Friday, 17 July 2009

"Happy finish" Joe Ashton attacks Quentin Letts

Just heard the playground contest on R4's today programme - at the tail end of today's broadcast when the iBeeb version is put up - between "happy finish" Joe Ashton and the Mail's Quentin Letts. I carry no particular torch for Letts - he's neither the wittiest nor the most cutting of Parliamentary sketchwriters - but I do defend the right of the chap to carry on his trade.

Ashton claimed to defend wimmin such as Mrs Martin, Harriet Harman and Jacqui Smith. Letts commented that this was strange, given Ashton's massage parlour history (readers may recall Ashton was caught in a police raid on a Northampton Thai massage parlour, thus not only exploiting wimmin in Labour eyes, but exploiting exploited wimmin - something far worse). It then all became very puerile.

If MPs are looking to rebuild their reputation, excluding sketch writers from the Commons isn't the way to do it. It was largely their hubris and arrogance that got them into the mess in the first place, and humility and self-deprecation would now go a lot further than censoring those who find humour in pomposity.

It's that time of the year again

It's that time of the year again when Iain Dale puts together the Total Politics blog lists; you were all kind enough last year to place me in the top 100, and if you wish to do so again, I will be suitably proud. Voting info below.

The rules are simple.

1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and ranks them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include ten blogs. If you include fewer than ten your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com
5. Only vote once.
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents are eligible or based on UK politics are eligible.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2009. Any votes received after that date will not count.




(I find that my own list is not much different to last year - with blogs I really like reading rather than ones I feel I ought to read)

Obama puts families at the heart of reform

Obama's speech to the NAACP carried a message that would not have been entirely welcome to all of that audience; that America's minorities must stop whingeing and looking for handouts and look to themselves to change their situation. It was not an Obama speech I imagine will be quoted by his supporters on the left here in the UK, but chimes with Cameron's views on the importance of the family as the fundamental building block of a fair, just and equitable society. Just a short quote - full text here;
Now, I know some say I’ve been too tough on folks about this responsibility stuff. But I’m not going to stop talking about it. Because I believe that in the end, it doesn’t matter how much money we invest in our communities, or how many 10-point plans we propose, or how many government programs we launch – none of it will make any difference if we don’t seize more responsibility in our own lives....

... That’s why if we’re serious about reclaiming that dream, we have to do more in our own lives, our own families, and our own communities. That starts with providing the guidance our children need, turning off the TV, and putting away the video games; attending those parent-teacher conferences, helping our children with their homework, and setting a good example. It starts with teaching our daughters to never allow images on television to tell them what they are worth; and teaching our sons to treat women with respect, and to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; that what makes them men is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one. It starts by being good neighbors and good citizens who are willing to volunteer in our communities – and to help our synagogues and churches and community centers feed the hungry and care for the elderly. We all have to do our part to lift up this country.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Wheatley on the killing of unjust tyrannous officials

Hatfield Girl's post touching on her childhood reading - her signed copies of Enid Blyton - led the Radders mind to wander idly back to our early teen reading. Ian Fleming, of course, and CS Forester, but it was our group's fascination with Dennis Wheatley that I really remember clearly. Pictured on the back covers in a quilted blue dressing gown with a large glass of Claret, Wheatley resembled a prototype version of Uncle Monty, and for some while I imagined that this was what metropolitan homosexuals actually looked like. I don't suppose I've read a Wheatley since I was 16, so a little googling has been done, and has found a fascinating footnote to the life of this curious man.

In 1947 Wheatley wrote A letter to Posterity and buried it in the grounds of his country house. It contains a remarkably prescient warning of the dangers of State socialism;
The doctrine of ensuring every child a good start in life and equal opportunities is fair and right, but the intelligent and the hardworking will always rise above the rest, and it is not a practical proposition that the few should be expected to devote their lives exclusively to making things easy for the majority. In time, such a system is bound to undermine the vigour of the race. If the rewards of ability and industry are to be taken from those who rise to the top, they will cease to strive, and if the masses are pampered too much they will regard protection from all the hazards of life as their right, and become lazy. There is only a limited amount of wealth in each nation’s resources. If it is not added to year by year by vigorous enterprise, made possible by the majority of the people doing an honest day’s work, but instead, gradually drained away in bettering the condition of the masses without their making an adequate return, the nation that follows such a policy is bound to go into a decline; then the general standard of living will fall, instead of becoming a Utopia, as the ‘all men are equal’ theorists fondly imagine.
More remarkable is Wheatley's encouragement to a future generation to take direct action;
Therefore, if when this document is discovered, the people of Britain are bound to a state machine, my message to posterity is REBEL. All men are not equal. Some have imagination and abilities far above others. It is their province and their right to take upon themselves the responsibility of leading and protecting the less gifted.

We are sent into this world to develop our own personality – to use such gifts as we have been given and to set an example to others by our courage, fortitude, sympathy, generosity and self-reliance. Any state which controls the lives of the people and dictates where they shall live, what work they shall do, what they shall see, say, hear, read and think, thwarts the free development of personality, and is therefore EVIL.

It will be immensely difficult to break the stranglehold of the machine, but it can be done, little by little; the first step being the formation of secret groups of friends for free discussion. Then numbers of people can begin systematically to break small regulations, and so to larger ones with passive resistance by groups of people pledged to stand together – and eventually the boycotting, or ambushing and killing of unjust tyrannous officials.

Your life does not matter, but your freedom does. The age-old wisdom tells us that death is not to be feared, for it is but a release from life, leading to rebirth, and if one has lived and died courageously, as a finer, stronger personality. Therefore, if need be, fight for your RIGHT to live, work and love, how and where you will. If need be die for it. Your death will be an example to others that it is better to die fighting for your freedom and happiness than to live on as a slave.
It's easy to be intellectually sniffy about Wheatley's uncomplicated love of nation, and his monochrome depiction of a country under Socialism, but the man's evident strength of feeling still hits the spot. Good old Dennis.

One in Five

In 1981 a group called UB40 had a hit with 'One in Ten' - a reference to the number of unemployed at the time. The UB40 was the claimant's ID card. This much has passed into the legend of my generation. Of course, that recession produced punk, and regenerated British culture.

The Economist today produces figures that show nearly one in five (17.3%) of 18 to 24 year olds is now out of work - and if the worst is yet to come in 2010, this could rise to one in four or more. The reasons why this age group are disproportionately affected come down to poor training and skills, and a State minimum wage for young people that has risen 59% in the last ten years whilst average earnings have risen by only 45%.



This is a damning indictment of this failed Labour government's policies. Twelve years ago, in 1997, Yvette Cooper, now Employment Secretary, said*;
As we bring down youth unemployment, it will be right to help other groups if the resources are then available. Other groups will need different kinds of help, so a new deal for the over-50s would be differently shaped. We must not, however, be complacent or suppose that, because we have got youth unemployment down, we have solved the problem. The group of people who will be left among the unemployed young will be the most difficult to help. The fact that so many people in my area are entirely without qualifications is very worrying. We talked to those people in focus groups about what they wanted, and they said that they just wanted jobs—they did not want education and training. That shows the need to change attitudes, to help those people to see that education and training will help their long-term prospects, not just their immediate chances of earning.
Labour then proceeded to fail utterly in providing education and training, with half the children now leaving school unable to read or write properly. Cooper also imagined that a youth minimum wage was the panacea to cure youth unemployment - blind to the possibility that it would prove to be one of the causes of it. Such is the economic and social wreckage that this failed Labour government leaves in its wake.

Time for an updated version of this, I think:



*Hansard, 19/12/97

Bell on Blair

The Guardian seems to have the broadsheet sector's most misguided columnists and most cutting political cartoonists. Both Bell and Rowson hit the spot with greater frequency than any others. Steve Bell's take on Blair's EU presidency this morning says it for me:

Gormless

Walking through Trafalgar Square yesterday afternoon, I glanced at the nonsense going on at the fourth plinth. The attention-seeker atop the plinth didn't grab my attention, but the double-stacked portakabins did. And then I saw two brand new JCB loaders with platforms fitted; about £40k each. Why two? In case one broke down? And how many staff were 'managing' the installation? And one - or two - full time plant operators?

I've previously had a soft spot for Antony Gormley's work, but he is going to have to make something very special to negate this mistake. Roll on the next installation - a rather good statue of Sir Keith Park.

Rousseau would love New Labour

That black rogue Rousseau, who would have children taken from their families lest their allegiance to their fathers surpass their allegiance to the State, would love New Labour. Rousseau, who said;
Each citizen would then be completely independent of his fellow men, and absolutely dependent upon the state . . . for it is only by the force of the state that the liberty of its members can be secured
Rousseau would also have approved Lord Laming's crackpot view that
.. the state should become a responsible and effective parent to more children
And would cheer Labour's efforts to exclude any but State servants from any contact with or influence upon the nation's children.

The 'strike' by all of our most popular children's authors against the State requirement to license them before they can talk to groups of children in schools will be applauded by the rest of us. Anthony Horowitz in the Independent and Philip Pullman elsewhere both excoriate this inane measure from Labour's Leviathan State.

It is written "It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones."

The offence to our little ones comes not only from deviants, but from the zeal of a State that destroys childhood, and I would reserve a very large and very heavy millstone for the Children's Secretary this morning.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Bob Jobsworth's moustache

Not only is he ranked 21st out of 23 cabinet members, below the minister for children's ball games and the minister for low-salt crisps, but the media is also picking on Defence Secretary Bob Jobsworth's moustache; the Times comments it is seen as signifying "the constipated mentality of an inept, small-town jobsworth".

That would be about right, then.

Government cock-up over Suffolk councils

It was the local government reforms of 1974 that united the old East Suffolk and West Suffolk county councils. The burghs, charter towns that had escaped the feudal dues by paying tax directly to the sovereign, usually had their own jealously-guarded administrations, which for Ipswich until 1966 included its own police force. East Suffolk, West Suffolk, Ipswich. It worked well for centuries.

More recently, the county has been administered by a single County Council and seven District Councils. The Boundary Committee (as opposed to the Boundary Commission) has proposed either creating a single-tier authority for the whole of Suffolk that would have swept away the existing district councils, or the absurdity of a single-tier authority covering Ipswich and Felixtowe and another for 'Great Suffolk'. The suggestions could only have come from a demented mind unfamiliar with local allegiances and associations. Three of the districts launched a judicial review into why the Committee hadn't considered their favoured option of creating three unitaries; East Suffolk, West Suffolk and, er, Ipswich. They won.

John Denham, the new Communities Secretary, is now left floundering as the Suffolk decision effectively puts the stop to his plans for Norfolk and Devon. The evidence suggests that Denham's Committee was deaf to local proposals, being determined to push through Whitehall's option at all costs. In an abrupt email exchange, the Committee responded to the local bodies;
We appreciate that local authorities would like the opportunity for further discussions with the Committee. However, we wish to emphasise the Committee's desire for positive and constructive discussions focusing on the draft proposal and the other pattern identified in the Committee's report.
In other words, 'get lost - we're not listening'. Gall and his Whitehall Committee persevered with their fruitcake plans, even despite the local councils providing clear evidence of its lack of local support;
As you know, Waveney, Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury Councils maintain the view that a three unitary solution comprising Greater Ipswich, East Suffolk and West Suffolk best meets the Secretary of State's criteria in aggregate. We very much hope that you will be issuing a workbook on this option.We would also like to draw your attention to several key findings of recently published independent opinion research which found that:

1. More than half the population of Suffolk is not aware that a review has been taking place (a finding, we believe, that should be of some concern to you)

2. Nearly nine out of ten felt that the three unitary solution of Ipswich/East/West should be consulted upon by the Boundary Committee

3. They support this option by a margin of more than 2:1 over any other option.
Mr Justice Foskett agreed that the Councils had a case, and has granted relief in a form yet to be determined. A victory for local determination and common sense so far, at least.

Large unitaries are not of course the lowest level at which many administrative functions can most effectively be exercised. For that we need to look at the old Hundreds. But it's a start. And if Ipswich gets its own Police Force back as a result, as it should do, it will restore much local accountability.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Brown running the IMF? Blair running Europe? Don't make me laugh

Richard Littlejohn suggests in his Mail column this morning that the real reason for Brown's despicable behaviour in throwing Gary McKinnon to the US wolves is his hunger for future US support for his heading up the IMF after we've kicked him out of office.

Likewise, Blair's quiet campaign to gather support for becoming the EU's first President after his abject failure to achieve anything at all since we kicked him out is well known.

The notion that this pair of useless spivs, a double-act of chiselling little crims, could be responsible for anything other than running the library at their open prison is risible. It is a triumph of self-delusion over sanity that either could believe that they have any future at all in any position in which they ever again exercise any influence over our nation and people.

Elected representatives are not unhealthy

The Taxpayers' Alliance have kicked off a predictable furore with news that 29,000 politicians are costing taxpayers £500m a year. The Mail heads its report 'A plague of politicians' and goes on to conclude we'd all be much better off with fewer elected representatives.

Wrong.

My contempt for what Peter Oborne has called the political class is familiar to readers; 'professional' politicians and their dags in all their forms are anathema to me. State funding of political parties is also a great evil that stifles democracy, and I loathe any suggestion of its extension. But let's not confuse these 'bads' with the 'good' of having elected representatives. The UK has fewer than almost everywhere else, and in place of democratic representation we have 60,000 unelected local quangocrats and 30,000 unelected national quangocrats, all of whom cost us a great deal more than our elected representatives. We can't have it both ways.

The TA's figure is broadly in line with Michael Pinto-Duschinsky's finding that State funding for the parties already amounts to some £1.75bn over a four-year electoral cycle. This is the real scandal.

We need more, not fewer, elected representatives. And we need to strangle the haemorrhage of State funds to the parties. The two are not mutually exclusive. We must reverse the venal and corrupt 'snout' culture engendered by the loathsome policical class. We must purge our political institutions of the thieves and robbers. We must trash the quangos. And above all, we must return power to municipalities, communities and parishes.

Monday, 13 July 2009

What's happened to steel woodscrews?

I'm just finishing restoring an old Victorian chest. It came painted in a thick coat of varnish with modern brass screw-in cupboard knobs disfiguring the drawers. It was therefore unwanted by the dealers and very cheap. Many hours of careful work with ticketed cabinet scrapers to remove the finishes down to the wood, careful filling of blemishes and old screw-holes and hours of traditional French polishing have brought it to the stage at which I can fix the salvaged period handles I have sourced.

The handles are fixed with 4 gauge brass screws, requiring, in hardwood, a pilot hole of 1/32" and a clearance hold of 7/64". However, if you try to fix the brass screws directly, you risk snapping them. So one first fixes using equivalent steel wood screws, then with the brass screws.

Fortunately I have a decent stock of 4 gauge round-head Brass wood screws, but couldn't find any 4 gauge steel screws of the appropriate length anywhere. Last night I searched the web to little avail - they seem to have disappeared. Only one company still claims to stock them - I'll call them later. Many other websites claimed the new 3mm size to be the equivalent of 4 gauge. It isn't.

Will I now, as with Tungsten filament lamps, have to stock up on sufficient Imperial wood screws to last me until my death-bed?

Gordon Brown 'not a ladies' man' shock

Gordon Brown is not a ladies' man. Neither is he a man's man. There can be few dining tables in the country that would count the Prime Minister's presence as conducive to a successful dinner party. As readers sometimes remind me, he is a sociopath - disconnected perfectly equally from both sexes in a way that must please Mz Harman tremendously.

Radio 4 broadcast 'Gordon's Women' yesterday, analysing his relationship (or lack of) with his female colleagues - iPlayer recording here. Worth a listen.

Every soldier matters

Gordon Brown had hoped that if the level of attrition of our forces in Afghanistan remained at low background level, he would not be called upon to explain why we are there and what we are trying to do. He hoped he would not be called-out on starving the army of resources whilst throwing our tax earnings at lunatic Labour schemes. The cluster of casualties over the weekend have changed all that.

I don't propose to go over ground better covered by Richard North on his Defence blog, but if Gordon Brown is telling the truth (which will be something of a novelty) in explaining that we are there to destroy Jihadist training camps and therefore prevent trained Jihadists from attacking us here in the UK, one has to wonder if there are not more effective ways of doing so. Can't ground-attack aircraft, artillery or missiles usefully destroy training camps? Why are infantry the preferred solution? And wouldn't more effective border controls that prevented Jihadists entering the country be a good idea?

We must keep digging at this one. At last, it's on the national agenda. Let's keep it there.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

A recession of two halves

I'm exhausted. I'm now working six days a week and hours that would induce apoplexy in an EU Commissioner. Apart from a couple of days at Christmas and Easter, I've been working without break since late last year. I even woke this morning half-wondering whether I should go into the office today. I won't. And I'm going to carve some time out and spend it on the boat. Last week I turned up for drinkies with fellow bloggers a day early, which was worrying; losing track of the days is not a good sign. On site at 7am yesterday morning, watching the clubbers making their way home whilst we had a full crew in on overtime, made me wonder if this isn't a recession of two halves.

Last week a guy I worked with on a job in the late 90s called me; he was going through the dregs of his contact book in an increasingly desperate search for work. He hasn't had a tickle in six months. All those I know seem either to be overworked to the point of collapse, or in a work famine.

Funny old world.

Another reason they won't make Blair EU President

Blair's abject failure in the Middle East, a graveyard of political reputations that only an utter narcissist such as Blair would have taken on in the first place, is not the reason Sarkozy has gone cold on him, as the Telegraph reports.

An EU President cannot easily exercise the panoply of ceremonial functions required from a cell in the Hague's remand prison at Scheveningen, or from asylum in the US in flight from a European arrest warrant. Best to avoid the potential embarrassment.

Labour's degradation of women and ethnic minorities

Kelly Holmes is a British hero. Her sporting achievements were recognised firstly by an MBE and then a knighthood. And the many other women and ethnic minorities who have received honours can rightly feel proud that they have earned their gong; the MBE, the OBE and the KBE/DBE have become the 'people's medals', and indicators of unimpeachable merit. Labour, of course, are going to degrade this, and make such an award meaningless. Just another spiteful and destructive Labour measure to spoil anything good and worthwhile in this nation. In future, British Empire awards are to be handed out in strict accordance with sex and racial quotas. No woman or ethnic minority who holds such an honour in the future can be sure they earned it on merit, and we can no longer regard the holders of such awards with respect. Labour therefore does both women and ethnic minorities a great disservice, and if Dame Kelly Holmes flings her awards in Gordon Brown's face in disgust, who would blame her.