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Friday, 4 May 2007

You keep diseased, sick and starving animals? That's fine!

That's the reaction of the RSPCA to Baronsdown's deer population. Go away for a weekend without arranging trauma counselling for the cat, or fail to spend three hours a day playing with the dog, or fail to provide your goldfish with a stimulating environment and the RSPCA will have you in court quicker than a whippet running from a vet. So why does the RSPCA not only ignore but condone the condition of Baronsdown's deer? These poor creatures are suffering from internal parasitic infestations, starvation and a range of diseases including bovine TB. A third of the herd of about 300 are dead or dying.

Baronsdown is of course owned by the League Against Cruel Sports as a 'sanctuary'; LACS refuse to cull or manage the population to the extent that the land can support a healthy herd. The consequence of gross overpopulation and mismanagement is a viral sore on the UK's animal management record. And the RSPCA has been hijacked by animal 'rights' extremists, including the truly odious Jackie Ballard of 'wimmin and foxes against Men' fame, and is happy to stand by and watch the deer suffer and die.

DO NOT give donations to the RSPCA. DO NOT allow this organisation to display its posters or collecting boxes on your premises. Until the poor creatures of Baronsdown are properly cared for, treat the RSPCA as lepers.
The sky is overcast, but the Sun is shining for England

I'd be quite useless as a parliamentary candidate; I simply couldn't stay up late enough. Some of us are owls and some of us are larks. One of the advantages of barely being able to keep your eyes open by 11pm is that the dawn after an election always feels like Christmas. This morning was no different. Despite the mealy-mouthed and grudging analysis from the BBC's political department, I have a song in my heart and a spring in my step this day:




Thursday, 3 May 2007

Sedgefield to be without MP until 2009

The MP for Sedgefield confirmed today that although he anticipated having a busy international schedule until 2009, he would not be quitting the seat until then. He expects to spend most of his time in the US, with occasional visits to Tuscany and trips on rich people's yachts. It is rumoured that he will not be spending time writing his autobiography in his constituency house, which is described as "Oh God, so Northern - Cherie hates it!"

The people of Sedgefield seem reconciled to being without Parliamentary representation for the next two years and are happy to see their sitting MP draw back-bench salary and allowances of £268,000 annually from their taxes.
The four 'C's - Humphrys scores again!

John Humphrys' interview with Chief Superintendant Tucker at around 7.35 this morning is a classic - I'll post the 'listen again' link as soon as it's available. Until you have a chance to hear it, suffice to say that Humph destroys the poor man, who's probably just completed his in-service MBA, for his asinine contention that we are 'customers' of the police.

One of the most corrosive inanities of Big State government is the utter confusion of traditional social relationships. We are all, variously, in different circumstances, Clients, Customers, Consumers and Citizens. Each of which carries different and distinct connotations. Banks and solicitors once had clients, local shops and businesses had customers, national producers of beer or petrol had consumers and the State had citizens. The 'contract' differs in each case, as does the degree of choice of both parties, the degree of power of each party (social, democratic or economic) and the directness of the relationship.

Being a 'customer' implies having a choice. If the butcher sells us beef that is too tough or sausages with a higher than usual proportion of sawdust in them, we can shop elsewhere. The concept that I am a 'customer' of the police is utterly risible. And the idea that the police, like the butcher, can shut up shop and go elsewhere is equally absurd.

If this man can rise to the rank of Chief Superintendant with such a muddled, bewildered and uncertain understanding both of his role and his relationship with the citizens to whom he answers directly, there is indeed something rotten in the way we appoint, train and promote coppers.

R4 have not posted a link to this piece at this time, despite all the others being there. See HERE. I've emailed and asked them why. It couldn't be that the idiot of a policeman has threatened the prog, in any way, could it?
Further Update
Listen again link now on - HERE (20.06 GMT)
Blair's legacy? Hospitals so filthy you're better off operating on yourself.

I aced my 'A' level biology back in the century when we dissected in turn an earthworm, a dogfish and a rat (which we had to kill ourselves beforehand with chloroform). The rat took about 5 weeks to do, growing gradually grayer in its formalin bath as the layers of its various biological systems were carefully stripped out to leave it looking like a crucified bedroom slipper. We grew wonderful cultures of dangerous bacteria on petri dishes. On warm summer days the heady fumes of all the volatile carcinogenic organic chemicals in the lab would form a hippy's dream mix of formalin, xylene, ether and isopropyl alcohol overlaid with topnotes of Canada balsam. All this of course has been long-since banned. Biology 'A' level these days is probably being able to point at the major organs of the mammalian body on a diagram. And a multiple choice question as to whether a whale is (a) a fish (b) a mammal or (c) an insect.

You'd need a heart of stone not to chuckle at Martin Samuel's column in the Times today;
Then there was the swarm of bees (I know what you’re thinking, in which ward does this man vote, Epping Biblical?) that settled in an adjacent tree while the couple were out, at the funeral of Frank, a good old boy from down the road who had died at the age of 92. A decent innings, one might say, except Frank was not delivered to hospital on death’s door. He went in to have a pacemaker fitted and died of MRSA. Frank performed volunteer work at the local hospital where he was entrusted to clean the theatre until you could eat your dinner off the operating table. Maybe someone did. In the coroner’s report it will probably say he died of irony.

Then, on Sunday, we saw another old friend, Peter, who has not been well lately. He fell from a ladder and badly injured his back and, after contracting MRSA and septicaemia in hospital, is back on his feet after seven operations. The last was to find out why he kept getting MRSA and septicaemia. It is intriguing that so many NHS trusts will not operate on the overweight because, looking at Peter, if you want to shed a stone or five, hospital is the place to be. Not that Peter was large to begin with but you could fit two of him in the suit he was wearing at the weekend. He pulled out a cigarette and said he had started smoking again, and all things considered it was a shame he gave up, because if the hospital had refused to operate on him for having a puff they might not then have had the chance to half-kill him seven times over. He has been advised to sue but says that action would only divert more money from an overstretched NHS. That is the inherent decency of mankind.
All of which convinces me that not only do I need to carry an emergency pack of plasma and sterile syringes and surgical instruments when I travel to the type of destination for which you read Foreign Office advice beforehand, I really ought to carry one in London. In case I get knocked down by a bus and taken to hospital.

And I reckon I'll search the attic for my old dissecting kit and pop the instruments in the pressure cooker for half an hour. With a broadband internet connection, a local prescription-drug dealer and a couple of shaving mirrors, if ever my gall bladder plays up again I think I'll be better off sorting it out myself.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Gotcha! - the myth.

Memory is a strange old thing. The 'Standard' reminded me last night that following Blair's election victory in 1997, 90% of voters questioned by the paper claimed to have voted Labour. It's like that wonderful line from Jonathan Meades, gently digging at those who ascribe their homes with more kudos than in reality they merit; "Lutyens was known to have designed fourteen domestic buildings. Forty-seven of which are in Surrey."

I have a good friend called Ray who worked the night-hours in an editorial capacity for the 'Sun' at the time of the Falklands. He was on duty when the news of the Belgrano sinking came through. A first, somewhat limited print run was produced with the 'Gotcha!' strap on the front page. It was quickly changed. The copies of the paper on most people's breakfast tables said something quite different.

Remarkably, nine out of ten people one speaks to today not only claim to have been Sun readers at the time, but to have bought the copy of the paper with the 'Gotcha!' headline.
Election fraud - the natural consequence of complacency

In the not very distant past, I looked upon the integrity of our electoral system with unalloyed pride. Whatever the sleaze and corruption attached to politicians either in Westminster or our town halls, the process that put them there was untainted. I could shake my head sadly at the voting fraud in Bangladesh or Nigeria, regretful that those peoples had yet to attain the degree of democratic maturity and sophistication we enjoyed in the UK.

A report on R4's 'Today' (and on BBC news here) this morning reveals the true extent of electoral fraud in Birmingham through the use of postal votes. I think they are wrong, though, in ascribing all of this to voter fraud. Two years ago six Labour councillors were condemned for a scale of voting fraud that, said Richard Mawrey QC, would disgrace a Banana republic. Since then, twenty thousands have dropped off Birmingham's voting rolls as registrations have been investigated.

This is the tip of a national iceberg. In London I think there will also be hundreds of thousands of illegal registrations. At the same time, the ONS are floundering over their estimates of populations of these boroughs; the councils say their figures are gross underestimates, not including hundreds of thousands of immigrants. The two are not unconnected.

One of the most basic credit checks in the UK, without passing which you won't get a bank account, or a credit card, is whether you are on the electoral register. The requirement is so fundamental, it can come as no surprise that when the voter registration form drops through the letterbox, non-eligible immigrants from Nigeria, Kosovo, Iraq and Bangladesh take a chance in making a false declaration to win the prize of a cheque book and debit card.

I don't believe the thousands who have dropped off the rolls in a couple of Birmingham wards are all involved in voter fraud; I think many of them are illegal registrations made for credit purposes. They rely on the poor quality of validation by councils, and the fundamental malaise of our democratic system under which the lowest level of elected government in the UK has an average of some 118,000 electors compared to around 2,500 in France and 3,000 - 4,000 elsewhere in Europe. It's easy to sneak past our semi-competent and unmotivated behemoth bureaucracy.

But just look at the consequences of our national uncaring over this. Only a third of registered voters cast their votes in local elections; councillors are elected with a few hundred votes. With Blair's system of allowances, being a councillor can be a decent earner, as well as opening opportunities for petty fraud and corruption for the unscrupulous. Small wonder then that amongst immigrant communities in our large cities, an ambitious and unprincipled operator can garner postal votes from the thousands of illegal 'credit' registrations, with the veiled or explicit threat of exposure to secure compliance.

We can no longer rely on the honesty of registrants in making a true declaration that they are eligible to vote in our elections. However onerous it will be, councils must now demand proof of nationality before a voter is registered. In London, this must be done before our next local elections in 2010.

If we can't rescue this most fundamental tenet of our democracy, what the hell hope is there for the rest?

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Happy (300th) Birthday!

"The Estates of Parliament considering that articles of Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England were agreed on the 22nd of July 1706 years, by the commissioners nominated on behalf of this kingdom, under Her Majesty's Great Seal of Scotland, bearing date the 27th of February last past, in pursuance of the fourth Act of the third Session of this Parliament, and the commissioners nominated on behalf of the kingdom of England, under Her Majesty's Great Seal of England, bearing date at Westminster the 10th day of April last past, in pursuance of an Act of Parliament made in England the third year of Her Majesty's reign, to treat of and concerning a union of the said kingdoms; which articles were, in all humility, presented to Her Majesty upon the 23rd of the said month of July, and were recommended to this Parliament by Her Majesty's royal letter of the date the 31st day of July, 1706; and that the said Estates of Parliament have agreed to, and approven of the said Articles of Union, with some additions.

I That the two kingdoms of Scotland and England shall, upon the 1st day of May next ensuing the date hereof, and for ever after, be united into one kingdom by the name of Great Britain, and that the ensigns armorial of the said United Kingdom be such as Her Majesty shall appoint, and the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George be conjoined in such manner as Her Majesty shall think fit, and used in all flags, banners, standards and ensigns, both at sea and land."
New Cal Mac ferry in service - Powitanie!

Caledonian MacBrayne has for as many years as I can remember plied the waters between Scotland's coasts and islands with a fleet of sturdy Clyde-built ferries held in affectionate regard by those who have used them. On 29th April, their new ship mv Argyle came into service on the Clyde; no doubt she will be a second home to the estimated 60,000 Poles now living and working in Scotland. She was built by the Remontowa shipyard in Gdansk.

Blair's Ten Years - the achievements

Like many of you, I will be at the head of the queue in July for a copy of Alastair Campbell's book, which will be published just moments in advance of a ban on books by paid officials. I'm sure it will be good; as has been said of Campbell, he never does anything by halves. When he took up drinking he became an alcoholic, and when he took up jogging he ran the marathon. I think the death of Dr David Kelly hit him harder than has hitherto been revealed, and hastened his departure from Blair's cabal. I look forward to seeing how Campbell describes his reactions.

I also look forward to Campbell's account of how Blair won in 1997, 2001 and 2005. For this string of three Labour election victories in a row is the only item remaining on my list of Blair's achievements over the past ten years. Even the Guardian admitted yesterday his failure on almost every measure except this, the economy and the Northern Ireland peace process.

The economy, as we now know, had more to do with China and India's rapid industrialisation and a flood of cheap imports; when the Governor of the Bank of England admits that DFS has more effect on the economy with its Easter sales than the Chancellor with his 'prudent' fiscal management, it sort of puts it in perspective. And the NI peace process was started by John Major; all credit to Blair for taking it forward, but it can't be claimed as his. So we're back to those three remarkable election victories, then.

Unless of course Campbell tells us in July that even these weren't Blair's.

Monday, 30 April 2007

Where are they now?

The post-war history of minor parties in UK general elections is a fascinating insight into those issues that outraged, inspired or galvanised small but significant proportions of the British electorate. What is perhaps more fascinating is that by the time the stage came when a minor party could field a significant number of candidates, the issue that drove them had all but disappeared; sublimated into the policy of the main parties, overtaken by social developments, made redundant by world events.

The left has a fractured spectrum that includes:

Communist Party of England (Marxist Leninist) - active in 1974, 6 and 8 candidates in that year
Communist Party of Great Britain - fielded 100 candidates in 1950, but only 10 in 1951 and 6 in 2001
Independent Labour party - 5 candidates in 1945, died in 1970 after fielding just a single candidate
International Marxist Group - active in 1974 but just 3 candidates
Labour Independent Group - 1950 and died shortly thereafter
National Labour Party - 1 candidate in 1959
Red Front - 14 candidates in 1987 saw the back of them
Scottish Militant Labour - 1 candidate in 1992
Scottish Socialist Alliance - 16 candidates in 1997
Scottish Socialist Party - 72 candidates in 2001
Socialist Party - 24 candidates in 1997
Socialist Alliance Party - 98 candidates in 2001
Socialist Labour Party - stood in 1997 and 2001 with 64 and 114 candidates
Socialist Party of Great Britain - active from 1945 to 1974 with 1 or 2 candidates
Workers Party - 8 workers stood in 1997
Workers Revolutionary Party - active from 1974 to 2001 and died; a zenith of 52 candidates stood in 1979.

Needless to say, not a single one of them ever gained a seat. Just a vast desert of empty posturing and lost deposits.

On the far right, the National Front were active from 1970 until 2001; their zenith and nadir like so -

1970 - 10
1974 (Feb) -54
1974 (Oct) - 90
1979 - 303
1983 - 60
1992 - 14
1997 - 6
2001 - 5

The BNP never made up for them. They fielded 57 candidates in 1997 but this was down to 33 by 2001.

And of course the great Referendum Party - 547 candidates standing in 1997 and not a single seat.

Now anyone who reads this blog will know how strongly I feel about political reform, localism and other such issues. But I'm also bright enough to realise that votes for the minor parties are wasted votes. And bright enough to know that within the Conservative tent my voice, however small and faint, is heard. And in the polling booth, my cross may be no bigger than the acorn-sized Oak tree beside it, but together our votes can grow a forest of Oaks enough to float Nelson.
Apropos of nothing - Roald Dahl's 'The Witches'

I do sometimes wonder exactly who the director of Roald Dahl's 1990 'The Witches' had in mind when he story-boarded certain scenes?

Labour's war on fat smokers is war on the poor

Patsy 'what's the truth?' Hewitt's latest pronouncement that she supports a bar to NHS treatment for fat people and smokers is great stuff. I think it should be given full press coverage prior to Thursday's elections, particularly in the north of England.

Obesity and smoking is statistically most prevalent amongst the C2DE social groups - Labour's core voters. The beautiful men and women of the British middle classes, lean as greyhounds and as smoke-free as a £2k racing bike, will not be much bothered.

And any old reprobates such as yours truly have long learned the procedure to get first class, MRSA-free medical treatment in France with the bill sent to our local UK health authority. Not something they're likely to know in Middlesborough or Birmingham.
Why cutting Council tax is a doddle for the Conservatives

Apologies to Conservative councillors who already know all of this, but I think it's worth a mini-post for anyone who doesn't. The Times reports today on tax-cutting efforts by Conservative councils, in particular the results achieved by Hammersmith and Fulham. It's not rocket science.

Only 20% of a Council's income is raised through Council Tax; around 80% comes from central government through a fixed grant. This 'gearing' discourages high spending by Councils (though that was not why it was implemented). If a Council wants to raise overall spending by 10%, it will need to raise Council Tax by 50%.

Conversely, to give local citizens a 50% cut in Council Tax means only a 10% cut in total spending.

Around 85% of a Council's costs are staff. Given even low levels of churn in local government, a freeze on recruitment for a year for all except statutory qualification jobs (teachers, social workers) will mean all the non-jobs start to disappear as staff are shuffled about to fill functions the public cares about; race advisors find themselves supervising street sweeping, press officers inspect faulty street lights, obesity outreach workers manage grass-cutting teams in the local parks. All achieved without a single redundancy payment or closing a single community centre. A doddle.

That's why ALL local councils should be run by the Conservatives.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

..And yet more Labour Sleaze

As Tower Hamlets Council's Chief Executive, Christine Gilbert presided over voting fraud on an unprecedented scale in the borough at the last general election. Condemned for an abuse of power by Mr Justice Keith in an appeal hearing, she therefore had exactly the sort of background that well-qualified her to be appointed as, er, the new Head of Ofsted. The 'Standard' on Friday did a bit of digging.

Ms Gilbert has somehow managed to appoint ex-Tower Hamlets communications boss Lorraine Langham as Ofsted's £120k Director of Corporate Services, Tower Hamlets former communications advisor Oliver Berman as interim head of communications and former Tower Hamlets strategy advisor Alastair King as a special projects consultant.
Ofsted maintains the appointments were all absolutely fair and made on the basis of merit. Oh sure.

Christine Gilbert is married to MP and Home Office Minister Tony McNulty.

Light blogging this weekend .... off to the boat again!
Blunkett at it again

Following the dismal failure of his execrably written autobiography, with some remaindered copies failing to sell at 20p, Blunkett continues to strive to trade on his former position by seeking appointments with the defence and security industries, at one time Labour's greatest demons.

In addition to the 'advisor' post I reported in March he has taken with Texas-based ID card firm ENTRUST, a company hoping to land Labour's plum ID card contract, news in the Telegraph today that Blunkett has taken a directorship with Public Service Television, a CCTV surveillance company.

However, this might not be as useful an appointment as these companies think. I imagine Blunkett's reputation amongst those whose doors he is expected to open is much the same as it is with the general public: Bent.