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Friday, 5 February 2010

Criminal behaviour

Morley, Devine, Chaytor and Hanningfield have now been charged, and are criminal defendants, and, quite properly, any further comment before a jury has reached a verdict on charges against them is sub judice.

I will say only that this is the culmination of a process during which the loathsome David Maclean attempted to hide all expenses details from the public, during which the foul and corrupt former Speaker, Martin, used all his powers to block publication, and during which Brown gave tacit and implicit support to anyone from either side of the house who tried to hide this shameful scandal.

Every MP should today feel disgraced that it was an ordinary member of the public who pursued FOI publication with commendable tenacity, and that it was the bloggers, chiefly Guido, that spurred the light of revelation to shine in the dank and corrupt lobbies and corridors of Westminster.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Ian Kennedy helping to create a new Rotten Parliament

Ian Kennedy is a man who likes to thrust his own snout deep into the public expenses trough; now trousering £100k as head of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, this seasoned Quangocrat previously took a wedge of £165k a year as head of the Healthcare Commission. Kennedy lives in North London, on the tube network, yet claimed more than £15,000 in taxi fares in his last job between his Finsbury park office and his home. The lazy bastard should perhaps have heeded the advice given by the health fascist sector and exercised his atrophied legs.

Still, with a man like Kennedy - deeply sympathetic to the idea of fat, bloated, expenses and remuneration - at the helm of the body that will decide MPs' future wedge, troughing MPs must be hoping that the culture of this Rotten Parliament can be continued into the next.

This puts Kennedy at odds both with Legg and Kelly - who each, in their own way, are defending our, the taxpayer's, position.

We'll see Legg's report later today, but we must be ever-vigilant against his good work being undermined by Kennedy's swill-dumping.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Greece and Spain must go back to being poor

Spurn any feeling of Shadenfreude that Greece's parlous economic state may engender and forget any prospect of the Euro collapsing; the EU's grasping tentacles have a claim on the UK to subsidise failing eurozone economies, despite our not being in the eurozone, and it's decided by majority vote. The Germans may soon be standing on the doorstep asking us for £5bn. And if Spain gets in on the act, it could be a lot more.

A Prime Minister with even a hint of spine (that's courage, Gordon) would refuse to pay; it's their euro, let Germany bail them out. Except the Germans are unwilling to spend their own money - they want to use ours.

The alternative solution is an attractive one. Let Greece go back to the drachma and Spain to the peseta, allowing them to savagely devalue their currencies, go back to being poor and making their countries affordable holiday destinations once more.

UK Olympics team could breach Equalities Act

Britain's Olympic selectors could be obliged to provide places in the team for those from poor backgrounds as it emerged today that one in three of the team went to private schools. Harriet Harman, the Equalities Minister, said yesterday "Only seven percent of the population go to private schools, and our Olympic Team should reflect this in the interests of equality. I'd expect to see selectors giving special consideration to poorly performing athletes from poor backgrounds in their final decisions for 2012."

If Olympic selectors fail to put together a team that reflects Britain's social make up, they could be in breach of the new Equalities Act. They are understood to be in contact with the IOC over the proposed changes, and also to deal with an appeal from Grey Mist, the UK older adults forum, who have accused Olympic selectors of age discrimination. "Just look at the team" Mrs Beryl Shanks said yesterday "not a single over-60 amongst them. If that isn't blatant age discrimination I don't know what is."

The gay organisation Stonewall was expected to join the protest today, with complaints that there were too few homosexuals and transgendered athletes in Britain's team.

The IOC had no comment to make.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Labour's spiteful little twists

London is amongst the worst places in the EU for air pollution. A report for the London Assembly, published in May 2009, produced evidence that air pollution in London contributes to over 3,000 premature deaths in the capital each year. What action has the Labour government taken over this appalling risk to life? Nothing. Rien. Nada.

When leaded fuel was the norm, the most shocking evidence was produced that those living long-term in the shadow of London's Westway had accumulated such high levels of lead in their bodies that some actually exhibited symptoms of lead poisoning, but this wasn't the most horrifying impact. The effect of accumulated lead in young children, many of them of West Indian origin, had caused irreversible brain damage manifested in mild cases as learning difficulties and in severe cases as severe behavioural disorders. Did Labour legislate to ban lead from fuel? Did they re-house everyone living under the Westway? Did they horsefeathers.

Kids don't get a choice, of course, as to where they live, but I do. I know the increased risk to my health of living in London with its polluted air, and the visible signs of this pollution are evident when I remove a shirt after ten hour's wear or in the fine coating of soot that gathers in door and window embrasures.

My only satisfaction is that London's most vociferous anti-smokers are breathing the same filthy air.

The idling engine of a 2 litre diesel vehicle produces more air pollution in two minutes than a smoker produces in a year of smoking. It's actually possible that a child locked into a sealed vehicle with a smoking driver is less exposed to polluted air than one standing outside the vehicle in a traffic jam. Opening the window to let the ciggie smoke out lets in the far more polluted air outside.

So let's not pretend that Burnham's proposed smoking reforms have anything to do with health or child welfare. They don't. It's pure Labour bile and spite towards a cohort of the population least amenable to Labour's Levaithan Statism, where smoking is a proxy for civil disobedience.

I shall continue to be civilly disobedient, and watch with pleasure Mr Burnham breathing Europe's most polluted air in the Commons.

US forces in place for Israel strike on Iran

The inevitability of a strike by Israel on Iran in the face of Iranian intransigence over its nuclear weapons programme is strengthened today with news of new US deployments to the region. Iran's well-developed range of missiles, including the Shahab and Fajr as well as the ubiquitous Scuds, have the reach to hit major oil-producers in the region with the potential of a disruption to supplies out of proportion to the actual damage. The supposition is that once Israel launches its attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, Iran will mass-launch its missile capability not only at Israel but at other US-friendly states in the region.

News that Obama has authorised Patriot anti-missile missiles to be deployed in Qatar, UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait (they're already established in Saudi and Israel) in addition to stationing anti-missile warships in the gulf will signal strongly to Iran that the US is behind a forthcoming Israeli strike, and ready to help limit the fallout. And protect its oil supply.

The effects of Israeli-US action on the UK election campaign can only be guessed. Whatever the best course of action for the UK, Brown and Banana Boy are unlikely to take it, and the EU's foreign minister, Nanny Ashton, is about as effective as a chocolate teapot.

My own view is that we should keep out of it. And be as ready as we can to ensure our own oil supplies to limit the damage on our crippled economy.

Monday, 1 February 2010

National Sickie Day? Try this

Libby Purves writes in the Times today - which is apparently National Sickie Day. So before I dash for the train, let me tell you about a very simple bonus system we use for staff below foreman / supervisor level.

Every December they get a bonus of up to 8% of their annual earnings, including overtime, but only if they've had zero days sickness absence over the year. For every day's absence, the bonus is reduced by 1%. Their sickness levels are at about 2.5 days overall, compared with 12 days for NHS staff and 10 days for plods.

OK, our scheme is tough for anyone who breaks a bone, or who has cancer, but it works, and our overall paybill is still lower than our competitors.

Sack these jessies

Any police officer who refuses to walk the beat alone must be sacked. No sympathy. I walk these streets alone, without the benefit of kevlar bullet-proof vest and a communication system that includes an 'urgent assistance required' alarm button and without the benefit of the full rigour of the law being applied to anyone who assaults me. If a well-armoured and protected plod isn't safe on the streets, then the streets aren't safe for anyone - and we should sack the Commissioner.

And if 'modern' plods are nervous, it's about time they remembered two things well understood by old-time plods;

1. Being polite and respectful to the public will make them your allies
2. Law-abiding middle class blokes are most likely to come to your assistance if you're in trouble - so lay off trying to criminalise them by the overzealous imposition of noddy-offence penalties

In London, the greatest volume of complaints against the Met are over the rudeness and arrogance of individual officers. Patrolling alone will allow these confused individuals to remember who pays their wage, and why.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Why is Peter Bennett on the ACAS Council?

Harriet Harman may well ask her senior colleague Lord Mandelson why his department is funding ACAS when one of the 'independent' organisation's governing Council, who are appointed by the Business Secretary, is none other than Peter Bennett, head of HR at Network Rail. Labour MP Jim Devine has raised Bennett's little pecadilloes in the House on more than one occassion, saying his department 'is not fit for purpose'. Bennett himself would be unlikely to endear himself to Harman; Devine reported allegations under Parliamentary privilege that Bennett called one woman a "silly fucking black bitch", told another she had a nice arse, and asked her to take off her top to show her bikini strap marks, and dismissed a third even though he knew she was in the middle of IVF treatment.

Network Rail is alleged to have made 'gagging' payments of up to £950,000 to women abused by Bennett to prevent the cases coming before an Industrial Tribunal. The list of cases is allegedly long. On 4th March Devine told the House
If the company uses public money to ensure that the allegations never see the light of day—that they never reach the public domain—that surely is a matter for the House and for the Minister. My information is that Mr. Peter Bennett, Network Rail's head of human resources, is presiding over a culture of fear and bullying. Long-serving staff are being forced out, but only after they have signed confidentiality clauses that prevent the culture of fear from being exposed in the public domain.
Shitty Vadera, as Brown's aide at the Treasury, claimed that Network Rail would be so complex that "tabloids wouldn't understand it"; it was a smoke and mirrors exercise to keep the organisation's £4bn a year revenue cost and £28bn investment programme away from public scrutiny. And so effective was Brown's obfuscation that his Rail Minister is not able to tell Mr Devine just how much public money is being used to cover-up Bennett's behaviour.

But Bennett, who is paid substantially more than the Prime Minister, doesn't get the chance to buy a round for staff very often, it seems; 'Personal Today' reports that "girls in the department have always said don't mention that we are going out for drinks after work because he will come along. They are uncomfortable around him and they don't want to socialise with him."

Yet this man sits on the ACAS Council.

Can there be any other story that illustrates so well Labour's hypocrisy, sleaze, corruption and jobbery as that of Peter Bennett's rise to success under Gordon Brown?

The actor who does the ads and the Brand

The way in which the British public associates the actor who does the TV ads with the brand being advertised makes the choice of the 'voice and face' of the product a particularly important one for brand marketeers. Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, Richard Wilson, David Tennant and their like are always worth top dollar; they have the common touch, can reach to all ages and both sexes, have credibility and achieve high levels of brand association. Very few viewers know anything about the personal political allegiances of the individual actors, and they're not important. That's not what building brand loyalty is about. But let it be revealed in the Screws that one of them likes to cover pubescent boys in chocolate for money, then their personal nemesis irreparably damages the brand.

Tony Blair (and wouldn't I like to see his Hamlet at the RSC) is perhaps as good an actor as any of them, and he gave an Oscar-winning performance to Chilcot last week, complete with heavy make-up. But the actor who personified the New Labour brand is seen as just that by the public; an actor. The bloke who did the TV ads. The voice and face of the product. And the British public loathe him.

A poll in the Mail post-Chilcot (which means they must have polled yesterday), 8 out of 10 people believe he lied to Chilcot; 70% think the Iraq invasion was illegal, and 28% want to see him prosecuted for war crimes. The Mail piece concludes;
The survey makes clear Mr Blair will go down in history as the man who took us into a bloody war in Iraq –87 per cent say the conflict will ‘always overshadow’ his decade at No 10. Worryingly for Gordon Brown, nearly one in four say it will make them less likely to vote for him.
The fact that only a quarter admit that Blair has contaminated the Labour brand is perhaps good news for Brown, who has subtly tried to re-brand New Labour to distance him from Blair, and bad news for those who are debating bringing Blair back to campaign for Labour.

News is not all good for the Conservatives, either. Since all three main parties ceased being mass-membership political parties and were reborn as consumer brands funded by foreign governments, oligarchs and unions, each have increasingly relied on the leader being the voice and face of the brand. Although Brown has the same effect as Ian Huntley advertising Cadbury's Creme Eggs, neither Clegg nor Cameron can summon up any degree of public affection.

And this reflects the iron rule of casting; the actor chosen for the TV ads must be credibly associated with the product. Thora Hird for stairlifts, gritty Northerners for Hovis. Casting Cameron as Conservative leader was hoped to have the same effect on the brand as casting Blair to lead Labour; to re-juvenate the brand, to promote a new, improved formula. But it hasn't worked. Following the disaster of Cameron's recent posters, voices in Golden Square's offices must have exclaimed "we've cast the wrong bloody actor".