Monday, December 29, 2008

War in Gaza

I have to say that this article by Iain Dale on the subject reads a bit like a press release from the Israeli embassy.

For example at one point Iain writes this:
The media seem to think these rockets are fairly harmless. They are not.
Well, no, they are fairly harmless, just look at the number fired compared to actual casualties and damage.
They are weapons of terror.
This on the other hand is bang on. They certainly are weapons of terror though by no means as terrifying as the weapons that the Israelis use.

Now lets get this clear, no matter what you think of the rockets, and how effective they are, it is clearly ridiculous to keep firing them, especially during a ceasefire. It is also clear that Israel can't actually sit on its arse and watch the fireworks. Mostly harmless rockets are not always harmless, they do kill and injure from time to time, even if it is more luck than judgement which has led them to the target.

Iain then goes on to say:
People blame Israel for the terrible state of living standards in the Gaza Strip. They are wrong. Hamas is to blame for keeping its people in abject poverty. Israel handed over the governmental administration of the Gaza Strip in 2005 to the Palestinian Authority.
Cobblers. Gaza is a large prison camp where the inmates may have complete control, but have no control over the borders* or airspace so they can't get the local economy going and sell produce to either Israel or the outside world.

The other point is that Israel is the author of its own troubles here. Iain says that Hamas is funded by Iran, which is true, but its major benefactor is much closer, in Israel. Israel helped Hamas in the early 1980's as a counter balance to Fatah and the PLO and since 2000 has relentlessly bombed Fatah and Palestinian Authority security infrastructure because it claimed that they were not doing enough to reign in Hamas. Well, since then Hamas have been able to take over, so well done Israel, you have helped Hamas yet again.

The Israelis are now doing roughly the same thing again, which is to bomb the security infrastructure. Civilians are dying which is wrong, but it seems at a rate of 1 civilian to 3 Hamas "security" people, so there is a bright side.

Iain also seems to confuse Hamas with the Lebanon's Hezbollah. Lets be clear, Hamas are no Hezbollah. They have not got the men, training, armament or fighting ability of Hezbollah.

It also has to be pointed out that whilst Israel's bombing in Gaza is disproportionate it is clear who started this. The word on the street in Gaza apparently is that the average Palestinian knows this also, which is clearly bad news for Hamas as they will become about as popular as a rattle snake in a lucky dip. They are also stopping the wounded being treated in Egypt, citing having to make up lists of the wounded! (I thought you just looked at someone, and if they had less than a full set of limbs and/or were bleeding profusely they were wounded and so should be sent for treatment). That will not play well either.

The BBC also has this.

*They do have control over the tunnels.

Benefit Madness!

Well, that is the headline in the Express and the Daily Mail carries a similar story with the headline "boom-time on benefits".

What the article in the Mail highlights is that about 140,000 families get more than £20,000 a year in benefits. The numbers in the Express are 20,000 households claiming more that £30,000 with a further 12,000 claiming more than £20,000 which does not seem to make a lot of sense.

The reports stem from parliamentary questions asked by Chris Grayling, the Conservative party's Work and Pensions shadow minister.

So there are a lot of people living on benefits that are better off than people on the average wage. The average wage being £25,000 a year, and curiously you would have to earn £27,000 before tax to get £20,000 in take home pay.

James Purnell's response? Well he and his department claim that a lot of these families are on benefits for disability. Really? How many? Does he know? Karen Mathews was on £400 a week in benefits, which amounts to just over £20,000 a year and I do not recall any of her children suffering from a disability (other than her mother that is).

This is clearly a patently ridiculous situation which seriously demoralises those of us who do work, have families and pay our own way on less.

The other bit of drivel that James Purnell came up with is that we do not 100% support the governments welfare reform plans. Specifically we don't think it is a great idea to start lone mothers training for work as soon as there children are 1 year old. No of course we don't that is nuts. We also don't support removing benefits from drug addicts if they are not attending treatment. I see. I wonder what they would do if they were not attending treatment and did not get benefits? Answer; crime. So James Purnell is clearly a bit of a pratt.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Just thought I would wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

I am especially thinking of our soldiers who are serving overseas away from their families.

Well done to the National Grid!

Well done to the National Grid for their hard work in trying to get gas reconnected to as many people as possible.

All the staff are doing a sterling job.

Well done and Merry Christmas!

The BBC have this.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TV station sends Christmas cards!

According to Iain Dale here a TV station has sent him a Christmas card.

How horrific!

Should they not be sent on diversity training? After all we don't want to offend Muslims, Jews, Hindus or any one else.

If you wish to complain about this politically incorrect travesty you should complain to the President, for it is he who is ultimately responsible.

Letters should be addressed to ..

President Ahmadinejad of Iran, for it was Press TV an Iranian owned TV station.

(And no, for the humourless, this was tongue firmly in cheek!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bob Quick's retraction should draw a line under the affair

As Iain Dale says here, Bob Quick's retraction and apology should draw a line under the tragic affair of his somewhat odd outburst.

He also clearly has many enemies elsewhere, so if any one does want to get at him, they need to join a queue it seems.

It does seem odd though that his wife has the business dealings that she does. A police officer needs to be totally impartial. If you lived in his police area and had an accident with one of her chauffeur driven cars could you be confident of an impartial investigation?

The BBC also has this.

Bob Quick has clearly lost the plot!

I have been watching this story unravel over the day. It is clear to me that the man has lost the plot.

The Mail on Sunday did some digging and found that Bob's wife Judith ran a chauffeur service from their family home using a number of vintage cars.

If you read the article you get the clear impression that someone in the met gave the story out but that did not stop the soon to be in civy street, Mr Quick from blaming the Conservative party.

In part he has eaten his words, but clearly he is not a man you would want in an under pressure position, like er.. the head of anti terrorism.

The BBC also has this.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Government to become loan sharks!

In what has to be the strangest policy move in history, James Purnell, work and pensions secretary, who has proposed controversial reforms to benefits, broadly supported by the Conservative party now wants to charge interest on loans from the Social fund at a staggering 26.7% APR!

After all the guff about banks cutting interest rates they want to raise theirs from 0% (for those on benefits in emergencies such as the cooker has just blown up and can I buy a second hand one) to nearly 27%!

Needless to say both Conservative and Labour and Liberal Democrat MP's think this is nuts!

The Mail on Sunday has this.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Pound drops to a new low against the Euro!

Well, this is a headline I could use every day this week.

The Pound dropped to a new low against the Euro yesterday. The worst it got was £1 to €1.10800.

Oh dear.

Whilst Yvette Cooper (AKA Mrs Balls) can't quite see the significance of this as they target inflation... it does mean that all we buy from the Euro zone will become more expensive so pushing inflation up.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chris Hoy wins BBC sports personality of the Year!

Well done to Chris, the British cycling team and indeed our whole Olympic and Paralympic team as well.

Lewis Hamilton came second.. which just goes to show that he should not have won the Formula one World Championship in the same year that our Olympic team did so well, and he should not have left it to the absolute last second to win! Still, better luck next year Lewis, that prize will one day be yours!

The Pound to slump to low against the Euro

Well, all last week the pound plummeted to new depths against the Euro, and will do so again this week. It finished the week at £1 to €1.11880 (In my last article on the subject I made a typo :( )

You have to wonder what low it will hit next week. People travelling abroad are already getting less that €1 to the pound (see this on the BBC). Will it hit as low as €1.05 or even parity?

So what would Gordon Brown say about it? Well, in 1995 he said:
A weak currency is the sign of a weak economy, which is the sign of a weak government
How true. (Hat tip to Iain Dale for the quote)

Of course Yvette Cooper, Chief secretary to the Treasury has said that this government does not watch what is happening to the currency and instead looks to keep inflation under control claiming that they have done well over the last 11 years.

The reality is that this government had kept the wrong measure of inflation "under control" and that was not in fact the government but the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England. Had this government (or indeed the MPC) kept the right inflation under control we would not be in this mess.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The pound continues to slide against the Euro

The government were warned that the Pound would slide, and it continues to do so against the Euro hitting yet another record low today of 1.2330 Euro's to the Pound. Currency exchanges are already trading at parity and some say we will reach parity by the end of the year.

What this means is that there will be inflationary pressures around the corner. Far from cuttting interest rates further and making it harder for our banks to raise cash, we need to raise interest rates and reduce public spending.

The latest rate is available here on the BBC, and the BBC has this.

Woolworth's to close in a sale of the century!

I have to say that it is very sad to see Wolworth's looking like it will close.

I frequently shop in Woolworth's, and they often have useful things for sale as well as having good offers on toys.

It is very sad for the staff as well.

The BBC has this.

German finance minister shoots Gordon Brown's fox!

For a long while Gordon Brown has been able to get away with the lie that everyone else is planning some huge "fiscal stimulus" and everyone the whole world over agrees apart from the Conservative party.

Well Germany's Social Democrat Finance minister, Peer Steinbr├╝ck has truly burst his bubble in this interview with Newsweek.

Here is a key quote:
The speed at which proposals are put together under pressure that don't even pass an economic test is breathtaking and depressing. Our British friends are now cutting their value-added tax. We have no idea how much of that stores will pass on to customers. Are you really going to buy a DVD player because it now costs £39.10 instead of £39.90? All this will do is raise Britain's debt to a level that will take a whole generation to work off. The same people who would never touch deficit spending are now tossing around billions. The switch from decades of supply-side politics all the way to a crass Keynesianism is breathtaking.
Ouch. It appears that not everyone agrees that Gordon Brown has saved the World!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Flash Gordon Brown claims to have saved the world!

The Crown blog has this fantastic clip of Flash Gordon Brown claiming that he saved the world at Prime ministers questions today!

Very amusing.

Labour; Do as I say, not as I do!

I have to say some things amuse me.

This Labour government has cut VAT (for a year) but fails to pass on that cut to those who purchase from its website, as you can see from this story by Iain Dale.

Ridiculous surely?

No. That is perfectly ordinary.

What makes this ridiculous is that the Labour party's official credit card has very high interest rates, something which this Labour government are criticising credit card companies for!

You can read about Labour's current credit card scam here, but you will belly laugh about how they were ripping off their supporters in 2004 here, compared to a Northern Rock credit card!

It gets better, though, if you read both, they screw the less well off harder into the ground than the wealthy!

You just could not make this up!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What Labour MP's don't understand about Greengate

And, to be fair it seems, Bob Spink and Chris Paul, is this:

Labour will not always be in government. It is true that many on the Labour benches have not known opposition, and also will never know it on those benches because when Labour eventually do lose power, many Labour MP's will have had to have lost there seats. What they need to realise is that many Labour MP's will be left and will need to hold the government to account.

They will find that very difficult to do, if as now, the police and civil service are politicised to the point where they will not only hunt down leakers (fair enough) but seek to intimidate and prosecute not only the leaker but the MP.

They will no doubt witter on about police operational independence, in which case they ought to read this, or indeed that MP's are not above the law, in which case they ought to read history.

Pound continues to slide against the Euro.

Rather sadly I have been comentating and indeed watching the pound against the dollar, which, whilst it has during the last week hit another 52 week low, is trading between $1.44 to $1.50 to the pound. On the other hand the trend against the Euro is relentlessly down, reaching new depths on a regular basis. In fact it has hit as low as 1.14 Euros to the pound.

The reasons for this are simple. Gordon Brown wants to borrow hideous amounts of money to buy his way out of a recession and it appears that if that does not work he will try printing his way out. Similar ideas seem to abound in the US whereas Germany contrary to Labour and Gordon Brown's spin think this policy is nothing other than nuts.

You can see the rate against the Euro here (current £1 buys €1.15 Euros as opposed to a year ago when it brought €1.40). On the other hand it buys $1.48 dollars against a 52 week high of $2.05. Current price is here.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Conservative Mole in Labour's cabinet?

The Mail on Sunday carries news that the Conservatives not only have a mole in Gordon's Brown's cabinet, but that the mole has been leaking over the Smith Institute (Guido's favourite subject) and Chris Grayling has written to Gordon Brown about it!

Explosive stuff!

Politicalbetting has this.

Mandelson to wring blood from a stone!

Apparently Lord Peter Mandelson will be meeting with bank executives on Monday to try and get the banks to lend.

Well, this will be like wringing blood from a stone. They have no money to lend. Our banks have lent £700 billion more than they have on deposit since 2001, and that money has been borrowed short. As I pointed out in my articles on Bank of England interest rate cuts, banks are trying to buy money from consumers at as much as 6%.

Clearly the government are in cloud cuckoo land and may even let the presses roll.

Andrew Rawnsley has this in the Observer.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Why did the police investigate this leak?

I, as Iain Dale also did, listened to The Week in politics on Radio 4 earlier.

Lord Butler was being asked about leaks. He was of course a permanent secretary. He said they often had leaks and looked for the moles though their own internal inquiries seldom found the moles.

The police had better resources for the job.

The thing is that most of the time the police when asked to investigate refused to do so on the grounds that the offence complained about was simply not serious enough.

So why now? We already know that national security was not involved because Jacqui Smith has said as much in Parliament. She said that they feared they might become involved at some future date!

That is the nub of the question that Iain asks.

The answer is of course this:

Sir David Normington will be on the panel that does initial vetting of candidates for the job of Chief Constable of the Metropolitan police. So if you can't get passed him you can't get the job. he is also of course permanent secretary of the Home Office and the person who made the original complaint to the police.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Let the presses roll!

I have been hearing many people talking about "quantitative easing" including on Newnight last night. It appears that the government and treasury are considering it and indeed modeling it.

Of course "quantitative easing" is a nice bit of jargon, but what it actually means is printing money. It is as simple as that. On the upside at least there will be no chance of deflation, on the downside, the value of the cash and savings you have will fall through the floor.

Well Guido has noticed an odd clause in the banking bill before parliament. It removes a clause from the 1844 Bank Charter act. That clause requires the Bank of England to tell government how much money it has printed, and also to publish that information. It makes the Bank of England transparent.

The only reason I can see for removing that clause is so that the Bank of England can let the presses roll and try to print our way out of this economic hole.

It won't work, it will be dire. What is more, the mere fact that that clause will be removed will damage confidence in the pound even if the Bank does not print any new notes.

Lebanon's banks fine shocker!

Apparently the fact that Lebanon's banks are in fine financial order is some kind of shock.

I was not born in the Lebanon, nor am I Lebanese, but I grew up there, and I can tell you I am not surprised.

There are various articles in the media, like this in the Financial Times, and this on the BBC and Robert Fisk here, who asks this:
But someone needs to explain to me how this little Middle Eastern cabbage patch is bouncing along so happily amid the cyclones ripping through the world's economy.
The answer is of course simple. The Lebanese have been engaged in the business of banking, both national and international, contracting, both national though more frequently international and trade for something like 4,000 years. After a while you get the hand of it, and avoid tulips, radio shares, the dot com bubble and so on.

The Lebanese banking sector has been both strong, and trusted in western markets for as long as western markets have existed, even in times of war. I was there when people tried to rob banks of there cash and gold reserves. It didn't work.

Yet the Lebanese banking system works on few rules, like adequate liquidity and not buying into risky investments.

In fact the reality is that the Lebanese banking rules are so short that anyone could understand them, to the point where they can't be got around.

Crucially also Lebanon's banks are regulated by their central bank, like ours were until Gordon Brown became Chancellor of the exchequer. With 0 years experience at banking as against 4,000 years he handed over the regulation of our banks to the Financial Services Authority who look after insurance and assurance, and came up with 8,000 pages of regulation.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Bank of England's pointless interest rate cut

Many people have been calling for the Bank of England to cut interest rates, even after last months massive shocker of a 1.5% cut which I said was pointless when it happened.

Well, they have done it again, and cut interest rates by 1% to an all time low of 2% which has not been seen for 57 years. If it goes any lower it will be lower than since the creation of the bank.

It seems some people think that what the Bank of England does on interest rates is relevant.

It isn't. Not even a little bit.

If you don't believe me try lending money to a bank, offering good terms for how long they keep it, and see how much they are prepared to pay. You will find that it is considerably more than 2%, or even 3%. In fact it is more likely to be at the range of 4.5% to 6%.

It is also clear that the Bank of England has absolutely no intention of lending money to banks at 2% either, so where is this money going to come from?

It should be noted that UK lending institutions have since 2001 lent £700 billion more than they have in domestic deposits. Non domestic lenders must think we are mad if we think they are going to buy a rapidly devaluing pound with high inflation to lend at a very low rate which will see their original capital devalued. In essence we are asking for people to give us money on a non commercial basis.

What is more savers are being savaged.

Here is a thought, going against just about every other commentator.

Put interest rates up, so that people are prepared to lend to inflation + 1%.

I know lots of people will howl, but the problem we have right now is less that banks are charging lots for money, and far more that they just do not have the money to lend, especially as lenders can get a far better rate lending to our government which is about to swallow a massive amount of cash.

The BBC has this

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Harriet Harman refuses to back speaker Martin!

I have just watched a clip of an interview from tonights News Night where Jeremy Paxman asked Harriet Harman if she had confidence in the Speaker Michael Martin or the Sergeant at Arms Jill Pays.

She refused to do so!

Oh dear!

I shall of course be watching at 10:30!

Greengate, Jill Pays, Speaker Martin and the Police

The Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin made a statement in the house of commons today which as Iain Dale notes tends to lead to more questions than it gives answers.

Lets look at the arguments.

No body is above the law!

Rubbish. How is the archery practice going, and how many hackney carriages carry a bale of hay? Further more the police and other emergency services get away with speeding when on an emergency.

Clearly there are circumstances where the law is not applied because it is ridiculous or overlooked in the public interest.

Firstly many parliamentarians, and indeed many journalists and commentators have cited parliamentary privilege, and its breach in this case. This is not some antiquated old rule that allows members of parliament to do what ever they want, it is a protection that parliament has so that it can do its job of protecting people and their liberties from an over mighty state. The following resolution is passed before each session of parliament:
Any action taken by either a Member of Parliament or a stranger which obstructs or impedes either Parliament in the performance of its functions, or its Members or staff in the performance of their duties, is a contempt of Parliament. Examples of contempt include giving false evidence to a parliamentary committee, threatening a Member of Parliament, forgery of documents and attempting to bribe members.
This law clearly protects parliament and its members, not in all circumstances but where they are carrying out their duty. The main duties of an MP are to represent their constituents and to hold the government to account. The later is what concerns us here, and that is what Damian Green was doing. Alas it is frequently the case that a department that is not fit for purpose, such as the Home Office does not try to fix it self but hide its failings instead. This is where leaks come in.

The crime it is alleged has been committed is that of misconduct in public office, or aiding abetting conspiring to cause misconduct in public office, defined in CPS guidance as:
a) A public officer acting as such.

b) Wilfully neglects to perform his duty and/or wilfully misconducts himself.

c) To such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder.

d) Without reasonable excuse or justification.

Now where do we start? If you read this article on the subject here on wikicrimeline and this case here where the Attorney general sought the advice of the court, it is clear that no crime has been committed, further more that the police would have established such by merely asking what had been leaked and where it had turned up.

In order for the crime to be committed it has to in effect injure the public interest as well as falling well below the standards of the office holder. Rather obviously the leaks which are complained about are in the public interest and in fact have caused to government to fix things which it knew were broken but sought to hide.

Even if you could accuse Chris Galley of the offence (which you can't because you can't show he injured the public interest) then we have the question of parliamentary privilege. This protects an MP from interference in his job as an MP amongst other things, and in this case the job of holding the government to account. Clearly if the government is trying to hide its failings then the only way to get hold of information is via leaks. It is the legitimate business of parliament and there have been leaks for as long as there has been government.

It gets worse for the government because the cases involving leaks to the press have all either been lost by the Crown on appeal or thrown out before the jury trial started.

Some say "Ah but that does not put him above the law!" well, I say cobblers. It does not put him above the law as in he can ignore it, but laws apply differently to different classes of people. The order which states parliamentary privilege gets passed every year by parliament and so one would have thought it superseded the common law offence which we are talking about.

Then some even cite the case of Lord Cochrane who they say was arrested whilst sitting on the government benches supposedly to prove that parliamentary privilege does not make you immune from the law. The argument is sophistry at its very best. Lord Cochrane was arrested after having escaped from prison having been found guilty of fraud. It can't be said that the criminal act of which he was accused was part of the legitimate business of a parliamentarian so obviously the question of parliamentary privilege did not arise for it to be put aside.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Greengate, Harriet Harman plans a secret meeting!

Apparently Harriet Harman, Jacqui Smith and Speaker Michael Martin (along with Jill Pays sergeant at arms and others) are having a secret meeting tomorrow to discuss Speaker Martin's statement about the arrest of Damian Green.

Needles to say that is highly irregular as it includes no members of opposition parties.

All this we know from a leaked email sent to the Conservatives.

Iain Dale has this.

Sharon Shoesmith sacked!

Sharon Shoesmith, Haringey head of children's services has been sacked with immediate effect according to Ed Balls the children's minister, after what he has described as a devastating interim report into the death of baby P, who as you will know died of persistent horrific long term abuse.

Makes you kind of glad she did not resign. I do hope she does not get some kind of massive payoff.

I am also pleased, that unlike Gordon Brown, Ed Balls has not tried to use this case for party political advantage but seems to have done the right thing.

The BBC has this.

More later when the situation is clearer.

The Political implications of the arrest of Damian Green

I note that the political implications of the arrest of Damian Green are growing by the hour.

It started as outright horror on the opposition benches, with both David Cameron and Nick Clegg coming out strongly, followed by people like Tony Benn (Viscount Stansgate as was).

Well over the weekend whilst there has been briefing by the police against Damian Green (who is going to investigate that leak?) and cobblers talked by the Alleged Home Secretary Jacqui Smith we have had some interesting cover been broken by members of the cabinet.

We have had Harriet Harman, Jack Straw coming out against, whilst the speaker Michael Martin will make a statement on Wednesday. Now even Gordon Brown the Prime minister has come out and said there may need to be an inquiry.

The police are looking very bad as is Jacqui Smith.

The BBC has this.