Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Dysfunctional Court of King Roman

While the voters of Eastleigh cast their ballots and we await the potential political earthquake that their verdict may bring, let us turn for a moment to an outfit even more other worldly, dysfunctional and divorced from reality than the Lib Dems.

Was Rafa Benitez right to express his anger and frustration at a press conference last night? Well we can only speculate about what has happened behind the scenes but, given recent history and what we know about the club, it is informed speculation.

Benitez is being undermined by supporters, but then that is the cross highly paid football club managers have to bear. Many of the game's high achievers and greats have endured these slings and arrows down the years, let alone a man appointed on an interim basis having previously committed the sin of managing a hated rival and being loved by its supporters to this day.

But the criticism of Rafa is more than usually unreasonable and vituperative. This is a man who came in in mid season, took charge of a team in transition - or which ought to be in transition if they could decide on a long term manager - and which was already struggling and effectively out of the Champion's League. It is a club without a proper management structure or an effective strategy. Furthermore it is a club whose personnel are engaged in a permanent power struggle and who resent any new appointments as usurpers and interlopers.

The man responsible for this is Roman Abramovich. This not terribly bright product of a vicious, kleptocratic gangster regime regards Chelsea as his personal plaything; a medieval court for his entertainment and aggrandisement. The Russian elite, which is to say those who have found favour at the court of Putin and helped themselves to the country's riches, are accustomed to having things their way, to their wish being their command. And this has been transplanted to west London. Chelsea is a satellite of Russia, a gaudy and expensive bauble for the lover of all things meretricious and gaudy, part of his collection along with his mine is bigger than yours boat collection and multiple houses in the world's most desirable locations.

But, as Roman has found, football, for all of its excess, is not as biddable as he would like it to be. You can be as rich as Croesus but still struggle to attract the best in the world. Even when you do it can turn out that age, vanity, infirmity of body or mind has withered them beyond recognition. And they have an annoying tendency to think and act for themselves, to question the philosophy, to prefer to do things their own way. And Abramovich's vast wealth and willingness to deploy it quixotically is a corrupting influence. His court is a viper's nest of intrigue and petty rivalries. When new managers are appointed they must counter all of this, try to build team spirit despite it and assert their power such as it is - a difficult enough job even without being saddled with the title interim manager.

And so Rafa looks set to be another victim of this strange set up. He will pick up another few of Roman's millions, albeit not as much as if he had been able to persuade him to give him another one of those five year contracts that only last twelve months. Another appointment will now be made and failure will once again be priced in since with each appointment and sacking Chelsea ensure that they are less and less likely to attract the sort of manager who will bring them the success their owner craves.

If Abramovich has any sense he will appoint someone from within the court, although this approach has been tried and failed in the past, notwithstanding trophy success along the way. Ultimately the job should go to John Terry, not because he is qualified for it but because he seems to be the ultimate operator in the court, a man not low on confidence and perfectly willing to play Roman's game. There are even echoes of Rasputin about him. He would fail as all before him have failed, but at least he would pick up a few more millions so that he can add to his property portfolio. You can be sure that Terry would never allow himself to be called an interim manager though.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

PMQs 27th February 2013 - The Eh? Eh? Eh? Edition

It's been a couple of weeks since we were last here and, as is the way with these things, a great deal has happened. First Wallace revealed a policy. It wasn't a very good policy and generally got a thumbs down from everyone except Polly Toynbee and Owen Jones who should be regarded as handy barometers of all that is wrong-headed, deluded and generally our of kilter with economic reality, history and common sense. But this was a policy, or at least it looked a bit like one. It turned out of course that it was nothing of the sort. It's not necessarily going to be in Labour's manifesto, will supposedly be paid for with a tax that has already been earmarked for something else, and that tax is probably unworkable and is more a gesture and gimmick than anything else. But that won't stop Labour bleating on about it and forcing a vote to try and make things sticky for the government and the Lib Dems in particular.

Speaking of Lib Dems, as we must from time to time, they have had a rough couple of weeks too. It emerged last week that these champions of all things liberal (you know, the ones who want to regulate the press) have had within their ranks a man who has not behaved in a very gentlemanly fashion, let alone progressively, towards women. Lord Rennard is said to be a bit of a groper. He of course denied this but the accusations came thick and fast. Nick Clegg denied ever knowing about any of this as did other senior figures in the party leadership. Then they suddenly remembered that they did remember but that it had all been a bit vague. But they had investigated, except they hadn't really. It was all very Lib Dem.It has not looked good. It looked like the Lib Dems were once again guilty of putting their famous principles decidedly second to their self interest. I know, who would have thought it?

And last week was not a good one for George Osborne, although it started with some decent unemployment figures that once again had economists scratching their heads. But, for all that that was good news, it emerged that George's bit of Brownite dodgy accounting has come back and bitten him. Last year he managed to wrongfoot Ed Balls and bully him into stammering by pulling a rabbit from the hat and making the deficit get smaller by including the proceeds of some QE and 4G sales. But then the 4G auction proved a disappointment. Suddenly the deficit wasn't shrinking as George said it would and indeed had staked his reputation on. Then Moody's, the credit rating agency, downgraded Britain, as has been predicted for months. Ed Balls and various Labour figures looked and sounded smug and triumphant whilst trying really hard not to. Their attempts to look grave and concerned were as forlorn as their attempts to explain what their alternative would be. We are borrowing more, was their attack line and have been humiliated. But their response would be to borrow even more and be on a negative watch by the same rating agencies they regard with contempt anyway. It's a policy that looks remarkably like the one Wallace announced but didn't announce the week before - all opportunism and gimmicks but little real world value. Perhaps they are just stepping into the gap the Lib Dems used to occupy now that they are in the process of disappearing up their own fundaments.

And so to PMQs. Nick was in his place on the front bench after his car crash on the radio this morning. And did we see him steal a glance every once in a while to the press gallery? Watching the detectives?

Dave started proceedings by drawing attention to the fact that Labour's candidate, John O Farrell, about to come fourth in Eastleigh, had once expressed the view that it was a pity that Margaret Thatcher had not died at the hands of the IRA in Brighton. Dave was righteously outraged at this and then invited Wallace to join him.

Wallace got to his feet. The nation held its breath. He ignored the former utterings of his candidate, preferring to refer back to the utterings of Dave and George with regard to our credit rating. Labour has been enjoying all of this, wielding the Conservative manifesto at every opportunity and dredging up quotes (it's reported that Tory MPs have been deleting old tweets on the subject)

Dave was ready for all of this. He came out fighting. He noted Wallace's lack of outrage at the words of John O Farrell and referred once again to his lack of contrition about the mess we are in. He then pointed out that Labour, worried about that downgrade, have a policy that would involve borrowing even more.

And that was essentially what happened then for six questions. Wallace said the government had failed its own test, Cameron said matters would be worse if Wallace was in charge.

To his credit Cameron did acknowledge that the credit rating does matter. But, he said, it was a consequence of not fixing the roof while the sun was shining. It was nice to see that one back. Wallace  once again pointed out that he was not the one meant to be answering the questions, a weekly line that one. He offered to change places, but Dave said he would never be prime minister unless he talked about borrowing. Even The New Statesman said he had a credibility problem said Dave.

Wallace thought this was a bit desperate, although in typical style he paid all due respect to that estimable magazine. Dave then pointed out that the Statesman had been the only publication to support his leadership bid. It wasn't quite a knock-out blow but it rocked Wallace on his feet. He does walk into these things.

Dave rounded off with a topical reference, a pre-prepared but pretty good joke. Daniel Day Lewis, he said, had made an excellent Lincoln. And Wallace is proving to be an excellent Gordon Brown. It was a good line and will continue to resonate. Dave came out fighting as he had to again today. Labour, for all of its sound and fury since the downgrade, remains in an awkward position. Consequently they have been unable to capitalise on the government's difficulties. Balls tried on Monday with mixed results. Wallace didn't do much better. The economy may be flatlining but it remains Labour's achilles heel. If we were giving them a rating, it would be little better than D-.

On one final note Nadine Dorries, who remains outside the Conservative fold after her adventures in the jungle, was looking very fine. Restore her to the party, Dave, particularly if she keeps wearing that green dress.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Rennard Petard

Watching the Lib Dems implode over the Rennard scandal has been deliciously entertaining. Is anyone surprised that the great liberal poseurs of British politics are proving to be what most of us have always known they are: a bunch of faux liberal, ruthless, backstabbing hypocrites. The major consolation is that they are so amateurish and comically out of their depth when caught out and subjected to the harsh media spotlight and awkward questions.

Any party which actually had the principles they wear so prominently on their sleeves would of course have despatched the oleaginous Chris Rennard from the party (at this point we should of course, for form's sake, point out that he denies the allegations) but instead, because he was rather good at his job and had a great deal of power, they chose instead to look the other way. Now they are being caught out and are squirming. Nick Clegg's artificial anger at the accusations of a cover up was just what Lib Dems do. He knew. They all knew. They chose not to see. Spare us the usual sanctimony.

This moment has been coming to them for so long some of us had lost hope it would ever happen. The party that can face both ways at once on any policy according to geography and the electoral chances, is being shown to be what they have always been, even more so than with tuition fees.

Unfortunately, Britain being the way it is, we cannot rely on the people of Eastleigh to vote these scoundrels out and put them out of our misery. An outside observer would assume that the Lib Dems must surely lose this Thursday. This is the party which lost an MP because he lied and committed perjury. This is a party that covered up the known activities of a lecherous senior party figure rather than dispense justice. This is a party that promised a referendum on the EU at the last election but is now claiming not to have done and is dead set against it. This is a party that has been exposed during this ultra short by election campaign of being up to their usual tricks of promising one thing having voted differently.

But most of all the people of Eastleigh should vote these scoundrels out because this is a party that may have tolerated a pervert near the top but is now engaged in trying to screw us all. Lib Dems have been given a veto over much of the policy of this government, most damagingly of all in their curious lefty obsession with the environment. Thanks to Lib Dems and Labour before them, there is a strong chance that Britain will endure power cuts in the next few years because they insist, despite the evidence, on building and subsidising wind turbines across the land instead of new coal, gas and nuclear stations that actually generate useful power when we need it. They stand in the way of the kind of tax and benefits reforms this country needs to get the country moving.

It may well be that this scandal will be enough to dispatch Nick Clegg anyway as a concerted cover up is revealed. This could lead to the much hoped for collapse of this Coalition. The government could govern, admittedly not easily as a minority government, but without the vain pettifogging interference of Lib Dems. If they get rid of Nick and put one of the pretenders to his throne in his place Dave should send them to the opposition benches where they belong. It would be doing them and all of us a favour. They could pretend that the last two years never happened, just as they have with so many of their promises and Lord Rennard and we could have a government that gets on with governing for the good of the nation without reference to Lib Dem sensibilities which we simply cannot afford.

So please, people of Eastleigh, do us all a favour this Thursday. Help them on their way. In 2015 we can all join in and erase as many of them as possible from the Commons. But for now, it's up to you.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Another Catholic Calamity

Cardinal Keith O Brien has resigned, he says to stop speculation about him damaging the process of choosing the next Pope. Or maybe, like the departing Pope, he is off to do a bit of praying.

Either way the Catholic Church has once again had in its midst a priest with wandering hands or worse, who abused his position of power. He denies this of course but then why has he resigned? I think we can discount the given reasons.

This ridiculous, patriarchal, obscurantist organisation, a serial purveyor of bigoted drivel will now convene to elect a new leader who will probably make matters worse. Catholicism doesn't do modernism and reform, that's why it still insists on celibate priests. The best part is that people like me, who point out its faults, are called aggressive.

Oscars 2013

Congratulations to all the winners at the Oscars last night. And congratulations to those who vote for the awards, for once you almost entirely got it right. Everyone expected Daniel Day Lewis to win for the simple reason that his was the stand out performance of the year. He may have made history but that is because he the stand out actor of his generation. He also gave a nicely judged, funny and modest acceptance speech (see above). 

Anne Hathaway too was a popular and deserved winner. Hers is a great performance and she is well liked. 

Adele has had a spectacular couple of years and her Oscar is richly deserved. Skyfall is probably the best Bond film of all time and deserved to be recognised. Indeed Skyfall is by no means Adele's best song but make more sense and looks all the better when you see it in its proper place alongside the film titles. 

But best deserved win of the night, to my mind, was Ang Lee as best Director for Life of Pi. The book they said was unfilmable was turned into a stunning technical tour de force, but, for all that it was a stunning achievement of modern, computer driven film making, was also a film with real heart. Lee has become one of the best directors of his generation as much as Day Lewis is one of its finest actors, and this award was richly deserved.

For a full list of winners see here. 

Want to Get an AAA, George? Try Being a Conservative.

Is Britain's credit downgrading by Moody's last Friday a national humiliation? No, of course not. Many of us saw it coming months ago. We can at least console ourselves that we were downgraded well after France and America, both of whom seem to be getting on just fine. The new rating means that we are now 'prime, high quality and very low risk.' Hardly humiliating. There are now only two advanced western economies with the top rating - Canada and Germany. Our rating was an anomaly now corrected. 

Not that this shouldn't be a humilation for George Osborne. But then he rather had that coming. Setting up our AAA rating as some kind of virility symbol was always a hostage to fortune, not quite as hubristic as Labour's claim to have abolished the economic cycle, but just as foolish. 

This moment was inevitable,  not because, as Labour allege, the government is pursuing the wrong economic stategy, but because Osborne has only been paying it lip service. Our debt is growing, the deficit is proving hard to budge and still the economy is flatlining. We are borrowing to keep the economy going, printing money and devaluing the pound, the traditional easy options instead of slashing spending. This is why Labour's smugness is so spectacularly inappropriate. These are effectively their policies we are pursuing, except they would probably be borrowing a little more and we would have been downgraded years ago.

This state we are now in comes about because this government has talked tough on deficit reduction but has been unwilling to make the tough decisions. All of Labour and the union's sound and fury about cutting too far and too fast is so much hogwash. The debt is increasing as you can see above. The deficit is not reducing, despite Osborne's dodgy accounting methods of using QE payments and whatever else he can sell like the airwaves for 4G to try and massage the figures. When you are reduced to this kind of sleight of hand there is something clearly wrong. Spending has barely been touched and overall is still increasing. There have been no tough decisions except latterly and much too late to make benefit recipients join in with the general acceptance of lower cost of living rises. Overall however our benefit bill has risen by 8%. Likewise the government has, for reasons nobody can understand, protected international aid, a way for the Conservatives to look modern and compassionate at our expense.

The only way to get the British economy moving is to eschew the soft options we have had so far and get tough. What does this government, so far behind in the polls, have to lose? Spending should be slashed, and not the traditional easy options they have pursued so far. They have even struggled to slash at the many useless quangos. And then they need to pursue a programme of radical tax reform and cuts.

What this country does not need is Labour or Lib Dem recommended new taxes on the so called rich, it needs a new, flatter, easier and less avoidable regime. Corporation tax should be slashed as should personal taxes. There is much to be said for abolishing so many of the taxes supposed to change behaviour like the taxes on air passengers and the multitude of duties intended to make us more green. The reason we have a flatlining economy is because nobody has any money. They have no money because we are being triple whammied by increased taxes, low cost of living rises and higher fuel and food prices exacerbated by the policy of QE which has still not been demonstrated to actually do what it is supposed to do. What it has done is increase inflation and devalued the pound.

There is still time for George Osborne to redeem himself. by getting properly radical with the nation's finances now that he no longer has to worry about losing that AAA status. This supposedly great strategic genius has been found severely wanting thus far. He has spent too much time trying to say the right things and wrong foot the opposition. Fortunately the opposition remain wedded to a strategy which has demonstrably failed and refuse to accept any of the blame. Some were even Tweeting over the weekend about Osborne being incapable of admitting his mistakes. No, really, Labour, the party that ended boom and bust and saddled us with our present crisis actually said that. Well, they Tweeted it, presumably because they couldn't keep a straight face if they said it on camera.

Time to get serious, time to behave like a proper Conservative, George. It will soon be time for the Budget. It won't take much to improve on last year's, but it will need to do something momentous if you and our economy are to do anything more than flatline this year.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

More Tales of Our NHS

A small example of the genius of those who run our NHS? I went to St Mary's Hospital in Paddington for an MRI today, a delayed appointment because the letter for the one last week didn't arrive until the day of the appointment. They had my address and phone number wrong.

This time they called me to ask if I could go early as they had had a cancellation, or maybe they fancied knocking off early. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the address the map they sent me designated, I couldn't get in. I went into the hospital, tried another door and after several buzzes was told by an angry sounding man that the department was closed. I told him someone had called me earlier to tell me to come early. He told me he couldn't come out as he was with a patient. Didn't he just say they were closed?

So I went out and asked a receptionist who told me, since the other doors were closed, to access the department via a completely different wing, go into the basement and walk through that way. Clearly this is an NHS initiative test one must pass before getting expensive scans.

And they wonder why patients miss appointments. Some are probably lost in corridors somewhere forever.

My worry is, if my foot does need surgery, will they operate on the right one?


Friday, 22 February 2013

The Justice Qualification

Further to the whole jury debacle this week, there has been much speculation about the whole system. It's generally agreed that its best to keep the system, none of us want to give more power to judges, but how to ensure better juries?

Should we have a minimum qualification for instance? The trouble is would we be confident about CCSEs? If you were standing trial before your peers would you feel better if they had five 'good' GCSEs, which is supposed to be the standard to aspire to? Would the jurors be cognizant of their duty and of what was expected of them?

Or should we raise the bar? A Levels? Degrees? After all Labour famously wanted half of us to have a university education. But would you want be judged by someone who has a media studies degree from a university that has changed its name three times in the last ten years?

Perhaps prospective jurors should have to sit an exam asking them to define reasonable and with various scenarios for them to pass judgement on. They could call it a J Level.

And, before lefties get all hot and bothered about the iniquities of this suggestion, it doesn't have to be seen as a bad thing. People could fail it deliberately to avoid jury service or produce it as a certificate to small employers to prove that they will never have to serve. And some of our fellow citizens might regard failure as a badge of honour anyway, a bit like ASBOs. Then again these are probably going to end up knowing the inside of a court room anyway. How very egalitarian.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Galloway the Silent Demagogue

So, would anyone, other than the delusional, grandstanding egomaniac himself, like to defend this? George Galloway goes to a debate, learns that his opponent is an Israeli and storms out claiming that he was misled. He doesn't debate with Israelis, not even young men half his age who are still students. He doesn't recognise Israel he says. Stop sniggering at the back.

George Galloway, one of the last British representatives of a peculiarly fundamentalist socialist mindset, refuses to recognise a whole country or to engage them in debate. He calls them an apartheid state which is a travesty of the truth, a silly student politics slogan rather than an argument. Yet he walks out of a debate with students, refuses to engage, refuses to talk.

This wasn't Benjamin Netanyahu he was talking to, it was a PPE student who happens to be Israeli. This may not be racism per se, but it's not far off. If anyone of the right were to take this stance it would be condemned in exactly those terms. we know it would. He would have been called a Nazi within seconds. But that is the stance of this friend of Arab dictators, delusional south American proto dictators, rapists and terrorists. It's there for all to see. How many times must the man demonstrate his principled lack of principles, his skewed view of the world before he is regarded as beyond the pale as anyone with his type of views but on the right would be?

British Juries: Did Magna Carta Die In Vain?

There has been much hilarity, much head scratching but not nearly enough soul searching about the failings of the jury in yesterday's Vicky Pryce trial debacle. The lawyers, as you would expect, are defending the system to a highly paid man. Why wouldn't they?

And, by and large, the jury system remains the best one in an imperfect world. But, as I opined on Twitter yesterday, it doesn't say much for the state of British education does it? This was a jury that struggled to cope with what was not a terribly complex case and indeed struggled with the concept of their role in deciding guilt and innocence. They actually asked if they could consider something that had not been introduced as evidence in court. What does reasonable mean? And then they imagined that religion had been introduced somewhere along the lines. Essentially these 12 men and women seemed to think that they could go into the jury room, discuss the case as though it was a a juicy bit of gossip seen on a reality TV show and jump to various conclusions based on supposition and inference rather than what they had heard.

This wasn't so much twelve angry men as 8 very confused women and 4 bewildered men, although, if we are charitable, the foreman of the jury may have felt the questions were necessary because a few of his fellow jurors were incapable of understanding the case and he was alerting the judge to this fact. Nevertheless, those questions were necessary for some or presumably at least half of the jurors and so are a sad indictment of the state of British education. You only have to look at some of the sub literate utterings on Twitter to have that illustrated. Do have a look at my spat with @Greekboy8 the other day. It's very revealing and often funny in a depressing way.

Yet the British left is fighting tooth and nail against Michael Gove's education reforms. They cannot see the damage our failing system is doing to this country. They are more obsessed with notions of fair play, equality and not being mean to teachers. Perhaps it is all a conspiracy to keep creating those unthinking bovine voters they rely upon in their northern constituencies. There will probably come a time when they argue that democracy is now an unnecessary encumbrance since the people cannot understand their high minded intentions. The Socialist Workers Party more or less thinks that already.

Oh, and for the benefit of that now discharged jury and the sorry victims of Britain's bog standard comprehensives which Alastair Campbell nevertheless ferociously defends, that Magna Carta reference was a joke. See above. Or see this, although it requires some reading I'm afraid. Oh, and a joke is something said or done to evoke laughter or amusement, something not to be taken seriously.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

No PMQs This Week

It's parliamentary recess this week and so no PMQs. Parliament returns next week, but with the prospect of another recess in a month's time for Easter, from 26th March until 15th April.

If you are missing it, or want to remind yourself of what has happened you can see full coverage of the year to date here.  Or, if you are really at a loose end, you can see every review I have ever written here. The normal review will be back next week of course.

Inconvenient Truths

As part of my series showing why climate change sceptics are sceptical we turn now to the issue of extinctions, another scare attributed to global warming climate change.

Chris Thomas, a conservation biologist whatever one of those is, made the following assertion:

“’Climate change now represents at least as great a threat to the number of species surviving on Earth as habitat-destruction and modification,’ said Chris Thomas, a conservation biologist at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. – - the predicted range of climate change by 2050 will place 15 to 35 percent of the 1,103 species studied at risk of extinction. The numbers are expected to hold up when extrapolated globally, potentially dooming more than a million species. ”

Note the lack of evidence. Science is supposed to require it to prove theories. Perhaps surprisingly links between changing climate and species extinction are actually hard to find. In fact, if you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Weather that we all experience can see huge differences in temperature from one part of the day to the next, let alone from night to day. How would species have survived if they were sensitive to changes of less than one degree over years? Take a look at this graph:

It shows how temperatures can vary, in the course of one day in a sub tropical city. Animals are exposed to large changes on a daily basis. Are we really expected to believe that a variation of half a degree over a decade would wipe them out or see a huge change in behaviour. It's nonsense.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Twitter, Tax and Welfare - More Delusions of the Left

Have you ever wondered who the bovine masses who turn out to vote Labour, regardless of the issues or current economic climate are? Well I have been talking to some of them on Twitter. It has been instructive, not so much for what they say because they are remarkably inarticulate, but for how they say it.

Take exhibit A, @Greekboy8 someone who calls himself a straight talking northerner who doesn't take any bullshit. But then they always do, don't they. If only. He peppers Twitter with his ill informed comments, imagining himself to be a straight talking northerner rather than a gobshite who hasn't a clue. But then this is a remarkably persistent self image for this type. Of course he is really just an internet troll with a giant chip on his shoulder about social justice or a cartoonish version of it that doesn't involved too many big words. He seems to be impressed with Owen Jones which says it all, and tweets him all the time. It almost makes you feel sorry for Owen Jones. Not quite though. I think he deserves it really. Standing up for the hard pressed and socially excluded, Owen? Well here they are. Tweet them. You may feel like excluding them yourself.

And of course Greekboy, as usual, cannot be bothered, or lacks the intelligence, to read about the issues on which he opines and reinforce his prejudices with facts. Thus, when challenged on his views, he resorts to name calling.

This was how I got into a spat with him. Greek boy, real name Kevin, fired off one of his tweets full of mistakes which revealed he doesn't know the difference between your and you're let alone the facts of the debate he was intruding on. It was to LBC, accusing them of telling lies about welfare reform. I tweeted him a response, asking for some supporting facts. He responded by calling me a prick. And that was the best he could do. No supporting arguments, no facts, just a series of insults and attempts to patronise me. In his world getting the last word meant that he had won, despite the fact he had never, at any point, actually made an argument. He just fired off his tweet and called anyone who disagreed names.

Interestingly, whilst engaging in abuse against rich boy Tories, he concocted a fantasy about him being a successful businessman who employs 400 people and owns a big house. I asked him if he was going to tell me about his big expensive car next and he did. This is a man who is completely incapable of realising he is being sent up. He took to calling me gorgeous, completely missing the fact that my Twitter profile ironically refers to myself as being always right and completely gorgeous and irresistible. This is not a bright man. You wouldn't trust him to button his shirt properly on his own.

Now you might well argue, and you would have a point, that there is no point engaging with ill educated, ill informed, bone-headed products of our failed education system in this way. But the fact is that this sub literate moron completely buys into the lies of the left, and of the Labour Party. He Tweets them all the time, although frankly that is the least they deserve.

And the modus operandi of the left, if it can be dignified with such a grand description for what amounts to mob name calling, is to slander, stereotype, vilify and abuse anyone who thinks differently to them. Anyone opposed to them is a bigot or an evil apologist for corporations, or in the pay of big oil, or out for themselves. The NHS must be defended regardless of how incompetent it is, how wasteful, how many people it kills. Privatisation is the ultimate evil. If you point out that these points are being made by millionaire comedians charging £50 a ticket or being Tweeted on state of the art mobile phones you are at best ignored. Debates on facts are unusual. Name calling is the preferred option.

And this is not just the bovine masses serving up this serial dishonesty and delusion. It is coming from Labour and their apologists in the press like Polly Toynbee and Owen Jones whose self righteousness and humourlessness are actually very funny. Take the Mansion Tax, a ridiculous notion that has unravelled faster than a Gordon Brown budget. But then this was always an empty gesture rather than a proper policy. They will never be able to implement it. It's just something to hint about, a bit of spin designed to appeal to the likes of Kevin who is worried that his life on benefits is going to be made a little less easy.

But Labour and the Left remain in denial about their culpability for this situation. Instead of addressing it they indulge in the fantasy of ever higher taxes argung that this is moral and fair. To their shame the Tories have moved with the political consensus on this too, instead of arguing the moral and economic case for lower taxes, of standing on your own two feet, of a state provided safety net rather than a warping and disfiguring black hole trap dragging ever more of us into its orbit.

This game that our political classes play is having a disastrous effect on real people who are buying into this notion that the state can eradicate poverty and unfairness. It can't as Labour proved. All it can do is make poverty a little less unbearable. Welfare has become a vast, monstrous case of good intentions gone disastrously and perversely wrong. We live in a country where people can be simultaneously reliant on food banks whilst the poor are also much more likely to be clinically obese. Isn't that a sign that something is wrong?

The rich are no more responsible for someone's poverty than they are someone's health. Taxing more will not solve society's problems, it will just absolve politicians from the obligation to do some serious rethinking and come up with better solutions. Being wealthy is not a crime. The wealthy get that way almost exclusively through hard work, diligence and study. Yet we have a large part of our political class that say this is something to be discouraged and punished.

Nobody is saying that the wealthy shouldn't pay their fair share of tax. But if the top rate of tax were abolished tomorrow and we all paid the same, say 30%, rates of taxation on income, the rich would still pay more. 30% of a million is a lot more than 30% of £20,000. A flat tax system where we all paid the same rate without any of the vast labyrinthine exemptions and allowances would help cut avoidance and would encourage more people to pay up as it would feel fair. Creating complex new systems to tax people's homes or, as the Lib Dems, more seriously than they are prepared to admit, have suggested, on their jewellery and paintings, is just phoney politics. It's a gimmick.

We need to stop the poor paying tax altogether so that they work and better themselves. We need to encourage entrepreneurs and encourage them to think that their resultant wealth will not be treated as ill gotten gains. Yes we need a safety net to protect the vulnerable but that is all it should be. If it were it could afford to be more generous and would genuinely alleviate poverty. But until politicians become honest about the mess their promises have created we will continue to exist in this worst of all worlds with them blaming each other and taxing those we need to help extricate ourselves.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Richard Briers

So sad to hear of the death of Richard Briers. If you remember the 70s you will remember The Good Life, one of the all time great sitcoms. But it was so good you don't have to remember 70s to remember The Good Life. It is a genuine classic, of its time and yet transcending its time. It was nothing out of the ordinary when analysed and yet had the benefit of a superb cast, led by a man who had been starring in this form of television for a decade or more. It was effortless for Briers as he showed when he created the character of Martin Bryce in the less celebrated but in many ways superior 80s comedy Ever Decreasing Circles.

But he also had one of the great voices. Roobarb was as much appointment television as The Good Life, even for adults. And Briers's voice featured in so many adverts of the time, notably as Busby the bird for the BT adverts.

But he was a RADA trained actor, a great Malvolio and he appeared in a number of Kenneth Branagh's other Shakespearean films of that period.

Ultimately, as Twitter has shown this morning, Richard Briers was a national treasure, a much loved actor and a genuinely lovely man. He leaves many happy memories.

Brown's Glowering Presence Over One Nation Labour

Wallace's big announcement last week, which looks more and more like it was a back of the envelope job stolen from a Tory backbencher, and their talk of a mansion tax - they are even forcing a vote on it in the coming weeks - reminds us how completely in denial they are about economic reality. It's a kind of one nation delusion. Remind you of anyone? At the same time as they were trying, not very convincingly, to distance themselves from the man whose policies they used to so vehemently support, they were practising his methods utterly shamelessly. The mad man who should be in the attic continues to exert a gigantic influence on British politics from beyond the political grave, his glowering mendacious visage is there for all to see two and a half years hence. He exerts it over Labour and very much over the Conservative Party, how else to explain that some are defending the idea of a mansion tax as a way of allowing even more redistribution. I was briefly persuaded about it myself last week until I thought about it.

So let's remind ourselves of some recent history and some economic facts.

At the 2005 election the Conservative Party was committed to increasing public spending but at a lower rate than that of Labour. Had they been elected this would have meant that, when the crash came, which no doubt Labour would have called a Tory boom and bust which they, remember, had told us they had abolished, we would not have had such a huge deficit. Instead, at that election, Labour painted this slower increase in public spending as a Tory cut. It was Gordon Brown at his most dishonest. You cannot by definition have a cut in something that is yet to happen. Labour were promising one level of spending, the Tories one slightly lower. That is not a cut. It would actually, as history has demonstrated, have been a sensible policy which would have left us with more leeway now.

But this is Labour's economic approach. They are all spin and gesture politics rather than a cold hard analysis of what works. Under Labour public spending doubled. Yet what is their legacy? An NHS that is killing patients and covering up its misrule. Indeed it was doing this at the height of Brown's spending binge. We have an out of control welfare state that hands largesse to millions, more out of a Labour desire to lock people in and make them grateful rather than actual need. They even started handing money to teenagers before they had chance to start work through their Educational Maintenance Allowance. But, despite our annual £200 billion welfare bill, we live in a country in which people are struggling to heat their homes and are having to go to food banks for help. Meantime we have an obesity crisis which affects the working class and unemployed. Doesn't that suggest something is going wrong somewhere, that our priorities are badly wrong?

Wallace is absolutely right that the lowest paid should not be paying tax. But why doesn't he ask himself why they have to do so? It's because our public spending is out of control thanks to Labour's legacy of tax and spend. It wouldn't be so bad if they had a decent legacy behind them to look back on proudly with all of that money. During their tenure they raised an extra £1 trillion, yes trillion, in taxes and we have a trillion strong debt pile Where the hell did it all go?

Now they want to tax some more with a mansion tax. The excuse? To hand out yet more money in benefits when the present system of benefits is so generous that the EU advertises them as a great reason to come and live here. It never occurs to them to question whether their central philosophy is working. Just chuck more money at a problem even when it has run out.

Tax the rich? We already are. There are just 4000 people in this country earning more than £2m a year. They pay 4.5% of all income taxes. Those paying 40% tax contribute 60% of all income taxes. These are not 'the rich.' They are Wallace's so called squeezed middle. Labour did the squeezing and propose to do some more via a mansion tax on the south east and London for the crime of being more prosperous than the rest of the country and being a great British success story that subsidises everywhere else. Is that one nation politics? It seems to be because the Tories are colluding in it, expanding the 40% band and keeping the upper rate brought in by Labour as a trap, even though it remained at 40% throughout their tenure. David Cameron routinely boasts about this during PMQs.

Labour talk about Tories handing cheques to millionaires. That is a deliberate misunderstanding of how tax works. The government does not give us money back when it cuts taxes, it simply doesn't take as much. It's our money. Only a Labour politician, high on self righteousness, would imagine that this is an injustice, that he or she has the right to help himself to ever more of our money based on what he regards as morality. A mansion tax would be another layer, taxing people on an asset they bought with their already heavily taxed income. Unless there were a complete revaluation of Britain's housing stock this would mean a government driving around the country, looking enviously at our homes and saying that house (or flat) is too nice. We want a piece of it.

Taxes are a fact of life. They are something we have to have - originally a temporary device to pay for a war - that pay for the things we need to make a decent society. But what they should never be is a device by which  politicians try to create their version of morality by acting as Robin Hood. As 13 years under Labour demonstrated, this doesn't work. It creates a feckless underclass who don't see why they should have to work and acts as a disincentive to those who work hard and then see the taxman confiscate half of their money because someone says it is fair. It is not fair. It is also demonstrably counterproductive.

In an ideal world those earning very little would not have to pay tax at all, let alone at 10%. The reason they have to is because of politicians like Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Gordon Brown. With their ruinously expensive schemes they take with one hand and give with another. And their various schemes are self defeating too. They created a minimum wage that has created an artificial ceiling for those with low or no skills, a situation reinforced by huge levels of immigration creating competition for those low paid jobs, meaning employers don't have to compete for decent workers. Furthermore they created a tax credit scheme and housing benefit system which then hands money to low paid workers to compensate them for this policy. This is effectively giving aid to employers not employees as it means they don't have to raise wages. Yet again Labour is entrenching benefit dependency.

The solution is to stop taxing the low paid completely, an aim this government has been slowly fulfilling, but at the same time to start the slow dismantling of the welfare system that warps the market like a black hole sucking the life out of all around it. How to help the long term unemployed and low skilled? Give them a two year tax holiday so that they can take low wage jobs but have no deductions at first while they get trained, learn new skills and prove themselves. These, needless to say, would only be available to people born and resident in this country for a decent period. Let's level the playing field.

After 13 years of Labour spending we have poverty, real grinding poverty. That should outrage us all. It should outrage us that all of that money went to waste, that their spending has been loaded long into our futures thanks to debt and PFI projects. But most of all it should outrage us that they have still not learnt their lesson. Their proposal, far from being a break with their Brownite past, is for more of the same. Having failed the first time and raised taxes to do so, they now propose to come back for even more. Why do they imagine it would work now when there is no money left to spend?

No more boom and bust they used to tell us whilst creating a boom based on debt and a bust the likes of which are unprecedented in our history. The rhetoric may have changed, now they talk of one nation. But they remain as dishonest and deluded as ever. What one nation are they talking about? It's not one I recognise.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Blogging on the Move

For those of you who have asked, I have taken lately to writing posts on my iPhone so that I can react straight away to events and stories of interest whilst out and about. This means they have to be posted without pictures initially and then edited and pictures added later. It also means that posts are added to, sometimes at length later on. This was the case with my post about the 10p tax yesterday. I am experimenting with this. It has its frustrations but means I can comment on things quickly and keep this blog as up to date as possible. We'll see how it goes.

As to the video diary -  that will be reinstated shortly. I am currently going through a redesign. It will be live later in  the year.

Inconvenient Truths

As I have not been the first to observe, the whole global warming climate change scare is unravelling and not just because we are having another cold and snowy winter.

Earlier this week President Obama, in his undoubtedly stylish but increasingly irritatingly verbose and bombastic way, told us that we must take action about climate change. He made various assertions, the usual stuff about can it really be a coincidence that we are having all of this awful weather. Actually, yes it is, Mr President. It's called weather and it is not even that unusual, hurricanes are at an historic low, extreme events are not that extreme and, well you said after one of the worst snow storms in 30 years. Or is snow because of global warming?

But he also gave us the usual guff about 'the overwhelming majority of scientists' agreeing that there is a crisis we need to do something about. Now, it turns out, even this specious claim is not true. There was always that suspicion and of course consensus is now, as we have pointed out repeatedly, how science is supposed to work. Evidence? There isn't any.

But interestingly even this fig leaf is disappearing from the warmist cause. This study by Organization Studies found that only 36% of geoscientists are part of the consensus that warmists keep banging on about. They agree that humans are creating a warming crisis. A majority of the 1077 scientists polled took a different view, that nature is the primary cause (that big ball of fire in the sky and various other factors like natural variation we are only beginning to understand) and/or that any future warming is not going to be a serious problem. Indeed it may actually be a good thing.

Meteorologists too, as revealed here, are increasingly sceptical of the ridiculously alarmist claims of the warmists that used, not so long ago to be reported as the main story on BBC News. In other words we are not all going to be living in a frying world, Britain is not, any time soon, going to be growing vines and turning into the new Mediterranean.

But more importantly we are currently, thanks to politicians like Obama, in the process of plunging millions into fuel poverty (although not in America thanks to shale gas) pricing more millions out of jobs and scarring our countryside with pointless and expensive wind turbines for no good purpose. This is also,  thanks to the likes of Wallace, who was yesterday posing as a friend of the poor, handing vast subsidies to rich landowners for these turbines extracted from the wallets of people who have worried during this latest cold spell about whether they can afford to have the heating on.

Enough of this. The game is up. The scare was only a scare. Think of something else to beat ourselves up about. The argument is lost, the planet is going to be just fine.  

Thursday, 14 February 2013

10p Tax - Labour's One Nation U Turn

Far be it from me to be churlish when Labour actually unveil a policy. Oh, okay I shalll be. The speech of Wallace this morning was dreadful: full of patronisingly wistful sentimentality about the good working men of Bedford making bricks that built our one nation.

Purlease spare us this Islingtonite tripe. People like Wallace don't even like the working class. They are nothing like right on enough; altogether too inclined to begrudge the poor their benefits, roll their eyes at the sort of things Wallace calls progressive, resent high levels of immigration and haven't the first clue what he is on about when he talks about one nation - mind you the last is true of Islington too.

But credit where it is due, the reinstatement of the 10p tax band is not only a proper policy but a good one too. That's why this blog recommended it a couple of weeks ago.

But there is a but. As usual with Labour they are spending money they haven't got. Mansion Tax? Already spent on tax credits and that's if the whole policy could be made to work. Chances are people would suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves struggling to pay the bills whilst officially designated as living in a mansion. And not even a hint of droit de seigneur to cushion the blow. And of course it is more rhetoric about 'the rich' of whom Wallace is one, paying their fair share when Treasury figures show that they are already more than doing so. So this would be a tax on a tiny number which would actually give a tiny amount to millions. All so that Wallace can have a bash the rich moment to make him and his party feel good about themselves. You would think that they had had enough of doing that whilst in government the last time. It seems not. They remain economically illiterate.

This was supposed to be a major speech on the economy and yet there was nothing about where we are going as a nation, just pressing lefty buttons about the strivers. Seriously, the next time a patronising metropolitan politician calls someone a striver they deserve to be punched in the mouth. This is a party that was one of the most redistributive in history and yet, only two years later, with public spending barely changed and indeed still rising, we have people relying on foodbanks, welfare out of control and Labour calling for more paid for with more taxes on houses they designate as mansions to make themselves feel better. This is no economic policy, it is a kind of verbal comfort blanket for those who refuse to wake up and smell the coffee. That's why we have to have all of that one nation guff repeated ad nauseum by Labour MPs like Rachel Reeve who are so on message they have become like the old Monty Python joke about chartered accountants. I am a Labour MP, I can't remember my name at the moment but I am a One Nation Labour MP. Oh and I'm progressive too.

But this was a genuinely big moment for Wallace. It's not daring as it still plays to his core constituency - more squeeze the rich and patronise people living in northern constituencies whose votes Labour weigh at each election. But it will have concentrated minds in both Tory and Lib Dem HQs, especially in a week when they abandoned inheritance tax cuts to create a new branch of the welfare state. Unfortunately however this is a policy (if indeed it is one, it's not a manifesto commitment we were told yesterday) that will impress the Westminster village rather than the public at large. Oh and Polly Toynbee likes it. So that must mean it's a wrong 'un.

Perhaps, just perhaps, George Osborne may be forced to raise his game at last and be a proper Tory. His budget next month should shamelessly steal the 10p cut as part of a wider package cutting taxes for all including corporation tax to Irish levels. The 10p tax is just a flashy version of what the government is doing anyway by raising allowances, but 10p would be a Tory cut rather than a Lib Dem quid pro quo. It's time George started cutting himself - both taxes and spending.

Do that and Labour can keep the one nation tag. What does it mean again?

The Beautiful People

I thought I would publish the above picture. Why? Why not? I thought it would be appropriate for Valentines Day.

I could write a long and thoughtful piece about the objectification of women. I could agree with Rupert Murdoch, who has said that it may be time to put the Page 3 girl to rest.

But they say a picture is worth a thousand words and so here is another

Do you take my point? Okay, I will spell it out, hopefully in less than 1000 words.

There isn't actually anything wrong with admiring beautiful, pert, symmetrical, fit people. Last year Jessica Ennis was all over billboards, often showing that washboard stomach of hers. This was surely empowering? Here was a woman, at the top of her profession, whose good looks and fitness were earning her a lot of money, a lot of admiration and inspiring girls around the world. Beckham has done the same. He is a terrific role model.

But if you happen to be beautiful and fit in every sense of that word, who is to say that you shouldn't be a role model? Is there anything wrong with using the gifts given to you at birth and earning a living from those gifts? Nobody complains when a man or woman earns a living because of their ability with words, numbers or abstract thoughts. So why complain when someone has a great body and people want to pay to see it? We all like looking at naked people of whatever sex according to taste. Most of us enjoy sex. This notion that we should not exploit this most natural of desires is a bizarre one, at one end of a spectrum that ends with men demanding that women cover themselves from head to foot and only walk around when accompanied by a male relative.

What is wrong with this picture? Or this one:

 Do they offend you? Why? Analyse your reaction. If you are a straight man you will probably appreciate them and be mildly aroused. Women will either shrug, be critical in a bitchy way or will be outraged at my exploitative male behaviour.

So let's redress the balance.

Now I cannot see the appeal at all. But there he is in all of his glory. What's wrong with it?

Art throughout history has depicted us in all our glory, and often a great deal more graphically. The priapic male is a modern taboo for some reason and yet was part of the very earliest art mankind created.

And art is another conundrum. Why is it art when we sit around sketching a nude model, but objectionable when a picture of Lisa, 18, from Essex, on page 3 of a national newspaper? Women use their sexuality and their bodies all the time to get what they want from the men in their lives, yet if they turn it into a straightforward financial transaction suddenly this becomes something to get angry about.

The only serious argument I can see against pornography is that it gives us unrealistic expectations of sex and the willingness of women to engage in sexual activity promiscuously. There are disturbing reports around that boys now routinely expect oral sex from girls and for them to have porn star style pubic areas.

But perhaps this is all part of a world that still sees nudity as titillating. Appreciating the beauty of the naked body and admiring it in all of its various forms is something completely natural. It is also a matter of personal choice surely? So keep Page 3 Rupert, don't bow to the prurient killjoys. Blogs don't really have pages but I hereby vow that if Page 3 dies it shall be resurrected on this blog. I'm looking forward to taking the pictures and meeting lots of Samanthas, 19, from London.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

PMQs 13th February 2013 - The Empty Speech Edition

It has been another heady week in the life and career of Dave. Those red cheeks have looked like a freshly printed Valentine's card, so luminescent have they appeared at times. And what versatile cheeks they are. First they blushed the appropriate shade last week as he once again apologised for something that was not actually his fault - the appalling scandal at Stafford Hospital. Would that Labour MPs had felt capable of contrition on the issue. Then Dave's cheeks glowed with indignation as he took on the assembled spendthrifts of Europe and made them cut back a little. Then they glowed some more as his backbenchers cheered him to the rafters for this defeat. On Monday they glowed a little more as he made a slightly risque joke about handbags - a double entendre intended to invoke Mrs Thatcher with just a hint of gay marriage. They were probably glowing too when it was revealed that Dave has been using the services of a personal trainer, one Matt Roberts who also looks after the pecs and perkiness of the likes of Naomi Campbell and Mel C. This of course wasn't through embarrassment, just a stiff and very expensive workout. Is Dave worried about his moobs? Is Samantha grabbing too much love handle lately? Perhaps it is those late nights arguing for EU cuts. No wonder he walked to the summit last week.

Fortunately for him, Nick Clegg does not seem to be so afflicted as his pal Dave by belisha beacon cheeks. How else could he say some of the things he does, about tuition fees, boundaries and, just yesterday, the EU. You see it was all thanks to the Lib Dems that we got the EU to agree to a cut. That's according to Nick. This is the same Nick who sulked when Dave vetoed an EU treaty in 2011. Then he was fearful of us being isolated.

But then the Labour Party are also being characteristically brazen in their claims about the successful outcome in Brussels last week. It was all thanks to them they claim with barely a smirk on their faces let alone a Dave style blush. There was us thinking they did it to make mischief, to make the most of Tory divisions. The same party that is against every cut or saving here at home voted for Brussels austerity. It's also the same party that is responsible for the fact that, despite those cuts, Britain will still end up paying more to the EU. Tony Blair saw to that when he gave away our rebate as part of his winning strategy to keep us at the centre of Europe. Labour were saying much the same thing just a few weeks ago, they demanded cuts to the budget but claimed Dave would be unable to accomplish this because he would not make alliances. As Dave said on Monday 'I didn't quite get a thank you,' which is odd really since it was allegedly all Labour's idea.

And this isn't the only piece of confusion in Labour ranks with regard to our European partners. Ed Balls was his usual oafish self saying 'hear, hear' repeatedly to Dave on Monday in an attempt to get under the skin of the ruddy cheeked one. Yet it seems he is not agreeing so vehemently with his own leader. He opined this week that his party would be 'stupid' to go into the next election opposed to a referendum on Europe. That, we were told by Wallace himself, is the party's clear desire, even if it is not a policy. They don't really do policy if they can help it. Balls doesn't want the party to be caricatured as an anti referendum party. I wonder why anyone would come to that impression. Could it be the words of his leader at PMQs just last month? 'My position is no - we don't want an in/out referendum. Or could it be memories of the convoluted excuses Labour used to deny the people a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty having promised one before?

And so to this week's session, the last before another well deserved break next week. Wallace too the decision to go on the economy, to talk of tax cuts for millionaires all coordinated with his bacbenchers who continued the attack with later questions much as they did last with questions about the bedroom tax that is not a tax. This was all prompted by a Bank of England report telling us that we face another three years of squeezed living standards. This will be a major new attack line for Labour.

Unfortunately for them the man doing the attacking is Wallace, aided and abetted but mostly abetted by Ed Balls who helpfully pointed out this week that his beloved leader's EU policy is stupid. And Dave pointed this out as Balls/Nelson Muntz bawled at him from three yards away in a manner that would see a footballer /bawler sent from the field. Labour may be correct that the economy is not performing well, that the deficit is not being reduced as quickly as we would like  but then those most loudly and yobbishly making the accusation created the problem and would cure it by increasing the deficit still more. And, as Dave gleefully pointed out, Wallace will be making a major speech on the economy this week but without any policy in it. Isn't that something they should be red faced about, especially as they seem so certain they could magically create growth, lift people out of poverty and raise our living standards whilst there is no money left?

Later Ben Bradshaw rose and asked sanctimoniously if Dave was still eating processed beef. Dave circumnavigated this question with aplomb by telling us he follows FSA guidelines. The implication of course was clear, Labour suspect that posh boy Dave rarely eats ready meals when he has his kitchen suppers, much as he rarely eats a Greggs pasty. But do the products of Findus or Comigel regularly feature in the kitchens of the metropolitan lefties, or are they more likely to be found leafing through Jamie's latest recipes or Islington's very fine restaurants if indeed they don't frequent parliament's many restaurants where no doubt only the finest cuts can be found? Perhaps Bradshaw should have asked Dave if has ever sat astride what later became his supper. Why not lump all of their prejudices about Tories together? It makes them quite red faced and angry just thinking about it, although some might think they should be red faced about their lack of any policies to tackle the serial injustices they get so self righteously angry about.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Horses for Courses?

I wrote this piece last week in response to the appalling scandal of Stafford Hospital. I pointed out, like many others, that this had only happened because it was the NHS, a revered institution provided by the state and regarded as sacrosanct and untouchable by politicians from across the political spectrum but in particular those on the left.

As it happens this report was published at the same time as the horse meat scandal which seems to be affecting so many of our food manufacturers and retailers.

But compare and contrast the reaction of the left to these two scandals. And remember that, though the horsemeat scandal is disgusting and a betrayal of trust, it remains to be seen who is to blame for it and why it happened. And, it cannot too often be emphasised, this is just a betrayal of trust. Nobody has been put at risk by this. The meals are perfectly edible, they just offend our sensibilities.

In particular take a look at the website of Tom Watson MP. He has been all over this story like a rash with his characteristic bombast and self importance, publishing information about who knew what and generally, Daily Mail style, trying to rouse public fury about manufacturers and retailers, what they knew and when they knew it. This disciple of Gordon Brown even makes accusations, without any evidence I can see, of attempts to bury bad news by Tesco who released news about their spaghetti bolognese at 6.30 on a Monday when everyone was talking about the Pope. Well QED then, eh?

Yet you search in vain on Watson's website for any mention of the travails of the NHS last week, of the deaths and torment of people placed in the care of a service Labour always claim is beyond reproach and into which, at the time of the scandal, Watson's hero Gordon Brown was pouring unprecedented money and basking in glory because of it.

And this is their blindspot. People in the public sector are automatically assumed to be beneficent and caring, to have unimpeachable motives. The private sector will automatically be assumed to be grasping and bent on exploitation. Horsemeat in our food? It must be a conspiracy to mislead. People being killed by hospitals? It's a bad system. Just give it more money. It's a private hospital? Bastards. They're putting money before people.

And let's look at the reactions to these scandals from the organisations themselves. The NHS tried to cover it up, it threatened people who wanted to made a fuss or at least ignored them. It promoted those who should have been responsible. Nobody has been sacked. The various food organisations reacted quickly. They suspended contracts, withdrew food from shelves, released apologies and cooperated with the authorities to get to the bottom of this. And remember, whatever Watson says, there is not yet any evidence that any of these companies were aware of this problem and there is every sign that they reacted as quickly as possible and are addressing the problem. Why? Because they are acutely aware that their good names, their brands are at risk. The NHS had no such concern. We have no choice.


It seems that this scandal can actually be laid fairly and squarely at the door of the EU Commission which suddenly changed rules last year about what can and cannot be called beef forcing our manufacturers to look abroad for their supplies for low end beef products. Ironically this meant that we ended up with beef which wasn't beef at all, rather than what we had before which had been 'desinewed' but did at least come from cattle.

This raises the question yet again of democratic accountability. How are these decisions made? Who calls them Commission to account? And why do they get to decide these things, supposedly on the grounds that it must be determined at European level to support the single market. The single market is an excuse for pettifogging interference and, as we see time and time again, allows countries less scrupulous than we, to evade the rules and make a killing. Yet another reason for us to get out.

North Korea: The Poor Man's Bond Villains Blow Themselves Up Again

So, the problem child of the planet is once again throwing a tantrum and demanding our attention. It's a metaphor I use advisedly and have used many times before, because implied within that metaphor is how we should deal with North Korea, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as they prefer, without irony, to be called.

The world has reacted with its usual anger at this blatantly hostile and provocative act. But why? Why do we always react like this? Why do we always issue ritual condemnations and convene emergency meetings. Isn't that what trolls want us to do?

Let us examine for a moment what they have done in recent weeks. The new fat leader, Kim Jong Un, has been in power for a little over a year and has carried on exactly where his corpulent and egomaniacal father left off. But, other than being a little irritating for the rest of us, what exactly is the harm? This impoverished nation, with a population of around 23 million but with GDP less than a third of what we spend annually on the NHS (and, as recent stories have shown, that isn't exactly money well spent) is enriching uranium at vast expense, developing rocket technology at vast expense and then exploding them to no good purpose to thumb their noses at us. It's the equivalent of Al Qaeda sending suicide bombers into empty caves to blow themselves up just to terrify us. It's positively Pythonesque, indeed it is rather like the crack suicide squad of the Judean People's Front in Life of Brian who arrive, fall on their swords, and, with their dying breath say 'that'll show them huh?' As Brian says: 'you silly sods.'

They have now exploded three nuclear bombs. This one, they claim, is a smaller but more powerful one. Thus it can be attached to one of their other new toys, those missiles with which they can attempt to restart negotiations with their hated enemies. What they are essentially saying is: feed us, allow us to continue terrorising our people and keeping them firmly rooted in the 1950s or else we will nuke you. But this is a country that takes weeks to assemble its rockets and weeks, months or years to get a half functioning nuclear bomb. Then they blow themselves up in what is supposed to be seen as a show of strength but look for all the world like a bully repeatedly punching himself in the face shouting 'look what I can do.'

What is there to fear from a nation that cannot feed its own people and has to go into collectivised farms and confiscate food to feed its million strong army? What is there to fear from a nation that is so bent on its own survival it is prepared to starve its own people? What is there to fear from a nation that has so starved its people that they are now on average two or three inches shorter than their well fed cousins in the south who are increasingly making the world's cutting edge televisions and mobile phones? In North Korea they confiscate your phone at the border lest the population discovers what is going on and that they are not lucky to be North Korean as the bombastic and absurd propaganda claims.

As with all naughty children, we should simply ignore them throwing their toys out of the pram as they demand that we pay attention to them and indulge them. China could stop all of this by simply cutting off their lifeline of food and fuel. But if they will not do so then China and China alone can support them. We should simply ignore them or laugh at them. It's the only way to bring home to them the reality of their hopeless situation. We do not fear you. You are an irrelevance. You wouldn't even make decent Bond villains. You couldn't afford the gadgets and the stainless steel sliding doors.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Savage Foxes?

Are we really expected to believe that a fox got into the bedroom of a child last week, dragged an infant from its bed severing a finger or part of it and had to be physically kicked repeatedly by the child's mother before it would let go? Does that not strike you as wildly improbable?

The foxes I have seen in London are shy, timid and run at the sight of humans. Yes I know some are becoming bolder and less fearful, but it is quite a leap from this to invading our homes and savaging children in their beds. And if the attack was so relentless it required kicking how was it that only a finger was damaged?

Foxes are wild animals and should be treated as such. But I just don't buy this story which is being reported unquestioningly in the media. Something else happened and a fox is getting the blame. I can't prove it of course but then neither, conveniently, can the parents of this injured baby have their account disproved, or at least not without some forensic investigation unlikely to be sanctioned. To me it sounds like the sort of story routinely heard in A & E departments surrounding implements in rectums.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Because of Climate Change?

There's a massive storm heading for north eastern parts of the U.S this weekend. (Good job I didn't come, eh Leah? Private joke). But is this because of climate change? Everything is you know.

VE Day for Dave

Maybe Dave should walk to work more often, it certainly seems to have revivified him and got us a better deal than anyone would have dared hope for. Of course, the EU being the EU, it is not quite as simple as that. Thanks to the negotiating tactics of Tony Blair back in 2005 in which we made various concessions to be at the centre of Europe only to have them pocketed with nothing in return, we may well end up paying more anyway. But all in all Dave made friends and allies and scored a remarkable success. For evidence you need only look to the responses of Labour and the Lib Dems. Labour are trying to claim credit for something that was their idea apparently and suddenly the Lib Dems don't want to be so semi-detached in government.

So congratulations, prime minister. Not only have you scored as good a deal as could be expected, even Nigel Farage says so, but you have shown that taking a firm and uncompromising stance is a better way of dealing with the grasping hand of Europe than that taken by Labour and still recommended by them, despite their opportunistic lies about how they would demand cuts. The Euro fanatics say that we must be more accommodating, we must be at the centre, make friends and that Dave's approach would have seen us isolated. That has now been shown to be nonsense. How many more times must appeasement be demonstrated to be bad diplomacy?

The only problem I have with Cameron's stance is his suggestion that this shows we can work in Europe and remake it the way we want it. Don't be so sure. The French were out manoeuvred this time   but they will be  back, although they might have to elect a half competent president first. And there are rumblings of discontent from the EU parliament which is trying, unbelievably and yet very believably, to have a secret ballot to reject this deal.

Europe has a tendency to keep advancing despite the democratic will. That is why so many of us want out. This was a great little victory. But does it convince those of us who want out? No, it just convinces us that this was an aberration, albeit a tremendous one won with great skill and charm by a prime minister on top form forced into a harsh stance by people like me. It won't always be so easy. But it's still better than bending over backwards and allowing our pockets to be picked to show how European we are. That, whatever they now say, is the position of the Lib Dems and Labour.

But let's leave the last words to Ed Balls. On 31st October he said:  "we need a real-terms cut and reform of the EU budget, but David Cameron...has failed to build alliances". Over to you, Ed. Monday should be fun.

Inconvenient Truths

Continuing my series showing that AGW sceptics are sceptical for a reason, today we come to the latest pet theory in an ever changing and ever more desperate field. As the climate has been stubbornly failing to heat up as much as the models said it would they have shifted the goalposts. Thus global warming became climate change. Now we have extreme events.

Now extreme events is indicative of just how wobbly the wheels on the climate change bandwagon have begun. It is a tacit acknowledgement that actually the rise in temperatures that ought to be happening if the models are correct is not happening. If it's all as simple as more CO2 = warming then what has happened to the warming.

And so they came up with extreme events. Extreme events is essentially what we used to call weather but with the blame pinned on climate change. It's much harder to prove or disprove and of course manages to make a virtue of the fact that all of their predictions have failed. Where once they said we wouldn't have as much snow and that children would grow up in the UK never seeing it, now they manage to pin the blame for all of these cold winters on climate change and the evil gas CO2. It's terribly versatile too. This time last year we were going to have a drought. Then we had months and months of floods. Both were extreme events blamed on climate change. So was Hurricane Sandy. So was the heatwave, fires and now floods in Australia.

But, as usual, this is hyperbole and guesswork dressed up as science.

Weather, as we all know particularly in Britain where it can change in minutes, is variable. There is a wide range of events and a wide range within those events of their extremity or vigour. How do we define what is normal and thus what is extreme? The flooding in Britain last year may have felt extreme, but infact, though the year was one of the wettest on record, rainfall across the year was not wildly outside the norm.

And to get averages, as we should all remember from school, you need a lot of data to make it reliable. This amount of data would exceed the average human lifetime. So our own experiences of wild or unusual weather are meaningless. We may well experience apparently extreme events outside our normal experience. But that does not make them extreme when judged across the normal sampling range needed to come to a proper statistical determination of extreme and normal.

Hurricane Sandy is cited as an extreme event. Certainly, given where it made landfall meant that it got a great deal of attention and did a great deal of damage. But was it extreme? Certainly it was an unusually strong storm - a one in a 100 year event. But we are not talking here of one off extreme events, we are talking of the alleged increase of such events. There is simply no evidence that this is the case. Take a look at this graph:

Such events are random and distributed randomly. A person born in 1900 would have had to wait 36 years to see such a major storm. If they had lived to the age of 106 however they would have seen two stronger storms. Would that be evidence of an increase in such events or of their longevity by eating fish?

The fact is that we simply do not have enough data yet to conclude that these events are becoming more frequent. If CO2 has increased massively since 1945 as we have established in my earlier posts, we need another century of data before we can make that determination.

What of other indicators? There is barely a week goes by when the weather doesn't produce something that might be called extreme. So what of deaths caused by so called extreme weather? These numbers, as the graph below shows, have fallen.

This could be for any number of reasons, improved technology being the most likely. It could of course be because such extreme events have decreased. What is much more likely is that they have stayed more or less stable and we are better at coping with them and predicting them. But this is a good news story. We are now, dependent of course on where we live, much less likely to die thanks to weather, extreme or otherwise.