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Saturday, 2 May 2009

Polly finally gets it!

The penny's dropped, and the scales have fallen from Polly's eyes as she writes in today's Grauniad:
This week a survey on the ConservativeHome website of likely new Tory MPs was an eye-opener. They are socially conservative, anti-environment, anti-Europe, anti-abortion, anti-gay adoption, pro-hunting and strongly in favour of the married couples' allowance that redistributes tax to the middle class. Only 15% see the climate as ­important: terrorism matters much more. Most want to cut money for Scotland.
Uhm, that would be 'conservative', then, Polly.

She's missed the other growing impetus on the right; Localism.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Netherlands Beserkers

Over thirty years I've come to develop a real affection for the Netherlands that lies behind the coffee shops and the Walletjes. The Dutch are a deeply bourgeois people at heart, and the virtues of family, social respect, betterment and cultural identity are engrained in the national psyche. There are more art galleries in Amsterdam than there are in London. Culture is not a dirty word in the Netherlands, not to be sneered at and not an excuse for drawing a revolver. It is easy to belittle the Dutch cultural scene as parochial and insular, but I've always found it refreshingly alive and eager to open itself to places that make our curatorial groove appear stodgy. I prefer the Stedelijk to Tate modern. I adore Pierre Cuypers use of brick. And that Netherlands black-green preference for the public face of timber doors and windows (RAL 6012 - it's simple) is excellent good taste.

Dutch liberalism is essentially bourgeois tolerance. It says 'We don't do that, but that's no good reason for stopping them from doing it'. Enlightened. And I suppose it worked quite well right up until maybe thirty years ago - when I first came to get to know the country. The Moluccans, Turks and Moroccans were once just the pimps and kofte sellers adding colour and spice, but I've seen the Netherlands change from a nation at ease with itself to one in which national identity and that cultural certainty in which the Dutch need so much to be rooted is itself uncertain on its foundations.

The Netherlands has around 1m Muslims as citizens, many of them living wholly separate lives from the Netherlanders who have hosted them, many proclaiming rights and seizing suzerainity that the bourgeois Dutch have found hard to resist. In comparison, our UK Muslims are well integrated and models of reticence. The stresses in Dutch society are manifest.

Now I'm not offering an instant diagnosis on the beserker who drove his car into the holiday crowds yesterday. The reports are that he's Dutch, and that he'd lost his job and risked losing his home. But from my own experience I'd expect that the importance of protestant virtues of work and home in Holland that are challenged anyway during a recession are exacerbated by the levels of immigration and un-Dutchness that have caused tension already.

And that there is a capacity for rage within the people of the Netherlands that we will see more of.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Derek Conway is no Admiral Byng

It would behove Derek Conway to maintain a decent silence until the termination of his Parliamentary career at the next election. He piped up during yesterday's debate claiming to be Parliament's Admiral Byng.

Derek Conway is no Admiral Byng. Derek Conway is a chiselling little crook and thief. Let us hope the next MP to represent Old Bexley and Sidcup is endowed with the working sense of honesty and probity that has eluded Conway.

Company thieves quake as the auditors arrive

Those engaged to manage a plc owned by its shareholders must sometimes be horribly tempted to take personal advantage of the goodies on offer. Of course, those goodies are actually other people's cash and savings - but when company thieves take the plunge and abuse their duty of stewardship to satisfy their own greed and avarice by stealing, it's often only the external auditors who uncover their misdeeds and get shot of them.

It's a sad indictment of the honour of Parliament that we, the public, need to take the role of auditors because some of our employees have been stealing from our investments. The Mail reports that three Labour MPs are on 'suicide watch' in anticipation of their thieving and corruption coming to light in July, and that ministers have warned that they may have to resign when their pilfering is exposed.

Have no pity. You wouldn't plead special treatment for the managers of a public company caught stealing, would you? The company secretary with Rolex watches, Porches and bling jewellery stolen from your hard-earned money will always claim to be 'suicidal' when caught out by the auditors; the courts hear this with tiresome regularity. So spare no pity for the MP thieves. Let's have it all out.

Mayor and boroughs challenge Whitehall

In a move which I suspect will cause a small frisson of concern in Whitehall, the Mayor of London and borough leaders signed up yesterday to a 'charter' that committed them to devolving governance in London down to the lowest level at which it can be effectively exercised.

In the London City Charter, boroughs are asking for control over the appointment of Met police borough commanders, to control NHS budgets for Primary Care Trusts, to manage London bus routes in their boroughs, and return planning powers to local level.

OK, it may not make you run cheering into the street in your pyjamas, but it's a significant shift from Red Ken's soviet style centralism and offers real hope for further decentralisation. I suspect getting this far took some arm twisting by London Councils of the more recalcitrant borough leaders and there are plenty of leftish sops in the verbiage.

Meanwhile the Whitehall mandarins are offering Cameron's team the working Leviathan central State, hoping like good doggies that their new master will still let them sleep on the bed and continue their steak diet.

If Boris can force a working model of devolved responsibility through, if I were a civil servant working in the Government Office for London, the Thames Gateway, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Homes and Communities Agency and half a dozen other Whitehall-in-disguise quangos and agencies I'd start to be getting a little concerned. Proving that Whitehall is not needed and not wanted in London, and that Labour's corrupt and foul gerrymandering such as Blears offering party members in Erith and Thamesmead 'special' Olympic funding if they backed her horse has no place, will be a major achievement.

Go, Gordon petition reaches top spot

In less than a week, this has become the most-signed petition on the Downing Street site. People really don't like you very much, do they Gordon?

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Countdown to the weekend roast

The Israelis have reportedly re-named Swine Flu as Mexican Flu to preserve religious sensibilities, but since we haven't done the same here I confidently expect sales of pork during the week to fall so alarmingly that by the weekend the price of a decent leg for roasting will be about the cost of a London pint.

Let's hope the irrationality of the British public holds up; I'm looking forward to a decent roast this weekend.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

MPs are not the only ones to forget who they are

It was a comment on the radio the other day on Gordon Brown's risible and bizarre YouTube launch of his Parliamentary expenses proposals that caused me to pause in my tracks. Why was Brown making a proposal?

We've become so used to a confusion between 'Parliament' and 'Government' that I amongst many - including most Fleet Street journalists - didn't immediately seize on the peculiarity of a serving Prime Minister making a pronouncement on Parliamentary expenses as though it were a government matter.

The job of Parliament is to hold government to account. The Executive is separate from the Legislature. The Legislature is a sovereign body, and only the Commons can legislate for itself; it's beyond the reach of government, and rightly so. So when the head of government makes proposals relating to the Legislature's expenses, why? It's not his role. It's not within his power or gift. It's nothing to do with him. It's none of his business.

But the fact that this has gone virtually unremarked says much about how the ancient rights of Parliament have fallen into desuetude.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Flu pandemic - don't panic, Mr Mainwaring

Until the superb Numberwatch crunches the numbers, here's my take on the risk.

The strain that has emerged in Mexico is the same as the H1N1 strain that caused the 1918/1919 pandemic, so let's look at that pandemic.

A third of the population were infected. Of that third, mortality rates were somewhat greater than 2.5%. Mortality was concentrated amongst young adults; children and older adults suffered a lower mortality.

In this pandemic an absolutely worst case of 750k deaths in the UK has been forecast - about in line with the 1918/19 infection. Except they didn't have Tamiflu, or an NHS, or all the things we have now. We also live less crowded lives.

And I shall cough alarmingly at the first idiot I see wearing a face mask on the train or on the street.

12th May - latest date for dissolution

I don't seriously imagine it will happen - I always thought a February general election was the likeliest 'best date' for Labour to minimise its losses in the next Parliament - but if June 4th is to see the country voting on not only Europe and the county councils but a new government, May 12th is about the last day for the dissolution of Parliament.

Sans teeth sans eyes sans taste sans everything

Boris nicely draws out the regression of Labour to that infantile jibberish that comes just prior to death; in this final of the bard's seven ages not only is the Party grasping wildly at tax rates in a spiteful class-war last stand, but Harman's lunatic 'equalities' Bill is published. Thus Labour goes to the grave mewling and puking.

Legislating for equality is one of those puerile fantasies such as world peace or human brotherhood that one expects from Miss World contestants; their good looks generally excuse their lack of cerebration, but Mz Harman hardly has this excuse. So Labour continues to think in those crude and inaccurate stereotypes that has characterised so much of its policy; the working class poor vs. the rich middle class. The ethnic minority vs. the white Britisher. Utterly fatuous, in defiance of the evidence, an imbecile socialist death-spasm.

Harman is wholly delusional if she imagines this Bill will have one positive effect on our nation or people. Like all else that comes from Labour in its death throes, this is divisive, corrosive, corrupt and debilitating, a crude act of class war spite and vindictiveness.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Dan Hannan - how high can his star rise?

As I write, the video of Dan Hannan's electrifying speech to the Tory Spring Conference isn't yet on his blog - but check back there, because it's about the best political speech I've heard for years. I've just watched a version on torybear with appalling tinny audio, and hope the version that Dan posts will have this sorted. No sign of an autocue, and he extemporised bits as he went along. Even a minor fluff at the start still made the point and drew a round of applause.

Cynics may suggest that Dan has been let out of his cage at this time just to lend anti-Euro cred to the Tories in the face of many Tory voters being set to 'lend' a vote to UKIP in June, and that Cameron will edge him out of public view in a couple of months. The problem is, I don't that they could even if they wanted to. Dan speaks clearly and directly straight to the middle Britain that's been hoodwinked, betrayed and manipulated by the three main parties, yet is untarred with the brush of the corrupt political class. He's sound as a bell on both Europe and Localism.

David Cameron's speech was quite good, but as usual too 'designed' and lacking an authentic voice. Lot's of feel-good phrases but little meaning. Still, I expect that's always the lot of party leaders.