Friday, 28 February 2014

Surfing the Net? Please Dress Appropriately

Do you ever look at porn on your laptop? Of course you don't. But just in case you do, and just in case that porn leads to you pleasuring yourself, are you aware that you may not be quite as private as you might imagine? See that camera at the top of your screen? Or on your tablet device? It is not just for taking selfies or for talking to loved ones around the world. It can also be hacked into and you can be watched. Most useful for catching terrorists surfing for illicit materials. It's also useful for when they are wanking over images of which Allah might not necessarily approve, images of infidel women with no pants on.

Apparently, according to The Guardian, GCHQ, whilst guarding us from jihadist wankers, has also harvested lots of images of the rest of us pleasuring ourselves in front of our computers. There is also the modern phenomenon of showing our distant loved ones the more intimate parts of our bodies they are missing out on wherever they are. Whatever did we used to do before the internet? And what fun it must have been to work in one of those old fashioned establishments that actually had to develop photos from film. The things they must have seen are now kept private, unless of course you are a spook in Gloucestershire.

There is also, I am informed by female friends, the sort of man who sends pics of himself and of his equipment to random females in the hope that they are so impressed that they invite him around immediately so that he no longer has to entertain himself with digital women. All of this smut pinging around the world and having to be monitored by those poor devils who work for our hard pressed security services. It's the last time I ever read an e-mail naked I can tell you. And since I found out about this I find I have been unconsciously holding my stomach in and sitting cross legged. You are being watched, and frankly they don't like what they see.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Alex Salmond the Black Knight of Independence

Will people please, please stop picking on Alex Salmond and bullying the man with inconvenient facts, harsh truths, economic logic and cold hard reality? It's almost too much to bear. The poor man has to go through another six months of this and there is nobody to throw in the towel for him. He will keep taking a pummelling and keep getting up and telling us, in a slightly slurred voice, 'is that the best you've got? I know you don't mean it. Today it was Standard Life telling us that they may head south if the vote goes Salmond's way. We also heard that RBS is still haemorrhaging money. Presumably this is one company Alex will not want to keep north of the border he wants to put barricades along. Unfortunately for him, the way things are looking, he may have to build a new wall to keep other companies and his compatriots in.

I am not the first to compare him to the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who regarded limbs being cut off as 'but a scratch.' Salmond will of course never admit defeat, and, like David Steel in the 1980s, can feel the surge coming any moment now. It will be genuinely fascinating, the day after the referendum, to see what he says. What will be his excuse? What crumb of comfort will he manage to extract from a campaign he has foisted on his country without ever having held an opinion poll lead? The people of Scotland deserve better. Or am I being a bully by saying that?

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

PMQs 26th February 2014 - The Hot Air Edition

There has been a spat this week between Labour and the Daily Mail regarding the PC gang who infest lefty ranks and have risen to its heights. One of them is Hattie Harperson, never knowingly non PC, in favour of equality for all and who once, the Mail says, felt this should also stretch to paedophiles. They provided supportive documentary evidence to this effect. Hattie angrily denounced them and issued non denial denials. She changed position more often than her leader and his shadow chancellor have on the economy.

It seems that John Bercow, husband of Sally and esteemed Speaker, once appeared on Crackerjack, the much loved BBC kids programme which gave away prizes or cabbages according to success, gave all participants Crackerjack pencils and actively encouraged its audience to shout at the presenter. It was a rowdy and uproarious show, full of bad jokes, bad acting and 70s fashions. It was perfect preparation for the Commons. In retrospect shouldn't we have asked Peter Glaze or Don Maclean to take up the famous chair? Glaze in particular could have simply said 'D'oh' in response to unparliamentary behaviour or the latest incorrigible behaviour of Michael Gove or Ed Balls.

Things got a bit heavy in Scotland while parliament was away. The Westminster parties ganged up on that poor helpless Alex and his party of sporran wearing romantics in the country they want to make a foreign land. No, they said, you can't use the pound, to which Alex responded that he bloody could and that they didn't mean it really and that they should stop bullying him. Then, after being roundly abused for making a speech about Scotland in London, Dave and co headed to Aberdeen to talk about Scotland in Scotland and was roundly abused for going all the way up there to bully little Alex. Alex wants Dave to debate with him. Dave is having none of it. He is far too canny for that. It must be his Cameron clan blood.

In other news this week, it is rumoured that National Insurance, which does not do what it says on the tin, might be renamed. It could be called an employment tax we're told which seems a wasted opportunity. How about Income Tax Lite? Or they could call it something meaningless, dishonest and inaccurate like Bedroom Tax in tribute to Labour. Or perhaps, also in tribute to that party, we could simply call it the Stealth Tax since it tends to be forgotten about when we are all calculating what we pay and how much those rich bastards pay as part of their 'fair share.'

And it is rumoured that Dave doesn't want to govern with Nick after the next election and is even thinking of promising a no coalition deal. Many of us wish he would implement this promise immediately. It is felt however that this would not be a terribly sensible approach even by those of us who loathe Nick and his gang of fickle differentiators. But we were all on watch for front bench body language. Would Nick even be there?

Anyway, Dave was there because it was PMQs and he has to be, except when he doesn't have to be and sends in Nick who crosses swords with that lover of liberty for all Hattie Harperson. Happily this was not such an occasion.

Wallace's first question, after congratulating our Olympians and their remarkable ability to slide on ice or snow or slide pieces of granite to the nation's pride, was about the floods. This was essentially, given that it is rather a light week in terms of political news, an attempt by Wallace to try and expose that Dave is playing fast and loose with the statistics on government spending on flood defences. Given that this government has talked loud and often about the need to cut, it is odd that they are trying to pretend the opposite on this. But the exchange on statistics was inconclusive as ever. It's also yesterday's news as we are about to enter March and there are definite signs of spring emerging with non aquatic daffodils all over the place.

There then followed an exchange on climate change. Wallace said that Dave should tell the truth on climate change but wondered what it is. Dave did not say 'who knows' as many wish he would and as many scientists would acknowledge is the more honest position. He instead detailed the various policies this government is following to combat climate change that will make precisely no difference whatsoever but will cost billions.

This was an exchange, even more than most, that was speaking to the Westminster bubble and the Guardian reading set. Combating climate change, if the politicians are right about the causes of the storms, has clearly failed. An honest and intellectually coherent politician would point this out. Instead they prefer to willy wave about how tough on a non existent problem they are being. Wallace was trying, in his rather clumsy way, to expose the fact that many Tories do not buy the so called consensus and are sceptics. This, in lefty land, is, or ought to be, a crime. But then lefty land has some very skewed priorities which are not necessarily shared by the public. Doesn't it Harriet?

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Stephen Ward: A Scandalously Bad Title

It is most unlikely that I shall ever write a musical and so Andrew Lloyd Webber may take my advice with a pinch of salt. But why on Earth did he call his latest musical, which will be closing next month after a only a 3 month run, Stephen Ward? Does that make you want to hotfoot it to the box office to shell out your 50 odd quid? It's like when they released that big action movie set on Mars with all kinds of state of the art special effects and a budget the size of a Russian Olympic project and called it John Carter. I mean why not call it Joe Bloggs and have done with it? Indeed Joe Bloggs would be better as at least it would sound like you were being ironic.

I know there has already been a film based around the whole Profumo scandal and that they used Scandal as their title, but surely that or something similar would have been better? Even calling it Profumo might have had more resonance. But no they took a nondescript name that might belong to a chartered accountant and wondered why it didn't have them packing the aisles. It's a story of sex, spies, lies and cover-ups, of call girls, Cabinet ministers, stately homes and the dying days of the deferential society. You would think a decent title would come out of a story that good. If everyone took this approach Lawrence of Arabia would have been Tom Lawrence and Zulu would not have been Zulu it would have been John Chard.

The show in fact got pretty decent reviews and may well be a victim of our lousy weather, but Lloyd Webber may also have lost his touch. It's 20 years since he has had a hit. But the story on which his latest flop is based is also 50 years ago. It happened before the Beatles, before the sixties swung, before Harold Wilson became PM, before we had 3 TV channels and everything was in black and white, including the politicians. That's what made the Profumo scandal so shocking and so riveting to a Britain that was only just being introduced to the idea of wearing jeans instead of a suit, and was most unhappy about it. That's why the name Stephen Ward does this pivotal story in our history such a huge disservice. It was the end of an era.

Perhaps, rather than close it, they should simply relaunch it using the publicity its closure will generate. They could run a competition to find a new title. If Lloyd Webber is lucky the BBC might run it on Saturday nights.

If You Feed Them They Will Come

Last week, to celebrate his inauguration as someone allowed to wear an even more colourful kind of dress reserved for cardinals, Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, gave an interview and was widely reported to be critical of the government and its policies regarding welfare and the need, in a wealthy nation, for poor people to rely on food banks for their daily needs.

Of course the Bish was not actually saying this. The press had done a bit of a copy and paste job on some of the juicier bits of his interview and, like theatre impresarios promoting a Spice Girls musical, beefed up the quotes a little to show what he probably meant to say. He was actually doing a Miliband and identifying a problem without necessarily coming up with a solution. He was not specifically blaming the government for this state of affairs. He was just saying it was a scandal about which Something Should Be Done.

And so, because this blog is very public spirited and because, like the Bish, I am never going to have to be elected to anything, I am going to offer a solution. It is a bit radical. It might strike you as being cruel and unfair. It is not however plucked out of nowhere. It is based on observation and on experience. Most of all it is based, unlike the policies of lefties, on acknowledgement of human nature.

The solution? Ban food banks. Ban them. There is no need for them. The reason that food banks are becoming more and more popular and getting more and more 'clients' is a self fulfilling prophesy. As they get more publicity more will know about them, even the feckless, semi literate types who are most likely to use and abuse them. I didn't know that there were food banks in Britain in this day and age until they started getting publicity. Now we all know. Now, instead of scrimping and saving and helping themselves, those in need of food can rely on charity. Lovely jubbly!

Food banks are just one part of a problem we have in this country with a small, but still sizeable underclass of people who are unwilling rather than unable to look after themselves. They have figured out however that they don't need to. The state will provide. If the state won't then there are usually charities who will. If not charities there are people you can beg or borrow from. Those in need of food banks aren't really in need of food banks they are in need of a slap and healthy dose of reality. The state provides. It provides money. You are supposed to use it to buy food.

But food banks are only a more visible sign of a wider problem. Take homelessness. Why do people become homeless? Again its through bad choices. But for even the most hopeless cases there is help available. The state provides. And again so do charities and churches and joe public, sold this image of poor destitute people placed in an impossible situation, frequently provides a quid or two. Here is a reality check for you though - London's legions of homeless eat as well as you do, maybe better. They don't exactly look emaciated do they? Why? Because on an average day they can get food for free served to them in the form of sandwiches and cooked meals. They eat very well, sometimes gastronomically well. If you know the right places you can get a full English breakfast and a Sunday roast, you can get a curry, a gastro sandwich, a salad from Pret a Manger, a whole host of food only just past its sell by date and passed on to the undeserving and grasping.

Most homeless people are men. They are usually homeless because they split up with their partners and can't look after themselves. And so they choose to be homeless. It's so much easier that way. They won't necessarily sleep rough, although if they do there is always the hospital they can head to if it starts to affect their health. Oh and now we as a country have started, thanks to the EU, to import Europe's waifs and strays too. They have arrived in their hundreds and found that they can get fed in various charitable locations and eventually housed too if they stick around for long enough. All they have to do is sleep rough for a while and all will be provided. They may arrive ignorant of our ways but they soon learn. I once sat next to a bunch of Poles at Victoria Coach Station, a favourite haunt of the homeless. Their language was impenetrable to me but every once in a while one of them would say JSA and they would all nod, or sometimes laugh.

The solution? Ban rough sleeping. Those rough sleeping from a foreign country are strictly speaking supposed to be sent home. So do it. But the same should be true of Britons too. Offer them accommodation in shelters and hostels by all means but ensure that they stay there and do something to earn their keep. Because you see an awful lot of them don't want to. They have decided to opt out of society whilst still scrounging from it. So they take their benefits and use it on anything but food. Some may take the homes they are given and still travel every day to avail themselves of the free food, clothes and other services like free hair cuts handed out by homeless charities. Half of the people who frequent day centres aren't actually homeless. They have a roof over their heads. They just can't be bothered to cook or look after themselves.

This is an extension of the arguments over welfare and food banks. Some people take advantage. Some people will always do so. We are a wealthy nation that should not need to provide food banks and charities to feed and provide shelter for the homeless. But that is because we don't need to. They have to be told that the easy ride is over and that they must start looking after themselves. If you feed them they will come. So stop feeding them. I promise you they won't starve. It's amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it. These are people who have learnt to survive on the streets, surviving on benefits or even working for a living ought to be easy after that.

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Only Poem I Know

Apparently people don't know poems off by heart these days. In my case I know just one. It is by a Vogon. They are reputed to be the third worst poets in the universe:

Oh freddled gruntbuggly,
Thy micturitions are to me,
As plurdled gabbleblotchits,
On a lurgid bee,
That mordiously hath blurted out,
Its earted hurtles,
Into a rancid festering confectious organ squealer.
Now the jurpling slayjid agrocrustles,
Are slurping hagrilly up the axlegrurts,
And living glupules frart and stipulate,
Like jowling meated liverslime,
Groop, I implore thee, my foonting turling drones,
And hooptiously drangle me,
With crinkly bindlewurdles,
Or else I shall rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon,
See if I don't.

Liverpool 4 Swansea 3

Any doubts that Liverpool are definitely in the mix for the Premier League have been dispelled by recent results. That utterly convincing and dominant display against Arsenal a couple of weeks ago was actually, oddly, the least of them. Yes Liverpool beat a title rival. Yes they did so in a compelling and often thrilling way. But it has been subsequent results that have really made people sit up and take notice. This is a Liverpool side whose confidence is now so high that, despite lady luck frowning on them from time to time and some often shaky defending, they always believe that they can score enough goals to get the win. And so they have. There was that win against Fulham and then this visit of Swansea, a team that Brendan also built and instilled with his brand of breathless, exciting, beautiful football.

Liverpool went into this game with all of the verve and self belief that recent results have given them. They went in knowing that they can score, knowing that this team is simply irresistible when it pours forward - they are now the league's leading scorers with 70 goals. This game also showed that it has more than one player capable of delivering superb, pinpoint passes, opening up defences. It was Gerrard against Fulham, this time it was the ever improving Raheem Sterling who sent Sturridge clear with an exquisite ball delivered with the outside of his foot.

The official line from Liverpool is that they are simply taking each game as it comes, trying to finish as high as possible in a season for which the bottom line is Champions League football - an aim made all the more likely yesterday by Spurs' defeat at Norwich. But nobody really believes that. You can tell from the response of the players when those last minute winning goals are scored that this is a team that now believes that they can be champions. That they are now winning games with goals coming from a range of players in addition to Luis Suarez only adds to that self belief. Yes this is a team that believes that attack is the best means of defence and that often shows with the score lines. But as a Liverpool fan I don't mind that one little bit. I'll take a 4- 3 win over a 1 - 0 one every time. But an emphatic victory over certain sides from the north west wouldn't go amiss either. It's going to be a wonderful last dozen games.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Do the Nos Have Mo?

According to the latest polls conducted by Survation for the Daily Mail, a certain kind of Scot has had weight added to the chips on their shoulders by the recent interventions of George Osborne and David Bowie. The response can be summed up as 'ye cannae tell us what to do.'

Is this the kind of mature, facts based reflection that is going to decide the fate of the nation? Alex Salmond certainly hopes so. Presumably the sort of person who gets annoyed by the intervention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and a rock god hasn't noticed that the First Minister has been caught without his troosers these last couple of weeks, that he has no response other than bluster and assertion. To being told that Scotland would not be allowed to use the pound his response was scarcely more sophisticated than 'ye cannae tell us what to do.' Instead he just said 'ye cannae be serious. We don't believe you. And ye smell too.'

And what have the Chancellor and David Bowie done that has so enraged the chippy Scots? Osborne told them the economic facts of life. He said that this country, that resisted the lure of the Euro, feels unwilling to join a currency union with another nation for all of the same reasons. Is that unreasonable? It's not that we are telling them they can't have a pound of their own, theirs conveniently already look different to ours anyway. They can. What they can't have is access to the funds that back the pound via the Bank of England. They can't have the English standing behind them while Salmond goes on his mad socialist spending spree. Salmond's response, if it can be dignified as such, was to say this amounted to an Osborne tax on all transactions between Scotland and what remains of the UK. Yet not so long ago this was the official policy of the SNP since they envisaged joining the Euro. It wasn't a problem then, why now?

And what of the intervention of David Bowie? Why the fury? All he said was that he wanted Scotland not to leave, to stay with us. It was a plea from the heart. Is he not allowed an opinion? Are none of us allowed an opinion on an issue that will affect us all? We don't have a vote of course but in a free country I am allowed to opine on the issue. And Bowie didn't even opine, he merely pleaded with them not to leave the party. Is Scottish nationalism so fragile, so bereft of arguments that it cannot withstand the honestly expressed views of a living legend?

It's not that the yes campaign has taken a lead thanks to this. It is just that it has been given momentum and has crept a little higher in the polls. It's probably meaningless. I have faith that the Scottish people will, when push comes to shove, reject the vacuous nonsense coming from the SNP and see how dangerous and ridiculous their case for independence that isn't really independence would be. I have faith that the sort of person enraged by the bloody English expressing a view is not representative of the populace as a whole. Salmond and his party have been exposed this month and their case for independence is now more threadbare than the wardrobe of Ziggy Stardust. Perhaps their strange anger is just a reflection of this. I hope so. Because otherwise it might mean they actually believe what their First Minister is telling them.

One Giant Leap For Mankind - Except Muslims

Apparently Mars is not righteous enough. Who knew? According to the not at all pompous, humourless or cretinous General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment, any Muslims wanting to become future astronauts and make the journey to Mars would be risking incurring the wrath of their idiot god. Allah would disapprove apparently because the trip would be hazardous and they would be likely to die for 'no righteous reason.'

And this is something that our health and safety officers ought to know surely. After all there are many things that are hazardous and can lead to death for no righteous reason. Most accidents happen in the home, even those bought with those Sharia compliant loans which manage to fool the almighty into thinking that no borrowing has taken place. Stairs are a hazard. Kitchens? Death traps. How about those Muslims who cross the road? Do they always wait for the road to be clear? Do they follow the Green Cross Code? Do they wait for the little green man? Do they all pay attention to the rules pertaining to ladders and wet floors? When they see those yellow warning triangles in supermarkets are they sufficiently wary or do they risk death for no righteous reason? And what are they doing in shops that might sell pork products anyway? Have these people no concept of righteousness at all? I bet they have been watching the Winter Olympics this week and risked seeing non righteous women wearing short skirts and jumping around on ice in a way that is so unrighteous it might as well be on Mars. And anyway this is a whole vast event on ice. On ice! Are these people mad? How risky is that? Did they fill in a risk assessment? This is what happens, this is how misguided you can become if you fail to pray five times a day.

It's fortunate in many ways of course that no Muslims will now be able to head to Mars. Finding which way Mecca is would have created all kinds of problems given the unrighteous way that planet moves around the sun in relation to Earth. And I think we can say with near certainty that the food in those vacuum packs would not be Halal. Quite what happens if we all one day have to decamp to another planet because of the imminent death of our own planet from all of this extreme weather will probably have to be left for another day. Perhaps Allah, who is great apparently despite all appearances to the contrary, can find a righteous planet to head to.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Come on Nigel, Take on Nick

Why is Nigel Farage hesitating, even for a moment, about debating with Nick Clegg? This is a man who believes in Europe with every fibre of his being. This is a man who has twisted and turned on the subject of a referendum so much he now resembles a double helix. This is the man who lazily trots out that age old line about 3 million jobs being reliant upon our membership of the EU and is seldom challenged by the media, and certainly not by the BBC. Here is a perfect opportunity to nail the lies, to expose the hypocrisy, to demonstrate the damage being done to Britain by our continued membership, not least to the poorest and most dispossessed in our society that the likes of Clegg claim to be standing up for.

Is Nigel feeling the pressure? Is he no longer up to the job? Surely he can't be scared of a career politician, the sort he claims to despise? I mean look at that picture above, it's not exactly got you quaking in your boots has it? And if Nige won't do it, can we put up a substitute? I'll have to check my diary, but I'm pretty sure I'm available.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Summary Justice - Google Style

You may have noticed that I have removed the adverts that have occupied the top of this blog now for many months if not years. The reason for this was an e-mail I received this week from Google, who host this blog and provided the advertising through their Adsense service. The e-mail accused me of some kind of infraction of their terms and conditions and suspended my account. However they refused to tell me what the infraction was. If they did this, they said, it might give ideas to others and that wouldn't do at all would it.

I was allowed to appeal against this bizarre and high handed form of summary justice, but how? How does one appeal against something when one doesn't know of what one is accused? It's like being taken to a police station and being stared at across the desk by an officer.
'Alright,' he says,'we know you did it. Confess and we'll make sure you don't do time.' 
'I did what?'
'Don"t play innocent with me, sonny. We've got you banged to rights, we have all the evidence, but we want you to tell us all about it just to set the record straight.'

Whatever my infraction I now have a suspended account. This means that Google will not be paying me the vast sums this blog earns from all of the clicks on the adverts it receives. It should be noted that I have never yet actually received a penny from them in the five years this blog has existed. It's just sat accruing in an account as it edges towards some figure at which they deem it worth their while to pay me. Thus my suspended account has not inconvenienced me greatly. Thus the removal of the adverts. Sod them, say I. They were cluttering up the blog anyway.

And whatever it is I am accused of it should be noted that the company doing this is one that shamelessly exploits peoples' private details for their profit and to sell them for advertising. This is the same company that promises not to do evil but invades peoples' privacy and makes money from other peoples' copyrighted work without compensation. And of course this is a company that uses every trick in the book to avoid paying corporation tax in this country on its billions of revenues. Whatever it is I am alleged to have done, and I may never know what it is, I don't think I shall be dragged before a House of Commons committee to answer for my misdemeanours, and I am not expecting a knock on the door from the Met or HMRC any time soon.


No PMQs this week as parliament is in recess. One wonders, given that our MPs are reduced to banning smoking in cars with children, whether they shouldn't have turned this into a longer break. Would the country have noticed? Instead they will be back next week.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

It Rains In Britain - Because of Climate Change

After the storms there is now a calm, which is to say that the wind has stopped howling, there has been some respite from the rain and people can clear up without worrying too much that it might all be in vain. It may be a coincidence - although I am convinced that our weather has a sense of humour - but this comes after the experts assured us that we could have a couple more weeks of the wild and windy weather. Instead it is now merely unsettled. I shall stick my neck out, wet my finger and wave it in the air and predict that this winter is now more or less over. The storms will now abate. It will still rain from time to time of course, but it will be the more usual British rain or drizzle. We'll cope.

Britain went a little mad last week. We went off the rails, both literally and figuratively. And our politicians? Well they panicked. It suddenly dawned on them that large parts of the country had been underwater for a long time. The reason this dawned on them was because the weather kept coming. There were more nasty storms. These storms were by no means unprecedented. They were fairly standard winter storms, albeit in a cluster. Now we are having a cluster of calmer if slightly unsettled weather. On Sunday however the sun shone and it was all rather glorious. I walked through London's parks. I expect it is too controversial for the politicians to say this, but I definitely saw the first buds of spring emerging.

Now we are accustomed in this country to us failing to cope with snow and ice. It's standard if rather embarrassing. But surely we should have plenty of experience with rain? But it seems not. It rained. Admittedly it rained quite a lot. But January, though wet, was only the 16th wettest on record. We are only half way through February but this dry, more settled spell may skew the figures back again. That's the weather for you. You really would think we would be accustomed to it by now.

But no. It's climate change we are told by politicians desperate for something to say and something or someone to blame. But it's just winter. It's just rain. No. It's climate change. But this is Britain. It always rains. No. It's climate change.

To be fair the only people saying this are various lefty commentators who don't bother doing any fact checking, a few alarmists who happen to work for the Met Office and politicians who have to say something. The actual experts have said that there is no evidence whatever that this has anything to do with climate change. Our weather got stuck in a rut thanks to the jet stream, a river of fast moving air imperfectly understood and whose existence we have only known about for 60 years. Despite their numerous sensors, satellites and supercomputers the Met Office cannot predict the path of the constantly meandering jet stream. They don't really understand it. They know it drives our weather though and this is rather inconvenient. How can we trust their assurances of what is going to happen to the weather in 3 months time if they don't understand something so fundamental?

At this point we should perhaps point out that the Met Office told us last autumn that the chances were that we were going to have a dry winter. Just bear that in mind the next time we are confidently told that this kind of wild, wet and windy weather is part of our climate changed future. Not only have their much vaunted models failed to predict or explain the pause in global warming that shouldn't be happening, but they get their shorter term forecasts hopelessly wrong too. It always seems to me that they just look at what has happened the previous year and assume the same for the following year. The weather then confounds them. They then blame it on climate change. Quite why anyone takes them seriously when they predict anything more than a week away is a genuine mystery. How can they possibly know what our weather is going to do in decades time? How can we confidently plan for it?

But let's for a moment suppose that they are right. Let's for a moment assume that this is all the consequence of a changing climate. Let's leave aside arguments about what is causing it. This doesn't really matter unless you are of a lefty persuasion and want to feel guilty and angry about it. The rest of us will need to be more practical and ignore their pleas for us to wear hair shirts and prostrate ourselves at the feet of mother Gaia to beg for forgiveness. Because if the weather is going to be like this from now on, something we cannot possibly know, then we can easily cope. We can cope because we are clever and rich and can engineer ourselves out of it. There will always be flooding, that's a given, especially when there is so much concentrated rainfall in such a short space of time. But to avoid the worst of what has happened we just have to use existing, well known, tried and tested technology and know-how. It's really not complicated.

And money isn't even a problem. All we have to do is divert the money currently being used to subsidise expensive and useless green energy schemes and use it for the rather more practical purpose of keeping people's feet dry. The reason this flooding has been so bad is only partially because the weather has been so bad. It's also because we have made bad choices in the name of being green. Dredging in some cases may be the answer, but only in some. But we have to adapt to the weather in various ways dependent upon location, population density, topography and local conditions.

Those telling us now that this is all down to climate change should be careful, especially when they tell us, ludicrously, that this is a matter of national security. If they are right, and this is all down to us - something for which there is no actual evidence - then that means their claims of only having a few months to end climate change have failed. Clearly then we should spend money to adapt to this new reality. London, after all, is on a flood plain but we have spent big to keep most of it dry. Better that than trying to stop something we have no power to prevent. Even if they are right and this is all down to our evil CO2 emissions, they have still lost the argument without even realising it. If you blame all weather on climate change then you have lost the argument and have nothing sensible to say about what we should do about the future. That Britain is wet seems to have come as a revelation to them. If it stops raining now for six months what will they propose next?

Monday, 17 February 2014

Salmond's Harsh Reality

Last week was not, by common consent, a good week for Scottish nationalism. As the debate finally gets under way, Salmond and his party are being trounced. They are being trounced for the very good reason that their case makes no sense, except in a purely emotional way.

But instead of merely acknowledging this simple truth, or perhaps admitting defeat, the response of the SNP to the brutal economic and political facts of life that emerged last week has been more bluster and anger. Scotland is being bullied said Alex Salmond, which of course is nonsense.

The reason the intervention of George Osborne and his fellows from the other major parties was so devastating was because they were stating the bald facts and an attitude which is entirely reasonable and defensible on economic grounds. The Bank of England Governor went as far as he could only a few days previously is saying much the same thing. It is perfectly true that Scotland does indeed have an ownership stake in the pound as Salmond claims. But that is not the issue. The issue is that currencies have to be backed by cold, hard cash - taxpayers cash. It is this which makes currencies viable. Without the English taxpayer behind it the pound would not be the currency it is. Salmond is arguing, ludicrously, that a newly independent Scotland should have a call on those funds, that the English should back him and his tiny nation out of charity and trust him not to go on a socialist spending spree and hold the rest of the nation to ransom. Last week he was told that will not happen. Scotland is free to go its own way if that is the democratically stated will of its electorate. But it cannot do so on the basis that they still have the financial muscle of their neighbours behind them. The English will not stand behind the Scots any more than we would stand behind the Irish or the French. That would be an odd kind of independence.

The same is true of the harsh politics of Europe as spelt out by Jose Manuel Barroso yesterday. The fact is that independent Scotland joining the EU would be difficult because unanimity is required of all existing members. Spain, for reasons of its own, would be hostile to such an accession. Those are the facts. That they are inconvenient to SNP arguments does not make them any less robust.

Salmond and his party have known all of this for a long time. Did they really expect that they would not come out in the long debate and campaign that they themselves decided to have before their referendum? What were our politicians supposed to do, lie back and think of the Union? Did they expect that their opposition would fail to point out these inconvenient facts of independent life? Do the Scottish people not deserve to know, or is Salmond hoping to pull the wool over the eyes of his nation just so that he can chalk up a win? More and more the case for Scottish independence looks like the immature dreams of a party that cannot face harsh reality. That reality is that they do not have the best interests of their nation at heart, just those of Alex Salmond and his wish to grandstand.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Arsenal 2 Liverpool 1 - Robbed!

If you didn't get to see the game, then you missed a treat. The FA Cup doesn't matter anymore? Don't believe a word of it.

This was the most one-sided 2 - 1 defeat you will ever see in your life. Liverpool looked like the home team for large parts of the game - Arsenal getting their two goals entirely against the run of play. But to be fair to them they did get their two goals and defended robustly and defiantly, riding their luck and taking advantage of home advantage - an advantage that probably prevented the referee giving Liverpool two penalties that looked nailed on.

I don't, as you will have noticed, generally write about Liverpool when we lose. I don't take losing well. But this was as encouraging a defeat as you will ever see. The Reds now have only the Premier League to play for and, on this evidence, really are contenders for the title. They were superb again this afternoon and should at least have got the draw, probably more. So we won't be getting the double this season. But then nobody expected that we would head out of the FA Cup with a realistic chance this season of still having a trophy to aim for.


Sunday Funnies


Friday, 14 February 2014

A Valentine To You All

Speaking as someone who, like Charlie Brown, waits in vain for a valentine's day card every year, and in the spirit of the Chinese man dumped by his girlfriend who booked every other cinema seat at a showing of a romantic film just to screw up everybody else's romantic night out, I offer you the above classic song from Elton John. I know the lyrics suggest that he has seen the light and that breaking hearts ain't what it used to be, but there will be many today who will disagree. Incidentally, I did send a card.

Official Incompetence

Anyone wondering how such chaos has reigned in those parts of the country afflicted by floods only has to read the story of the 'disabled ramp' installed by a local council and costing £40,000. That's it above, with a handy before and after picture just in case you are having trouble believing your eyes. This is what the public sector is capable of. You might be forgiven for thinking that the council have mistakenly built a bus station on the front of someone's house. That's certainly what it looks like.

But in fact it is intended for the use of just one 7 year old wheelchair bound little girl after the council gave them a house at the top of three flights of steps. Instead of holding up their hands and admitting their mistake, the council, West Dunbartonshire, built this monstrosity at our expense. As usual the council is hiding behind rule and regulations, misunderstandings and obfuscation. When the official story of these floods comes to be told after the inevitable inquiry, expect more of the same.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Pound Isn't In Alex's Pocket

I have a new theory to explain our recent inclement weather. Some, in our more eccentric fringe parties, or indeed our more fringe religious sects - the sort who set themselves up in shops and warehouses in low rent parts of London and call themselves the Church of Wonderful God - blame the wet and windy weather on our tolerance of homosexuality and willingness to let gays get married. I don't think it's anything to do with that. I think we are being punished for being disobliging to Alex Salmond and the SNP. After all these storms are being visited mostly on what will be the rump of the UK if Alex gets his way. Scotland is just having a normal winter.

We should look out for the weather forecast next week then if this is the case, because we are confounding the assertions of Alec once again. In a coordinated response to that work of fiction Alex revealed so recently, the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour will say that, should the Scots vote for independence, they will not allow them to carry on using the pound. We will not, in other words - this country that had the good sense to stay out of the Euro - enter a currency union with a foreign country over which we will have no control. Even the Lib Dems seem to have learnt that lesson. Well, maybe.

The reaction of the SNP to this perfectly reasonable and economically sound position has been predictably furious and consequently ridiculous. They have thrown their toys out of the pram and spat that in that case they won't accept their share of the national debt, so there.

As others have pointed out though this is hardly an auspicious start for the people's republic of Scotland that Salmond wishes to set up. They would have to either surrender their newly won sovereignty in order to be part of a currency union or set up a new currency of their own. A credit line would be required to pay for stuff and indeed to buy the foreign reserves they would need to make it viable. They could hardly expect to be given a share of the British reserves if they were simultaneously refusing to take their share of the national debt. All of this would be difficult and expensive enough. But a credit line for a new country that has just defaulted on its debt? Good luck with that.

Clearly this is why the SNP would really prefer the rest of the country to simply roll over and do as they wish us to. They are now getting a welcome dose of reality. Why should we? It's not that we are bullying them or reacting in a fit of pique to them going their own way. Why should the English (it's mostly the English) guarantee Scottish banks, allow them to tax and spend as they please and then be on the hook to ride to the rescue if and when it all goes wrong? And it's not as if this is the Westminster establishment ganging up on them. They know all too well that the public and indeed the press would be up in arms if they offered such guarantees. It's our money.

The English attitude to Scottish independence is relaxed by and large. We are content to stay out of it and let them decide. But it is vanishingly unlikely to offer up the kind of deals the Scots require to make their independence viable. That is the reality of the situation. It's very reality is why the SNP are so furious about it. The case for independence is a romantic dream, but it involves a messy divorce. That divorce is going to have costs the SNP would rather not talk about. Maybe that's why they've cursed our weather.

Have They Thought This Through?

Did you see that story about Lawrence Fox this week being told off by a PCSO for leaving his child, who had actually asked to be left, in the car while he nipped into a chemist for something?

Fox is best known for his role in Lewis, as Sergeant Hathaway. He is also the husband of Billie Piper. As Hathaway he is famous for his fondness for a cigarette. Perhaps this is the real reason he got out of the car. He couldn't have a smoke in there with the kid in the car because our legislators say so.

So this is the world we live in now. Desperate for a fag? Chuck the kids out of the car or get out yourself. If you do though you might have some plastic copper call you a 'disgusting and appalling human being'. Fortunately Fox was having none of this bizarre intrusion into his business by someone given a uniform but no common sense or sense of proportion. More fortunately he has the profile and the Twitter followers to reveal it to the world.

But I don't think it has shocked us very much has it? It's par for the course now in a world where politicians meddle in our lives constantly when we don't need them to, but can't save us from floods when we do; and the police, in addition to lying to us constantly, are now so on top of crime, having fiddled the figures, that they can stand and remonstrate with a parent for leaving a child in a car for a couple of minutes in case the helpless little tyke does something undefined. Perhaps, since our legislators and police forces clearly have so little to do, we should make a few of them redundant so as to save the jobs of  others, or just get them filling sand bags.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Fulham 2 Liverpool 3

Twice behind Liverpool fight back and score a last minute winner. Has the march for the title begun at just the right moment? Don't answer that Brendan.

Beijing, We Have A Problem

It seems that the great Chinese march into space has hit a setback. Their lunar rover, the Chang'e 3 lander, has failed. There was a problem with it back in January and engineers have been unable to reawaken it.

In a statement the Chinese blamed America. They stole the technology for this rover in good faith, he said, and it turned out to be defective.

PMQs 12th February 2013 - The Wet Wet Wet Edition

What have the areas flooded done to deserve all of this, eh? It's bad enough all the rain, lying water, raw sewage and furniture in the loft, but now they are being flooded by caring politicians too. Wallace was there yesterday offering bland but non specific soundbites about doing more. But what? Oh that's for another day. But he was there, and he was wearing that concerned look on his face. Imagine if this had been happening up north among his people, the sort who will be turning out in a by election tomorrow to vote for the party that sends people from the soft south to represent them (with the permission of the unions) and then tells them they can't be trusted to vote on the EU. UKIP, or some of them anyway, imagine that this flooding is a punishment from God. Labour don't really believe in God. But it may not be a coincidence that all of the areas getting flooded tend to vote Tory or Lib Dem.

The more pressing issue for the nation however of course was that there were no women on the government front bench last week. This week they were back. There were a couple of Theresas and a Justine at least doughnutting Dave. Wallace had a Hattie and an Eagle, who, we are assured, is a woman in close proximity and nothing like as shoehorned as last week when he apparently, according to some, scored some kind of major triumph by decorating his front bench with girls. Oh and both he and Dave had a couple of women on the benches behind too. The nation, well Westminster, breathed a sigh of relief over this tokenism.

Flooding was of course the subject of the day and we got a green meany asking the first question. Caroline Lucas, employing her best sanctimonious face which would get her an automatic place on the Labour front bench and not merely so she could make them look all inclusive and progressive, asked a very long winded question about floods, climate change and complacency. Once again we were told, apropos of no evidence whatsoever, that this weather is a consequence of climate change. Dave agreed. Sigh.

Wallace was in one of his non combative, don't I look statesmanlike and reasonable modes today which is never very promising. He was offering his sympathy to the flood victims because that is what politicians are doing this week, even though many have been in this situation since we were eating mince pies and turkey. It was all, at least at first, about seeking assurances about help and money and government action. Dave gave various assurances.

Wallace, as is his usual pattern, having presumably imagined he had lured in his prey with his soft speaking, then struck. He asked about that blank cheque that Dave seemed to offer yesterday which has been covered in caveats today. Dave insisted that his words of yesterday were no different to what was being said yesterday. Except they were. It is now the relief effort on which money will be no object. No blank cheques are being offered and probably advisedly.

This pragmatism was a sign of weakness to Labour though. Wallace wanted to know about the staff the Environment Agency will shortly be making redundant. There are apparently 550 of them, none of whom is Chris Smith.

Dave didn't answer this question. He didn't even argue that, as an independent organisation, how the EA spends its money is nothing to do with him. He did say that the Government is giving them more - a slightly dodgy claim this if you believe the accountants. He then renounced, as if all of this were new, the measures he told us about yesterday as a question avoidance strategy. Wallace, hardly unreasonably, argued that Dave is going back on his grand and headline grabbing promise of yesterday about money being no object. Why wouldn't he reverse the redundancies? Dave again avoided answering this and claimed, rather weakly, that Wallace was being divisive. Dave might have argued that the agency has added additional staff numbering 1000 in the past year, he might have argued that the agency does lots of things of which flood management is only a part. Perhaps, as some are recommending, he should have more press conferences like yesterday and downgrade PMQs a bit.

Happy Birthday Bagpuss

Bagpuss, the beloved children's series from the golden age of television, is 40 years old today. Bagpuss, as those of us of a certain age remember, was the tale of a little girl called Emily who had a cat called Bagpuss - the most important, the most beautiful, most magical, saggy old cloth cat in the whole wide world. In particular I defy anyone to watch this show above, get to the end and hear Oliver Postgate, the genius creator and narrator, say the words 'but Emily loved him,' without shedding a tear. Happy birthday Bagpuss.

Jihadist Cretins

Let us pause for a moment from complaining at our own travails, at the idiocies of Labour politicians posing as moral saviours and Tories who have lost faith in their own creed and want to be socialist lites instead. It could be worse. No, really.

It is reported that a militant commander from the group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, whilst training his latest batch of suicide bomb trainees accidentally blew them and himself up. There they were about to go out and slaughter the infidel or those who simply disagree with them about what their imaginary friend's strictures require of the true believer and instead he blew up the bovine, credulous cretins instead. Now why would their god, who is great apparently, allow this to take place? Is this an example of him moving in mysterious ways, or are they just kidding themselves? Anyone might think that these people just aren't very bright.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Idiot's Guide To Sacking Somebody

Here, for the benefit of our useless political class and in particular this government of wusses, is a short guide to sacking people:

Chris Smith is a place man appointment given a very well paid job cushy job and a title because he needed a consolation prize for being a useless minister and crap politician. He has presided over a 6 week long disaster which is at least partially a consequence of a policy he either put in place or kept in place. People have been living in third world conditions now for weeks and he only got around to visiting in the last few days. He has refused to apologise and has even tried to spin that the agency is doing a fine job. It may well be true that staff on the ground, or rather the water where once there was ground, are working hard, albeit for lots of lovely overtime. The management have dithered, spun, turned a blind eye and have needed rescuing by central government. It is perfectly possible to back the staff on the ground/ water whilst condemning the management and showing their bleats about funding to be nonsense. There was no sense of urgency and no recognition until too late in the day that a flood had turned into a crisis.

In any other walk of life Smith, the man in charge, would either have the integrity to resign or be sacked. Indeed it calls to mind that scene with Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse as Dave Nice and Mike Smash in which they raced Radio Fab's management to a press conference to announce they had resigned/ been sacked.

Just sack him. He's going in June anyway. Announce that the government has lost faith in him and wants a fundamental review of this bloated quango up to and including complete abolition. It is a mystery why anyone is even dithering over this. How much more misery and incompetence must we see before the self protecting political class turns on one of its own?

It's Green Crap Causing This Misery

Remember when David Cameron, flexible as ever, told his minions to get rid of the green crap only to recant only a few weeks later. I wonder if he is regretting that now. You see the current travails of so much of the British countryside are a consequence of green crap. As a country we have been greened as a deliberate matter of policy by unelected quangocrats installed by politicians. There has been no consultation, no debate, the countryside was abandoned to the green meanies, centuries of perfectly viable and defensible policy was abandoned and this winter we are reaping the whirlwind. Worst of all David Cameron and his government don't have the balls to make the most of it. Sure their response has been confused and confusing, but none of this is their fault. But they can't say a lot because they were signed up to being the greenest government ever in the same way as they didn't complain enough about Labour spending money they didn't have and so couldn't complain too much when we had that vast deficit.

The Environment Agency has taken a deliberate decision to abandon parts of this country to floods and indeed, again as a matter of stated policy implemented since Chris Smith became chairman, to 'increase the frequency of flooding to deliver benefits locally or elsewhere.' Now they are right to say that this is a matter of choices and priorities. But when did they bother to consult the country, the taxpayers who are paying for all of this?

Once again the EU is implicated too thanks to its directive to create and nurture wetlands. Once again we are left asking why the hell this has anything to do with the EU and why we so slavishly follow their idiotic directives anyway.

And then there is the issue of climate change. Aha, we are being told by the likes of Cameron, Miliband and the Met Office's Julia Slingo, clearly this is an example of climate change in action and that extreme weather we keep having dangled before us. Except it isn't. None of the storms we have suffered this year have been extreme in isolation. What has been extreme has been their persistence and frequency. Storms like this are common and normal. What has created so much damage has been the fact that we have been getting one or two a week now for a couple of months, and that after a very wet autumn.

But this clustering of perfectly normal storms cannot possibly be attributed to climate change or manmade emissions. Britain, and Europe in general, tends to get seasons like this. One year we will have one that gets stuck in a rut of persistent cold and dry weather, another year we get a run of mild but wet and windy weather. Where is the snow of last year and the year before? How can you claim a pattern when it changes so hugely from one year to the next?

For years now people like me have been arguing that the supposed green solutions to climate change are costing too much for too little or indeed any benefit and are creating misery, poverty or worse. Now the green meanies have inflicted a double whammy on us. The climate is changing they say, it's causing this bad weather, but thanks to green dogma we have abandoned whole swathes of the countryside to the floods they say are inevitable - that's when they aren't saying we are going to have more droughts. And this is the fault of our politicians. They inflicted the Environment Agency on us and allowed it to impose its greenery. It is the very kind of green crap Cameron inveighed against at one point before pivoting once again when it started raining. The government's chaotic and confused response has rightly been criticised. But it's chaotic and confused policy is the real cause for concern as is the fact we are all being greened without anyone having to vote for it.

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Nanny State And Smoking

I'm sure there are parents who smoke in the car with their children. It's a selfish, stupid, feckless, brainless thing to do. But then there are people who are selfish, stupid, feckless and brainless in our society. They are the sort who, if they can afford a car in the first place, probably also feed their children badly and exist on low pay or benefits. Is this a stereotype? Only to a small extent. We all know who these people are, they are not the sort who move to leafy areas to get the kids into decent schools are they? Under normal circumstances the Left would defend them to the hilt: defend their right to benefits, spare bedrooms on the taxpayer, the right to send their children to bog standard comprehensives where they disrupt the education of others and ensure that they perpetuate the dependency, fecklessness and stupidity of their parents. Little Owen Jones will probably write a book about them.

Smoking is a spectacularly stupid thing to do in the first place of course. If it were discovered now it would be banned and regarded as a narcotic. It's one of the great marketing miracles of all time that humanity was somehow persuaded that smoking: sticking a burning stick of paper and toxic leaves in your mouth and inhaling is not only a desirable thing to do but somehow makes you look cool. It makes you smell, will likely make you die a horrible and painful death, it discolours your skin and teeth, leaves a large yellow stain above your chair in your sitting room, but it does make you look cool.

But banning smoking with children in the car is a nonsense of a measure. It is the nanny state casting around for something else to do. If it is that worried about the children of smokers is it going to go into their homes? Is it going to take them into care? Why not? How is smoking in the home better than smoking in the car? Perhaps they should insist on fitting homes with smoke detectors and CCTV. They could have SWAT squads ready to swoop in on smokers corrupting our youth and pass a regulation making corner shop owners tell them whenever anyone buys a pack of Marlboro Lights or, these days, a pack of Rizlas.

How our legislators have convinced themselves that this is a good idea is a mystery. I supported the smoking ban in public places because it has made life more pleasant for all, and it's funny to watch smokers huddled shivering in the street trying in vain to light their cigarette as the latest gale billows and blows and backs them into a doorway.  It's particularly amusing to go to a hospital as I did this morning and see the patients in their PJs and dressing gowns standing outside, often on zimmer frames or crutches clasping their cigarettes.

Do children deserve to have parents who are stupid enough not only to smoke but to inflict their absurd habit on those they should love and cherish? Of course not. But then the children don't really deserve to have parents who have to choose between a packet of ciggies and feeding them do they? The answer isn't a smoking ban it is, if we are being logical about it, eugenics and licensed parenting. I assume this is where our parliament will be going next?

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1

I was always confident that Liverpool would beat Arsenal today, and indeed feel equally confident about the upcoming visits of other top 4 contenders too. But even I wasn't expecting that. Maybe I should have been after that Everton result.

Make no mistake about it, this was a big result for the title race. Liverpool are right back in there again now after falling away over Christmas and during January. We were the team that was just going to settle for 4th. But Man City won't relish their visit and Chelsea will probably come for a draw.

Arsenal came but barely turned up. Their slow and sluggish start was punished in ruthless fashion by a Liverpool side that is starting to make a habit of this kind of performance at Anfield. Four goals up after just 18 minutes, the Reds took their foot off the gas to some extent after that and had the luxury of being able to substitute the likes of Gerrard, Suarez and Sturridge, their work done. Gerrard in particular had a wonderful game with his probing and at times unplayable passes and free kicks causing chaos in the Arsenal penalty area. Suarez was at his best even though he failed to get on the scoresheet, albeit only just. Man of the match however was Raheem Sterling with two goals - it could and probably should have been more. Imagine what a player he is going to be when he becomes a decent and more confident finisher!

Arsenal started this game 8 points clear of Liverpool. But now, with the fixtures piling up and the midweek demands of Europe looming again, the Reds may be timing their final run exquisitely. Most fans will have been happy that we were favourites for that 4th place. After this and the Everton game we are starting to dream again.



Friday, 7 February 2014

Sack Smith

Why was Chris Smith, formerly a Culture Secretary and not a very good one either, appointed as Chairman of the Environment Agency? For his experience of dealing with the media? Why then is he doing his best to avoid them? Why, after the disaster of the Somerset Levels, is he only visiting? Why has he reversed the policy of that billion pound a year agency on dredging and yet refuses to resign?

You would think wouldn't you that the egregious failures of this absurd and useless quango, which has been such an embarrassment for a government that has contracted out these matters, would lead at the very least to sackings. This is an agency that has failed in the most spectacular fashion and devastating fashion. This part of the country, a country that is one of the richest in the world, has been under water for over a month. Sure the weather has been extreme but the response to it has been slow, confused, and too little too late. This weather was always going to produce floods, but only in this part of the world have the waters stuck around and created an inland waterway as a consequence of a deliberate choice by a government agency which it brought in thanks to a green agenda nobody ever got to debate or vote on. It is green dogma that has created this tragedy and misery.

The prime minister and his government are getting flak on this and actually it's not their fault. But, as they hold their meetings and even have to call in the army, surely they should at the same time be sacking their second Labour connected quango head in a week. Even Labour can't object to that can they?

Send the Lib Dems Back to Their Comfort Zone - The Opposition Benches

In a characteristically thoughtful and well argued piece this morning, Fraser Nelson argues that, given that this Government has run out of steam, has no more meaningful legislation to pass (other than the Budget in a few weeks time) and that the Lib Dems are pursuing a strategy (if that is not too grand a word for their new banging on the door and then running away antics) of distancing themselves from the Tories and indeed their own agreed policies over the last 4 years, then they should probably get out of government altogether and back into opposition.

And of course he is right. The Lib Dems are in a panic because their poll ratings are still flatlining, often in single figures, and they are getting no credit for being in government. And so they are now adopting a distancing strategy. As so often this just makes them look shifty and ridiculous. Danny Alexander says that the top rate of tax will be dropped from 45% 'over his dead body,' which was the opposite of what he said a couple of years ago. Even Vince Cable said he was not ideologically attached to it. It's probable that not even Ed Balls is. But now Lib Dems need votes and so they must say stupid things. Much like Ed Balls and Wallace. Similarly David Laws has decided that there are votes in turning 180 degrees and attacking Michael Gove. Teachers used to vote Lib Dem in droves, which explains a great deal about the state of British education. But they want you back and are prepared to talk bollocks to get you back. It's just like the good old days.

So should they go back into opposition? Of course they should. But they do like those big offices, the not very green chauffeur driven cars and the whiff of power. They like pretending that they are making a difference and the Tories pat them on the head while they throw their make believe tantrums and Nick becomes No Nick - the man who holds back the Tories from being Tories. Pals with David Cameron? No. He is there to tame the beast!

What the Lib Dems don't seem to realise is that none of their current antics will make a blind bit of difference. They are bottoming out in the polls because they were always an unprincipled party of protest rather than one of government. They don't really stand for anything which meant that, in opposition, they could stand for anything. Lord Fatty Rennard of the wandering hands mounted a 'strategy' of different messages for different parts of the country. Then, when in government and forced to adopt a relatively coherent and consistent message they were screwed. The country, or at least that part of it which had taken them seriously in the first place, had the scales lifted from its eyes. The Lib Dems are a bunch of useless shysters full of white, middle class wasters who have never had proper jobs. People like Nick Clegg. Sure this is not dissimilar to the other parties, but then the other parties do actually have principles and beliefs and a proper hinterland. Lib Dems don't. They just poseurs, sanctimony and protest votes. Every once in a while they won by elections and told us they would soon enter government. This made them happy. Actually governing has had its compensations of course, but popularity has not been one of them.

And this is why the Lib Dems have to return to the opposition benches. Their best and only strategy to recover lost ground is to do what Labour did in 2010 and pretend that the previous period in government never happened. This of course won't happen overnight, but then they are already doing the sort of spectacular U turns normally performed at high speed by Top Gear presenters in hot hatches and so it won't take them long. This strategy of denial is what they are best at. It's how they got their tuition fees policy after all. If they get out now they might even be able to resurrect that in their manifesto.

Vlad The Botoxed's £30 Billion Ego Trip

Today is the day Vlad the botoxed has dreamt of for six years, and probably longer. We can only hope he keeps his shirt on. With an original budget of £7.5 billion, it is estimated instead to have cost Russia £30 billion, or more than twice what our own Olympics cost in a summer games that involve more sports and more facilities. Furthermore, for all of our problems, ours is a bigger economy than Russia's. Nobody seems to have told Vlad that his country is not a superpower anymore, or indeed that it couldn't really afford to be one when it was.

The reasons for this staggering cost are numerous. Not least amongst them is the fact that Sochi is not a terribly sensible place to hold a winter Olympics because it's warm there, practically tropical. It's like the skiing equivalent of holding a World Cup in somewhere really silly like, oh I don't know, Qatar.... oh no, hang on. But Vlad is keen on Sochi and what Vlad wants he gets. And, as is the way with his corrupt, dangerous, deranged country, money has to be stuffed into brown envelopes and people must be pushed ruthlessly aside. And of course, despite the vast expense, all in Sochi is said to be chaotic and barely functioning. Hotels and facilities have only just opened. There are the usual tales of toilets not working, food being inedible and so on. Where has all the money gone? Well, I don't think that takes too much imagination does it? The good thing is it will probably soon be heading here and being spent on a football club, a mansion in the Bishop's Avenue and a gaudy item of jewellery or two.

This badly run country that is running vast deficits despite its oil and gas wealth and which will implode if the oil price slides as many expect, has spent this ridiculous sum on its eternal president's ego trip so that he can grandstand in front of the world and tell people how great and powerful he and his country remain. The world's leaders are largely staying away. Perhaps Vlad is going to take his shirt off after all. It would be symbolic, after all his country has had the shirts taken off their backs to pay for his ego trip to Sochi.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Weather in Pictures

I know this weather we are enduring has been foul and vile, has cost millions, inconvenienced millions and caused untold suffering, pain and even death. But you have to say it's produced some superb and dramatic pictures.

No Comment

This blog has a reasonably large readership given my obscurity. But it gets very few comments. Perhaps you all agree with me, indeed who could blame you for that. What comments I do get tend to be from so called SEO companies.

This, for the uninitiated, is Search Engine Optimisation. They are supposed to get their clients to be at the top or near the top of search engine results. This they try to do by making a nuisance of themselves on blogs like mine. They send comments full of praise, or asking questions about how they can emulate me and so on. They are very easy to spot because usually, due to the automated nature of these things, they have little or nothing to do with the subject of the blog on which they are commenting. They always include a link to their own sites, which of course are selling something. When I get these, and I usually have at least half a dozen a day, I mark them as spam and that is that.

Oh and one other thing, these SEO companies are usually based in some faraway country where English is very much spoken as a second language, and possibly not even that well. A bit like some parts of the English midlands really. They also seem to use some kind of software which translates, usually with hilarious results. Today I received an absolute humdinger and so I share it with you today shorn of its link. It's very very funny.

This was a comment on my post Frosty Christmas For Climate Changers from 7th January:

unaffected, cultivated, or philosophical system.
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High Taxes - A Failure of Democracy

Britain is becoming increasingly and worryingly reliant on a small number of high earners. Those aren't my words they are those of the IFS, the people who run their rule over the nation's finances and have high respect because they do it independently and non politically. And yet two of our three main parties (if indeed the Lib Dems still qualify for this description) still insist they want to put up taxes for these high earners, or at least hold them where they are. They must pay their fair share, say the politicians. And yet, as I and many others keep pointing out, they already are. Now the IFS says our economy is becoming dangerously reliant upon these high earners. If they were to leave or their jobs were to disappear under the pressure coming from on high to banks and the like, it would be a disaster for the British economy. How would we fund the NHS and our huge welfare bill?

When Ed Balls told the nation just days ago that he wanted to restore the 50p tax rate there was a huge amount of criticism for this economic illiteracy. It seems the IFS agrees. Lumping more taxes on the rich is not a sustainable long term strategy they say. There are just 300,000 people in this country who are shouldering 30% of the nation's tax bill. A fair share? I should say so. And then some.

Yet our idiot politicians are talking still about their bizarre and frankly tyrannical notion of what is and isn't fair. It's fair to have a welfare bill out of control, fair to pay people to sit at home because they are too idle, feckless or ill educated to get work, fair to pay pensioners benefits they don't need because they turn out at elections, fair to borrow billions every year which is just a form of delayed taxation because they can't make the books balance and as a consequence it has to be fair to squeeze people who work hard, study hard, get qualifications, build businesses and drive the country forward. This isn't just idiocy, it's lemming like suicide being pushed on the country by a political class every bit as feckless and irresponsible as those who sit at home on benefits.

The Conservatives are the one party, when they have the guts, who don't think that any of this is fair. It's time to make the argument for low taxes. That's low taxes for all. Those earning the least should not be paying taxes at all as a motivation to take low paid jobs. Those on middle incomes who are by no means rich should not be getting dragged inexorably into the 40% bracket. And it is economic suicide and simply illogical to keep punishing people who are doing well based on some skewed notion of fairness and morality. It's time we started saying so. Low taxes are not only fairer on those who pay for our country to operate and who support those in need of care rather than those who just can't be bothered, it is also an economic and social imperative. Lower taxes bring prosperity. High taxes are just an excuse to pay for political failure and the failure of democracy.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

PMQs 5th February 2014 - The Floods and Women's Issues Edition

Apologies for the recent absence of this review. It hasn't been for the want of trying but, like the head of the Environment Agency, I have been battling an unstoppable tide. I have not however clogged my own arteries recent numerous hospital tests have revealed. It's my foot that is swollen. Measures have been taken to drain away and relieve that which is in need of relief. I am probably singlehandedly bringing about the end of the future usefulness of antibiotics however so many have I had pumped into me.

Anyway, it was the floods that Wallace chose to raise in his first questions today. Before that Richard Ottoway had expressed his red faced outrage at today's Tube strike and drawn a condemnation from Dave. Dave wondered out loud whether Wallace would follow suit. He didn't.

Indeed the insouciance with which the Labour leader completely ignored this question was rather impressive until you remember how good he is at ignoring all manner of things like his own part in our 'cost of living crisis' and of course the activities of the unions he has to thank for his current position. Labour are currently in the process of spinning that they are starting a democratic revolution in their party that will hand even more power to the unions and take the party more leftward than since the days of Michael Foot, in much the same way as the unions call strikes thanks to the votes of true red activists. It will be redder than Ed Balls during Treasury questions.

No, Wallace today wanted to talk about floods and women. The one is of course a pressing issue, albeit one being watched over by a former Labour Cabinet minister despite their whinges this week about the rise of Tory placemen. Dave tried to address the accusation that the Government has been slow. They have been having daily meetings he said. 122,000 homes were protected last night, just 328 flooded. But he said that whatever was required would be delivered and announced a further £100 million. They could start with sending Chris Smith to swim with the fishes, which won't be too hard. They just need to send him to the Somerset Levels and tell him to swim back. There are probably sharks in there by now.

There then followed one of those exchanges between the two about tiny differences in investment. Dave insisted that he was spending more. Wallace said the investment had gone down. But surely the point is that, despite austerity, the investment has stayed so close to what it was before when Labour let rip with our money on questionable projects instead of investing in things that actually needed investment.

It should be noted incidentally that, throughout these exchanges, Speaker Bercow was up and down shouting at MPs and even called one of them incorrigible. I mention this only in passing and wonder if he says the same to Mrs Bercow. He told Michael Gove he should write out 1000 times that he would behave himself. A tip for the missus? She could write it on a sheet and then wrap herself in it before she goes off and snogs some bloke in a nightclub.

And it was the subject of women that Wallace turned to next because it is a pressing matter of national import, or at least it is if you are running out of things to say given the peppy performance of the economy, the jobs market et al. How, Wallace wondered, echoing the concerns of a nation on the edge of its seat, was Dave's pledge on equality for women doing? In preparation for this he had filled the front bench with women, some literally squeezed into position next to their beloved leader. Few looked comfortable and not just because they were close to Ed Balls and worried if there would be room for this week's gesticulation. The PM acknowledged that there was more to do. He does have women's problems it is said, and so does his party. But he did make the point that Labour has its own problems with constituency selection as we saw in Falkirk. But at least the candidate Unite was trying to insert with highly questionable tactics was a woman eh?

But, said Wallace, a picture tells a thousand words. Well, we knew what he meant. He pointed to the Government front bench and noted the absence of women. He did not point to his own but the implication was there. It was filled with fine fillies as of course it would be improper to observe. This was actually quite impressive for him, an example of actually thinking extempore for a change, although all it required was a bit of luck and the ability to spot someone not wearing a tie. He had looked and noticed that neither Theresa was there or Maria or Justine. Dave didn't point out that they were not in the Cabinet for window dressing or sitting on the front bench for the sake of it but were probably doing their jobs, even Maria Miller whose survival is probably entirely down to her gender which is surely something Wallace should be pleased about. You have to wonder what the point of Harriet Harman is after all.

And then Dave, to prolonged cheering from his backbenchers, invoked Margaret Thatcher. We are proud of having had the first woman prime minister he said and got the kind of response Jose Mourinho wins when achieving a boring one goal win. Perhaps he should mention her every week. Labour, Dave said, had had interim women leaders before but they had been replaced with ineffectual men. I wonder who he meant.

Ah, Wallace nearly said, but Thatcher won elections. He didn't quite add nyahh nyahh nyahh but might as well have done. He then revealed to a shocked nation that Bernard Jenkin had written of Cameron meeting a woman at Conservative reception and asking her where is your husband. Quite what this was supposed to signify is hard to know. Perhaps Dave had been expecting her husband to be there; perhaps he was known to Dave; perhaps he was unwell. Was Wallace seriously suggesting that Dave would walk into a do and ask an unattached woman where her husband was? Is he confusing him with someone from UKIP who would probably have also asked about her fridge cleaning habits?

I only mention this fatuous point because it provoked one of those eye popping, red faced expressions of outrage from Ed Balls who has clearly run out of things to be outraged about other than the names Tory backbenchers call him across the chamber. It's as though the man is undergoing a particularly distressing rectal examination when he does this. It's so much more entertaining than his old hand gestures. Ask a woman where her husband is? He was appalled, shocked. Seriously, watch the video and ask yourself if this is a frontline politician or someone who should be making his living on children's television shouting d'oh! If Wallace is ever invited to appear on Sesame Street or The Muppet Show he can happily decline having spent so much time sat next to his equally cartoonish shadow chancellor.