Saturday, 23 February 2008

Charles Moore talks sober sense

In the face of our chief police officers (again) and the BMA getting their panties in a twist over our drink culture, Charles Moore talks some sound sense in this morning's Telegraph. Plod seems upset because he has to work at night, rather than the 9 to 5 job he'd love to do. Sadly, yobs and criminals don't keep the same hours as office workers and police are told before they join up that it's a 24 hour job. No sympathy.

The BMA, which used to look after doctors' interests, seems to have become the aerobics wing of the Labour Party rather than a posh trade union. Doctors complaining about sickness is a bit like the NUM campaigning against mining on environmental grounds.

Before we became so infantilised as a nation, we had 'drunk tanks'. Between eleven and twelve at night, the drunk and incapable would be rousted from the streets of our city centres and dropped into cosy cells for the night. A plastic cup of sweet tea in the morning and a stern warning were often enough to ensure no repeat offence. Now plod is squeamish about vomit, and would rather tazer drunks than roust them.

We don't need more laws, we don't need massive tax increases on booze, and we don't need more restrictions on a licenced trade already reeling from the smoking ban. We need plod to do his job using existing laws and doing what we pay them to do - being out on the streets at night. And we need the BMA to shut up and go back to niggling the Department of Health and leave the rest of us alone.
Battle lines drawn on DNA database

When some little scrote of a plod exercises his limited cerebrum in suggesting that the time is right for a national DNA database, you know that what we actually need is police reform. It is not the job of plods to engage in political debate, far less to initiate it. This is yet more evidence that the police have drifted too far from their assigned role, and are seeking to establish themselves as an authority 'outside' of society, rather than as citizens in uniform.

No, gentlemen, the time is not right for a national DNA database and it will never be for as long as I have breath in my body. The time is right for a Royal Commission on the reform of the police. The current crop of chief police officers are failing abysmally in their jobs, and are desperately in need of firm leadership and direction from the communities they serve, and even more in need of local accountability to those that pay their wages.

Their call for a DNA database is little more than a smokescreen to disguise their incompetence and manifest failure to provide effective policing to our streets. The remedy is not DNA swabs but a pile of P45s.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

'The Stage' reports that Smoking Ban is closing 100 CIU clubs a year

More commonly known as 'working mens' clubs', the Club and Institute Union clubs (if you've never been in one) traditionally provided cheap beer and a cheap night out with an 'act' or two. There's a good deal of snobbishness about 'club acts', but for every comedian, singer or combo that makes it to the small screen there are scores working the club circuits. They are a critical source of employment for the UK entertainment industry and a seedbed of talent, the best of which filters through to bigger and better things.

'The Stage', the journal for the nation's luvvies, reports that the smoking ban is not only closing 100 clubs a year, but revenues are so reduced that the Ents budgets are the first to be cut and acts are not being hired. A survey has reported that revenues are down more than 7% since the smoking ban.

The clubs are concentrated in the traditionally Labour voting areas of the north of England.
Dynamite report to expose EU snouts - possibly

The auditors' report into the theft, fraud and abuse of EU parliamentary allowances by MEPs is such hot stuff that, the Telegraph reports, only MEPs who are members of the budget committee are allowed to see it, and only if they
apply to enter a "secret room", protected by biometric locks and security guards. They may not take notes and must sign a confidentiality agreement
An EU official, however, denied the document was 'secret'
"The document is not secret. It is confidential," he said. "It can be read by Euro-MPs on the budget control committee, in the secret room but not generally. That is not the same as a secret document nobody can read."
Ah. Kafka would have been proud of writing an excuse such as that. The report apparently proves that the bastards are so bent that
we cannot make this report available to the public if we want people to vote in the European elections next year
Voter turnout in the UK for the last European parliamentary elections was 39% - which means 24.4m of the UK's 40m electors boycotted the elections. Still, that was better than 1999 when only 24% of us voted.
Livingstone must produce the text of his letter

The Met Police announced yesterday that they had not started a criminal investigation into Lee Jasper's activities as no complaint of criminal activity had been received. Livingstone earlier said he had written to the Met asking them to undertake an investigation.

Whilst I appreciate that the Met's Labour Party Fraud Unit must have a full workload at the moment, if Livingstone had complained of possible criminal activity on Jasper's part, I'm sure the Met would investigate.

Let's see the text of Livingstone's letter and get to the truth of all this.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Redwood gets it

If you're not already a visitor to John Redwood's blog, I commend it to you. This post, in particular, from a couple of days ago, shows that Redwood has an instinctive grasp of the way in which Cameron can connect with the Zeitgeist of the nation:
I remember discovering just how deep these feelings can run, and how small the units are that command allegiance, when I inherited the task of remodelling Welsh local government. The 1970s reorganisation created large and unpopular units in many parts of England and Wales. The proposed 1990s scheme I inherited had been based on a bureaucratic view of how large a unit you needed to have a “viable” Council. The bureaucratic idea of viability bore no relationship to how people felt about themselves and their area. I decided instead to recreate the old counties of Wales, and to free the larger boroughs, giving to each their own unitary Council. Wherever I did this it was popular. I remember the representatives of Merthyr, overjoyed that I would give them their own Council after all, saying to me that they would have made me a Freeman of the Borough if only I hadn’t been a “Tory”! That was praise indeed.
Even Heffer gets it

Simon Heffer's piece in the Telegraph this morning makes refreshing reading.

The mood in Britain is, to use a favourite Cameron word, changing. People feel too highly taxed. They see an intrusive state that interferes and regulates too much and gives them bad value. They want that changed. The Tories don't grasp this.

They don't see that with more than six million on the public payroll and at least another four million on full-time benefits - not to mention their dependents - the client state is huge, and (thanks to the sectarian governance of Mr Brown) full of reasons to vote once more for this lying, incompetent Government.

The country is angry at the way it is treated by its politicians. But that anger is directed as much at the Tories for their inability to be a serious alternative as it is at Labour for its delinquency.
Both the Labour and Tory parties are dying, and both are, to use that horrid Californian phrase, in denial. Of an electorate of 40m, 98.7% are not members of one of the big three parties. 16m voters boycotted the last two general elections. The nation is heartily sick of the political class. Labour is probably now down to about 150,000 voting members - the National Trust has three and a half million. Despite all Cameron's posturing, a back-door deal with Brown on State party funding seems almost inevitable, and will inevitably also drive down even further (if possible) the public reputation of politicians in a self-destructive downward spiral of delusion and self-interest.

Heffer has the measure of it. If Cameron truly believes in the stable democratic future of this country - and I think he does - then he must, to use another cliche, break the mould of British politics, even if the price of so doing is the ending of the cosy relationship between the moribund central parties and the moribund central State. The answer is obvious, and the answer is Local.
The knock-on effects of the smoking ban

The British Beer and Pub Association's gloomy findings feature in most of the papers this morning; 14m fewer pints a day sold in pubs, and about 1.6m fewer pints a day in bars. Two or three pubs are closing every day. With duty at about 33p a pint, it's a £5m a day loss to the Treasury, a bit short of £2bn a year. Not a fortune, but the multiplier effect of consumer expenditure means it's a real kick in the goolies for the economy, hitting smokers and non-smokers alike. I don't suppose it's much consolation to a newly-unemployed non smoker that they can enjoy a smoke-free pint at their leisure in their local, presuming it hasn't already closed down. And with commodity prices rising and an economic squeeze on, the rest of 2008 will be even worse.

Mr Le Grand may well trumpet that the economic pain is worth it, that the loss of the nation's basic community infrastructure is all in a good cause, that 0.06 of a life is saved every year and that we're all healthier as a result of not drinking so much nasty alcohol, but we all know he's away with the fairies. You see, what Le Grand and his kind simply cannot grasp is that life is not wholly a matter of quantity, it's a balance of quantity and quality. And the quality of all of our lives, smokers and non-smokers, will be greatly impoverished by the scale of these losses.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Thank God you cannot bribe or twist ... (Hat Tip: Wobbly Legs)

The ditty goes 'Thank God you cannot bribe or twist / the honest British journalist / but seeing what the man will do / unbribed, there is no reason to'. Some very frustrated hack in the Grauniad's sports department has decided to share a real stream-of-consciousness moment with us all. Nicely hidden in THIS 2003 cricket story (though I expect the text will have been edited back to normal by the time any of you click). Click on the screen capture below to get a taste of it - or here it is in full:

Meanwhile, have you ever thought WHAT SORT OF LIFE IS THIS AND WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING BOARDING A TRAIN FOR MOORGATE AT 6.30 IN THE MORNING AND THEN STANDING AROUND FOR AGES WAITING FOR A TUBE WHILE STARING AT A SIGN TELLING YOU THAT IF YOU WAIT FOR FOUR MINUTES YOU CAN BOARD A TRAIN TO UXBRIDGE I'D RATHER WAIT FOUR HOURS FOR A JOURNEY WITH THE GRIM REAPER QUITE FRANKLY AND THEN YOU GET TO WORK AND THEN THERE'S THIS AND I KNOW THE CRICKET'S GOOD AND ALL THAT BUT I'VE GOT OUT OF THE WRONG SIDE OF BED THIS MORNING AND IN ANY CASE IT'S NOT AS IF I'LL WRITE A CRACKING MATCH REPORT AND THEN GET REWARDED BY BEING SENT ON A WONDERFUL ASSIGNMENT AROUND THE WORLD BECAUSE I'LL BE VERY SURPRISED IF ANY OF MY BOSSES WILL READ ANY OF THIS LET'S BE HONEST THEY WON'T ALTHOUGH ON THE OTHER HAND THAT'S PROBABLY JUST AS WELL HEY I WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO GET AWAY WITH TYPING THINGS LIKE THIS KIqL!UYS^%$DFLI ZSDSAFC SFE4O92 )(^(*^o"$ bBLKU E875O3 96*&^%o*"$ogb LOOK I'M SORRY THIS ISN'T EXACTLY THE SORT OF QUALITY EDITORIAL COPY YOU EXPECT FROM THE GUARDIAN BUT LOOK AT THE FACTS I'M ADRIFT IN THE MIDDLE OF ONE OF THE WORST CITIES IN THE WORLD SITTING IN FRONT OF THE SAME COMPUTER SCREEN I FACE DAY AFTER INTERMINABLE DAY HELL I COULD BE WAKING UP IN SAY THE MALDIVES OR SYDNEY OR COPENHAGEN OR A CROFTER'S COTTAGE IN SKYE AND GOING FOR A WALK IN THE CRISP MORNING AIR? No? Only me then. Good.

Monday, 18 February 2008

They still won't get it

The Centre for Policy Studies have published 'Politics, Policy and the Internet' today, a short paper that usefully sets out the threats and opportunities the interweb offers to traditional politics. Succinct and unequivocal, it won't tell any denizen of the blogosphere anything they don't already know, but many MPs, much of the political caste and lots of main stream media journos still won't get it.

Blair and Campbell's 'grid' was, for its time, a quite brilliant strategy to control the political news agenda - but that was eleven years ago, an aeon in the internet's accelerated evolution. Now a serious think tank debates whether it was Guido or the Guardian that broke the Hain story. The CPS doesn't mention the Conway sacking, but I have little doubt that the monstering that Iain Dale received on his blog for an apparent show of support for him influenced Cameron's decision that Conway had to go.

The MSM still has a reach that the independent part of the web cannot match, but I am increasingly convinced that the web, and the blogosphere, is increasingly influential in setting the political agenda. That, for now, is effect enough. As MPs' dead-tree press releases sink into instant obscurity, newspaper buyers continue to fall and TV audiences to diminish there will still be those who don't get it.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Northern Wreck - what's your share?

Whilst the news will be filled with this over the next day or two, watch out for the government trying to bury some other bad news - I'm sure we'll spot it.

Let's see. £55,000,000,000 shared amongst 40,000,000 electors; I make that £1,375 each. When can I sell my share, please?
Julian Le Grand

An Englishman's Castle had a very good idea this morning, reacting to the nutty professor's smoking licence proposals with a gratuitously offensive smoking (soft) porn pic. I can do no better than to emulate his lead. Enjoy.
Lee Jasper - Misconduct in a Public Office?

Livingstone's move to suspend Lee Jasper - though he will continue to draw his £120,000 a year salary - is a smart one. However, the stakes are high for Jasper now that police are investigating and the CPS will be reviewing possible charges. If Jasper is charged before 1st May, the matter becomes sub judice and the press and the blogosphere must be silent. If Jasper isn't charged, or if the CPS decide before May that the chances of a conviction are too low to warrant charges being brought, Livingstone can claim that Jasper is 'innocent'. If Boris gets in, Jasper's chances of remaining in post after 1st May are pretty slim, so it's not a bad strategy. Livingstone is an astute political operator well able to give the impression of standing by his friends whilst furthering his own very selfish interests.

If Jasper escapes criminal charges, it doesn't mean that disciplinary action can't be taken by the GLA for any breaches of the authority's financial and probity regulations. If Livingstone is kicked out, Jasper will go too and this becomes irrelevant. If Livingstone wins, an internal disciplinary hearing can be arranged and Jasper vindicated. Smart.

The risk of course is that the CPS decides there are sufficient grounds to charge Jasper with an offence such as Misconduct in a Public Office, an indictable-only offence that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The CPS' guidelines for the offence are HERE. Either way, Jasper takes the risks, Livingstone gets the benefits.

Greater love hath no man than he lays down his friends for his political life, as they say.