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Saturday, 24 March 2007

I'd have gone to war if I was PM, says Blair

As celebrations marking the 192nd anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo approach, Tony Blair has said the he, too, would have gone to war with Napoleon if he was PM instead of Tory Prime Minister the Earl of Liverpool. Adding sotto voce "why is it that Tory PMs always have victories? Why can't I have one..."

Right, off to France. Light blogging today.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Mariner UAV trial in Australia successful

In a previous post, in response to the Conservative Party's draft Security Policy paper, I commented that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) would prove likely to be an effective replacement for the UK's aging fleet of refurbished Nimrod maritime Patrol aircraft.

The Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation has recently completed trials of the Mariner UAV, manufactured by US company General Atomics, developer of the successful Predator B UAV. The Mariner can stay in the air for up to 49 hours, reach an altitude of 52,000 feet and fly at speeds of up to 220 kts, compared to 15 hours in the air with a tired crew for the Nimrod. And, compared to the costs of re-building and operating our ancient Nimrods, it's cheap and available 'off the shelf'.

Probably all good reasons why our MOD won't buy it.
Labour really isn't working

The top ten local authorities for the number of people in work, and the bottom ten, were given in the Commons on Wednesday in response to a written question. I guess few people will be surprised by the results.

The real question is, after ten years in power with a pledge to tackle 'deprivation' and with mammoth public employment levels and expenditure, why have Labour failed to shift unemployment in these parts of London during a massive boom in the need for workers that has sucked labour in from as far as the Urals?

My only conclusion is that Labour are committed to locking-in huge parts of the population to state benefit dependency purely for votes.

  1. South Northamptonshire 92% Con
  2. Blaby 89% Con
  3. Cotswold 88% Con
  4. West Oxfordshire 87% Con
  5. Orkney 86% Ind
  6. Surrey Heath 86% Con
  7. Bromsgrove 86% Con
  8. Eden 86% Ind
  9. Shetland 86% Ind
  10. South Bucks 85% Con
  1. Barking & Dagenham 63% Lab
  2. Birmingham 63% Con/LD
  3. Islington 62% LD
  4. Liverpool 61% LD
  5. Merthyr Tydfil 61% Lab
  6. Lambeth 60% Lab
  7. Newham 59% Lab
  8. West Somerset 58% Con
  9. Hackney 56% Lab
  10. Tower Hamlets 54% Lab

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Will I ever visit the US again?

News today that visitors entering the US will be required to give all ten finger / thumb prints on entry in addition to the 34 items of personal information transmitted by your carrier before departure fills me with despondency. How long will it be before a DNA sample is added to the list? Or maybe a sub-cutaneous RFID chip? I've given up flying to the US. The affront to my personal dignity of the entry procedures outweighed the benefits. Which is a shame for both me and the US. I'm just one of about half a million Brits who've given up visiting since the post-2001 security measures were put in place.

I keep thinking I'll come back when things get back to normal again. But will they ever?
A well-tempered view from the Magistrate

The Magistrate's blog frequently offers a carefully considered insight into matters of current tabloid concern that is a caution against forming a premature opinion. The sad case of PC Coffill, left in a vegetative state after a street attack, is a case in point. He commented on Tuesday that
The many comments and follow-ups to Gadget's (Inspector Gadget - a policeman's blog) posts are, I am afraid to say, frequently disturbing. Quite rightly police officers are loyal to each other, just like soldiers, firefighters, and others who put themselves into danger to help and protect civilians. Nevertheless these are all disciplined services, and that is why I am concerned at the intemperate and vituperative nature of some of the posts that purport to come from serving officers. It is particularly unfortunate that Gadget leads off with a link to a photograph of Mrs. Justice Dobbs, who was only one of a bench of judges, but who just happens to be black and a woman. Make of that what you will. There is a much-trailed 'revelation' from someone claiming to be a juror on the original trial alleging bad behaviour from the defendants' supporters, but it can't have made much difference since they were convicted.
We all know that people say things from behind a keyboard that they would not say in public. We know that police officers have a fierce, almost tribal loyalty. Some of what appears on Gadget's blog does the Met no credit, and there is no disrespect to PC Coffill in my saying that.
Yesterday he posted details about the appeal hearing that have allowed me, at least, to understand their lordships' thinking in reducing the sentences of PC Cofffill's assailants.
Gull's verdict on Gordon's budget - poo

I was down on the boat yesterday afternoon listening to the budget speech live; lovely big spring tide and these two guys kept me company throughout, giving every impression of listening intently to Radio Four. Maybe they were disappointed that landfill sites will decline, or happy that more rotting refuse will be left on the streets for longer. Whatever. But with impeccable timing, as the jeering started at Gordo's 20p cut announcement, one fella lifted his tail and deposited a crusty pile of crab carapaces on the finger. Succinct comment or what?

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Red Diesel derogation to remain until 2008

This is a difficult post for me to make. In the budget announcement today was included news that the derogation that allows leisure boats to use low-duty red diesel will be continued until November 2008.

Well, it will only net the Treasury £10m a year but will terminally annoy thousands of leisure boaters, and to be fair the decision to end the derogation came from the evil trolls in Brussels against quite a good Treasury fight. So, er, well done. (Oh Gosh, you don't realise quite how much pain it caused hammering my numb fingers to the keys to type that!)

The inclusion of boats in the non-road use category for biodiesel also looks likely to stay until 2008.
David Cameron will be there ... but will Ruth Kelly?

I urge you all, if you're in London on Monday 26th, to come along to Methodist Central Hall in Westminster at 7 pm to support the Sustainable Communities Bill. David Cameron will be speaking in support, as will Ming Campbell and Labour MP Kate Hoey, Chairman of the Countryside Alliance and All-Party Post Office Group.

This critical Bill has reached its second reading stage. If it is passed, it will force an important breach in the walls of the Whitehall Dam - and the pressure of the pent-up floodwaters behind it will force a real change in the balance of power in the UK.

Which is why I expect Blair's corrupt cabal to do everything in their power to block it. As long ago as October 2006, the organisers were asking Ruth Kelly for date in the new year at which she could attend a public meeting. Kelly's response was to rush out a rapidly sketched-out Local Government Bill of her own that contained just the bare minimum of measures that will allow her to claim that the Sustainable Communities Bill is unnecessary when it comes to a vote in the House. Kelly's Bill actually fails to address most of the key issues that the SCB includes.

The organisers have told us (unusually) that Kelly has been given an invitation to speak at the rally next Monday. Somehow, I imagine she'll plead a prior engagement.
Lyons' Fudge

After a comprehensive enquiry that started in 2004, has taken reams of oral evidence, accumulated a small forest of written evidence and has probably cost millions, Sir Michael Lyons will publish his recommendations this morning for a radical review of local government funding. Or not.

Lyons started out bravely enough. He had all the right ideas about devolving real power and accountability from Whitehall to Town Hall, and realised that this would need greater local control of taxation of both individuals and businesses. And greater local control of standards of public service provision, allowing local priorities to take precedence over State targets. This is anathema to our centralising, controlling Big State. So Sir Michael has eventually recommended, er, adding a couple of extra tax bands to the existing council tax.

That should be worth a peerage, then, Sir Michael.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Passport Fraud - hoist by their own petard

In the days when passport checks were carried out locally and in the community, fraud was rare. The application had to be signed, as did the photographs, by a person of standing in the community who knew the applicant personally; an MP, vicar or GP usually. In turn, the staff at the main Post Offices knew their identities and signatures.

It was just another small arrangement that helped cement local relationships and anchor people in families and communities.

When you tear those social structures down and replace local authority by an anonymous all-powerful central state, of course fraud is going to happen.

And will happen just as much with ID cards, it need hardly be said.
Liverpool dockers back to work - a bit.

Only very old blog readers will recall the iniquitous Jack Dash and the National Dock Labour Scheme (NDLS) - an Old Labour wheeze that embedded blackmail, inefficiency, theft and fraud into the UK's ports. Dockers never enjoyed much public support; even going on strike in 1945 to hold the wartime government to ransom they were condemned by the Transport and General Workers Union. The public rightly saw them as privileged thieves. Liverpool Docks used to employ around 7,000 dockers. By the time Margaret Thatcher finally killed off the NDLS there were only about 500, their jobs alienated by their own greed.

The announcement today that a massive new container terminal is to be built from Seaforth Dock to the river entrance is good news for everyone. It is expected to create some 180 new jobs - highly skilled mechanised handling operators and others, and increase the capacity of the port to the extent that it will challenge Felixtowe for the transatlantic trade.

Liverpool was always in geographically the right place for this. The investment decision is also a signal of confidence that the port's reputation for militancy and dinosaur socialism can finally be consigned to the dustbin.
Is Raedwald a real boat?

My postbox has been inundated with emails from, er, two of you dear readers asking this question. The answer is yes - here she is. And her new chart table (all my own work). There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that is half as much fun as messing about in boats.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Blair and Brown's poverty of policy

In launching Blair's poisonous socialist 'legacy' , Brown is reported as saying "The next stage of improving our public services is personalised services tailored towards people's needs."

Ah yes. The direct relationship between the State and the Individual taken to the nth degree, and you can be sure that the only 'needs' the State will satisfy are those that further the sole legitimate authority of the State as arbiter of what is good, right and in pursuit of that chimera of an idealised individual 'well being' and 'liberty' that is no more than cruel and abject slavery.

That whorehound Rousseau said much the same thing;
"Each citizen would then be completely independent of his fellow men, and absolutely dependent upon the state . . . for it is only by the force of the state that the liberty of its members can be secured."
This is the most dangerous myth in politics today. By subverting and destroying the bonds with and the authority of families, communities, localities and allegiances, by devaluing and alienating our scholars, healers and priests and by replacing them all with know-all, do-all Big Government, the State destroys our liberty, our humanity, our self-reliance and inter-reliance and puts in place a deathly inhuman subjugation of the spirit and robs us of will and identity.

Cameron was spot-on at the Spring conference speaking about Labour's destruction of the NHS.
Mr Cameron said the Government failed to trust professionals to get on with their jobs because Labour was naturally "pessimistic" about human nature. "Labour have ripped the heart out of the NHS and replaced it with a computer," he said.
This drive for control over the minutae of every individual's life in the UK must be stopped. The State must shrink. Only then can the Nation grow.
Excellence of the US Library of Congress

It is salutary to reflect that the Library of Congress probably provides more free and unencumbered images of England online than the British Library and Public Record Office combined. Instead of squandering £10bn on Blair's 2012 vanity, how far would even a tenth of that sum go in digitising and making freely available the enormous wealth of our heritage? Of course, English heritage and history is deeply unfashionable amongst the numpties who claim to define English culture, and who are in the process doing deep and divisive damage to the fabric of our nation.

This is Pull's Ferry in Norwich, with the cathedral behind. And not a slave in sight.

Europe sees UK as its most influential nation

A useful analysis in the FT this morning of a Harris Poll on European attitudes to the union, including this one. Strangely, only the French don't think we're the most influential nation in Europe. Fromage dure, messieurs.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Hayek and Elgar on Sunday morning - a perfect combination

" .. the virtues which are held less and less in esteem in Britain and America are precisely those on which Anglo-Saxons justly prided themselves and in which they were generally recognized to excel. These virtues were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one's neighbour and tolerance of the different, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority. Almost all the traditions and institutions which have moulded the national character and the whole moral climate of England and America are those which the progress of collectivism and its centralistic tendencies are progressively destroying."

From The Road to Serfdom, written over fifty years ago and still with power to bite.
Wonderful, Tony .... don't stop!

From the Indy on Sunday:-
Jailed fathers of young children can expect their families to be automatically targeted by state-sponsored nannies in a dramatic escalation of "early intervention" policies to be unveiled by Tony Blair this week.

The state should step in to turn around young lives at the first sign they are becoming blighted by crime, poverty, violence and drug abuse, Mr Blair will say.

If a parent is sent to jail, families could be given a period of "intensive home visits" by health visitors, suggest officials.

In making the state responsible for the delivery of "bespoke" packages for "at-risk" families, Mr Blair hopes to draw a dividing line between the Government and David Cameron's Tories.

He certainly will. Proof indeed that Blair is now so delusional that he imagines this ludicrous initiative will attract public support. With 17,000 more prisoners in jail than when he came to power, you'd think some small remaining element of nous might be nagging him that Big State Socialism doesn't work.

Steve Bell in the Guardian


A watchdog needs teeth

The sleaze and corruption at the heart of the Blair administration manifested itself again this week with the news that no replacement has been named for Sir Alistair Graham as parliamentary watchdog - or Chairman of the Committee for Standards in Public Life to give him his full portentious title.

This office should never be subject to the whims of the Prime Minister. Less so to a Prime Minister who has been proven to have omitted, distorted and misrepresented the truth, ridden roughshod over parliamentary democracy and who has inspired the audacious institutionalisation of criminal corruption at the core of government.

The remit is also too wide, covering MEPs, civil servants and local government as well as MPs and ministers. As Kinnock and Mandelson have so usefully demonstrated, the EU is home to the the inept, the incompetent and the corrupt with no hope of reform. Paid officials can have other effective control mechanisms. No, the real need is to call to account MPs and ministers - they are at the heart of it all. I suspect the remit was designed precisely to avoid that - to remove authority from the House and place it with the Cabinet Office and therefore the Prime Minister.

So why shouldn't this critical post be the Speaker's appointment? With teeth, through the Speaker, to suspend from the Commons MPs who have breached the most serious of our requirements for probity? It's time to give our watchdog some teeth.
Halleluyah! Telegraph discovers localism

In a leader this morning that delights me every bit as much as last week's spring sunshine, the Telegraph declares
Central planning was ruinous when applied to commerce and industry; yet ministers unthinkingly apply the same formula to health, education and policing.
Yes; let's have policing priorities set by local police authorities, schools free to design curricula to meet the demands of independent exam boards and implement their own admissions policies and local health authorities responsive to local medical priorities and not politicised nanny-state targets. Let's have local magistrates and circuit judges making their own decisions on sentencing, and let's have welfare benefits and payments linked to locally-determined 'deservedness' and not used as a Brownite mechanism for locking millions into centralist socialist state dependency.

Let's shift the whole centre of gravity away from Westminster and Whitehall. And lose the tens of millions of man hours spent compiling, consolidating, disseminating and analysing great mountains of performance statistics that the unholy alliances of big government feed on.

Take the argument a stage further. The whole argument behind Phillips' crippling recommendations is to strengthen and develop central party political power; vast troughs of cash to develop central 'policy' and 'training'. This sort of central planning is just as dangerous. Policy should rise from local to central, not be imposed by diktat by blow-in apparatchiks.

Let's have MPs loyal to constituency first and party second, much looser parliamentary groupings, an end to the whips, and funding and talent concentrated in local parties.

Let's shrink the state. Let's grow the nation.