Tuesday, 31 March 2015
And so we're off. The election is underway, MPs are no longer MPs, offices have been cleared out, opinion polls will be coming so fast and furious they will be like a Labour leader rushing to sack an MP caught patronising the working class.
Labour decided in their less than infinite wisdom - probably because their leader is such an intellectual - that they would kick off the campaign by quoting business leaders without bothering to ask their permission. This was to show business how much on their side they are. How the business leaders of the country must rue the day that Wallace decided to go into politics rather than actually try to learn something about the world by earning an honest living first. What insight he could have brought them.
Labour have realised, it seems, that the last five years bashing banks and big business might somehow have given the impression to the nation that they are anti banks and big business. And so yesterday in a very half hearted piece of theatre in which they sought to show the business world that they are on their side. How? By telling the people of this country they mustn't be allowed any say over Europe. It takes a special kind of genius, or maybe an alleged intellectual to think of that.
Labour are parroting the old line that the Tory approach to Europe will endanger the economy and endanger jobs. This is odd given the rate at which jobs have been created in this country despite the world knowing of Tory policy on offering the country that referendum we all want. This is not say that there will not be problems in the next parliament assuming that the Tories are in a position to deliver that referendum. There will undoubtedly be rancour and bitterness. But that is to come.
And the other parties accept the need for reform in Europe. So what is their problem with offering the British people some say on that? Well clearly their problem is that the default European one that they might not like the answer that the British people give in that referendum. And so they choose not to ask us. That is Labour's position.
But that is about the only argument that they could come up with to convince business leaders that Labour is on their side. Sure they may have spent the last five years talking about predatory capitalism, of claiming the ability and indeed the right to say what is a good or bad type of business, they might have talked of interfering in markets and imposing price freezes, they might have talked angrily about people making an honest profit and even come up with a half baked scheme to cap the profits of businesses providing private services before it was pointed out to them that this was idiotic and unworkable. But, despite all of this language and much more besides, they decided the best way of getting business onside was to say: yes we hate you, yes we are probably going to interfere in your business, load extra costs on it, give greater heft to the unions but at least we are pro Europe.
That is why the first day of the campaign proper turned into, if not exactly a disaster for Labour, nothing approaching a triumph either. What were they thinking? Was this the best that they could do? Well actually yes it was. As this blog has observed many many times, this is a party with nothing to say, no vision, no economic policy, just a series of dog whistles and a vague and meaningless assertion that things will be better under them because they care more and because they have the mysterious never seen before ability to cut in a way that is caring and not to spend more than we can afford.
The polls may not yet be moving for the Tories but they will. The campaign is under way now and minds are about to be concentrated. Today was not a disaster for Labour but there will be disasters. It is hard to avoid them when you have nothing meaningful to say.
Monday, 30 March 2015
So there we are. Now we have it. Now those of us who told Dave he should just avoid the debates, not because he is scared of debating but because we won't get one have been vindicated. Wallace has had a small spurt in the polls. He has had it, not because he hit the PM hard with the strength of arguments, not because his puerile politicking hit the mark, but because the public saw him stand up and realised he it not quite so much of a cartoon as they had suspected. Not quite. Low expectations meant that he could only ever win. His gormless laughter, his straw man arguments, his 'hell, yes,' moment have given him a momentary spurt in the wake of the debate. That was always going to happen.
Those of us who think that Wallace would be a disaster for this country, who regard him as an absurd figure - who call him Wallace, do so for the very good reason that this alleged intellectual is an empty vessel. He and his party have nothing whatever to say. When you have nothing to say then television is the perfect arena. That way people can concentrate on the way he says it, the way he looks, the way he carries himself rather than what he actually says. That is why television debates are so utterly hopeless as a way of deciding how to vote. It is choreographed banality, even in the hands of Jeremy Paxman.
And Paxman fell into the trap of trying to elicit cheap television thrills too. His attack on the PM over food banks and zero hours contracts is as intellectually dishonest and vacuous as everything that is coming from Labour. Indeed this sort of attack is all that is coming from Labour. Food banks are a classic piece of metropolitan hype over not very much. Indeed the hype has contributed to their growth. If you give people free food then of course it will see more availing themselves of it. That's why the homeless flock to London. They know they will be fed and be given all manner of other amenities. Nobody questions which came first.
Labour are intent on this kind of phoney non argument for the entire election campaign that officially kicks off tomorrow. Their attack lines over supposed privatisation of the NHS was exposed as false and hypocritical by Jeremy Paxman's former colleague Kirsty Wark a couple of months ago but this still won't stop them repeating it and even putting it on billboards. This week Wallace demanded that the PM rule out putting up VAT. Cameron duly did thus knocking Wallace off his stride. But that won't stop Labour making that claim either.
Wallace even had the cheek on Thursday to assert that his defeat of the government's plans to take military action in Syria was a sign of his leadership. It was actually the opposite. It was a sign of his political immaturity, weakness, duplicity, mendacity, opportunism and cynicism. This was man who was being led by his party much as he is led by the unions and by the opinion polls. Far from the high of this parliament that Wallace seems to think it is, this was actually his lowest and most disgusting. This was playing games on the issue of defence and on people's lives. Many of felt that taking on Assad in Syria would be dangerous, although that was before the rise of ISIL. But that wasn't part of Wallace's calculation. He just wanted to chalk up a parliamentary win and plaudits from his muttering backbenchers. He wanted to pose as tough.
The only good thing about Thursday's non event was that the public showed once again that the idea of his stabbing his brother in the back remains something that sticks in the memory five years on. That is a neat summary of the man. He even tried to lie his way out of that.
But the worst moment by far was when he was asked whether Labour spent too much. No he said immediately. That exemplifies how little Labour have understood, how arrogant and cloth eared they remain. This is because it makes no sense. Labour accept that they will have to make cuts, although they claim that theirs will somehow be nice cuts. But if they accept that cuts are necessary then does that not imply that they spent too much? Isn't that a simple calculation that an alleged intellectual should be able to make whilst sitting in one of his kitchens?
Labour have been wrong about everything to do with the economy for the full five years of this now ending parliament. They said the cuts were too far and too fast, they said that unemployment would rocket, they said we were having a cost of living crisis, they threatened to freeze energy prices. Yet on all these matters and many others besides, they have been wrong and often catastrophically so. They still refuse to accept that they did anything wrong when in power, when they saddled the state with a deficit that we are still struggling to clear. That, to anyone else, suggests that they spent too much. Not to Wallace. Furthermore it is Labour's policy, going into this election, to keep borrowing. They mean to do so 'to invest' even though when they were last in power that weasel word was used as a means of cooking the books.
To Labour, all spending is investment if they are desperate enough not to have to cut and to appease their union paymasters. It means taxes rise inexorably, it means the destruction of jobs, it means Britain becomes less prosperous. Labour do it every time and they never ever learn. They just rely on the Tories to come to power every few years to clear up their mess while they sit on the sidelines calling them heartless.
He told us last Thursday that he is resilient. This at least is true. But resilience is not necessarily something to be admired when it prevents you from seeing yourself the way the world sees you, when it means you refuse to listen, refuse to change your mind except for narrow tactical reasons. The leader of the opposition is simply thick skinned. That's why he committed that act of fratricide the country still remembers. It's why he refuses to acknowledge mistakes. It's why he doesn't look at the British economy doing well despite his jeremiah warnings and reconsiders his position. It's why we don't believe him and his party when they tell us they have had a genuine change of mind over immigration or welfare reform. The so called debates are just a distraction from these simple truths.
Sunday, 29 March 2015
We now come to one of those chapters in which the Bible, for no reason other than protesting too much, gives us a long list of the various offspring of Noah and his kids. Of course it largely has to do this to show the passage of time. It's rather like one of those parts in a film in which they show the calendar flicking by. In the case of the Bible though they have to do this because God had just slaughtered everyone in his flood and so the planet needed re-populating.
This is also meant to convince us somehow that all of the people on the planet all came from one family, then God killed them all and so they started all over again. This was then used in medieval times by highly suggestible monks to work out from these lists how old the Earth is. When creationists argue that the planet is only a few thousand years old this is where they get their numbers from. Of course it is impossible to work it out accurately from this because it is all so vague, even if it weren't ludicrous. Why for instance does everyone live to such venerable ages in the early Bible? Well, clearly it was a way of making this tedious part easier to make up. Otherwise they would have had to come up with even more generations.
Anyway, we shall take a leaf out of their book and I shall skip through this and leave out the endless made up generations after Noah.
Essentially, what we are being asked to believe, is that these men (once again no daughters are mentioned) begat lots of sons and they slowly begat their own sons and they spread out and became the tribes of Israel - the Jewish nation. We even see cities mentioned and a great and mighty one called Nimrod who built the city of Babel and its eponymous tower. The Bible also seems to think that there were giants around at this time. Nimrod may be one of them.
Other cities and kingdoms are mentioned such as Accad, Erech, Calnar and Shinar. And tribes were formed to populate these cities. These tribes and cities spread out from where Noah and his little family and within a few generations had miraculously filled the world again with people, or at least of the world as they knew about when they were writing this silly story anyway.
These, says the Bible, are the generations of Noah and his family. By these were the nations created after the flood. Yeah, right.
Saturday, 28 March 2015
Friday, 27 March 2015
This parliamentary session is coming to an end and our MPs will soon cease to be MPs and become parliamentary candidates instead. The public holds those MPs in contempt a great deal of the time for reasons that are often grossly unfair. Yesterday we saw examples of why this is unfair and also, at exactly the same time, why it is fair enough.
The government tried, in the sort of parliamentary ruse that most governments engage in from time to time, to bring in a new rule which would have seen secret ballots for the Speaker. This was an attempt to bring down the Speaker, John Bercow, who will have to re-elected to his post at the beginning of the new parliament. The motion was defeated.
Bercow is loathed by the government. He is loathed by Tories. He is loved by Labour and it is Labour and his cosying up to them which saw him get the post he so enjoys and which meant that this very British attempt at a democratic coup failed. Labour hid behind principle. It wasn't about principle.
This is not to say that there was not a principle at stake. It's just that Labour weren't worried about it for all of their protestations. They just wanted to keep a man who has been their friend in his highly powerful post and because he annoys the government.
But what the government did was sneaky and underhand. This is why some Tories and Lib Dems, enough to beat the motion, voted against. So this was your mixture of principle and dirty politics all in one place and on one measure.
Bercow, to give him his due, has proven himself very adept at playing the game of getting enough people on his side to ensure that he remains in place. His reforms have been welcome to some extent, but he has also frequently overstepped the mark. His attempts to impose his will on Parliament have been just as sneaky and underhand as this attempt to bring him down was. It would actually have been beautiful had it worked. It would have served him right.
But the corollary of all of this manoeuvring is that the House of Commons has, as its impartial referee, a man who is extremely partial and is loathed by at least half of the members of that House. That surely makes his position untenable? In the same way that we cannot have a monarch who is not impartial (see previous post), we certainly cannot have a Speaker who is ignoring the conventions of his important office and who yesterday stared with undisguised loathing at the government front bench because they were defying him.
What they were attempting to do was simply bring in a rule that applies to the his deputy speakers - that they are elected by secret ballot. This is hardly unfair. Indeed many will be surprised it does not already apply.
The Speaker has his favourites and those he regards as enemies. That is an extraordinary position for the Speaker to be in. The present way of electing him just adds to his power to show favouritism and to cow his critics. That is undemocratic and wrong.
It is also problematic given the febrile state of our politics and the high likelihood of another hung parliament, a probable minority government, endless knife edge votes and maybe even continental style swapping of governments in between elections. We may see prime ministers or party leaders ousted. Under such circumstances a Speaker who is scrupulously fair and impartial is especially important. He must be trusted. Bercow isn't.
If he had any sense he would see how untenable his position is and announce his intention to stand down. The government could ease this process by giving him the peerage ex speakers usually get. By convention the Speaker of the House of Commons is unopposed when seeking re-election in his constituency. That is wrong too, not least because he has then to be re-elected to his post. If I had the means and opportunity I would stand against him on a point of principle. This man is unfit to be Speaker because he does not have the trust of the House of Commons, because he has a vile and almost child like temper and because of his preening arrogance. If he won't stand down he must be removed. It's another good reason to vote Tory and give them a majority.
Yesterday, after a long battle that often verged on the absurd, the Supreme Court dismissed attempts by the government to prevent the publication of letters Prince Charles wrote to the last government. Quite why the government struggled so long over this is a mystery as is their disappointment at the result. They say this defeats the will of parliament. But the will of parliament changed. It passed a law allowing freedom of information and then realised that it had a few unfortunate and embarrassing consequences.
Here is the bottom line. The Guardian, and I agree with them for once, thinks that the public has the right to see these letters. It thinks this because Charles was seeking to influence government policy. The government argued that Prince Charles is supposed to be impartial. Publishing these letters would show that actually he isn't. So they shouldn't be published. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?
The heir to the throne is a man who has strong opinions. Good for him. I am the same. That's why I write this blog. The difference is that I do not have the power to influence policy that Charles does. But, even if I did, I air my opinions openly and thus they can be challenged. You are free to comment below if you disagree with me. What Charles tries to do is use his position and status to lobby government and then demands that this lobbying is kept secret.
The constitutional position of the monarchy and all of its hangers on is that they enjoy their lofty and frankly absurd status on the understanding that it is a ceremonial role only. That is just about acceptable to those of us who wonder why Britain doesn't join the 21st century and simply elect our head of state. But Charles, who has a very high opinion of himself and his opinions, is trying to subvert that convention. His letters are a constitutional outrage. This is a man who is going to be King in the next few years. It could easily be tomorrow given the age of the present incumbent. It is not beyond the realm of possibility, given the state of the parties, that this man could have a role in deciding who is our next prime minister and who governs. Imagine the uproar if that happened at the same time as these letters were published.
Yet Charles and the government argued that that is precisely why they should not be published. He is not impartial, he is a man of strong opinions who is supposed to be impartial. Therefore we should keep his interventions secret to preserve the fiction of impartiality.
Those of us of a republican bent are looking forward to the day that Charles becomes King. We are looking forward to it because it will be the beginning of the end of the monarchy. This spectacularly mediocre man, surrounded by lackeys and yes men, has an inflated opinion of himself and so feels he has the right to lecture all around him. He is a fervent believer in homeopathy for crying out loud. He has even lobbied for it. And this is why we have the right to know what it is he is saying. We have the right to know because he does not have the right to be doing it. That is the deal with kings and princes. They are an adornment. They are a silly antediluvian throwback to our history. If they want a role in the government of this country then they should stand for parliament, they should have their opinions tested in public forums just as the prime minister and leader of the opposition did last night.
To be fair the Queen has scrupulously observed these constitutional niceties. No doubt she has opinions and strong ones too. Her mother certainly had them and they would not have done her credit had they emerged. In the words of Vernon Bogdanor, monarchs reign but they do not rule. The same should be true of the man set to inherit the role. If I were a minister who received one of these letters I would either ignore it or send a strongly worded reply telling him to mind his own business and go back to cutting ribbons. That is his job. It requires no intellect, which is fortunate because he doesn't have any. When he is King he will have regular meetings with the prime minister of the day and access to government papers. That is why he has to remain neutral. If it emerges that he is anything but then we have a problem. But that is a problem that cannot be swept under the carpet. The man is congenitally unsuited to the role. But then that's the trouble with a system which hands the job to the first born son regardless of suitability. We may be about to see how spectacularly ridiculous and untenable that system is in a democracy.
Thursday, 26 March 2015
There are many people writing about the whole Top Gear affair and of Jeremy Clarkson. I have done so already once, I have recorded a Video Diary about it. I am now doing so again. But I mean to do so in an even handed way. No, really. It probably means that my hopes of replacing Jezza are gone forever.
Unlike many of the people who are writing about this however I actually know what I am talking about. As will become clear.
First, let us acknowledge that what Clarkson did was wrong. Nothing can excuse his behaviour on that day. Indeed he himself has apparently accepted this and has apologised.
But there is a but. This has been blown out of all proportion. This was a workplace spat. It was one man, who is under enormous pressure - we'll return to that - who had had a long and arduous day filming and who lost his temper. This is showbiz. Are we saying that diva-ish demands are unknown to television producers? Are we saying that temper tantrums and perhaps a few too many drinks are unknown?
In most workplaces colleagues under pressure will sometimes blow a gasket. Jeremy and his producer, Oisin Tymon, had worked together for years and probably would have continued to do so had this event not been blown out of proportion by the BBC's serial tendency to bureaucratise anything and everything, a tendency that Jeremy was wont to satirise since he found it so absurd and frustrating. Instead of simply getting two grown men together and getting them to hug it out, this has been turned into a pantomime of he said this and oh no he didn't and gave the press the opportunity to print endless side panels about the faux pas of the BBC's bad boy.
This is not to say that this wasn't a difficult issue for the BBC who found themselves between a rock and a hard place. But that is a situation entirely of their own making. BBC managers paid to manage rarely do anything of the kind. They do not manage things they fire-fight them. And this was a fire they could have been extinguished in minutes by simply shutting down the story and resolving the matter as described above. Instead it was turned into an investigation. Jeremy didn't attack anyone with a machete. He was pissed off. He got angry. He then regretted it. It happens. Move on. If they had moved swiftly enough they could have used it to raise some money for Comic Relief.
And there is another way that the BBC is guilty of appalling mismanagement and that is this: Jeremy Clarkson is a man in need of a hug. He may be going through a minor breakdown. Being the kind of bloke he is, a middle aged man of a certain generation who is British and Yorkshireman too, he is not the sort to collapse in a heap and ask for help for his high stress levels. He has thrown himself into his work. The BBC, ever keen on its cash cow, asked for additional episodes from him and the team. That piled on the pressure. That pressure snapped a couple of weeks ago and now we have the result.
The pressure? It reads like something from a soap opera. Jeremy has recently lost his mother, his marriage has broken up, he works long and arduous hours, travelling constantly, his life is pried into by the media, he is constantly being criticised in that media, much of which hates him or envies him or both and his employers, rather than backing him, usually join in the criticism whenever he makes a joke which some people choose to take offence to. He was even criticised last year for a piece of film which was left out of a programme on the cutting room floor but which someone picked up and leaked to a newspaper. Yet throughout all of this he has remained loyal to the BBC. Quite why so many of us continue to love this organisation and give it our loyalty and devotion despite being shafted by it is a mystery. But we do.
And let us nail another myth here. Top Gear is not bigger than Jeremy Clarkson. Jeremy Clarkson is Top Gear. He and Andy Wilman reinvented it and came up with televisual gold. Before they did so it had been scrapped. It had been scrapped because Jeremy Clarkson left its previous version, the staid, boring one which Jeremy brightened from time to time with his iconoclasm and humour. In its previous version, just before it was scrapped, some of the presenters who worked on it were Andy Wilman (who was actually very funny) and James May. May actually replaced Clarkson. But without the main man the show was a goner. It will be again.
Now some of the phenomenal success of the new version is down to simple good luck. They happened upon a format that worked and then discovered the magical ingredient of the long journey, challenge or race between the presenters. It happened almost by accident. But it was a formula that worked and stuck. Its often forgotten that the very first series of the new version was a work in progress and didn't feature James May. It was just a rehashed and longer version of the old show but with Jeremy back at the helm.
And while the chemistry and interplay between May, Hammond and Clarkson is of course vital to its appeal, what binds it all together is Jeremy himself. He writes the scripts. He comes up with a lot of the ideas. He is there when it is all edited together. And, when the presenters go their separate ways and make their own individual films, Jeremy's are consistently the best, the funniest, the cleverest, the most inventive, the wittiest, the most talked about. Among my favourites are the items about the Peel P5, the Reliant Robin, the test of the Kia Cee'd or the Ford Fiesta. He's also become rather good at interviewing people. I'm sure I wasn't alone in falling a little in love with Gillian Anderson just a few weeks ago when she was the star in the reasonably priced car.
In short then, though it is true that Top Gear existed long before Jeremy Clarkson came on board, it was he who made it worth watching. Without him it could continue, but it would lose what made it so gloriously entertaining. Jeremy Clarkson is the motoring journalist who discovered that he has a talent for comedy. His comic timing is up there with the greats. There is a reason that it was always he who introduced The Stig - some say that he isn't machine washable and that all of his potted plants are called Steve. All we know is, he's called The Stig.
His description of lorry driving: Change gear, change gear, change gear, change gear, murder a prostitute, change gear is funny. It just is. He regularly takes the piss out of we Brummies. I'm okay with it. His Brummie accent is actually pretty good. If he's at a loose end he could teach the cast of Peaky Blinders how to do it.
And I think the BBC knows all of this. I think they felt they had to something. Unfortunately, as so often, they did the wrong thing. Always assuming that they couldn't simply have kept the lid on what was a minor incident - a fracas was a well chosen word - they should have simply dismissed it as an internal issue that was nobody else's business, that apologies had been made and the matter resolved.
But what purpose is achieved by canning the footage that will now not be seen? The man got into a minor bust up, is he now to be banned forever? Is this not overkill? He cannot be replaced and he and the show are too popular and too valuable to be canned. So wait a few months and bring it back.
Don't get me wrong, I would love the gig. It's the best job in the world. But they already had the best man doing it. Why would you end that? To appease the sort of people who didn't watch the programme anyway, the sort of people who complain because they are offended by a joke? The sort of people who see racism in everything and anything, especially if uttered by someone of whom they disapprove? The sort of people who once complained because Jezza drove a Land Rover up a mountain and crushed some heather?
It is on such occasions that the BBC is its own worst enemy. If it is to survive then this kind of programme is what it desperately needs to keep it relevant. Instead its policy of safety first, of anodyne drivel, of Strictly Come Dancing and The Voice and drama short on drama but long on budgets is the reason it is losing its place in our hearts. In Top Gear it had something genuinely popular because it dared to be different and yes to offend. In Jeremy Clarkson it had a man who loved working for it and suffered the slings and arrows of doing so for Lilyputian nonentities like Danny Cohen. Jeremy is now free to form his own production company with Andy Wilman and to go off and make his show. It won't be called Top Gear but that is what it will be. If he has any sense he will offer Oisin Tymon a job. That would make the BBC look even more ridiculous than it does already.
Wednesday, 25 March 2015
The BBC has just sacked Jeremy Clarkson as presenter of Top Gear. This is an idiotic decision but one we all knew was coming. Jeremy will now head off to pastures new and make a new fortune on pay per view.
The BBC will probably try now to recast at least one role and may well have to get three new presenters. Here's my audition for the role.
This is it then. The last PMQs of a long, often fractious, occasionally harmonious, frequently radical, sporadically deranged and almost always tendentious parliament. Now we reach the end. Dave is set to go to the Palace tonight and ask the Queen to formally bring it to an end and declare the hostilities that have been happening anyway since January to be underway. We meet again in May, always supposing that anything has been resolved.
It is generally supposed that nothing much will be resolved by this election. We may need another, although the mechanism for doing so is difficult and that is before the SNP and the coat hanger swallowing, bumptious, numpty Alex Salmond gets involved. Salmond, the man who lost and lost badly the referendum just over six months ago, is now telling anyone who will listen - which means anyone with a microphone and a notepad - that he will vote out the Tories under any circumstances other than if they win a majority. This, it is reasonable to assume, is because the SNP want another Tory government. Is this not a miscalculation though? What happens if Salmond succeeds as only he can at riling the English and gets us to vote en masse for the Tories? What happens if they win a majority? Well the SNP could complain as much as they like but they have their own parliament and will soon have new powers. They could scarcely complain if the rest of the country elects a government of which they disapprove. How glorious would it be to see Salmond ignored for five whole years and left to get fatter than he is already on all of those subsidised meals. After all SNP MPs have nothing to do, especially if they don't have the balance of power in their hands. They don't even have much say about what happens in Scotland. Salmond doesn't even have much say in his own party any more. He shouldn't even be given an office. Use one in Edinburgh.
This has widely, at least amongst the Westminster chatterati, been seen as a gaffe. The wider public doesn't agree. Only in the world of politics could someone's giving five years notice be seen as a gaffe. How many Labour MPs wish their own leader would be so certain about his intentions or maybe refuse to be leader after this election? Few of them want him on the election leaflets after all.
Of course Dave has an election to win if he is to get his five years, not to mention those debates that he struggled manfully to avoid. First we had the last of these regular sessions against Wallace. This is not to say that these two will never meet again across the dispatch box of course. They could meet up in exactly the same roles some time in May. They could meet up with roles reversed and before either has had the chance to quit, assuming that they don't take the Gordon Brown approach to defeat and leave in a huff so handing the role to their previously ignored deputy. Usually leaders, even when they have resigned, stay on until a replacement is found. John Major did it and even warned the country of the perils of devolution before he went. If only we had listened. And if only we had had a proper debate about the Fixed Terms Parliament Act and the chaos it may well cause in just a few weeks time. But more of that another day.
And so to the last session. Sam Cam was in the gallery with the kids to watch her husband at what could easily be his last PMQs, at least as PM. There are some who say that Dave might be forced out whatever happens. We live in deeply uncertain times, although at least we have the near certainty that there will soon be fewer Lib Dems MPs. Some consolation.
Wallace got to his feet and it all went spectacularly wrong for him from the off. Labour's big schtick this week is their allegation that the Tories will have to plug the gap between cuts and spending by putting up VAT. They did it in 2010, although with inflation at 0% they could be forgiven for thinking it might inject some much needed cost rises into the system and head off deflation.
So, said Wallace, after pointing out that Dave had given a straight answer to a straight question in his kitchen the other day, would he now do the same on VAT. Dave at first looked as though he was simply going to evade the question making a crack about forcing Wallace's retirement, instead he sprang yet another surprise. He said yes, he rules out a rise in VAT. What has happened to the man? He keeps answering questions. This isn't supposed to happen.
It meant that Wallace was completely stuffed. He was utterly unprepared for this eventuality and had no strategy to deal with it. Rabbits in headlights have looked less stunned.
And so, having received the straight answer he had requested, he was left having to pour scorn on it. Nobody would believe the prime minister he said which seemed churlish to say the least, especially for a man who once worked for Gordon Brown.
And Dave turned it back on him in between the gales of laughter at Wallace's obvious discomfiture. Would he now, asked the PM, rule out Labour's tax rise of choice, an increase in National Insurance contributions? Wallace gave no such assurance. He fell back on the it was prime ministers questions response. He twisted. He turned. Perhaps he was hoping if he did enough of this that the earth would swallow him up. Given the state of the parliamentary estate this may be a definite possibility. But it didn't.
And Cameron kept asking. Wallace's attack was blunted. He tried asking about other alleged failures of the government and yet we kept noticing that it was he who was dodging answering a simple question. He even claimed that it was only the Tories who would have to put up taxes. Only the Tories? From Labour, the party of tax and spend? We thought the Tories were the party of ideological cuts?
Wallace flailed around and delivered his pre-prepared soundbite at the end about the country needing a Labour government. But it was drowned out by jeers and by the uncomfortable silence on his own benches. Dave had scored an easy and morale raising win and completely floored his opponent in a way not seen for months. This parliament will be prorogued later this week and the election is underway.
We meet again some time in May. Or possibly in June. Time will tell.
Since the exchanges above Labour have changed their stance and have now ruled out an increase in National Insurance. This, they claim ludicrously, was something they had planned on announcing. In fact they have panicked and come up with this new policy so quickly that they didn't even have time to plan it on the back of a fag packet.
Tuesday, 24 March 2015
Politicians are a peculiar species. Of course they are. We all know that. Yet to be fair to them, they often can't win. Within a few days all of the major party leaders have had their travails. Wallace is having his usual difficulties convincing anyone that he has a clue what he is talking about or that he can make a decent fist of anything more complicated than eating a bacon sandwich. This is a man who even managed to screw up posing for a picture in his kitchen. In addition his hypocrisy over donors and hedge funds was exposed over the weekend.
But these problem are entirely self inflicted. When you pose as a man of the people despite being an other worldly, 70s style socialist who refuses to see the real world then you get what is coming to you. What must have particularly struck in his craw this weekend was that his brother effortlessly got reams of good publicity. No kitchens or bacon butties in sight.
Nick Clegg's donor problems over the weekend were also self inflicted. If a party poses as whiter than white then it has to be. It set itself up for the weekend's stains to be revealed as surely as if it had hung them out on the washing line for the world to see.
I don't know why David Cameron said what he said about being a two term prime minister yesterday. The commentariat are scratching their heads. What did it mean? DC is usually so good at dodging questions like that. Why didn't he this time? Was it the special charm of James Landale, a posh boy like him? At least Dave did manage to show the nation his kitchen, his real kitchen in his lovely house in the Cotswolds. It even came complete with a 'calm down dear' chopping board in honour of his un-PC spat with Angela Eagle all those years ago. Perhaps it was a present from his good friend Jeremy Clarkson.
Of course there is always the possibility that the prime minister knew what he was doing and gave an honest answer to a question that is bound to come up. We have to mention this possibility. Michael Gove's defence of it on Newsnight was superb and almost convincing. In an era of fixed term, five year parliaments, perhaps the time has come for our leaders to be more open about their intentions and cease the silly game playing.
The problem is of course that our media to some extent forces politicians to play these games. The PM would usually be expected to stonewall this question because otherwise it renders him powerless. But it only does so because of the games our politicians are obliged to play thanks to the coverage and the endless speculation. This will encourage speculation, but that speculation would have happened anyway. Cameron will have been prime minister for 10 years and leader of his party for 15 years at the end of the next parliament. That is long enough for anyone.
And here's the thing: we all assumed that he wouldn't want to stand for a third term anyway didn't we? Only in the peculiar world of politics in which one must not say the bleeding obvious does this honest answer become somehow a gaffe. Furthermore it is by no means unprecedented for sitting prime ministers to announce their intention to stand down to make way for a successor. Churchill did it. Eden did it. MacMillan did it. Wilson did it. Thatcher did it. Blair did it. That is the advantage of a parliamentary system. The next leader is always waiting in the wings. Labour are already lining up to fight for Wallace's job. The Lib Dems are fighting like cats in a sack to replace Nick Clegg. They might even have to do it straight after the election if he loses his seat and without the need for him to fall on his sword first. That this is regarded as a gaffe tells us all we need to know about the stupid way we do politics in this country. How does America, which has a two term limit written into its constitution, manage to survive?
The problem is less that the prime minister has been honest or has committed a gaffe, it is that we cannot imagine any of his rivals doing the same. Nick Clegg has clung on tenaciously. Wallace will probably try to do so whatever the result of the next election and insist that he can still deliver his party and himself into power.
And then there is the SNP. Last september, in a fit of pique and depression he now almost certainly regrets, Alex Salmond stood down as his party leader. This bout of humility lasted less than a week but the damage was done. Now he is acting like leader again, giving interviews despite the fact he is now a backbencher and will not even be leader of his party at Westminster assuming that he is elected as an MP.
The man who lost his party the referendum due to his own ego and serial inability to give truthful answers where bluff and bluster will suffice has since acted as though his party won that referendum. But he is able to do that because of the febrile state of British politics and the appalling weakness of Labour and its leader. Now Salmond heads down to make daring raids into England armed only with a smug grin and assertions that bear no scrutiny. Yet Labour still cannot see him off.
The election and the parliament that results from it is going to be historic, fascinating and quite probably devastating in a number of ways for this country we call home. Under the circumstances is it so surprising that David Cameron will wish to look for a new career at the end of it? The country can only hope that some of the other party leaders do the same. It is too much to hope that Salmond will take so dignified an approach. Was there ever a man who brought his trade into such disrepute? He's retired from public life twice already. He's currently engaged in his third comeback. Like a political shark, if he ever stops grinning, ever stops telling lies, ever stops making baseless assertions of alternate realities he will probably die.
Monday, 23 March 2015
The election gets under way this week. This will come as news to a substantial part of the population it seems which is hard for many of us to credit but there it is. I looked out on Friday, when the sun was disappearing behind the moon, and saw some neighbours attempting to view this event through a pinhole camera as recommended in the media. Unfortunately they were actually just holding their camera up to their faces and peering through the pin hole at the sun. I didn't bother disabusing them. If such people cannot see the polling station let alone the ballot paper on 7th May they will be doing the nation a favour.
You have to assume however that many of our parties, possibly all of them, are relying on this section of the electorate. Perhaps this is Labour's 35%. The sort of people who don't understand how to use a pinhole camera and end up in A&E with scorched retinas are the same sort of people who vote Labour come hell and high water. They even do it when Labour lose their MP because he has been sent to prison for fiddling while his colleagues on the town council looked the other way while white girls were systematically abused and treated like chattels by Pakistani men. The local Labour Party threatened anyone investigating this. They did so knowing their rotten borough was theirs in perpetuity. How else to explain that other than pin hole sized brains?
And yet, according the polls, Labour remains the party of choice for around a third of the electorate. How can this be? This is the party that only a month ago was piously informing us that they would not be descending into personality and smear politics in the election. Wallace's wife informed us, with all of the sanctimony of the man himself, that she was prepared for his opponents to be vicious. This despite the fact that only a couple of weeks previously Wallace, her husband, had called David Cameron a dodgy prime minister. This was a man who had been so fantastically self righteous about tax avoidance despite his being a practitioner of it. Hedge funds. He's against those too, except of course when they are Labour donors. How does he feel, we cannot help wondering, about the news this weekend that Labour's biggest donor, Unite, will decide to ignore any laws introduced after the election if they force upon the union movement the absolutely outrageous demand that they behave democratically and require their members to actually vote for strikes before calling them?
The Labour Party, the party that promised us the end of boom and bust before plunging the nation in to the greatest bust of the last 100 years, informs us that they will be able to cut in a more caring way than the Tories. They tell us, in adverts that aren't dishonest or smears in any way, that the Tories will decimate the NHS if elected. Labour tells us this at every election. It never happens. It's just that it is about all they have left to say at this election.
Why do they have nothing left to say? Because they have been shown to be wrong about everything else they have claimed or predicted in the last 5 years.
Labour told us the private sector would not be able to compensate for the Tory cuts to public employment. Three months after the last election Ed Balls told us that this would not happen. In fact the private sector has created 2.3 million jobs since 2010. That is five times the number of jobs lost in the public sector. Oh and those lost posts seem to have little impact on public services which are getting by just fine as a BBC survey last year found.
Labour predicted that unemployment would rise to 5 million under this government. Infact the peak was 2.86 million. Then all those private sector jobs were created. Unemployment now stands at 1.86 million.
Labour told us that the higher tuition fees introduced by this government would lead to lower numbers of poorer students applying to university. They were wrong. Applications are at a record high and the system means that only those earning above the national average have to start paying back their loans. But, in addition to being wrong about this, Labour propose cutting tuition fees meaning that they will cut funding to our universities to fix a problem that doesn't need fixing. And this is the party that complains about ideological cuts.
Far from being the disaster that Labour tries to portray it as, the NHS is still performing largely well and is winning public satisfaction at record levels. Labour's claims of increased privatisation were illustrated as hypocrisy of the highest order just a few weeks ago when it was pointed out that they privatised a higher percentage of services than this government. Yet now they are making the same tired claims that they always make. Since the NHS was created in 1948, it has been run by the Tories for 40 of its 67 years. It was run by Margaret Thatcher, the high priestess of privatisation and Labour hate figure for 11 years. If the Tories are so intent on privatisation, why have they never done it?
Labour is ideologically opposed to all manner of things just because they are private and because people make profits. This can be the only explanation for their idiotic policy of freezing energy bills. They now pretend that this was actually a cap. It wasn't. It was a freeze. This would have meant that, had Wallace and co been in power, they would have frozen energy bills at a level which would have meant we would not have benefited from the near halving of oil prices. Labour did this because, as they cast around for a policy, any policy, they alighted on the cost of living. Then the cost of living dropped. Inflation is currently only slightly above zero for the first time in half a century. That is how markets work. Competition has brought down the cost of fuel just as it has groceries thanks to new supermarkets opening and providing new outlets with lower prices. This blind spot of Labour's is ideological and ruinously expensive.
Why is Labour so opposed to free schools? Well they don't really know. This has actually proven to be a popular policy with most free schools being popular and oversubscribed. But Labour don't like it because they say that school places should be decided not by parent choice but by local authority bureaucrats giving places as they see fit.
And the problem is that Labour never ever learns. They have a leader who has flip flopped from policy and soundbites throughout this parliament and has had to keep changing his tune because he has been shown to be wrong. The economy is growing and creating jobs. Labour want to make us more like France which is not growing and where unemployment is soaring. Labour want to increase taxes despite proof that lower taxes raise more money. This is a policy so fantastically dimwitted it makes looking at the sun through a pinhole seem like rocket science.
And they still refuse to rule out doing a deal with Alex Salmond and the SNP. Salmond went on the BBC yesterday and boasted about how he will stand over Ed Balls and help him write his Budget. The SNP, the party that lied outrageously to the people of Scotland about taxation, oil, the currency and the NHS, now tells us that they want to bring an end to the very austerity which is even now delivering the growing economy and booming jobs market. Wallace used a form of words he no doubt thought was terribly clever. It is only clever if you have spent your life in politics and have a low opinion of the electorate.
This is why Tories like me are quietly confident that we are going to win this election and win it well. I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to my fellow countrymen. Surely they can see that Wallace and his party are a bunch of lying, opportunistic, shallow, ideologically driven, bourgeois, elitist no hopers. They have no economic policy, refuse to even talk about Europe or immigration and are intent on going on another spending binge which will make the country uncompetitive and bankrupt. Labour are led by a man who is so out of touch and yet so utterly convinced of his own rectitude that he posed in his second kitchen.
Wallace and his party are afflicted by a kind of mental illness very common in the left. Their sense of smug satisfaction at their own moral superiority blinds them the fact that their supposed to cures for the world's ills actually make matters worse. Wallace told himself that he had to pose in his second kitchen because he has to counter the lies of the Tory press. He claims to want fairness, when what he actually means is that he wants to punish people for getting on in life. The party that calls itself the party of Labour wants to give hand outs to its client state paid for by punitive taxation on anyone who works hard and who doesn't work in jobs of which Labour approve. These people are just milch cows for Wallace to patronise and criticise. Then they always look askance when people move abroad, investors stop investing, the taxes stop flowing.
In 1992 we were faced with a similarly stark choice between a delusional and sanctimonious Labour Party with a useless leader and the Tories. The country looked at Kinnock and could stomach him in Downing Street. The same will be true in May. I assume that all of this is as obvious to my fellow countrymen as it is to me. It's as obvious as the sun in the sky.
Sunday, 22 March 2015
And God gave his blessing to Noah and his sons (and presumably their wives, although this isn't mentioned - is God a misogynist?) and told them to go forth and multiply and be fruitful, encourage their children to shag one another and replenish the planet that he had just laid waste to for various sins that nobody bothered to adumbrate but which had been so bad apparently that God had seen fit, in his infinite, albeit rather quixotic wisdom, to wreak his omnipotence on his creation.
The fear of you, said the quixotic and not at all learned God, will be in every beast of the Earth, fowl of the air and fish in the sea. All of them? Lions? Tigers? Sharks? Piranhas? Crocodiles? Rhinos? Hippos? Honey badgers? Okay the people who made up this crap wouldn't have known of the existence of many of these creatures, but God should have done. He's supposed to have made them. And of course Noah should have known about them since they were all on the Ark weren't they?
Every moving thing, said God, will be meat for you. Really? Even pigs?
But flesh with the life, thereof, said the quixotic God, and apropos of his very odd mind which seems to think random thoughts at random times, which is the blood thereof shall ye not eat. Now this is very clearly a superstitious, pre-scientific interpretation of the role of blood in the body. Now we know better. Nevertheless it has caused untold misery and death for Jehovah's Witnesses who believe that it means they must not have blood transfusions because this would mean eating blood. Others simply interpret this as meaning that blood must be drained from animals before it is eaten. Yet in vain do we point out that this piece of cod philosophy comes from the same silly story that put all of those animals in one boat.
Anyway, having slaughtered all of those people and then told Noah and his sons to go out and start making babies again to atone for his destruction, God promised never to do any of this again. Of course it was never adequately explained why he felt the need to do it in the first place. Man was evil apparently. But what evil deeds had he done? And why did it require such extreme measures? Couldn't he have just done a bit of smiting or simply punished those who had done the evil deeds rather than slaughter everyone except one family?
But as a covenant that he would never do any of this again, regardless of how evil man became, God created the rainbow. This was a reminder, an aide memoire if you will, for God to himself that he would never pointlessly slaughter people and animals again. Or at least not in such numbers. From now on his slaughter would be much more localised and less all encompassing. This is why he needed the rainbow to remind him. Every time he sees one he thinks: I must not kill, I must not kill. Except of course when I do kill and maim, and slaughter and give small children cancer. There was us thinking that rainbows are just caused by light being refracted. No. It's God leaving a note to himself not to be quite so much of an evil bastard.
So, with this promise pocketed, Noah and his sons went forth from the Ark and started to undo the damage done by re-populating the Earth.
At this point Noah, who was just and righteous we are told - so much so that God had decided not to kill him or his family - decided it would be a good idea to plant a vineyard and make some wine. You might have thought there would be other priorities for a man who, with his family, had been entrusted to restart the human race and feed themselves. But no, although to be fair we would probably all need a drink after seeing all of that needless death and destruction.
So Noah managed to make wine and got drunk. And, as he got drunk, he lay naked in his tent probably singing about dead unicorns and goblins and blowing spit bubbles.
But, as he lay naked, Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his nakedness and told his brothers. They came in backwards, because apparently it would be unconscionable for them to see their drunken father naked, and in a remarkable act of diligence given they couldn't see what they were doing, managed to cover the old drunk up. But Noah awoke and was angry about all of this. After all there was no alka seltzer or aspirin in those days and no bacon and eggs either. So he cast out and cursed Canaan for the terrible sin of having seen him naked and decreed that he should be a servant from then on and cursed.
Now some say that this was about more than Canaan having seen him naked. They allege homosexual rape. But if so why doesn't it say so? Why doesn't it say he 'knew' Noah?
This is the Bible's idea of morality.
Noah lived for 350 years after this and then he died. So clearly drinking wine really is good for you.
Friday, 20 March 2015
A unicorn was spotted in Parliament yesterday. On reflection I suppose it might have been a Lib Dem presenting an alternative Budget instead, but which do you think was the more likely.
No, I am assured that this most unlikely sight was in fact Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and member of The Quad presenting his alternative plans. Not even Lib Dems could be bothered to listen. Nick Clegg didn't bother to wait until the end. As political stunts go this was as spectacular a failure as Wallace holding an election event at a bacon delicatessen would be.
You have to feel slightly sorry for the Lib Dems. Okay, you don't but let's imagine that you have to just for the sake of this post. They went into government all starry eyed that they had finally achieved what they had dreamt of for 70 years and have been punished mercilessly by the electorate and will get their final comeuppance in May.
Lib Dems got confused you see. They were repositories for protest votes. They weren't supposed to sully their golden reputations by actually doing any governing. Governing tends to be a barbecue for principles and promises.
The Lib Dems fondly imagine that, if they manage somehow to stay in government after the election, always supposing they have any MPs left, that things will be different next time. They will demand whole ministries to themselves next time. Anyone who thinks this is a good idea has clearly not noticed what a balls up they have made of government. Ed Davey? Vince Cable? Alexander himself? Nick Clegg's attempts to foist various forms of unasked for electoral and constitutional reform on us?
And after the election, if, as expected, we have another hung parliament, we will have to make do and mend thanks to another piece of Lib Dem vandalism in the form of the fixed term parliament act. This means that elections can now only be held every fifth May unless the country is in some form of national political emergency which would see all parties agree about something and vote for an earlier election. The Lib Dems, the party that will struggle to fill a phone box with its MPs after the election, has foisted a measure which will require not a simple majority but a two thirds one.
They should hope for their sakes that the Tories win a majority after the next election and that they can return to the opposition benches where they can resume their old habits of preening and preaching hypocrisy. They will probably also bemoan the fact that any resultant government will be obliged to remain in power for five years. Hypocrisy suits the colour yellow don't you think?
Thursday, 19 March 2015
This blog observed yesterday that George Osborne's Budget had shot the rest of Labour's foxes and it is a line of thought that has been echoed across the media. This blog has also observed in recent weeks that Wallace was running out of things to say and questions to ask at PMQs. Fortunately there is only now one more session to go. But even so, don't be surprised if next week Wallace thunders angrily at how scandalous it is that, up and down the country, there are people with only one kitchen and nowhere to go of an evening when desirous of a snack or a drink.
It has been the case for some time now that Labour can't really talk about the economy. Yes there was all that talk about living standards and of how the government's economic success has not filtered down to the masses, but that was to acknowledge that the government has indeed scored an economic success. So that charge has now gone the way of the others. Too far, too fast? Gone. Triple dip recession? They hope we've forgotten.The squeezed middle? They forgot that with unseemly haste. And of course they hope earnestly we don't remember their predictions of what would happen to unemployment thanks to the cuts. Even Wallace's promise of an energy price freeze has exploded in his face.
Now in any other walk of life someone so consistently and egregiously wrong would at least have a rethink and possibly even consider an alternative career path. Instead Wallace stood up in response to the Chancellor's statement yesterday and resumed his usual theme about how evil Tories are and what the consequences will be. Wallace is fond of asking Dave and co why we should believe them when they have broken the occasional promise. But let us throw that right back at you, Wal. You have been wrong about everything meaningful in this entire parliament. If you were in business you would be bankrupt. In politics such intellectual bankruptcy doesn't seem to matter. Indeed Wallace thinks he is an intellectual, although this is largely down to the fact his dad somehow managed to earn a good living being even more wrong about everything than he is and because he can't really do anything else.
Labour have literally run out of things to say. They are reduced to claiming that life under the Tories is going to be some kind of Dickensian nightmare, that the NHS will implode and that Tory cuts are evil while Labour's will be wrapped in cotton wool and will have us all sighing contentedly like women watching Ross Poldark drop his breeches and invent designer stubble 3 centuries early.
Labour are hoping that we don't notice that their every prediction about disaster has turned disaster for them. The economy is growing, the rich are paying more, unemployment has fallen in ways that confounds economists, inflation is low, interest rates have been at the current ultra low levels since Labour were laying waste to the economy six years ago. Oh and the NHS seems to be getting by much as it ever has done and this government has decided it might be best to make the exams our children take be actually worth something rather than adopt the lefty approach of prizes for all.
Labour's foxes have been decimated. The Tories may not have brought back fox hunting, but that may just about them showing a caring and sharing side.
Wednesday, 18 March 2015
So, there was no great giveaway after all. This was a rather restrained Budget. The Lib Dems will no doubt claim that this was their last great accomplishment before they head into the political oblivion they so richly deserve. I hope however that this was Osborne taking the very sensible decision that a big giveaway at this point would look bad. It would also be bad.
This is not to say that he should not be aiming for tax cuts. But what he has done instead is shoot another Labour fox. They cannot complain of the Tories taking public spending back to the 1930s. Osborne has very sensibly banked the gains that have come right at the end of this parliament after the hard lifting and pragmatic decisions on spending. He and the country are now set to enjoy the dividends of that. At the end of the next parliament public spending will return to a more even keel. At that point public spending will represent 36% of GDP. That is the same level as seen under Labour and Gordon Brown as they reached the end of their first term. In those days Brown called himself prudent. Osborne can make the same claim and it will be hard for Labour to claim otherwise.
There is, as ever, some sleight of hand going on here. The Chancellor is reaching his debt target by selling off stakes in banks. Pensioners will not be given quite the free ride being portrayed and will indeed make a weighty contribution to the exchequer if they decide to cash in their annuities. But the freedom to do so has been given and that is a major and welcome reform. Conservatives believe that people should be trusted to do what they please with their money without government intervention. This government is putting that philosophy into practice.
We of course would have liked some hints at further tax cuts. But there are more in the pipeline. And of course the Tories have still to publish their manifesto, a document on which the Lib Dems will have no say whatsoever. Expect more largesse there. This Budget did the groundwork for that. The economy is performing well, growth is to be better than expected, the government is going to be better off than expected, it has overseen the creation of 1000 jobs a day during its tenure and the end of austerity is now in sight. Oh and petrol and booze have been left alone too. Osborne has delivered. Oh and there were some good jokes about Wallace's kitchens too.
No PMQs Review this week since it is an irrelevance. The main event, possibly the election winning main event of the day, is of course the Budget. And, since this is a setpiece occasion that is traditionally replied to on behalf of the opposition by the leader of that opposition, Wallace himself, then that means we do not have to go without our weekly helping of his facile, student speak and general idiocy.
Tuesday, 17 March 2015
A couple of weeks ago I wrote this post about Wallace and his out of control superego. For the uninitiated, this is a psychological term coined by Sigmund Freud. I was essentially arguing that Wallace is a man who has remarkable almost pathological need to succeed, but more importantly to succeed more than others. This is hardly remarkable in politicians of course, but in Wallace and many of the left it leads to an unfortunate kind of messiah complex and an inability to see that others, specifically Tories can have similarly noble intentions to their own.
This is why Wallace lectures others about tax avoidance and being rich despite his having avoided tax himself and being very wealthy as a consequence of his fortunate upbringing, career which has risen without trace and (and you couldn't make this up) an inheritance and invaluable intros into the nepotistic world of Labour politics from his Marxist dad. David Cameron's advantages in life are not noticeably more gilded than those of his opposite number, but in Wallace world he is morally superior because he is a member of the Labour Party and preaches socialism. If the country is foolish enough to make him prime minister in May, he will do what socialists always do. He will help himself to other peoples' money, hand it out to the supposedly dispossessed, hit the (paid for) privileges of the wealthy such as private schools whilst taxing them at the same time and will then wonder why they leave the country in droves and he ends up with an economy that struggles and diminishing tax returns.
And what doesn't compute for the alleged intellectual Wallace is that, despite his heart being sanctimoniously on his sleeve, the public don't like him. Of all of the party leaders (and yes, that even includes Nick Clegg) he is by far the most unpopular. Why? Because of the sanctimony and hypocrisy. Because he is incapable of seeing the world through the eyes of those he claims to represent. Because the public are not stupid and can see that his supposed solutions for the nations ills are self serving and brainless. Because the man of three kitchens (don't forget his constituency house) enjoys lecturing but refuses to listen.
I make this prediction for the election. Labour will lose. They may even lose spectacularly. They will not be the biggest party and would need a coalition of the desperate and the opportunist to struggle across the line. This would not bother Wallace in his lust for power and to thumb his nose at his brother, but it would infuriate the country.
But whatever happens after the election, Wallace will not stand down as leader. He would have to be forced out. He will argue, in much the same way as he has tried to pretend that he will not do a deal with the SNP whilst keeping the door open to it, that the outcome of the election is not a defeat at all. He will argue that he just needs one more heave and he will be across the line. He will argue this regardless of the actual result. If the Tories are the biggest party but still a minority, he will argue it. If Labour are the biggest party but need that coalition or looser arrangement he yesterday refused to rule out he will definitely argue that he has the right to be PM. Even if the Tories have a narrow majority of a couple of seats he will tell us he has to stay on because that majority will not last.
That is the mindset of Wallace. He has convinced himself that he is on some moral crusade and is the leader to take us on a new leftist revolution of tax and spend and egregious bribery on a scale that would make even Gordon Brown wince. He is quite prepared to do this by any means possible including using SNP votes to force through tax measures on England. Wallace is a socialist authoritarian figure of the old school. He has advocated controls on the press, draconian and damaging new taxes, regulation after regulation on business even including forcing them to share profits with employees - that's if they have any profits after all of the taxation and price controls. He even proposed a measure forcing party leaders to debate.
This is Wallace's plan regardless of the election result. Wallace will have dismissed polls showing his popularity as nothing more than froth - the same sort of froth that saw him pose for the cameras last week. Like taxes, when Wallace and Labour do campaigning of this sort or call their opponents names then it is okay. If Tories do it, it is evil. But Wallace is a classic do as I say, not as I do socialist. Just like his dad. He is a socialist of the old school. That's why he'll be staying on after the election. What the electorate think is an irrelevance.
Monday, 16 March 2015
Wallace has finally ruled out having a formal coalition with the SNP. This is a further example of our political elite thinking we are stupid. For a formal coalition was vanishingly unlikely under any circumstances. The SNP would not be so politically inept as to get into bed with Labour and try to govern the whole country. They are about trading their votes to continue their strategy of ending the Union, although the Union is a dead man walking anyway - we're just waiting for it to be put of its misery.
Wallace notably failed to rule out something less formal than a coalition - some kind of confidence and supply arrangement which garners him votes without having to have the fat, smug face of Salmond across the cabinet table from him. In other words he has ruled out something we weren't asking him to rule out because it is not going to happen and was never going to happen. He has failed to rule out the much more likely scenario - some sort of deal with the SNP which gives them what they want at the expense of the English and which will very likely lead to the break up of the UK.
This was a classic non denial denial. It is tacit acknowledgement that Wallace intends on seizing power at any price, even if the price is unacceptable to England.
The SNP cannot lose at the general election, whoever wins. If the Tories sneak across the line then they can chunter away from the opposition benches and be in government and opposition at the same time. If Labour wins with the help of their votes they can extort so many pounds of flesh from the body of the UK as to kill it. Wallace is intent on helping them. His answer today confirms that.
As regular readers will be aware by now, I have an ongoing and quite serious problem with my spine. Despite three operations I am still having problems with this and am currently in pain and struggling to walk.
Accordingly I am trying to be seen by the NHS for this to see what further, if anything, they can do. But, as many have observed, getting the NHS to do anything other than in an emergency, is a struggle. In an emergency, it somehow manages to cut through all of the bureaucracy and act quickly. But if you are someone with an acute but non emergency problem then god help you.
This is because joining the dots and sorting out treatments is quite beyond our NHS the moment complications arise. I was recently admitted to a hospital in London and was given an MRI scan. They concluded that there was nothing they could do.
My GP has however asked for a second opinion from an orthopaedic surgeon in Oswestry in Shropshire. The consultant wrote a letter (the NHS always uses snail mail, not e-mail or picking up the phone) asking for my GP to arrange an MRI. My GP sat on this letter for a week forcing me to chase him up. He then invented a conversation with me. He said we had agreed, the two of us, that we should use the scan done in London. This conversation however never actually took place. But I agreed that it would be sensible to use that scan.
But can the NHS, in the 21st century, arrange for scan images to be sent from one hospital at one end of the country to another hospital a hundred or so miles away? It seems not. I have spoken to the hospital, I have spoken to my GPs surgery. No communication takes place unless I badger them. When I badgered the GPs surgery they called me back and promised to sort something out. I waited. I waited some more. No further communication has taken place.
Today I wrote this e-mail to the practice manager:
Dear Mr Andrews,
You called me nearly two weeks ago now regarding tracing an MRI scan I had in London last month. Since then you have not had the simple courtesy to contact me again to tell me what has happened and update me.
Furthermore, It seems I am not able to speak to you directly and have thus had to e-mail you. Might I suggest it is your practices inability to do the simple things like pick up a phone that makes it so appallingly inefficient and incapable of responding to anything more complex than a patient in need of a prescription.
I would be grateful for an early response. By your standards that will probably be in about a week after this has sat on your desk for a day or three.
What is it about the modern NHS that sees it incapable of doing even simple things like arranging appointments in a timely fashion if it requires any kind of additional information or logistics? It's not about money. Indeed if they could get a system up and running which enabled the interchange of information like this it would save money. It would probably save hundreds of millions. The NHS is slow, unwieldy and stuck in the past. It writes letters, cannot send scans electronically, cannot simply pick up the phone. Yet ironically, rather than talk to me on the phone today, I was asked to e-mail. Meantime I'm in agony.
Sunday, 15 March 2015
The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale - Genesis: Chapter 8: The Flood Subsides and the Genocidal God Relents
And so, after 150 days of God's flood across the entire planet, higher than any mountain, or at least any mountain that the authors were aware of, God finally saw fit to let the waters subside. He did this, we are told, by blowing the water away. Where did all of this water go? How did he blow it away? It's almost as if those who wrote this story thought that the Earth was flat and that water could just be blown over the edge. In fact this amount of water could never have been produced so quickly and certainly couldn't have disappeared so quickly because of course it would have nowhere to go.
But anyway, God remembered Noah and his tardis-like ark full of remarkably docile and not at all ravenous by this time animals. He reversed his magical water flow which came both from the heavens and from the depths of the planet through a mechanism that is absurd and illogical.
After seven months of the Ark getting by with no food or fresh water, it finally came to rest atop Mount Ararat. Then, in the following months of this eccentric and middle east centric account, other mountain tops became visible. By now ten months had passed on board this fantastically well equipped ship.
And so, as these mountain tops became visible, Noah opened a window on the Ark and let out a dove and a raven to fly around to no great purpose. The dove returned, but the raven flew around a lot in a manner that is not properly explained. Perhaps they felt that the beating of its wings would dry the ground. The dove however returned because no ground could be found for her to rest her feet. Notice that female birds are a part of this story, just no women.
After seven days Noah sent out the dove once again. This time, and quite miraculously, this bird brought back an olive leaf. So, in the space of just seven days, the waters had disspitated to such an extent as to allow a tree to grow and an olive tree had managed to germinate and then grow a leaf which a bird had then plucked and taken back to the representative of the idiot God who could have just told them when all of this was possible and might also have known that this process would actually have taken months, years and possibly decades since all life had apparently been wiped out. You would think an omniscient God would have known that.
Noah, instead of praying to his omniscient God, then waited a further seven days and sent out the dove again. This time the dove did not return, which persuaded Noah that the waters had receded, although the more likely possibility would have been that it had drowned since where the hell had all of that water gone in just seven days?
And so, according to the Bible, in the 600th year of our planet's existence, in the first month, or possibly the second month since different versions vary, our planet, after being flooded by its creator in a fit of pique akin to a baby throwing its toys into the bathwater, Noah looked out and all of that water had miraculously disappeared from wherever it had come from. The tallest mountains were no longer covered and the ground, far from being a bath of mud and completely barren of life, was dry again.
Even after this long lasting flood there was apparently vegetation bursting forth again because God sent out Noah and his sons and their previously unmentioned wives and told them to re-populate the Earth and not starve due to lack of food.
And Noah built an altar to the God that had just killed thousands of people for no good reason along with millions of beasts. Furthermore, in an act of stupidity hard to credit, he took some of the beasts he had just saved in his Ark and killed them, not for something to eat but as an offering to his idiot God.
Fortunately God smelt the meat cooking and felt a bit ashamed of himself for an act of genocide greater even than that of the Nazis. He promised not to do anything like it again. He had done what he had done because man had turned evil, although no examples of this evil are actually given, but now promised never to do it again even though man was evil. Perhaps he realised that it was all a design fault and he was, after all, the designer. Some might say he was the intelligent designer, although there is room for considerable doubt there.