Friday, 31 December 2010

The Modern 12 Days of Christmas

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me:
Seven Garden Strimmers
Six Pairs of Boxers
Five Blow up Dolls
Four DVDs
Three AA Batteries
Two Crotchless Panties
And a Sweater that I'll never wear.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Ashes: Doing the Sprinkler

I just thought I´d break into my Christmas break to say well done England. A fantastic performance and thoroughly deserved victory. I stayed up to enjoy it which, as I am in Spain, means staying up even later than in the UK.

Silly dance though. But let´s take the series now. Do that and even I may do the sprinkler dance.

The Modern 12 Days of Christmas

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me: 
Six Pairs of Boxers
Five Blow Up Dolls
Four DVDs
Three AA Batteries
Two Crotchless Panties
And a Sweater that I'll never wear.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Modern 12 Days of Christmas

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me: 
Five Blow up Dolls
Three AA Batteries
Two Crotchless Panties
And a sweater that I'll never wear.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Modern 12 Days of Christmas

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Four DVDs
Three AA Batteries
Two Crotchless Panties
And a Sweater that I'll never wear.

Monday, 27 December 2010

The Modern 12 Days of Christmas

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me:
Three AA Batteries
Two Crotchless Panties
And a sweater that I'll never wear

Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Modern 12 Days of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Two Crotchless Panties
And a sweater I'll never wear.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas

I'm going away over the Christmas period. But I have left some blog posts which will appear automatically while I'm gone. My modern version of the 12 days of Christmas will start tomorrow on the traditional first day and fill in for me in my absence, unless of course something momentous drags me away from my alcoholic haze and my blogging instincts cannot resist.

In the meantime I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and let's hope we all get a happy and prosperous New Year. I'll see you in 2011.

Paul Owen is Away

I am going away for Christmas. I'll be back in the New Year. I have left a few posts that will be published automatically in my absence and may well feel myself compelled to write in the unlikely event that something momentous happens. But otherwise this blog is having a few days off.

Regular visitors will have noticed that I am fond of Peanuts cartoons. So to the commenter a while back who opined that Schulz was never that funny I can only respond that I think he can be very funny. That's why Peanuts cartoons are so well loved and why Schulz earned the mega bucks he did, at the time far more than any of the world's top sportsmen. He was also universally admired by his peers; his fellow cartoonists knew what a pioneer he was and a true gentleman. So instead of Christmassy pictures I leave you with Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Because I love them. And it's my blog.

This blog is read all around the world and so some of you probably don't even celebrate Christmas. But then I'm an atheist and it has never stopped me enjoying it. The best part is I don't have to shiver in a church. So may I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year. I'll see you in January.

Von Smallhausen Gives His Thought For The Day

In a few minutes you can hear Von Smallhausen giving his Thought for the Day on Radio 4's Today programme. Okay, it's the Pope. But listen to it this morning, if you can bear to, and I guarantee you that the time will go much more quickly if you imagine it is that small bloke from Allo Allo.

Once the thing is over we will have to endure all kinds of nauseating commentaries from Catholic apologists like the absurd Damian Thompson in The Telegraph who will inform us that what the daft old dress wearing misogynist had to say was stunning, beautiful, moving and amazing in its liturgical brilliance. Those of us who do not wear stained glass spectacles will have heard an underwhelming octogenarian spouting meaningless platitudes in the style of a Nazi comedy character.

Dara's Heckle

The above was sent to comedian Dara O Briain. It is a woolly tit. It is also the ultimate heckle. Now that is what I call dedication. None of your drunken 'you're shit mate,' one so usually hears from hecklers. This took planning. Apparently it was sent by an ante natal charity in response to Dara's routine about them in this year's show. It's available on DVD here. 

I actually think that Dara is very funny, one of the most intelligent comedians on the circuit. But you have to have a kind of respect for someone who disagrees and goes to these lengths to say so.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Hugo Chavez: We Told You So

First there was the slow but inevitable collapse of the Euro, then there is the same happening to the fantasy that is man-made climate change and now, well blow me down, Hugo Chavez has taken special powers so that he doesn't have to bother with all of that cumbersome democracy nonsense. I'm thinking of having a T shirt printed with I Told You So written on it in big, friendly letters. And indeed this follows on nicely from the theme of my last post. Another lefty being nasty and self righteous.

This step was as inevitable as it is depressing. I've been predicting it for a while, see previous posts here, here, here and here. Chavez came to power and played the great populist saviour of his people. He was hailed by the usual suspects on the left - including the ludicrous Ken Livingstone who called him a beacon of democracy - as another great icon of socialism in that movement's grand tradition - you know: Stalin, Chairman Mao, Castro et al. And he was always a thorn in the side of America. That is why the left liked him. That's why they are prepared to overlook the fact that he is pals with the likes of Robert Mugabe, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other murderous tryants around the world.

Yet from the start Chavez followed the standard modern dictator's handbook, as pioneered by the Nazis. You take populist measures at first, coupled to propaganda and sabre-rattling and then give yourself ever more power, change the constitution, abolish any presidential term limits. You might even hold a plebiscite to ratify these changes. Hitler did it. So did Burma. So did Saddam Hussein. And now Hugo Chavez. I wonder what else he will now emulate.

Chavez's growing authoritarianism has grown in inverse proportion to the economy of his oil rich state. As that has tanked his desire for absolute power rose commensurately to avoid awkward questions. Earlier this year he also started threatening his neighbours with war and of course he constantly blames everything and anything on outside powers. Again, Hitler and Goebbels must be looking up from hell rather proudly.

Chavez claims to be building a new democracy that cannot be reversed. No doubt, like all such dictatorships, it will soon be called a people's revolution or something similar. But the journey he started 12 years ago, or earlier if you include his attempt at a coup (another similarity with Hitler) is now almost complete. One wonders what his apologists will have to say. Will they believe his assertions that this is an emergency measure? Or will they at last look at the history books and human nature and have an epiphany?

It's a trait of the left that they honestly believe that their way and only their way is righteous and correct. They honestly don't understand how anyone can disagree and regard our arguments pointing to actual evidence with disdain. It's like a belief, a replacement for religion as the opiate of the people. They regard themselves as the progressives. It is quite astonishingly arrogant and ignores plenty of evidence to the contrary showing that their approach is flawed and counterproductive.

But it's also why Labour politicians talk, peculiarly, of their love for the Labour Party and movement. Am I alone in finding that rather sinister? It's why Ed Miliband thinks Tories are wrong just because they are Tories. And then he has the cheek to try and call the Tories the ideologues. Those of us who are working class Tories and actually have some knowledge of the classes Miliband claims to represent, are presumably just the victims of some establishment conspiracy.

But the corollary of this is that they try to silence those who disagree with them. They don't always go down the dictatorial route. In Britain they prefer vilification and name calling. The Tories are the nasty party. Oh and of course those with an alternative view on climate change are deniers because we won't accept their truth.

Those who claim to know what's best for us and try in their various ways to silence all dissenting voices may not all be as cynical, corrupt and potentially dangerous as Hugo Chavez. But they do have an odd idea about what democracy means. And they are not above a bit of illegality when it suits them to try and frustrate that of which they disapprove as we have seen with the protests at shops and corporations accused of avoiding tax not to mention the student protests that turned into riots.

Venezuela is just an extreme but all too common example of what can happen if we allow those who think they are automatically right to silence dissenting voices by whatever means. The right to disagree and to say so is democracy.

Rebranding the Tories

If I were a Tory backbencher right now, perhaps denied a job in government because some have had to be given to Lib Dems; what would irritate and antagonise me right now about the ongoing Telegraph story would not be the petty name calling and differences of personality - that goes on in every walk of life; it would not be the differences in policy - what do we expect after all? No. What would infuriate me would be this sense of smug superiority a propos of nothing that pervades the left. It isn't restricted to the Labour Party. It's written across faces of the Lib Dems too. We're the progressives they tell us. We understand what it is to have £1000 taken off us in child benefit. Tories, apparently, just don't.

And what is particularly irritating is that the Tory leadership is allowing them to get away with the line that the Lib Dems are there as a kind of mellowing influence on the nasty Tories. That is what Vince Cable actually said, that he is like their kindly but slightly disappointed uncle, looking across their shoulders and shaking his head whenever they want to do anything that is too right wing like putting up tuition fees, cutting child benefit for higher rate taxpayers and killing all first born sons.

But that this happens is actually the fault of the Conservative Party itself. It has allowed the left to paint being right wing as being extremist and nasty and left as being cuddly and caring. This hadn't used to be the case. The Conservative Party was the one nation party. It was the party of Churchill, Eden, MacMillan et al. Yes it could be a little old fashioned and fusty but that was actually rather reassuring. And then along came Margaret Thatcher and the left hated her. Why? Because she was firm and resolute and got things done. She took on the unions and beat them. But why did she do that? Because they needed to be beaten before they bankrupted the country.

And yes I know that the hard right are truly nasty but then so are the hard left. They showed that on the streets of London a couple of weeks ago. But mainstream Tories have nothing more in common with the hard right than most mainstream Labour MPs have with the hard left. Indeed it should be noted that more Labour MPs have a history of extremism than you will find on the Tory benches. Look at the CVs of a good many leading Labour figures and you will see ex members of the Communist Party or similar or protest movements with revolutionary fervour. We should also remember the history of the last 100 years or so. People tend to forget that the Nazis were National SOCIALISTS. They can just as easily be regarded as hard left as hard right. And take a look at that picture of dictators above. How many of them were of the left and how many of the right?

When Ed Miliband became Labour leader he immediately objected to the eponym Red Ed. Yet he is perfectly happy to do the same to Tories. He has even ordered his cabinet to stop calling the government the coalition as it makes them sound too reasonable. The fact that it demonstrably is a coalition and that this is a statement of simple fact is immaterial. He also calls the Tories ideological. This coming from the man who wants to keep the 50% tax rate as a matter of principle and 'fairness'.

The Tories should fight fire with fire where Miliband and Labour are concerned. There are plenty of red skeletons in Labour closets. They enjoy their name calling. It's time they got some back. I'm doing my bit.

It really is time that Tories stood up for themselves because we are nothing like as out of step with the national psyche as is made out. Most of the nation can see that is wrong and counterproductive to keep paying out ever higher benefits to the workless. Few have any problems with cutting housing benefit. Most are sceptical about Europe and don't understand the political class's obsession with becoming ever further entrenched with it. The issue of tuition fees could have been handled better but the principle is sound and the system devised is fair.

Conservative policies and principles are simply a different way of addressing the nation's problems. Lower taxes are not a way of rewarding the rich to the detriment of the poor they are a way of promoting and encouraging aspiration and hard work for the good of us all.

And the leftist approach has been tried. It has been tried in this country for the last 13 years and we ended up with lots of shiny new schools that are not teaching children properly due to their fairness agenda and prizes for all dogma. We have a minimum wage which has become the opposite of a glass ceiling, a kind of sticky floor if you will, thanks to Labour's uncontrolled immigration dogma. Who are the ideologues again?

It's time for Conservatives to stand up for ourselves. We should make it our New Year's resolution. We should reject the language of progressivism because it is a meaningless slogan like education, education, education. Spending must be cut because you cannot spend what you do not have. You cannot keep raising taxes because Britain is in a global market place and has to be competitive. It isn't just the rich who will leave it is anyone with a marketable skill who resents being taxed for being successful so that politicians can reward the feckless. To say so is not being nasty, it is being realistic. It really is time for us to stand up for what we believe. We may be pleasantly surprised that a large part of the 'hard working British public' actually agree with us.

The Inflation Nation

As far back as February 2009 I wrote on this blog that Quantitative Easing was a disaster and would create all kinds of problems. I wrote the following:

The risk is that this puts even more pressure on the already suffering Pound. The risk is that this simply stores up inflation making the recovery even more difficult. The risk is that, once that recovery gets under way, inflation kicks in forcing the bank to raise interest rates thus choking off those elusive green shoots. It would be like going back to the 1970s again. It would be a return to boom and bust but with a lot more bust than boom.

The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee has now been telling us that the rise in inflation is just a temporary blip which will soon come down for over a year. In just a few days time VAT rises to 20%. Fuel prices are rising and will continue to do so if this winter continues on its present course. Other commodities are rising in price too as money looks for a home as a hedge against inflation. It is a vicious cycle. But it is a vicious cycle created initially by Quantitative Easing, especially the reckless money printing taking place on the other side of the Atlantic. 

Meantime the export recovery we were hoping for has not happened. Why? Because, while the fall in the pound did boost orders, exporters used it as a way to raise prices. They could have boosted market share, they chose short term profits. Now as the pound strengthens they will find orders diminish unless they cut prices again. It is the standard short termist British response. 

I remain convinced that the Government's cuts are the right way to go ahead, I just wish they would go further.  A period of sobriety is required after a binge. But that does not mean it is going to be easy. What is going to make it harder is that the MPC and the last Government believed that they could just throw money at the patient and persuade it to resume the binge. That would be convenient politically but disastrous economically. And we are now starting to see the price for that political expedience in the form of inflation. If that takes off and interest rates have to be raised in an emergency response, we could still see that double dip in the coming months. 

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

PMQs: Forrest's Frustrated Dream Edition

Forrest tossed and turned in his sleep. 'Timing is everything in politics...timing is everything in politics.....timing is everything in politics......timing is everything in politics.......

Suddenly he found himself in the House of Commons. There were roars all about him and a Christmas tree in the Speaker's chair. It was a definite improvement. It was taller than him for a start. Across from him there was a definite air of nervousness about the Eton toff and Bullingdon bully. Was this the moment when the tables turned? Was that sweat on the PM's top lip?

Ed stood up, his brow furrowed in righteous indignation. 'How can the prime minister possibly justify this terrible travesty?' he cried indignantly. 'Why am I, an atheist, prevented from capitalising on the shambles this government is in, on the reshuffle of departmental responsibility so as to avoid an inconvenient reshuffle of personnel, why am I prevented from probing this issue because of a silly religious festival that everyone treats as an excuse to eat too much, drink too much, row with family and slob out in front of the TV?'

He woke up with a start. 'Jesus Christ!' he said bitterly.

Car of the Year: Ferrari 458

Some, mainly those who sit on panels and decide these things based on criteria the rest of us can only guess at, would have it that the car of the year is the Nissan Leaf. This is patently absurd. This was a decision based on political correctness rather than any real attempt to discover which car achieves great things in engineering and design. The day of the electric car may well eventually come. But we are not there yet and the Leaf is not that car.

In the meantime, we luddites prefer to stick with the internal combustion engine, especially the V8 that sits in the Ferrari 458. All things considered I believe that this is the better car. This is a car that is so hot it has been known to spontaneously combust. Well, nearly as early owners will testify.

From Confucius to Mr Bean

It was sad at the weekend to read of the death of that great political commentator Anthony Howard. But we are especially feeling his loss this morning because we could have done with his prodigious memory and knowledge. I'm sure there have been Cabinet ministers in the past who have behaved with the same idiocy and preening vanity as Vince Cable. But surely not in such circumstances. All politicians have egos. It goes with the territory. But surely, even if out of a sense of self preservation, most are at least a little more careful about to whom they make their boasts?

But perhaps this is what you get when you have Lib Dems in power. These juvenile politicians are finding the transition to government extraordinarily difficult because it means having to take a decision and stick to it. Sometimes it means enduring unpopularity and worse. It's proving too much for some, especially those who have been accustomed to being regarded as sagacious and principled. Has St Vince gone from Confucius to Mr Bean?

The Labour Party, which cannot believe its luck, has been more or less spot on with its reaction. Cable should have gone. He is damaged goods and a dead man walking. But he should have been despatched immediately. What more excuse did they need? Having to shuffle the responsibilities of government departments to accommodate a minister who has disqualified himself from those responsibilities is something even Tony Blair never attempted during his various cack handed reshuffles. It looks like what it is: a desperate attempt to shore up a government politically whilst compromising it administratively. Ed Miliband was quite right to say so.

The reaction of the prime minister and his deputy has been pusillanimous and unprincipled. Cameron in particular has been very quick to sack anyone such as the unfortunate Lord Young last month for having a momentary lapse. The sage of Twickenham however was presumably caught shortly after having smoked another herb given the unprecedented nature of his comments. Yet he remains in place.

Though the top of the Labour Party has reacted well, those lower down the food chain have been less assured. Some have been Tweeting, predictably, that this is all some kind of conspiracy to hand more power and wealth to the hated Murdoch.

Why is Murdoch hated? Well he has committed the sin of becoming successful, wealthy and thus powerful. So all of this just has to be a fix. Cable, they tell us, was being excoriated for the sin of offending Murdoch. Actually, no. He is being justifiably condemned for compromising his neutrality on an issue he should be considering on a purely factual and evidential basis. He was thinking like those lower food chain lefties instead of as a Cabinet Minister. That is why he is being criticised. He was behaving as Lib Dems and others who enjoy the luxury of opposition without responsibility all too often behave. He wanted the power but he also wanted to be seen as some kind of avenging angel of the left, attacking power and privilege and reining in the Tories and the likes of Murdoch. He wanted to enhance his hero status. And that is why he boasted to a couple of young women he had never met before.

It was stupid. It was facile. It was juvenile. It was old style, facing both ways Lib Dem opportunism but from within government. That is why he should have resigned.


For the record by the way, I don't believe that Murdoch should be able to buy the whole of Sky. But I think that because I think it would give News International too much power over the media in this country not because he is rich and I resent him for it.


Some on the left are also saying today that the BBC should never have leaked this news about Cable's comments because it plays into Murdoch's hands. Are these the same people who have been hailing Julian Assange as a fighter for truth and open government and our right to know what is going on behind the scenes in government?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Nuclear Vince Should Have Been Decommissioned

So Vince is nuclear after all. He made the most idiotic, ridiculous gaffe and yet is refusing to resign. So he's gone from looking dead on his feet an hour ago to now looking like he really does have the whip hand. This is coalition government for you. This is how the Lib Dems behave in it. How are you liking the new politics?

This just makes Cameron and Clegg look weak. He should have been sacked. Cable being forced out due to his own stupidity and vanity with just a hint of dirty old man would have been a dream come true. Now they have an immoveable object akin to a Gordon Brown, chuntering away, creating rancour and refusing to move. What an utter disaster. This government is doomed.

Heathrow Chaos: Time for a New London Airport

What is the cause of the chaos at Heathrow? It's not the weather. Yes we are suffering a bad winter and yes it has caused problems across Europe, but if anyone should be geared up for such circumstances it is airports. It's not like local authorities that have to keep hundreds of miles of roads clear of snow. Airports have to keep  maybe ten miles of roads clear and got plenty of advance notice that the snow was coming. It is not as if we lack the technology to accomplish this. What Heathrow lacked was the nous and the motivation.

The suspicion is that the lack of motivation is down to money. Heathrow felt disinclined to invest in the kind of equipment needed to keep its runways and taxiways clear because such equipment might only have been used once or twice a year if at all. Perhaps they took the hard headed business decision that, in the event of such weather, they would cope as best they could and take a hit in terms of their reputation. Ultimately what does that reputation matter? They have a captive market.

The BAA business was one that was bought at the height of the credit boom with huge amounts of borrowed money. That is why they squeeze every penny they can out of their assets. I am not the first to observe that the various BAA airports are essentially shopping malls with airports attached. This episode proves how true that contention is.

Like many people I was frustrated when BAA, the owner of Heathrow and other airports was sold to Spanish chancers Ferrovial. It was one thing to have this company privately owned by a British based listed company. It was quite another matter to have it owned by foreign builders who saw it as a cash cow. And this is part of a recurring theme in Britain. Why is it that so many of our core infrastructure companies, that are highly cash generative, are now foreign owned? Is this kind of short termism healthy for the British economy?

It is not that the principle behind open markets is wrong per se. It is that all too often we seem to be the only country that operates that open market. Would the French sell their airports or their electricity generators? No. They would plead that these are core companies vital to the economy and intervene to prevent a sale. They did this over a yoghurt manufacturer. But this does not stop them owning some of our key electricity generation.

But at least those generators are owned by a company that specialises in that industry. Ferrovial is a company that saw a good investment opportunity and pounced. It is now sweating its assets. The government should intervene to ensure that it is not doing so to the detriment of us all. 

But more than that, BAA and Heathrow need competition. They have already been forced to sell Gatwick. But Gatwick does not compete directly with Heathrow. They complement each other. And Heathrow is running at capacity while its plans for a third runway have been turned down. 

It is time for government to take a long hard look at the idea of a brand new airport in the Thames estuary, an idea that has the support of London's Mayor, Boris Johnson. Such an airport would not be restricted as Heathrow is by its proximity to the London suburbs. It would not be restricted by transport connections built decades ago which are struggling to cope. 

In short it would be larger, better placed, better connected and designed and built from scratch rather than on an ad hoc basis as an accident from history, as is the case with Heathrow. Another advantage would be an increase in take off and landing slots meaning extra competition amongst airlines. At the moment, thanks to Heathrow, the market is carved up between a few huge players with those landing slots worth millions.

But best of all we would not let BAA anywhere near a new airport. Instead they would have to raise their game or be left with a lot of very large shopping malls with no customers. 

The government is talking about investment in Britain's infrastructure and rightly so. But they should urgently be addressing the issue of London's main airport, which is a national disgrace. In the short term they need to regulate Heathrow and ensure that its foreign owners act in the interests of Britain and our visitors. In the long term it is high time that London was given an airport worthy of it. The only viable way to achieve that is to start from scratch and keep it in British hands. 

The Weather Asks An Awkward Question of 'The Science'

Yesterday, Boris Johnson dropped one of his blond bombshells in this article in the Daily Telegraph. In it he argued that Piers Corbyn, a lone meteorologist operating from a small and nondescript London office, armed only with a laptop and publicly available data, is beating the Met Office at its own game and is making seasonal forecasts with great accuracy. The Met Office, after embarrassing itself several years in succession with its tales of mild winters and barbecue summers, has now stopped even trying.

BoJos article is seen in some quarters as him drawing back a little from the approved line on climate change. He is positioning himself to be able to say he saw the writing on the wall. He is using cautious language and not departing too far from the political consensus on this, but he is leaving that question mark, that wriggle room so beloved of politicians.

I suspect that many politicians, just like the public, have grave doubts about climate change and the  prescription for curing it. But it is one of those subjects that few politicians will speak out about because of the howls of anguish this would create from certain sections of the media. The fact that a majority of the public is sceptical is immaterial because the media has decided, along with the bien pensant Hampstead residing classes - the sort who were so angry about Anne Widdecombe's popularity because she is a climate change denier - and so politicians don't dare step out of line. Those that do will immediately be summoned on Channel 4 News and subjected to a Jon Snow grilling - the modern equivalent of a public flogging. He will assail them with all kinds of factoids and talk of scientific consensus. But note that they only invite laymen who have expressed honest doubts for this flogging. They never get people on who know what they are talking about.

But quietly, almost surreptitiously, we are now starting to see even this formidable barrier breaking down. It can only continue at odds with facts and experience for so long. One bad winter can be dismissed as a freak event. But three or four in succession?

And now, gloriously, under pressure Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond, is deploying 'the science'. He has asked the government's Chief Science Adviser to look into the possibility that we are seeing a change in weather patterns meaning regular cold winters such as this. All very sensible.

But this does put the scientists in a difficult position. If they are global warming adherents what do they say? No it's just weather is the default response but they're going to look pretty silly if this keeps happening. But if they advise that a change is happening then where does that leave man-made global warming? Why are we erecting wind turbines at vast expense and decommissioning  and not replacing nasty (but cheap) coal burning power stations when apparently we cannot afford to purchase snow ploughs, enough road salt and the technology to keep the railways running? How can they argue that we are risking devastating climate change if they are simultaneously telling us that we will need to see increases in rail and air fares to pay for preparations for harsh winters?

The likes of Piers Corbyn are convinced that this weather is being caused by the diminished activity of the Sun and that it is going to get worse. He also theorises that we may be heading, not to a warmer planet, but into another ice age. We are actually overdue one. It is a theory not taken seriously by many - although 30 years ago they predicted it with all of the certainty we now see about warming. Yet Corbyn's results speak for themselves. Science is supposed to proceed by evidence and not consensus. We owe our very existence to the Sun. It drives everything on this planet. Last week I wrote about Voyager 1, having travelled for 33 years away from our star and only now is it recording its effects finally coming to an end. Is it really so hard to believe that the Sun rather than a trace gas in the atmosphere is the major driver of our climate just as it is life itself? The end of the last Ice Age after all was the spark for humans to start on the road to civilisation.

And the beauty of this question is that this is not an issue that politicians and the media establishment will be able to fudge. The BBC was looking a bit sheepish today and notably avoided the question in their report about whether this was a sea change. But they cannot have it both ways. If we are entering a period of colder, harsher winters then it follows that all of the alarmist predictions about a catastrophically warming planet were wrong. All of those models they used to report uncritically were wrong - although they have been for a decade, not that we were told this. It's almost as if the great British weather is intent upon saving us from ourselves and political grand gestures. Buy snow ploughs not wind turbines it is telling us with its insistent biting wind. And if we don't listen now it may well keep on telling us every winter until we see sense.

Send St Vince to the Backbenches to Spend More Time With His Ego

The Daily Telegraph has perpetrated a sting on Vince Cable. The former St Vince told two reporters posing as constituents that it was within his power to bring down the coalition. He was in possession of the nuclear codes.

Cable is an intelligent man. But he also has a monstrous ego. His time as acting leader when he won all kinds of plaudits went to his head. He really did think he was the sage of Twickenham. And it is this side of his personality that is now asserting itself to the exclusion of his intelligence. He was always unhappy about entering government with the Tories because he is at heart a Labour man. Many Lib Dems are. So when questioned about government policy he could not help himself. He wants the world to know how hard a time he is having sharing power with the hated Tories and that he may well be willing to pull the plug.

Vince Cable, it seems, has now completed his journey from sainthood. He is now just a grumpy old man. Some might call him an arrogant, bumptious prat. The suspicion is that he always was really and the former was just an illusion. He certainly never saw the economic problems and crisis coming. That is just a legend he has encouraged and nurtured.

There has been much talk of a government reshuffle in the New Year. Cable should be despatched to the back benches to spend more time with his ego and socialist conscience. Perhaps he could sit alongside Simon Hughes and then their halos might become entangled and they could throttle one another.

I was quite optimistic about the coalition until quite recently. But now I think it is doomed. Addicted to the politics of opposition, the Lib Dems are finding government too hard. They can kid themselves that things would have been easier had they joined forces with Labour. But do they really think that the tuition fees issue would have been resolved more satisfactorily? Labour too, regardless of what it now says, would be cutting spending. The other alternative would have been an economic meltdown and a downgraded credit status for UK PLC.

The Lib Dems posed as being the centrist, reasonable party. In fact they are now revealing themselves to be just Labour Lite. The country can vote for whoever it likes but the Lib Dems will always swing left regardless of that vote. The British people may well conclude consequently that they might as well vote for one of the two main parties rather than the one with an identity crisis.

I'm not following my usual practice of making a raft of predictions at the beginning of the year next week. Like most who try it my success rate is poor. But one prediction I will make is this: Britain will have a general election in 2011. The new politics is falling apart because too many politicians like Vince Cable cannot forget that they are creatures of the old tribal politics of the past.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Blogger Laid Low

No blogging today I'm sorry. I have the flu. Head pounding, my limbs ache and I've gone through half a forest's worth of tissues. Hopefully back tomorrow.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Potty Prince: Let Them Eat Organic Cake

Prince Charles should be worried. When the Daily Mail turns against a member of the Windsor firm then there really isn't much hope. After all they're usually such fans. It's one of the reasons I find their newspapers so loathsome and unbearable - although there are plenty of other reasons. But for the royals they can be relied on while the rest of us think our heir to the throne is a pompous, selfish, talentless, know-nothing tit.

Max Hastings wrote this piece in yesterday's paper, essentially arguing that Charles has become such an eccentric, such a bore on various subjects about which he knows nothing but regards himself as an expert, is so addicted to opining and firing off letters that he is an accident waiting to happen as king. This is absolutely true. We republicans are relying on it.

The problem with Charles is one that is not uncommon amongst those who are born into privileged circumstances and tend to be surrounded by lackeys, cronies and yes men who never challenge their opinions, although it should be noted that Charles also has a record of freezing out those who dare to disagree with him.

But this has given him an inflated sense of his own worth. He really does think he is an expert on the environment, architecture, education and the like. He has been known to write to various companies and institutions offering them the benefits of his experience and insights. Yet read some of his advice, given whether we ask for it or not on these subjects and it is easy to see that he is a dilettante, a layman with pretensions, an angry of Clarence House only listened to because of the titles and the posh address.

This is a man who gave a speech recently criticising climate change sceptics for ignoring the evidence. It's a familiar refrain from the Green Meanies and is also utterly wrong. But coming from Charles it is particularly galling. This is the man who also believes in and passionately advocates homoeopathic medicine and quack remedies for cancer, he opposes GM foods and nuclear power. All of these run counter to expert opinion and proper scientific evidence.

Now it turns out that Charles, in a new book, is not too keen on science anyway. We should, thinks the potty prince, reject science and evidence and follow our instincts. Or actually we should follow his instincts. This means lots of new age gibberish, lots of getting back to nature, lots of protecting mother earth and reversing the tide of industrialisation he so hates.

This is all very well for a man handed thousands of acres of land and a guaranteed extremely comfortable income from it. But for the rest of us, that industrialisation he so abhors has delivered decent living standards and home comforts. Charles is very much of the do as I say not as I do school of aristocratic privilege but with a new age slant. Let them eat organic cake might be his slogan.

But it is not just that Charles feels qualified and entitled to dispense his advice to all and sundry with such abandon regardless of how welcome it is. It is not even that his views are frequently wrong and scientifically illiterate. It is that he is not supposed to voice opinions at all, certainly not in public. At least his boorish and even stupider younger brother Andrew has only been doing so in private meetings and parties. Charles gives speeches, writes letters, goes on tours dispensing his ideas and trenchant opinions. That is not his role. The deal with a constitutional monarchy is that we accept it but in return they stay out of politics. Charles however ignores this. He exploits the fact that he is listened to because of who he is regardless of the strength of his arguments.

Still, no matter, say his defenders, when he is king he will cease these activities. And the potty prince is ultimately harmless. Yes he's deluded and a bit barmy but we don't have to pay any attention to him. But that's the trouble. People do. He doesn't like being ignored. And he has also been accustomed to getting his way. When he married Camilla we were assured she would not be Queen. Recently he gave the game away by telling an interviewer that she might be Queen after all.  That is certainly his intention. It has almost certainly been his intention all along. 

So could this man, this spoilt and wilful prince who surrounds himself with lackeys who never contradict him, accept the silence that is prescribed for monarchs? Of course not. He has no intention of doing so. Becoming King is his great opportunity to exercise even greater influence and push his crackpot ideas. 

And this is where the idea of skipping a generation and handing the monarchy to William instead comes in, an idea made all the more attractive now that William is marrying the beautiful Kate, another fairytale princess with whom he seems to actually be in love unlike the situation with his mother and selfish, unpleasant father. Charles gravely endangers the very existence of the monarchy because he is incapable of performing the constitutional role which even republicans like me accept his mother has done. But more than that the nation has never forgiven him for Diana. So let's dump him say the likes of Max Hastings and other establishment figures. 

But if we do that then what is the point of the monarchy? If the hereditary principle can be abandoned at will when it suits us and is politically expedient - and for the second time in 100 years - then what is the point of it at all? 

Why don't we widen the selection process to people who actually deserve the job and are qualified to perform it? Since it's a purely ceremonial role with no real power, as we saw after the general election, then why not open it up to the whole country and not just the members of one family? Why not have a new king or queen every year or every four years given to people who have done something extraordinary or at least praiseworthy? You could give it to the winner of the X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing for all I care. At least they have had to work at something and go through a selection process. And at least the public would get some say in the matter. It would be no more of a lottery than handing it to a family that is not overburdened with brain cells and yet feels it has the right to fly to international climate conferences or tell the NHS what medicines it should buy. 

Whatever happens, we know that the Queen cannot last forever. When the day comes do we hand the crown to her now elderly and increasingly dotty son or do we pray that the next generation is not as weird, obnoxious or effete as the previous one? Or do we do what most sensible nations do and give the job to someone who actually has to apply for it and go through a rigorous selection process first and then reapply every four years or indeed have a term limit? Put another way, if we adopted this route, would Charles or even his son, regardless of his impending nuptials, stand a chance?