Monday, April 28, 2008

Voter Fraud to mar London and local elections

Those of us who follow politics know about voter fraud and how easy it now is. This will no doubt be a factor in some elections on Thursday.

The Labour government brought in universal postal votes in order to rig the voting system in their favour however at the expense of introducing much fraud.

Well there is a new report out by the Joseph Rowntree foundation that backs that up. Having said that I am not sure it tells us anything we did not already know. The Times has this article here.

Gene Therapy working! 18 year old has his sight fixed.

One of the interesting things about modern times is genetic testing.

In its early days this led to fears that if you had a genetic test which said you were very likely to get say cancer, you then would not be able to get life insurance.

However now we have the upside of the testing which is gene therapy. It is now being tried on a rare genetic condition that causes eyesight to generate over time until it is lost.

Well, the Independent has a headline "The blind man who was given the gift of sight by gene therapy" which may be over egging it a little as he still had some residual sight so was not blind though he would have become so in time.

What is now going to happen is the techniques and understanding of how to replace defective genes in situ will grow in leaps and bounds, which may well lead to curers for many diseases which are at there heart genetic, and where they don't lead to a full cure they may at least stop the progress of the diseases.

The BBC has this.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Humphrey Lyttelton dies at 86

I have to wonder if he would say it was not a moment too soon.

Humphrey Lyttelton was and I suppose still is a legendary jazz musician, but I remember him for "I am sorry, I haven't a clue" a Radio 4 show that I have been a fan of since I was knee high to a grasshopper.

I will miss this great talent on the one hand but celebrate his life on the other.

Alas, I can't think of any funny innuendo.

The BBC has this whilst wikipedia has this.

He will live in my heart forever, and will always be remembered with a chuckle.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tory poll calamity!

The latest YouGov poll in the Telegraph places the Conservative party only 18% ahead of Labour.

Labour poll watchers insist this is a disaster for David Cameron, and he should be at least 250% ahead if he expects to win any kind of election.

One Labour insider described it as "only a flesh wound" and invited Cameron to come close so that he could bite his ankles.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Office of Government Commerce: Is this the funniest logo you have ever seen?

As noted by Dizzy, the Register and Daniel Finkelstein's blog on comment central the Office of Government Commerce has just conducted a major re branding exercise which will see a new logo appear soon.

Like the university that was for a time known as the Central University of Nottingham and Trent, it must have seemed like such a good idea at the time to the big wigs far away from reality.

Without further ado, here is the new logo, though tipped on its side.

Frankly I think it suits them!

Is Quentin Davies looking to jump ship again?

I have just watched PMQ's again, which was knockabout stuff today, and as noted by Guido, and Three line Whip, you can see Quentin Davies appearing on the Conservative side of the House of Commons again.

The best shot I saw was about 11 minutes in as the camera shows David Cameron and the Speakers chair in a long shot, just in the middle is Quentin Davies.

As Guido has noted before, you would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

10p tax U-turn: jam in October?

Apparently the government is going to review the effects of Gordon Brown's last budget which removed the 10p tax band, and do something about it in October, albeit backdated to the beginning of the tax year.


So if you have no, or little money you can starve till October. Not only that but you get the impression that someone will have to apply for something where the take up will be less than 100%.

The BBC has this.

Hillary Clinton keeps in the race

Senator Hillary Clinton has won by enough in Pennsylvania to keep in the race for the Democratic party nomination.

The bottom line is that this is good for Senator John McCain who I personally hopes wins in the end.

The Democrat nominees are ripping their party apart. I have to say that Hillary Clinton is the most unattractive candidate I have seen in a long while. There is something about her that is so relentlessly unpleasant.

The BBC has this.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Will the 10p band be Gordon Brown's last stand?

Apparently there has been much comment on this. Politicalbetting has this which quotes from this article by former Brown cheerleader Jackie Ashley.

It is not looking good for Gordon Brown or Labour. Even if they do get rid of Brown there is no one in Labour who could recover their electoral position.

The BBC also has this.

How Much?

Apparently we are now all going to bail out the banks to the tune of £50 billion, or possibly double if this story from the Times is correct.

What is more the scheme as laid out gives a helping hand to the irresponsible banks whilst at the same time being about as popular as a bucket of cold sick.

Well done.

The BBC also has this.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

10p tax rate abolition: Will it be Gordon Brown's last stand?

Many people commented on the abolition of the 10 tax rate when it wasn't announced by Gordon Brown last year, but was hidden in the budget detail.

Many, including me, thought it was a case of robbing the poor to pay the rich. We still do. The finance bill which contained it passed without much revolt at the time because Labour MP's either were too scared of their soon to be new Supreme Leader or because they thought they could get away with it.

Well, the truth is coming home to roost now. That cut is unpopular. No one bar the most sycophantic minister will appear to defend it. The wagons are circled around Downing Street. There will be no giving in apparently.

The only problem is that up to 75 Labour MP's have smelt the coffee, and will rebel when an amendment is voted on for this years finance bill.

We have to be clear on this. It would be a huge smack in the face of this government and Gordon Brown in particular to lose a vote on a finance bill. It is the sort of thing you expect to bring down governments.

So if Gordon loses, will he call a general election or try hand over to Ed Balls who will guarantee a Conservative victory of massive proportions?

Who knows. I would not want to be in Labour now though.

The BBC has this.

African dockers have more balls than African Presidents: Official!

Well, it turns out that Durban dockers have refused to offload the cargo of ammunition bound for Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe.

They have shown principle and balls where no African President has, particularly Thabo Mbeki.

The High Court in Durban has also said that the ammunition can not be shipped across South Africa.

Those waiting for Thabo Mbeki to show either principles or courage have received medical advice that holding their breath until he shows either will be fatal.

The BBC has this.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Gwyneth Dunwoody died yesterday

Now, here was a parliamentarian whom all ought to respect. A fighter, a battler and someone who would not be intimidated.

Parliament will miss her even if the whips don't.

May she rest in peace.

The BBC has this, wikipedia has this.

Gwyneth Dunwoody was MP for Crewe and Nantwich. I suspect they will sorely miss her also.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The ridiculous harassment of photographers

There is an interesting article on the BBC website about the harassment of photographers. Apparently in one case an amateur photographer was asked for "his licence" and pointing out he did not need one did not help. A police officer took him down a side street and made him wipe his camera.

This is all bizarre because you can, and are entitle to, take any picture you want of something in a public place (barring some defence establishments) including people. What is more that also extends to taking picture of things that can be seen from a public space, so if you are driving down the road and see an extraordinary garden, you can stop and photograph it from the road or pavement without requiring permission.

Mind you that is not the first time I have heard of over zealous police not knowing what the law is in a particular circumstance.

For example a police officer thought that a learner driver could drive on his own because he had a full class H licence. Another who demanded to see the MOT on a JCB, which does not require one so you can't get one and so on.

I like to take photographs, and if I were stopped, and told I could not, I would tell them where to get off.

So are we in for more exam chaos?

It seems the managing director of Edexcel, Jerry Jarvis has expressed some concerns over the preparations for the new diploma system which is due to start in September, in this article in the Guardian.

Apparently the IT system that it relies on has not as yet been fully tested, and teachers have received limited training. Also it seems the establishments which are to teach them have not as yet got the guidance they need on how to teach them.

On the other hand we have had Mike Tomlinson, the former inspector of schools, and the schools minister have been on the radio saying that all is well. Firstly they say that the scheme is small, not across the whole country. Colleges who are to teach them have been vetted and teachers have been organised into self help groups.

Well, it is difficult to tell what is right. We will only know it two years time though once people start sitting exams. Experimenting in this way with children's education does concern me though.

The BBC also has this.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bank of England to leave interest rates as they are

Well, the Bank of England will no doubt actually cut its base rate, but this will have no effect on the real world where interest rates will remain unaffected.

The problem is that no one wants to lend our banks money unless they get paid well for it. That means money costs more. Unless the Bank of England is going to lend money on a serious scale (which I do not think it should) then it can't actually affect the real interest rates that much.

We are caught in an asset bubble on the way down. We will all feel a bit of pain I am afraid. I just hope it is not too much.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Zimbabwe Elections results miscounted: Official!

A Zanu PF spokesman, who did not wish to be named has made issued a statement:

The election results have been miscounted by the Electoral Commission of Zimbabwe. They did not realise that each vote for Zanu PF should be cherished and loved, and more importantly counted many times. We have invited the electoral commission to a secret location so that they can correct their error without being held up to public ridicule.

We do however expect the recount to take some time as some fingers of the electoral commission staff were accidentally injured whilst explaining their error to them.

We thank the people Zimbabwe for their patience and the results will be available as soon as they have been cooked enough recounted.

The BBC, on the other hand, has this.

Food riot shocker!

The Guardian reports food riots.

This is due to sharp rises in food prices.

Fair enough.

However much land has been taken out of food production in places like Africa because there is no money competing against American and European subsidised food dumping.

With a bit of luck these poor farmers can now make a dollar or two growing food again, thereby lifting people out of poverty.

House Price Slump Shocker! Cut interest rates now! Don't panic!

There has been a 2.5% drop in house prices, according to the Halifax since last month. This is not good new for people who bought houses last month. However it is better news for first time buyers.

Thing is times are tough. For years people, like me, have been saying that house prices are out of control and that will cause a problem, for first time buyers if no one else. We have also been saying that there is a problem with the way the economy has grown on debt alone.

The banks (or rather the mortgage lenders) are saying "cut interest rates now!".

I would love to think that would help, it would if the money that the banks needed to borrow was lent by British savers. The problem is that with the lowest savings ratio for nearly 50 years, the banks are borrowing money from overseas, sovereign wealth funds, and the like. They see no need to pay attention to our central bank rates and will demand, and incidentally get, what ever interest rate they like. After all they could invest their money somewhere where property prices are on the up.

Gordon Brown says "Don't panic!"

He is right in that, after all there will be a Conservative government along in a while, who will sort out the massive mess an ignorant Labour government has created.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Diana Inquest verdict in: What was the point?

Well, the short answer is that the point is that anyone who dies like this is entitled to an inquest, and up until now there has not been one.

That said apart from that there was no point. Clearly the only thing that would have satisfied some (I will not mention any names like Mohamed) would only have been happy had the Duke of Edinburgh been dragged from the court and stoned to death in the street.

For a number of reasons that was never going to happen.

That said there still will be conspiracy theories because they don't require evidence, just rumour.

The BBC has lots, here here and here for example.

That said you do wonder what the Daily Diana Express is going to write about next week!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Robert Mugabe: Going, going, gone?

News is leaking out of Zimbabwe that Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe are in negotiations about his retirement.

The US State department predicts a statement shortly.

Good news I'd say.

That said, I do hope Morgan Tsvangirai does not make Mugabe's mistakes.

The BBC has this.

Labour's Immigration case destroyed?

Todays papers carry news of a report due to be published later today from the Lords Economic Affairs Committee, which seems to attack Labour's case for the mass immigration we have had in the last 11 years.

Needless to say the Guardian has an article which is more positive for immigration than the article in the Daily Mail, whilst the Times seems to find some kind of middle ground.

The bullet points are these:

  • The £6 billion a year to the economy measure is irrelevant.
  • People already here who are low earners are under pressure.
  • Those who benefit are employers, immigrants and the higher paid.
They recommend a limit on non EU immigration to reduce net immigration.

The thing is I can't see that this tells us anything new. Still it does make it harder for Labour to ignore

So who has the balls to tell Mugabe he has lost?

It appears the big hold up in announcing the results of the presidential election in Zimbabwe is that no one has the balls to tell Robert Mugabe he has lost, whilst he appears not to have the power to get anyone to announce he has won.

Well, there seem to be two ways to solve this problem.

  1. Someone go tell Morgan Tsvangirai he has one, and his first job is to tell Robert.
  2. Give me Roberts mobile, and I will tell him what a loser he is*.

*I may be unkind when doing so, and am not in a position to promise not to laugh. A lot.

The BBC has this.