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Friday, 13 March 2009

A Freudian mis-read?

That's the ruddy trouble with sans-serif fonts. As I read Simon Jenkins' piece in the Guardian this morning I read:
My own industry may have its troubles but, until the Wapping revolution of 1985, it faced a wipeout similar to that which near obliterated the American and European press. As a result of Wapping, the British national press emerged from the Thatcher years with more daily titties than at the start.
Whilst it may be true, it's not what Jenkins wrote. I had to read it again to realise that the word he'd used was 'titles'.

Ho hum.

Global victims of Brown's incompetence

Last September Brown lectured the UN on Western indifference to global poverty:
Some say a time of financial turbulence is the time to put our ambitions on hold, to cut back. This would be the worst time to turn back - every global problem we have requires global solutions involving all the continents of the world. Africa and the developing countries are not the problem, they are part of the very solutions to today's problems. The hungry are dying while we wait. We say we are one world, but every three seconds we allow one child to die from extreme poverty.
Yes, this is the same Gordon Brown that the FSA says was responsible for the destruction of meaningful bank regulation in the UK, the same Gordon Brown who embarked on a ruinous spending spree at a time of growth, the same man who believed he had ended boom and bust, and the same Gordon Brown who overinflated the asset bubble for a fantasy world of ever-increasing tax takes and spendthrift profligacy. The same Gordon Brown who now refuses to apologise, crying indignantly that a big boy did it and ran away.

The pain, anguish and hardship that Brown's incompetence will cause to the people of the UK will be deep enough.
The Economist sets out the consequences of the crisis to the poorest billion in the world. The devaluation of the pound has reduced Britain's overseas aid in real terms to a fraction of its former worth; billions in debt repayments are also falling due from African nations to British banks, and the price of commodities - the wealth of the poorest nations - has plummeted. The Economist concludes:
The consequence will be dreadful. The World Bank reckons that between 200,000 and 400,000 more children will die every year between now and 2015 than would have perished without the crisis.
Perhaps that knowledge is what keeps Brown awake at night, and why he cannot admit even to himself his culpability at least in part for the rows of tiny graves that will stretch from Cairo to Cape Town.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Why not Sir Fred AND Lord Ahmed?

Paul Waugh blogs in the Standard this evening that Martin Salter has tabled an EDM calling on the obscure Forfeiture Committee to recommend stripping Sir Fred Goodwin of his knighthood.

Perhaps the twenty MPs that have already signed might also consider the merits of recommending stripping Lord Ahmed of his life peerage? Threatening Parliament with a mob of 10,000 Muslims, and being jailed (even for a day or two) for killing Martyn Gombar are surely reason enough to remove this piece of ordure from the Lords?

The day the worm turned?

Melanie Reid writing in today's Times:

The people of the town, out on the streets to welcome home the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, clearly did. Their visceral reaction was to turn on the anti-war protesters. There was, for a few minutes, the remarkable sight of the spirit of peaceful, respectable middle-Britain, in its M&S anorak and its sensible shoes, provoked into physical violence.

The scene was brief, but its resonance huge. You can bet that any clever politician who watched will know they witnessed this unassuming, easygoing society of ours reaching the limits of its tolerance. This was the tipping point; the no-go area; the discourtesy too far. You may hate our policies, and disagree with our wars, the people cried, but do not insult our young men and women in uniform.

If you read one blog post today

If you read one blog post today, please read Richard North's succinct summary of the state of the British army HERE.

That's all. Carry on.

Labour's failure is also Whitehall's failure

Britain has not one but two civil services. One of them staffs the jobcentres, the regional agriculture offices, the defence establishments and the like. That civil service is relatively benign. It flies the flag, likes to go to the pub and enjoys a crafty ciggie round by the bins. It suffers the usual chronic illnesses of any bureaucracy - overmanning, perverse incentives, inflexibility - but generally provides a stable and useful outer tier of government.

The second civil service I shall call Whitehall. Though it chuckles at its characterisation in the mould of Sir Humphrey, it's now a million miles removed from those suave establishment figures that populated Pall Mall's clubs and Westminster's restaurants in Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn's comedies. I've met many of them, and they're as dangerous and corrosive to the national interest as any Labour minister.

Many of the ruthlessly centralising and Statist policies we ascribe to Labour come not from the National Executive Committee but from this elite breed; they have their own agenda that transcends party politics, and they can achieve it through Conservative as well as through Labour ministers. In the flesh it strikes you as a supreme arrogance, an unassailable righteousness that can't admit of any credible alternatives to State centralism and European Federalism. And if Parliament must be emasculated and our local democratic institutions rendered insignificant, then rules and constitutional changes are carefully drafted to achieve it.

If you've got an image of stuffed shirts, forget it. Think instead of the humourless grave-faced tie-less guy in his 30s or 40s you see coming home on the 20.20 train wearing a Boden linen jacket and tapping away at his laptop or Blackberrying, perhaps sipping at his mineral water. These are the men and women on the tier below the permanent secretaries who actually drive what government does. They're as poisonous as Scorpions and corrosive as acid.

They emerged from the drive to 'modernise' the civil service from the late 70s onward; as fluent in management-speak as in traditional mandarin, thin and hungry as whippets, intolerant of Old England and its customs and habits, more likely to be seen at a Kaiser Chiefs gig at the O2 than at the Royal Opera, often chippy and regional, and all with an unshakeable belief that they're the people fit to govern, to control and to wield the power of the State.

This is all preamble to few linked posts I shall try to get through to do justice to Reform's recent research 'Fit for Purpose' (.pdf) on civil service reform. And let there be no doubt; if we're to reverse the worst of the last two or three decades of malignant change, it's this civil service - Whitehall - that we must focus on.

£250bn cost of Glenrothes

The true costs of Gordon Brown's bailouts of the two toxic Scottish banks are now becoming clear, and as Iain Martin in the Telegraph suggests this morning, this largesse with our money was motivated in part by Gordon's nervousness over the Glenrothes by-election.

Whilst the two Scottish failures drain the last of the nation's resources to keep them on nationalised gangrenous feet, commentators are noting that the two City banks, HSBC and Barclays, are still standing on their own.

Guthrum has termed the whole thing another Darien scheme, but it's actually far worse than that.

We must be careful not to allow the failures of one utterly incompetent Scot wholly unfitted for any public office to poison our minds against Scotland or Scots in general; more than ever we both need the strength of our Union. But Brown's toxic, partisan, self-interested distortion of our national priorities will live in ignominy long after we've consigned the faecal Fifer himself to the sewer.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

'No, Britain, England .... not Britt Ekland'

Gus O'Donnell's gaffe in expressing his frustration that there's no one to talk to at the US Treasury - "There is nobody there ... You cannot believe how difficult it is" - is evidenced by this key personnel page from the US Treasury's Office of Economic Policy:

One imagines O'Donnell calling all possible extensions, as one does, ... 622-2201, 622-2202 until he reaches the department's Janitor

"Ain't no one here, sir"

"But this is the British Prime Minister's office. I need to speak to someone urgently"

"You can leave a message on the website, sir. Which church are you minister of? I ain't never heard of you .... Britt Ekland? Yeah, I saw her once"

"Yeah OK I'll write a message on a post-it and leave it on the Assistant Secretary's door. You're Circus McDonald and you're calling about the world economy. OK, sir, I'll pass that on ..."

Zebras are Tory, Pelicans are Labour

A zebra crossing is about as Conservative as a street furniture feature can get. It's extremely economic to build and operate - a couple of light bulbs to go in the orange globes, and a few square metres of white thermoplastic road paint - but this is not its main virtue. It's primarily extremely efficient because it allows pedestrians and motorists to 'negotiate' directly for road space; cars only stop if there's someone actually crossing, and as soon as they're within hopping distance of the opposite kerb, off they go again. It builds social capital as pedestrians acknowledge directly the courtesy of drivers in stopping, by a nod, smile or wave. It encourages self-reliance and requires no external intervention. It is quintessentially Tory.

The Pelican crossing, on the other hand, could have been developed by Stalin. With a complex and expensive system of lights, indicators and cattle barriers to prevent disobedience, the State exercises control over both pedestrians and vehicles - no direct negotiation is permitted. Any disruptive child can press the button in passing and create a queue of vehicles stopped at an empty crossing, or the queue of vehicles can remain halted long after a solitary pedestrian has crossed. Citizens are not trusted to interact with one another; the State intervenes to impose an inefficient and totalitarian control over road space. It encourages dependency and is socially divisive. The Pelican is essentially Labour.

But what's astonishing - and I don't have time this morning to track it down, but it exists on the Transport Department's web site, I promise you - is that statistics prove conclusively that Zebra crossings are safer. They're safer because our wonderfully anarchic citizens often refuse to be controlled by lights and attempt to cross at Pelicans before the State commands them to do so, and they're safer because motorists wrongly assume a green light at Pelicans means no citizen will dare to defy the State and walk into the road, whereas at a Zebra drivers are naturally wary.

So which do our authorities choose at the expense of the other? The Pelican, of course. The more expensive, less efficient and more dangerous option of the two. What did you expect?

We all know that traffic engineers are useless numpties, but I had better hopes of Boris. Instead of changing the timings at Pelican crossings, as he proposes, he could immeasurably improve traffic flows by ripping the horrid things out altogether and replacing them with a judicial sprinkling of Zebras at key points. After the immigrant amnesty nonsense, I do fear our Mayor is starting to go native.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Luton Jihadists are gay

The Luton Jihadists who attempted to disrupt a homecoming parade by the Royal Anglian Regiment today with 'Anglian soldiers: cowards, killers, extremists' and 'British government, terrorist government' placards were rightly roughed up by the crowds lining the streets to welcome the 'Poachers' home. But it was two of the supporting crowd that were arrested.

The Jihadists strike me as a bit gay. It's fine for them to trash our nation and our army protected by Labour's police and Labour's laws that allow, and encourage, them to do so. But they strike me as a bit gay, a bit beardless, mummy's boys. If they want a scrap with the Poachers, I think I should help them.

So any gay Luton Jihadist who imagines he's hard enough, please write to me at the email addy in the right hand column. I will pay your air fare to Peshawar, give you $100 to buy a Chinese-made AK47, and pay your truck ride to Helmand province. There, I am sure, the Poachers will respond appropriately and in a way they're constrained from doing whilst on a homecoming parade.

With thanks to IEBOC in the comments and H/T Old Holborn, here's a vid of the rout of the Jihadists. Excellent stuff!

British govt commissions for British ad agencies?

I'm not sure who in the DTI authorised the release of Businesslink's new web advert urging British business to save money by turning the lights off, but the more astute amongst you may notice something slightly odd in the following frame captures;

Hmm how many British firms have light switches that work in the upsidey-down US way, I wonder? Is there some deep advertising industry technique at work here? Or was the job given to a US ad agency who just didn't know how British light switches work? I think we should be told.

Not 'dissident Republicans', just psychopathic killers

There is always an ideology with which a psychopathic killer can cover his evil; in Northern Ireland those who would ordinarily be murdering prostitutes, or torturing and killing strangers they meet in the pub, gravitate into the extreme cover of the Real IRA and its nationalist equivalent. These organisations are filled not with earnest ideologues, but psychopaths.

There is no longer any just cause for Republican terrorism in Northern Ireland. Power sharing is firmly in place, and within a decade or two the Catholic minority will be a majority at the ballot box, and can decide democratically whether the future of the province lies with the UK or not.

The actions of those who would stir up sectarian fear, who seek to provoke anger and violence, who would see the province again awash with blood and the stink of death are a pointless evil. I'm confident that John Major's work in crafting a peace in that troubled province will hold firm, and the people on both sides of the sectarian divide will not support these mad thugs.

No amnesty, Boris, but accelerated removal

The LSE's figures commissioned by the Mayor show that there are around half a million illegal immigrants in London alone (midpoint). I've yet to read the actual report, but the Mayor's news release was very specific - the figure was just illegal immigrants. So presumably it doesn't include asylum seekers, east Europeans or other EU citizens, or all the Nigerians having babies. Boris is in favour of an amnesty. More reasoned voices on both sides of the political spectrum have pointed out that what starts as an amnesty ends with a truckload of dead Chinese.

Illegal immigrants take bedspaces and rented accommodation and crowd out rented property availability. By their nature they swim in a world of illegality and criminal activity, victims and perpetrators both, and allow more serious and organised crime to flourish. By working for below open-market wages, they create opportunity costs in lowered GDP and continued welfare costs for non-illegals. In every way, they damage our society and economy.

There is only one answer; greater control of our borders, and accelerated removal. The UK isn't just a hotel that the world's poor can choose to book into; it's our nation, and it runs on our taxes. And it's about time we shut the door.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Even Mandelson finds Brown's approach robotic

Matthew Parris in the Times beautifully described Brown's policy formation approach;

Much the same may be said of the problem-solving programme known as Mr Brown. Focus-grouping tells him voters are angry that top British bankers have been paying themselves fat salaries and bonuses. Key words in these reports trigger links in the Brown brain to key remedies: thus “angry about British banker's bonus” triggers “stop British banker's bonus”. “Salaries too high” triggers “curb salaries”. A cross-linking response is assembled: “control remuneration of British bankers”. But the word “British” then triggers a logic filter; and on to the Brown screen pings a warning pop-up: “Incompatibility with frequent assertion that causes of crisis not British. Try ‘international system for curbing remuneration'.” Brown tries that, and hits Return.

The screen says “That's it. Done. Finished. Your policy transaction has been successful. Add to basket? Create another policy?”
This was curiously echoed by Mandelson on yesterday's Marr show;
I find the Government is really focused, really determined. And the Prime Minister works like a Trojan. He gathers and sorts out complex issues and problems like a combine harvester. So he's going to carry on. He's well focused.
Like a combine harvester, eh? A huge and expensive diva of a machine subject to frequent breakdowns and with a temperamental intolerance to variables outside a narrow band of operating conditions? Yep, I guess that's about right.

My indignation on Douglas Carswell's behalf is slight

I really can't get too indignant about the story that the editor of the Commons' 'House' magazine removed sections from an article by Douglas Carswell in which he was less than complimentary about the Speaker.

Indeed, by voting in favour of the provision to keep Parliamentary candidates' addresses secret, Douglas has forfeited a great deal of his previous credibility as a champion of Parliamentary openness and transparency.

So how old were you when you knew what Auschwitz was?

The Mail has missed a trick in its story this morning about teen awareness of Auschwitz. The paper's feigned indignation that 23% of children 11 to 16 year old don't know what Auschwitz was is deeply worrying - but not for the reasons the Mail cites.

At 11 and 12 I suppose I was vaguely aware that the Nazis had done something wicked to the Jews, and even by 16 I think I was only conscious that 6m Jews had been killed in the Concentration Camps in a non-specific way; it was much later that I became aware that there was a difference between the Concentration Camps and the six extermination camps, that Auschwitz was both, and that Sobibor, Treblinka, Belzec, Chelmno and Majdanek as well as Auschwitz II were all located in Poland.

So that 77% of 11 to 16s know what Auschwitz was is either actually quite disturbing or a triumph for Labour's political interference in the history curriculum. Take your pick. What the hell are we doing teaching 11 year olds about mass extermination? Do their teachers take them through each stage from the unloading of the cattle trucks to the selection to the undressing to the gas chamber and the cremators? And how the heck can they understand the context?

When 53% of pupils leave school without 5 decent GCSEs, I find the Auschwitz statistic quite horrifying. Almost as horrifying as the distortion and mis-teaching of the Slave Trade; when I throw into conversation these days that over the centuries of the transatlantic Slave Trade, the Europeans hardly enslaved anyone at all I'm met with incredulity. But it's true. See this post.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Judge launches the None Of The Above party

In a recession, I suppose it could be called a brave gesture to put £50k of your own money into a new political party. Less so, perhaps, if you're valued at £30m and are more interested in making a gesture than in really changing anything. Sir Paul Judge and three others, contributing an absolute maximum between them of £200k, are hoping that their new internet-based party the Jury Team to field candidates in forthcoming elections.

The Times gives the launch a decent write up this morning. As a gesture it's on a par with David Davis' resignation and re-election; you can't argue with it on principle but it's hard to see what good it will do.

It's not enough to be against sleaze, corruption and the corrosive growth of the political class; you actually need to be for something as well. Establishing a fund to help independent candidates fight seats on local issues with local support is one thing - and a move I'd unequivocally support - but a national party list of anti-sleaze candidates supported by Obama-like small internet donations is unlikely to do more than distract from the main job right now of getting Labour out of power and keeping them out for half a century.

Brown's dreadful self-delusion

After a few pints, you're on the tube off to watch the rugby. One of your party accidentally digs a fellow passenger in the back with his elbow; when she turns round you smile winningly and mutter 'I'm terribly sorry' because you know the digger is in a sour mood. Later he may comment 'why should I apologise? It wasn't my fault - the train jerked', thereby denying the effect of the alcohol we'd all drunk and any personal culpability. Gordon Brown would have acted in exactly the same way as our digger, and Brown too would have dwelt on the outrage that anyone should have expected him to apologise.

The account in the 'Mail' this morning of Brown's extraordinary outburst on the flight to Washington - one point below a tantrum - and a rant at reporters that went:
You want me to go on television and apologise, but I am not going to do it. No, let’s sort this out now, let’s have it out now

What is it you think I should be apologising for? I have nothing to apologise for. You guys just don’t get it do you? You’re saying I got it wrong? But I didn’t. The same problems have happened all over the world and our regulations have been better than anyone else’s. Get in the real world. People are saying it is my fault and that I caused the recession. They are wrong. It is not my fault.

It did not start in Britain, it started in America. We have had low interest rates and low inflation. Every other recession in Britain has been created by high interest rates and high inflation. That has not happened under me. House prices were high because of a lack of supply. No, it was supply. If inflation is low, people are going to borrow money to buy houses. You can’t stop that. You don’t understand it.
The problem is, just about everyone in the country knows that Gordon is at fault; knows that he threw petrol on the flames by reckless government spending on the back of encouraging a housing bubble that promised to yield ever increasing tax takes, that he really believed he had abolished boom and bust. Everyone knows his purblind self-delusion dismissed the voices of caution a prudent minister should hear. Everyone knows he turned his blind eye to the City and what they were up to just as long as they propped up GDP growth and stoked his illusion of economic success.

The captain of the guard who cheerfully waved a massive wooden horse through the city gates without first checking whether it was full of Trojans may also have cried 'It wasn't my fault' just before his head fell from his shoulders. Captain Smith may have burbled 'It wasn't my fault' as Titanic dipped beneath the waves. Lord Chelmsford may have muttered 'It wasn't my fault' as the assegais ripped apart his command at Isandlwana. And Brown shouts petulantly 'It wasn't my fault' as the nation's economy crumbles to dust.

Post script
As Helen has just pointed out in the comments, I've made a schoolboy howler in the above. Perhaps I can claim my keyboard has been infected with a Greek virus?