Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sorry, I may be away for a while, dealing with personal matters of a legal nature.

I may in the meantime run some hit and run articles, but I have some pressing matters to deal with.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Diplomas to replace 'A' Levels?

That old chestnut has come up again. Are diplomas going to replace A levels? It seems that the prime motivating factors are that some people are just no good at A levels, so don't get them and then do not go to university and some people are concerned that A level standards are dropping.

Well, some people want to, and indeed would benefit from a vocational education whilst others want to, and will benefit from an academic one. One size does not fit all!

The real problem is that there has been massive grade inflation in A levels. The students who now turn up at university with the supposedly required A levels to do a course now have to do remedial studies they did not used to have to do. If you don't believe me ask a university lecturer, particularly in engineering and the sciences.

I am not sure a diploma system will help. What we actually need to do is have some rigorous courses that are harder to pass.

The BBC has this.

Government to renege on renewable energy targets shocker!

Apparently according to this article in today's Guardian this Labour government is going to renege on its renewable energy targets, because it feels they are both expensive and impractical. Well, the way Labour do anything, getting out of bed in the morning looks impractical.

Climate change sceptics aside, and indeed all their arguments, the stark reality is that we are already behind India and the USA, despite the fact that we have potentially good opportunities in renewable energy. The problem here is as always a useless government.

Monday, October 22, 2007

£1 Million: The cost of the election that never was!

I have to say I am quite amused by this article in the Guardian. Apparently the election that never was cost Labour and the Unions one million pounds.

The Conservatives only spent £200,000.

And yet Labour whinge about the so called "Ashcroft money" when they are using funds which are not even theirs and piling up resources only for Gordon Brown to bottle it.

What is more surprising is that some people think that Gordon Brown did not in fact want an election. Well, I hate to see how much money he would spend on an election if it did happen, if he can tip £1 million on one he never wanted.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Another salvo fired as Labour infighting continues!

There seems to have been another salvo fired in the internal battles of Labour as Blairites seem to be taking some revenge on the Brown inner circle.

It must be said that at this stage it looks a bit low key, but the Mail on Sunday carries an article today which says that Tony Blair felt like an abused wife, whilst also serialising a book by Anthony Seldon, being a biography of Tony Blair.

The bit so far serialised covers just after the local elections in May 2006 when Labour did not do very well. It was written after many interviews with close members of Blair's team.

Needless to say it seems to have raised hackles in the Brown camp. Expect Ed "binky" Balls to be going off on one with steam pouring out of his ears.

The other interesting thing though, is this: It is clearly not very complimentary of Brown, or his team, yet was published in the Mail, albeit the Mail on Sunday. Paul Dacre editor of the Daily Mail is a close friend of Gordon Brown and that paper seems to be nice to Brown when you would not expect it to be. Its sister paper has no such hang ups. We could be getting an internal battle in the Mail camp as well.

The Police should stop more black people shocker!

"Police: stop more black suspects" is the headline for a front page article in today's Observer.

The Policeman making the plea is not known to have any links to the Klu Klux Klan, the BNP or any "white supremacist" movement, though some argue that he heads a racist organisation which excludes members of specific racial groups, namely the Black Police officers Association. He is Keith Jarrett.

It looks and sounds a lot more controversial than it is.

The fact is that there is a disproportionate amount of crime committed against "ethnic minorities" and that needs a solution. These crimes are also disproportionately committed by "ethnic minorities" so it does make sense for police to stop and search them more. However the most interesting line in the whole article is this:
Controversially, Jarrett said he would not oppose a random use of stop-and-search when officers had 'reasonable suspicion' an offence had been committed. He argued that, as long as officers used the powers courteously and responsibly, many within the black community would accept it as a necessary evil.
The thing which most grates anyone is lack of courtesy and makes the relationship of the police that much harder. In general the police are polite, largely because they know the people on their patch. That is good. However there is nothing quite so likely to "rile" people as the police jumping on easy technical offences whilst ignoring ones that effect people a lot more.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A match too far? England lose to South Africa

Well, maybe it was a match too far, with England losing 15 points to 6 to South Africa.

It was a tough gritty match, and our team did all it could.

Well done and congratulations to South Africa for being fine winners and well done to England for turning around their game and getting to the final.

England stay in touch with South Africa after first half

Well, after the first half, we are still staying in touch with South Africa, only being down 9 points to 3. We do need to make sure we don't make silly mistakes though.

It is all still to play for in the second half. Our defence is holding out against some very real dangers. We do need to get closer to their touch in the second half though.

England play South Africa's Springboks in the Rugby world cup final!

I have to say I am quietly hopeful. England looked awful at the beginning of the tournament, but have dragged themselves up with sheer grit and determination.

As with all cup finals, either side could win it, even if South Africa are firm favourites. However if England stay in touch in terms of the score they could well snatch it in the dying minutes. I hope they do!

Is the Liberal Democrat leadership going to be the most boring ever?

Well, you do have to ask. It looks like it will be s straight fight between Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne. Or dull verses duller.

It is not that I think anyone else stands a chance, it just would be nice for a third or fourth candidate to add some interest to the competition. It would make the betting more interesting as well.

The two candidates did go "head to head" today, I would have taken some interest but alas fell asleep. The BBC has this here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How clean is your hospital?

Well, according to this report on the BBC (and carried elsewhere) probably not very. Half of all NHS trusts (44) are not carrying out infection control measures. In this day and age that is shocking. It has nothing to do with services being contracted out and everything to do with lack of management control. The report makes it clear that the variety of targets is part of the problem.

The other thing I found interesting was looking up to see how my local hospitals were doing. They seem "fair" on treatment and weak on use of financial resources. In short they are not managing the money, and neither are the local primary care trusts. This has led to threats to services.

Is the NHS really safe in Labour's hands?

No. they can't run a drinking session in a brewery.

Going back to targets, they are not in themselves a bad idea, however when setting targets it helps to keep an eye on the possible unintended consequences of what targets are set and what happens for meeting or failing to meet these targets. This is where the problems in today's NHS come from, and why A&E departments keep to their 4 hour waits whilst people wait to get in the door in an ambulance outside, or are bumped into a ward unnecessarily.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

England lose 2-1 to Russia.

Giving away a 1 nil lead thanks to a careless move from Rooney.

Right. I am going to sulk now.

We need to beat Croatia now.

Prime Ministers Questions: looked like a no score draw today

However Gordon Brown does not seem to be able to get his punchlines right which is a shame. He did have a good one about the Liberal Democrats and everyone in the parliamentary party could be in the err.... parliamentary party.

However we will have to wait and see how the main news reports it if at all.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

So will Charles Kennedy stand for the Liberal Democrat leadership?

Well, the question has to be asked. Will he be back? has Chat show Charlie kicked the habit or got it under control?

There is no doubt that having Charles Kennedy back as Liberal Democrat leader would be a big risk, but perhaps the bigger one would be not having him back?

The Liberal Democrats made the wrong choice last time. That much seems clear. They can't afford to repeat the mistake.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sir Menzies Campbell resigns as Liberal Democrat leader!

Well, you could knock me down with a feather. It looks like the Liberal Democrats have knifed another leader Ming Campbell, the second time in this parliament.

Now don't get me wrong, I like to see a bit of infighting in Labour and the Liberal Democrats, but if anyone thinks this is going to help them they are much mistaken. Unless your party is led by a psychologically flawed dithering Stalinist control freak* perhaps you should ask not what your leader can do for you, but what you can do for your leader.

Still, I'll sit back and watch the fireworks, munching popcorn.

The BBC has this.

* Come on, if you are in that party, you know who you are :)

Liberal Democrats tearing themselves apart over Ming Campbell!

Well, there have been mutterings about Sir Menzies Campbell and his leadership of the Liberal Democrats for some time. It appears the dissenters key worry is the party's slide in the polls.

The thinking seems to go that if they had a different leader he could get more media coverage and hence get them up in the polls. As an example of such speculation see this on Lib Dem Voice.

I have just listened to quite a lot of open speculation on BBC Radio 4's World at One. Interesting.

I think that what the Liberal Democrats need to do is to wake up and smell the coffee. Firstly the government (currently Labour) makes most of the political weather, followed by the Conservatives as the largest opposition party in the commons, (and largest party in the land) then the others. At a time like this the Liberal Democrats are always going to struggle to be heard.

Change your leader if you feel like it, it wont make any difference.

Besides which us Conservatives like Ming Campbell.

The BBC has this.

The BBC also has this.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Let slip the Dogs of War: Labour infighting begins!

Well, to be fair there are always disagreements in political parties, it happens. Also, yesterdays men (or women) are often more respected by journalists looking to sell a news paper than by anyone else.

However the result of Gordon Brown's attacks, disloyalty and general nastiness towards Tony Blair may be coming home to roost. I took the view before Gordon organised his Stalinist coronation that the only thing worse than Gordon Brown becoming Labour leader would be him not becoming Labour leader. My thinking was that his troops, and indeed he, would make make Ted Heath look like an ardent loyalist.If he did get in, then not only would he be a disaster, but it would not take long for him to be resented and derided by his own side.

We are not entirely there yet, but people who six months ago were not the usual suspects (because they are not Brownites) but will be soon known as the usual suspects have started piping up and briefing the media. So far three have been named in the media, Stephen Byers, Alan Milburn and Charles Clarke. Obviously the press reports indicate that they are only speaking out because of wider mutterings (my arse! we will see) and we will have to see how it progresses. What I can say is that if this takes hold, then Gordon is in for a much tough time in the future than he has had in the past.

The Times has this
, the Observer this whilst the Mail on Sunday has this.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Conservatives ahead in the polls by 7%

In an ICM poll for tomorrow's Sunday Telegraph the Conservative party lead Labour by 7%. The results are as follows: Conservatives 43% (+5), Labour 36% (-2) and the Liberal Democrats on 14% (-2). Incidentally the figure for the Liberal Democrats is there lowest for some time with ICM. That won't help the jitters at Cowley Street.

So how does that play in commons seats? On Anthony Wells calculator that gives the Conservatives 320, Labour 285, the Liberal Democrats on 18 with others on 27, or a hung parliament.

England Beat France to go through to the World Cup final!

In a tough and gritty game, England beat France 14 - 9!

So lets see who we get in the Rugby World Cup final!

Labour to support Marriage in the tax system?

Andy Burnham, Labour's Chief Secretary to the Treasury is flying a kite in today's Telegraph. He has given an interview saying that marriage will be supported in the tax system. It is hard to believe that Gordon Brown was not aware of this development before it happened, though a report in the BBC adds the caveat that these are Andy's personal views. Perhaps this is just kite flying by Labour?

The funny thing is that so many Labour ministers have some out against Conservative proposals in the same area, and refused to say that marriage is a better structure for children. At the Labour party conference Gordon Brown even said:

"I say to the children of two-parent families, one-parent families, foster parent families; to the widow bringing up children: I stand for a Britain that supports as first-class citizens not just some children and some families but supports all children and all families," he said.

"We all remember that biblical saying: 'suffer the little children to come unto me'. No Bible I have ever read says: 'bring just some of the children'."

Can they really pull this off as a U turn? If they try I can imagine David Cameron quoting back the bible about heaven rejoicing when a sinner repents!

It seems that Labour are so bereft of there own ideas that they have to use ours wholesale. One panelist on last nights News Quiz on BBC Radio 4 said that Labour should be forced to give its pre budget report before the Conservative party conference whilst another suggested they should pu it in a sealed envelope instead.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Maidstone and Tunbridge NHS trust scandal

Well, it seems the place was a dirty nasty hellhole, with not enough staff to give out bed pans to people with diarrhoea, who then had to sit in their own excrement. Conditions which could possibly shock a third world doctor.

What is strange though is the way incompetence is rewarded in our country, and not just in the public sector. Someone makes a complete horlicks of it, like the trusts former chief executive, Rose Gibb, gets to resign, with a handsome payoff. It is not just the fact that the money could be better used to either fix some of the trusts problems or compensate the victims, it is the reward for making the mess which grates.

There seems to be a problem with the way contracts for high paid staff work in this country. In short, if one of them makes a mess they get asked to resign rather than go through the pain and negative publicity of a sacking, and gay paid a severance fee as a result. So if you are a useless CEO expect to walk away with a fat pay off.

However Rose Gibb can't be the only person responsible. She had a whole board with her, including a chairman, medical director and nursing officer. What did they do to stop this mess happening?

Government can't escape all blame either. The Maidstone and Tunbridge NHS trust has been in the news before, when it asked its staff to work unpaid overtime to ease the financial burden caused by a PFI scheme. Clearly something is going very wrong in parts of the NHS.

The BBC has this.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Gordon Brown: A Calculating, Phoney, Weak, Arrogant, Indecisive Bully!

And that is from a staunch Labour supporter who says:
The events this week are I am afraid typical of what is to come with Brown. He did bottle it, he did dither, he did try and spoil the Tory conference using the troops in Iraq, he has lied, repeatedly, he is opportunistic, calculating, a phoney, weak, arrogant, indecisive, and a bully- poor Alistair Darling must have despaired when he was forced into such obvious, panic stricken, calculating, back of a fag packet, and opportunistic budget changes.

What happened this week would have happened at some point because Brown quite simply is too calculating, scheming, bullying manipulative to think straight- at least Labour now is beginning to wake up to this fact. They had been warned mind.

What to do? Well these appalling Brown character traits (or lack of character) will not go away. The Labour cabinet is now full of pygmies thanks to Blair and Brown- no succession planning. Brown of course will not walk, and Labour has no plan B. So you can forget them for now. I guess the Tories will enjoy the next 2.5 years seeing Labour scrabbling around under such ineffectual, incompetent leadership.

See here.

Gordon Brown's Own Goal!

I was interested to hear Gordon Brown highlighting the fact that there was a petition demanding an election in 2007 during prime ministers questions.

He taunted David Cameron who did not know it was there that it only had 26 signatures, and none of the shadow front bench.

Well, now it has a few more, 4,564, thanks to Gordon's publicity drive.

You can sign the petition here.

Prime Ministers Questions: Who won?

Well, judging by the sound bites on TV and the media reaction David Cameron did. He cemented the impression of Gordon Brown over the last week in the public's mind. Well, that is, if they were paying attention.

Next week, David Cameron needs to come across easier on Brown. Firstly Brown will be looking to hit back, and that will disarm him and make him look petty, secondly playing the same harsh game every week looks bad.

That said, David Cameron is going to have to mention Gordon Brown's own goal of advertising the petition for a 2007 election.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Do you want an early election?

Because if you do, you can sign a petition on Number 10's website asking for one here.

During Prime ministers questions Gordon Brown was both pleased and smug that it had only 26 signatures. Currently it has 2,309. Why not add your name?

Guido has this.

The Inheritance tax con update

Now I have had a look, here is the position:

New rules allow one half of a married couple, or civil partnership, to use any remaining nil band inheritance tax when they die.

As an example couple A and B have assets valued at £600,000. A dies and leaves their bit to B. This is not taxed at all, regardless of the value of the estate. Person B dies and then wants to leave it all to C, but the day before yesterday would have paid 40% of £300,000 or £120,000. Now if C lived with A and B this could put the family home in jeopardy.


Well, I will come to that.

What used to happen, is that a large slice of the people who would be affected by inheritance tax in this way set up what are called nil band trusts. So when A dies he leaves his half to C rather than B, but held in trust whilst B is still alive. B then dies and does the same (The wills are written to account for any order of death) so no inheritance tax is paid anyway.

So it is not the giveaway it looks.

Where it is good though is that firstly it does not rely on clever tax planning, and is also semi automatic. The long and the short of it is that people who have not done the clever tax planning don't get caught out, and to be fair why should they. However the extra allowance will still need to be claimed which will require some form of proof. there is also the question of what happens if A dies when the IHT limit is say £300,000 and B when it is £400,00? What is the combined IHT threshold? Is it £700,000 or £800,000? Also what if A used some of their allowance, say £100,000?

The other good thing is that Labour has finally had to recognise marriage in the tax system. That is a major ideological battleground surrendered without a second thought it seems.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Labour's Big Inheritance Tax Con!

It is not just me who has spotted this.

The "tax break" such as it is applies only to married couples or civil partnerships.

The situation is this, if you die without a will, the estate gets divied up, so much to the spouse, up to £125,000 if I remember correctly and then so much to children etc.

If the value of the estate is high, then there is an inheritance tax bill.

However, most people in this position take out a will, and if the intent is to pass it to the spouse that is tax free.

So there is no tax giveaway in any practical sense at all.

Fraser Nelson has this on the Spectator Coffee House Blog, linking to this more technical explanation by KPMG here.

Hat tip to ChrisD on for the link.

Inheritance taxes cut for couples?

Apparently one of the chancellors wheezes in the pre budget report to announce a doubling of the inheritance tax threshold for couples,

Does he mean married couples who pay no inheritance tax when one spouse dies?


How generous!

Unless of course he means couples who are neither married or in a civil partnership.

The BBC has this.

Spin is dead! Long Live Spin!

I have to say I was impressed with Gordon "bottler" Brown's promise to end spin when he came to power, and more crucially to announce to parliament before the press.

I thought it was brave.

And a hostage to fortune...

Because I knew he just could not keep to it.

And so it has come to pass. We had the Iraq announcement last week roundly rebuffed and derided in the media as it was both during another party's conference, and not to parliament as he had explicitly promised.

Well today we expect the Pre Budget Report. Well, we do now, it was going to be next week, but an election was going to be announced just afterwards, so it had to be brought forward, but Brown bottled it so could have moved it back but I digress.

This will of course be announced to parliament first, except of course that several papers have had some form of advance notice.

We have this in the FT, this in the Guardian on closing loopholes for private equity, and surprise surprise, a tax on non doms! (No I am not surprised either) whilst the Telegraph had this on Saturday about what may be in the small print on council tax going up lots to cover yet more spending on the NHS, despite the fact that Labour seem to have wasted much of what they have spent already.

There was of course a time when a Chancellor would have to resign if this sort of detail of a budget or report were leaked before hand, but not apparently in the spin free era of spin free spinning New Labour.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Gordon Brown trying to spin that he is not a spinner?

I have not been able to catch Gordon Brown's press conference, but have read Iain Dale here, Dizzy thinks here, and Guido here.

I have to laugh at the way Gordon is somehow trying to insist that he is not a spinner!

The fact is he has been caught out, and that is that!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Brown Bottles it whilst making the crassest excuses!

I have to say I am amused by Gordon Brown bottling an election, and the guff which is coming out of his camp as a result.

Gordon is, according to his interview with Labour patsy Andrew Marr, (To be aired in full at 9.00 AM this morning on the BBC) not going to call an election now because:
I want to do is show people the vision that we have for the future of this country in housing and health and education and I want the chance, in the next phase of my premiership, to develop and show people the policies that are going to make a huge difference and show the change in the country itself.
It was nothing to do with the polls, because Labour would have won!

Ed Milliband was out spinning a similar line as well.

Are they serious? Do they expect us to believe this? If that was the reason for not going now then it was the reason for ending speculation last week, the week before, or more likely never letting it start at all.

No, this has been political gamesmanship by team Brown, and it has massively blown up in their faces. It has to be said though, it is going to get worse. By giving an exclusive interview they have managed to alienate everyone else in the media.

The press are not king to Brown today either.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

YouGov Poll shows Conservative lead of 3%

A YouGov poll in another paper tomorrow (The Sunday Times I believe) shows the Conservatives in the lead having destroyed Gordon Brown's bounce. Politicalbetting has the numbers here.

The figures are
Conservatives 41% (+5 on last poll +9 on a week ago)
Labour 38% (-2 on last poll -5 on a week ago)
Liberal Democrats 11% (-2 on last poll -4 on a week ago)

Now that is some volatility. From an 11 point deficit last week to a 3 point lead this week.

On Anthony Wells calculator that would give Conservatives 294 seats, Labour on 316 and the Liberal Democrats on 13.

New Poll shows that Gordon Brown bottled calling a GE because he knew he would lose!

Gordon Brown may say what he likes, but Gordon Brown bottled calling an election for one reason and one reason alone, and that is he would lose.

According to an ICM poll in tomorrow's News of the World Smith the Home carried out in key marginals Labour would have lost 49 seats to the Conservatives depriving them of a majority in parliament and losing many ministers including JacquiSecretary.

The poll puts the Conservatives 6 points ahead in the marginals, at 44% to 38%.

Hat tip to Iain Dale here, via Ted on

Snap General Election ruled out!

Yes, Gordon "bottler" Brown has ruled out a snap general election according to Nick Robinson here, and will make a statement soon.

Nice to know that Gordon Brown can write about courage, because he certainly does not have any.

England beat Australia in Rugby World Cup Quarter finals!

A sensational result as England beat Australia 12-10.

The England pack showed both strength and resolve and they pushed the Australian pack all over the place. My understanding is that the Australians thought all they needed to do was turn up to win. Oh how wrong they were!

The BBC has this.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Election Speculation continues. Will it be November the 1st?

Well, election speculation continues despite Labour's lead in the polls being slashed. Fair enough, you would not want to make the decision on the basis of one or two polls.

The problem here is that the polls will not settle down for two weeks, when we will have a better idea of what they are doing. Right now it is all volatility and froth.

So what happens now?

Well, the Guardian and others report that the pre budget report has been brought forward to Tuesday when the Chancellor Alistair Darling will be in the house from 3.45. He will also cover the public sector borrowing requirement.

Some of the figures are going to be bleak. Growth figures are going to be scaled back, and we are going to get the usual admission that the tax take was not what Gordon thought it would be, so borrowing figures are going to be higher. Coupled with a lower growth rate that will make the next budget tight. If there are giveaways then they will taxes elsewhere to balance the books, as well as increased borrowing.

So will there be an election? The media are all convinced that Gordon will make a decision this weekend on the basis of private polls in marginals. In short, he will go if he thinks he can win it.

The interesting thing is what is the media narrative going to be. It seems to be that Gordon is seriously considering going now because of fears that the economy is about to go belly up. What is more, from April the 10p tax band goes, hitting lots of low income earners. That is not going to be good either. The higher income earners who would have benefited from the basic rate drop are probably paying higher council tax bills and mortgages so wont feel that in their pockets either.

If there is an election it will be tight, no matter what anyone says. If the public think Gordon is cutting and running before bad news they may well punish him now.

It always was monumentally daft to think of having an election around now, because we just will not know what public opinion truly is for a while, what is more that was always going to be the case. New leader honeymoon followed by conferences, did anyone seriously think the polls were going to be stable?

The Guardian has this, whilst Nick Robinson has this.

Oh, and the BBC has this on election pressure!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tomorrow's Guardian ICM poll, Its Neck and Neck!

Well, there you have it. The polls are in (well some of them are) and the Conservatives and Labour are neck and neck!

Conservatives 38% (+5), Labour 39% (-1) and the Liberal Democrats 16% (-4).

Anthony Wells predictor gives:
Labour 337
Conservatives 254
Liberal Democrats 32
Labour majority 27

On the Baxter predictor that gives:
Labour 346
Conservatives 269
Liberal Democrats 6
Labour majority 42
I can't see the Liberal Democrats dropping to 6 to be honest, so it will be interesting to see.

Ultimately I can't see an election now. If there was, it would be ll to play for.

Having said that, this is no shock to me, it is merely a repetition of events.

Guardian shows Labour Poll lead slashed!

Apparently tomorrow's Guardian's ICM poll will also show Labour's poll lead slashed to show similar numbers to the YouGov poll though figures are not yet available.

When they are (and I get back from playing pool) I will post an update.

Hat tip to Iain Dale who has this here.

Labour lead collapses to 4 points!

According to channel 4 the Labour lead has collapsed to just 4%.

Labour are on 40% (-4), Conservatives on 36% (+3), Liberal Democrats on 13% (NC).

It has to be said the 13% for the Liberal Democrats is not that credible, I expect them to take some of Labour, making this a very close run thing if there were an election now.

David Cameron's speech gets good headlines!

Well, there you have it. Gordon Brown reads out a rehash of speeches primarily from unsuccessful Democrat Presidential candidates by Bob Shrum, which goes down OK, but is later slamed for plagiarism, whereas David Cameron goes unscripted and gets great headlines.

I did not watch the speech, opinions vary, but I think it may have been a tad long, and did not move the world, but Gordon Brown is a naff speech maker, so Cameron looked good by comparison.

The important thing however is this, the media reception. The sound bites looked good on TV, and the papers in the morning look good as well.

The Times has this, The Telegraph has this, The Daily Mail this, the Guardian this and the Independent this.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Gordon Brown the Control freak trying to hide the plagiarist?

You will remember the story about Gordon Brown and the plagiarised speech by Bob Shrum the serial backer of all losers?

Well, according to Michael White of the Guardian the allegation has been made that Gordon Brown rang the editor of the Times 6 times that day over that headline. This has not been denied by Number 10, despite many opportunities to do so.

Does Gordon think we live in Burma?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Gordon Brown's cynical stunt backfires!

Gordon Brown's announcement of 1,000 troops home by Christmas was in fact in part a re announcement. 500 had been announced in July. Something like 250 are here already.

What is worse for him though is that the story is now one of cynical manipulation. That is what seems to be making the headlines, as is his lack of telling Parliament first as promised.

Good. It was a cynical stunt by a cynical #####

The BBC has this, Nick Robinson has this including a bit on the broken promise.

Gordon Brown breaks promise to Parliament

I note that Gordon Brown promised to make all important announcements to Parliament.

He has broken that promise by announcing a troop withdrawal from Basra to the press whilst Parliament was not sitting.

Gordon Brown = broken promises.

The BBC has this.

Support our Heroes!

Because the government certainly isn't.

The Armed services have a joint rehabilitation facility at Headley Court which helps severely injured personnel recover.

It now needs £5 million to improve facilities, and is asking for donations according to this article in the Daily Mail. General Sir Richard Dannatt is leading the appeal.

You can visit the appeal's website here or call 0845 673 1760 to make a donation.

So why are civil servants doing political work?

Well, you will no doubt have heard that George Osbourne has announced to planned tax cuts, by raising the threshold for the tax on death, otherwise known as inheritance tax to £1 million, whilst also eliminating stamp duty for first time buyers for houses up to £250,000.

These adjustments will cost around £3.5 billion, or 0.7% of the total size of the state. In terms of ordinary people, think of taking home say £20,000 in which case we are talking about a budget change of £140.

Now this is to be funded by changing the rules for non domiciled tax payers. These are people who mostly live here but are resident abroad for tax purposes. They have to go through quite a few hoops to get that status, so presumably it makes sense to do so.

The Conservative party will levy a fee for this status of £25,000 per year. We estimate that there are of the order of 150,000 such people, and if all paid that would raise £3.75 billion. You can read more, and indeed watch the speech here.

Labour has of course launched into attack mode on this. Benedict Brogan has been getting some interesting government press releases. Apparently civil servants at the treasury have been digging up the numbers to trash the Conservative claims:

What strikes me though is the scale of the Labour spin operation tonight, which is designed to turn a "Tories promise you tax cut" story into a "Tories rocked by funding row" tale. I have in my inbox a press release from the Labour Party Press Office, in which Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, claims: "Today George Osborne made a £3.5 billion tax commitment. Treasury analysis shows it is impossible for him to raise the money he needs to pay for this commitment from his proposals on residence and domicile. Initial costings by the Treasury show that George Osborne's proposal would raise a maximum of £650m, leaving George Osborne at least £2.9 billion short. So George Osborne cannot afford the promises he is making. He cannot afford to cut inheritance tax."

Benedict Brogan wants to know what civil servants are doing working on party work, and so do I.

The other thing of note is this:

The treasury have claimed to have no figures on how much non domiciled people earn abroad, yet when it becomes a political issue, within hours they claim they do.

Is this really the end of spin in government?

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Government is listening!

Apparently to your every phone call.

Yesterday's Mail on Sunday carried the story that the government has passed legislation that requires telephone companies and Internet service providers to keep records of when and where telephone conversations and emails were sent. This will include tracking data on where mobile phones are.

This information is to be made available to all and sundry in government from NHS trusts to local councils.

There will apparently be safeguards. These wont actually work, because the current ones certainly don't. As I highlighted in this article there is current concern over the way state databases are used to locate errant family members in to commit so called "honour killings". The same information can and is used by criminal gangs.

So to the asinine statement "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" there are two responses. The first is that what ever the state monitoring that is brought in, the fear is what a different state would do with it, and then there is the query over what other people will use it for?

This can and does happen. Now. This is not some theoretical risk.

Madeleine McCann: Police clueless: Official!

Apparently according to this mornings Daily Mail, Portuguese police have come up with the theory that Madeleine McCann did not die of an overdose nor was she murdered by Kate McCann on one of here trips to check on the children but died because she fell down the stairs, presumably because she had not been sedated enough.

The police have said that all they need to work out now is how they disposed of the body.. Really? That surely has been the question all along. Just how do you hide a body under severe police and media scrutiny in a hot country foreign with which you are not familiar, in summer when bodies tend to start smelling fast if not refrigerated?

The short answer is that the Portuguese police have not got a clue, are not looking for one, and their only way out is to blame the parents.