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Saturday, 14 April 2007

Conservatism - real concern, true compassion.

Hatfield Girl presciently remarks that in the blogosphere it seems to be blogs from the Right that express most viscerally genuine concern for all the people of Britain. It's a good observation. The Left are driven by a mechanistic ideology, and would dearly love to be able to say the same for the Right. But Conservatism isn't about ideology - it's about people and community and nation.

I readily admit to being a One Nation, small State Conservative. With a reliance on my own conscience and judgment that doesn't come from any Little Red Party Manual of Glib Answers. I think many who would be reluctant to call themselves Conservatives think as I do.

Right, light blogging this weekend - down on the boat.

Friday, 13 April 2007

80% of wealth in UK held by the over 50s

I'm not 50 yet, but when I am I'll certainly be liquidating a bit of that wealth in an event that will involve alcohol in industrial quantities. That will make me unusual amongst my generation if this report in the Daily Mail is to be believed; my lot are apparently converts to a lifestyle calculated to prolong their longevity well into this century. And they'll no doubt keep a tight grip on all that accumulated wealth.

Some friends of mine have just bought a new 45' yacht. "We wondered if we should feel guilty at spending the grandkids' inheritance, but Hell, why not?"

I can't help but feeling there's a whole world of trouble building up over all this.
The Law of Unintended Consequences

Politics is always reactive. Oh, ministers and governments like to kid themselves they're leading, that they're proactive, that they're initiating change, that they're at the forefront of social revolution. The reality is that they're just reacting.

Take the old licencing laws, dating from the 1915 Defence of the Realm Act, that decreed that pubs in London should be closed between 2.30pm and 5pm. By the time the government got around to abolishing the restriction, it was so widely flouted so as to be unenforceable anyway. There were fears from employers that it would encourage staff to stay in the pub all afternoon rather than returning to the office. Almost overnight, the tradition of a couple of pints at lunchtime all but disappeared, a real 'Life on Mars' change, and thousands of pubs got converted into flats.

Women who fought so hard for equality and 'liberation' at the end of the last century never imagined that what they'd won was the right for young women to be lads - get out of their heads on cheap alcopops and end up in some stranger's bed as a compliant sex object.

The internet was hailed as a tool to open up a world of knowledge to help schoolchildren learn; it also enabled My Space, Bebo and cyber-bullying that led to the tragic suicide of a 13 year old boy recently. Mobile phones that parents imagined would allow them to be in touch with their kids have acquired cameras that have widened the risk of the sexualisation of their children.

And just as business models for a multiplicity of new commercial digital TV channels forecast a bonanza of advertising revenue, the public switched off their (state regulated) TVs in droves and turned to their (unregulated) computers instead.

These and a whole host of other unintended consequences mean that pressure is constantly on government to legislate, regulate and react to a mass of factors unforeseen when they drew up their manifesto. And in a centralised State, government is happy to follow this agenda; "we'll introduce new controls ..." "we'll bring in requirements..." "we'll act to ensure...". It all creates the illusion of a government in control, and reinforces the dangerous myth of a direct caring relationship between the State and the Individual.

In reality its all no more than building sandcastles to defend against the tide. And as the State grows ever more powerful to exercise care and control over the minutae of our lives, it consumes ever more of our national wealth and resources. And it can never, ever see where the next problem is coming from.

Powell famously said "All political careers end in failure."

Perhaps if politicians didn't play at Cnuts in believing they could halt the tide of the unintended consequences of social and technological evolution they may be able to claim success.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

A cycle of irresponsibility
  • 57% of Afro-Caribbean children are raised by single parents compared to 25% of white children (source: CP Social Justice Policy Group)
  • Single parent families are more likely to suffer deprivation
  • Children of single parent families are more likely to offend
  • Children of single parent families are more likely to become single parents
Isn't it time we offered some incentives to break this cycle? Now that Blair has actually recognised that knife and gun crime in our cities is predominantly a Black problem, will he actually recognise that his policies have made things a damn sight worse over the past ten years?
A thoughtful Max Hastings in the Guardian

Well worth reading HERE. An analysis that includes
Blair's iron grip on his party's loyalty invites the electorate's derision, now that his partnership with Bush has brought catastrophe. Many of us would admire Labour more had it forced Blair out when his follies and deceits were exposed. Instead, of course, we see cabinet ministers and backbenchers addicted to office and power. Where once a Labour MP's greatest fear was of betraying principle or conscience, today we see the Westminster herd trembling at the risk of losing their cars and red boxes, or the possibility of acquiring these wonderful things. Labour's quiescence, through these bleak years when Blair's foreign policy has brought Britain disaster, invites public contempt and, according to the polls, is receiving it.
MAIB publishes Ouzo report

The Marine Accidents Investigation Branch has published its report on the loss of the yacht Ouzo. The .pdf report is available HERE.

Well worth reading and many lessons to remember.
My lifejackets all have crotch straps, Raedwald's got a sod-off radar reflector, she carries a liferaft as well as flares and lamps, and I renewed all the Nav lights a year ago. What this reinforces is never to take the movements of large vessels for granted, especially at night. In future I'll use VHF and fire off a warning flare if I'm in the slightest doubt.
Another home goal for Nu Labour

The simple incompetence at the heart of Blair's administration that has frozen social mobility when he wanted the opposite, that has locked young people into long term unemployment when his aim was to get them into work and has increased child poverty when he pledged to reduce it has struck again.

This was the administration that wanted to get people out of cars and onto public transport. Both transport modes are tightly regulated and controlled by the government through taxation and subsidy - so not a hard target to meet, you may think. The Office for National Statistics has just reported that over the term of Blair's administration, bus fares have risen by 53%, train fares by 46% but motoring costs by only 26%.

Blair and his phony Chancellor aren't fit to run a whelk stall.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Life on Mars - Sam Tyler does the Right Thing

Like millions of others, I was fixed to the idiot box last night for the concluding episode of the current series of Life on Mars. The moment in the touchy-feely politically-correct present day management meeting when Sam realises it's just all so much crap will have resonated deeply with all viewers like me who grew up in the 70s.

Inspired script writing and performances. More.
Brown not a candidate for Labour Leadership - Official

No, you don't believe that any more than I do - or any more than the Electoral Commission do. The Times carries a story today that Labour tried to block the Electoral Commission from requiring the details of candidates' campaign expenditure to be disclosed.

Brown's position is that since he hasn't declared his candidacy, he can spend as much as he likes and keep secret where the dosh is coming from.

It stinks like rotting mackerel.
'Politics' is not a profession

I have posted previously on the haemorrhaging of party members of the main parties over recent years, the Conservatives alone having lost over a million members, and the inequity of state funding for the main parties when 98.6% of the electorate are not members of any of them.

I have also posted previously on the pernicious and corrosive centralisation of governance, by both Conservatives and Labour, and in particular the phenomenal growth of the Big State since 1979.

I have posted on the paucity of elected officials in the UK, on our electoral turnouts being the lowest in the Western democratic world, with barely one in three being bothered to vote in local elections. I have also commented that this is NOT apathy as mainstream politicians would like to believe; people are passionate about political issues, and powerfully engaged in issues of local concern. It is not apathy - it is disillusionment with a centralist state and centralist state political parties in league with Whitehall.

Iain Dale wonders today why the parties are having trouble finding candidates for the council elections. A Very British Dude's answer has the key of it. Local councils have no power, no independence, no resources, no policies and no effect that does not come directly from the central State. Your local council is no more than an 'outreach' office of the DCLG. Local councillors catch all the petty bitching from citizens deluded enough to have fallen for the lie that 'the state' is responsible for regulating and catering for every aspect of their lives, but without any means of changing any of it. It is a thankless task for political eunuchs.

One more piece of the jigsaw today for you. The public's view of politicians has dropped into the gutter in recent years, especially so since 1979. Politicians blame media cynicism. I think it's actually the 'Wisdom of Crowds' in practice. Here's a graph, from Commons Research Paper 03/59, published in 2003. This is the number of MPs who could claim absolutely no other job than politics prior to their entering the house; it disguises maybe five times as many who, like Blair, may have qualified for an 'outside' job or profession but never practiced. And I'll bet the latest figures are even higher.

Politics is not a profession. Politics is not the first thing you do in life - it is where you bring your wisdom, experience and accumulated social experience after having done something else. Because the public know this in their bones, as the number of 'career' politicians rises, their reputation will sink ever lower.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

"Ah! les Canadiens! C'est possible!."

When the USA joined the allied powers in the Great War on 6th April 1917, Britain and her Empire had already been engaged in bloody conflict for three long years. But that's not to say that our North American Continental cousins hadn't already been deeply committed.

On Easter Monday, 9th April 1917, a Canadian Corps that contained elements from all nine provinces did the impossible and captured Vimy Ridge. In 1915 a French attempt to take the ridge cost them 150,000 casualties. They considered its capture impossible. The ridge remained in allied hands throughout the war and was pivotal in breaking the German offensive of 1918.

Thank you, Canada.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Terrorist Threat Levels

(OK, it's still a holiday here ...)

The British are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorised from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

The Americans, too, have raised their threat level from "Form Militia" to "Buy More Ammo". Any increase in threat could escalate this to "Grow Beard and Head for Mountain Cabin". The Germans have followed suit and increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbour" and "Blame Everyone Else For Losing."
Board of Enquiry needed for Cornwall incident

I've avoided blogging about this so far because essentially there were a number of things I didn't know. Much of the hard information I have now is from intrepid blogger EU Referendum, to whom all credit for his week-long series of posts on this. The facts are these.

1. HMS Cornwall, under the command of Commander Jeremy Woods, was one of the vessels making up Coalition Task Force 158.

2. Cornwall was also the flagship of the Task Force commander, Commodore Nick Lambert.

3. The respective responsibilities of the ship's captain and the flotilla commander would be well defined. The captain would be responsible for the operations of the ship, the flotilla commander for the operations of the flotilla as a whole.

4. The flotilla consisted of the following units:
  • HMS Cornwall (flag) - UK - Type 22 Frigate - 148m, 6.4m draught
  • USS Howard - US - Destroyer - 155m, 9.4m draught
  • HMAS Warramunga - AUS - Anzac class Frigate - 118m, 4m draught
  • USS Chinook - US - Cyclone class patrol craft - 53m, 2.5m draught
  • USS Whirlwind - US - Cyclone class patrol craft - 53m, 2.5m draught
  • USCGC Maui - US - Island Class patrol boat - 33m
  • USCGC Monomoy - US - Island Class patrol boat - 33m
  • Iraqi / 5 additional units (Task Force had 12 assets in total)
5. Only the position of the freighter that was boarded has been released. The positions of Cornwall and the other task Force assets at the time of capture have not been revealed. Cornwall's exact position can only be conjectured. The position of the freighter and the approximate position of Cornwall are shown on the chart below. Warning: this chart is from 1999 and has not been updated. Positions of sand bars will have shifted. Click to enlarge.

6. The boarding party had no 'top cover' from Cornwall's Lynx at the time of their capture

7. Even at high tide (which adds 2-3m to the chart depths above) Cornwall would have been unable to come up with the freighter or the boarding party.


a. What were the positions of all the other assets making up the task force?
b. What air assets were available to the Task Force at the time of boarding?
c. Who on Cornwall was in command of the boarding operation?
d. If the boarding was under the command of Cornwall's captain or No 1, did this officer request, prior to their capture, additional assets from the Task Force commander?
e. What were the standing operational instructions in regard to providing fire-cover to boarding parties?
f. What other vessels in the Task Force could have carried out the boarding?
g. Who made the decision that Cornwall should carry out the boarding?
h. Did any Task Force vessels other than Cornwall have TV crews on board?
i. Of the 66 previous boardings carried out by the task force, how many were carried out by Cornwall?
j. What was the experience of Capt Chris Air RM and Lt Felix Carman RN in carrying out boarding operations?
k. Which of the Task Force assets with equipment within the range of the freighter had their Tactical Radar (non-navigational radar) operational and manned?
l. What communications took place between the Flag and the vessels making up the flotilla (i) prior to and during the boarding (ii) on capture of the boarding party?
m. What contingency plans were in place to recover the RIBs in the event of e.g. engine failure, fouled props, entanglement with a mine, or to provide support for other accident or injury, e.g. Man Over Board?

I'm afraid the Admiralty's desire from a hushed-up 'lessons learned' exercise will simply not do. The morale and effectiveness of our Naval and other forces have been adversely impaired by this incident. The reputation of the Royal Navy has suffered around the world.

Nothing less than Board of Enquiry will do.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

The Wisdom of Crowds

I spent much of Friday with a friend who has made something of a speciality of the phenomenon described most recently by Suroweicki and termed the Wisdom of Crowds. I encourage you to follow the link to the wikipedia piece that summarises the thinking.

The theory explains why the question "who do you think will win the election?" is a better result predictor than the question "who will you vote for in the election?". And why at a village fete, the averaged guesses of all entrants in a 'guess the weight' contest will be closer to the actual weight than any individual or expert guesses.

It also has some key implications for blogging, which I'm just starting to get my head around.
The Age War - Blair's real legacy

My generation has been incredibly fortunate. Our fathers and grandfathers fought the wars that have meant we haven't had to. We grew tall on healthy diets and the culinary skills of our mothers. We were taught well in school by Masters who saw nothing comical in wearing gowns, and when we went to university with tuition and maintenance paid by the State, we went in the knowledge that as only 5% of us went on into higher education it was a passport to wealth and privilege. We bought houses when they were cheap and have reaped multi six-figure sums from their increase in value. Our pensions have been badly dented by Brown, but many of us still have something worth having.

We take it as a right that we should be able to use health resources to help us have kids in our 40s and 50s, to extend the quantity of our lives indefinitely, and hold fast the right to maintain our quality of life deep into old age.

The expectation, of course, is that the young should pay for all this. The young who are weighted by student debt, see the career value of their degrees devalued, who can't afford to move out of rented accommodation and who are told they're too late to be included in any worthwhile pension schemes. The young who have seen chances of social mobility frozen, incentives to family life destroyed, the status of professions thrown down into a democratic gutter and all the prizes of life retreating farther from their grasp. The young who tend also to believe that my generation, with its careless disregard of the environment, is also responsible for climate change and the probable destruction of future human standards of living.

And we call them selfish.

Make no mistake, this inequality between the lives and life-chances of the generations here in Britain will grow in importance on our political agenda.

Instead of addressing issues of inter-generational equity, Blair and Brown have squandered billions on measures that have made worse the gap between us. Blair's visible legacy will always be one of failure; failure over Iraq, failure over health and education, failure over social equity. His less visible legacy will be to bequeath us a war between the generations.