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Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Cost of 'Modernisation' will be borne by us all

The programme of 'Modernisation' across the public sector implemented as a consequence of a now discredited management fad termed 'The New Public Management' - a thing based on targets, benchmarks, performance indicators and all the dross manufactured by the deservedly dead Audit Commission - is itself a thing of the nineties, highly Blairite, Statist, centralist and freakish. One telling feature is the architecture of the office. Across the public sector, cellular managers' offices, senior management suites, boardrooms and haphazard team clusters have been remodelled into a single, standard, homogeneous office and organisational layout that you will find everywhere from Transport for London's offices at Waterloo to Pickles' Victoria HQ to the council offices in Leeds. 

Large, open floors are equipped with ranks of desks perpendicular to the external glazing. There are 'break out areas', 'touch down areas', 'hot desking' and little glass pods in which staff undergoing disciplinary action may be viewed by their colleagues. Senior managers must pretend they're happy using the same impermanent 'workstation' as their lowliest clerks. No-one is permitted to accumulate more than a square foot of paper, and as no-one 'owns' their own desk, the photo of the kids and the potted cactus together with the tray of papers must be set up anew each day at a different workstation. Staff designated 'back office' by the Gershon rules have become a sort of leper, shunned by 'front office' staff in case their redundancy is contagious. Of course, the senior managers have had to be heavily bribed with disproportionate salary increases to endure such conditions, the cost in many cases far outweighing any efficiencies that may have been achieved. 

The aim, of course, is to turn the public sector into the sort of effective, responsive, front-facing organisations we have become used to in eBay, Amazon, ISPs, banks and utility companies; in other words, uncontactable, impersonal, anonymous and loathed, whilst pumping out a relentless propaganda about what a splendid job they're doing. If you're amongst the 95% whose transactions run smoothly, fine; if you're the one in twenty who has a problem, be prepared for call centre Hell.  

And if the result isn't wholly in the interests of the public, neither is it appreciated by staff. The most recent available staff poll at HMRC shows that 90% of staff think it's now a lousy place to work, with 25% wanting to leave within a year; 91%  think Modernisation is a crock of shit, 88% think they're not well managed and over 7,000 report being bullied or harassed. 

The management consultants responsible for all this - yes, the PwCs and  KPMGs, Ernst & Youngs and Deloittes, who had such a cosy meeting of minds with the Audit Commission - will no doubt be throwing eachother high-fives with skinny lattes on the firm at the news. Just a few more years and they will have succeeded in subjecting the entire population to the sort of homogeneous corporate Hell until now reserved for customers of private sector corporations. Welcome to the future. 

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

UK Executions

'Beware of what you wish for' has ever been wise advise. The government's plan to re-open petitions on the Downing Street website, with a commitment to allowing Parliamentary time for debate, potentially as either a government or private member's Bill, seems like good democracy at first sight. But imagine this.

Jihadist terrorists detonate an ANFO truck-bomb in Paddington. Amongst the 200-odd fatalities are an entire primary school class of 35 children. An online petition to Downing Street to restore capital punishment for terrorist murders rapidly gathers 12m signatures, and MPs, stunned and cowed by the depth of public reaction, pass an Act restoring the death penalty, effective for all new convictions even if the crimes were committed before the legislative date. The six Pakistani and Somali Jihadists convicted of the Paddington bombings are held in Belmarsh whilst their appeals are quickly exhausted. Balfour Beatty quietly build a new execution shed at the prison, and Britain's first Hangman for forty years, recruited by the Home Office, tests the drop. Between seven and nine on a Friday morning, the six terrorists are hanged. Their cremated remains are scattered within the prison. 

By Friday evening, news is in that a British honeymoon couple in Jakarta have been kidnapped and hanged from a roadbridge. A British aid worker in Pakistan is shot. A bomb is detonated at the embassy in Yemen. Al-Jazeera broadcasts features on the Jihadist Martyrs almost constantly. The headline 'UK Executions' features on the strap lines of newspapers across the world; suddenly, we're in a new phase of conflict. In Leeds, three young female jihadists carefully strap their suicide vests under their Hijabs and prepare to catch a bus into the city centre. 

Monday, 27 December 2010

The Hidden Hun

Google Streetview has just gone live in Germany - but not before the Hun insisted that not only were faces and numberplates blurred out, but 245,000 entire houses whose owners objected to them being pictured. 

It can't be long before the first British MP seeks to claim the same anonymity for their 'second' home ...

The meaning of Wealth (II)

Socialism and Anglicanism should not be natural bedfellows. The church should oppose every intrusion of Socialism into the lives of the people; indeed, in this respect, many good atheists hold fast to great truths that appear to elude the Archdruid of Canterbury and his like; that we have a shared moral duty and responsibility to the poor does not equate to the right of the State to take riches from those that have them and give to those who have not. Indeed, I can't get a fag paper between the views of many good Libertarian atheists and those expressed by Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum;
The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error. True, if a family finds itself in exceeding distress, utterly deprived of the counsel of friends, and without any prospect of extricating itself, it is right that extreme necessity be met by public aid, since each family is a part of the commonwealth. In like manner, if within the precincts of the household there occur grave disturbance of mutual rights, public authority should intervene to force each party to yield to the other its proper due; for this is not to deprive citizens of their rights, but justly and properly to safeguard and strengthen them. But the rulers of the commonwealth must go no further; here, nature bids them stop. Paternal authority can be neither abolished nor absorbed by the State; for it has the same source as human life itself. "The child belongs to the father," and is, as it were, the continuation of the father's personality; and speaking strictly, the child takes its place in civil society, not of its own right, but in its quality as member of the family in which it is born. And for the very reason that "the child belongs to the father" it is, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, "before it attains the use of free will, under the power and the charge of its parents." The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home.
The main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property. This being established, we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

The meaning of Wealth

The Archdruid of Canterbury delivered his usual dose of unschooled Socialist twaddle this year in saying "That confidence isn't in huge supply at the moment, given the massive crises of trust that have shaken us all in the last couple of years and the lasting sense that the most prosperous have yet to shoulder their load. If we are ready, if we are all ready, to meet the challenge represented by the language of the 'big society', we may yet restore some mutual trust."

You see, his use of the word 'prosperous' rather than the word 'wealthy' is telling. Prosperity means only financial satiety, means only gold, and this is the fallacy of the left, that everything is about money and how it should be taken from its owners and shared out by an overweaning State. The Archdruid is firmly fixed in this firmament, but perhaps some time over Christmas he may find time to look into the many 14th century works available to him at Lambeth Palace. 

Wealth doesn't mean the same thing as prosperity. The Middle English 'wele' gave us 'weal' or 'wealth' (say it wee-alth) and it means well-being, happiness, contentment, fulfilment. The Commonweal or Commonwealth doesn't mean a Socialist Statedom in which all possessions are held in common, but the well-being of all. Trust between the fractured elements of our broken society won't be healed by redistributing money, but by recognising that the bane of selfishness and self-obsession is always self-harming, that it diminishes our weal.

And the beginning of this is to recognise the 'we' in 'weal'; that we are one-nation, one sceptered isle, and must work together to defeat the twin evils of Socialism and Corporatism (oh yes, the global corporations, trans-national banks and massive impersonal conglomerates are as truly evil as any thieving Socialist). The answer lies in man, not in Mammon.  

With deep thanks for your many kind comments and wishing you all health and weal this Christmastide.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Away from home and hearth

High noon behind the tamarisks—the sun is hot above us—
As at Home the Christmas Day is breaking wan.
They will drink our healths at dinner—those who tell us how they love us,
And forget us till another year be gone!
Oh the toil that knows no breaking! Oh the Heimweh, ceaseless, aching!
Oh the black dividing Sea and alien Plain!
Youth was cheap—wherefore we sold it.
Gold was good—we hoped to hold it,
And to-day we know the fulness of our gain.

Black night behind the tamarisks—the owls begin their chorus—
As the conches from the temple scream and bray.
With the fruitless years behind us, and the hopeless years before us,
Let us honour, O my brother, Christmas Day!
Call a truce, then, to our labours—let us feast with friends and neighbours,
And be merry as the custom of our caste;
For if "faint and forced the laughter," and if sadness follow after,
We are richer by one mocking Christmas past.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

I emphatically commend this to you

No post from me today, but anything I did post wouldn't touch the impact of this post by Jackart; burying my anger, I can add nothing to his reasoned questioning. I emphatically commend that you read it and watch and listen to the recording.  

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Cable's humiliation

One imagines Vince Cable as he wakes this morning jamming his knuckles in his mouth and frog-hopping across the bedroom floor in the manner of vintage John Cleese. The silly sod would probably give anything to be able to turn back time. It's taken just 48 hours for Cable to go from Mr Clean to Mr Bean, destroying not just his own reputation but neutering the voice of the LibDem conscience in government. He now joins Charlie Kennedy in the ranks of political suicides. His self-destruction should now allow Cameron a little more shoulder room to push forward more Conservatively slanted policy. Nice one, Vince.  

New mood of violence

A recent ComRes poll has found that Generation Y are getting more militant; 40% of 18 - 24 year olds think that violent demonstrations are justified if politicians fail to keep their promises, compared to 20% of the population as a whole. Most in support of street violence describe themselves as Labour voters. However, most of us won't be sorry if they get a drenching; 64% support the use of water cannon against violent protesters with only 22% opposing use. 

It seems there will be plenty to keep PC Delroy Smellie busy over 2011. 

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

RAF airfields clear - BAA in chaos

I've just been reminded that the nation's air defence hasn't stopped because of a little snow; it seems that RAF runways, taxiways, aprons and shelters across the country have somehow miraculously been kept clear of snow. Actually, it's nothing miraculous. Unlike BAA, they've just invested in the necessary equipment, none of it high-tech. Perhaps if the tossers at BAA spent less time wondering how to shoehorn more retail outlets into the departure terminals and more time on moving aircraft efficiently, the UK wouldn't be the world's laughing stock.


Things in the sky

A blood-red Moon is not a good omen; in years past it would be believed to herald war, famine, plague and pestilence. Perhaps a good reminder to arrange that flu-jab today. On the upside, from 23.38 today the days get longer. Today we'll have about 7h50m of daylight in London, and about the same over the next few days as the change gets sluggishly up to speed, but by the end of January we'll be up to 9h7m, with three or four minutes a day extra. Now isn't that something to look forward to? 

Polly is confused. Again.

Lady Toynbee rather crassly attempts to link the number of people who will avoid the Census next year and Cameron's correction of electorally corrupt constituency boundaries. It's the usual Toynbee whingeing - everything is a plot to do down the poor and, er, Labour voters. Yes, a whole range of people will break the law and refuse to give their details to the government's Census enumerators; some of these will be committed Libertarians, wary of the State, some will be criminals and wanted persons, illegal immigrants, the bankrupt and fugitives from civil justice, some will be in illicit relationships, or in hiding from their families or partners. Most of those who will avoid the census report will do so deliberately. Since they face a penalty of £1,000 for non-completion, they will have reasoned that the risk is worth it, that the alternatives are worse. It's a freely made choice. And yes, where tax-funded services are rationed on the basis of the census figures, those areas with large numbers of census absconders will lose out. But what the Hell does Toynbee want the State to do? Break down every door and force the population to disclose their details at the end of an electric cattle prod?

In case Polly hasn't worked it out, registering to vote is a different process altogether. Her claim that "Getting the census right and registering all voters is vitally important" is either a telling piece of illiteracy (are instead of is) or reflects an insane belief that the two are a single process. Registering to vote is wholly voluntary, and there's no penalty for not doing so. Michael Pinto-Duschinshy has estimated that of 45m registered voters, there are 3.5m missing who could be there - but also 3.5m who shouldn't be there. Individual voter registration will hopefully make inroads into the fraudulent and fake registrations, but those unregistered to vote are a different matter. The greatest incentive to appearing on the electoral register is the whole range of civil financial and transactional facilities that require registration; we don't need legislation, the banks and store cards are doing the work. To absent oneself from the electoral register is akin to civil non-being. Those who do so will have their reasons; a few may be ideological, but most will be people who simply don't want to be found. 

Monday, 20 December 2010

Korea December 1950 - the great Bug Out

In December 1950 Korea was experiencing some of the lowest winter temperatures ever. As the British 29th Brigade bivvied on bleak hill positions, the night time temperature dropped to -38C. As ever, winter clothing and equipment was sub-standard; 'Finnish pattern' winter boots that had been in store since 1919 disintegrated almost as soon as they were issued, wind smocks were not waterproof and rifles and machine guns had to be dried of all traces of oil and grease, which froze and jammed the weapons - they would only work completely 'dry' under those conditions. Rice straw in the tents and dugouts, lining tank hulls and crammed into clothing helped stave off frostbite. Engines needed to be run every twenty minutes. As if the cold wasn't enough, the lads of the Glosters, the Ulster Rifles and the Northumberland Fusiliers, not forgetting the Hussars and 45 RA, were put in the line to rearguard the US 8th Army; beaten, panicked and in full retreat in what became known as the Great Bug Out.  

The septics were in full flight and burning and destroying everything they couldn't carry. Demoralised further by the death of their 8th Army commander, General Walker, in a traffic accident, morale was shot and chaos and defeatism ruled. The British 29th Brigade was one of the few units that could be relied upon, but as Christmas approached, the Chinese advance appeared unstoppable. Men like my father, who had been on almost constant active service since 1939, wondered whether they'd make it this time. It seemed unlikely. 

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Now I know why the wine was foul

I don't take up invitations to government departmental receptions these days. I went to a couple in years past - one at the Home Office, one at the Department of the Environment, and the format was similar. Mid afternoon. A large, open room with a podium at one end, lined with buffet tables serving red, white or orange juice, a hundred or so guests, forty minutes of mingling then the minister entered with the VIP guest (presumably following a long lunch together), short speeches from each, the code / leaflet / scheme launched, a smatter of polite applause. Ten minutes of glad-handing from the minister as he made his way to the lift shepherded by civil servants. So why don't I go any more? These are just the sort of networking events a diligent chap might welcome, you may ask. Well, it's the wine. It was dreadful.

Catching my sour grimace, a fellow guest commented, holding his own glass of red for inspection, "I think the caterers are making a few bob on this". The labels were respectable, but the wine was foul. I always put it down to civil servants having no idea of what wine should taste like, but oh how wrong can one be. It now emerges from an FOI request that these receptions are staged for one reason only - to quietly get rid of the government wine committee's buying mistakes.

It could have been the 1er Cru Cotes de Beaune described as 'clunky and stewed, OK with duck' or the St Aubin Burgundy described as 'poor, suitable for receptions only' or another 'boring, ugly and disappointing' Burgundy, or any other of the C-list wines that civil servants thought could be quietly drunk by construction industry guests without notice. One can imagine the phone calls. "Claude? I've got thirty cases of a truly disgusting claret .. can you set up a reception for the motor manufacturing industry?".

Predictably, Tom Watson is calling for the contents of the government wine cellar to be sold off, but he's quite wrong. Apart from the mistakes that we got to drink, the committee, no doubt made up of wine hobbyist senior civil servants, has made some spectacularly sound investments. The value of the cellar is a pittance at £2m, and it enables the UK to serve A-list wines to really important guests at a fraction of the cost we would pay if they were bought as-required from wine merchants. Their good buying decisions are very good indeed, and have vintners slavering in jealousy. But please don't ask me to help hide the little mistakes any more - life's too short for bad wine.      

Friday, 17 December 2010

What the hell do we do with them?

A colleague of mine is working on a job in a part of London in which the planning deal has required her to recruit staff from an agency tasked with finding work for, frankly, the unemployable. After a day this week interviewing, she despairs. Her pen-portraits described;
- A Scotsman in his 40s, physically fit, who has just come off long-term disability benefit. Huge anger and attitude problems, can't take instructions and resents authority. Suspect most is down to his functional illiteracy - he can't read or write, use a computer. Suspect drink problem. 
- Single mother of three, youngest now 6. Never partnered. Physically fit but obese. Borderline sub-normal. On benefits since 16. has never worked. Crude, racist attitude - probable BNP voter. No social skill. Reads and writes with difficulty but plays 'computer games' at home. 
- Skunk-head, eyes red and bloodshot and stinking of weed. Late 20s, physically fit but uncertain of date, time or place. Deeply resentful of any 'interference' to his life - can only take instruction from people he 'respects'. 
The list goes on. We can't employ these people - they're a liability and a risk, and there's absolutely no place in Construction for them. These aren't immigrants - two thirds or more of them were white British, the beneficiaries of a generous Welfare system, free education, cradle to grave health care. What the hell do we do with them? 

For 'family friendly' read 'MP friendly'

Reading the whingeing coming from MPs over the IPSA's regime, one's understanding of the cause of their grievances becomes much improved if you substitute the term 'MP friendly' everywhere the term 'family friendly' is used. For this is what they actually mean. They still think they're a breed apart, a race of superior mortals, for whom the rules that apply to the rest of us don't apply. The public, and the IPSA, think differently. 

And for Cameron's veiled threats to reform or abolish the IPSA if it doesn't give way to his attempted bullying, he should remember that the first initial in the acronym stands for Independent. The IPSA shows every sign of going down fighting, and good for them. They are there to protect our taxes against the venality, greed and peculation of MPs, not make the rules 'MP friendly'.

Thursday, 16 December 2010


The bent bastards still don't get it. Cameron is reported to be prepared to increase dosh paid to MPs for non-Parliamentary expenses to keep them quiet; the Telegraph reports they want bigger flats and more free travel for their children. Excuse me? Since when has anyone in the commercial world been able to claim travel expenses for their children? If you take a job away from home, you live in a Travelodge during the week and get used to not seeing your family. Unless you're an MP, of course, with a snout in the taxpayer's trough. 

The scum have also racked up enough dodgy claims for the auditors to refuse to sign off the books; not only £1.8m of dodgy receipts being held by plod, but a further £13.9m either with insufficient evidence to justify payment. Any sales rep with such a record would be out on his ear. So why is Cameron pandering to the bent scum? 

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

In praise of London bus drivers

London buses 'done brill' last week, by common consensus. As Southeastern trains gave up at the first flake of snow, it was the bus companies who carried tens of thousand of additional passengers to their suburban homes. The word on the platform is that this was mostly due to the bus companies threatening the sack to any bus driver who failed to pitch up for work, whilst the cosseted train drivers could curl back up in their duvets and throw a 'snow day' without penalty at the first snowflake. Everyone's expecting Southeastern to collapse again tomorrow, as staff anticipate the weather to get their Chrimbo shopping, and bugger the passengers. Every one seems to agree that the only way to get Southeastern trains working is to hand it over to the bus companies. 

Every so often on a bus, a thuggish and threatening (and most times black) sociopath boards, and profers an inactive Oyster card to the reader with a snarl at the driver, then walks through. It's a brave driver who kills his engine, calls the police on his radio and relies on his plexiglas cab to protect him from psycopathic violence. But some do. Many more value their lives over London Transport's balance sheet, and let the evil bastards get away with it. When one such sociopath powerful bully was cornered today by mass police checking bus tickets, he pulled his blade and slashed a plod's throat in fury. I reckon bus drivers have more work related stress than I do, and that's saying something. 

Today's London bus drivers can't drive for shit and I'll bet some of them have problems speaking English. They work long hours for low pay and move millions of legitimate Londoners as well as tooled-up thugs and sociopaths. They're every race and colour you can imagine, and gals and guys both. I don't think they should be paid more, or work shorter hours, or get free PTSD counselling, nor that their jobs should not be subject to harsh attendance conditions or easy dismissal. I do, though, recommend that we tip our hats to them. When the pussyfied train drivers give up, they'll be getting us and our workforces to and from work, and all respect to them.       

Farewell to Iain Dale

I shall be sorry to see Iain depart the blogosphere, and the medium will be all the poorer for his going. This blog owes much of its initial exposure to Iain, for which I remain grateful. However, two things have coincided; Iain and Guido, those lions of blog statporn, have both started to slip down the rankings. It's hard to be in 4th place when you've been number one for so long. Also, Iain's disappointment at not securing a seat in this year's election led him to close off that particular career path. The ex-owner of Politicos is now doing what he always did best - political publishing, and his is set to be the nation's leading political imprint. A regular spot on local radio also makes up in some small way for a place on the green benches. 

We wish Iain all good fortune for the future, and look forward to seeing him in the public eye for some time to come. 

I can't pretend that Localism Bill isn't a crock

Stable democracy requires two things - an elected representative body, and the power to raise revenue. When Eric Pickles declaims over and over that he wants to devolve power to the lowest level, to communities and neighbourhoods, you'd therefore think his highest priorities would be to create and empower new democratic arrangements at the level of the Parish, to give legitimacy to a new tier of truly local representative bodies, together with revenue raising powers, to get rid of the dreadful mistakes of the 1974 local government reforms, to ditch Labour's State control over every local matter. Not a bit of it.

The Localism Bill is like a huge, long, wet Pickles fart. It makes a lot of noise, smells sweet only to Eric but drives away those who were prepared to give credence to the government's posturing over Localism. Whitehall is overjoyed; here is just another over-complex but utterly meaningless piece of legislation that entrenches central State control over the localities. So who cares that a few villages may choose to run the village hall? 

Simon Jenkins has the truth of it in the Guardian this morning. The coalition, having gained power, aren't willing to give up a single gramme of it to anyone, least of all you and I. They want to keep the big unwieldy councils because they're easier to control; the thought of 8,000 parishes each with a council and the right to collect VAT fills Pickles and Whitehall with horror.  

What a missed opportunity. 

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

More to cut still

Lewisham's settlement for next year is about £25m down in cash terms, about 7%. Not a deep hit. So far the council has come up with just £12m of savings for 2011/12, but you can be sure they've got a phase II list in reserve. Being a good Labour council it's been saving the 'pain' items for the settlement announcement, to make maximum political capital out of the cuts. On 29th November, the town hall was besieged by the agitprop crowd, and no doubt the council will be giving them plenty of notice for the supplementary cuts meeting.

Hey ho.   

Monday, 13 December 2010

Stockholm's first exploding Jihadist

Of course the actual explosions weren't the same as they looked in the catalogue. Taymour Abdel had looked carefully in choosing between the 'Blomster' [des. Stig Lundquist] and 'Bjorkefall' [des. Helmut Farsenn] detonators, and had chosen the 'Blomster' because of the cheerful gingham check pattern, but in the catalogue the bang had looked powerful and solid - in reality it broke up half way through, barely detonating the pack of 'Rattvik' composition in his rucksack. In his final moments, as he watched his intestines covering his 'Snövita' poncho blanket, the damp explosion having barely melted the snow, he doubted whether he'd be able to assemble his 72 'Nysnö' virgins correctly; he always seemed to end up with three Allen keys and bits left over. Around his scattered remains, civic Swedes tutted at the mess on the road. 

Burning the Koran

The Catholic Encyclopedia probably contains the most succinct and accurate description of the Koran as a work that:-
"contains dogma, legends, history, fiction, religion and superstition, social and family laws, prayers, threats, liturgy, fanciful descriptions of heaven, hell, the judgement day, resurrection, etc. — a combination of fact and fancy often devoid of force and originality. The most creditable portions are those in which Jewish and Christian influences are clearly discernible"
Of course, one could apply much the same description to the Jewish Old Testament or the Christian New Testament. Such is the nature of religious written works. And if the Koran is a poorer thing than the Bible, with rules more risible than Leviticus, flights of narcotic fantasy weirder than the Apocrypha and a blood-lust more savage than Deuteronomy, that's still no reason to burn it. If we reacted to all bad literature by setting fire to it, Jeffrey Archer would do very poorly from public lending rights fees. 

No, there is only one reason for burning the Koran - that is the intention of raising anger and division amongst the Muslims who regard it as a holy object. And that's not a reason any responsible person or government would sanction. I'd no more burn a Koran than I'd throw down a stone or log worshipped by a tribe of primitive animists; either act reveals the doer as insecure in the truth of their own faith. And as we can understand the anger of a tribe of natives whose fetish has just been pulled down driving them to take up their spears, surely we can understand the burning of the Koran having the same effect on the poor primitive Muslims. A civilised and enlightened people don't burn silly books or cast down heathen idols.   

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Cruddas represents the real danger

Old Statist Labour has embarked on its death slide; without the gerrymandering and corruption they maintained in government and built into grossly skewed constituencies, without voting fraud and the peculation of tax funds on an epic scale by Labour politicians and officials, without the shameless jobbery that filled the quangos with Labour placemen the old Leviathan is on its last ride. In an act of assisted suicide they have elected an unreconstructed Marxist as Leader, retained  a Statist redistributionist as Deputy and filled the vacuum of opposition with a jejune and adolescent series of posturings about as intellectually credible as the manifesto of the flat-earthers. The Coalition, it seems, holds the ideological high ground. Perhaps except for 'Jon' Cruddas. Regard the following quotes from a recent interview;
“The biggest calamity facing society is the relentless disintegration of the family and the profoundly dangerous consequential element of a lack of male role models”
“The Labour Party once had strong links with the Catholic Church, as the haven of migrants. Labour used to be civic and religious, now it’s secular and statist."
“Fraternity, duty, obligation, I like those things, and it’s clever for the Tories to do that"
 “I like Phillip Blond. I like the idea of mutuals and the mixed economy. You have to re-capitalise the poor and create a just society. Labour has to be there. We’ve lost our language, we talk a lot about justice and fairness but we don’t talk about duty and family.”
“People get worried when they can’t get a house or a school and it becomes racialised, it’s very dangerous stuff. This [race] is what everyone is talking about. When your community changes around you, it’s very uncomfortable. I think Labour should conserve things – families, relationships, communities.”
"There is a crisis of social democracy in Europe; does Labour just become a residual metropolitan and public sector or does it speak a language that transcends the identity politics?"
Let's just hope that the self-deluding myopia at the heart of Labour freezes Cruddas out, because if there's anything that can save Labour it's thinking like this. 

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Generation Y

There is nothing particularly novel in the violence shown by the Generation Y protesters (roughly the population cohort aged 10 to 30); even the assault on the robocop-padded plod was far less shocking than the iconic image from the Red Lion Square protest some forty years ago in which a poor plod protected only by a Gabardine tunic and cork helmet had his face kicked whilst pinioned; 

There's another telling photo from that year - the one below. Can you identify them both? Actually, what's lost today is the specs. Back in 1968 there were two types of glasses, National Health and private. The NHS specs were so deliberately ugly and instantly identifiable that only those in desperate need of glasses would wear them - a useful way then of rationing demand. The private specs worn by the two men were at the time were very expensive indeed, and mark them out as privileged scions of the middle class. Later lefties would deliberately acquire NHS specs to show what good Trots they were. And what was it that brought cheap, fashionable specs to the masses? Was it State ownership and control of the Opticians with billions of tax money thrown in, or was it just freeing the market and letting competition bring its benefits? Hmm I wonder. 

Friday, 10 December 2010

Keeping the Hun down

Jeremy Warner makes an interesting suggestion in the Telegraph when he describes the prime purpose of the EU:
It was about how to safeguard a peaceful future for Europe after the catastrophic German expansionism of the previous half-century. Containment through military and economic means had been tried, but it didn't seem to stop the Germans coming back for more. If you couldn't contain Germany, you might at least be able to give it common cause with the rest of Europe by integrating it. For a while, this seemed to work. Europe thrived on the parallel objectives of post-war reconstruction and integration.
Then came the fall of the Berlin Wall and re-unification. Germany was big and powerful again and once more seen – however fancifully for an age where another all-embracing European war is almost unimaginable – as a potential threat to stability and peace. Monetary union was the quid pro quo for allowing a re-united Germany, a way of further binding Germany's national interest into that of the rest of Europe.
And there you have it. The whole point of the EU is to keep the Hun down. I'm not sure this is quite right. Somehow I think Fritz has lost the will to go walkabout in Europe again; the Prussian tradition has been all but destroyed and Saxonian hedonism seems to have triumphed. The war is still too fresh in European minds - in British minds, anyway, to allow for any German military expansionism. No, I think the mood is more 1870 than 1939; for a second phase Zollverein rather than rolling the Panzers. Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, poor little Belgium, and perhaps Bohemia the Czech Republic could all usefully cluster in a new Euromark zone, in effect a greater German confederation. And it's probably this rather than the prospect of the crunch of jackboots that perspicacious European statesmen and historians fear. 

If I'm even partially right, the counter to a new Gross Deutschland is not the EU but a strong Anglo-French alliance, as it has always been. I know we have a natural aversion to getting into bed with the Kermits, but if there's a diplomat left in the FO worth his salt, our efforts will go into courting our neighbour. It's time for another Entente Cordiale

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Bob Marley isn't my name. I don't even know my name yet.

Marley of course was referring to an as-then unpicked stage name, a stage name that whatever it was never saw the light of day. So Bob he remained. Unlike Sir Reginald Kenneth Dwight, that well-known chanteur and inspiration for soccer terrace chants. 

We are warned that a whole generation of facebook users will compromise their futures by revealing every sordid, embarrassing and discreditable episode in their youthful lives to the indelible memory of cyberspace, episodes that those of my generation consign to blurry memory, and perhaps with a deal of post-hoc Bowdlerisation in the remembering, too. But today every nonentity has delusions of fame; every nobody wants to grab their fifteen minutes, and their facebook pages ape the tabloid rendering of the lives of minor celebrities. Except that the nonentities will still have to secure jobs as shelf-stackers or call centre operators rather than retire on the proceeds of serial ghostwritten apologia

But it seems another trend is emerging; when you've disgraced one name, simply acquire another. The Indie reports that over 90,000 Brits have changed their names by deed poll this year, a record. But here's a word of advice for the would-be Kerry Coles out there. First, change your name to your disgrace-name before you embark on your licentious and wild phase. That way, when you're 30, you can change it back to your birth-name and consign the facebook years to the anonymity of cyber delusion. 

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

London to save £30m by slashing Nanny

There was scant sympathy in readers' comments on the following piece in last night's Standard;
The jobs of hundreds of London health workers who tackle smoking, obesity and excessive drinking could be under threat, it emerged today. Although the Government put public health at the forefront of its agenda in a White Paper last week, with a promise of £4 billion ringfenced funding, the people who deliver those services in the capital could see their posts axed. One said: “We expect letters next week telling us formally that our jobs are under threat.” Up to 600 staff focus on tackling potentially lethal lifestyle issues. Their futures are to be reviewed over the next few months.
Meanwhile Lansley, as urged by this blog, is increasing resources to tackle real public health issues such as TB.

 OK, I'll say it. Well done. 

The ascendancy of the Left

During Labour's final years in office, the political blogosphere was dominated by the righteous anger of the blue. Labour and left-leaning blogs were constantly on the back foot, most not even trying to defend the indefensible against the coruscating reason of the right. Most languished in the lower ranks of those who enumerate these things, and it was a matter as fixed as the stars in the heavens that Guido and Iain would always occupy the nation's top two political blog slots. No longer. 

As this blog has dropped this month from somewhere in the sixties to below the 100 mark in Wikio's rankings, the top ten are also newly dominated by the Left;

1. Liberal Conspiracy
2. Left Foot Forward
3. Guy Fawkes' Blog
4. Iain Dale's Diary
5. Labour List
6. Labour Uncut
7. Liberal Democrat Voice
8 ConservativeHome
9. Heresy Corner
10. Political Scrapbook 

This is I think as it should be. From it may come the desperately needed re-orientation of the left away from Statism and Welfarism irrespective of Miliband and Balls. And I expect to see the trend continue; Iain and Paul are going to have to fight to stay in the top ten.   

Bercow - a bumptious little fool

Bercow's manifold shortcomings - his limited intellect, gross narcissism, inability to maintain appropriate professional relationships, partisanship, an utter lack of dignity, an embarrassment to the great office of democracy - are all well known. His jejune and ill-advised little strop on Monday evening directed at the Tory Chief Whip confirmed that the poison dwarf sees himself not the servant of the House but its master. 

As Quentin Letts comments in the Mail, it's really time that all honourable and responsible members oversaw the retirement on medical grounds of the little fool in favour of the capable Lindsay Hoyle. 

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Graduate Premium

I found myself having to explain this again in the office yesterday. Forgive my crude graph. The relationship was established long ago, when fewer than 10% of 18 year olds went into higher education but astonishingly still prevails - the estimated drop in the premium from much larger numbers emerging with degrees has not (yet) happened. The graph illustrates the typical earnings over a lifetime of a graduate and skilled manual worker. At first the trade enjoys a rapid rise in income in their 20s but somewhere around the age of 30 earnings equalise and continue to diverge from then on. Trade skills and therefore earnings decline as age slows output - a door fitter who could hang eight doors a day at 25 will be lucky if he can hang three a day at 55. 

The Graduate Premium - the area Y less the area X - is the gross excess that a graduate earns over a lifetime. At Net Present Value, it's estimated at somewhere between £400k and £1m. And this is the reason why successive governments all want to make students pay more for their qualifications. They reckon that £40k of debt is a cheap price to pay for £400k of benefits. Prospective students, of course, will not see it that way. 

My question is why the greater supply of graduates in the economy hasn't apparently competed away the scale of the Premium by anything significant - as a recent government survey suggests;

There is, however, evidence that the graduate premium may now be starting to decline. According to the Department for Education and Skills, in 2005 and in England alone, the difference in earnings between graduates and those educated to A-level or equivalent remained high at 45%, but was slightly lower than the position in 2001 when the margin was 51%. The above finding has to be interpreted in a wider context, however. First of all, graduates are continuing to earn substantially more than non-degree holders and they are also less likely to be unemployed. Moreover, research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has shown that the graduate earnings premium in the UK is high by international standards, and is lower than those in only five other countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Switzerland and the US.
So equitable recovery of tax costs or grossly unfair imposition? You decide.  

Monday, 6 December 2010

Two nations divided ....

Oh dear. Not since the tourist advice that yodelling is encouraged in the whispering gallery of St Paul's can the poor septics have been misinformed as much as by Vanity Fair editor Gradon Carter's January letter. Reporting on the popularity of Downton Abbey, Carter writes;
The series, by the way, is so popular that it has sparked a sudden demand for top hats in London. Marks & Spencer can barely keep them in supply. Fashion columns point out that young men are wearing them with velvet jackets and jeans, a look that—if you’ve been around long enough—has come and gone a number of times over the past few decades. Waistcoats, another throwback to the Edwardian male costume, are also becoming the rage, according to the Financial Times.
So if in the West End in the next week or so you spot a chap in an Eton pop wes'cut, velvet smoking jacket and silk topper with boot-cut Levis, he'll probably be a rather gullible American reader of VF rather than insane. Or British. 

Labour's poll lead

Foot's assumption of the Labour leadership in November 1980 immediately pushed Labour ahead in the opinion polls, and, as the prospect of the extent of the cuts necessary to rebalance the economy became clear, Labours lead went into double figures, giving Foot real hope of an election victory before 1984. 

Of course, 'events' were to intervene.  

Saturday, 4 December 2010

It's not sick leave, it's theft

Being a policeman is not the most dangerous job in Britain. It's not even close to being the most dangerous job. The construction industry, mining, quarrying, fishing and even window cleaning are all professions with many times the risk of work-related injuries and fatalities than policing. Even amongst the emergency services, firemen face far greater risks to health than the police. So as the 'Times' tells us today (no link, £) that 10% of the police we employ are either on sick leave or 'restricted duties' at any one time one smells a very big rat.

Police work-related sickness or inability to work should be no greater than any of the professions that are inherently more risky in occupational health terms, yet it outstrips them by far. It is clear that coppers, with the connivance of their bosses, are faking illness to an extent unheard of even amongst the cosseted ranks of pre-Thatcher dockers or print workers. And it's costing us a small fortune. And let's be clear. It's not swinging the lead, it's not skiving, it's not sick leave; it's theft. 

Thursday, 2 December 2010

UK fails to offer big enough bribes to FIFA judges

FIFA judges were said to be 'extremely disappointed' at the UK's goody bag, delivered yesterday. It was reported to have contained a copy of "British Football Heroes" by a G. Brown, a CD single by Victoria Beckham, a tea towel with a picture of a Beefeater on it and a Cadbury's selection box. In contrast, the Russian goody bags were reported to have contained the number to a safety deposit box containing $1m, 300g of finest uncut Columbian marching powder and 30 day-tickets to Montmartre's finest whorehouse. FIFA awarded Russia full points for "a bid that demonstrated a complete understanding of the needs of the world of international soccer".

Assange is the wrong target

It is not only the moral right, but the moral duty of those on the inside of governments or organisations that undertake illegal, subversive or seditious activities to expose the wrongdoings to public view. We must defend and protect such whistleblowers absolutely, for in their conscience rests the warranty of our democracy. However, it is also completely right and proper for any nation to use its network of diplomats and consuls to gather political, military and economic intelligence to the benefit of that nation, within the limits of the law. There is nothing to suggest the information now appearing on Wikileaks exposes anything improper in any way. The US government therefore has a just expectation that its employees, agents and servants will keep it secret. The leaker, the insider, must be prosecuted to the limits of the law.

However, there is a view that the blood of probable leaker, a very junior soldier, will not be enough to assuage the thirst for vengeance, and that the publisher, Assange, will provide a far more satisfactory victim. This view is mistaken. 

Once the information is out, it's out. If Wikileaks is guilty then so is every mainstream media outlet in the world that has re-published the information. If Assange is guilty, then so is the BBC. The US government must take this one on the chin. The chance to shut down a valuable platform for legitimate leaks is a temptation to many governments, but it must be resisted. These leaks aren't justified, and should never have happened, but Assange is the wrong target. 

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Back Spain for 2018

There is no better venue in the world for the 2018 World Cup than Spain. With a language that unites the old world and the new, a network of modern stadia and a transport infrastructure that makes Britain's look Neanderthal, Spain also has Sun, the Med and pretty girls, many of them without even a trace of a moustache. Top class hotels, world class cuisine, superlative art and architecture and, even with recent price rises, some of the cheapest drink and cigarettes in Europe. C'mon, where would you rather spend the Summer? Barcelona or Bromsgrove? 

You know it makes sense. Back Spain for Eighteen. 

The real meaning of public health

I can think of ten pathologies more basic and urgent than the DoH's and their puppet Lansley's priorities:

1. Rickets - on the upsurge
2. Multi drug resistant TB - A real worry in parts of London
3. Head and body lice - even nice middle class kids get them these days
4. Vermin - rats, mice, foxes, squirrels, cockroaches, bedbugs
5. Sexually transmitted disease - chlamydia is sterilising thousands, HIV is rampant amongst hetero Africans
6. Food hygiene - adulteration
7. Port health - ports and airports, disease screening
8. Birth defects due to first cousin unions
9. Faecal hygiene*
10. Malnutrition

* Always wear gloves on public transport, particularly if you smoke. Viruses like the Winter Vomiting bug are transmitted by people not washing their hands properly after shitting, and transferring minute particles of faecal matter onto handrails, grab bars, door buttons etc. which you then touch, and transfer to your lips if you have a ciggie.   


As concrete batching plants across the nation stand idle, and brickies count the cost of lost earnings, construction schemes in their early stages are clocking up lost time. This is when trad construction loses out to off-site fabrication, or when those schemes that started early enough to have finished the building envelope can struggle on. If the suburban trains were working, obv, which they don't seem able to do. You'd be surprised how many construction workers in London are dependent on public transport. 

Yesterday the office emptied by stealth as I was on a long phone call. When I started the call, full office. When I looked around as I replaced the handset, empty office. They'll get some stick this morning. 

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

"Want bitty!"

We must applaud the EU measures to enshrine the right to breastfeed their babies, infants and juniors in public in law. As Ann Sinnott remarks in her book 'Breastfeeding older children', society reserves some odd looks for the mother who wishes to continue to breastfeed up to the age of eleven or so in public. But what better reward could there be at the school gates for a tired Year Seven pupil having just endured SATS and double history than to put down his text-books and take up mother's open and waiting breasts?

The sight of an eight year old suckling greedily away on the bus or the train whilst adjusting his iPlayer may not be to everyone's taste, but the Eurocrats are brave enough to withstand the disapproval that will roll across the Manche Francais. And indeed, what could be more natural and welcoming than being served in McDonalds by a young African woman with her infant at hip and clamped to her nipple?

In fact the whole idea of women wearing clothing at all is an alien and unnatural concept, and Europe should return to an Eden-like naturalness where women feel free to go about in public without any clothing whatsoever. 

"I can't help it" is a crock

The victim culture, in which no-one is responsible for anything at all, in which every malfeasor is either a victim of another malfeasor or, when one can't be identified, of the fates themselves, has been condemned here many times. As has the destructive fatalism that denies any measure of self-determination - a fatalism at the heart of Socialism. I've never been able to demolish the fallacies, though, quite as effectively as Thomas Bertonneau does currently on Brussels Journal. Well worth a read. 

"In The Golden Ass, Apuleius depicts a world poisoned by its vices and redoubled in its morbidity by a pervasive exculpatory invocation of Fate, an agency that the rabble and the upper class alike commonly nominate as the supreme principle of a grab-as-can existence. Under the doctrine of Fate, desire propels the subject like an irresistible destiny, and no one – or hardly anyone – so much as tries to fight against immediately satisfying his basest urges in any way that he can. People throng the arenas to see the spectacle of gladiatorial combat; they crowd the brothels to liaise with prostitutes. People cheat, betray, and murder one another; and they insouciantly debase the traditional forms (morals, customs) that betoken an older, healthier, non-disgruntled world, in which responsibility and obligation trumped mere appetite."

Jim Devine faces bankruptcy

"Mr Devine? We have good news and bad news ... OK, bad news first then. You'll appear in court with Chaytor and Morley - all Labour lads together, eh? - in February of next year charged with theft and false accounting. I wouldn't discount a custodial sentence. Oh, and you might have to use a legal aid solicitor or 'trainee' as we call them, from now on. Since you haven't paid Marion a penny of her £35k Tribunal compensation, she's putting a charge on your Scottish house and planning to raid the Commons resettlement grant - your redundancy wedge - that the House is still holding. So your plans to use these to pay your legal bills is screwed." 

"On the up side, if you do get a custodial sentence the chances are you'll be able to serve your time in a Scottish prison; that means a new LCD telly in your cell with all the Freeview channels enabled, including the late-night porn. Let's just hope your cell-mate doesn't want to watch the gay channel, eh?" 

Monday, 29 November 2010

Lansley's window taxes

Andrew Lansley has gone native already. Just a few months with the ascetic fanatics at the Department of Health and they already feel comfortable with bringing out the whole panoply of Nanny measures that have been kept in the draw since the Coalition came to power. Once you let these joyless ninnies take an inch they'll grab an ell, and Lansley now gets to introduce a White Paper that contains possibly the most risibly pointless collection of compulsory health measures since the Reich banned smoking in cinemas during bombing raids.

The White Paper will propose that the State will fix card readers - or more probably RFIDs or card writers - to millions of lamp columns, pillar boxes, litter bins and other items of public street furniture, that every schoolchild in the country will be issued with a card containing a chip that will register the RFIDs to which it has been presented. A card with a 'full house' of RFIDs can then be exchanged for shopping vouchers or cinema tickets. Yes, really. They seriously think this will get children walking to school. There's some gormless moron at the heart of the DoH patiently explaining to an also none-too-bright Lansley that this is called 'nudge' and it's the next big thing. 

Except of course it's nothing of the sort. It's just the same old central Statism, the same old Nannying, the same old 'we know better and we'll spend your tax money proving it'. And the idea itself is so patently absurd, so lunatic, so disconnected to any reality that it shows they've learned nothing at all.   

At a time when Pickles is removing the most pointless of the obligations that Whitehall has required local councils to administer, Lansley and his lunatics at the DoH are thinking up new ones. So it will be the cash-strapped councils who will have to install thousands of RFIDs on their lamp posts and give out Nintendo vouchers to the thugs and bullies who will 'accumulate' full cards, and hard-pressed parents will end up swiping their kids' cards whilst walking the dog. It will also be councils who will be given the new Harman-Lansley duty to 'reduce health inequalities' and a whole new raft of reasons to re-employ all those drinking cessation outreach workers who have just been made redundant. 

How utterly, wholly stupid. How pointless. How retrograde. Lansley has not only lost the plot, he's failed even to take control of his own mandarins. Cameron should replace him at the DoH at the earliest opportunity with a minister with a modicum of intellectual ability and strength of will. 

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Riot damages

It is interesting to note that until the administrative reforms of the 19th Century, people had to pay for their own riots. That is, the Hundred had to tax it's inhabitants for the costs of damage caused by riots within its boundaries. This rather neat and very English arrangement ensured people would physically protect their own Hundreds from damage from outsiders rioting there - or else hold a retaliatory riot on their neighbour's Hundred to even things up. Like many sensible arrangements, it was ditched when the Hundreds were dis-empowered.

You might expect insurers these days to pick up the costs of riot damage - but this isn't the case. Sandwiched in the exclusion clauses between Radioactivity and Terrorism is Riot. For the insurers to refuse a claim, of course, it has to be a 'proper' riot, not just half a dozen thugs smashing the place up but:
12 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.[s.1 Public Order Act 1986]
So who pays for the damage?

It seems the police do. Or rather, the police settle the claims made to them under the 1886 Riot and Damages Act, and we pay. As always. The owners of Millbank and their tenants, the Tory Party, are therefore set to get a first class building and office refurb at the taxpayer's expense. One can see some potential here ....

"Commander? Sir Cyril Tweep, Chairman of Ludgate here. Look, I wonder if you could do me a small favour... what? No, no, not young Jack's cocaine thing again. The fact is, I've got 20,000 square feet of a 1974 block that I just can't shift and we can't afford to remodel it at the moment. The lads have been busy on Facebook and I think we've got a riot going for Saturday; got at least three dozen from the LSE and we've had ads in 'Socialist Worker' all month. We've left sledge hammers and axes conveniently piled in reception together with about thirty gallons of lighter fluid, so we should be OK. Now the thing is, we need to be sure your lads don't intervene too early and muck the whole thing up; if you can hold them back like you did at Millbank, until they really get hold of the place .... yes, you will? Splendid! And the usual 5% kick back on the damages settlement, of course."

Friday, 26 November 2010

Student unrest 1968 - 1970

Student unrest at the end of the sixties followed a period of unprecedented expansion in the universities; the new concrete campuses more than doubled the participation rate, from something like 2% of 18 year-olds to 5%. After the second world war, higher education became virtually free to all those able to gain entrance on academic grounds. New courses were overtaking the immediate post-war science bias; between 1963 and 1968 the number of sociology undergraduates tripled. 

In the sixties the unrest puzzled Britain. Conservatives attributed it to a global Communist plot; Northcote Parkinson blamed it on women, the Chairman of the National Sheepbreeders Association attributed it to lack of vitamins and recommended more meat in the diet. The clergy attributed it to a resurgence of religious feeling, the Russian government said it was the start of the end of capitalism and Labour's education minister put it down to Grammar School thuggism. No two disturbances had the same cause; Vietnam, the Welsh language, squatters, Biafra, uni bus services, Rhodesia, accommodation, Greece, refectory chip prices and Ireland all sparked riots. 

But compared to what was going on elsewhere it was all very British. In France, a lecturer at Vincennes arrived to find that a fellow lecturer had convened a people's tribunal to try him for his life; he was only saved from death by a daring rescue undertaken by Communist students. In Japan, armed police fought pitched battles with students, and they too formed 'people's courts' in the university, so deeply humiliating a professor of electronics for not teaching his subject in a revolutionary way that he committed suicide. In London, the staff at Rhodesia House made tea for the besieging students. 

I'm wary of drawing too many parallels between 1968 and 2010, but how the protests roll out will be interesting to watch. Whether students will try to take control of their own institutions will be one thing to watch; have they forgotten how to do a 'sit in'? Will they try to disrupt guest speakers? Will Michael Gove be pelted with eggs? Or will it all just fizzle out, to be posted on 'Facebook' through a coffee-bar WiFi with a skinny Latte? 

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Time to abandon the banks

Tyler puts our national risk level at 8 with an estimated total debt level of $9tn. This figure's worth looking at. I think it's too low.

There are still some £500 trillion of derivatives floating around the financial centres of the world, which I once, incorrectly, described as 'worthless'. They do in fact have some residual worth; if you collapse the pyramid right back to the starting point, the Bank has estimated that the UK's net holding of truly worthless derivatives is 'only' $10 trillion. 

There are only three ways of dealing with worthless derivatives. You can pay them off, write them off or inflate them away. Since there is no money left to even pay off a fraction of the debt, and the scale of inflation required to deflate it is in Weimar proportions, it leaves only one option - write them off. The banks will all collapse, of course, but they're collapsing anyway as the markets refuse to continue the fiction of their solvency. 

So it's time to abandon the banks, ensuring as a matter of national security that a robust retail banking system is in place - beyond the control of the banks. 

The Squeaker is no joke

Simon Burns' reported riposte to Squeaker Bercow's "I'm not happy" - "Which one are you then?" - has more than a hint of the post-hoc put-down than the immediate response. Nevertheless, it formed part of a long string of jokes and humour at Bercow's expense delivered by Cameron to the Lobby. It seems like all good harmless fun, but in reality has a deadly import. 

Squeaker Bercow is a constant reminder of Labour's malice and corruption, little better than the disgracefully corrupt and sleazy Gorbals Mick whom he replaced. Our parliament has been poorly served by these last two stunted pygmies of Speakers, nasty corrupt little men who have fouled the dignity of the Speaker's chair. Bercow is no joke - he is poison. 

The fact that the Prime Minister feels comfortable in openly taking the piss out of Bercow is far more significant than many imagine. It is unprecedented. It signals a complete breakdown in confidence, and this means only one thing - Bercow must either do the only honourable thing in his life and go, or cling on with his pudgy little paws to the armrests just pretending to exercise an authority that few MPs recognise in reality.  

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

What Is It With Socialists And Rogue Capitalisation?

Somewhere in Britain is a secret training school for Trade Union bosses that teaches them to enunciate as though each word starts with a capital. Sometimes this secret training leaks out, as in this circular email from the Centre for Public Policy Seminars;

How Best Can We Prevent And Reduce Homelessness And Improve The Lives Of Those People Who Do Become Homeless?

Date: Monday 13th December 2010.
Time: 09:00am.
Venue: The Royal Commonwealth Society, London.

Hmm. Not the snappiest conference title, is it?

Juries work

Lord Justice Moses, from reported comments, comes across as a bit of a prat. He wants to stop juries from deciding who is telling the truth and reserve this for those who can do this more efficiently, like, er, Lord Justice Moses. 

Judges have a long history of resenting the power of juries made up of perfectly ordinary and unqualified persons  to disagree with them. Judges generally live sheltered and privileged lives a million miles away from the experiences of those in the dock, those giving evidence or those in the jury box. The suggestion that he is a peer of the shell-suited tattooed prisoner in the dock before him would surely be a suggestion offensive, nay even insulting to his Lordship, but there it is. The suggestion that the police witnesses may be telling porky pies, that prosecuting counsel has rigged the evidence or that the forensics may be about as reliable as the 188 are all I'm sure ideas utterly alien to his Lordship's cognisance. That slender golden thread of justice that may be the only hope of an innocent man lies only in the ability of the jury to discern truth from lie, something that twelve may do far more accurately than the alien creature in the red dressing gown perched like a hungry vulture above them. Long may it remain so.   

That's the way to do it!

John Ransford may have felt uncomfortable yesterday when thirty council leaders called on him to take a 10% pay cut. After all, he'd only recently secured his £300k package as head of the Local Government Association. But then came a bald announcement that his wedge was being reduced by 66% - 2/3rds, to around £100k. It's unclear whether he jumped or was pushed. 

This puts Ransford almost on par with the guy he will face over the cuts table, new UNITE boss Leninist Len McCluskey, also on a £100k wedge. Cheer up though, lads; it's still Champagne and canapes money. The beer and sandwiches are a way away yet.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Dirty Money

OK I can't resist posting this. I've just bought a bacon sarnie from the neat Turkish cafe / deli / lunch shop on the way into the office. No surprise there. The latex gloves on the hands of the two girls behind the counter are a novelty, though - and completely pointless. I didn't ask, but here's how my reasoning goes.

Money is dirty; it's covered with bacteria and viruses. You shouldn't handle money and unwrapped food without washing your hands in between. Or, like many cafes, have different people handling the cash than those handling the food.  The girls at the local deli used to do both, with bare hands until last week. I presume someone got a dicky tummy and complained to the Environmental Health, who made a visit and advised that they should wear latex gloves when handling food as an efficient alternative to incessant hand washing. 

They should also have explained that they should take them off when handling the cash. 

Labour's opportunist lust for power

The past week has confirmed what I knew all along - that Labour now lacks any kind of moral or ethical foundation, and is an organisation dedicated solely to the gaining and consolidation of political power for its own rewards. Miliband's message that Labour must start "with a blank page" and base its new ideology on policies that voters like, rather than policies to which the party has an historical or ideological commitment makes the scrapping of Labour's history clear. 

Harman's enthusiastic applause of Ed Miliband's condemnation of the Iraq war demonstrates that Labour is now committed to the "A big boy did it and ran away" strategy; her honest answer to David's question "Why are you clapping? You voted for it" should have been "Because I'm distancing myself from Gordon and Tony". Balls, too, has seen the blinding light of Damascene conversion. This Statist freak whose goggle-eyed support of 90 days detention was absolute, who warned that reducing it to 42 days would kill people, is now coming out in support of 14 days. The stench of hypocrisy rises like a miasma from the opposition benches. 

Labour should cut the guff and go straight to political bribery. "If we win the election, we'll reward our supporters from public funds" may be the quickest and most honest way to cobble a Labour manifesto together; it is, after all, a truth recognised almost universally. 

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Coalition Kings of Cool

When I mentioned to an ultra-hip young designer that the Department of Health is thinking about legislation (leopards, spots; the Big State is still with us) to force tobacco manufacturers to retail their cigarettes in plain, brown, packs his eyes lit up in approval. "Cool!" he said. 

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Labour whines as its dirty tricks are nixed

Labour is the party of political corruption. It was Labour that maintained an electoral system that made sure a Tory vote was always worth less than a Labour vote, Labour that froze boundary reform to a glacial pace that preserved their utterly corrupt electoral advantage. Now the coalition is taking the sword to Labour's Gordian Knot, they are whining like spoilt brats. And don't forget, it was Labour who, in creating more of their own peers than Tory peers, attempted even to unbalance the Lords to their corrupt advantage. 

You may be astonished to know that Labour left the Lords with 234 Labour peers to just 193 Tory peers. If those seats on the red benches were allocated according to last May's vote share, it would be 237 Tory peers to 190 Labour peers. 

No. Labour are whining because all their electoral dirty tricks, all their cheating and unfair advantage, all their corrupt, unscrupulous and rotten deceits and deceptions are being cleaned out, and our political system being returned to something with fairness, probity and transparency. And that's what they hate.