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Saturday, 18 June 2011

When 'up or out' breaks down

Some years ago my firm employed an ex-Lt Colonel who had been made redundant as part of the 'options for change' restructuring of the 1990s. He didn't want to leave, he confided; he rather hoped to make Brigadier at least. This was a time when the army was applying a version of 'up or out' - that if an officer, after so much time in a certain rank, failed to gain promotion they had to pack it in. It was designed to stop the blocking of a career progression and experience for the most capable coming up through the ranks. After a while it became apparent why my Colonel had been returned to civilian life; whilst hugely capable in any number of ways, and a thoroughly decent and sociable chap, he lacked a certain key strategic insight and as a consequence set off in directions that were not quite in the firm's long-term interests. He found his niche, I'm happy to say, successfully heading a small and long-established charity. 

I rather strongly support 'up or out'. No-one wants to see a forty year-old Captain or a fifty year-old Major. But if the 'Telegraph's' report today is both truthful and accurate, something has gone seriously wrong. A downsizing exercise that leaves the army with the less capable whilst losing those of greater potential is not in the nation's interest. It may be that the report is flawed and part of the war of info-attrition being waged against service cuts. Or it may be that the army's severance package is just too generous. I think we need to know which - if the latter, we need to restrict the benefits. Remember that it's already cost us many hundreds of thousands of pounds to train a Lt Colonel up to that level of experience; making it too attractive to leave is a failure to protect our investment as well as disadvantaging our national interest. 

Friday, 17 June 2011

Another €100bn, another 12 weeks for the Euro

The Euro has just bought another twelve weeks life in its present form at the cost of a further €100bn bail-out to Greece. The Germans and French will take on much of this CCC-rated junk debt, knowing not only that there isn't a hope in Hell of getting their full whack back, but that when the fall comes (as it will) their own banks will be first against the wall. The slow death of the Euro is one of the most protracted suicides in history. 

Our masters in Brussels would rather see the entire European economy stagnate and economic activity shrink to a dribble before they'll surrender, but the truth apparent to all is that no nation will be able to grow and flourish again whilst the cancer of debt repayment gnaws at its back. Default is the only realistic option for Greece, Ireland, Portugal, perhaps even Spain, perhaps even us. The banks will howl and whinge as they collapse, but we can come through it. 

C'mon. It's time to take the hit and get on with it. 

Thursday, 16 June 2011

If this is the future Europe, be very scared

It was only 8am on the Jokai Ter in downtown Budapest, but already uncomfortably hot. I caught sight of a half-naked and barefoot young woman a few metres away and deliberately didn't stare. Too late. She'd clocked me and approached with a few incomprehensible Magyar words. "Sorry, I speak English only" I responded. "Oh Aye, me too!" she responded, and asked for a ciggie. She turned out to be a 'party organiser' from a small village outside Edinburgh. "I drink for a living" she said, and I thought she might want to consider a career change, given that she'd mislaid her mobile, handbag, shoes and a good proportion of her clothes the previous evening. I gave her another ciggie and off she went to try to find the apartment she'd ended up in. The looks of frank disapproval from passing Hungarians made clear that they didn't welcome Budapest being a party city at all. Unless the party is Fidesz, of course; with a two thirds majority in Parliament, this is the party of "a new social contract based on the pillars of work, home, family, health and order". It's like National Socialism but without the drinking and smoking and with the bierkellars all turned into gyms. I made sure I wasn't smoking near a bus or tram stop - an offence in Budapest that will earn you a £100 fine.  

Budapest is EU city central. The circle of stars flies everywhere on every ter, utca and korut (square, street and avenue) and you can't travel far without finding a building project hoarding proclaiming it as EU funded. The streams of cars could be on any road in Europe; the same mix of vehicles, most under ten years old. I wondered if the EU wasn't actually being run for the benefit of the motor manufacturers. The retail multiples were also the same as throughout Europe - Tesco, Subway, Dolce et Gabbana, Starbucks, Gap, Debenhams (yes, really, all of them) - and only the rail infrastructure gave a taste of the old Soviet Hungary that vanished after 1989, with heavy, massively over-engineered locos and rolling stock running on suburban stopping-lines, stations still with their post-war makeovers and undeveloped stations still free of terazzo floors and tie-rack booths. Though Lenin's statue has been removed from Dozsa Gyorgy utca, other hideous monumental soviet public art remains in place, not at all incongruous in the new Hungary. 

And yes, I really did pick up a feeling of threat. Not on the streets, at any hour - the people have picked up the 'order' part of the new public mantra with enthusiasm, and even beggars were invisible. It was the thought of the EU being dominated not by the naive, intellectually flabby well-wishers of the liberal left but by the right with a core remit of "work, home, family, health and order". And that's really scary. 

Monday, 13 June 2011

"Put up a bit of a fight, then surrender Stanley"

"So, Minister, the government's strategic position on the Falkland Islands is that we 'Put up a bit of a fight, then surrender'?"

"Yes, General. No need for casualties. Just empty a couple of magazines in the Argies' general direction and get the white flag up. We'll have to blow-up the Typhoons but they can keep the frigate. Save us the scrappage costs. And we'll charter an easyjet A340 to go to Uruguay to pick the lads up. The Argies may even give them new suits and goody bags." 

"And how are we expected to re-take the Islands this time, Minister?"

"Uhm, we won't. Obama won't support us, and the mood has changed in South America. Apart from the fact that we can't muster the men, ships or aircraft any more. Time for the, er, 'Bennies' to learn Italian, eh? Oh, and get a press statement out saying we won't give up the Islands without a fight or something." 

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Claims that the Falkland Islands could be taken without a fight are completely without substance." - Daily Telegraph, 12/6/11

As usual, dim police bosses have gone too far

The local meeting was not well attended. We had a couple of PCs from the ward team, a couple of ward councillors, a pair of officers and about as many of us. It was a routine meeting with no special issues or emotive business that would draw more people. The only issue to engage the police was a spate of robberies of mobile phones and handbags on a small council estate at the other end of the ward. Ah yes, I thought. The Somali boys. Hanging about the bin stores, dealing small wraps and relieving the innocent of their Japanese electronics. The young PC struggled with words as his face grew redder; "We know who's responsible .... it's ... a group of certain young men from, er, a certain .... group". I perked up. He wasn't going to say 'Somali' I thought. He's actually afraid of saying what we all know - that these are Somali lads. His colleague glanced anxiously at the two Labour councillors, wondering if too much had been said already. 

If those two young men hadn't been so clearly excruciatingly uncomfortable I would have had some fun. Instead I kept quiet and came away disturbed that the combination of Macpherson, Labour lapdog police chiefs and force discipline had left these upholders of truth and justice actually scared of speaking the plain truth in public. There's an old Jesuit saying that if you pray long enough with the lips the heart will eventually follow; I'll bet the same goes for denying that certain ethnic groups are responsible for certain crimes in the capital. Rod Liddle got into a terrible mess over this. His was the voice of the small boy in the crowd saying "But he isn't wearing any clothes!"

Back in April I blogged about the East End becoming like a Karachi ghetto, with death threats against shop assistants, Jack the Ripper walking tours stoned by Islamic youths, H&M swimwear ads painted over and 'death to gays' stickers on the lamp columns. The full extent of the violence, intimidation, beatings, fear and repression rampant in a part of England is only now becoming clear; the Telegraph reports today on a horrifying campaign of organised sedition aimed at separating Tower Hamlets from the rest of London. And what's at the heart of it is that coppers are too scared of being called racists to act.

I don't blame the police on the front line there. The fault is wholly the huge weight of the HR department, disciplinary threats and more than anything a cabal of senior officers from Superintendant upwards who were too eager to throw out professional standards to court Labour's corrupt and destructive multikulti policies. And we don't need anything new to correct the deviant behaviour; just a reminder about the "without fear or favour" bit in their oath, and a combing-out of the senior officers having such a negative effect.