Children must have more accidents, Official!

We have heard much of how we are wrapping our children up in cotton wool far too much, in fact I wrote about the subject here. However I bring you news that ROSPA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents thinks that children should have more accidents!

Their press release reads:
"RoSPA believes that children can learn valuable life-long lessons, particularly about risks and how to deal with them, from playing in the natural environment, and that parents have to accept that their children may get injured. Bumps, bruises and grazes are not serious injuries and are part of growing up."
So there you have it.

So why do we wrap our children up in cotton wool? There are two reasons, one is an unreasonable fear of risk, and the second perhaps is fear of the baby snatchers.

Where is the honour in killing?

We hear of "honour killings" but where is their honour?

The BBC has this.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Law Commission to recommend Cohabiting Couples get the same rights as Married ones

The Law Commission has been sticking its nose where it does not belong in this area for some time.

The issue is that people think that if you live together for 3 months, 6, 12, 2 years or so many full moons you have the rights of a married couple.

You don't.

In fact you have no rights at all. The only place where complications arise is where property is in the names of more than one person, as either tenants in common or joint tenants.

In the former case the proportion owned by each party is a complex balance of who put in what whilst in the latter an equal split is assumed, regardless of the number of joint tenants.

In principle the fact that an intimate makes no legal difference to a case. So it does not matter if you share a bed or not, but rather obviously it does make a bit of an evidential difference.

According to this report in the Times, the Law commission proposes giving unmarried couples the same rights, dropping requirements for a time limit, but adding ones for financial disadvantage.

However the article at almost its last gasp says this:

"Research shows that few people are aware of their lack of rights and many wrongly believe that cohabitation makes them “common law” spouses with rights similar to those of married couples."

That is certainly true, but that only applies to some unmarried couples not all, so the ignorance of the many is being used as an excuse to change the relationship of the rest without dealing with the real problem which is that most people have got it wrong.

It only takes an afternoon to get married in a registry office and it need not cost a lot of money. The issue is that people don't know, and even if they did they would not always want to get married. Getting married carries obligations as well as rights. These proposals seem to confer rights where they did not exist before without adding the rights.

The rules the Law Commission want to bring in appear to be applied to same sex couples as well. What I found interesting is the hostility to these new rules from the gay community who fought for and got the right to have same sex relationships recognised in law who object to the changes because they can see that if you want those rights, you can go and sign up for them today with no change in the law.

All this happens against the backdrop of London becoming the divorce capital of the world. Ellee Seymour has this excellent article highlighting why.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bush gets warm reception in Albania

Yes, they set light to him..

No, they didn't! George W Bush is genuinely popular in Albania, formerly a reclusive communist state and almost entirely Muslim.

Just don't tell the radical Muslims, they will be upset. In their world view the west is always bad to Muslims, which is of course far from the case as our (as in NATO, America and Europe) interventions in the Balkans shows.

The BBC has this.

Tony Blair apologises to David Cameron over Gordon Brown's behaviour!

It seems that most of the ideas (apart from the change to detention without charge) that Gordon Brown came up with when he made his great pronouncement to the Sundays last week were in fact ideas given to this government on Privy council terms and those sort of discussions are secret.

Brown should no have leaked them, or claimed them as his own! That said Gordon Brown does seem to be claiming he came up with these ideas all on his own.

Oh dear.

The Observer has this. The funniest line in the article is the last one though:
"There will also be questions about whether Cameron's cordial relations with No 10 will be maintained once Brown takes over."
Do you really think so?

Hat tip to Alex on for the article link which also has this.

So what job will Jack Straw get?

Speculation has been rife about what ministerial job Jack Straw would get since he became Gordon Brown's "campaign manager" and essentially saw Gordon returned unopposed for the post of PM.

Over on the job of Home Secretary had been excluded because of it's poisoned chalice qualities whilst the Foreign office has also been excluded on the grounds that Jack may have annoyed the Americans over Iran. That would seem to leave the Treasury and in particular making Jack Straw Chancellor.

However today's News of the World reports an alleged exclusive that Jack will be in the Home Office whilst Alistair Darling will be Chancellor.

Hmm.. I wonder if that is just speculation?

The article does not appear to be online and the News of the World website is not very good.

Al-Yamamah arms deal blowing up in Tony Blair's face!

I have been watching the latest developments with some interest.

The Al-Yamamah arms deal was signed when Margaret Thatcher was still in power, and things were different then.

It appears that part of the deal was that Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia would get "commission" for "negotiating" the contract.

He insists he has done "nothing wrong" and that is of course true as far as it goes. I suspect he has broken no Saudi law, and indeed at the time of the negotiations, no British one either.

The problems are of course twofold. Firstly it is now illegal to make these sorts of payments in the UK (though they have been made in the USA, hence the Department of Justice investigation) and secondly no matter what the state of the law is, these sorts of payments are politically unacceptable both here, in the USA and in Saudi Arabia.

It therefore comes as no surprise to me to hear that the Sunday Times now reports that Prince Bandar personally lobbied Tony Blair to get the Serious Fraud Office investigation dropped.

The case goes from bad to worse. Firstly we passed a law, which we did need at some point to pass, but without due consideration to historic considerations, then we instigated an investigation, which Whitehall must have known was going to expose the way these sorts of deals have been done in the past, and after all that we have had the most botched attempt to get out of the always very obvious implications of all this.

Deals used to be done this way. It is wrong now, and ought to have been wrong then, though it serves no useful purpose to view yesterdays world through today's eyes. Ultimately the French would have done a similar deal if we had not, and the USSR would of course have given them arms for free for influence.

We are where we are, and we are there because this government has no sense of history and no sense of how to move forward with care. When it started to blunder into the Al-Yamamah deal however the die was cast, and it now looks sordid to try and get out of it this way. If they had done this 5 years ago the story would have died. Not so now, Tony Blair has no political capital left to spend and he would have been better off letting the situation run it's course.

Meanwhile the Guardian has this one what Lord Goldsmith may or may not have known.

For more on the Al-Yamamah deal, see here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The real legacy of two World Wars

A few weeks ago I was watching a drama documentary about the sinking of the Lusitania, and in particular noted that Charles Voegele, Quarter master of the German U Boat U20 would not issue the order to sink her, and also other incidents where he had been unhappy about sinking non fighting vessels. In fact on her mission the U20 only sank merchant vessels. One of his comrades scolded him in an earlier incident pointing out that his family in Hamburg could not get enough to eat because of the naval blockade of the Royal Navy.

In both World wars we tried to strangle each other in terms of both food and supplies. The Germans with U Boats and us with a surface fleet. This has led to what is the real devastating legacy of the wars. The devastation to both African and South American agricultural business that the European Common Agricultural Policy is immense.

Argentina used to be a wealthy country, exporting lots of agricultural produce, but post war, Europe started to feed it self with food produced on subsidised farms. Africa can't progress because it can't compete with American and European dumping.

This is of course all nuts. I am paying tax to keep black people poor. People I have never met, are not my enemies, and to whom I have no ill will. I would rather not pay the tax. We then get taxed even more to provide aid to people who for no particularly well explained reason we keep poor with MY money but make such a bad fist of that, that most of us then have to give yet more money to charity to try and make up for it.

Frankly I would rather not pay the tax to keep Africans poor. I can then spend the money on better things, and not only that, but a rich African is a little more likely to buy goods our country makes than one who can't even feed his own family.

I think it is an affront to tax me to keep someone else poor. It is disgusting, there is no other word for it. I do hope all those farmers across Europe who riot when they think they may lose the CAP can sleep at night. Disgusting small minded b*rstards the lot of them.

So why bring this up now, well there is a person called Erik who keeps raising subjects he thinks I should be discussing, (well Erik, it is my blog, and I will blog about what I feel like) but I was going to write something along these lines. Then Erik drew my attention to this article in the Telegraph about how much more this is going to cost us in the next few years.

In short our payments to the EU are going to double, and the money we get back is going to go down, and whilst a bit of it will go to getting Eastern Europe on its feet which is a good thing (provided the money is well spent) we are still paying to keep Africa poor. Well done Tony, giving away our rebate whilst still screwing Africa and getting us to pay for it!

It is nuts it really is!

Institutional racism in mental health.

Just under three weeks ago (the 22nd of May) I wrote this article about racism in mental health entitled: "Are race campaigners institutionally racist?" and you can guess where I was coming from on that one.

Then I noticed Pickled Politics had picked up on the theme with this, but I have also just noticed this brilliant piece by Courtney Hamilton on his Neo Jacobin's blog. You should read them both.

It is a bit of a shame Courtney does not blog more often, he writes some interesting things.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Felicity Jane Lowde, Rachel North's cyberstalker Nicked!

According to the Oxford Mail police arrested her in an Internet cafe in Brick Lane, whilst someone kept her online and talking.

The Oxford Mail has this reporting it, whilst it has this prior to her arrest. Just read the comments in the second article and note the lack of posts defending her position since last night.

One does have to wonder? Or perhaps not.

She faces up to six months in prison, a £5,000 fine or possibly both. I suspect she could also do with psychiatric evaluation and possibly treatment.

Hat tip to Iain Dale and good news for Rachel North and all Felicity's other victims.

Update, 8th of June, 09:51

I have noticed that the Oxford Mal story has been edited and that the comments have gone missing from the second article. There were 115 of them.

Update 28th of June 2007 17:36

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