Saturday, 27 December 2014
Friday, 26 December 2014
Thursday, 25 December 2014
Wednesday, 24 December 2014
Tuesday, 23 December 2014
We're reaching the end of the year and so it is natural to look back at the year ending and to reflect. This year of course, with the general election coming, we are also looking forward. Thanks to this year we look forward to great uncertainty, probably a hung parliament and most likely all kinds of shenanigans that will perplex and likely infuriate us. The rise of the SNP, Ukip and even the bloody Greens ensures that.
And what an unholy alliance of shysters and fantasists they all are. No doubt the SNP and Greens will resent being lumped in together with Ukip. Tough. They are all much the same. Their differences only exemplify their similarities.
Ukip? What is there left to say to them. The disasters that regularly afflict them ought, in a sane world, to have consigned them to the history books where they belong. The Conservative Party should look on them both with complacency and trepidation. Yes Ukip has poached two of its MPs - the aptly named Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell who probably wakes up screaming most nights wondering what the hell he has done. Carswell is an intelligent and honourable man who means well. What kind of substance must he have ingested to make him imagine that defecting to Ukip was a good idea? Reckless is a man the Tories are well rid of. His tenure will likely be short lived.
Reckless is actually a fine avatar of the sort of people across the country who have defected to Ukip. It has become a cliche but actually yes the party is full of loons and racists. We see that on a weekly basis. Only this week the party has suspended a councillor for saying something 'jaw dropping.' In other words she said something so egregiously racist that even Nigel Farage, the man who defends the use of the word 'chinky' and who thinks breast feeding women should be forced to sit in a corner, could not defend it.
The unforgiving light of scrutiny is going to be shone on Ukip in the coming weeks and months. There is some evidence that it is already denting and damaging them.
The Greens? Well they are a party so delusional it is entirely fitting that they have taken up the mantle of the Lib Dems as the lefty protest party for sandal wearers. Those casting their votes should reflect on what happened to the Lib Dems. Remember them? On the other hand anything that splinters the left wing fantasy vote is no bad thing.
And then there is the SNP. The SNP is benefiting from a bounce because Scots are currently undergoing a kind of national, nay nationalist breakdown. They voted to maintain perfidious union with we English and are now feeling dirty about it, like a girl who wakes up in a strangers bed and can't find her underwear. They seem to be under the impression, encouraged by the ever mendacious SNP, that they have somehow been misled once again. It is a part of the Scottish psyche it seems. They must feel like perpetual victims.
All of this distracts them from the fact that all the No campaign did, relentlessly and doggedly, was point out how much of a leap in the dark independence would be. Look at the oil price since then. Just look at it. The case for independence was a tartan clad cacophony of lies, fantasy and wishful thinking. The SNP chose to hold its vote just after the anniversary of Bannockburn and the Commonwealth Games - you know the event most athletes avoid if possible. That tells you all you need to know about them.
And yet now Alex Salmond, whose moment of self doubt and modesty lasted so short a time it would have to be measured by an atomic clock, is heading back to Westminster, a place he purports to detest, to make trouble and act as if he is leader once again. SNP MPs may well decide to vote on English affairs he tells us, failing as ever to hide the smirk. He will do a deal and hold the new government to ransom to get what he wants.
But let's be honest this state of affairs has come about thanks to the failings of the allegedly main parties. Labour is led by a man so chronically unsuited to his job they would be better off with the animated character this blog and many others has named him after. Labour have been proven wrong so often during this parliament and the disastrous one before they ought to be unelectable. Fortunately for us all they chose a leader who seems set to make that concrete reality.
As for the Tories? Well they are suffering from their own leaders peculiar idea of modernisation. Unfortunately that seems to mean that he eschews old fashioned things like talking to his MPs, persuading them and getting them onside. David Cameron is not a bad prime minister, but neither is he a very good one. He is middling and muddled on a range of issues from greenness to Europe, from the sacking of one his best ministers to his tortured relationship with his Home Secretary. His party is currently jockeying for position to replace him. Don't be surprised if that happens in May, even if he is prime minister.
That is where we find ourselves a the end of 2014. It has been a tumultuous year in all kinds of ways. It may well be that the 2015 election turns out to be a good one to lose. Unfortunately for us all they all look as though that is precisely what they are intent on doing.
Monday, 22 December 2014
It's not been a good year for the world has it really? We've had the rise of a maniacal new terrorist sect in the middle east which draws in the virgin soldiers of the Islamic world out for nihilistic violence and sex (let's be honest, it's god sod all to do with god and a lot more to do with the hope that they might get a fuck out of it), we've had the special kind of cynicism of Russia now in the process of imploding thanks to that country's basket case currency and deluded president.
But at least we have North Korea. North Korea is the gift that just keeps giving.
This ridiculous little country does love to stand on its dignity. But then when you have nothing else dignity is a cheap commodity. The problem is that it is hard to be dignified when you are the laughing stock of the world. Someone has made a film about The Fat Leader and they are very very riled. But apparently they haven't noticed that the world is constantly laughing at them. A not very good film full of knob and fart jokes is the least of their worries.
Yet they keep raising the stakes. They wrote to President Obama and the UN and got no response. Then they hacked the film company. All that this has done is infuriated the western world raised on the need and indeed necessity to ridicule anyone we please and ensured that now, when the film is released (because it will be) a lot more people will go and see it and will cheer it to the rafters - however crap it actually is.
In the annals of spectacular own goals North Korea is out on its own. But this is the best yet. Now they are angry because they have been accused of the hack we all know they committed. Who else would do it you half wits? This is not a mystery that would tax Sherlock Holmes. This is not even a mystery that would tax the cheese eating Fat Leader.
Yet now they are threatening war again. And so the world sighs and waits for the inevitable.....nothing. Remember, North Korea was throwing a tantrum, making all kind of threats, just 18 months ago and nothing happened then either. We knew that if we just ignored the crying baby he would eventually go quiet. The same will happen now. The film will be released - possibly online but if I owned a cinema I would be spying a commercial opportunity here - and then precisely nothing will happen other than the release of a few more e-mails and a film script or two. There will be no new 9/11 - they couldn't afford the airfares. There will be no attack on the White House as they are threatening. They will shout and rail and we will have a good laugh at their idiocy.
What we should actually do is turn the release of the film into a global event. Let's simulcast it around the world. Set up giant screens in parks. Come and see fat boy get his comeuppance and then wait for the revenge that will never come. The world needs cheering up. How nice of North Korea to provide such splendid entertainment. We could turn it into a franchise. The Fat Leader 2: Revenge of the Witless Clones.
Sunday, 21 December 2014
There have been very many 'outrages' committed by terrorists and zealots in recent years. You might think they would be losing the capacity to shock and appall. We have had 9/11, 7/7, Mumbai, Madrid and Pakistan has suffered a conveyor belt of hate filled barbarism perpetrated by the Taliban against anyone who dares defy it.
So perhaps we shouldn't have been shocked or surprised by the events in Peshawar on Tuesday. Perhaps, like in films and television, which have to up the violence, sex, nudity and bad language to grab our attention, the modern terrorist must stoop to new depths of depravity. But in a world in which ISIL are on the rampage, how did the older style jihadists compete? Well they went into a school armed to the teeth and attacked schoolchildren, that's how. The world was appalled, sickened, disgusted. What is wrong with these people? Are they really so desperate for our attention?
There was a theory advanced that it could be vengeance for giving a Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai just last week. She wanted children to be schooled and so why not slaughter schoolchildren to punish them for wanting to learn about the world, to have their eyes and minds opened to new possibilities. We cannot rule out the possibility that this was indeed their motivation, that this bunch of self righteous nihilists dressed up as true believers really do think that they are doing their idiot god's work by slaughtering people with a different world view. In vain do we point out that if everyone in the world adopted their medieval and moronic mindset then nobody would have invented the guns, weapons and sophisticated electronic devices they use to disseminate their hate.
7 well armed and well informed attackers went into the Army Public School in Peshawar. 141 people died, of whom 132 were children of various ages from 11 to 17. There were also reports that the marauding morons, who had bombs strapped to them in addition to carrying guns, set fire to a teacher. How can anyone believe that this is the will of anyone or anything other than the pathological, delusional and sociopathic?
It is the nightmare that keeps politicians and security chiefs around the western world awake at night. What to do about the jihadist cretins on an imaginary mission who decide, not to go to Syria to wage their imaginary war and lose their virginity with some nice girl willing to walk three paces behind them after copulating, but on home soil, targeting civilians at random.
This week it happened in Sydney. That it could happen in this relaxed, beautiful, easy-going, wealthy city shocked not just Australians but the rest of us. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.
The perpetrator of this latest act of bigoted stupidity dressed up as piety was Man Haron Monis, a man well known to the authorities. This immediately opened up all kinds of questions. How was it he was not being watched? How was it he was free? Was he not suspected? This was a convicted criminal and a preacher of hate - Australia's version of our own jihadi clown Anjem Choudary. Yet apparently he was regarded as harmless, if hateful. Somehow that hatefulness turned into murderousness, unless he really believed that he would be able to wring concessions from the government. More likely this was a man - he was no teenage delusional, he was 50 - who was cornered and so found a cause to justify himself to himself.
This was a chaotic crime and it was ended, perhaps inevitably, in a chaotic and bloody way. After a 16 hour siege this confused Iranian who had converted implausibly to the Sunni version of his idiotic religion, was killed by police. It seemed that he became more and more deranged during the long siege and became enraged by the escape of some of his hostages. His demands, such as they were, were communicated to the world and the authorities by his hostages via their mobile phones and Facebook pages, although the companies deleted them. This was a very modern siege but with a very old fashioned cause. This was the delusional rantings of a man who found religion because his life was going to hell. Whatever you think of the police operation and the tragic deaths of two hostages, Tori Jonson, the cafe manager and Katrina Dawson, who both acted heroically trying to save others, it surely can be no bad thing to have given this maniac short shrift and despatched him from amongst us as an example to those tempted to follow the same path.
And after both of these very different but similarly themed crimes, the usual apologists came out and made the usual trite statements, including Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister. This has nothing to do with Islam we are ritually told. It's said nearly as often as the average Muslim prays.
But it must have at least a little to do with Islam mustn't it. After all why is it that the other major religions do not have this problem? After all twice in a couple of days men went on the rampage with guns and bombs and murdered people for no obvious reason other than that they believe in one particular version of a silly bronze age superstition. It must have just a little to do with Islam mustn't it? You can argue all you like what is the correct interpretation of the treatise of ignorance and purblind stupidity otherwise known as the Koran, but it is just an interpretation. Taking it all literally is just one of the options available to the true believer. The same is true of the other major Abrahamic religions, it's just that they are better at ignoring all of the inconvenient bits. Ultimately of course it is people who decide whether to be peaceable or whether to become murderers based on faith laced with cretinism. But Islam is the only religion that has failed to move with the times, that is still mired in medievalism and literalism. All religion is stupid, it's like a form of mental illness. But Islam is the sickest of the lot.
Oh and this week we also had a further example of our own western lack of confidence in our system, worldview and approach. This time it was vindicated however. A bunch of Iraqi detainees had accused the British army of torturing and otherwise mistreating them. And of course they were believed by large parts of the British media and a certain class of lefties who always assume that we are wrong and anyone with a non English accent is automatically right. Yet a spectacularly expensive inquiry reported this week that there was absolutely no foundation to claims that our soldiers had massacred and mutilated. The claims made by the detainees were a tissue of lies. In short they knew that if they claimed awful abuse they would likely be believed. They are probably trained to do this by smirking teachers who tell them to make the most of our weak decadence. The lawyers who represented these liars have refused to apologise for the slanders they supported. The worst abuse the inquiry found was that occasionally the detainees received food a little late and were shouted at. They have probably all since claimed asylum.
Do you think that Barack Obama was a fan of The West Wing, the seminal Aaron Sorkin series about American politics loved by so many including this blogger? Towards the end of the series run there was a story about President Bartlett, quite clearly a model for Obama, reaching out to Cuba to normalise relations with that island that had the temerity to upset America by turning communist and repelling its forces in the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
This week life followed fiction as the real president did much the same, although he had to deal with Raul Castro rather than his more glamorous and charismatic brother. All politicians want a legacy and this may well be Obama's one lasting one in foreign affairs, unless of course the collapse in oil prices delivers another one or two unexpectedly into his lap in his last year.
It's fair to say that those of us on this side of the Atlantic have never quite understood the animus towards Cuba felt in the U.S and particularly in D.C. The U.S has relations with plenty of other communist states, many of whom have much worse human rights records than Cuba. The upside has been that we have been free to holiday on this beautiful island among its welcoming and friendly people without any Americans getting in the way. It's a move that will be controversial in America which is why Obama waited until now to announce it with his characteristic bombast and plenty of quiz show style pregnant pauses. Congress may yet have something to say on the issue. The rest of us cannot see why they have taken so long to do this. If it's okay to engage with China, why not little Cuba?
The world's financial markets are ending this tumultuous year on a less than happy note. Whilst many will be celebrating the fall in the oil price, not least consumers doing their Christmas shopping, it is giving markets the jitters because of the knock-on effects. Stock markets took a battering for part of the week, although they staged a Santa rally at the end. But that was as nothing compared to the hammering meted out to the Russian rouble which has plummeted as the oil price continues to head towards a level that will see the country plunge into recession or worse. Added to western sanctions, which were already causing Russia to hurt, the falling oil price has caused those with liquid assets to get their money out. Now there are fears of a Soviet style implosion with default on debts. The authorities in Moscow have lost control of their economy with massive central bank intervention and interest rates of 17% failing to stem the flow of capital out of the country. At this rate rich oligarchs may have to start selling up their London mansions.
But that will be the problem for the world. Yes we may for now indulge ourselves in some schadenfraude at the woes of Putin whose belligerence and bellicosity allied to arrogance and over confidence has come back to bite him spectacularly, but this will be a shock to the world's economy. With the eurozone already struggling, China looking in danger and other BRIC nations now looking precarious. Much worse could be set off if Russia is now forced to impose exchange controls, the sovereign equivalent of a bank shutting its doors because it cannot pay all of the depositors seeking to withdraw funds. This could be another Lehman style domino ready to take us all towards fresh disaster. There were reports this week that Russians are panic buying London property. Still, driving to relatives for Christmas should be nice and cheap this year.
Oh, and by the way, did you know that Putin has recently been named as Russian of the Year? Previous winners have been Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Putin.....I'm not making this up. He's won it 15 years in succession. I wonder what he has to do to lose it: Decimate the Russian economy? Invade a sovereign country and have Russia thrown out of the G8? Have sanctions levied against himself and his cronies? Host the Winter Olympics at a price three times that paid by London to host the much bigger summer games? Go to an international summit and have to leave early because of all the abuse?
Putin gave a press conference this week in which he gave the appearance of a man high on confidence and able and willing to subject himself to close questioning. Except of course he wasn't. He looked like what he is, a man hoist by his petard and now hoping desperately that things will not get any worse. The oil price had stabilised a little by the end of the week and the Rouble with it. But stability is no good. At this level Russia will be plunged into recession and possibly depression. The inflation caused by the plunge of the Rouble will start to kick in next year. International companies like Apple have already suspended trading and rich Russians are suddenly unable to buy flash western cars Putin's display of insouciance was a good act. But it was just an act.
In an act of the most sickening cowardice, especially in a week when freedom should be defended by all right thinking people everywhere, Sony Pictures cancelled the release of the Seth Rogen film The Interview, which has angered North Korea by depicting a plot to kill The Fat Leader. Quite how they go about doing it is unknown. With cheese?
The Fat Leader, Kim Jong-Un, is furious about this and believes that he can bully the whole world in the same way he can his country and people. Sony Pictures seem intent on proving him right and have capitulated to a bit of cyberwarfare. There were also threats from hackers of attacks on cinemas that show the film, but how credible is that from a country that can barely feed itself, has one television channel and, though it has the bomb, has no rocket system to deploy it. Only 18 months ago, the DPRK, as they call themselves, issued various threats and told the world that war was imminent if we did not appease it. They were ignored and nothing happened. If Sony had shown some balls the same would happen now. Cinema queues would have been unaffected and indeed probably boosted by the publicity and fuss. The Fat Leader this week celebrated his 3rd year on his communist throne, which just goes to show that he really is an oxymoron.
I would post a copy of the leaked video of the Kim Jong-Un death scene from the film, but Sony has been filing objections to these for copyright infringement. There is a still of it above. So they are even frustrating the attempts of the internet to take on The Fat Leader and objecting to copyright infringement for a film they won't release. So here instead is a my Video Diary from this week in which I give The Fat Leader the finger.
By the end of the week the FBI suggested that it had clear indications and evidence that North Korea was indeed the perpetrator of the hack and the threats. President Obama indicated that he thought Sony had made a mistake and that they should have spoken to him before deciding to pull the film. This whole episode has been a PR disaster for Sony in oh so many ways. But they can still rescue the situation. Release the damned film. Put it online if necessary. This blog would be proud to show it, even if it is, as reported, pretty lousy. The whole world has reacted with outrage and the internet has reacted by showing a leaked clip of the film (above). If Sony had simply released the film then North Korea would have just looked idiotic as usual. But there is still chance. Sony should simply say sorry, we got it wrong, here is the film for free. Download it and watch it to your heart's content. Give North Korea and it's Fat Leader the finger.
Are you worried about piling on the pounds over Christmas? Do you fear for your waistline? Then worry no more. If you become a lard arse over the festive period by over indulgence you are not afflicted by a lack of willpower but by a disability. That is the official word of all those all knowing sages at the European Court of Justice. Perhaps they are worried that all of their fellow Eurocrats riding the gravy train will soon require larger seats. If they do fear not, because it is now incumbent upon employers not to discriminate against the other bodied. No, they must be accommodated. They must be given bigger seats, parking spaces closer to the front door for them to waddle to and there must be a general proscription against pronouncements of disgust. There was no mention made of what happens when these poor unfortunates overflow out of their airline seats and into someone else's. But I imagine they have that right. It will probably shortly be set out in an EU directive. Maybe Britain can ask for an opt out as part of our negotiations with the EU. We reserve the right to make fatties sit in seats that are too small for them and charge them double if their arse is too big for a seat. Ukip should put it on a poster.
What would you like for Christmas? A mobile phone? What about a whole mobile phone company? Ten years after selling its mobile phone arm - I always said that was a stupid idea - BT announced that it is in talks to buy one again. Instead of buying back its old company, now called O2, BT has decided it would rather buy the nation's largest, EE. And no, I don't know what it stands for either. This is all part of a strategy, called quad play, to give we customers better deals supposedly by enabling us to get all of our various telecoms products under the same roof. Now, for one payment per month, you could entrust to BT and its infuriating call centres in India, your home phone, broadband, television services and mobile phone if the deal goes through. BT has been making inroads into Sky's domination of the sports market by buying up the rights to football and other sports. It is in a very strong position and this is a clever and bold move. Competitors are sure to object and so might the regulatory authorities. Expect the EU to poke its nose in for a start, even though there is no logical reason why it should. But then there was no logical reason for them to start poking their noses into where fat people put their backsides was there?
Science is always being confounded by reality. Confident theories are posited only for nature to come along and contradict them.
But we have long suspected that our nearest celestial neighbour, Mars, could well have harboured life, or could even still do so. And now there is evidence that this idea at least may be right. Curiosity Rover, another great achievement, this time of NASA, has been combing the red planet for signs of life for months on end. Now it has found traces of methane. This is a telltale sign of life and scientists analysing the data can think of no other explanation for the presence of the gas on an otherwise barren and lifeless planet. There are non biological causes for methane, but it was the way it was detected and its locality that has got scientists excited. There are no little green men or men of any sort about to pop their heads up, and we need have no fear of any War of the Worlds type invasions - if this is life it will almost certainly be microbial in nature. But this would be the first sign of extra terrestrial life, and we would only have had to travel to the next planet to find it. It may well be that we find it elsewhere in our own solar system and that it is abundant throughout our galaxy and universe. If only we could arrange some kind of exchange program between us and them so as to get rid of our jihadists.
The shameless farce around Fifa and its absurd decision to award the World Cup in particular to Qatar, but also to Russia (although in the latter case they may be let off the hook by that country's imminent bankruptcy) continued this week. Michael Garcia, the respected lawyer charged by Fifa to investigate the shenanigans surrounding the bidding processes and votes, resigned this week. Garcia had appealed to Fifa after a summary of his report, which he labelled erroneous, was published. Characteristically the appeal was rejected on procedural rather than substantive grounds. The credibility of Fifa and its leadership, especially the spectacularly corrupt and manipulative president, Sepp Blatter, is now shot to pieces. Yet still it clings on. Blatter, who is 78, is breaking a promise and standing again to be president for another term.
But the resignation of Garcia had an effect. On Friday Fifa bowed to the inevitable and announced it will indeed release the report. Even then it of course found excuses for not doing so straight away. It also employed a lot of sophistry and non sequiturs for justifying its position. The crisis is over, said Sepp Blatter, but then they keep saying that. But the report cannot be released yet because investigations are still going on. If that is the case how did they release a summary of the report which said nothing to see here? Then there were supposed legal objections to releasing the report. What happened to those? And if investigations are still ongoing how can it be that the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 are unaffected?
There are many people who complain nowadays that the true meaning of Christmas is lost forever, although the events of Black Friday, or should I say the riots of Black Friday a few weeks ago surely suggest that the true meaning of Christmas is understood very well - at least by retailers. But surely nothing says Christmas as completely as sitting on Santa's lap posing with an AK47. What do you mean have I been naughty or nice? Listen, fat man, give me what I want or I'll be back. The two lovelies posing with the bearded one are Dasha Washington and Imani Bowman by the way. This is all the idea of an Atlanta Gun Club to raise money for charity. Expect to see similar scenes in next year's nativity plays.
It's only a few weeks since this blog was congratulating Lewis Hamilton on becoming Formula One World Champion for a second time after a superb season. Last weekend he received the much coveted accolade of being named the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year. It's such a big occasion he even left his tax haven and used one of his precious tax free days in the UK to collect it. Only joking, Lewis.
There have however been mutterings from the world of golf that their boy, Rory McIlroy, after his own miraculous year, was overlooked for the award - he came second. Some of McIlroy's peers in the sport criticised the award which was voted on by the public for crying out loud. But McIlroy decided recently that he will compete for the Republic of Ireland, not Britain at the Olympics (golf at the Olympics? I know!) and this may have had some bearing on it. But most of all it could just be that golf is a rarefied, very middle class and rather boring sport, whereas F1 is far more glamorous, much more exciting far more popular since it is on terrestrial TV more often and Lewis is a very likeable and engaging chap. Anyway McIlroy was less than chivalrous to his girlfriend whereas Lewis keeps begging Nicole to have him back. Again, only joking Lewis. Congratulations.
Finally I bring you the last pictures of Rihanna of the year and they are humdingers. Ri Ri posed for the magazine Esquire and, as you can see, was on great and steamy form.
This is the last Review of the Week for 2014. It returns on 11th January. But I will be bringing you the best of Ri Ri's pictures set to her music as a special Christmas treat. Have a very Merry Christmas and I wish you a happy, prosperous and hopefully all us of a peaceful New Year.
Saturday, 20 December 2014
Friday, 19 December 2014
Vlad the Botoxed gave one of his long, rambling press conferences yesterday in which he blithely dismissed all criticism, invoked a vision that is never going to be realised and called Russia a bear. He did this a lot. Russians seem to like that.
Some of our correspondents have pointed out that our own politicians would never subject themselves to this kind of inquisition. This isn't really true. They subject themselves to inquisition all the time, albeit for a lot less time. But then they don't get such friendly and accommodating questioning as that levelled at Putin. It's just that they seldom answer the questions, or accept the premise of the question to use the jargon of the trade. Putin is a master at it which is why he goes through this charade. It's an approach recommended by spin doctors. If you subject yourself to this on a fairly regular basis it makes you look open and accountable. Appearances can be deceptive.
Our own politicians are certainly more open and accountable than those of many nations. Perhaps this is why ours are languishing in the polls and not one of them looks capable of winning a majority next spring. Their consistent refusal to accept the premise of the question and frequently, in the case of immigration, to actively abuse the premise of the question, is why our entire political class is now regarded with such hostility. This has given rise to the new insurgents from across the spectrum. We have the SNP, Ukip, the Greens.
The problem is that, politics being politics, these are really no different to the other parties. The current astonishing popularity of the SNP is a clear sign that a goodish proportion of Scots have lost their minds. They are behaving rather like Russians actually. The entire case for Scottish independence was a lie and a tartan wrapped fantasy - a fantasy now being ruthlessly exposed by the collapse in oil prices and the concomitant collapse of the Russian economy. Scots however are set to ignore all of this and vote for the SNP en masse. But then this neatly sums up the Scottish psyche. They do love to moan. They do love to complain about the perfidy of we English. But, when push came to shove, they didn't want to separate themselves from our chequebook. Now they have the best of both worlds. They get devo max, lots of cash and get to feel good about themselves by sending Alex Salmond to Westminster apparently having not noticed that he claims to loathe the place and wanted, only 3 months ago, to thumb his nose at it, whilst of course ensuring we gave him a big and generous divorce settlement. Scotland, it is fair to say, is in need of mass counselling. Instead they may find themselves holding the balance of power in a parliament they ought to have less say in.
The next election is going to be more polarised than any in recent memory. This has happened more by luck and accident than any kind of design. Labour have arrived at a position that is idiotic and politically inept because they try to speak to two different constituencies at the same time. To be fair all politicians have to do this. They have to please their natural supporters, their backbenchers but also to the wider country. This is why they end up being despised. Unless of course they are Alex Salmond, but then that is because his country is mad. Again, like Russia.
Labour have been in the doldrums for some time now because their economic policy is inept and contradictory. It is summed up nicely by the brilliant cartoon by The Times's Peter Brookes above. They will have to cut just like the Tories. But theirs will be nice cuts whereas Tories are nasty and ideological. It's the politics of the kindergarten.
And then they were handed a lovely new idea. The BBC's Norman Smith told the nation that the cuts envisaged by George Osborne will take us back to the 1930s and the days of Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier. It was a throwaway remark. But it resonated. George Osborne hated it. Labour loved it.
But it's nonsense. Yes the cuts are going to be steep and will require hard choices. But this is not a return to the 1930s. Some departments will have to be trimmed back. There is an argument for the complete abolition of some departments or at least their merger with others. But that is because we now have whole sections of the state that simply didn't exist in the 1930s. We have the NHS. We have welfare. In 1935 state spending totalled £1.3 billion. That is £81 billion in today's money - about 3/4 of what we spend just on the NHS. Total public spending for this year is set to be £731 billion. We are not heading back to the 1930s.
And, by the way, the 1930s were nothing like as bad as is often painted. The world was going through a transition and this did create pockets of poverty and deprivation in our pre-welfare world. But Britain actually fared much better than other nations. This was a time when we were innovating, building and creating. This was a time when the British car industry grew and became dominant, this was a time when employment actually fell between 1931 and 1937. Had World War II not intervened, the 40s might have been a time of plenty and riches which we eventually reached by the late 50s.
So the idea of the 30s being a time of misery, squalor and poverty is overdone. Then as now there were industries and consequently communities that were suffering and in some cases dying. Jarrow was one famous example because their ship building trade was dying a death. But this was not the case across the whole country. It was a situation made worse by a lack of social provision in those days. We have that social provision now and a safety net. It is why government spending is so much higher. But unfortunately the safety net has grown into something more and is causing damage. Welfare has ceased to be a safety net and become a trap for all too many.
Labour are grudgingly accepting the need for cuts, but still say they intend to run a deficit 'for investment.' This is their classic excuse. Investment does not mean the same in the Labour dictionary as it does for the rest of us who speak English. It is their way of inflating spending. It is how they managed to run vast and unmanageable deficits even while the economy was growing strongly. Think about that for a moment. The Labour Party was incapable of balancing the budget even when the taxes were flowing in abundantly, the City was booming, the country was on a spending binge. The Chancellor who boasted of his prudence lavished cash across the board. What chance do they have of balancing the budget now?
And yes the Tories want to cut the deficit and then run a small surplus. This isn't ideology, it's common sense. If you are spending more on interest payments than you are on several departmental budgets then that is unsustainable and damaging. This year the UK will pay £42.9 billion on interest payments. That is more than we spend on defence. It is close to what we spend on education. Yet Labour want to keep borrowing. This really isn't hard to understand. If you keep spending more than you raise and have to borrow the rest you are creating economic sclerosis. The interest payments will keep rising - and at the moment we are in the happy position of record lows of interest rates, something that will not last forever. If you spend more and more without ever paying the debt back then you will have to keep borrowing more or raising taxes. If you raise taxes you diminish the economy because you makes us less competitive meaning that revenues keep falling, the debt keeps rising and so taxes have to rise even more and we become even less competitive. This is what Labour does every time it gets into government. They never ever learn.
And this is the message for next year's election. The UK has to live within its means. It's not a comfortable message. But it is a deceptively simple one. The state has to do less. The last five years have shown that when it does people hardly notice the difference. That shows that the money Labour frittered away was wasted. Now they want to waste even more and call it 'investment' to save them having to make hard but necessary choices.
The people of Russia know what it is like to live under a regime that refuses to accept reality and wants to go back to some imaginary halcyon period. Labour wants to take us back to the 1970s and now the SNP are hinting they may do a deal and help them impose their vision of union domination, endless ridiculous pay demands and hitting the rich with absurd tax demands which cause them to leave our shores.
Fortunately we have a choice and can prevent Wallace and his gang from foisting their socialist fantasy on us. Today is effectively the first day of the general election campaign, when election spending rules kick in. This is a message that needs to be hammered home constantly all the way to 7th May 2015.
My Video Diary tomorrow will be taking a pop at The Leader. In the meantime the hermit kingdom which flew into such a fury about The Interview seems to have forgotten this one from Team America which sent up the Fat Leader's father, now preserved forever in formaldehyde for the sake of his people.
Thursday, 18 December 2014
The decision by Sony Pictures to cancel the release of The Interview, a comedy starring Seth Rogen which has infuriated North Korea is cowardly, disgusting and pusillanimous. It's bad enough that so many of our major corporations, including the likes of Facebook kowtow to the Chinese government and allow censorship. At least that is chasing money, trade and market position. What's the excuse with North Korea?
The Interview is a film which drawn the ire of North Korea because it involves a plot to kill the Fat Leader - Kim Jong-Un. It's only a pity that this is mere fiction. The fury of this tinpot state ought to have emboldened them rather than cowed them. Surely there's no such thing as bad publicity? The campaign of intimidation waged by the hermit state has been like a plot from a film anyway. Why not capitalise on it?
And what can North Korea do anyway that has so frightened Sony? Okay they've hacked into its computers and embarrassed it a little. So what? They only did that because they are utterly incapable of following through on their more blood curdling threats. Terrorism? Don't make me laugh. They can't afford the air fares. They've spent what little foreign currency they have on cheese for their fat little fucker of a leader and hospital treatment to repair his broken ankles suffered because he put on so much weight.
The cinema chains and Sony should be utterly ashamed of themselves for capitulating to this. I for one would go and see this film just to give the Fat Leader the finger. This is what freedom looks like fattie. This is what you are so afraid of. They should show the film online if necessary and if necessary do so for free. I'll host it on this blog if necessary. If I, a lone blogger am prepared to take the risk of the anger of North Korea then the same should be true in the land of the free and the land of the multiplex. Show the damned thing and stand up for freedom, democracy and the poor benighted people in this land who suffer proper terrorism every day, not just the theoretical kind from cowardly hackers. In the meantime here is a clip in which The Fat Leader is killed by a missile, although it's much more likely that the dopey tit will in fact die of a stroke or heart attack thanks to his furred up veins. Let's hope it's slow and painful.
There were several versions of the death scene on YouTube, but the cowards at Sony are having them removed from there for copyright infringement - for a film they are too scared to release. Pathetic. This is the only functioning one I can find. No doubt it will be removed.
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
It seems that NASA has found aliens. One of their rover craft currently rooting around on the red planet has detected traces of methane and they believe that it may be biologically created. Exciting news.
Now there is no evidence that these aliens, on seeing these approaching Mars rovers, decided to up sticks and head to Earth where they took over the bodies of leading members of our own Labour Party. But there is substantial circumstantial evidence. One only has to look at the recent pronouncements of Wallace regarding the economy, immigration or his head burying approach to the issue of English Votes for English Laws (EVEL).
Wallace has given two 'major' speeches on the economy and deficit and on immigration in just the last week. By major however it seems to mean that he made a speech and he didn't forget to mention them. Content was there none. Essentially it was an acknowledgement that the public are concerned about the issues and that Wallace realises it. So he mentioned them, in a speech that took 7 minutes. Is that okay?
But even this is better than their approach to EVEL which is essentially one of don't mention it and get very very angry whenever anyone does. This is a stitch up we are told, a Tory stitch up too, which is an especially egregious form of stitch up probably paid for by rich people and oil companies. Labour are furious because the corollary of their own idiotic devolution plans is that they are now likely to lose dozens of MPs in Scotland that they need to rule the English. The beautiful irony, if it doesn't make you fulminate furiously at the hypocrisy and perfidy of it, is that the SNP may now hold the balance of power after the next election and will abandon all principle by promising to vote on English issues if they get what they want in Scotland. Labour are essentially telling the nation that changing the rules to ensure that only English MPs vote on English laws since Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own parliaments and governments is an outrageous affront. Good luck selling that one at the election. Perhaps, as per their advice to candidates with regard to immigration, they will be advising that canvassers move the subject on. You're worried about immigration and democracy? Don't be silly. Let's talk about the NHS.
Better yet Sir Gerald Kaufman, who once described his own party's manifesto as the longest suicide note in history, regards measures to thus change our system 'a dog's breakfast.' As The Telegraph's Michael Deacon noted: 'Zoologists have long observed that dogs display an instinctive hostility to legislation that threatens the interests of the Labour Party.'
Frankly, with such people vying to be our leaders, is an invasion from the red planet too much to hope for?
Anyway, to this week's PMQs. Last week we had the B teams in operation and, as is now traditional, I too sent in my deputy to cover it. Unfortunately I don't have a deputy and so we got a blank space. But, since this was Nick and Hattie, that did not seem entirely inappropriate. This week Dave and Wallace were back for the last session of the year.
The Prime Minister started with a condemnation of and condolences for the awful events in Australia and Pakistan in the last couple of days, sentiments echoed across the House and by his opposite number.
But then Wallace got on to the economy. No, really. Labour have sensed an opportunity, although only because it was handed to them by the BBC and George Orwell. Presumably Norman Smith can look forward, if he does not aspire to the top chair in the BBC's politics section, to a seat in Wallace's press office. He seems like a nice chap though. Would the thuggish press practices of Labour as practised when in government suit him.
Labour have alighted on the fact that the government wants to cut things after the election. Presumably they think this is a winner for them in the same way they used to tell us that the cuts started in 2010 were too far and too fast and that misery, anarchy, starvation and mass emigration would soon follow. So they used to think we were going back to the 1930s. Now they are promising that much the same will follow unless we vote for them.
Wallace to be fair to him was on feisty form. But his arguments don't make sense. Dave pointed out that the government cuts will only take the nation back to where we were in 2003 when Gordon was in charge and was still being prudent before he went on his unfunded spending binge. It's hard to sustain a charge that the cuts will be too far and too fast again isn't it? Even if you have the BBC on side.
This was very much an end of the year session. Wallace was keen to remind the PM of the things that have gone wrong, such as losing a couple of MPs and Andy Coulson ending up in prison. But Dave was able to point to the tax cuts for 26 million people and another half a million jobs. He asked Wallace what his plan is but Wallace refused to answer telling Dave that he would get the chance to ask questions in four months time after the election. That was clearly a line from his joke generating machine. To be fair it wasn't a bad one.
Unfortunately experience suggests that, even when he is obliged to answer questions he doesn't do so. Indeed this is official Labour policy as that document given to MPs showed this week. They must change the subject if it gets awkward. Dave brandished the document gleefully as his early Christmas present and quoted from it. For Labour, he averred, it is a silent night.
And that is it for 2014. This review returns with Parliament on 7th January. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Have you seen the Christmas TV schedules? My God they are awful. The 'highlights' we are being encouraged to look forward to include another helping of the god awful Mrs Brown's Boys, the dire Citizen Khan - at Christmas and a final torturous episode of Miranda. It's enough to make you wish it was Easter and not Christmas. That way the stigmata I am already developing would not look so out of place.
Fortunately, though there is a desert where festive televisual entertainment should be, we do at least have the Labour Party to keep us entertained.
Just last week they were rolling them in the aisles with their promise to balance the books with their nice cuts as opposed to the Tory nasty cuts. How? Oh they can't possibly tell us yet. We'll just have to trust them. But they will, no really. We must forget that they created the greatest bust in history only a few short years ago. We must forget that they couldn't even balance the books or run a prudent surplus during the years of plenty let alone in these austere times. Perhaps if they went into some detail our scepticism might be allayed. But that's never going to happen is it. Labour talk about cuts? That would be like Labour talking about immigration.
But then that's what Wallace did yesterday. Except of course he didn't. This was Labour style talking about immigration. This was, and I promise I'm not making this up: 'Controlling Immigration Fairly.' Because the present way is so unfair? I'm not clear how the use of the word fairly is meant to reassure us.
Presumably in the same way that Labour talk about spending cuts. You always feel as though they are saying it with their fingers cross behind their backs.
But then a document was revealed which showed that that is precisely what they are doing. Labour candidates at the election are advised to try to move the conversation on if and when members of the public try to raise the vexed subject. Labour realises that they are in a no win situation - on immigration as with the economy.
In fact this major speech - which actually lasted only 7 minutes, and he had it written down for him too and so almost certainly didn't forget bits of it - was nothing of the sort. There were no major new announcements. This was Wallace promising to jail employers who exploit migrant workers. So it was a solution for which there are already legislative solutions, many of them brought in by Labour when in power - such as minimum wage legislation.
But why? Why does Her Maj's Opposition, the party that could be in power in 5 months time, find itself in this situation? Why can it not credibly talk about two of the main subjects that the electorate are concerned about at the forthcoming election? Well it's because it doesn't really want to talk about either and is annoyed that we do. And so what they do is go through the motions. That was what Wallace has done in two speeches in less than a week. He talked about the cuts, but wouldn't talk about the cuts. He grudgingly talked about immigration but then did nothing of the sort.
Labour wants to get through the election campaign talking as little as possible about the issues that it finds awkward or counter to its beliefs and ideology in the hope that it can get back into power and then claim a mandate to do what the hell it likes. If we're really lucky it will do so in cahoots with the SNP, because Labour is refusing to talk about English Votes for English Laws too.
There is a solution to immigration and that is to tell the EU to get stuffed and that we are going to control access to our jobs market. Those that tell you this would be economically inept are the same people who tell us we must stay in the EU, or who told us we should join the Euro. Most of us, those of us not thinking or even contemplating voting Ukip, accept the arguments for immigration and that it does much good for this country. But it is not a zero sum question. Yes immigration boosts the economy. It may even be part of the reason for our current healthy growth. But it is a sticking plaster solution: something that is disguising many ills. It is also damaging British society and the poor - an issue the rich metropolitan socialists of Labour ignore.
Immigration must be controlled. It must be controlled to protect people already here. It must be controlled to protect the poor. It must be controlled to prevent employers taking the easy option all the time. It must be controlled to prevent the cost of living crisis Labour moan about getting worse. It must be controlled because we currently don't have enough homes to house everyone. It must be controlled because our schools and hospitals are struggling to cope. It must be controlled because Britain cannot pick up the slack in the rest of Europe created by the idiotic Euro. It must be controlled because economic growth by importing extra people is not healthy or sustainable.
But Labour don't want to talk about that. Their position on this, as it is on the economy, is born of self interest and a refusal to listen to the very people their party was created to serve. Do they really think they can get away with this all the way to May?
Monday, 15 December 2014
This blog, as you will no doubt have noticed, is proudly sceptical. It is sceptical about a range of things: from Europe to the current leader of the Labour Party to Ukip's current status as a proud professional interloper into our demos; from the viability of the SNP's plans for independence to the desirability of a blogger pretending to write a book to cash in on her temporary status as a celebrity. I like to think that my scepticism is born of objectivity with just a tinge of cynicism.
And this is why this blog has always been sceptical about climate change, or at least of man's role in it. This is a position I have held now for 25 years, since the first whisperings of a theory and when I made a series about it for the radio station I was working for at the time. I've always been quite the trend setter.
My opinion then was what it remains now: that climate change is probably natural, or at least mostly natural; that nothing especially alarming is going on; that we would be much better spending the billions we are currently lavishing on measures to prevent climate change on ameliorating its effects.
As I pointed out in my post on this subject just last week, whenever there is a climate conference coming up, the rhetoric, hyperbole and propaganda are ramped up to prepare us for it. And so we got the ludicrous stories about this year being the hottest ever. Except of course this is in only one small part of the world and this is meaningless. It wasn't hot per se. It was just warm and mild over a protracted period. This proves precisely nothing, in the same way that it proved precisely nothing when we had heavy snow falls in successive winters across much of the country including the winter of 2010/11 when the entire country turned white in December.
Meanwhile it is conveniently forgotten that global temperatures are flatlining and the models have no idea why. Oh they claim it is the seas that are doing it, but they have no proof for this, no mechanism to explain it and no explanation for why this should suddenly have started happening when the planet had been heating up in prior decades without this inconvenient intervention.
Meanwhile, in the real world, the Antarctic is actually getting colder and the Arctic refuses to play ball by becoming ice free. In fact sea ice has been recovering. The polar bears are safe, although of course they were doing just fine anyway.
Fortunately however, for those of us who listen to all of this crap and get called names for asking awkward questions, the world this weekend proved itself incapable of doing anything about this non crisis anyway. Politicians met in Lima and came to a deal which achieved precisely nothing except a wish list and a very very large bill that the third world wishes to send to the rest of us which will pay for their
There will be yet another summit next year in Paris. Who knows what the winter will have done to us in the meantime. But, whatever it is, it will be blamed on climate change and urgent action will be required. Fortunately none will come and so the circus will move on. This is probably the way of things for years to come until eventually we will all look up the skies, take a temperature reading and realise that nothing much has happened either politically or climatically. For once the serial uselessness of our politicians will have served a purpose.
Sunday, 14 December 2014
Sorry, no Review of the Week this week. I didn't have time - it takes hours to do. It will be back next week for the last time this year. There will be a Review of the Year over the Christmas period.
However, I did cover some of the bigger stories of the week in my Video Diary above including Ukip and Zoe Sugg aka Zoella. It's not as all encompassing as my Review of the Week but it does include my lovely visage. I'm thinking of combining them in the New Year. Let me know what you think.
Saturday, 13 December 2014
Friday, 12 December 2014
Wallace had another relaunch yesterday. It wasn't called a relaunch, it was called a keynote speech - one in which he read from a script - but it was effectively a relaunch. He's had a lot of those recently and so they felt as though they shouldn't have another one. Well, not in 2014. And they have noticed that there is an election coming up and so it's probably not a good idea to have a relaunch this close to that. That would smack of panic.
This is a shame though because if there's one thing this Labour Party is good at it's coming up with jolly clever new slogans or subtitles for their party. Remember One Nation Labour. Ooh they were pleased with that one. It was stolen from the Tories! The Tories! Oh they laughed and giggled about that one. How jolly clever. Of course nobody knew what the hell it meant, but that didn't matter. Tories! Stolen!
And then there was describing a benefit cut as the bedroom tax. It isn't even a tax!
And then there are all the crises. Labour loves a good crisis. This government, according to Wallace and his gang, has been mired in so many crises it's a wonder it doesn't have a permanent blue flashing light outside Number 10 and COBRA sitting permanently. The NHS has been in permanent crisis because the Tories are in power and they just don't care about the NHS like Wallace does. There was going to be an unemployment crisis, a crisis in all public services because of the cuts, a cost of living crisis. Oh and did they mention the NHS? Best get it in again because they are running out of crises.
Yesterday Wallace wanted to talk about the deficit. He had it written down and everything, although even he probably wouldn't have forgotten to mention it this time because that was what the speech was actually about. He would have liked to say that it was a crisis, but then that would have been to acknowledge that spending more money than we actually have is a bad idea, and that is what Labour does. That is what Labour did. That is why we have a massive deficit that this government is struggling to eradicate.
But Labour have noticed that they aren't wholly trusted on the economy. The public seem to feel that the party that went on a vast spending binge when in power is probably really intent on doing the same thing. All of those crises we are alleged to have had are predicated on the idea that Tory cuts would wreak havoc. But they haven't. The economy is growing faster than any other member of the G7 while Europe heads towards its next crisis - possibly even an existential one.
And because the economy has stubbornly refused to go into a crisis for Labour to moan about they have had to reluctantly talk about it. Labour like spending money. They were going to spend money to make the economy grow. But then the damned thing started growing despite those cuts that were 'too far and too fast.' That was another slogan they had to abandon. They liked that one. Bloody hell!
They were going to spend money, borrowed money, to head off the crisis of unemployment. But then people started getting jobs, the sort of people who drive white vans and whom Wallace feels respect for.
So now Wallace has to cast around for another excuse to spend money. Now he wants to spend money to head off the cost of living crisis. This he will do by keeping borrowing money. There, you didn't see that coming did you. Labour will have to cut, but they will be sensible cuts. They will be Labour cuts. The party that gave us tax credits, which actually are a major cause of the cost of living crisis they now bemoan because they enable employers to pay lower wages, now wants to carry on borrowing money 'to invest.' They used to deploy that word all the time. They once claimed that they wanted to invest in welfare spending, it helped to hide the fact that they had created a structural deficit.
This is Labour's relaunch. They will have to cut but they will be nice cuts. Oh and they won't tell us what those cuts will be because they haven't seen the books yet, even though they are published and various economist including the trusted and revered IFS have pored over them. We must just trust Labour and presumably forget that when they were in power they spent like there was no tomorrow. This is the party that even created a welfare payment for school kids, welfare for people who haven't even started work yet. That is the Labour way. It's no wonder they want to give 16 year olds the vote.
This is the party that finds itself behind in the polls on economic competence. This is because everything they said about the economy has proven to be wrong, in addition to the fact that they were the ones who created much of the mess in the first place. Now their big new idea is that they would reluctantly cut, even though they used to say this would create carnage, but their cuts would be nice cuts. We are five months from the general election and this is what the Opposition is telling the nation it hopes to lead. You might call it a credibility crisis.
Thursday, 11 December 2014
Christ on a bike! Tonight's Question Time, a programme I do my best to avoid despite the fact that, or perhaps in reality because, I am interested in politics, tonight features Russell Brand and Nigel Farage. How the BBC must be hugging itself about that little coup. The pantomime season is here. Politics is usually a question of oh yes you did, oh no I didn't, but oh yes you did and I will tax the rich more. Now it will be much the same, but with more hair.
Except of course that great intellectual, Russell Brand, would never stoop to using a sentence as simple and easily understood as 'oh yes you did'. Or, 'he's behind you'. But he probably would say: I have confirmation of your egregious culpability and capitalistic, iniquitous misconduct. Furthermore he currently resides in a locational nexus with your outrageously delinquent personage and is currently advancing forth portending of future unpropitious circumstances unless you immediately egress uttering reassuring mantras of social solidarity. Farage would probably grin and have a pint and a cigar before slapping in an expenses claim.
Question Time seldom debates the issues of the day, in the same way that Prime Minister's Questions doesn't. It is a panel show but without the comedy. Oh and they let an invited audience in too. The studio audience are actually just as bad as the politicians. Their herd mentality and PC speech is actually more irritating than that of the politicians. After all the politicians have a vested interest in talking bland bollocks. Why do the audience do that? There's a Phd thesis for a psychology student straight away. I might even do it myself.
Of course many people will watch just out of interest and in the hope of seeing a car crash. Brandy Wandy will be all righteous anger, especially if anyone points out he is a multi millionaire with a Messiah complex, minimal talent and absolutely no ideas about how to bring about his dreams. A bit like the Labour Party. Is it too late for me to be in the audience? I can do my world famous Russell Brand impersonation if you like. I've grown a beard especially.
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
Dave is in Turkey this week and so PMQs was with Nick Clegg. I had thought he might try and answer questions from Cornwall amongst 'real people' but apparently not. Wallace, as is his wont, and despite not having to go to Turkey also sent in his deputy.
Unfortunately I don't have a deputy for these occasions. So I'll just not bother. And anyway, it's my baby's birthday today (see previous post). The last PMQs of 2014 will be covered here this time, this place next week.
Tuesday, 9 December 2014
Tomorrow's PMQs is not PMQs. It will be DPMQs. Not only is Nick Clegg going to have to sit next to Tories on the front bench, he is going to have to field questions for the government and defend its record - a record Lib Dems have lately been repudiating.
The Coalition is now starting to die. It's probably unlikely that it will gasp its last before its allotted time is up - a time set in statute - but we shouldn't rule it out. It is a great irony that, just a week after running away from his seat during the Autumn Statement, Clegg must now take questions and defend that which last week he was so keen to get a few hundred miles away from. If Wallace had any sense he would eschew his usual idiotic policy of substituting Hattie Harman in his place, on the specious grounds that it is beneath his dignity to question Dave's deputy, and lay into Clegg himself. But he won't. That would require decisiveness and bravery.
The sound and fury of the last week - the Coalition wars and George Osborne's little war with the BBC - the right wing press joined in with that, not because they had a case but just because that was a bandwagon they were very keen to jump on to for commercial reasons - is mostly because this government's time is up. An election is coming our way. There is day to day governing to do but nothing more will happen legislatively. Thus the fighting has begun along with the shooting of the BBC messenger.
I'm going to defend the BBC here, and not just because I used to work for it. Yes it is sometimes guilty of a kind of soft metropolitan liberal bias which can be seen across its range, and in particular when it reports on issues like immigration, environmentalism and education. But this is an unconscious thing. It's because the Beeb is full of educated people who think this way and assume that everyone else does too. It's the same kind of arrogance we see in our ruling class. But its reporting tries and usually succeeds in being fair.
Osborne last week got tetchy because his ruse had been found out. He played a bad hand very well, but it is still a bad hand. All of the heavy lifting of deficit reduction is still to be done. This was his decision. It ill behoves him to get angry when people point this out as the BBC's Norman Smith did, admittedly in colourful language.
We have not had austerity. It's been austerity lite. The economy is doing very well and the private sector is prospering as promised. Osborne's mistake was to accept the premise of those questioning him. It is simply not the case that the state has to spend money in order to grease the wheels of society. It's actually astonishingly bad at doing so - just look at the BBC, its overpaid managers, awful wastefulness and tendency to use our money to expand inexorably to the detriment of commercial competition.
Or there's welfare. We spend over £100 billion a year on welfare in this country, even if we disregard pensions, which would bump the figure up by another 140 billion or so. And yet lefties and church leaders are complaining that people are going hungry. If someone, a Tory peer like Lady Jenkin, points out that this is because the poor are inexperienced or just plain bad at budgeting and making cheap but nutritional meals instead of buying expensive ready meals, she is excoriated. But she was right. There is also evidence that they spend an eye watering amount of their benefits money on cigarettes - and then have to go to food banks.
The fact is that we as a nation cannot keep on with this big state knows best, handouts obsessed paternalism. It is infantilising a substantial part of our population and bankrupting them and us in every sense of that word. The last Labour government threw money at the problem of poverty. This government has changed little. And yet the problem remains. Yet nobody questions if we are taking the wrong approach. They just demand more money for handouts.
The Tories are apparently the only party willing to question this. They are doing so on welfare and it is already producing results and they have backing from some of the more honest and thoughtful left wing politicians like Frank Field. They ought to be going further. Indeed it is high time we took a long hard look at the NHS and what it does. I'm not for a moment suggesting we should stop the NHS treating the sick regardless of their income. That is a fine and estimable achievement. But we have to be realistic about what the NHS can afford. If we want the latest drugs for treating cancer we should have a blanket ban on cosmetic surgery for instance to pick an easy and obvious example. Should we be offering so much support to people giving up smoking? Are free prescriptions for people who could afford to pay a sensible use of scarce resources?
It is time to question the notion that the big state is the only way. The last Labour government surely tested the theory to destruction, but it was part of a consensus across the political spectrum going back to the war. Big state paternalism hasn't worked. The welfare state has burgeoned to something that was never envisaged as has the NHS. They are exacerbating rather than ameliorating problems.
And this is what George Osborne should have been saying last week. He was right that the there is a lot of hyperbole about the cuts. But he should have made a virtue of the need for cuts rather than argue that they won't be that bad. We need to do more with what money we have, but we also need to accept that the state needs to do less and get out of people's way.
This is classic liberalism. It was why Tories and proper liberals were interchangeable. Now Tories are the real liberals. Tories like me are open minded and relaxed about issues like gay marriage. We are horrified at the thought of state control of the press. We enthusiastically applauded the measures to allow people to do what they want with their pension funds rather than force them to buy annuities. We do not believe that it is 'fair' to compulsorily confiscate up to half of the earnings of those who have worked hard in order to give it to those who are not working. That is the exact opposite of 'fair.'
The Lib Dems are trying to have it both ways. They want to be in government, but being in government has made them unpopular. And so they are in opposition too. It's opposition to the Tories they tell us. But their entire raison d'être is coalition government. The compromises required of all parties are uncomfortable but necessary in the current political environment. Yet Lib Dems are now telling the nation that they no longer wish to be associated with the consequences of that, the consequences of their decision, ratified by the party, to enter government with the Tories and to cut and cut again. They are part of the reason that those of us who said the cuts this parliament should have been bigger were ignored. Now we see the results.
The problem for the Lib Dems is that government has exposed them for what they really are. I'm not talking about the hypocrisy and the lies here either. I'm not talking about the broken promises and the carnage reality has done to their manifesto commitments.
No, the problem for the Lib Dems is that they are not what it says on the tin. They should drop the word Liberal from their name. When they merged with the SDP they should have adopted its name, for that is what they are. Classic liberalism is about a small state, individual liberty. The Lib Dems are not liberal. They are social democrats, and they often have a problem with the second part of that title as their behaviour with regard to press regulation and the re-ordering of constituencies has proven.
The Tories are the liberals. That should be the thrust of their offer to the country. Lower taxes for all when they can be afforded. No spiteful levies on people's houses, no higher and wholly self defeating upper earnings taxes. The rich are already paying more than any other income band and that is right and proper. But we cannot keep raising taxes to pay for political cowardice. We have to live within our means. That is the Tory message for the next election. It is one the other parties reject. That is the message this government has been sending out. It is why Nick Clegg is running away. Tomorrow at PMQs it will be interesting to see what he says.
Monday, 8 December 2014
I'll come to the whole coalition civil war and the ridiculous spat between George Osborne and the BBC in my next post.
But, since winter has now arrived, with the first snow arriving today, now seems like a good time to go back to one of this blog's favourite subjects.
Last week we were told, with all of the usual intonations of doom and gloom, that this year, which hasn't actually finished yet, is set to be the hottest year ever. Why are they coming to this conclusion before the end of the year? Well, it could be because there is a climate conference taking place. Does that not strike you as a bit tendentious, unscientific, political? It does rather give the game away.
And, of course, it isn't even true. What they have done is what they have always done. They have cherry picked their data. One data set says this is the hottest year ever. The more reliable satellite data set says that the year was unremarkable and about the sixth on the list.
This is not how science is supposed to work. It is supposed to assess all of the available data and come to a conclusion. The only reasonable one is that the case is unproven and there remain huge question marks over the assumptions and the trillions we are told we are going to have to spend to address a problem that may well not exist.
As ever with this debate it is nothing like as clear cut as is alleged. Yes, the planet has warmed over the last century, nobody is claiming otherwise. But imputing this to a trace gas is at best questionable and possibly entirely bogus. There is no scientific way of determining what difference man-made CO2 as opposed to the natural variety is making. Furthermore the temperature of the planet is flatlining. It has done so now for 18 years. If carbon dioxide were the problem that is alleged, if all of those models were correct, it would not be doing this. Temperatures are not rising as we were told they would. Since records do not go back far enough, we cannot know for sure if what is happening is unusual, but the evidence suggests that the planet cools and warms on a regular basis. It's natural. Something is wrong with the theory.
2014 has not been an especially unusual year. Britain has enjoyed a relatively mild one, albeit with those floods this time last year, but other parts of the world have suffered record snow storms earlier than usual in the year. In other words there is no clear evidence that anything unusual is happening. Yet the warmist side is cherry picking to find what they want to see so as to commit the world to ruinously expensive remedies looking for a disease. Why else did they have to make such a song and dance last week about an unexceptional year?
Oh, and the polar bears are doing just fine too by the way.