Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Not in Vain

jerryspringer09_922_filteredImage by daniel_dimarco via Flickr

Did you know that today is International Blasphemy Day? No, neither did I. Apparently this is not a exhortation for us all to go out and take the lord's, (whichever of the many lords you wish presumably) name in vain. Instead it is intended to remind the world that religion should never again be beyond open and honest discussion. Quite right too. So let us celebrate those Danish cartoons of a few years ago. Let us proclaim the right to mock people's silly beliefs and traditions. Let us stage and restage Jerry Springer: The Opera. And let us laugh in the face of those who, in protest about those bloody cartoons and without any apparent irony, marched under banners proclaiming 'to hell with freedom of speech.' I still snigger about that today.

And if you really feel like it, why not have this printed on a T shirt. Wear it and be proud:

BLASPHEMY:

A

VICTIMLESS

CRIME
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A Subsidy Too Far

Andrew BurnhamImage via Wikipedia

More evidence today that the entire government is living in cloud cuckoo land when it comes to public services and public spending. The Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, has made a promise to ensure free parking for visitors to NHS hospitals. Read into the detail and it is not actually for all visitors, but how can even limited free parking be a priority when we are facing years of tight spending?

This is a policy that has already been introduced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland . This just goes to show that they are clearly receiving too much money from the Treasury and should have their grants cut. But it was rejected for England on the perfectly sensible grounds that the money it would cost could be better spent elsewhere, such as, oh I don't know, saving lives.

When are people going to get real about healthcare? Furthermore when are politicians going to come clean about what we can and cannot afford? Tough choices already have to be made about what we can and cannot afford to offer. There have been many cases, often heartbreaking, about patients denied treatment which would prolong lives, albeit only for a few months. How then can it be sensible to provide free parking for people who are only visiting?

Free healthcare for all regardless of ability to pay is something that I support. It is a sign of a civilized society. But we have to draw the line somewhere. There are some treatments that are being offered which should not be offered. For example IVF. But what I am absolutely certain about is that if you have to visit a hospital, however often, yes you should have to pay to park your car just as you would if you went to get your eyes tested, your teeth checked or to buy new shoes. Why not? And if people should be given free parking (how can they afford a car in the first place if they are that hard up?) then why not free petrol to get them there? Why not subsidized transport? Have the people who complain about this not considered using the bus?

It is this sort of thing that makes me fear for the future if Labour get elected again. If they are willing to concede on this really rather elementary and common sense issue then what chance is there that they will ever get to grips with public spending and make the really tough decisions which await whoever wins?
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The Ignoble Lord

Recent logo of Labour PartyImage via Wikipedia

I wonder what Peter Mandelson meant when he said last night, in the wake of The Sun's announcement that they were switching their allegiance away from Labour after 12 years, that News International (the publishers of The Sun and Times) were out of line. He also, allegedly, said something much ruder about them, see my earlier post.

Out of line? Who does he think he is? I know that this is an authoritarian government which believes it has the right to interfere in everything from our child minding arrangements to where its own staff eat near fasting Muslims during Ramadan, but the last time I looked it did not have the right of veto over what newspapers print, even during the Labour Party conference. Or perhaps that very long title recently given to the first minister has gone to his head even more than we assumed.

Then again Ed Balls called The Spectator a few weeks ago and demanded that they take down a blog posting calling him a liar, even though he had indeed been caught lying. And of course Gordon himself is decidedly angry with the media at the moment and tried unsuccessfully to storm out of not one but two interviews this morning.

It may all be part of a future agenda. No more spin doctors because there will be no need for them. There will a ministry of propaganda charged with ensuring that Labour is not 'misrepresented' by the media. I'm sure they would rather like that.
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Gordon's Cracking Up

Gordon Brown and Lord MandelsonImage by Downing Street via Flickr

I've lost count of how many relaunches Gordon Brown has had since he became PM, but this one has run aground already. By losing his temper on TV this morning he has wiped out what little capital he might have earned with his speech. Of course The Sun switching its allegiance will not have improved his mood and has gone down like a lead balloon with the party as a whole whatever they say in public. Peter Mandelson apparently described those at The Sun as cunts. The insouciance slipped for a moment there.

As I and others pointed out yesterday after the speech, this was the starting gun for the general election campaign. It is going to be like an American campaign: long and arduous for all concerned, not least those of us who just watch. But how is Gordon Brown going to cope? If he is blowing up already when he is asked questions that he doesn't like, what is he going to be like six months down the road? Is he going to start throwing things at the cameras? Should interviewers wear crash helmets and employ burly security guards as usually seen on the Jerry Springer Show?

The pressure on Brown is going to be ratcheted up week by week from now on. He's only just back from his holidays and he's already cracking up. Perhaps that retirement on ill health grounds wasn't such a bad idea. At this rate he could end up leaving Downing Street in a straitjacket.
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The Sun Sets on Labour

Famous Sun headlineImage via Wikipedia

So the Sun has switched sides, is abandoning Labour and is now in the Conservative camp. Conventional wisdom has it that this is hugely significant. I'm not so sure. Don't get me wrong, it can't hurt. But is The Sun leading opinion or going with the flow? I would argue that it's the latter.

The one time when they probably did make a big difference was back in 1992 when Neil Kinnock led Labour. He made that ridiculous appearance at a conference when he effectively declared himself the winner before a vote had been cast and The Sun printed that devastating front page (see right).

That however was a much closer election. The Conservatives won but by a slender majority. It was the beginning of the end for them and the beginning of the drift from Conservative to what became new Labour. But the British people were unconvinced by Labour and in particular Kinnock. The Sun probably just gave them an extra shove.

Since then British elections have been decided by much greater margins and Tony Blair was no Neil Kinnock. Whatever you think of the man you could never help but admire his credentials as a consummate politician. He was helped by being up against a demoralised and, in 1997, discredited and exhausted Conservative Party. Then even I hesitated about voting for William Hague in 2001 and Iain Duncan Smith never even made it to an election. The Sun merely backed the bookies favourites.

The same is true now. The Labour Party looks very much like John Major's administration in 1997, the difference being that Major himself, although often hapless and a little lost, was likeable and decent. Gordon Brown is arrogant and moody as well as hopeless and incompetent. The British people has made up its mind about him and, as Labour seem determined to keep him in place, The Sun has made up its mind to agree with its readership. But it is following not leading, anxious to maintain its record of backing the eventual winners.

If you want further proof of this then note that in Scotland, where the Tories remain unpopular unlike in England, the Scottish version of The Sun is not backing them. It will be fascinating to see who they do back in the end but this is clear evidence that they are going where their readership leads them rather than vice versa.

Nevertheless it is England where the election will be won and this of course will be a major body blow to Labour. No doubt phones will have been thrown at whoever was unlucky enough to convey the news to Brown. He gave a series of angry interviews on television this morning just to consolidate the damage. But all that the defection of The Sun will do is confirm what we all know, Labour is heading for disaster under Gordon Brown because the people and now their favourite newspaper have made up their minds about him. There can be few in the Labour Party who didn't know this already. This is symbolic rather than a game changer.
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Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Little Big Speech

LONDON - MAY 17:  Chancellor Gordon Brown smil...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

So how was the big speech then? Well it wasn't big. It was tiny and inconsequential. It was small minded and petty. It was the speech of a Prime Minister on the defensive. He gave one of those lists of his dubious achievements (most of which took place under Tony Blair) and of course the hall cheered. He then dedicated the rest of the speech to various big announcements many of which are undoing the harm done by the last twelve years.

And of course he lies. He does it shamelessly and endlessly. He has had to abandon the line about Tory cuts versus Labour investment but now he just couches his lies more subtly. Sorry, did I say subtle? Perhaps not. According to our Prime Minister the financial crisis was brought about by right wing fundamentalism. Yes it was that crass and mendacious. Nothing to do with Brown and his suspect regulatory regime. Nothing to do with the greed of bankers whom Brown was celebrating in various speeches and inviting to Downing Street only months before the wheels came off. He is somehow contriving to blame the Tories. Accusations about being right wing and extremist and out for the minority and not the majority is something we are going to hear a lot of. It's desperate but it seems to be about all they can think of.

Then we just have the outrageous lies. Half a million jobs saved? No, Prime Minister. That is a lie.

Half a million children lifted out of poverty. Another porkie.

Jobs created? The only ones he can claim credit for are those in the public sector. A dubious achievement at best and one we cannot afford. In the private sector, well immigration has soaked all of those jobs up, hence our unemployment rate and the hidden unemployment of millions who have remained economically inactive throughout the Labour years, claiming various benefits and who are as much of a lost generation as those Brown et al talk about when they hark back to the 80s.

He's even dishonest about his own upbringing. Listening to him talk about it one would imagine he came from the opposite side of the tracks, went to a sink school and dragged himself up by his bootstraps to where he is today. In fact he had in his way as privileged an upbringing and education as did David Cameron. Furthermore it was a selective school, something his party hates. The usual hypocrisy.

Brown has had to change his tune about spending cuts but the dishonesty remains. Its baseless assertions now rather than dodgy statistics. The Tories will cut frontline services he says whereas he will protect and even improve them. Oh and he also claims he will halve the deficit. How exactly?

He even boasted about our debt levels. We came into the recession with the second lowest debt of the G7 he boasted. Unfortunately for him it was the lowest of all of them in 1997 before he got to work and it is now increasing faster than any of them.

And then there came a series of gimmicky solutions to social problems from teenage mothers to antisocial behaviour which Labour has made worse during its tenure. Oh and he's starting the process of killing off ID cards too. A U turn? Of course not.

He's even going to do a bit of gerrymandering and try to impose a referendum for electoral reform on us. It was ignored by Labour when they had a safe majority and were winning elections but now it is suddenly vital. Utterly shameless.

This was a speech which nicely summed up Gordon Brown and his sagging and clueless administration. He lacks any real vision of where he is leading us and is reduced to making baseless assertions about how much worse things will be under David Cameron. He boasts about the achievements of Labour but the only real policies he has are to undo some of the damage he has done. There was of course a peroration about fighting and winning at the end. But does anyone really believe it? It's questionable how much the conference were taken in, despite the usual ovation. The public, who have largely made up their minds will just have heard more of the same from a cynical and manipulative liar.

Next week David Cameron has the opportunity to present a real contrast. It is true that the public are turning to the Tories without much enthusiasm. In part this is because of their caution in giving too much ammunition to the liars in government who will take each policy and claim that it will cause catastrophe. But perhaps they should learn the lesson of the summer. By accident they admitted that cuts would come in the next Parliament. Brown seized on it and ended up making a fool of himself. This government is incapable of telling the truth. It has no real arguments or ideas for the future. Scare stories are their only tactic. They can and should be nailed for their cynicism.

Cameron needs to give a speech that is realistic about our problems but optimistic about a future freed from the shackles of this interfering and inept government which is even preventing 'the hard working majority' in Brown's oft repeated phrase from looking after each other's children without government approval. It is this kind of petty, small minded authoritarianism dressed up as caring which the Conservatives should be ending at a stroke. It would resonate with the public.

But be in no doubt, the election campaign is underway and Labour is going to fight dirty. Cameron should treat them with lofty disdain whilst giving us reasons why we should vote positively for him rather than against this cynical, tired , desperate and useless Prime Minister. Brown was caught out in the summer and he will be again if the Conservatives take him on. I'll return to this tomorrow.



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Decidedly Indecisive

United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer Gor...Image via Wikipedia

The BBC's Nick Robinson is reporting that Gordon Brown is still dithering over whether to take part in a debate or debates with his fellow party leaders. Why? What is the problem? And more to the point what does he have to lose? He is desperately unpopular with the public and his party is being written off for the next election, not least by themselves. Yet their line, such as it is, is that Brown has saved the world and has the experience to lead us out of recession and towards prosperity. David Cameron, they tell us, would be too much of a risk at this critical juncture. Well here is the chance for him to prove it.

'Not flash, just Gordon,' the posters proclaimed in his brief honeymoon period when he took over as Prime Minister. But this is Brown in a nutshell isn't it. Not flash, just boredom. Yesterday the talk was about them coming out fighting to win the election. But that is clearly all it is - talk. Where is the clunking fist? He's umming and ahhing over whether or not to take part in a debate with an opponent he dismisses as lightweight, inexperienced and just a PR man.

Robinson reports that Brown's excuse for not announcing in his speech today that he will take part in a debate is that he wants to concentrate on policy and not tactics. You have to admire the cheek of the man. He is all tactics. This is the man who got into the mess about 10p tax because he wanted to wrongfoot the opposition and get a day's good headlines. This is the man who went to Afghanistan during the Conservative conference for the same reason.

And policy? What policy? It ill behoves him to criticise the lack of Conservative policies (there are some but not enough it's true) when his own government is similarly lacking. There have been a couple of minor announcements about car scrappage and banker bonuses but it's not exactly a vision or a philosophy for the next five years is it. But if he really believes that he has the best policies and wants to convince us of this, what better forum than in a debate when he can show us, supposedly in marked contrast to the man vying to replace him?

On Monday night, we are told by the FT, Brown sat up for hours agonising over whether to make an announcement in his speech today, this despite the fact that Cameron and Clegg accepted weeks ago. Thus he is playing catch up again. He has once again been caught on the backfoot, just as he was over MPs' expenses. If Cameron has any sense he will refer to this in his speech next week. This is a Prime Minister who can't even make his mind up about taking part in a TV show. At least his predecessor used to quickly and emphatically say no. Brown is in the worst of worlds. He knows he probably should but worries about what might happen. Are you inspired? Do you want to give him another five years?
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Monday, 28 September 2009

Copenhagen Calamity

City of CopenhagenImage via Wikipedia

As we head towards the expensive farce and circus that will be the Copenhagen climate change conference - apparently there are so many people planning on attending this that some are going to have to stay in Sweden and commute every day - it would be nice if those attending could get their facts straight before they commit us to their fantasy future. We cannot expect this of the green meanies of course. They seem to be quite happy about the fact that they will be crippling our economies for decades to come if they get what they want. Indeed one cannot help but suspect that this is part of their agenda.

But what about the politicians? Are they so in thrall to this loud and strident bunch of post marxist hippies that they are incapable of seeing what they are in danger of doing?

Take a look at this piece in today's Washington Post by the ever well informed and well researched Bjorn Lomborg. What is being proposed makes no sense scientifically, environmentally and especially not economically. When will one of them be brave enough to say so? Surely at least some of them, in between wanting to pose as green, far-sighted and statesmanlike, must realise that this is folly. And what about the media? Are any of them going to look behind the figures and see what is really happening?

It's as if the whole world is sleepwalking towards this disaster and only a few of us are awake and pleading with them to open their eyes before they get too close to the precipice.
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Mandelson Make Believe

Recent logo of Labour PartyImage via Wikipedia

It seems that the Labour Party, as Tony Blair once beseeched them to do, has finally fallen in love with Peter Mandelson. Well they gave him a decent ovation anyway. Then again they did the same to Yvette Cooper and she was talking the most unutterable bollocks as usual.

Lord Mandelson was doing the same of course. The Labour strategy for the coming election seems to be to lie, slate and misrepresent as much as is possible. Mandelson is of course the master of this. He does it with such relish. The general election he told the party he professes to love (although in an interview over the weekend he said he would work for the Tories 'if it was for the good of the country' - hard to imagine but thanks for the offer Pete) is up for grabs. Well of course it is. A week is a long time in politics. It's just that under Gordon Brown it feels like a month.

Then he told conference that if he could come back then so could Labour. Marvellous. The only flaw to that argument of course is that Mandelson came back on the whim of an unelected Prime Minister and he came back to the unelected House of Lords. Does that really count as a comeback given that we didn't really get any choice in the matter? Was his appointment as an unelected European commissioner not long after he resigned for the second time a comeback too?

There then came the standard rewriting of history. The Tories are steeped in old right wing values he said. And then there was the old chestnut about them advocating a do nothing approach to the recession. That would be as opposed to the useless but expensive Labour VAT cut and one or two other measures that they seem to have convinced themselves have made all of the difference. Over the weekend Gordon Brown boasted of his help for homeowners despite the fact that only 8 such homeowners have received that help. Mandelson's car scrappage scheme has been more of a success than I among many thought it would. But how many of the cars bought were imports?

This however is the Labour strategy. Paint the Conservative Party as right wing, evil and callous and themselves as cuddly and caring. Yvette Cooper followed a similar theme. Labour ministers seem to have convinced themselves that this recession is different because of 'real help' given at Job Centres. Yet ask anyone who has received this help and they will tell you it amounts to a box ticking exercise designed to keep Whitehall happy but nothing else. Job seekers are on their own now just as much as they were in the 80s. Just as with education and health, Labour have decreed something and assume that it has happened and then fiddle the figures accordingly.

I suppose we should expect such fantasies from the likes of Mandelson and Cooper and of course Gordon Brown. But what do those attending the conference with a greater connection to the real world think? Do they think all is hunky dory? Do they think that such delusions are likely to win that election? I have my doubts.
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Our Right to Know and Ask

U.K.Image via Wikipedia

It's unclear to me why everyone is making such a fuss about Andrew Marr's drugs and sight questions to Gordon Brown. Do we, the public, not have a right to know if our Prime Minister is suffering from such afflictions? Might it not affect his ability to adequately do his job? Surely Brown should be pleased to have the opportunity to set our minds at ease.

Peter Mandelson has come out of course and attacked these suggestions as right wing slurs. Well if untrue they are of course slurs. But right wing? Charles Clarke just last week told Brown that he should consider quitting on health grounds. The Prime Minister has often spoken of his sight problems, usually in an attempt to portray himself as a determined and resourceful fighter. Indeed his determination to overcome this disability is admirable. But we have a right to know if it is worsening.

As to the depression issue, well he has now been given the opportunity to dispel this rumour. End of story. But was it impertinent to raise it? Of course not. Again, we have a right to know. And these rumours do spread unless dealt with. It isn't as if they were that hard to believe. This is a Prime Minister who is known to have temper tantrums, sometimes whilst being interviewed, and who is known to throw things at staff who bring him bad news or who in some other way displease him.

In America, a much more robust democracy than our own, questions about the health of presidential candidates are routine. They, like our Prime Minister only more so, exercise enormous power and are under huge pressure. Remember Brown has not been elected to his job. Rumours like this come about because we can all see the pressure he is under.

I for one will accept his assurances that the rumours are untrue. But we had every right to ask for those assurances. In other countries a doctor's report would have been issued to confirm it.
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Gordon Won't Go

Gordon gives a serious speech - tv screenshotImage by Scorpions and Centaurs via Flickr

So, Gordon has raised his head above the parapet and for more this time than merely to congratulate sportsmen or to commiserate with failed television talent show contestants. He even put himself up for interview and was forced, by Andrew Marr of all people (he prefers being interviewed by Marr rather than by the more combative interviewers) to deny various claims about his health and happiness.

It is safe to say that our dear leader is not going to fall on his sword this week as was predicted or perhaps just fervently hoped for in some quarters. The Prime Minister believes that his present unpopularity is as a consequence of the recession and MPs expenses. Well, whatever gives you comfort I suppose. It's a lot deeper than that Gordon. The British public is sick of you. It is sick of the duplicity, the double speak, the rank dishonesty. We look at you and we see a man who plotted and bullied his way to the top job only to find that he has no idea what to do with it. We were promised vision and leadership; we've had indecision, inaction and purblindness, however healthy or unhealthy that eye is.

In short, Prime Minister, we think you're a lousy Prime Minister.

The worst part is that large parts of the Labour Party share this view of their leader. They can see what a disaster he is. They watched in horror as he lay low during the Libya debacle of a few weeks ago. They rolled their eyes and cringed in embarrassment when he pleaded with his pal Barack to tickle his tummy in public. Yet other than off the record briefings and mutterings plus the speeches of an isolated few mavericks, most remain silent, frozen inthe headlights of the oncoming juggernaut of electoral disaster.

Gordon will not go and nobody is about to make him. These things happen rarely in politics anyway. Most Prime Ministers are removed by the electorate or are forced out by their colleagues. A Prime Minister admitting that the game is up and that other, better men or women would be preferable requires a very long memory.

Brown could be forced out tomorrow if his colleagues had the courage of their ill disguised convictions. But he will stay. He will make his conference speech and may even make it well. He or his speech writers may well come up with another line like 'no time for a novice.' But it will all be to no avail except to ensure that he leads his party to disaster. The fact is that the British people would be quite happy with a novice, just as they were once happy with a novice with no previous ministerial experience named T. Blair. They would be quite happy with anyone but Gordon Brown. By refusing to put him out of our misery the Labour Party are proving how richly they will deserve the ignominious defeat that is now just months away.
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Sunday, 27 September 2009

New Old Labour

David Cameron is a British politician, Leader ...Image via Wikipedia

Is the Labour Party really pinning its hopes on winning the next election on branding the Tories 'as toffs'? Is that the best that they have to say? We should be re-elected rather than the other lot because they're rich and used to be members of an exclusive drinking club when they were undergraduates. This is beyond desperate.

Yet this seems to be one of the attack lines to be taken. It's being repeated in too many different places for it to be a mere newspaper story. An American pollster, Joel Benenson, fresh from the victorious Obama campaign, has apparently spent months studying the Tories in depth and this is the best he can come up with. Furthermore Peter Hain has used the line in an interview with The Sunday Times, not to mention the ill fated Crewe and Nantwich by election last year which Labour lost having used the toffs line to the exclusion of all else like, oh I don't know, policy.

Two and a bit years since becoming Prime Minister we are still waiting for the vision which Gordon Brown promised us. But perhaps this is it. "Vote for me because I'm a son of the manse and not the son of a stockbroker or a baronet". Inspiring it ain't.

Unfortunately, after claiming for so long to be new Labour, this is becoming the default option. It's a class war but a class war fought by the metropolitan, professional politicians who are scarcely from the wrong side of the tracks themselves. Many of them have been to fee paying schools, grammar schools and then Oxbridge or the other Russell group universities only to arrive at Westminster with chips on their shoulders. It's an endlessly bizarre and comical vision but it seems to be the only one they have. It's as if the entire party is as one eyed as their leader.

This is the party, remember, which is obsessed with equality. But it's a peculiar kind of equality which argues that someone should not be elected to high office because they were born into privilege, as though this is some kind of choice people make. I had always thought that old dinosaurs like Dennis Skinner were the last of the Labour politicians who hated Tories just because they are Tories. It's an attitude which belongs not in the last century but in the one before that, a time of Dickensian squalor, appalling working conditions and fat cats which make our modern day versions look like models of probity.

If I had been around in the 19th century, born into a comparatively poor family and with no chance of getting the kind of education I enjoyed, I too would probably have hated the Tories because all too often they were on the side of the status quo. But the world has moved on. I was born into a working class family but we aspired to better ourselves like millions of others through hard work, diligence and education. I generally vote Conservative because I think the Labour prescription for our ills, as this government has spent the last twelve years proving, is fundamentally wrong and ill conceived.

Instead of helping people they end up hindering them. Their idea of equality is to level down rather than level up. The very same people who prospered in grammar schools and went to our best universities then set about abolishing them in the name of equality. It's an unfortunate and tragic fact that politicians like David Cameron are more likely to succeed in this country precisely because they went to fee paying schools. Those schools simply provide a better education than most public sector schools. And it's nothing to do with money. The old grammar schools used to provide as good or often a better education than the likes of David Cameron's privileged and eye wateringly expensive Eton until they were abolished by meddling politicians who had a bee in their bonnet about equality and fairness.

The party that came to power promising to govern as new Labour is now regressing to its old comfort zone. Hate people because of where and to whom they were born. Punish success. Tax the rich and successful. Penalise hard work. Reward sloth and fecklessness. Talk about fairness but continue to pursue policies which just make matters worse and fail to give people the head start they need.

Is this the vision of new old Labour? It seems so.
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Saturday, 26 September 2009

The Nuclear Options

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 25:  (R-L) French Presi...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

One can't help wondering why the likes of Barack Obama and Gordon Brown have been talking nuclear disarmament when all the time they knew that Iran has a secret facility, the purpose of which can only be to build nukes. Perhaps it was a question of talking softly while carrying a thermonuclear device, but, as I remarked just a couple of days ago, now does not feel like the right time to be talking about disarmament when the likes of Iran are determined to get their hands on this weaponry.

The thought of that quintessential swivel eyed maniac, President Ahmadinejad, with his finger on the button is a terrifying one. He is the most likely candidate, other than terrorists and criminals, to actually explode a bomb as part of some kind of holy crusade. Even compared to the regime in North Korea, Iran is altogther more worrying. North Korea, for all of its bluster and childishness, displays a kind of mad sanity over its arms programmes. Generally speaking it uses them as a bargaining tool to ensure its own survival and for more prosaic needs like food and oil.

Would that it were so simple in Iran. That regime is nothing like as rational, particularly in the person of its president. They have ambitions to dominate their region and to rid that region of the hated state of Israel. Their neighbouring states, and by no means just the Israelis, will be terrified by these revelations.

This is an issue that will be right at the top of our foreign affairs agenda until some kind of resolution is reached. For all of his rhetoric about friendship and new beginnings, President Obama may well find himself having to authorise military action to prevent this nightmare scenario occurring. It is hard to see anything else working, short of the people of Iran rising up and overthrowing their illegitimate rulers.

We always knew what Iran was up to and this revelation comes as no surprise. It is to be hoped that our leaders have been talking peace in order to convince the world of their good intentions. They may soon have to steel themselves for action which will, at least in some eyes, give the opposite impression.
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Friday, 25 September 2009

Last in Translation

Hilariously, the interpreter charged with making sense of Colonel Gaddafi's long, deranged and apparently extemporaneous rant at the UN the other day collapsed from exhaustion after keeping up for 90 minutes, shouting 'I can't take it anymore.' It brings to mind the poor Hansard reporters who used to have to put into print the garbled words of John Prescott. Apparently, as part of the interview process, prospective candidates were given one of his long rambling speeches and told to get to work. If it made sense at the end of it they were given the job. Indeed they were probably asked to go and tell Prescott himself what he had really meant.

Still you have to wonder how the interpreters cope with the speeches of other leaders and what sort of afflictions they would suffer from for each. After an Obama speech an interpreter would no doubt collapse shaking and speaking in tongues after being so near to the messiah. After a Gordon Brown speech they would either nod off or become outraged at his double speak. A Sarkozy speech would bring on a crick in the neck as they tried to look down and see who the hell was speaking from behind the lectern. A Tony Blair speech no doubt used to bring on a feeling of nausea after being exposed to all of that schmaltz and fake sincerity. Nowadays though it would just bring on a feeling of extreme poverty as he charges extortionately for each and every word. A Berlusconi speech would bring on a feeling of extreme discomfort as he made love to you with his eyes and winked as if to say he was not prepared to leave it there.

Yes being an interpreter is a perilous occupation. The interpreter who could not take it anymore was part of the Libyan delegation rather than one of those supplied by the UN. One wonders if he is urgently planning to apply for asylum elsewhere now that he has shown himself to be less than enthusiastic about his leader's words. Still, he should think himself lucky. But for the good sense of the British people back in 1992 and considering how keen Labour are on the good Colonel these days, he might have found himself having to translate the endless sentences of Neil Kinnock. That would have killed him.
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Slobbering, Credulous Dimwits

Cover of "Therese of Lisieux: In My Own W...Cover of Therese of Lisieux: In My Own Words

The relics of the supposed Saint Therese of Lisieux (basically a few old bones) are currently inflaming passions. On the one hand Catholics are going on pilgrimages so as to be near this ancient osseous tissue in the belief that they will be cured or otherwise blessed. On the other hand people like me cannot help but be irritated by their bone headed stupidity.

One of my ilk, a Barnsley Labour councillor by the name of Tim Cheetham, made the not unreasonable point that by kissing the glass within which were held these ancient but now redundant organs, they would be in need of some miraculous intervention because they were leaving themselves open to all kinds of nasty diseases, not least swine flu. These slobbering zealots he called them.

Cue the usual outrage from offended believers and opportunist political opponents out to make mischief. Worst of all Mr Cheetham has issued a kind of half-baked apology, blaming Twitter for preventing him from adequately expressing himself.

For the record however, I believe that Mr Cheetham was indeed wrong. These are not slobbering zealots they are slobbering and credulous dimwits who have travelled great distances to be near some old bones and then proceeded to French kiss them. Why is it controversial to be critical of such behaviour? And before someone responds with the usual line about my being too scared to say the same about Muslims, au contraire. Just last week I observed that those who starve themselves for Ramadan are idiots too. Next week - Sikhs. I don't discriminate.
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Compassionate Cutter?

United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer Gor...Image via Wikipedia

Now that the government has finally had to come clean and admit that cuts rather than 'investment' is going to be the order of the day for the next few years, regardless of who wins the next election, their new line is that they will be more compassionate cutters than their opponents.

It's hard then to reconcile this claim with the story that has come out today about the source of those leaks about MPs expenses. Soldiers were forced to do additional poorly paid work to earn extra money so as to buy the kit that this government refused to supply. Kevlar armour, gloves, boots and eye protectors were being denied to our forces by the MOD. And remember this was in the days of plenty before cuts were even being talked about by the opposition.

It is hardly surprising that soldiers denied such seemingly vital and core equipment were miffed to say the least at what our MPs could be reimbursed for from the public purse. Gordon Brown's claim for a Sky TV subscription raised their ire in particular we are told. You can buy the book, No Expenses Spared, in which all of this is revealed here.

It's another disastrous day for Gordon Brown and his government. But how richly deserved it is. The man who boasted about his investment in our public services was at the same time denying the basics to men and women who were putting their lives on the line. This isn't even helicopters we are talking about here, although that remains a scandalous dereliction of duty too; they were being denied boots and body armour while MPs claimed for towels, TVs and tea sets for their vital second homes. It infuriates and astonishes me just reading about it. How must those soldiers have felt as they worked in their second jobs scanning all of those expenses claims?

Earlier this year our prime minister spoke about his moral compass and his Prebyterian conscience. One can only assume that they are malfunctioning in the same way that his sight is said to be deteriorating. As he heads off to his party conference next week what is he going to say? Can he really seriously think that he deserves to win an election, that the British people, once they have actually been consulted in the matter, will extend his tenure and continue this dishonest and disreputable disaster of a premiership?
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