Thursday, 31 May 2007

BBC quality broadcasting

I turned on Radio London this afternoon to hear the travel news and there on Drivetime were Simon Letterman and Kath Melandri having a discussion about something or other. Simon said that 63% of people agreed with a certain proposal and asked Kath what proportion that left, he even added assuming there weren't any don't knows. Kath umm'd and ah'd and Simon said that he thought she wouldn't be able to say. So Kath asked what the correct figure was and Simon said 47%. Kath assented to this. Around five minutes later Simon said that someone had sent a text message saying the correct figure was 37%. There was no noticeable embarrassment at having a) given the wrong answer and b) being unable to perform simple mental arithmetic.

I know that the BBC is often accused of only employing "Arts graduates" rather than "Science graduates" but surely anyone who has managed to get a job with the BBC should be able to take 63 away from 100. I see to remember this would have counted as a very simple question in a class test at around age 5.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Gordon and his hatred of celebrity culture

I have previously blogged about Gordon Brown's determination to end the era of celebrity. I am sure he meant it honestly after all he seems a straight kind of guy. Then I saw a review of a programme broadcast on ITV last Monday - Greatest Britons. Apparently this centred upon a viewer vote to decide which of the following was the "Greatest Living Briton": Paul McCartney, The Queen, Julie Andrews, Robbie Williams and Baroness Thatcher. Other awards presented included Greatest Sportsman which went to Sir Ranulph Fiennes, a great man but an odd choice as sportsman.

More interestingly, the person who awarded the Greatest Businessman prize to Innocent Smoothies was Gordon Brown. I am sure he had a very good reason for being there but I doubt if it helped show he is serious about ending the era of celebrity. You can read more about the awards presented here or you could just luxuriate in the natural warmth of Gordon Brown's smile ....

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Traffic control

Traffic leading onto the Chiswick roundabout on a Sunday or Bank Holiday Monday is usually terrible; long queues especially coming from Kew Bridge, from the A4 going east and off the North Circular Road going south. So I was surprised to find hardly any traffic queueing on this Bank Holiday Monday. The reason, the lights had failed and so the traffic was filtering nicely onto the roundabout in the way that people filter onto roundabouts that have no traffic lights on them. There was less traffic queueing on all roads coming onto the roundabout than would normally be the case. I have experienced this before at major crossroads as well, drivers do a better job of managing the traffic movement than does an imposed control system.

I presume that the traffic lights will be fixed early this week and so next weekend the queues will be as big as was previously the case!

Monday, 28 May 2007

Amnesty International

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights to be respected and protected.

Amnesty International's vision is for every person to enjoy all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards, you can read all about Amnesty International's role here.

Sounds wonderful doesn't it? After all I am sure that they campaign fairly against injustice everywhere. Well unfortunately they don't. Take a look at this report and see what you think.

A forgotten country

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a country of which little is heard. I read something yesterday that made me want to remind people of what has been going on in that country.

Democracy ended in Burma in 1962 when General Ne Win led a military coup d'état. The pro-democracy 8888 uprising of 1988 and further protests in 1989 lead to the militry government granting elections that took place in 1990. The NLD, the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, won 392 out of a total 489 seats, but the election results were annulled by the military government, which refused to step down. Instead Aung San Suu Kyi was put under house arrest where she has remained for most of the time since then. She was prevented from travelling to England to be with her dieing husband and he was prevented from travelloing to Myanmar to be with her. The Myanmar regime has not improved its activities and you can read the latest Amnesty International report for more information.

The Myanmar regime has been subject to economic sanctions imposed by the USA and Europe for some time now. These sanctions are of little use as China and Russia are providing Myanmar with weapons, and investment. The Chinese are investing in oil pipelines and ports so as to make Myanmar a route for oil from the Middle East to get to China. Meanwhile the Russians have agreed to provide a nucleur research reactor. Just what the world needs, another rogue state with nucleur technology.

I don't expect Amnesty International or the MSM to complain too much about Myanmar, where's the mileage when there are much more importnat countries to target. After all in Myanmar opposition protestors may be arrested, tortured and even die in prison - maybe best to investigate more open countries.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Labour totalitarianism

From Iain Dale's comments - this

Literary references

Many have compared this much of this government's programme to those of the Party in George Orwell's 1984, me included. The image of a boot stamping on a face forever has often been referred to.

In the winter of 1947 Dennis Wheatley penned 'A Letter to Posterity' which he buried in an urn at his stately home. The letter was intended to be discovered some time in the future. In it he described his belief that the socialist reforms introduced by the post-war government would inevitably lead to an unjust state, and called for both passive and active resistance to it.

"Socialist ‘planning’ forbids any man to kill his own sheep or pig, cut down his own tree, put up a wooden shelf in his own house, build a shack in his garden, and either buy or sell the great majority of commodities – without a permit. In fact, it makes all individual effort an offence against the state. Therefore, this Dictatorship of the Proletariat, instead of gradually improving the conditions in which the lower classes live, as has been the aim of all past governments, must result in reducing everyone outside the party machine to the level of the lowest, idlest and most incompetent worker... It will be immensely difficult to break the stranglehold of the machine, but it can be done, little by little; the first step being the formation of secret groups of friends for free discussion. Then numbers of people can begin systematically to break small regulations, and so to larger ones with passive resistance by groups of people pledged to stand together – and eventually the boycotting, or ambushing and killing of unjust tyrannous officials."

Remind you of anything that is happening in the UK now?

HIPs as a revenue raiser

Yes I know that the Energy Performance Certificate must be introduced by 2009 when it becomes mandatory under EU law and I (and others) have blogged previously about this government's incompetent implementation of the Home Information Pack. Something Ruth Kelly said in this week's debate that "The figures" of accredited inspectors "are changing rapidly as more and more energy assessors pass their exams, gain their qualifications and pay their dues to become fully accredited. However, they clearly need enough certainty in the system to part with the final £300, and we are not providing that certainty."

This got me thinking, how much is the government raising from the training of these inspectors?

Free riding

Oyster cards seem a great idea and they do work on the tube with controlled entrance and exit from each station but on London buses they are a joke. I took a short journey on a bendy bus today and counted the number of people who got into the bus via one of the centre doors without "touching in"; I made it about 40% ignoring the machines. Many people are getting a free ride on London buses, maybe that is what "cuddly" Ken Livingstone wants but do the rest of us really want to subsidise the travel arrangements of freeloaders?

Going up in smoke

I do not smoke, I have never smoked, I hate the smell of cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke and hate even more the smell of stale smoke on my clothes and skin the day after an evening out in a bar or club. I avoid smokey restaurants and bars and have changed tables to avoid people smoking next to me. So I obviously support the ban on smoking in all public places that comes into force in England on 1 July; actually no I don't. This is just another way of the state controlling the public. Every "workplace" must display A5 sized "No smoking" signage at every entrance unless it is an entrance from another smoke free workplace in which case a no smoking symbol only needs be displayed. If a vehicle is a Company vehicle and carries more than just the driver then no smoking signs must be displayed in each "compartment" of that vehicle. So if you drive a company car and occasionally carry a passenger from your company then your car is a "workplace" and smoking in that car breaks the law.

It appears that I should have gone into business making non smoking signs as they are going to have to be displayed almost everywhere. Surely if the whole country is to be no smoking it would be cheaper to just put signs up where smoking is allowed, maybe a picture of a half smoked, fuming fag could be the sign! That would be too obvious for this government who need to nanny us as much as possible and also to raise revenue. I was not surprised to see the list of penalties for contravening this legislation. The maximum penalties are as follows:
1) 'No smoking' sign offences (summary conviction and a fine of up to £1,000 or a fixed penalty notice of £200)
2) Offence of smoking in a smoke-free place (summary conviction and a fine of up to £200 or a fixed penalty notice of £50)
3) Offence of failing to prevent smoking in a smoke-free place (summary conviction and a fine of up to £2,500)

So the heaviest fines do not fall upon people smoking where they shouldn't but on companies who fail to put signs up at every entrance or fail to prevent people from smoking on their premises. Also you will notice that we are seeing the introduction of yet another "fixed penalty notice" by this government. We are slowly being constricted by this government via "fixed penalty notices" and I will blog about this more in the future.

So this is a revenue raising exercise disguised as a policy for public health.

Meanwhile at least one company has looked to find a market in selling smoking shelters that meet the new "substantially enclosed" restrictions.

Regardless of the above why should the government dictate whether bar owners and restaurateurs allow smoking in their establishments. If the place is smoky then I (and other customers) won't go there and nobody is being forced to work there so don't tell me if it a Health and Safety at work issue.

The law of unintended consequences may also come into play with this ban, The BBC have quite a good article on this.

Friday, 25 May 2007

I wonder why?

I wonder why "The British Association of Plastic Surgeons" (BAPS) "has changed its name to the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) with effect from July 11th 2006." Their choice of name for the holding page is still funny though -

Who's in touch?

The Internet is a wonderful thing, it lets "ordinary people" find the information that they want to see rather than that which the Main Stream Media (MSM) deem suitable for them to see.

1) If you search on the BBC news website for Tony Blair then the top 10 hits are as follows:
News - Blair succession
News - Prime Minister profile
News - Blair: US may back carbon deal
News - Europe diary: Spheres of Influence
News - Control orders flawed, says Reid
News - Nuclear power 'must be on agenda'
News - Hewitt survives confidence vote
News - Levy steps down as Mid East envoy
News - Hips forced a 'bunker mentality'
News - In quotes: Britain's energy strategy

2) If you search on the BBC news website for Gordon Brown then the top 10 hits are as follows:
News - Chancellor of the Exchequer
News - Brown pledges to tackle bullies
News - Call for 'community' bank holiday
News - Minister 'wants secrecy' for MPs'
News - Europe diary: Spheres of influence
News - Brown advisor begins tax review
News - Pointers to a low-carbon future
News - In quotes: Britain's energy strategy
News - PMQs: Cameron came to bury ministers
News - Point-by-point: Question time

3) If you search on the BBC news website for David Cameron then the top 10 hits are as follows:
News - Conservative front bench guide
News - Titanic love gem goes on display
News - Hewitt survives confidence vote
News - Hips forced a 'bunker mentality'
News - PMQs: Cameron came to bury ministers
News - Point-by-point: Question time
News - Is Cameron winning school's fight?
News - Cameron steps up grammars attack
News - Tory policy 'unravelling'
News - British military fatalities in Afghanistan

An interesting point emerge from the above. In searching for David Cameron a totally irrelevant entry emerges, it disappears if you search for "David Cameron" rather than David Cameron. No such problems in omitting the "" from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

More importantly these are the stories that the BBC deem most important, but are they what the public are interested in? Thanks to Guido Fawkes we can see the most searched for terms relating to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron, I repeat the Hitwise table here:

Interesting isn't it? The MSN steadfastly refuse to discuss certain stories and the news stories relating to Gordon Brown's nose picking are not as well known as you might imagine. Most people I have spoken to regarding this have never even heard of the video let alone seen it, they all remember the footage of John Redwood failing to sing Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and the hilarity on the BBC's Have I Got News to You. Will the BBC ever show the video? Some of the other stories about Gordon Brown are also obviously gaining more widespread currency than the MSN reflect...

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Do I detect the smell of burning lingerie?

On 16 May Yvette Cooper (Minister for Housing and Planning) stated in the House of Commons that "According to the latest estimates, 2,000 energy assessors will be needed at the beginning of June, rising to 2,500 by the end of the month. More than 2,200 have passed their examinations, and over 3,000 more are in training. Of those, around 1,100 are accredited or their accreditation is currently being processed." Yesterday, 22 May, Ruth Kelly (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) admitted that there weren't enough assessors trained and accredited "There are over 2,500 people currently in training. A further 3,200 have already passed their home inspector or domestic energy assessor exams. Of those, 1,500 have been accredited or have applied for accreditation, but only 520 have been fully accredited".

Now if on 22 May there are only 520 fully accredited assessors, how many of the 1,100 mentioned by Yvette Cooper as being accredited or having their accreditation processed were in the former rather than the latter camp at the time? Was Yvette Cooper trying to pull the wool over our eyes in the style of her husband's boss? On 6 May did the Government really think that the balance of the 1,100 would all be fully accredited by 1 June along with another 900 who had passed their exams but not yet applied for accreditation? How long does the accreditation process take?

It is nice to see that Ruth Kelly has all the aptitude for this area of her responsibility that her predecessor had. In case you didn't know, HIPs were designed when this policy area came under the purview of the ODPM (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister).

The role of a bowler

This one is slightly away from my usual targets, a bit like the man himself. The Telegraph has a line or two about Steve Harmison, the England pace bowler whose accuracy is somewhat suspect at present. Apparently it has been suggested that England's strike bowler might "hold the ball across the seam" to aid his control. "His fellow seamers might not be happy, as it would scuff up the ball" but that would be price worth paying if he took wickets. Alternatively this bowler who during the Ashes was being compared to Curtly Ambrose, could just learn to grip the ball properly and bowl straight.

A little bit of class warfare

The backbenchers are restless, they have been pulled into line over the leadership of their party, Gordon Brown and his henchmen have made sure that no challenge from the left could materialise. A few scraps need to be thrown to them so that the rumblings of dissent recede. Hence the two policy announcements yesterday: first HIPs - these have been postponed for two months and when they are introduced it will only be on the houses of rich folk who have a four bed roomed house or larger, secondly on road pricing - the insertion of "green" differential pricing provisions means that "4x4" or "gas guzzlers" can be charged more per mile. Will this satisfy more on the left than it annoys amongst the middle class Labour voters?

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Slipped HIP

It appears that faced with a legal challenge from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors the Government might be about to postpone the introduction of the HIP (due on 1 June). Apparently a judge ruling on a legal challenge from surveyors, proposed leaving out the energy certificates "for the time being".

This policy has been ill thought out even by the low standards of this government and I see from the BBC report that finally the root cause of the policy has been fingered - "They would also ensure that the UK complies with an EU directive which comes into force in 2009." Just as with the policy to close rural Post Offices (article to follow), the EU is the instigator.

UPDATE... HIPs will be brought in on 1 August for four bedroom properties (or larger). It's OK, only rich folk will be hit by this tax and they have enough money! No mention of what extra consultations will take place, mybe this is a delay so there are close to enough inspectors trained. This Government... Does anyone know where I can find someone to arrange a drinks party at a beer manufacturing facility?

Listening government

What subject garnered the most signatures on the N0 10 petition website? Road Pricing, more than 2 million people signed up to oppose this policy. In response Douglas Alexander (the Transport Minister) said that the government would "listen to people". Well if they did listen then they decided to ignore the people because today the Local Transport Bill comes to the Commons for its first reading and incorporated within it is legislation for pilot 'pay as you drive' schemes.

Still I am sure that as Gordon Brown has 'vowed that he would "listen" and "learn"' this bill be meet with his disfavour and proceed no further. Hold on, news reaches me that this policy would raise taxes so I think any opposition from Gordon Brown is unlikely.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Get lost

Very popular these satellite navigation devices for cars. They help get you to your destination quicker, although some do lead people astray, although you have to wonder at the level of intelligence of someone who follows their sat nav's directions to the extent of opening a shut level crossing gate. I digress...

These devices work thanks to the network of (currently 30) Global Positioning System satellites that was originally developed by the US Department of Defence and are currently maintained by the USAAF at a cost of $750M per year. The service is provided to the general public at no charge. Seems a nice idea, the public get something for nothing (well apart from the cost to the US taxpayer) and we can avoid map reading related arguments when driving in Cornwall or even London. It is no longer (since 2000) true that the signal has a random error added to make the civilian system less accurate than the military system.

So what should we in Europe do? Say thank you to the US (or even just ignore them) and get on with life? Don't be daft, we are ruled by the European Union and they can't bear to leave things be, especially American run things. So in 1999 the EU started planning a rival system. The original plan was for this system to cost £0.7bn and be privately funded and run; the latest estimate is £2.7bn and costs will no doubt rise again. This is surely not a problem as this is a privately funded project? Well it was to be privately funded, however now the EU have realised that there is no real market for a charged for untested competitor to compete with a free to the end user working system. Here is the BBC's latest update to this story.

Another marvelous waste of tax payers money.

Gordon Brown's record as Chancellor of the Exchequer (part 1)

Ten years is a very long time in politics and an incredibly long time to hold the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer. As Gordon Brown spends the next six weeks touring the country talking about the economic miracle he has wrought and how he wants to change the style of government to one that is more open and listening, I thought a look back over the last ten years of this Chancellor would be instructive.

Lets take a look at some key indicators:
Gross Domestic Product - 2005 showed the slowest growth since 1993 - article
Inflation - Ended 2006 at its highest levels for a decade - article
Inflation - In January hit the highest levels for 11 years - article
Inflation - Meanwhile the real rate of inflation is much higher than that reported - article and article
Wage inflation - In May 2007 pay rises move above 4% as fears over inflation rise - article
Unemployment - In September 2000 hit a low not seen since the 1970's - article
Unemployment - From then on unemployment has risen to 5.5% this year - article
Bankruptcies - Ever rising, helped by new IVA legislation - article
Trade deficit - Reaches a new low of £4.7bn this year - article

If you thought this one made GB look like less than a total success, wait for part 2...that deals with his record on Taxation!

Gordon's new Open Government

Gordon, you spin me round, Brown recently declared that he wanted "open" politics. So it was no surprise when he came out firmly against the Freedom of Information (Exemption) Bill that passed its second reading in the Commons on Friday. Gordon Brown expressed the view that "open" government meant listening to the people and serving the people and committed himself to giving government time over to repealing the Freedom of Information (Exemption) Bill as soon as he became Prime Minister...... Of course none of that is true, apart from the bit about GB wanting "open" politics. No, the great clunking fist of British politics actually declared (via a spokesman) that he had promised not to dictate to MPs and that "if MPs have voted this measure through then that is a matter for them". Either GB is radically moving away from the control freakery of his 10 years at the Treasury or he speaks with forked tongue, what do you think?

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Patricia Hewitt

Hopefully you haven't reacted to that heading the way I do when I hear Patricia Hewitt's voice. For me it starts with an empty feeling in my stomach, followed by a tension headache and then the urge to scream. Regardless of the fact that I do want to do justice to this political genius's ruining running of the NHS and will try to do so before you disappears in Gordon Brown's first reshuffle, here is a lovely story about her loyalty and maybe lack of planning.

It's all the fault of a Conservative

The BBC has been playing games again. Their coverage of the disgusting plans to exempt MPs from Freedom of Information laws have mentioned time after time that it is being introduced by an ex-Tory minister, David Maclean and that chief amongst the leading opponents is Lib Dem MP Norman Baker - see here for just one example. Strange that when you look who voted for the bill you find that:
a) most MPS didn't even vote, I know it was a Friday but wasn't this important enough and well enough publicised?
b) of the 96 MPs who voted in favour, 21 were Conservative MPs - Peter Atkinson (Hexham), Simon Burns (Chelmsford West), Sir John Butterfill (Bournemouth West), James Duddridge (Rochford & Southend East),Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East),Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove),Greg Knight (Yorkshire East),Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East),David Maclean (Penrith & The Border),Bob Neill (Bromley & Chislehurst),Andrew Pelling (Croydon Central),Mark Pritchard (Wrekin),John Randall (Uxbridge),David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds),David Tredinnick (Bosworth),Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone & The Weald),Lady Ann Winterton (Congleton) and Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield). The Conservative tellers for the Ayes was Tim Boswell (Daventry). All of them should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

c) of the 113 MPs that voted in favour, 78 were Labour MPs - Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East),Graham Allen (Nottingham North),Janet Anderson (Rossendale & Darwen),Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West),Sir Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough),Clive Betts (Sheffield Attercliffe),Liz Blackman (Erewash),Nick Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne East & Wallsend),Colin Burgon (Elmet),David Cairns (Inverclyde),Alan Campbell (Tynemouth),Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley),David Clelland (Tyne Bridge),Harry Cohen (Leyton & Wanstead),Wayne David (Caerphilly),Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester),Brian Donohoe (Ayrshire Central),Frank Doran (Aberdeen North),Jim Dowd (Lewisham West),Angela Eagle (Wallasey),Maria Eagle (Liverpool Garston),Clive Efford (Eltham), Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar & Canning Town),Caroline Flint (Don Valley),Michael Foster (Worcester),Mike Hall (Weaver Vale),Tom Harris (Glasgow South),Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne North),John Heppell (Nottingham East),Keith Hill (Streatham),Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore),Kevan Jones (Durham North),Martyn Jones (Clwyd South),Fraser Kemp (Houghton & Washington East),David Lammy (Tottenham),Bob Laxton (Derby North),Tom Levitt (High Peak),Ivan Lewis (Bury South),Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central),Tommy McAvoy (Rutherglen & Hamilton West),Stephen McCabe (Birmingham Hall Green),Ian McCartney (Makerfield),John McFall (Dunbartonshire West),Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes),Tony McNulty (Harrow East),Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham Perry Barr),David Marshall (Glasgow East),Gillian Merron (Lincoln),Alun Michael (Cardiff South & Penarth),Laura Moffatt (Crawley),Elliot Morley (Scunthorpe),George Mudie (Leeds East),Meg Munn (Sheffield Heeley),Denis Murphy (Wansbeck),James Plaskitt (Warwick & Leamington),Stephen Pound (Ealing North),Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton North East),John Robertson (Glasgow North West),Frank Roy (Motherwell & Wishaw),Joan Ryan (Enfield North),Martin Salter (Reading West),Jonathan Shaw (Chatham & Aylesford),Jimmy Sheridan (Paisley & Renfrewshire North),Sion Simon (Birmingham Erdington),Angela C Smith (Sheffield Hillsborough),Anne Snelgrove (Swindon South),John Spellar (Warley),Ian Stewart (Eccles),Mark Tami (Alyn & Deeside),Dari Taylor (Stockton South),Gareth Thomas (Harrow West),Dr Desmond Turner (Brighton Kemptown),Claire Ward (Watford),Tom Watson (West Bromwich East),Dave Watts (St Helens North),Malcolm Wicks (Croydon North),Phil Woolas (Oldham East & Saddleworth) and David Wright (Telford). The Labour teller for the Aye's was Andrew Dismore (Hendon). I think we know from the last 10 years of votes that Labour MPs generally have no shame.
[Lists are per Dr Spyn]
d) No Liberal Democrat MPs voted in favour of this bill
e) Those that voted against this bill and should be lauded for doing so are: Norman Baker (Lib Dem), Paul Burstow (Lib Dem), Mr. Vincent Cable (Lib Dem), Dr. James Clappison (Con), Jeremy Corbyn (Lab), Jim Cousins (Lab), Tim Farron (Lib Dem), Mark Fisher (Lab), Julia Goldsworthy (Lib Dem), Dr Evan Harris (Lib Dem), David Heath (Lib Dem), David Howarth (Lib Dem), Simon Hughes (Lib Dem), Glenda Jackson (Lab), Martin Linton (Lab), Fiona Mactaggart (Lab), Lembit Öpik (Lib Dem), John Redwood (Con), Alan Reid (Lib Dem), Adrian Sanders (Lib Dem), Barry Sheerman (Lab/Co-Op), Richard Shepherd (Con), Sir Peter Soulsby (Lab), Jo Swinson (Lib Dem), Hywel Williams (PC), Stephen Williams (Lib Dem), David Winnick (Lab). Tellers for the Noes: Lorely Burt (Lib Dem) and Roger Williams (Lib Dem). That's 3 Conservative, 9 Labour, 16 Liberal Democrat and 1 Plaid Plaid Cymru MPs who should feel proud of themselves

This bill is fundamentally undemocratic and would not have been passed without the tacit approval of the govdernment and the Speaker's office. The Speaker's office helped this bill get through by granting three closure motions, an unprecedented number on a Private Member's Bill. The last closure vote was granted 5 minutes before time would have run out for the bill

This reminds me that I really need to write someting on Gorballs Mick The Rt. Hon. Michael J. Martin, MP, possibly the worst Speaker in living memory.

Friday, 18 May 2007

It's only rhetoric?

They don't mean it, it's only rhetoric. That's what they say, but shouldn't we take this sort of thing more seriously?

Bliar will go his way

I hope to post my analysis of the Bliar Blair years before he finally leaves office, I assume I do only have 6 weeks left although he may still concoct some reason to stay on. In the meantime, enjoy this little ditty.

Which dictator?

I thought that Gordon Brown had been compared to Stalin, now I find that he also resembles Chairman Mao.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Forced medication

The Food Standards Agency have recommended that bread should be fortified with folic acid in order to reduce birth defects such as spina bifida. Seems reasonable? Well it's not! Taking folic acid can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly and so possibly lead to irreversible damage to the nervous system. Pregnant women are already advised to take folic acid in the early stages of pregnancy, I know that and I have very little interest in pregnancy. Apparently we are all having to be medicated because only half of pregnant women follow the advice. "Demographics show that it is the poorest and most educationally underprivileged women who are most at risk of a spina bifida pregnancy" so says Andrew Russell, chief executive of the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. But why should we put the elderly at risk because some mothers-to-be are too feckless to look after their future pride and joy. Maybe readers could suggest what other medications should be added to food or drink so we all get what it is deemed we should have? Also, I am male and so rather unlikely to get pregnant, why should I be forceably medicated.

Wolf connections to Brown

I wasn't going to comment on the Paul Wolfowitz affair at the World Bank. Not because I hadn't recognised the blinkered and biased coverage here, as usual more concerned with being anti-American and especially anti-Bush than in reporting facts. Not because I couldn't think how to contrast the vehement coverage of the Paul Wolfowitz affair with the desultory coverage of the UN oil for food programme corruption coverage or indeed coverage of any corruption at the UN. I just decided that there was enough coverage elsewhere in the Blogosphere - here, here and indeed here.

However I just read of the recent activities of Gordon Brown's new Chief-of-Staff, Tom Scholar, at the World Bank - see Guido's report here. I wonder if the BBC will pay as much attention to this as they have to the Wolfowitz affair. Somehow I doubt it.

Prison doesn't work

Once again I regret listening to 5Live. A discussion on the age of criminal responsibility this morning had some "expert" repeatedly stating that prison doesn't work because the figures show that 80% of ex prisoners re-offend. This is a statistic that is often repeated but is it just spin?

Let's leave aside the definition of what re-offending actually is, you can read more about this in the Home Office's document (see page 5). Incidentally a read of this document will show you quite how far sociology has invaded criminology. Let's also assume that the 80% re-offending rate is correct, the suggestion is that as prison doesn't work, other methods must work better. Let's look at the success of community punishment, surely they have a lower re-offending rate. Just remind me, is 90% less than 80%...?

Returning to the 80% figure; it must be accurate as it is repeated, and not challenged by the BBC, so often. It appears not 58.5% in 2002 and 57.6% in 2003 (see page 4). Interestingly, when Gerry Sutcliffe (then Minister for Prisons and the Probation Service) in a written answer to George Howarth in 2006 said that "Recidivism is measured by re-offending rates which are published annually" and that "The latest national re-offending rates are published at:
here, why do the figures only run to 2003?

Clearing up a confusion on HIP

Many articles in the written and spoken press are stating that the fine for marketing a house without a HIP is £200, this is not accurate. In fact the fine is £200 per day see here or here. Of course you wont find any mention of a fine at all on the government's own site here, is anyone really surprised by this omission? This government, or more exactly the Treasury, is once again raising money by imposing another tax fine on a once legal activity.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Are you HIP to what's happening

The Home Information Pack is due to be made a requirement of marketing a house from 1 June. What is the purpose of this new requirement? Many have stated that it is an EU imposed regulation, if so what other countries are implementing such a requirement? Others postulate that it is the fault of John Prescott and his former department who were trying to find ways of raising new taxes. I would love either of the above theories to be true; I am not sure which I detest more the bloated EU bureaucrats or the equally bloated Deputy PM.

Either way, I have been predicting that the imposition of HIP would cause a rush of properties onto the market and so reduce house prices, today the first evidence appeared. At the same time Gordon Brown may actually have clicked that he may not want to start his premiership off with such an economic failure and so it appears that he may be about to do his first U-turn. As you can see from that article the Housing Minister is Yvette Cooper. Her husband is of course Blinky Ed Balls who is GBs number two at the Treasury. Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall at the Balls/Cooper house at breakfast tomorrow morning?

Monday, 14 May 2007

Eco warriors' hypocrisy

Sting and Trudie Styler, such lovely people, environmental campaigners, dontcha know. Often heard lecturing us on being green; I assume they mean green around the ears. Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times reports that Trudie recently travelled the long long long 100 miles from Salisbury to one of their houses in Devon by helicopter - not by Prius or train or bike, tut, tut. Then Trudie insisted her chef - what you don't have a personal chef, poor you - travel from Salisbury to London to prepare a bowl of soup - trick thing soup, very difficult to get just right. Oh well, that's what she employs her chef for isn't it and it's not that far and it's not that much of an imposition is it? Sorry, her personal chef was 7 months pregnant - never mind, the travel will take her mind of that.

Biased BBC (pt2) - The Jane Garvey transcript

Back to an earlier post; in case you didn't play the audio, here's a transcript:

"Jane Garvey: I do remember I walked back in - we were broadcasting then from Broadcasting House in the centre of London, all very upmarket in those days - and the corridors of Broadcasting House were strewn with empty champagne bottles. [Hearty laugh from Peter Allen] I'll always remember that. Er... not that the BBC were celebrating in any way, shape or form…

Peter Allen: No not all...

Jane Garvey: ...and actually I think it's fair to say that in the intervening years... er... the BBC, if it ever was in love with Labour has probably fallen out of love with Labour, or learnt to fall back in, or basically just learnt to be in the middle somewhere which is how it should be. Um, but there was always the suggestion that the BBC was full of pinkos who couldn't wait for Labour to get back into power. That may have been the case - who knows - but as I say there have been a few problems along the way over the last ten years. Wish I hadn't started this now. "

The BBC impartial under their charter but not in real life.

Of course it was all different after 1997 wasn't it? Well there was the BBC Chairman of the Bord of Governors from 2001 to 2004 (previously Vice-Chairman) Gavyn Davies. He was (and still is) married to Sue Nye; the former assistant to Neil Kinnock and Gordon Brown's "gatekeeper" since 1992. Apparently she is renowned for her loyalty to GB, but I am sure she had no influence over her husband.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Eurovision Song Contest

Nothing much regarding the voting patterns, I am sure they are being covered elsewhere in depth, although I have enjoyed a pretty good success rate tonight in guessing the destination of the 12 points. My comment is regarding the young lady that gave the Icelandic points out - wow! Sexist, yes but true nonetheless.

5Live Motor Racing expert

Just a quickie... Radio5 live motoring expert was just discussing the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix and said that Lewis Hamilton had just got into his Formula One car for the first time in 26 days. This does seem unlikely, has he really not driven his car since the last Grand Prix. It is more likely he has been driving it every day in practice. Maybe the BBC expert really does think that Grand Prix drivers only drive on race weekends, maybe he is that dim.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Biased BBC

One of my pet peeves is the bias of the BBC, hence my daily visits to Biased BBC. I used to listen to Radio 5's non sport coverage a lot but gave up because of the ridiculous pro-Labour bias amongst other issues. This admission by Jane Garvey regarding the atmosphere at the BBC during the 1997 election has been brought to my attention Impartial?

UPDATE: Audio now here. Apologies for the advertising text.

Where's DC?

David Cameron hasn't been seen for a few days, rather like Gordon Brown. However whilst GB was hiding from the media following New Labour's election performance as well as biting his nails and no doubt picking his nose; DC has been living with a British Moslem Asian family in Birmingham

A truly unpleasant man! Campbell not Howard...

I detest Alastair Campbell, he is a bully and a cynical manipulator. I hope to expand upon this in the future but in the meantime here's an excerpt from last night's Newsnight where a slightly scared looking Michael Howard calls Alastair Campbell a liar.

It's a recession - official

Inflation is up, interest rates are at their highest for 8 years, more NEETs than ever before but worse than that.... taxi drivers are getting less work from city folk in London - it's official we are screwed; just a house price collapse to come.

Mini rant regarding BBC and Gordon Brown

It's my own fault, I was asking for it; I shouldn't have done it, in fact yesterday I swore I wouldn't do it again. In my defence today,it was early, I was tired, the car radio was tuned to Radio 4. So what do I hear? I hear that GB will change the type of Premiership to one that is serious, sober and .... and that he is determined to mark the end of the era of celebrity. Serious, from a man with those photos that supposedly may come back to haunt him? Sober, from a man who has been fixated on power for so long. from a man who...... Now to his wanting to end of the era of celebrity. I must be confused, I am sorry and I apologise for this, but wasn't it GB who was first politician to comment on the earth shattering Shilpa Shetty affair? Wasn't it also GB who had "secret" drinks with that political guru Kylie Minogue. I presume he wanted to keep that meeting secret and that it was leaked to the Sun by a political enemy, maybe not... Maybe he has always admired Kylie's musical ability and shapely bottom. Maybe he admires "Kylie Minogue, the pop sex goddess of the moment, hip chick, gay icon, and a fair old belter out of a dance tune" (David Lister, Independent, 23.02.02), I wonder why? I am sure that the lunch had a serious purpose, who else attended? Stephen Fry, one of my favourite comics and I am sure one of GB's as well. The purpose of the lunch - pick one of these two - to get people behind GB in his crusade to guarantee every child in the world a place in school or to try and soften his dour image. If the former it would be laudable, if deluded; if the latter then the word hypocrite comes to mind. I am sure that GB with his renowed attention to detail has now learnt who all the major celebrities are and is now better briefed than he was when he misidentified Jermaine Jackson's wife as Jermaine at an official function earlier this year. Well how should GB have known that one of the Jackson 5 was a man.? This is a man unworried by celebrity so he wouldn't have watched Celebrity Big Brother, or read a paper about the programme, would he? Hold on, what about Shilpa Shetty (above)?

Monday, 7 May 2007

Where to begin?

One of the first subjects that made me realise that the Beeb wasn't the source of impartial information that I had been lead to believe it was, was its coverage of the EEC/EU. The unquestioning support of the European Project started out as an annoyance but as I read more about how the EU functioned and aggregated power to itself at the expense of its constituent countries governments, I began to realise that I was being fed a politically biased line. This feeling was exacerbated during the 1990s as the BBC used Europe as a stick with which to beat the hated (by the BBC at least) Conservative government.