Friday, August 31, 2007

Private Poll Puts Labour and Conservatives neck and neck!

There were reports that the Conservatives had private polling indicating they were doing much better than YouGov's latest poll suggested.

For example Ben Brogan had this, naming the pollster. As a result Anthony Wells asked Populus to release their report under the British Polling council rules which they have now done. Anthony carries this.

The headline figures are Labour 37% (-2), Conservatives 36% (+3) whilst the Liberal Democrats are on 16% (+1).

Interesting. We are due a Times commissioned Populus poll next week sometime.

Marriage, Telling it how it is

Yesterday on Newsnight there was an interview with David Cameron, my favourite economics correspondent and the daughter of one of my favourite musicians, Stephanie Flanders.

From my point of view it told me nothing new, but then as I am a Conservative, you would hope I had a clue about the thinking of the Conservative party.

Opinions have varied as to whether David Cameron came off well or not. Most say he did.

The one point in question is when Stephanie Flanders said that she had a child, and asked if David Cameron if he thought she should be married.

We do not know by whom she had this child, nor the relationship she has with the child's father.

David Cameron laid out in fluffy language what the Conservative party position is.

I would have been somewhat more direct.

My position would have been this:

The Conservative party believes that marriage is the best option.

If elected we will make it clear that marriage is the best option.

We will, if elected reduce the penalty of getting married.

What you, as an individual do with your own life, is your own choice.

End of discussion.

Newssnight's infuriatingly hard to link to what you want to web page is here. I would link direct to the show or any articles written about it there, but obviously the person who runs that website is a muppet.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

GCSE Science to be dumbed down?

The Times yesterday carried this article on how GCSE science exams are being dumbed down.

I have read the example paper and some of the questions are good. Most are asinine whilst some are based on subjective criteria where the question setter does not understand the subject matter enough to be able to make a comment let alone set a question and some of the multiple choice question's have the potential for all answers to be correct.

Utter stupidity.

I will Fisk some of the government comments and the paper at a later date. It does however break my heart. It is clear that science in this country is not being dumbed down. Clearly it has been already.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Clarification on the "Arms Dealer" Story

I Chris Paul has written up his comments on my story which cribbed from a report in the Sunday Times. I said that the times had reported that Imrand Khan had donated money to labour via a group called the "Muslim Friends of Labour" which is similar it seems to the Midland Industrial Council.

I note that, but frankly don't care, my gripe is that Labour really don't like the Midlands Industrial Council so should not be caught in similar circumstances.

I also note that said Imrand Khan has been linked in the report to an arms dealer/salesman. In these circumstances Labour folks seem to go off on one if it is a Conservative donor, but as yet appear not to have in this case. Again, I personally do not have a problem with this trade any more than I would have with a knife salesman. Guns and knives are tools that we make extensive use of, and it is only if someone is trading them irresponsibly that an issue arises and there is no such allegation here.

The point of my story is not that I find Imrand Khan has actually done anything wrong, because as far as I can see it, he hasn't. The point is that had he been a Conservative donor rather than a Labour one, then people like Chris Paul would have gone off the deep end.

Chris Paul hopes I have insurance. Presumably for libel. Well, in this case I would not need it, as even if my facts are wrong I am not accusing Mr Khan of doing anything that is either wrong*, or indeed should attract opprobrium from anyone, it certainly does not from me. In order for there to be an actionable libel you have to make an incorrect statement** about someone which would damage their reputation amongst right thinking people. I can't see that it would, and obviously I exclude Chris Paul from this, as he thinks many things that are legal are wrong.

So my story is not an attack on Mr Khan, but on Chris Paul who insists all sorts of things are bad, but when it is pointed out to him that his own side does it seems to be a tad silent.

* According to the Times report the Electoral Commission are investigating the Muslim Friends of Labour. That does not mean there is any wring doing there, though obviously they may find some.

**Technically you can say something about someone which is true, and still be found guilty of libel. For example you can bring up a criminal conviction which is spent under the provisions of the 1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders act. There is a defence that to raise such a conviction is in the public interest, and also if I remember correctly the claimant would have to show malice.

Gordon Brown to face massive rebellion over EU treaty

Apparently, according to today's Telegraph, which is not as yet available online, Gordon Brown may have up to 120 MP's rebelling against the EU constitution/treaty unless there is a referendum.

When the report comes online I will link to it.

Interesting. Gordon Brown has already had more rebellions in his first month as PM than all others put together since the war, and he has only had one month or parliament sitting.

Could make politics interesting, though I suspect that Gordon will twist the odd arm or two.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Labour's Lead cut in New ICM Poll

The latest ICM poll is out in today's Guardian. It shows Labour at 39% (+1) Conservatives at 34% (+2) and the Liberal Democrats at 18% (-2).

The Guardian chooses the the headline "Poll warning to Brown over October election gamble" and then goes on about regional variations and trends on particular issues.

The problem with the regional variations is that the sample sizes are just too small to make them worth looking at seriously though they do show Labour strong up north, down in Scotland and Wales, doing well in other regions but not in the south. Crucially however the Liberal Democrats are doing very badly in the South where their voters are going Conservative.

As I said though, the sample sizes on a region by region basis are too small and so too volatile to be taken seriously.

The interesting thing though is the Conservatives leading Labour on health, crime and the economy.

I stand my prediction that the first poll to show the Brown bounce to go will be the Communicate Research at the beginning of October.

Apart from that the poll is fairly dull really.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Labour getting money from arms dealers shocker!

Labour is potentially about to get involved in a new sleaze row involving money. The Sunday Times reports that Labour has its equivalent to the Midlands Industrial Council which Labour party supporters have complained about bitterly.

It gets worse, however, one of the key figures in their equivalent, the Muslim Friends of Labour, Imran Khand has set up businesses with a Pakistan based arms dealer.

What would Chris Paul say? Chris who? You know, the Labour blogger who thinks Michael Gove can't be our shadow Schools Minister because he happens to have spent some time in private education. Alas Chris "double standards" Paul has not as yet called for Ed Balls to be moved whose whole secondary education was private.

Well, Chris also wrote this article about someone who had donated money to the Conservative party, and has links to the arms trade. Obviously Chris Paul will be be getting on his high horse about Labour getting dirty money. Or perhaps not, as he does seem to have double standards.

Ministerial Cover up as gun crime quadruples under Labour

You often hear ministers trot out numbers that show that crime is failing. In fact according to the British Crime Survey it has been falling since 1994.

However that survey hides important factors such as crime against the under 16's, rapes and murders.

There is no doubt our streets are less safe than they used to be even 10 years ago.

The Sunday Times has this article, prompted by David Davis, the Conservative shadow Home Secretary highlighting a four fold increase in gun crime since 1998. In short 10 people a day are either killed of injured by guns. These guns are for the most part illegally held so all the gun control legislation in the world is not going to help. What is needed is some fresh thinking on the issue.

Labour clearly is not working.

A Standing Ovation for Rhys Jones

I must confess I get a bit depressed when I hear of a minutes silence for this or that. We have a silence for the millions who died in both world wars. That is appropriate. So much loss on such a massive scale.

I am impressed with the parents of Rhys Jones, Melanie and Steve, and indeed his primary school classmates. Rhys's parents asked not for a minutes silence for his death, but for applause for his for his life. Very moving and very right. Rhys's normal seat at Goodison park remained empty. (See the Sunday Times here)

Meanwhile his classmates have set up their own tribute site, here. It is also very moving.

It is good though to see a bit of British grit, the Dunkirk spirit showing through though.

This must be such a sad time for them all.

May Rhys Jones rest in peace whilst his killers are brought to justice.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Yet more youth crime

I was very saddened to hear that a 21 year old described as having learning difficulties, Brent Martin, was beaten so badly in Sunderland on Thursday that he died of his injuries today.

The police have arrested a number of people, a woman of 21 and three youths, two aged 17 and one 16.

There is no doubt that this is a horrible crime. Clearly for a small number of youths, something is going very very wrong.

As a society we need to do something, though passing more laws is probably not the answer.

The BBC has this on the attack and this on the death of Brent Martin.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Youth Crime, and the murder of Rhys Jones

You expect murders from time to time. You even expect children to be murdered (usually by family) from time to time. However we are going through the most awful spate of murders of children by children, with the 11 year old Rhys Jones being the latest victim. (See the BBC here)

It is truly sad to see so much young life thrown away, by children, who when (or perhaps if) caught will also spend years in prison.

As if to underline this shocking state of affairs, youths are also attacking and killing others too. Sophie Lancaster (21) and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were walking in a local park in Stubbylee park in Bacup, Rossendale when they were set on by a gang of youths between 15 and 17. Sophie died in hospital whilst Robert was seriously injured. (See BBC here).

Clearly something is going seriously wrong. Youth violence is on the rise, both on young people and on everyone else.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Foot and Mouth, Where is the updated HSE report?

Firstly I am pleased to see that the foot and mouth outbreak appears to be limited, I would not be surprised to hear of a few more scares, but would be shocked if there was another outbreak.

During the initial outbreak suspicion fell on the laboratories at Pirbright, there was a flurry of activity, an initial HSE report and spinning blaming it all on Merial.

Two things are relevant here. Firstly the HSE report clearly identified the strain as being from the Pirbright. The second is that the initial report promised further tests to say whether the sub strain was from the Animal Health Institute or Merial.

Where is it?

For more on foot and mouth, see here, and for the initial HSE report see here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Are Gollywogs racist? or indeed racist?

There is a storm in Sussex about the sale of golliwogs, which some people complain are racist.

You can see the video report from South East today here.

You will note that one of the shopkeepers selling them is himself of Afro Caribbean origin.

Let us get this straight. A golly wog is a rag doll, that happens to be of Afro Caribbean appearance (well some parts of Africa any way as there are many racial groups there).

Is it wrong to sell a rag doll of Caucasian appearance? If not, what is wrong with one of Afro Caribbean appearance?

Offence is often in the eye of the beholder in much the same way as beauty is. I wonder who finds them offensive, and if you are going to give a view, could you please state your own ethnic origin?

Update 22:00

I should add that I can see how people may find the name offensive (golly wog as opposed to golly doll)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Longer trips to Accident and Emergency costs lives Shocker!

In a study reported on in Today's Grauniad, an unbelievable report says that longer trips to Accident and Emergency costs lives.

Government has denied this, and has also refuted claims that the Pope (Benedict XVI, a suspiciously Catholic name) is a Catholic as well as insisting that bears do not defecate in woodland.

What is bizarre is that this statement of the bl**ding obvious requires some sort of study. The study was in fact paid for by the Department of health and shows a direct correlation between distance to an A&E department and mortality rates, though to be fair I suspect the issue is more related to time to treatment.

The thing is that Labour are trying to convince everyone that centralising services is a good idea. Red Dawn Primarolo has been on the airwaves spewing propaganda that both the medical profession and patients want this. This is disingenuous in the extreme. It is true that some consultants favour it, and it is also true that there is a case for some types of treatments to be carried out at specialist centers such as cancer care, major heart surgery and so on, but crucially not emergency care in the case of either heart or stroke care (you need to stabilise a patient quickly). There is considerably less of a case for the centralisation of maternity units as it can be very hard to get maternity places in Sussex as it is. Clearly in this area there is a distinct lack of capacity and traveling long distance whilst in labour is problematic in any case.

In fact most GP's and patient groups are up in arms about service closures, with mass demonstrations for keeping services at many hospitals including the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath whilst of course Labour ministers have been out in protest as well.

The BBC has this.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Baby snatchers at work even where they believe there is no risk?

It appears that the baby snatchers are at work even where they do not believe there is an immediate risk.

A couple in Calderdale in Yorkshire taped a conversation with social services and published it on the internet (see below)

The thing is that they are talking about taking extreme action on nothing other than suspicion. No facts, just a suspicion. To take a new born baby away from its blood family at birth is wrong unless you are sure that the child will come to harm. In this case the council are certain there is no short term risk. So why do it?

However the reason the story came to light is that social services are in a bit of a tiz because they have been recorded and the recording has been made public.

Tough titty chaps, the data protection act does not cover you.

The Telegraph has this whilst Dizzy thinks has this and John Hemming has this and this.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Oil prices set to rise

It is with regret that I expect oil prices to rise, as hurricane Dean threatens oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rather oddly summer in the USA causes an increase in oil usage as Americans get in the cars with engines that are impracticably large and set off around the USA so pushing up prices anyway. However after hurricane Katrina disrupted oils supplies in 2005, expect worries about hurricane Dean to drive up oil prices as at this stage, Dean is stronger than Katrina was at a similar stage.

With a bit of luck it won't do too much damage, however as the sea in the gulf gets hotter year by year so the hurricanes get stronger.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

NHS, Just where has all the money gone?

Today the Daily Mail carries a story of a woman, Catherine Brown who was advised to have a chemically induced abortion at 18 weeks, because otherwise she would have a severe risk of death. The procedure involves inducing labour early and results in a live, if short lived birth.

When she went in to labour in the brand spanking new Queen's Hospital Romford, opened at a cost of £238 million last December, there were no staff on hand to assist. Staff were found, who said they did not have the training to help and left here to it.

With her mothers help she gave birth to Edward in a toilet. No medical staff were in attendance. Edward died shortly afterwards. To make matters much worse the hospital almost disposed of Edward with medical waste.

The hospital has issued a statement expressing regret and saying they have now bolted that stable door. This is clearly not satisfactory.

There are many other instances of Labour cuts and overspend making a mess of the NHS.

In a hospital which has lost its Accident and Emergency department a patient fainted whilst having a blood sample taken. The member of staff carrying out the procedure called for help and was simply told to call an ambulance to taker the patient to an A and E elsewhere.

In central Sussex we have our local hospital, the Princess Royal is under threat. Both the maternity and accident and emergency (already downgraded) are facing closure. As it is women in labour sometimes have to travel many miles to other hospitals when there is no space at the Princess Royal also finding that there is no space at the Royal Sussex in Brighton either.

There is not the spare capacity in Sussex to cope with hospital services being cut, yet the local health trusts, having wasted pots of money wants to do it.

The NHS is breaking down in places, Labour having made a complete hash of running it. It would at least be understandable if vast sums of money were not being spent, but it is hard to fathom how this amount of money being spent could lead to these sorts of horror stories.

Normal Service to be resumed Saturday

Normal service will be resumed during Saturday evening.

Just thought I would let you know.

Kind regards

Benedict White

Friday, August 17, 2007

Financial Markets bounce back

Well at least there is some good news on the financial markets
tonight. Yesterday's losses have been wiped out.

It did take the US Federal Reserve to lower its inter bank interest
rates making it clear that it will not allow any good banks to go down

Kind regards

Benedict White

Black Thursday! Exclusive to all papers!

There has been another day of losses on the stockmarket today, a bit
like last Friday which I called black Friday. The papers did not major
on it then, but they are now.

The markets are of course looking for any opportunity to over react.

There are issues in the markets which I will cover when I am back home
on Saturday, but nothing to panic about. However if the press sell the
bad news too hard they are in danger of causing a massive loss of
confidence, thereby causing a bigger problem.

Kind regards

Benedict White

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Foot and Mouth suspected in Surrey as well

As well as the outbreak on the Romney Marshes, at Honeychild Manor
farm near St. Mary on the marsh there is also a suspected outbreak in
Surrey outside of the existing exclusion zones.

I do hope that these are just cases of over catious farmers otherwise
foot and mouth could turn up anywhere.

By the way, the reason for the odd formatting and signatur on the
bottom of articles is that they are sent in by email.

I also can't respond to comments from my phone.

Kind regards

Benedict White

Foot and Mouth in Kent?

DEFRA has confirmed that they have set up a tempory exclusion zone in
Kent. This is precautionary while test results come in.

What is odd is that they will not say where the farm is. Obviously the
public could do with knowing so they can avoid the area. Apparently
the reason is that they don't want lots of helicopters overhead
scarring cattle and potentially spreading disease.

Every time there is an outbreak the press get out their helicopters
and use them untill they are asked not to. Clearly the media are being
very irresponsible.

Kind regards

Benedict White

Monday, August 13, 2007

De Regulation a lurch to the right?

So John Redwood's policy group on competitiveness has signaled some of
its findings and is looking to cut business costs by £14 billion by
reducing regulations. As John Redwood has said this is effectively a
tax cut, but one which does not harm the exchequer. The BBC has been
leading all day on either Labour's criticism or actually implying cuts
in services.

Even the Telegraph has picked up more on Labour's criticism than the
substance now, which is odd given that it was there story to start

However the idea that this is some form of lurch to the right is
phooye (as Boris would say) because Labour are supposedly in the
deregulation game also trying to pass a bill aimed at reducing
regulations, but at the whim of government ministers signing executive
orders without the need for parliamentary scrutiny. (see the saving
parliament link on the right of my blog for more).

At least all our reductions in regulations will be subject to
parliamentary scrutiny. The truth is that it is Labour who are off on
the far right wing here not us, yet the media are happy to trot out
their spin.

How sad. The Conservative blogosphere needs to fight back.

Kind regards

Benedict White

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Labour lead slashed by 4 points in as many hours!

At this rate there will be a Conservative government by the end of the week!

Actually no, I just bring news of another poll from ICM in the Sunday
Mirror that has Labour on 39, the Conservative's on 33 and the Liberal
Democrats on 18.

Poll junkies tend to take ICM and YouGov seriously but it is
interesting to see how far they diverge today. That said it is the
silly season and a silly time to do a poll. That does beg the question
though, why are all these polls going on in August when that normally
doesn't happen?

Kind regards

Benedict White

Saturday, August 11, 2007

10 Point poll lead for Labour!

Apparently tomorrow's Sunday Times carries news of a YouGov poll
placing Labour on 42 (up 2) Conservative's on 32 (nc) and the Liberal
Democrats on 14 (down 2).

I'd say a lot more, but it is an August poll. Not good news for us
Conservative's but I'll start taking polls seriously from mid
September onwards.

Kind regards

Benedict White

Rubber Necking Almost Causes pileup on the M20

Near, or possibly at Leeds Castle in Kent there is a tethered helium
ballon with a gondola underneath. Now that is something you do not see
every day. I noticed it miles away.

As we got closer. all of a sudden someone, many many cars in front
breaked. to have a better look. The car behind (or a car behind) was
caught by surpise and braked harder sending a ripple effect down th
line of traffic until several cars. including mine had to do emergency

I do wish people would be carefull when they rubber necked. Here's a
novell idea. if you want to slow down, don't do it in the over taking

Kind regards

Benedict White

Blogging will be lite next week

As I will be on holiday.

Still, I can write the odd article from my phone.

Financial market Chaos: Dow shows its metal

Well, we have had another day of heavy losses on the financial markets, with various central banks piling in the overnight lending market to keep the banking sector afloat.

However, despite early heavy losses on the Dow Jones index it recovered to finish only 31.14 points down. However it did take 3 interventions from the US Federal Reserve and some heavy hints that it won't let banks go down that did it.

Ultimately what has happened is the bursting of a speculative boom based on takeover hopes that overvalued shares by up to 10%. Now there is unlikely to be the credit to fund that, shares have returned to the level they should have been at.


Now all we need is for the banks to behave sensibly, and we won't have a problem.

The BBC has this, whilst the FT has this.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Black Friday as Financial market chaos continues

Shares are still tumbling on the worldwide stock markets, the FTSE 100 having dropped 200 points in so far today, 10% down from July.

The reason for the current crisis seems to be that BNP Paribas bank in France suspended trading in 3 investment funds linked to sub prime lending in the USA housing market.

The knock on from this is general concern that there may be some kind of tightening of world wide credit reducing the amount of money available to fund takeovers.

It seems to follow from this that what is going on is the bursting of a speculative asset bubble, where traders had valued share stock on the basis that there may be a takeover bid rather than the intrinsic value of the company itself. Now the market thinks that takeovers are less likely they are readjusting their positions accordingly. However clearly the central banks are very concerned. The European Central bank has pumped in €156 billion in the last two days to prop up banks. The sums are vast.

Seems fair enough, and nothing to panic about. But there is another lurking concern that a credit crunch will reduce spending in other areas causing a recession. This sort of thing irritates me. What is happening is the heard mind of the financial markets running around like headless chickens either overvaluing certain types of assets or over correcting when they get their fingers burnt a bit.

One area which may be affected is the will of banks to lend money in mortgages at the sort of silly multipliers that they have been. That would cause a slow down in the housing market, which would be no bad thing if it is gentle.

Still, the fundamentals are still reasonably good, and if we can persuade the markets to calm down we will be alright. Given government and consumer debt and borrowing, we could be in real trouble if there is a hard crunch.

The BBC has this, whilst the FT has this.

New Foot and Mouth outbreak, farmer adamant that it is not foot and mouth

I reported that there was a new foot and mouth scare last night outside of the security zones. This morning the farmer of that farm was on Radio 4's the Today program, and was adamant that his cattle did not have foot and mouth.

Apparently as a precaution he called in a vet, in part as he has fields close to one of the other farms. The vet looked at his cattle, and took advice from DEFRA which led to the closure but was certain that the cattle did not have foot and mouth. The measures are a precaution only.


The BBC has this.

Oh, and the government has now, a week late, agreed to close foot paths in the protection zone. I just hope it is not too late.

Tower Hamlets Shadwell By-election result

Apparently Professor Michael Keith's smears of racism did not help him out enough to win.

The result was:

Miah (Respect) 1512
Keith (Lab) 1415
Crossey (Con) 476
Clarke (LD) 98


Will have to look at last times numbers tomorrow to see how they really look.

Hat tip to Peter Golds for the result.

Foot and Mouth: Has it spread to Dorking?

Just as everyone thought it was safe to go back to the country side there is news of a suspected case near Dorking (On the Westcott side).

I could of course spew hours of nonsense speculation but I won't.

What I will say is that whilst the animal movement ban was good, the lack of restrictions on footpaths was bad.

I also think that we may have let our guard down so soon.

I do hope it was not the deer that spread it.

The BBC has this.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Equity Markets slump as credit crunch starts to bite

According to the Financial Times there are some concerns at the liquidity of certain funds held by some banks.

This is causing a bit of panic equity selling. The European Central Bank has stepped in with a massive 94 billion Euro intervention, the largest since the September the 11th 2001 terrorist attacks. There must be some concern there.

I suspect equities (shares) are going to fall a bit more. So you will see things like the FTSE 100, Dow and so on fall a bit.

The problem we have is that there is very little room for manouver at the treasury. It is already borrowing far too much considering we are in a period of economic growth, to fund public spending. If tax receipts go down too far whilst unemployment rises we will have a bigger problem.

The economy of the world has got the jitters. Lets hope it does not last.

Pirbirght, A legionaries outbreak?

According to reports there has been a case of legionaries disease linked to the Institute of Animal Health at Pirbright. This outbreak predates the foot an mouth outbreak. Although the person who caught the disease does work at Pirbright initial investigations show no link there. Other sites that the person visited are being investigated.

It is probably nothing, as it does not seem to be linked to the Pirbright site, yet. However if it dies end up being linked there then there will be questions to answer.

The BBC has this.

Foot and Mouth: Are Merial spinning back?

There is now no doubt in my mind that there is a blame game going on, between the government and Merial Animal Health who share the Pirbright site with the Institute of Animal Health, a government laboratory who's budget has been cut whilst been criticised for potential lapses in bio security.

The bottom line appears to be this:

It is now almost certain that the outbreak came from the Pirbright site, so it is either the public or private body that leaked it.

There is a subtle difference between the virus stock in both organisations, and after a while we will know who leaked.

There is no need to preempt a short investigation, we can just wait a week surely?

However, as can been seen from this Telegraph report (to be fair mostly compiled from things I already knew) Merial are starting to gear up their operation to deal with the preemptive smears of the government and in particular Gordon Brown.

A Strategic Defeat as we prepare to desert the good people of Basra

It is with great regret that I see the situation unfolding in Basra.

The British Army is preparing to leave it to the various militias, who have effective control of the situation on the ground. They have infiltrated the security services at all levels and get training, weaponry and funds from Iran, with, or without the consent of the central government there.

I have been concerned that the basic things not only were not done to secure Iraq in the first place, but have continued not to be done.

So now we have a situation where we are going to leave Basra, with a mission far from accomplished, to descend into chaos. Many people there want us to saty, because they fear the militias. All those people who helped us and hoped we would succeed are now in the firing line.

The problem is that this mission has been under resourced from the start. What is more we have not done anything like enough to control the borders.

Guido has this, Dizzy has this, The Washington Post has this, whilst the Times has this.

For more on Iraq see here.

Labour in racist smear shocker!

Apparently there is a by election in Tower Hamlets, and as it happens the former leader of the council one Professor Michael Keith (Labour smear mongers party) is trying to gain a seat on the council. He is a friend of Ruth Kelly.

He has said that David Davis, Shadow Home Secretary, called for a block of sheltered housing , allocated as Muslim only, should be burnt down.

David Davis said nothing of the kind, what he said was that an allocation policy of that sort entrenches segregation and was wrong.

Professor Michael Keith stands by his comments, though apparently he alleges he meant them "metaphorically", however Said Awarsi, shadow community cohesion minister has written to her counterpart, Hazel Blairs asking for an apology.

Frankly this is the lowest dirtiest kind of politics, Labour either needs to deal with it, or accept the consequences.

Iain Dale has this, whilst the Daily Mail has this.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Foot and Mouth: The Gardener did it!

News reports are now centering on an allotment and its tenant as a possible source of the outbreak.

(presumably for What seems to be the thinking is that said gardener works at PirbrightMerial as it is they who are being spun into the frame) may have walked some from the Pirbright site and then onto his (or indeed hers) allotment from where it spread.

From reports I have mentioned before in the Sun, it appears there are stories about of people ignoring bio security rules so arguably this is possible. However I still find it unlikely.

What is more interesting though is that the Labour government which was so upset about spinning and leaks in the Cash for Honours/Peerages investigation is clearly leaking as much advanced information as it can get its hands on despite the fact that this investigation is presumably going to be short and the results should be out soon.

Hmm... So it is alright to leak ongoing reports of investigations if you are laying the blame on someone else but not when Labour are in the frame?

For more on foot and mouth see here.

Jargon Busting Going Forward

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council is pushing the envelope on enabling customer focused communication with its stakeholders.

The aim is apparently to remove meaningless twaddle from its Internet presence to enhance the customer experience. As this Google search shows they need to step up to the plate and give it one more heave, in order to ensure a truly satisfactory customer experience.

"Going forward" the council has done some "blue sky thinking" on how to "flag up" jargon in its "information architecture" using "joined up thinking". Alas as the links in the previous sentence indicate they may not have succeeded.

If you want a plain English explanation for this waffle, see Dizzy Thinks here.

Foot and Mouth: Its all Merial's fault!

I have read the Health and Safety Executive's interim report on the foot and mouth outbreak, and reported on it here. It is equivocal, because frankly we just do not at this stage know who is to blame, nor how it happened.

However, I note that all news broadcasts I have listened to from the BBC seem to be pointing in one direction and one direction only, namely Merial Animal Health.

This seems to me to be unnecessary pre conclusion spinning. I am aware that the odds are very much in favour of the Pirbright site being the start of the infection, however the investigation is very much ongoing. There is no need to say more, nor cast any blame, yet it seems the spinners are on the case.

It may well be that they are guilty as charged, but I would say two things:

  • The jury is out.
  • They will come out fighting.
What is more, if the initial spin turns out to be wrong, there will be trouble ahead.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

HSE Pirbright report, initial findings

The Health and Safety Executives initial report is available here.

Firstly it says that the strain that caused the outbreak is the same as the one worked on at both Merial Animal Health and the Institute of Animal Health. What it fails to do, is to say which one was responsible. Further tests are being carried out to ascertain which one it was.

On potential airborne release, the report says:

  • We found no evidence of any working practices or incidents such as laboratory spillages or leakages from plant or equipment which could have led to a release of the FMDV strain within the contained working environment at either organisation.
    We confirmed that all air being discharged to atmosphere from the contained working environments is first passed through a minimum of two high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) air filters.
  • We confirmed that there is continuous monitoring of the pressures of the ventilation systems of the facility and that the HEPA filters are routinely integrity tested in line with regulatory requirements.
Well, that seems to fly in the face of what people at the site have been telling the Sun, here.

However the report initially doubts wind because it was in the wrong direction for most of the time frame. Further investigation is being carried out.

On waterborne release, the report is clear that this could not have happened in the animal isolation unit of the IoH, because they are in essence very happy with the effluent treatment plant.

The rest of the IoH and Merial share a system, which the HSE is unhappy with, however they doubt that the outbreak could have spread from the site to the farm because the flow of water was wrong.

So having ruled out all other possible causes they have only left human intervention, either accidental or deliberate, and reading one of the articles in the sun in my earlier post that is a possibility. They are investigating this angle as well.

In summary:

  • It is highly likely that the outbreak started on the Pirbright site.
  • We do not as yet know whether it was the IoH or Merial.
  • We have indications it was not air or waterborne, but no firm answers.
  • Humans are likely to get the blame.
So, we are not much further forward from what we knew already. However apparently the report may have been delayed while the political implications were considered (BBC Radio 4 reports). Hmm.. this has the makings of a good conspiracy theory.

Pirbright leaking like a sieve!

One of the interesting things about Pirbright right now, is not so much that it is physically leaking like a sieve, though according to previous reports it is not airtight, (See this here from the Sun and earlier foot an mouth posts for links to reports) but that its staff are leaking information to the press like a sieve.

According to this report in the Sun, lots of workers are telling them of all sorts of safety breaches that staff routinely get away with. If true this indicates a severe failure of management.

The journalists are out looking for a story, and you can bet they will find one.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Labour MP's fail to back Boris Johnson's mayoral bid shocker!

Two Labour MP's (Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North, and Dawn Butler, mp for Brent South) have spurned Boris Johnson's London Mayoral bid.

In a statement I just made up, Boris said "Crikey! Cripes! I was hoping to get the backing of all Labour MP's but now these two have some out against me, all is lost! I shall have to think very carefully about my political future."

Editorial note. Boris Johnson is in the race to be nominated to be the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London.

The BBC had this ridiculous story, whilst Iain Dale has this, part of which is by Andrew Gilligan.

Pirbright Leak, it wasn't me gov!

Somewhat unsurprisingly both laboratories on the Pirbright site are confident that they followed procedures and it was not their facilities that leaked foot and mouth. I am not surprised because these people are not stupid or careless. Whilst there is a link to the site, due to the strain of the virus, I would still be surprised if it came from there.

However if it did not come from there, then where did it come from? The strain is the same one that was responsible for the 1967 foot and mouth outbreak and as far as I know has not been seen in the wild since. Once you have excluded the impossible, what ever remains, however improbable must be the answer. It will be interesting to see what the Health and Safety Executive makes of it.

The newspapers are going heavy on the Pirbright link with this from the Telegraph here, the Guardian here and the Daily Mail, never wishing to over dramatise a story goes with the headline "Plume of foot and mouth virus casts 30-mile shadow of fear" presumably in an effort to comfort its readers.

The interesting thing about the Daily Mail story is that Iain Dale has posted a theory that foot and mouth could have been spread by wild deer, here, which would be of far greater concern, because if wild deer had the disease and were spreading it about, we would need to be hunting with mass packs of dogs to eradicate it, which has of course been made illegal by a bunch of lefty class warriors in the commons who don't like toffs on horses even if they are not toffs.

If it does turn out to be from Pirbright then how it hits the fan will depend on whether it was the government lab, which has had funding cut and was (and still is) in need of major refurbishment to keep it safe, or the nice private facilities on the same site. (For funding and refurbmishment issues see here and here)

Politically, it could get interesting.

Result in Lebanon's by elections

Members of the Lebanese parliament who support the government, and are anti Syrian seem to have a higher death rate that those of the opposition.

3 have been assassinated so far, reducing the governments majority.

There have been 2 by elections today to replace Pierre Gemayel, a member of the cabinet, and member for Metn shot dead, and Walid Eido, member for Beirut's second district.

In the latter al-Amin Itani has won a landslide victory for the ruling coalition.

However in Metn the position is less clear. Michel Aoun of the Free patriotic movement claimed victory for his candidate Dr. Camille Khoury, however this is disputed by the Phalange party and its candidate ex-President Amin Gemayel, father of the murdered Pierre.

Until a few late ballot boxes were opened Gemayel was clearly in the lead.

The result is key, as the government needs to retain its majority and elect a new president in December. However whilst the pro western governing coalition has a simple majority in parliament, it does need two thirds of the MP's to turn up to make the vote corate. There will be more political trouble ahead.

For more see The Beirut Daily Star here for Metn and here for Beirut's second district, whilst the BBC has this.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Gordon Brown: Lucky, unlucky or just a Jonah?

In the five weeks since Gordon Brown became Prime minister we have had a failed terrorist attack, two floods and now a (hopefully minor) foot and mouth outbreak.

Some have it that Gordon Brown has been unlucky to face 3 (or 4 depending on how you count the floods) crisis in 5 weeks, while others say he is lucky because those events have shown him to be statesmanlike and will help him gain votes.

Interesting debate.

However perhaps he is just a Jonah, bringing us all bad luck? Anyone considered that?

I wonder what the odds are on a plague of frogs?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Foot and Mouth outbreak linked to government laboratory at Pirbright

When I first heard suspicions earlier in the day that as Pirbright Institute for Animal Health was close by and thought to be connected I thought no. No way. These people know what they are doing. this is just a wild eyed conspiracy theory. Go see a shrink!

However the strain of the virus has been confirmed as the one used on the site. It does not normally occur in animals naturally. It is unclear whether the Institute of Animal Health actually uses it itself, or if it is just used by the private company on the same site, to manufacture a foot and mouth vaccine. Manufacturing has now been suspended.

I do not as yet have the name of the private company, but have to wonder if they donate to Labour?

The good news is that if the Pirbright site was the source of the outbreak then it may well be very limited. There is much work to do though. As an initial precautionary measure the exclusion zones have been extended so as to center on both sites. Now all animal movements from farms in the area need to be traced, where they cross other cattle movements they need to be traced as well and all monitored.

There is plenty of work ahead.

On another note, I was very disappointed to see that several TV channels turned up over the farms with large wind generating machines (helicopters) presumably to do some rubber necking. They may well have spread the disease further and an air exclusion zone was set up. This is deeply irresponsible behavior.

Incidentally if the Pirbright site turns out to be the source, and foot and mouth has already spread, then there will be hell to pay.

The BBC has this.

Iain Dale has this.

Update 5th of August 00:05

Having checked, the company that runs a facility on the Pirbright site is Merial Animal Health, which is jointly owned by Merck and -Sanofi-Aventis.

There is no connection (that I can find) between these companies and any political party.

Foot and mouth outbreak. It is about to get worse

I have been trying to follow the news on the foot and mouth outbreak to find out what sort of farm the out break happened on.

It seems it is a beef fattening farm. this is not good news. It is the sort of business where cattle come and go on a regular basis. It does explain how the farm could have got the disease, and that is by movements of cattle to the farm.

The net result is that there may well be another farm out there with foot and mouth, and worse still, it could have sold cattle all over the country as well as having cross infecting cattle at market.

With a bit of luck though, it won't get that bad. The right actions appear to have been taken in the early stages. now what we need is the paper trail followed up, through to the markets from which this farms cattle came from, and all the farms that have been in contact with those animals.

It will be a lot of work.

Foot and Mouth: government over reacts whilst it does not do enough!

One of the interesting things about government is that there is always someone to say you should have done it another way.

According to reports there has been an outbreak of foot and mouth on a farm in Surrey.

The government has reacted by banning the movement of any cattle except those on its licensing scheme.

Whilst I have not looked in detail at the licensing scheme, this seems the right thing to do at this stage.

Gordon Brown and Hilary Benn have both canceled their holidays, which whilst politically a good move is a bot of an over reaction and very harsh on their families. I do not know the ages of Hilary's children, but Gordon's are young and these times are important.

However, this is either one hell of an over reaction, or it is a bit late. In the case of foot and mouth there probably is not much middle ground.

The outbreak is on a farm with 60 cows. With a bit of luck, it is a small dairy heard, which means that there is not much movement of animals to or from it. If that is the case, then come the end of next week, the "crisis" will be over. However if the farm has traded cattle a lot, then firstly it could have got the infection from somewhere else, and it is spreading elsewhere, or, it still could be spreading elsewhere.

Obviously DEFRA will be looking to see how this farm got foot and mouth as it is not native to this country. It came from somewhere. The same overseas source could well have infected several farms. We just don't know, though there is this story of fear from the Guardian in 2003, about bio terrorists and foot and mouth.

What needs to happen now is that the movement restrictions need to be kept in place. If the out break spreads then the army needs to be called in, sooner rather than later, even though we know they are over stretched. Mass culling needs to happen with infected cattle as soon as possible.

One thing is clear, that the government needs to act swiftly, and be prepared to do the unthinkable. (Vaccinate for example).

Friday, August 03, 2007

House repossessions up 30% - is there about to be a house price crash?

House repossessions are up 30% for the first half of this year compared to the same time last year. (The BBC has this).

This is still low compared to 1991, however it is still the highest since 2001.

Insolvencies are down 8% on the first quarter however they are still very high, even by the standards of 1991. (See my previous article here).

The big question is, will there be a house price crash?

The short answer is probably not because there is quite some pent up demand, due to a lot of first time buyers trying to get into the market and the pressure immigration is putting on the market combined with the relatively small number of houses built.

However there are some dark clouds on the horizon. Between now and Christmas there will be 300,000 mortgages where the fixed rate ends. In some cases repayments may jump by as much as 50%. Those buyers that either overextended themselves to buy, have since run up credit card debts
or have just got used to that level of disposable income there is going to be a lot of belt tightening. In short it is going to hurt.

The economy is in a difficult position. Disaster is not definite, but the economy needs to be handled with some care. One wrong turn to lead to an awful lot of pain.

How real is Gordon Brown's bounce?

One of my favorite sites is, mostly written by Mike Smithson.

Today Mike has this article delving deeper into the poll numbers that give us the Brown bounce.

Although once weighted, there is a bounce, there are some oddities in the unweighted numbers, in particular more people saying they voted Conservative in 2005 and less saying they voted Labour, which is causing the shift.

As Mark Senior points out in this comment here, we are also not seeing any bounce at all in real elections, that is council by elections.

In fact the local by-election results over the last month seem to still show a Conservative lead of something like 8%.Now that will not actually translate into a general election lead of 8% but you would expect it to have been dented by a Brown bounce if it is as big as some of the polls say.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sorry about the lack of posts


been busy at work.

Also need to write an article about an iritating zone alarm issue.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The rights of cohabiting couples

Well, the law commissions report on the rights of cohabiting couples is making the news again, so I will say what I said before:

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.

And so it ends, Operation Banner is no more

Thirty eight years ago, Harold Wilson the Prime minister in 1969 sent in the British army, not to put down an insurgency, but to protect Roman Catholics from the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Time moved on, and at a pace, leaving all confused.

The Provisional IRA took to arms, with their own aims, even going to the disgusting and depraved levels of kidnapping and murdering a mother of 10 who's only transgression was comforting a dying soldier.

There has been much that would revolt decent people from both sides, but at least there is now peace.

Long may it last.

May all the dead rest in peace, and may God watch over them wherever they be.

The BBC has this.