Saturday, 30 November 2013
Friday, 29 November 2013
I have to confess myself baffled by the whole argument about plain packaging for cigarettes. The evidence, such as it is, can quite easily be used by either side of the argument to prove their case. Now admittedly this could be because Australia's plain packaging law has only been in operation for a year. But it could just be because this is something fundamentally unknowable.
After all why should plain packaging make any real difference? It doesn't affect the cigarettes themselves. They remain toxic, gross smelling, addictive and ridiculous just as they have always been. They also, for reasons that remain unclear, make people look cool.
But how does putting them in plain packaging make any difference? Smokers already know which brand they like and buy them accordingly. Will they be put off by them being in a white packet? Isn't white now rather cool anyway thanks to Apple?
What about the children? cry the campaigners. Well what about them? Are we seriously arguing that children will be put off by plain packaging of cigarette packs they can't see in shops now anyway because they are kept behind shutters?
I could understand why cigarettes shouldn't be advertised, although as a non smoker I used to quite enjoy the adverts which were often witty and clever. I could understand why tobacco sponsorship had to stop. I could sort of understand, because of the kiddies, why they had to be kept behind shutters, although this seemed like overkill. I could definitely understand and enthusiastically supported the ban on smoking in workplaces and public places. It's been many years since I have come home from the pub or from work stinking of other people's smoke. This was the single greatest, indeed probably the only real achievement of Labour when in government.
And plain packaging? Well I have no objection to it per se, but I don't see the point. This seems to be mostly about politicians wanting to either stick it to corporate interests or to show that they are not sticking up for evil tobacco. It's got nothing to do with evidence, nothing to do with the children and certainly nothing to do with science unless we are talking psychology which is largely guesswork and reading tea leaves anyway.
In ten years time we may conceivably have enough statistical evidence to tell us if it worked. But even then it will be a mystery Why should the packaging for your cigarettes make any difference if you have an addiction? If the packaging makes a difference why do people put their ciggies into cigarette cases? Surely it is the act of smoking itself rather than what they come in that attracts people. I can understand why tobacco companies that have spent a fortune on branding might be angry about this but don't see why smokers should be.
As I have said before, the only way to stop people smoking is not to shock them, not to tell them it will kill them, it's not to keep raising the price. It's certainly not to put them in plain packaging. Quite the opposite actually. The best way to stop people smoking is to ridicule them. We should point at them and laugh. If you see a bunch of people huddled in a doorway, sheltering from the rain while they gasp on their little white sticks of lung and heart disease, do them a favour and laugh uproariously at their bovine stupidity. And the Government should do the same. Have a picture of someone pointing and laughing on the pack. 'You paid how much for these?' Or perhaps put a picture of a clown on them. Lots of people are afraid of clowns.
Thursday, 28 November 2013
Very slowly, and rather reluctantly, the Government has been shifting its stance on immigration over the last couple of weeks. First they let it be known that they had listened (mostly to the Daily Mail) and were determined to act. Then yesterday David Cameron actually went on the record and said he was determined to send a message.
Send a message? Is this the position that our prime minister is reduced to? Is this all he can do, so emasculated are our supposed leaders by a combination of years of EU integration and interference and the rigours of governing with bloody Lib Dems?
Those who should be merely sending a message are the arrogant bureaucrats of Brussels who yesterday told us that Britain is in danger of being seen as a nasty country. As Dan Hannan pointed out: this is the country that is the second biggest net contributor to EU coffers and has already absorbed 2 million additional people.
But our elected politicians still feel that they are only really able to 'send a message' in the hope of dissuading the next wave of immigration heading inexorably to these shores. Instead of looking at the opinion polls and acting accordingly, they wring their hands and 'send a message' and then hope for the best.
Of course all politicians have noticed the polls and are acting accordingly, well they're talking tough anyway. The Lib Dems are staying strangely mute on the subject despite their instincts, and the ever hypocritical Labour Party, in the ever sanctimonious form of Yvette Cooper, tried to lecture on the subject and tell us that this was all a little late. This coming from the party that opened the doors to eastern European immigration unilaterally and entirely gratuitously and tried to shut down debate on it by accusing critics of racism. In so doing, as so often, they most damaged the life chances and livelihoods of the very people they are supposed to represent. Labour waved in hundreds of thousands of extra people into this country, depressing wages, creating an even more desperate housing shortage, strains on the NHS they now express shock about, locking millions in low paid jobs, sending their kids to overcrowded schools and trapping their own voters on welfare that they kept pumping money into in a vain hope of combating poverty. How dare they now do anything but apologise and keep apologising?
But this does not get the present government off the hook. This situation is the very kind that turns people off politics and infuriates them about our apparent powerlessness vis a vis Europe.
But we are not powerless. That is a convenient fiction. We are a sovereign nation in charge of its own border. Europe cannot force us to do as it dictates. It can take us to court, fine us (which we can refuse to pay) and then what? Chuck us out? Bring it on.
What the British people want to hear is the obvious truth: that Britain cannot risk a further wave of immigration and so will not permit one. Our public services cannot cope and neither can the public finances. But let's not discriminate. Let's stop all immigration from Europe for an interim period. Let's exercise some control over our borders just as we are doing with the rest of the world. This is not to say that it would all stop. There is nothing wrong with allowing employers to take on those with skills that are in short supply. But let's discriminate for the good of all, the very thing the EU says we must not do.
How did we reach the utterly absurd position that a free market became a free for all for people too, people who earn vastly differently according to their derivation. Trade is good. Trade spreads wealth. But the system created by politicians has created the farce we now see which is endangering community relation. We are actually being told that foreigners should be allowed to come to this country, apply for jobs but also receive benefits as if they have been here all their lives. Are we seriously being told by our government that all we can do in the face of this outrageous abuse of our system is 'send a message'?
At this point the usual suspects will pipe up and tell us that immigration is good for the economy. Well that is debatable. The figures are nothing like as clear cut as is alleged. They fail to take into account the costs of immigration alongside the alleged economic benefits which are negligible. But the UK is not a PLC anyway. It is a community and it is a community under strain. It has problems with housing shortages and still too high unemployment. It has problems with the dilution of communities and of the very culture of tolerance and openness which makes this country so attractive to incomers. Of course employers like to take on keen foreigners willing to work for less. But do those employers not have a responsibility to the community of which they are a part? And all too often those same employers are relying on the benefits system to subsidise them anyway.
We don't need messages to be sent, we need action. The government should simply call a halt to this madness invoking Britain's national interest. No more immigration for the time being except on a case by case visa basis. We've done our bit for the harmony of Europe, now we should be looking to the harmony of Britain.
Those entering this country and committing a crime that receives a custodial sentence will be deported immediately with no right to appeal except for the conviction itself. Those entering this country will not be entitled to claim any benefits, both in work or out of work for a period of 5 years. Benefits when they are paid will be paid for those living in this country and certainly not to children living abroad (and this should also apply to the scandal of those receiving fuel allowances living abroad). Those who come to the country must have somewhere to live and work lined up in advance. Sleeping rough will see them deported immediately and banned from re-entering the country for a period of 12 months. The same applies to those begging.
And when the EU cuts up rough, calls us names and threatens us with legal action? Call a referendum. Give the people of this country, the poor mugs who pay for all of this, a say in the matter. We have been promised an in/out referendum on the EU, this is why it is necessary. Dare Labour and the Lib Dems to vote against it. But until that referendum takes place and the British people get their say, the door should remain firmly shut. The stakeholders demand their say.
Who governs Britain, Edward Heath once asked us when calling an election. The answer came, and it was not him. But that was because he had shown it really wasn't him. David Cameron is in danger of doing the same. He should now decide who does govern 'our country' as he is fond of calling it and ask that country to back him. Otherwise the message we should send is that he should stand aside and make way for someone who is prepared to govern and is not prepared to allow 'our country' to be governed by the Eurocrats who don't give a stuff what the British people overwhelmingly think.
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
I'm not going to write about PMQs this week. It was all a bit of a damp squib anyway. Wallace accused Dave of being intellectually inconsistent over issues like climate change and payday loans. This coming from the man who promises an energy price freeze to combat a problem he himself created, whose party complained about the PM's attending a conference they approved when in power, who have been complaining about a 'cost of living crisis' they helped create, and who not so long ago were telling us that cuts are too far and too fast but have no toyed with the idea of complaining that the deficit has not come down fast enough.
I could go on. Labour policy has as much intellectual consistency as an SNP white paper.
But let's deal with the two subjects named above. Climate change? Well, as must apparently be pointed out ad nauseum, beneath the meaningless 95% certainty line recently propagated by the IPCC, that less than rigorous organisation also admitted rather grudgingly that the alarmist claptrap it had until recently spouted has now been shown to be alarmist claptrap. If temperatures continue to rise, they have currently stopped doing so, then they will do so in nothing like as catastrophic a way as was previously tremulously predicted. We could probably adapt to this new world if indeed it even happens. It would cost a lot less money too.
It should also be noted that, just this week, a major energy company has pulled out of building one of those vast wind farms so beloved of meretricious cretins like Wallace. That is a direct consequence of political uncertainty created by the likes of Wallace pledging meaningless and undeliverable price freezes.
Cameron was wrong and idiotic to hitch himself to the whole green cause. But he is a repenting sinner. He is changing course because the facts are in the process of changing and because his policies are hurting people. Wallace just makes phoney promises and wrings his hands about fuel poverty. When push comes to shove he will remain wedded to the economic lunacy of green policies that will mean exporting ever more well paid jobs to countries that have more sense whilst failing to keep our lights on and at the same time forcing people to make invidious choices between eating and heating. That's the policy of the party that claims to represent the working man.
But that party is right about payday loan companies. Some have argued since George Osborne announced his action on this that this is intellectually inconsistent with a party that believes in free markets. This is patent nonsense. Payday loans are a modern form of usury. They extract their pound of flesh from the most vulnerable, struggling parts of society. They do so in a rapacious, cynical and frequently abusive way. They target the very people who can least afford them. Controlling such market abuses is not incompatible with a belief in the power of free markets and enterprise. It is a recognition that they need regulating and policing, that people in a desperate situation are not in a strong bargaining position. Rather than allow payday loan companies to abuse their strength, they have to be kept in check.
There are many aspects of commerce that are controlled, regulated and overseen in this way. Payday loan companies spotted a lucrative gap in the market and filled it. They should not be allowed to do so without proper supervision and moderation. That's the whole point of having governments.
That the government may in the past have made an opposite point and have now performed a u turn is similar to their performance on climate change and energy. But I would rather be governed by those who see the error of they ways and change tack than those who bury their heads in the sand and refuse to do so. Wallace's approach with regard to his party's debacles in Falkirk and with the Co-op is to ignore the problems. As we have seen on climate change and payday loans, consistency is not all it is cracked up to be. Wallace talked tough on Unite before giving in. He is now pretending that no problem exists. That doesn't bode well for the tough choices he would have to make on an hourly basis if he ever got into Number 10.
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
There's something deliciously, risibly other worldly about lefties isn't there? In the last couple of weeks we have had the glorious sight of the Labour Party and leadership pretending that all is well in Falkirk, nothing to see here, nothing to worry about, move on. If we ignore this the spotlight will eventually fall on someone else and we can go back to gerrymandering and freezing out Blairites just as we were before.
Then they did more or less the same when one of their own, one of their boys who got the jobs reserved for those who hold the right opinions and scratch the right backs, was revealed to be a wrong 'un. But again no questions should be asked about this. Any attempts to paint this as a piece of corrupt, morally questionable, see no evil hear no evil classic Labour hypocrisy are just smears visited on a morally upstanding meritocratic party by Tories and their evil minions. Members of the lefty dominated quangocracy are there entirely on merit, not because of friends in the Hampstead set. The same party that believes in levelling down for our school kids, frets about unpaid internships (except for their own kids) and gets very very angry about unqualified teachers sees nothing at all wrong with an unqualified banker because he is one of their own.
But even the serial double standards and delusions of Wallace's Labour Party, with his cynical opportunism and flashy gimmicks dressed up as policies, pales next to those of Alex Salmond and the SNP. His white paper released today is nothing of the sort. White papers are government documents setting out for consultation the way legislation will look. This 'white paper' is a series of baseless assertions, wish lists, economic illiteracy and magic money tree fantasies. It's a nationalist wet dream on 670 pages. They should turn it into an opera - probably paid for with English subsidy.
Essentially the SNP assert that, when the Scots vote for independence, not only will the mere act of doing so turn Scotland into a vibrant tiger economy with 5 or 6% growth, it will at the same time have high levels of welfare and other free stuff all paid for by oil which will magically reappear in the ground. Taxes will not need to go up. But they also tell us that the rest of what was the UK will stand by benignly while the Scots keep all the good bits of the union that their voters would be loathe to lose while handing us back nasty debts and nuclear subs. Oh but if we build new nuclear subs and other ships the Scots will of course be asked to build them because we so enjoy spending our money north of the border.
Oh and it's not our money either. The Scots will continue to use the pound and we will freely and joyously enter a currency union with them and give them a say in setting our interest rates and monetary policy. We will be more than happy to act as guarantor for their banks despite having no say over how they are run. Presumably we will also take RBS off their hands.
The EU too, all of those disparate states, will gladly do the bidding of the newly independent Scotland and wave them immediately into another union. But this is not like a union with England. Oh no. This is a different kind of union. They make a lot of our laws of course, but importantly they are not English. And even more importantly they would allow Alex Salmond to call himself a prime minister and eventually president once he gets rid of the monarchy, and go to summits and stuff in publicly paid for clothing. The EU say that this would not be so straightforward. But, like the English who say that Scotland can't hang onto the Pound, they are wrong. They must be, it says so in the white paper.
So this is independence of a very special kind. This is an independence which will allow the Scots to keep watching and listening to the BBC, probably still use the Foreign Office to save them the expense, or indeed maybe even hand it over to them. They will also keep the currency and anything else they like. This is going to be a divorce in which the jilted partner is expected to act like a doormat to save the blushes of Alex who doesn't really have any answers to awkward questions he would rather we didn't ask.
One can't help being reminded of those occasions when Celtic and Rangers tell us that they think they should be allowed to join the English Premier League because they would really rather like the money they would get. This would be good for us, they tell us, and we should admit them without any of that winning matches and earning promotion that other teams have to go through. Thus far the English have proven resistant to this idea. Yet Salmond is essentially telling us that we will cheerfully offer independent Scotland much the same deal. The SNP has been dreaming of this moment for decades. You might have thought they would have some more convincing answers by now.
Monday, 25 November 2013
One of the great enduring mysteries of our times is why an appearance on Desert Island Discs is regarded as some kind of rite of passage for our great and good. An invitation on this much lauded but little listened to programme is the ultimate accolade, like an award from BAFTA or the Nobel committee. An appearance on this show is like a gold embossed invitation to be part of the establishment.
And people care about it. They must spend sleepless nights considering each and every musical choice and their luxury item. The desire is to appear cultured, with it, loveable, thoughtful, witty and inclusive. But then you also have to consider that it is best to try and appear as if these really are your choices, that in the unlikely event you were to be stranded on a desert island but got to take a record player and a couple of books for company rather than a GPS device and a satellite phone, these would keep you company and entertained.
On this last point Wallace, in his appearance over the weekend, singularly failed. Are we really expected to believe that this king of the dweebs actually chose the records he claimed to have done? This is a man who consults focus groups over whether or not to wear a jacket. This is a man who has to consult his Uncle Len every time his car turns right. Was the Scouse tyrant in on his choices? Were they sufficiently inclusive?
No, the overwhelming impression of his choices is of a man who doesn't really like music but felt he had to appear because, well you have to don't you. It was a golden opportunity to make himself look normal. He fluffed it. Indeed there was so much fluff that if the BBC still used gramophones with needles instead of digital technology, the records would have skipped and jumped like a kangaroo on a hot tin roof.
We were asked to believe that Wallace had chosen for his first record the South African national anthem. Now this is, as anthems go, quite a stirring and uplifting tune, but seriously? It was such an obviously PC choice it made you laugh out loud at how obvious it was. Do these people have no self knowledge at all? Do they really hold the rest of us in this much contempt?
Even his attempts at seeming normal and cuddly smacked of someone who hadn't actually listened to any music since the school disco. Aha? Robbie Williams? And there was also Jerusalem to show the Daily Mail how much his family love this country. You could almost feel the nation reaching for the sick bag.
If the man lauded for his wit after that acceptance speech for a speech the other week had an ounce of the wit attributed to him he would have sent himself up. Surely that is what should be done with this silly and pointless show. Why not He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother with a knowing wink? Why not You Won't Get Me I'm Part of the Union with the same?
Actually what would be all the more refreshing is if he had simply admitted when an incredulous Kirsty Young asked, that this was a list of records compiled by committee because he never listens to music and isn't terribly interested in it. He spends his life obsessing about politics, finding new ways of dodging awkward questions about Unite and the Co-op, coming up with new gimmicks and spending pledges he has no intention of honouring and isn't the least bit worried about his brother because he stole his copy of the Communist Manifesto when they were boys. He could then have requested Two Little Boys with an ironic wink having forgotten that it was also a choice of Margaret Thatcher. He would then have had a bit of explaining to do when he got his evening call from Uncle Len.
Sunday, 24 November 2013
The world has been gripped this week by the story of modern day slavery in Britain involving three women, one of whom, allegedly, has been in captivity for all of her 30 years. Their captors are of Indian and Tanzanian origin, police announced yesterday and they held the women in a property in Stockwell, South London.
The problem of modern slavery is a growing one, but difficult to detect by its very nature. These three women, from Malaysia, Ireland and Britain, came to know their captors by being part of what police call a collective. This came to an end but the association continued and became dominant. It is a peculiar case certainly and one that is difficult to define or understand. What is certain however is that the women called a charity after seeing a programme on television about a charity that helps those in enforced labour. The charity, Freedom, spoke to them over the course of a week, winning their trust and eventually securing their release in liaison with police.
Best story of the week by far has been the evolving farce of the impecunious reverend banker and his various peccadilloes and vices, not least his moustache. Straight from the 'you couldn't make it up file' came the Reverend Paul Flowers, the sort of man becoming increasingly common in British public life: the sort who gets all kinds of jobs thanks to being a member of the progressive classes, a Labour politician and adviser to his party's bigwigs regardless of actual expertise.
The story started last weekend when the Mail on Sunday revealed that the Rev had been caught discussing the purchase of cocaine and crystal meth. But the story just kept giving and giving all week as he was revealed to have been forced to resign after using council property to view porn, had nevertheless got another job with a charity where he abused expenses and had used rent boys in hotel rooms charged to his employers. And then questions started to be asked about the politicians who had watched and encouraged while this prime networker got his jobs for the boys and which helped him pay for his fondness for boys.
The Co-op bank which is currently requiring a rescue to save it from bankruptcy, prides itself on being an ethical bank. Quite what this means it is unclear. It seems to mean that they make bad investments but feel good about themselves. Smug even. The Rev Flowers, made chairman despite the complete absence of any relevant experience, boasted about how successful the bank was in 2009, not long after the ultimately disastrous takeover of Britannia Building Society. At a select committee recently Flowers could not answer basic questions about the bank's assets. He was wrong by around £44 billion.
The Co-op and its attached bank has a long association with Labour and has offered soft loans to that party, loans that it has barely paid a penny back on. It also receives regular donations from the Co-op, including sponsorship of MPs. One beneficiary has been Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor. Yet the bank now in need of a rescue has had to stop paying dividends but still has uncommercial loans to Labour and makes donations. It doesn't sound too ethical does it?
Interestingly this was the week that Dominic Grieve, Attorney General, chose to raise the subject of 'endemic corruption' within the Pakistani community which he blamed on different cultural attitudes. Now I have no idea whether or nor he is right about this, but he is certainly not wrong to raise the matter as some are alleging. It is unfortunate however that he did so in the week of the shenanigans of Rev Flowers. How is his rise to prominence, power and publicly subsidised wealth anything but corruption. We are surrounded by people, the alleged great and good, who get these sort of jobs through connections and holding the right kind of opinions. That looks not dissimilar to the kind of behaviour that Grieve alleges. Yet if you get your jobs by being a member of a political party then that is okay? And your transgressions and peccadilloes will be overlooked, brushed under the carpet and you will be helped on your way to your next job with a quango, charity or local authority.
Our police forces, in addition to fitting up cabinet ministers and lying through their teeth, routinely fiddle crime figures it was revealed this week. Who knew? Well anyone who has been burgled, mugged, had their car or bike nicked and been met with a shrug by the boys and girls in blue probably. If on the other hand you have tweeted something injudicious, called a police horse a rude name or made a remark considered offensive by a minority group you would probably think that our police have plenty of time on their hands thanks to the complete absence of crime. Lies, damned lies and statistics. But don't tell the police I said so.
There has been more wittering in the papers and amongst politicians this week about climate change and its alleged effects on the weather. This has largely been in response to last week's typhoon and tornadoes across the US, including this one in Illinois. But there has also been another climate conference going on in Poland this week at which developing nations have been demanding reparations from the industrialised countries for our ruining the climate, despite the fact that the evidence for this is non existent. Indeed all of that CO2 may be improving their harvests. Perhaps we should ask for a percentage of the profits.
And speaking of the alleged certainties of science. It has long been regarded as a fact that the inner circle of stones at Stonehenge came from a place called Carn Meini in Pembrokeshire. Now we know differently. More data has come in and in fact the stones came from a mile away. The facts have changed despite an earlier consensus. Fortunately nobody spent billions on this particular consensus.
A troupe of septuagenarian comedians announced this week that they are getting back together to do a show and earn a bit of cash now that comedians are like rock stars. This has outraged a certain sort of person, probably the sort who think that profit is a dirty word and that mutualisation is the way forward. How's that going for you? The surviving members of Monty Python are to do a show at London's O2 arena next year. They will make shedloads of cash. John Cleese needs it since his ex wife made off with the last shed load he had accumulated. Quite what is wrong with this is a mystery. Despite his initials, JC is not the messiah, he's a very cash strapped boy. He will not however be doing a silly walk. It would put his hip out.
Biggest showbiz story of the week by far however was Dr Who. The Doctor was 50 years old this week and the BBC pushed the boat out for the show that was originally intended to try and keep the Grandstand audience from decamping to ITV every Saturday. It succeeded, albeit now without a struggle and became a national institution. A very British superhero was born, a man with a wry smile, an impish sense of humour, lots of silly technobabble and an over reliance on deus ex machinas to get the writers out of cul de sacs of their own creation. Neveretheless this week's fare: a drama about the birth of the series and a humdinger of an anniversary edition with a big movie budget and appearance did the old boy proud. The show was simulcast in 90 countries around the world. Not bad for a show whose baddies were made from whatever the boffins could find under the sink.
It was another of those pointless international breaks last week. When international managers like Roy Hodgson complain next summer about the tiredness of and injuries to their players perhaps these two games should be raised. What is the point of them? In November? What did it prove? All we learnt was that England are not quite as good as we had dared to hope. They were hopeless in fact. But the games that matter won't take place until next June. Surely a get together and some light training would have been more fruitful. Or even a rest?
Once the Premier League got back underway it served up the kind of blood and guts encounters that show how awful the England performance was. Players that we lacklustre on Tuesday and last weekend gave their all for the clubs and supporters who pay their mega wages.
There was a terrific Merseyside derby at Goodison yesterday as Liverpool got a draw, legs were nearly broken, red cards mysteriously avoided. In what was probably the game of the season so far, the sides fought (often literally) out a 3 - 3 draw. Elsewhere Arsenal maintained their impressive form with a 2 nil win over Southampton, Stoke beat Sunderland and Newcastle beat Norwich.
And, overnight, Australia finally did what they threatened to achieve several times during the English summer and beat England in the First Ashes Test. They have utterly dominated this match, despite some fine English bowling. But England's batting line up, which failed to score more than 400 runs at any time last summer, failed miserably once again. They may well improve in coming matches. They need to.
This week's pictures of Rihanna sees the extremely peripatetic and photogenic Miss Fenty in LA where she went to see her local basketball team, the Lakers, in action. She was joined by a friend and Leo, the son of a talent agent.
Saturday, 23 November 2013
Friday, 22 November 2013
Has David Cameron gone off being green? Well, though Downing Street issued a non-denial denial yesterday, this certainly seems to be the case. He has been hinting in this direction for a while, and, being the heir to Blair, issues a series of confusing pronouncements on being green and greenery according to his audience. Last week, in the wake of the Philippines disaster, he opined that there is growing evidence that such 'extreme weather' is increasing thanks to mankind's activities. He produced no evidence of course. He couldn't because there isn't any.
One can't help speculating then that Dave sits in neither one camp nor the other. He says what he thinks is most advantageous to him electorally. So, when in the far east which has just suffered a cataclysm, he offers succour. When with hard pressed British energy customers he does the same. Unfortunately this does not amount to a very coherent overall strategy.
What our puny politicians do not seem to understand is that it is perfectly possible to care for the environment and the state of the planet without necessarily signing up to the full green agenda. Just because one is sceptical about the extent, causes and proposed solutions to global warming does not mean that one is ambivalent about pollution, about plastic floating around in great mobile islands in our beautiful oceans, about the slaughter of animals for their supposed medicinal or aphrodisiac qualities, or of building all over our green and pleasant land. Environmentalism is a spectrum of beliefs and stances in the same way that any political movement is. I am a Tory but I am also an atheist and republican. Similarly I think we should do all we can to protect the environment but do not see the need to plunge people into fuel poverty because of an unproven theory about what is driving the climate to change. This is particularly the case when the change has been largely beneficial to date, has stopped happening, and there is little or nothing we can do about it anyway. We are better to adapt. One can care about the planet but still see the need for nuclear energy and indeed nuclear weapons in a dangerous world.
A lot of politicians, the intelligent ones anyway, probably know this. But they are afraid to say so because of the revenge of the bien pensants. But leadership is about pointing out uncomfortable truths. The uncomfortable truth is not that our planet is changing dangerously and that we can and must do something about it lest we have more devastating typhoons. The uncomfortable truth is that our planet is a wild and dangerous place and, for all of our cleverness, we still don't adequately understand the processes that drive our climate. The uncomfortable truth is that, for the time being, and the foreseeable future, we do not have the ability to affect it anyway. The uncomfortable truth is that our politicians, once again, have sold us a pup and are only now starting to realise the full expensive extent of their folly.
Even now though the likes of Dave are trying to have it both ways. It would be refreshing if he just held up his hands and said: I was wrong/ we can't afford this/ we are going to make no difference on our own/ we can't have good well paid jobs at the same time as indulging this green fantasy. Any or all of those options would make a pleasant change. But they are all true.
Thursday, 21 November 2013
So has the whole Tory modernisation schtick failed as Nick Boles alleged this week? Perhaps it has. But the reason it has failed is because it was always wrong headed in the first place. Will Tories 'shouting from the rooftops' about gay marriage transform their image in the minds of the electorate? Or will it in fact make them look like a bunch of metropolitan politicos who are talking to themselves and the commentariat as usual?
The fact is that most people, particularly the working class working people the Tories need to be appealing to, don't give a stuff about gay marriage. Did those Tories who were against it in the debates receive angry delegations of constituents demanding that they give gay people their rights? I doubt it sincerely.
And this is not to say that working people are hostile to gay people and gay marriage. They just don't see it as that important. It's the sort of issue they might be wont to shrug about and say 'why not'?
The trouble with this rebranding obsession of the 'modernisers' is that they are dealing with a political party, not a type of soap powder. Political parties have to make arguments for what they believe in, not create an image. Talking about gay marriage or voting blue to go green does not resonate because it looks like what it is: a cynical piece of marketing.
It isn't as if the other parties don't have old fashioned attitudes and beliefs too. It's not just Tories. Labour, despite the splurges of the Brown/Blair years, still cannot bring themselves to admit that their statist, high tax, high public spending, welfarist approach has demonstrably failed. Lib Dems cannot see that their EU-can-do-no-wrong approach is idiotic.
Where Tories have failed is not by failing to modernise, it's by failing to stick to their principles and failing to die in a ditch defending them. Tory principles are not alien to British people, they have just been painted as such by our enemies. Tories believe in cutting taxes as a moral and responsible way to empower people, incentivise them, give them responsibility for themselves. Lower taxes raise more money because people resent them less. How many more times does this have to be demonstrated? The Left like higher taxes because they think people who are doing well should be punished. Tories believe they should be congratulated and thanked. Which is the more 'progressive' attitude?
The left honestly believe that they have the right, even the duty, to compulsorily confiscate half or more of people's earnings and distribute it as they see fit. They call this progressive when in fact it is moral turpitude. We ought to be outraged that they raised taxes, often stealthily, spent hundreds of billions on welfare, education and health and ended up at the end of their term with unemployment higher, people trapped in welfare poverty and dependency, school leavers who cannot read, write or add up as well as their grandparents and had a health system which left people on trolleys in their own excrement drinking from vases. Furthermore, despite all their raised taxes, they still couldn't balance the books. They left us with debt doubled and an annual deficit of £160 billion. In opposition they have resisted every single cut and told us the only viable solution to their economic disaster was more of the same.
Tories should not be apologising for pointing out that this was all a disaster. We should not be acceding in the notion that we are nasty for doing so. We are the realists. We are those who want to make our country prosperous again by making it competitive and earning our living rather than borrowing and hoping for the best. That, essentially, is Labour's economic policy. They never learn.
The only way to help the poor and disadvantaged is to grow the British economy by making and selling more at competitive prices. You don't do that by continually spending more through borrowing. Turning Britain into a low tax economy would enrich us all, not just help the rich. That is demonstrable economic fact. How did Tories allow the left to brand it as selfish and self serving? How did we reach the point at which a Tory prime minister is boasting that the upper rate of tax under him is higher than it was under Labour?
Conservatives don't need to modernise, they don't need to rebrand. They need to stand up for what they know is right and is working even as we speak. Things like gay marriage and all the other peripheral stuff are all very well. British people are mostly fair minded and tolerant and can't see what all the fuss is about. But these are not totemic issues. Tory instincts on the bread and butter issues of tax, spending and fiscal responsibility are at the core of what being conservative is all about.
This is why David Cameron is right to say we should cut the green crap. We should. It's just another form of taxation we should be dead against. Cut the crap, get the barnacles off the boat and get to the core message. Oh and while you're at it dump the Lib Dems and tell the EU we are not removing barriers to immigration from Romania and Bulgaria. That's a very modern attitude to the current state of Britain. It's just not very metropolitan.
Wednesday, 20 November 2013
If there is one thing Labour do well it is hypocrisy. Last week, during the recess, Dave was in Sri Lanka much to the disgust of Labour. Yet it was Labour, under Gordon Brown, that agreed to holding the Commonwealth conference there. Labour issued the invites but then declined to attend. Would they have done so had they been in power? Would they just have sent Prince Charles on his own?
And of course Labour have also, in addition to the continuing Unite in Falkirk farrago into which Wallace not only doesn't want an investigation but doesn't want one already in his possession published, was also intimately involved in the collapse of yet another bank thanks to their place man, the Reverend Flowers. The Co-op gives Labour lots of soft loans, makes donations to them and employs their councillors despite their predilection for hard drugs, rent boys and the complete absence of any banking experience. The party that lectures the nation on equality of opportunity nevertheless is entirely comfortable on jobs for the boys so long as they are one of their boys. Apparently they look the other way when he then employs rent boys and drug dealers.
The week has also been dominated by news that another Tory thinks his party is the nasty party still. You have to wonder about those who keep saying these things. Nick Boles, for it is he, is a so called moderniser. But I shall return to this subject in another blog.
The pressing subject Wallace wished to speak about this week was a children's centre in Dave's constituency in leafy and lovely Chipping Norton. Quite what Wallace's point about this was it's not really easy to identify. He appeared to be confused about why the PM had signed a petition about saving said children's centre. The notion that a prime minister is not necessarily empowered to sweep all before him is apparently an alien one to Wallace. This is odd because he has to ask his Uncle Len before he does anything and this will presumably be the case if he ever makes it to Downing Street. Not everyone has the same dictatorial power as a union boss. Maybe Len will get an office in that street so that he is close and on hand to offer support and so that any deals on installing members can be done in situ.
There then followed one of those exchanges in which Wallace accused the PM of closing lots of things and Dave assured him that this was not the case. The listener was left none the wiser. Dave did point out however that Labour have a tendency to make all kinds of promises about what they won't close funded by a levy on bankers. It's a remarkably flexible tax raising exercise which, Dave said, has been spent to date 10 times over. It's not a policy, he said, it's a night out with the Reverend Flowers.
And then we had an exchange about which party was the more sleazy and Wallace called Dave a loser. Well Dave didn't have an Uncle Len to fix things for him did he.
Dave rounded off by pointing out all the things that are going well and which Wallace doesn't want to talk about. Hence his concern for the children of Chipping Norton. He also, he said, has suddenly stopped calling for inquiries into things. Odd that. A banker who doesn't understand banking but is a supporter of the black market and Wallace looks the other way. Presumably this is a banker he doesn't want to tax to pay for schools, hospitals and sending his nightmare Shadow Chancellor on an economics refresher course.
The biggest lesson we took from all of this is that Wallace, fresh from a successful couple of months setting the agenda and winning awards for speeches, is breezy and confident. He even seems to think that he is funny, a kind of William Hague but with a full head of hair. It was hard to discern any kind of theme at all to his interventions today. Maybe he's had a sleepless night or two thanks to his nightmare Shadow Chancellor.
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
What do the Lib Dems actually believe in? Well not a lot really. According to their own leader their role in politics and in government is to act as the no men of British politics, to temper the ideological instincts of the two main parties, to force them to dilute their policies. Effectively the only thing the Lib Dems believe in is their own righteousness. Having actual principles would get in the way of that. In short they are the personification of everything that so many people hate about modern politics - the politics of shoddy compromise, back room deals, of the Westminster bubble of condescension and smug satisfaction.
But if there is one thing the Lib Dems do believe in, almost to the point of obsession, it is Europe. They can't really explain why of course. It's just one of those things they would probably label as 'progressive.' It must be right, they think, to 'believe' in Europe, in the notion of collectiveness, cooperation, working together, pooling resources, pooling sovereignty, of leaving behind the nation state and setting aside petty rivalries.
Note that this is all rather amorphous and very old fashioned. Experience has taught us that these dreams have not really survived their brush with reality, but apparently not if you are a Lib Dem. When Clegg told us yesterday that UKIP is unpatriotic for wanting to get Britain out of Europe he couldn't really explain why except a few vague assertions about poverty, about how being outside of Europe would somehow, in some vague way, make us weaker and would put some of us out of work. How exactly? He doesn't say. But he is of course relishing the chance to have a debate about all of this, with those of us who unpatriotically want a democratic say over things like how we spend our money, who we allow into our country, who makes our laws. Clegg's sole argument for our continued membership of this club for politicians which allows us to foist their progressive policies on us without all of that annoying democracy nonsense, is that it might put a few people out of work and make us somehow less secure. Of course he has no evidence for this whatsoever. But he's relishing the debate.
But this is instructive. Indeed much that Clegg has said recently has been instructive. From that speech in which he told us all of the things he has blocked, to Lib Dem bleats about welfare or the immigration debate to his hand wringing over Europe, Clegg's instincts are diametrically opposed to those of a majority of the British people. It's good that he has spelt this out so clearly. Perhaps that's why he's so against the idea of a referendum on the subject. He's relishing that debate he tells us, so why is he so dead against a vote? Aren't Lib Dems supposed to be in favour of democracy? It's in their name for crying out loud.
I completely buy into the line coming from the Conservative Party that a vote for UKIP in a General Election would see a pro Europe party like Labour in power and would end the possibility of a referendum. But a vote for UKIP in next year's European elections would be a clear sign to the main parties that their arrogance has pushed us too far. This will especially be the case if the government, perhaps at the behest of No Nick, refuses to do anything about the coming influx from Romania and Bulgaria. Will they never learn? Will we have to wait 10 years before they admit that they should have done something about it like the last time?
As I have argued before, if the main parties, and in particular David Cameron, want to save themselves from a drubbing in those European elections then they must do more on these subjects, and if necessary break up the Coalition. Europe was always going to be the most divisive issue between Tories and Lib Dems. Now is the chance to make political capital out of it. Nick Clegg thinks that is unpatriotic. David Cameron should show him what patriotism really means and send the Lib Dems where they belong - to the opposition benches.
Monday, 18 November 2013
What is it with Labour and e-mails? The Sunday Times published more over the weekend concerning the Unite scandal and their attempt to gerrymander the Falkirk selection for one of their own. It seems that Labour, and by extension the leadership, were not only aware of the union's activities, but had actively approved of them. That machine politics that Wallace so angrily denounced when all of this came out over the summer was a machine whose levers he was pulling in return for union cash. Unite was angry about the reaction of Wallace because they had done a deal and he was in the process, as he is wont to do, of reneging on it. This is a man who cannot be trusted.
Exhibit 2 in this case is also an e-mail, this time one that has mysteriously leaked to the press concerning Ed Balls. He is a nightmare according to Wallace's vipers' nest office. It is perfectly true that Balls is a nightmare, that his response to the improving economy is confused, contradictory, hypocritical, deluded, dishonest and absurd. But instead of simply sacking his shadow, Wallace keeps him on board and snipes at him via leaks. Labour then, much as with those e-mails laying bare their duplicity over Falkirk, argue that an e-mail about the man in charge of their economic policy is of no significance.
Wallace is furiously trying to distance himself from what happened in Falkirk and is doing the same to his discredited and bumptious shadow chancellor, a man he himself appointed. This is the way he works. For the most part he tries not to make any decisions about anything except whether or not he should wear a jacket. Policy? Steer well clear. When he does and it explodes in his face, or he gets found out as a classic machine politician he cannot get away fast enough. What an inspiring leader for our One Nation he could be.
Sunday, 17 November 2013
Saturday, 16 November 2013
Friday, 15 November 2013
I see that the EU Commission has decreed today Spain did not break EU law by deliberately harassing those wishing to cross the border from Gibraltar to Spain owing to a convenient fit of pique. This begs the question: what is the point of the EU and our membership of it. Our neighbours can apparently ignore the rules, or at least bend them with impunity. This is not the first time. Spain has a habit of not giving free medical treatment to British tourists when they are entitled to it. France erected a ban against our beef following the mad cow disease crisis a few years ago despite scientific assurances that it was safe. It took 2 years for the EU's ridiculous procedures to enforce the law costing us billions.
And, as our politicians are at last starting to realise, in just a few weeks time we face the uncertainty of what will happen when Bulgarians and Romanians are waved through by EU law and told they can go and work, live and claim benefits (not to mention of course beg and commit petty crime) and there is apparently nothing we can do about this. Our politicians signed up to a treaty without bothering to consult us and so we must all bow to the inevitable.
Except, as the French, Spanish and many more of our neighbours show regularly, there is something we can do about it. We can simply ignore EU law. We can pass our own laws to prevent this disaster from happening. We can change benefits rules to ensure we are not taken for a ride. We can stop people arriving here on spec to sleep on the streets while they wait for something to turn up and charities to feed, clothe and house them.
This crowded island with a shortage of affordable housing, a vast deficit and debt, 2 million unemployed, fuel poverty, a minimum wage that is insufficient, a welfare system already creaking at the seams is no position to absorb thousands more people at the drop of the hat. This is economic and political madness.
We need, as Peter Oborne argued yesterday, emergency legislation before it is too late. The open borders system is all very well when we are talking about mature democracies whose living standards are similar to our own. It is lunacy when we expect to absorb into Europe and open our borders to countries that are practically third world by comparison. Let's trade with them by all means. Let's give them EU aid and build up their infrastructure - although it would be nice if the EU could actually exercise some control over this so that its own auditors could sign it off - but opening our borders is asking for trouble.
And this, Europhiles, is what we mean when we say that the EU is undemocratic. Why was this right ever given to new accession countries in the first place? In which manifesto was it? Who voted for it and gave our politicians the right to flood the country with cheap labour, put pressure on the low paid, the welfare system, schools, housing and the NHS? We have already absorbed more than a million additional immigrants from the EU. There is absolutely no way of knowing how many more will come.
But our politicians say they can do nothing because it's the law. Of course you can do something. You have to do something. You have to take a leaf out of the book of our neighbours and act in the best interests of the country you serve. You have to call an end to this madness, to point out that the social cohesion of this country, not to mention the public finances you are trying to put back in order, are at risk.
The last few weeks we have seen various politicians, mostly Labour but not exclusively, bemoaning policies and difficulties that they themselves contributed to or even caused. We've had Wallace talking about high energy prices that he himself helped put up. We have had them moaning about education which they themselves dumbed down. We have had them talk about a crisis in A and Es up and down the country that their GPs contracts created. Today they are even complaining that David Cameron is in Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth conference, even though it was agreed to by Gordon Brown.
But most egregious of all is this enduring farce over the EU. We cannot control our borders, must pay benefits to recent arrivers who have never paid a penny into the state, all based on some 50 year old fantasy designed to prevent wars. Yet still two of our parties are actively preventing reform of this relationship. Labour have even been filibustering to try and prevent the British public from having a say.
It's time for David Cameron to say enough. I wrote the other day that he should bring forward cuts to green taxes and dare Labour and the Lib Dems to vote them down. This would be an ever better issue to dare them on. Emergency measures to regain control over who comes to this country to work, live and claim benefits. This is not a question of racism or of prejudice, it is one of economic reality in a country with housing shortages, a huge deficit, an unemployment level that still requires ultra low interest rates and which has recently absorbed 2 million additional people from Europe and elsewhere. The time has come to call a halt until the British people have been consulted.
Thursday, 14 November 2013
Only two days ago I wrote about Ed Miliband and Labour's absurd contortions as they try desperately to stop an inquiry or more awkward questions about Falkirk, Unite and what they did and did not know. It is looking more and more like a cover up. And you know what they say about cover ups.
What makes it all the more risible is that they are attempting to cover up what is already in the public domain, via those leaked e-mails. They are up to their neck in it, have been shown to be so, and yet are denying what we can all see with our own eyes.
The man who told us that he was going to put an end to the machine politics which Falkirk represented, actively supported and encouraged what he said had made him so angry. Unite tried to fix the candidate they favoured; they were found out. Wallace then did a deal with them to allow this gerrymandering in return for a few membership direct debits. Remember that the next time Labour tell us about the greed and rapacity of big corporations. Remember that when they lecture us about ethics and morality. It is okay if you want to fix the selection process of a constituency in Labour's heartlands so long as you are on the side of the leader, and so long as you keep sending the party the big cheques to keep it going.
And there's a pattern here isn't there. Wallace is a man who talks tough and then acts like a pussy. Wallace is a man who says one thing to your face - even if you are the general public - and then acts in his own best interests in private. He did it over Syria. He did it with his own brother. He did it with energy bills. He did it as it emerged that his party's selection process, against its own rules, was being manipulated and subverted because it made his life easier. Now he is desperately trying to pretend that nothing has happened, that he hasn't been caught out, that he has not been revealed to be the most cynical, cowardly, opportunistic machine politician. How is this man fit to lead his rag tag army of a party he likes to call 'One Nation.' How is this man fit to be prime minister? How can we believe a word he says?
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Tuesday, 12 November 2013
It's a month now since Wallace, and lefties in general, were angrily denouncing the Daily Mail for expressing an opinion about his Dad and calling for an inquiry - his default response - to the culture, practices and ethics of that newspaper group. It all fizzled out in the end. Wallace had defended a beloved parent and the Mail defended its right, in a free country, to write what it likes within the confines of the law. The Mail is a commercial, and extremely successful, enterprise. It knows its audience. If that audience did not like what is written and published in its pages and spectacularly popular website it would suffer the commercial consequences.
Of course one of the reasons that Wallace chose to make such a big deal of this, quite apart from the fact that it happened during Tory conference week, was that it was a chance for him to try and look tough and principled. I suppose this worked to some extent, although at best the spat resulted in a score draw. It probably also resulted in the Mail becoming even more hostile to him than it was already. Time would tell, we thought, if this was impolitic.
Unfortunately for Wallace, or deservedly as the story became clearer, within weeks the whole Unite/Falkirk fiasco boiled up again. The glee of the Mail was tangible. The story emerging from there has been startling to behold. Back in June, when the story first emerged, Wallace talked tough. He wanted reform. He wanted an end to the machine politics. He was hoping for a Clause 4 moment, because all leaders now want the holy grail of a Clause 4 moment. It is conventional wisdom now, even if most members of the public wouldn't have a clue about it. The commentariat has decreed that it is what won New Labour power. So that's that.
Instead what happened was the machine of politics delivered a shoddy compromise. Essentially Wallace agreed to look the other way and pretend not to read the report that Labour had compiled in return for Unite backing down on installing its preferred candidate at Falkirk. Unite had been caught breaking Labour rules, had then reacted with fury to being found out, blustered and bullied and denounced and even, hilariously, blamed it all on a Tory conspiracy, and Wallace was letting them off the hook because they pay the bills. Where has the principle of last summer gone? Where is the man who wants to look tough?
Labour are clearly hoping that all of this goes away. E-mails have been published clearly demonstrating that their biggest donor almost succeeded in installing a candidate in a safe Labour seat by installing members in the local party against their will and against party rules. It then mounted a cover up of bullying and pressure to which Wallace capitulated.
Labour is pretending there is no new evidence when there is a mountain of it. Members of the party, senior members from Scotland, are calling for the report into all of this to be published and a new inquiry begun. But the man who would call for an inquiry for people tripping on an uneven paving slab, now sees no need for a new one. This is a man who wants to be our next prime minister, elected with MPs installed by an organisation that ignores rules and bullies the man who would be prime minister into silent and absurd submission for fear of their withdrawing their cash. Shouldn't we be questioning their culture practices and ethics about now?
Monday, 11 November 2013
The annual Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall is always an emotional and tear jerking experience. This year the whole nation blubbed when 10 year old Megan Adams was told that her Dad was there to hear her sing with her fellow Poppy Girls. Sam Cam and Sophie Wessex wiped away a tear. Even the Queen smiled and it usually takes a horse winning a race or maybe a corgi biting a footman to prompt that.
Over the weekend the battle over greenery was fought once more. Ed Davey, Energy Secretary and true believer in all things green and deluded, drew his line in the sand over green taxes to subsidise idiotic wind turbines across the land and at sea. The Lib Dems are happy to talk about switching green taxes from energy bills on to other tax bills. But they still want to levy those taxes all the same. They will take with one hand and then hand our money to rapacious land owners and foreign companies who can't believe their luck. This is the price we pay for the fact that we have Lib Dems in government. Even Labour, you imagine, might pause when it comes to green policies and their impact on the poor. Not the Lib Dems. They don't get their votes from that constituency. They get their votes from the kind of bearded weirdos from who green issues are the new religion. It's why they accept it so unquestioningly, even as the facts change, the costs go up and the climate stops warming.
But surely this is a golden opportunity for the Tories. As the election approaches the Lib Dems are becoming ever more detached on all manner of issues. They seem to be issues which are entirely detached from the instincts of the British people. On immigration they are firmly on the side of the bien pensants (and Anna Soubry to her eternal shame) and the middle classes for whom massive immigration has been a boon. On welfare their instinct is to say no or at least to dilute. On education, as Nick Clegg has recently shown, they are siding with the blob of the educational establishment against kids being given bog standards that Nick and co never had to put up with. There is also of course Europe and human rights. The Lib Dems are so out of step with majority opinion on these issues it is remarkable that they are in government at all. The only reason they are, as they seem to have now forgotten, is that people hadn't used to really know what they stand for and what they are really like. Now they do.
And on green issues the same party that wants to take the low paid our of tax then wants to hit them with ever higher energy bills to pay for wind turbines that don't generate enough electricity and need to be supplemented by diesel generators. Even if combating climate change was as urgent a requirement as true believers claim, which even the IPCC now admits is not the case, Britain building wind turbines will make so vanishingly small a difference as to be unmeasurable. But not only will these measures make no difference to the climate, they will plunge millions into fuel poverty whilst pricing them out of well paid jobs. This is the Lib Dem double whammy.
So the Tories and the country are being held hostage on a policy that is economic lunacy and won't even do what it is supposed to do - save the planet. They are being held hostage by a minority party doomed to lose seats at the next election and currently still languishing in 4th place in the polls. So surely this is the issue that ought to be the spark for breaking up the coalition. This is a simple and easy to understand policy. Tories, in the light of the evidence and the rise in the cost of living, want to cut green taxes to help those hard working people they are always talking about. Lib Dems want to keep taxing you until your central heating boiler squeaks. Thus, unless they back down, Tories should govern alone and bring forward the legislation to cut green taxes daring the Lib Dems and Labour to vote against.
Such a move would be every bit as bold as Wallace's pledge to freeze energy bills. The advantage is that this would actually work, could be done now and would send the yellow green meanies to the opposition benches where they belong freeing up cabinet spaces for Tories. Come on, Dave. Do it.
Sunday, 10 November 2013
A couple of weeks ago, Britain suffered its worst autumn storm in decades. It was bad, and at times quite dramatic. But, to put things in perspective, this week one of the most powerful storms in history hit the Philippines. Super typhoon Haiyan killed at least 1200 people, 1000 of them in the city of Tacloban. The category 5 storm created winds recorded at up to 235 mph, 19 foot waves and displaced nearly a million people.
The winds and rain caused landslides, knocked out power and communications and levelled hundreds of homes. At the time of writing, relief agencies were rushing to the scene expecting thousands of casualties after huge waves wiped out entire coastal communities. This part of the world is accustomed to these storms, just as the Caribbean gets used to hurricane season. But this was a storm that set grisly records and was sweeping further across the continent this weekend.
As usual, and with remarkably poor taste, environmentalists and some politicians chose to jump on the bandwagon and blame this all on human caused climate change. This is patent nonsense. So called extreme weather has not increased. Even the IPCC says so. Indeed this has been a remarkably quiet year for hurricanes and tornadoes. These giant storms happen inevitably every few years. There is no pattern to them, other than that the really big and devastating ones will hit every so often and then it is pure luck as to whether you lie in its path. Storms happen thanks to heat from the sun and a confluence of various factors. They always have and always will.
An historic deal between America and Iran to end the theocracy's designs on being a nuclear power in return for the relaxation of sanctions has been looking ever more hopeful this week, but still hangs in the balance because - well, because this is the middle east. Saudi Arabia is cutting up rough over the talks as is Israel for obvious existential reasons. Things have probably not been helped by the fact that John Kerry, US Secretary of State and the world's least diplomatic diplomat, is currently on a tour of the region. Britain is of course supportive: William Hague urged both sides to seize this historic moment, but the French warned against a sucker's deal. It seems that trust in the Iranians remains thin. Who would have thought?
The trial of Mohammed Morsi, deposed president of Egypt, began this week amidst much rancour and chanting by Morsi and his fellow accused. Indeed the judge called a halt to proceedings after they refused to stop chanting - possibly because he had a headache. He should just continue with the trial when these good Muslims break to pray five times a day to their god. He seems to be neglecting them as usual.
Meanwhile, in this still dangerous world from which Britain is increasingly shrinking, our new aircraft carriers will now cost £6.2 billion when they are finally delivered it was announced this week. Oh and they won't have any actual aircraft on them. Presumably they will just sail around looking threatening and pretend that the planes are under cover. It should be noted that the cost of these carriers with some planes on board could be covered by the simple expedient of not paying any international aid for one year. Since one of the recipients of our aid, India, sent a mission to Mars this week, you might have thought that this was money better spent.
And this week it was announced that Portsmouth, home of the Royal Navy and HMS Victory, and the place where many of its greatest ships have been built, will no longer do so. BAe Systems announced that it will close its facilities there and ships for this country will be built in Scotland. That is unless Scotland ceases to be in this country in its referendum next year in which case Portsmouth will reopen. Can all of the workers just twiddle their thumbs for the next year while the Scots make up their mind if they want to carry on resenting us from across an international border or just a notional one?
The hacking case against Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks and 6 others continued this week with entertaining tales about their alleged attempts to hide evidence. The Old Bailey heard that security guards had taken away computer equipment and left them in a black bin liner only for a cleaner to find them and hand them to police. As the security personnel accomplished their task they informed each of this by using the classic call sign from the film Where Eagles Dare - Broadsword calling Danny Boy.
And it was fortunate that we had this glimpse of the Hollywood version of spies and intrigue and duplicity this week because Westminster was treated to a glimpse of the real version. Sir John Mawer, head of MI6, Sir Iain Lobban, Director of GCHQ and Andrew Parker, Director General of MI5, appeared before a committee of MPs. They were like civil servants. There wasn't so much as a revolver amongst them, let alone cars that turn to submarines, pens that squirt acid or magnetised wrist watches with added wires for throttling people. To be fair they were redolent of George Smiley as portrayed by Alec Guinness. And they did deploy the occasional raised eyebrow and quizzical turn of phrase when aroused But this wasn't about Smersh or Spectre or some mad man bent on world domination, but against The Guardian and Edward Snowden. Fair enough really.
Whatever you say about the Nazis, they had great taste when it came to nicking other people's art. Or did they? It seems that one collector benefited from the philistine tastes of the Nazi leadership by collecting 1500 works by the likes of Matisse, Picasso, Renoir and Chagall - all condemned as degenerate by a man with a silly moustache and a fondness for teenaged girls. The works were found in a Munich flat after a search by customs officials looking for his hidden wealth.
Last week it was revealed that, in addition to recently foiling an attempt by the Russians to spy on Downing Street by cunningly giving as gifts spyware laden memory sticks at the G20 summit, the British cabinet has been told that it would be unwise to take iPads into sensitive meetings because foreign spy agencies have developed the ability to use them as microphones for listening in with. This is the case even when they are switched off. And I must say I think they have a point: I swear my Macbook Pro winked at me when I wrote that last sentence.
Obamacare, the much vaunted new system to give health care to all who need it has been the signal achievement of the president's time in power. It is unravelling. The president even apologised for its failings this week. The administration knew all along that some would lose out. But Obama kept saying that this was not the case as the video below shows. Now he has admitted he was wrong. Effectively he has admitted that he was lying. The project has been badly managed and dissent has been shut down in classic lefty style by calling people names.
But election results last week will have given the president, his party and those who hope to succeed him a definite lift. Probably as a consequence of the recent budget shenanigans largely blamed on Republicans, there was a pronounced leftward drift in the various gubernatorial races. Even when a Republican won, like Chris Christie in New Jersey, they were of a liberal persuasion. Christie looks like his party's best and only hope on present form. Elsewhere New Yorkers elected Bill de Blasio, a victory that has delighted our own lefties this side of the pond. That tells you all you need to know about his politics.
Disney, the new owners of the Star Wars franchise, announced a competition to go to a galaxy far far away. The new Star Wars film, episode 7, will begin production next year at Pinewood, and they are holding open auditions later this month in the UK and Ireland for two roles, male and female. The roles are for young and athletic people in their early twenties. It's not clear if anyone will be wearing a Darth Vader style outfit in the new films, but police are currently looking for a terrorist who escaped from a control order wearing a burqa. Perhaps he got confused between Allah and The Force.
John Cole, the former BBC political editor during the tumultuous Thatcher years, died on Friday. He was 85. Instantly recognisable thanks to his glasses, coats but most of all his broad Northern Irish accent, Cole was an immensely likeable and insightful man who had worked in newspapers for most of his career before heading to the BBC. His gift for explaining in simple terms the huge and often era defining news of the the 80s made him a huge figure in news. But his even handedness made him trusted across the political spectrum at a time when politics was more polarised than at any time in years.
When do we know that Christmas is just around the corner these days? Is it when there is snow on the ground? When Strictly finally sods off up its spangled fundament for another year? Is it when the latest karaoke performer to be exploited by Simon Cowell releases a single? No. None of these. It is when John Lewis releases its Christmas ad and the nation goes ahhhhhhhh.
In football this week Manchester City got an excellent and impressive win against CSKA Moscow 5 - 2. United's tortures continued as they managed a dull draw against Real Sociedad, had a player sent off and Ashley Young aroused more controversy as he dived so obviously and theatrically it looked as though he had switched and become a rugby player. Arsenal, after losing at home to Borussia Dortmund, this week managed an away win against the same team by a single goal. Chelsea beat Schalke 3 nil.
Tony McCoy rode his 4,000th winner this week. He is without peer in his sport, having been champion jockey in National Hunt racing every year since 1995. I am not the least bit interested in horse racing, but even I can see that this is a giant achievement, not least of dieting.
In this weekend's Premier League, the big game is the first meeting of the season between the ever more impressive Arsenal and Manchester United. That's this afternoon. Elsewhere Chelsea managed to salvage Jose Mourinho's unbeaten home league record at Stamford Bridge by the skin of their teeth and a dodgy last minute penalty decision.
Elsewhere the comeback kid Luis Suarez continued his scoring run as he put two past struggling Fulham as part of Liverpool's 4 nil thrashing. The Pool may have lost at Arsenal but the up and down form of the other sides means that they remain in second place with a quarter of the season gone. Southampton beat Hull 4 - 1 and Villa beat Cardiff 2 nil.
But the really big sporting news of the weekend came from off the pitch. BT beat Sky and ITV to win the rights to broadcast Champions League football from 2015 with a huge £900 million deal. In what will be a hammer blow to ITV in particular, who have been showing the Champions League since its inception, BT Sport will now be a real player and a huge threat to the established order. ITV's live football offering will now consist only of England games with the FA Cup heading back to the BBC next season. The best news of all is that this will mean Adrian Chiles will now rarely be on our screens.
We all love a good domino chain. This one is a record breaking one in Belgium, which makes it all the more worth recording. It was 640m long and took 6 minutes to complete.
This week's pictures of Rihanna are accompanied by some actual news about Rihanna. No, really. Miss Fenty made history last weekend when she became only the third artist in history, in company with Elvis and the Beatles, to have scored seven number one singles in seven successive years. Of course the achievement of those legends was a little more remarkable back in the days of higher record sales, when we had to go to the shops to buy them and the BBC was still to bow to the inevitable and play pop records all day on the radio. But then Ri Ri looks much better in a bikini and makes a decent pop record too. Her latest chart topper, or top of the pops as we used to call them back then, is called The Monster, a collaboration with Eminem.