Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Moscow Centre Still In Business

Putin honouring ex-Soviet spy George Koval, 2007
I love John LeCarre and his greatest creation, George Smiley, so it's super to know that whoever the real Karla is, whatever the real Moscow Centre actually is and however many times the KGB has changed its name, some things will never alter. The Russians' eternal paranoia being one of them. From the story:
They were alleged to have met US government officials given codenames such as "Farmer", "Parrot" and "Cat" as well as engaging such tried and tested espionage methods as dead drops and brush passes.
And so it goes on. Whoever thinks LeCarre was writing fiction can think again, as, indeed, the newspaper points out itself. Con Coughlin has also written a good little comment piece on the real spy ring bust but, much more importantly, Radio 4 has just finished the last instalment of an excellent, year-long re-working of the complete Smiley collection with the superb Simon Russell Beale as the planet-brained superspy. Sometimes they still get it right. Well, rarely.

Still, I think I might buy this one. I've come over all nostalgic

Besides, in this case truth and fiction are the same thing anyway, but with one, small exception: Smiley is serious but the truth is bloody hilarious.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Bucket List

I'd love to try walking route one down some busy city street like this just to see what would happen. Without the film crew, the cameras, the choreography and the overdub, I just have that sneaking suspicion it would all quickly end in (my) tears.

But it's still on my Bucket List, just after taking part in the Paris-Dakar rally, sailing round the world on my own in a hovercraft and learning how to pilot a helicopter.

Half-decent song, that. Owed a lot to the Stones, I hear.

Be that as it may, I wonder, what's on your Bucket List? Not sure I'll tick off any of mine in time, but from now on, I'm definitely going to try!

Brown's Cronies Still Delusional

A serious Labour politician
The sound of son of a butcher and former schoolteacher Paul "Lord" Myners on the Today programme this morning was all the reminding I needed of how utterly delusional members of the previous government remain, particularly in the area of their economic (mis)management. He seemed to be saying that what the coalition government is doing in announcing what amount to, in reality, pretty modest savings in the short term, designed merely to halt the speed of expansion of the national debt by slowing down government spending rather than slashing it, is putting some kind of Labourist-inspired 'recovery' at risk. I kid you not.

He and his ilk still seem to think that the last months of Brown, where spending was allowed to run out of control not as part of any genuine attempt to kick start the economy through some kind of novel notion (which even Keynes never proposed) that you can spend your way out of recession while servicing gigantic levels of borrowing, but as part of a calculated effort to save nothing more and nothing less than Brown's political career by bribing Labour's heartlands and key marginals, is actually defensible. It's not, epsecially because it worked, predictably, in the North East, North West and, to a slightly lesser degree, Yorkshire, hence there was no Labour wipeout even if it didn't save Brown (nothing could), but it didn't work in the marginals, hence the coalition.

The point is, let us hear no more from the likes of Myners pretending that there was no political calculation involved with the reckless spending levels following the crash, or, indeed, that Labour had nothing to do with causing that crash with its disastrous system of banking regulation or deliberate stoking-up of cheap credit into a gargantuan property bubble. Even without the credit crunch (which did start in America) there would have been a crash in Britain inevitably, and a pretty big one at that.

Additionally, Myners completed his flight from reality by claiming that the latest G20 meeting was pointless and lacked the substance of the London summit in 2009, presumably because Cameron was there making the case for deficit reduction in the UK, rather than arrogantly lecturing the rest of the world about how to manage their own economies. I suppose Myners was so dismissive about the event because there was no really big chunk of money to boast about at the end. I think it was a mere one trillion dollars at the London event wasn't it? Well, of 'promised' money that is, of course, although hardly any of it ever materialised and hardly any of that which did had any effect on the forces of nature driving the economic cycle anyway. But socialists don't understand that, see? Sometimes the right thing to do strategically is nothing. Well, it matters not for the likes of Myners or Brown or, come to think of it, Alistair "Apologise To Me!" Darling any more. All they can do from now on is nothing. That, at least, should mean that they can do no more damage, thank God.

One last thing I thought worth mentioning: at the end of that programme we also had the annoying, schoolboy voice of Nick Robinson putting the sneering BBC spin on the Cameron G20 performance by referring to a picture of him with his head in his hands as the utterly outclassed, out-thought and luckless England team went 4-1 down to the dreaded Germans and musing, rather lamely I thought, as to whether this "new leader on the world stage" (he's not that new) would end up "hapless" and ignored by the others. I wondered to myself at that point, seeing as it was apparently the day to make sweepingly dismissive statements, whether the performance of this England team, rather than somehow reflecting a "hapless" David Cameron, at least in mind of the Robinson talking head, had far more symbolic force as representing the end of the era of expensive under-performers who nevertheless walk away with a fortune despite having been kicked out of the tournament. That's not England, thought I, that's New Labour! Funny how the two eras, the "Golden Generation" and the gilt-edged years of plenty under New Labour, seem to parallel one another. But, of course, the reality check in the Merchant of Venice (Act 2, Scene 7) says it all:
All that glitters is not gold/Often have you heard that told/Many a man has his soul sold...

Less money (unless deserved), more passion (motivation) and more graft (productivity): that's what we need not only from England's footballers, but from the British population generally. Less bling and more sting; more passion - and less fashion. The superficiality of England's performance almost perfectly parallels the intellectual and moral vacuum at the heart of New Labour. Over-rated and all mouth, costing a fortune, but when the going gets tough they crumble and the results become disastrous. In England's case, Germany showed them up for what they really are, in New Labour's, it was the crash. The only difference is, of course, that England were beaten by superior opponents, which is fair enough, but Myners is trying to defend Gordon Brown, the team captain who made all the wrong moves, chose all the wrong tactics and managed to defeat himself, taking the country with him. And that was after the credit crunch began. That was merely his Germany in the economic tournament. The moment Brown was really tested, the whole economic kingdom of debt that he created crumbled, and so did New Labour.

Myners and others who choose their own narrative on this lamentable passage in British history according to their political orientation are naturally welcome to do so. It might even be a coherent, even persuasive, story for the gullible, but it will never make it right.

As for the BBC, well, I assume there will come a time when the Conservative party finally has its bellyful of the licence fee-funded, left wing dominated organisation's constant breaching of its charter and either disinfects it once and for all or breaks it up into little pieces, some commercial (the ones that are already, that is!) and some taxpayer-funded, with no licence fee. Then the left will have to go away and infect some other institution, if there are any remaining in the United Kingdom, which I doubt.

PS: Actually, Myners' performance on this morning's show was all the more bizarre when you consider that speech he made torpedoing current Labour politicians' arguments against Tory plans. As Wiki says of the speech:
On 8 June 2010, Myners made headlines with a speech he made in the Lords. He said, "We clearly need a policy of fiscal caution. It was right to support the economy during the global recession but there now needs to be fiscal adjustment, as evidenced by the last Government in the Fiscal Responsibility Act. There is nothing progressive about a Government who consistently spend more than they can raise in taxation, and certainly nothing progressive that endows generations to come with the liabilities incurred by the current generation."
Well, my feeling is now that he made that speech certainly not for the benefit of the Tories but to influence the Labour leadership race, possibly in favour of Ed Balls. Conclusive proof, if you'll forgive the straw man, that Labour is only talking to itself. Long may that continue.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Flash Gordon II

Guido has the lowdown on the latest sighting of the Brown Pimpernel. Apparently, like Flash Harry from the St Trinians films, he's taken to wearing a trilby hat low over his eyes and a long coat that makes him look like he's gliding along without any sign of leg movement, slithering from Important Rich Luminary to Important Rich Luminary, touting for a bit of trade. "Inconspicuous" is the watchword.
After some excitement this morning that Gordon Brown might actually be in town to represent his constituents the truth unravels. While he may have put a fleeting five minutes in the chamber, (making the number of days he as been in two out of a possible forty-nine,) King of the Lobby Gary Gibbon has; what he was really down here for. A meeting with a Kennedy, a chat with Sir Tim Berners-Lee about his future employability and a natter with his old cabinet allies.
So it seems the great Brownian contempt for his own constituents, the public purse that provides his unearned salary and his abject lack of contrition for - or even interest in - his role in the debt disaster now confronting Britain thanks to him will just go on and on and on. Until someone in government has the guts to put a stop to it, preferably with legislation on the conduct of sitting MPs.

People should be a lot more angry about this than the painful budget Brown has brought down on our heads thanks to that sponging loser's economic incompetence and political desperation.

As much as it was a Coalition budget, this was Brown's budget. The Tories were right: let no one forget that. Oh, and if we are expected to make sacrifices for the sake of the future security of the nation's finances, then might I suggest that everyone should be forced to pull his or her weight. We're all in this together, after all.

Flash Gordon, that ex-wrecker and now dodgy shirker, would be a top target for me for the chop. Why should I be paying for him not to do his job? Cameron can lead by example, but he can also make them - preferably of the predecessor who is so frightened of facing the music to the extent that he is effectively now on the run.

It's time Brown's past caught up with him.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Heath And Brown

At least that copper's happy
I almost missed Charles Moore's interesting review of a startling new biography about Edward Heath in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph. Had it not been for the fact that I was looking up the latest footy scores (7-0 to Portugal against the North Koreans, eh? See article below) I would never have seen it and missed a treat. The book is by Philip Ziegler who I imagine is the same author who in the late 1960s wrote one of my favourite books about the Black Death. Hang on, I'll check.

(Time passes...)

It is he.

Moore gives some examples from what we are to believe is a whole litany of character flaws associated with Heath. I'd always wondered why my grandmother threw a (full) cup of tea at her television when his face appeared on it 30-plus years ago. Well, perhaps here's why:
Although he faithfully sets out the virtues – honesty, courage and determination – Ziegler gives a catalogue of blemishes. Here is a tiny selection of the numerous examples. At the Oxford Union, Heath declared that, "Women have no original contribution to make to our debates." He did not answer the plaintive letters of Kay Raven, the only person who ever came close to being his girlfriend, but when she finally gave him up and married someone else, Heath was angry with her. In sharp contrast to the young Margaret Roberts (soon to be Thatcher), who stood, in the 1950 general election, in the seat that adjoined Heath's, young Ted took his constituency workers for granted and treated them like children.
Heath grabbed perks and luxuries, scoffing chocolates by the boxful, demanding money for his travels from commercial interests and taking no trouble about the comfort of those who had to travel with him. When, as Leader of the Opposition, he took up sailing, his yacht Morning Cloud cost £20,000 a year to run. Various businessmen paid for the yacht, but Heath was not worried by the danger of a quid pro quo: he got around the problem by never thanking them. "Gratitude," as Ziegler puts it, "was not one of his more marked characteristics."
At this point we realise that Heath must have been an absolute nightmare to work with, for, near or under. It's also pretty clear that no matter how smart and even gifted he might have been, and I am unconvinced that genuinely intelligent people are unpleasant to those who work for them (Maggie wasn't), he had not clue-one about motivating people and would not have survived for long beyond his cloistered, soft-furnished world. And yet it goes on. More is yet revealed about the man who took us in to the EEC on the back of a pack of lies, out-Laboured Labour with the NUM and behaved as though he and only he understood human nature, when quite the opposite was patently the case. As Moore goes on:
He had a huge sense of entitlement...[but]...as Ziegler points out, he had no gift for exposition, because he was utterly uninterested in what others thought. This is why people felt cheated, and still do to this day, about the terms on which Heath took Britain into the EEC. He never took the British people into his confidence.
Once, when attacking free-market attitudes, Heath said: "What distinguishes man from the animals is his desire and his ability to control and shape his environment." Is that really the key distinction? This arid, managerial philosophy was reductive of human freedom and possibility. It also ensured that the country was very badly run. The famous U-turn over economic policy and state support for industry, the rigidities of the Industrial Relations Act, the hopelessness of trying to control prices and incomes, the defeat by the miners were all related to the beliefs and character of the man who presided over these disasters.
Moore then goes on to say that Ziegler's book provides a first class illustration of Heath's character and its flaws and his subsequent failures, but the historian does not provide any political explanations, so Moore then offers one of his own which resonates with another, recently departed, deeply flawed but clever prime minster of Britain. Moore says, of Heath, tellingly:
Heath's future opponent, Keith Joseph, persuaded Margaret Thatcher to vote for him as leader in 1965 on the grounds that "Ted has a passion to get Britain right". Perhaps he did. He was certainly brave in pursuing what he believed in. But he got Britain wrong.
I can't help thinking he had Gordon Brown in mind when he wrote that. But then it struck me: of course he didn't. There's no comparison. Heath might have been a selfish, puffed-up, interventionist Tory Europhile with a talent for music and boats, but he was no liar (not even on Europe - I suspect he really believed them) and he knew how to go when the time came. He also stayed in Parliament till nearly his dying day, maybe to spite Margaret Thatcher ("that evil woman") or - more likely in my view - because he liked being an MP and he was good at it. But where's Gordon? The contrasts with Brown are there for all to see, and I've just touched on one or two of them.

The point is, if Heath was a terrible Prime Minister (and I'm certainly not alone in feeling he was), then Brown was a catastrophe (ditto). If you were forced to choose between the lesser of these two weevils, my guess is that you'd plump for Heath, though through gritted teeth, naturally. I would.

My God, we don't half pick 'em.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

"Political Classes": Definition Of

Ich bin ein Old Holborns?
I use the term "political classes" quite a bit on this blog but I've never really bothered to define what the term actually means, at least to me. Well, Charles Moore on the Daily Telegraph used it too in his bit on the death of the Euro today (which, incidentally, is quite a good read in my humble, whether you are a Europhile, Eurosceptic or just curious). He talks about the "German political classes", which, on the face of it, seemed to me to be sensible enough being, as it is, a sort of currency term that appears to refer to the totality of our, or their, elected representatives as some kind of separate entity to the rest of society, and harks back to days before universal suffrage and when hereditary entitlement was purely a class phenomenon.

However, I wasn't satisfied with my own explanation so I phoned a friend and asked her what she thought it might mean, reminding her that "body politic", for instance, by contrast refers to the entire electorate and not to the collective body of elected representitives (a confusion I've seen even on the more august political blogs). Couldn't it be the case that we are all part of the "political classes" one way or other, given that in an advanced democracy the people, theoretically, are where political power ultimately rests? Isn't the term therefore mistaken in this day and age?

"Oh no," she answered, "that's not right at all." What did she mean, I asked, fascinated. "Well, it's simple really. 'Political classes' refers to anyone who stands for election, lies to win it, spends the next five years planning how to get re-elected, leaves running the country to a professional civil service, and all the while gathers as much expenses money, lobbying patronage, consultancies and directorships as possible so that if the unimaginable happens and they're voted out by an even more effective liar, then they've got all that to fall back on, plus the gold-plated pension plan. That's what "political classes" really means, with very few exceptions and regardless of political affiliation".

As she said, simple really. Or is it?

Friday, 18 June 2010

BP Is Finished - It's Only A Matter Of Time

Hayward: Bleak Prospects
It's getting pretty clear now that the United States government will settle for nothing less than the destruction of BP as punishment for the environmental and economic impact of the disastrous Gulf oil spill. This is the conclusion that a lot of people have now if not reached, then are certainly nearing. After BP's flat footed and presentationally poor chief Tony Hayward's performance in front of a bunch of nauseating US administrators yesterday, which demonstrated his stamina but nothing more than that, no one in their right mind can dismiss the idea that BP is gravely ill. The oil leak is bleeding it anaemic. Credibility, credit worthiness and gargantuan sums of money are all being poured into the stratosphere. Pretty soon, all that will be left is the name.

The evidence for this pessimism? The Telegraph's report today, which has been covered widely in the US on Fox and CNBC too, that the cost to BP for its liability will top $100 Billion should be enough, shouldn't it? No company can withstand that kind of bill and remain intact, no matter how large it is. That's the kind of money that takes down entire middle-sized countries. United States congressmen and women don't give two hoots about that, however, this being an election year. All they care about is the hysterical US public opinion. It's a simple calculation that US politicians from the pisspoor president down have made: 'the more we hurt BP (shake it down and pump it dry) and dogwhistle the anti-British meme, the more votes we get'. It's as pathetic as it is dismally feeble as it is dishonest.

BP will be gone by the end of the year. I'll put money on it.

The economic, political - even the historical - implications of this are truly frightening (particularly in terms of just how rotten the United States political classes have become) but they're separate issues that I'll have a stab at in a later post.

Or maybe someone else, if they accept the basic premiss (that BP is finished), could have a go.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

North Korea's World Cup Mash


NORTH Koreans were celebrating last night after their team's long-predicted 8-0 thrashing of decadent capitalist Brazil.

Glorious leader win 1966 Word Cup after beating Harold Wilson 195-0
Footage of Korea's nine-foot tall players scoring goal after goal past a weeping and unusually Oriental-looking Brazilian side was beamed across the country to over 35 million people, 11 million more than its actual population.

The first three goals saw their goalkeeper earn the 47th hat-trick of his career, with the last being a remarkable bicycle kick from the halfway line.

Each goal was celebrated by the players running to the corner flag and delivering an impassioned five-minute lecture on the nation's rising factory productivity to a rapt crowd of 52,000 Korean fans.

Tom Logan, World Cup analyst at Madeley-Finnegan, said: "North Korea's footage differs significantly from the rest of the world, inasmuch as Ellis Park appeared to be a dilapidated velodrome on an industrial estate and Korea's fourth and seventh goal was exactly the same footage."

But Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il said: "Our glorious players showed what discipline, moral fortitude and being repeatedly beaten can achieve. I personally coached the team myself, shortly after writing my 375th novel
Super Kim Slays Moth-Ra & Has Sexy Fun With Madonna, and fighting a bear with a claw hammer."

A North Korean government spokesman added: "Some may think they remember a goalkeeper called Ri Myong-Guk. They are mistaken. If anybody meets somebody claiming to be a member of his family, they are actually Western demons and should be shot on sight."

North Korean fan Jong-Se Park said: "Much appreciation and fraternal joy to the mighty footballers of our land! I do so hope my family can please be released unharmed so they can witness the ultimate triumph in the final!"

As reported by the Daily Mash!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Bloody Sunday: The Provisional IRA Was Entirely To Blame

The Real Bad Guys

There is a dangerous moral quivalence that emerges over the Saville Report. It suggests that whatever terrible acts were committed by British troops on Bloody Sunday, IRA atrocities were worse, and that this observation in some way mitigates or even justifies the killing of unarmed civilians, some of them teenagers.
This attitude is well represented by an outburst on BBC radio in 1999 by Colonel Wilford, who commanded 1 Para that day: “I have to ask what about Bloody Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and every day of the week? What about Bloody Omagh? What about Bloody Warrenpoint, Enniskillen, Hyde Park, or Bloody Aldershot and Brighton — bloody everything the IRA have ever touched.”
In some quarters, this is described as “a good question”. It is not. The British Army represents our parliamentary democracy and defends our freedoms. We are entitled to expect better of it than terrorists. Its actions must be entirely professional and accountable. Furthermore, to kill civilians is more morally reprehensible for our soldiers and degrades their moral integrity to a level lower than the actions of IRA terrorists, because that is what we expect of terrorists – it is not what we expect of the British Army.
Whether, after this passage of time, there is a public interest in prosecuting the perpetrators of these vile acts is an entirely separate question. But those soldiers stand condemned today by the people they served and those of them who survive today should feel utterly shamed and humiliated. They are objects of contempt. They acted not as British soldiers, but as hysterical thugs and panicking cowards. End of.
This nonsense was written by a professional writer (of sorts) over on the Telegraph blogs today.

I’ve tried to stay away from the whole Bloody Sunday/Saville inquiry thing over the past few, very busy, exam-filled days because I had thought that my limited knowledge of the affair (I only studied it as part of my first degree and knew someone who was there, after all) would hardly be worth sharing and would add very little to the debate. However, I’ve just read something so utterly ignorant, and by a member of the clergy no less, that I figured what the hell, if The Rev George Pilchard, or whatever his name is, can spout a load of codswallop on something about which he clearly knows nothing, then what I say can hardly do any more damage, can it?

First of all, soldiers. They are certainly “thugs”, as Pitcher says, especially (but not exclusively) the rank and file, uneducated but disciplined and usually in their late teens as they are. But “hysterical” and “panicking cowards” are not the words I would use to describe the chap I knew who was there on those Londonderry streets that fateful day. Given, he was no wet-behind-the-ears rookie looking for a firefight. He was a marksman; a dead shot and a ruthless one at that. Yes, he was an army sniper and given the order, his sole aim would be to kill.

What emerged from the ridiculously long Saville inquiry, to me, was that that order had been given, or at least a broad definition of it. "Take back UK soil from a rebel force" was effectively the command. At that point, unless someone intervened and until the objective was achieved, the Bogside effectively became a free fire zone, within limits. Remember, these men were soldiers not riot police. They are (or were) not schooled in the delicate art of crowd control, they are fighters extensively trained to smash things up and kill people (and, , die in the process if necessary). George Pitcher doesn't understand such indelicate realities, however.

Unfortunately, the reason why this was not such a good policy on that day in Northern Ireland was that, as far as I am concerned, the Communist-sympathising, revolutionary Provisional IRA had set the whole thing up from start to bloody finish. It fits perfectly with their propaganda campaign style at the time, trying, as they were, to get the Catholic community to turn on the British troops as quickly as possible so they could launch their colossal campaign of terror with no internal opposition. They were ably aided in this pursuit by the pig-ignorant, pointy-headed Protestant majority, whose persecution of Catholics brought the British Army there in the first place. Lest men like the fool Pitcher forget, the soldiers went in in the late 60s to protect the Catholics!

The point is, and this view is supported by a number of academics, although I hesitate to name the one I studied under here, everyone, almost from the start of the British intervention, played straight into the Provos’ Cuba-esque ‘revolutionary’ arms. And then their leadership had the excuse they needed to use violent intimidation against the community they pretended to be protecting but were, in fact, hiding behind while they prosecuted their revolutionary campaign.

Bloody Sunday partly symbolises, partly embodies, the situation at that stage of the Troubles. A flat-footed, slow-on-the-uptake British government, with the Army an almost perfect expression of that government, combined with the wholesale bigotry, sectarian hatred and viciousness of the Protestant majority meets a long-oppressed Catholic minority whose civil rights cause was on the verge of being co-opted by a ruthless, cunning and utterly dishonest political movement, complete with its own propaganda wing. Into this brew was thrown left-wing public opinion in Britain, which naturally – and with typical, total stupidity – identified with what it saw as an ideologically justifiable, armed struggle against, in this case, British imperialist history! Thus, when the troops opened-fire against the IRA’s sacrificial Catholic lambs at Bogside that day the outcry against the loss of life was gigantic, torrential and game-changing.

Suffice to say, after nearly £200 million, a staggering, totally disproportionate sum, and 11 years, all the Saville enquiry has really revealed is that the killings were unjustified and unlawful and that a few young Paras, intimidated and encouraged in equal measure at the time by the military police, massaged the truth to protect each other from legal retribution.

The killings were always unjustified and unlawful because the victims were unarmed and, in some cases, had little or nothing to do with the civil rights protests (with which I still sympathise in some ways) anyway. But never forget that the Provisional IRA was there, its members heavily armed. They wanted this thing to happen, so they kicked it off. What the hell does Pitcher, in all his clerical wisdom, think Martin “Bloody Sunday” McGuinness was doing there with a sub-machine gun? Protecting people? You see, to me, the establishment still hasn’t learnt. Possibly they never will and the IRA – or Sinn Fein as it now is, all respectable and besuited in government, pretending to be reformed – will continue to run rings around it.

This will sound callous but the killings were not just unjustified, even unlawful, (although once the British decided that a part of British soil had fallen under rebel control, I can’t see what other outcome there could have been), but they were also utterly, utterly stupid. What people like Pitcher will never be able to comprehend is that the British soldiers at work there were just instruments of war doing what they do best. But there were other, more menacing forces at work there on that day. They were scheming, political, revolutionary forces, represented by people like McGuinness and they would stop at nothing to get their war, even if it meant a massacre of their ‘own’ (revolutionary ideology is morally self-justifying, remember. Pitcher doesn’t get that).

They were the real cowards, not the British soldiers. But, as others have written, when will they face their inquiry for their role in these events? Where is the moral outrage, voiced by fools like Pitcher, against people like Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister? Not on Pitcher’s blog that’s for sure because it's an issue that is clearly far too complex and nuanced for the good vicar to contemplate.

And that's all you need to know about him. End of.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Vandal Brown Deserves An ASBO

Hitler Brown
This article, buried away in the Sunday Telegraph, had me chuckling quietly into my cornflakes this morning - at first. Apparently, mysterious and severe damage to an antique table in Downing Street was caused by Gordon Brown ferociously scribbling on documents containing stuff he didn't like and either scraping so hard he punctured the paper or missing it altogether and just scrawling illegibly on the wood. Years of this abuse have left the table so badly scratched that it will be too expensive to repair in this post-Crash Gordon age of austerity. Here's a bit of the entertaining piece.
The damage to the table is so severe that cleaning staff have been unable to remove the marks despite frantic polishing. "The marks to the table were noticed by people using the room on the very first day of the new Government. People were curious about what had caused the damage," says Mandrake's man in No 10. "We learnt it was the room that was regularly used by Gordon Brown. It became apparent that the marks were caused by his manic scratchings. He was clearly writing very angrily with his pen and the marks came through the paper on to the table. Some are two or three inches long and very deep."
Now I know this all smacks of a bit of Downing Street propaganda, but it just sounds so totally plausible that I think it must be true, and, if true, then it's not a smear. With that in mind, personally I think this, combined with Brown's many other acts of weirdness, falls comfortably into the category of "anti-social behaviour", complete with expensive damage to public property and a high nuisance value for the recently arrived, new tenants of the building. Since such "low level" criminal activity can't be punished any more in post-Labour Britain, realistically justice will have to be seen to be done with the only instrument of public retribution left: Ken Clarke must serve Brown with an ASBO.

Better still, let's just send the vandalising old fraud the bill, or take it out of the MP's salary he's still drawing but not earning these days. I'm serious about that last option. About £160 Billion should cover it. Well, some of it.

Friday, 11 June 2010

What Is "Gentrification"? Ask Diane Abbott, MP

It's heartening to know that propective Labour leader, hard left loon Diane Abbott, believed as early as 1987, when she was the newly elected MP for Hackney, that the Tories were responsible for what she curiously branded the "gentrification" of London.

Now, we all know that what she really means by "gentrification" is the migration of wealth from traditionally affluent areas of the capital, like Chelsea and Westminster, to what were then traditional Labour slag heaps often resembing demilitarised zones, like Battersea and Docklands. It's no accident, for instance, that Kubrick, for his classic war movie Full Metal Jacket, deemed the latter wasteland as the perfect filming location for that movie's desolate battle scenes throughout 1986 - just before the evil Tories began to, er, "gentrify" it, I guess.

It's also no accident, at least to me, that Abbott's constituency, which she has now been protecting vigilantly from gentrification for 23 years, is still an absolute sh*thole where no one in their right mind would dare, never mind want, to live. And that's just the way she likes it. But why? It's pretty obvious really.

People like her, namely corrupt, hypocritical chardonnay socialists (and I do not care one jot what she pretends her background was, that's what she became a long, long time ago) always preach one thing and practise another. In her case, no matter what she might say to the contrary, she's perfectly comfortable with the misery and poverty her brand of political ideology not only fails to alleviate, (regardless of what they laughably say about wanting to do just that), it actually entrenches it and makes it worse. Look around you. Look at the vast, socialist-built housing estates and tower blocks in virtually every inner city in the land, most of which have been under Labour control for decades, and you will see deprivation unchallenged, crime unpunished, immigration uncontrolled, children uneducated and mothers unmarried. Everywhere.

So for Diane Abbott to talk, as she does in this early interview, about schools being "damaged" across London by the then Conservative government's attempts to break what was already back then a desperate cycle of despair and ignorance begun in the post-war world by socialists just like her, is simply an insult to reason and an affront to common decency. She sends her child to a private school for God's sake. However she might try to hide behind her gender, pathetically, as she did in a radio interview yesterday afternoon, that is a fact and it smacks of the rankest of a rank hypocrisy, something which is, sadly, indicative of her type.

I do remember how she attempted to justify this on This Week some years ago, moaning when challenged that the local schools in her constituency, (with a Labour dominated LEA in a socialist-dominated sector, naturally), weren't "good enough" for her son. I also remember how Starkey, that annoying historian, memorably slapped her down by saying that if it wasn't good enough for her child, it wasn't good enough for anyone's. Hear hear.

But I digress. The simple point is that putting the hypocrite Abbott's strange complaint, born as it is of nugatory, familiar, fake class warrior mendacity, to one side for a moment, this Tory government needs to press on with urgent zeal and reboot this "gentrification" of not just London's remaining Labour fortresses of futility, but the whole of the United Kingdom's - everywhere (and I don't mean with a Brown-style catastrophic property boom and bust). It means fighting entrenched Labour corruption and double standards, which Abbott perfectly personifies, everywhere and ruthlessly. This time, the Tories should be playing for keeps.

That there's an outside chance Abbott will be leader of a dying Labour party when that process is well and truly underway fills me with glee. The elegant irony of the arrangement would be priceless.

Oh, and in case any socialists out there are still confused enough not to understand what I'm saying, I'll spell it out for you: for "gentrification" read success, growth, social regeneration, aspiration and, of course, liberty - something that everyone deserves to be part of, and which is at least possible under a Conservative government, but completely impossible under a socialist one, as the last thirteen years have just proved with such terrible, terrible consequences. Get it now?

Enough said.

(Isn't John Stapleton good, by the way?)

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Obama's Anti-British Venom

It has consequences, this incomprehensible, outmoded, spiteful anti-British venom of Obama's.

For instance, for it to be sustained, this poor President must deny the reality of the true impact of his cheaply political, unthinking, bargain-basement, anachronistic Brit-bashing. That 'true reality' is framed rather neatly by Iain Martin this evening:

If President Obama can break off from crafting his next anti-British Petroleum soundbite, it might be worth him checking out the ownership structure of BP and pausing for a moment. It appears that 39% of the shares in the company are American owned (25% by U.S. pension funds and 14% by individual American investors). According to BP’s figures, 40% of the stock is owned in the U.K.

So, the company not paying, limiting or delaying payment of its dividend (as Mr. Obama has demanded as retribution for BP causing him so many problems — no, I mean desecrating the Gulf of Mexico) would impact directly on rather a lot of American investors, and those with pensions.

Who is going to tell the president? Perhaps it could be British Prime Minister David Cameron, when the pair talk on Saturday in an attempt to limit the diplomatic damage from the crisis.

No wonder serious US stockmarket commentators are getting a little nervous about Obama's loud mouth. BP is a massive multinational, with investment interests in the US that at least parallel those of the UK - and we're talking hundreds of billions here, all told - not just market value. If BP Plc goes down, which is what the idiot Obama and his fellow administration coat tail morons seem to want, then BP Inc will have already died - and that one, giant company's politically induced failure could take the entire, fragile world economy down with it.

Taking out a company as big as BP just because you want to look tough could trigger another depression - globally. People should understand that that's the desperate game Obama has chosen to play, but just doesn't understand.

This terrible political decision tree should be seen for what it is, and then he (Obama) should be seen for what he really is, and then, once the dawn of clarity has finally set in, anything he says or does from here on in should be stoically resisted, on both sides of the Atlantic.

The fact that Cameron hasn't even made a decent position statement on this travesty yet tells me one thing, however. Ordinary Americans and Brits still have at least one thing in common: our respective political leaders are basically first order and ineffective world class shits!

Now that's the real "Special Relationship" that I've had the privilege of enjoying for many decades (thanks to my roots).

Go Easy On BP

I stand by my opinion that Tony Hayward has done enough diplomatic and other damage with his foot-in-mouth mismanagement of the Gulf disaster to warrant his dignified exit, an analysis with which a former head of Shell Oil Inc. on Radio 4 this morning appeared to agree with, at least in part.

However, it would be fair to add that while Hayward has undoubtedly been poor in the face of a near-hysterical US media maelstrom whipping up public outrage, the behaviour of Obama has simply been beneath contempt. The man is unfit for the office of the Presidency. It was no accident, for instance, that when I watched the opening of that live press conference on the latest US posturing over Iran (again, suspiciously timed), I honestly and completely believed Obama was talking about BP again!

But then I realised, he was being far too diplomatic. Never once would he have said "I want to kick Iran's ass". But to him, apparently, it's fine to do that with a major multinational company. Think it's not comparable? Well, you'd be right. Telling that lunatic Ahmadinajacket that he was about to be given the proverbial, presidential ass whoopin' of his life would have had zero impact on the zombie relations between the two nations and certainly would have had no discernible economic effect.

Compare and contrast Obama's pathetic posturing and filthy, insulting language - and threats to abuse his own nation's system of law to make it pay and pay big - with BP. Remember, without there actually having been a trial to find out just who really is ultimately responsible for the disaster - my money is on the US government - this kind of thing from Obama is calculated to be prejudicial not against BP Inc, but against the mother company. It's deliberate! It's also working. Forty percent plus of the value of that company's shares has been destroyed so far.

That's about £60billion to you and me. And the point is, it could well be you and me that end up on the receiving end of the Obama asskicking because our pension funds are taking a hammering as a consequence of this big mouthed/small minded man. Our oh-so wonderful ally, led by such a person as this, seems perfectly happy to sit back and watch Britain humiliated once more. It's sickening. Whether Ben Brogan thinks so or not, that "special relationship" the Westminster villagers love to drone on about? Hey, Ben. It's over.

BP didn't kill it, Obama did.

BP (BP "Inc", lest we forget) has done all it can to clear up this mess, so I agree with those who say lay off them (that doesn't mean lay off the accident prone Hayward, however). The real villain of this piece as it turns out? Ladies and gentleman, I give you the most unpresidential president since, er, the last one - Barack Hussain Obama.


But for Britain, sadly, this really is no laughing matter.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Prescott Swearing Shock

Well, no. It wasn't really much of a shock that John - sorry - "Lord" Prescott felt he was so important that he could swear at fellow interviewee Zac Goldsmith on Radio 4 this morning, and then smear said new Tory MP with impunity.

Nor was it much of a shock that the interviewer did nothing to intervene - if nothing else than to get Prescott for once in his miserable political life to stick to the point, but merely apologised vaguely afterwards I assume for his own conduct by saying that sometimes it's best for these things to be allowed to run their natural course - without getting involved.

As to the issue being discussed - Labour's (Prescott's, in fact) appalling record on housing and the disastrous assault on our nation's green spaces under that regime, which, Prescott seemed quite happy to admit, was more or less a conscious brand of class war - others will disagree no doubt, but I thought Goldsmith wiped the floor with Lord Two Jags (or should that be Lord Two Shags?).

Goldsmith commanded his brief and, when permitted by the lame BBC interviewer, delivered a rational, compelling set of reasons for why, to meet the housing shortage, existing housing stock must be renovated, only appropriate spaces should be built on (ie: not greenfield sites), and local councils must be released from central government meddling so they can do what they were elected to do and make policy to suit the area for which they are responsible and which they (in theory) know best how to manage.

It was a polished performance and Prescott had no answer to it, his policies having buggered everything up (to borrow his expression) in the first place.

One-nil to Goldsmith.

(And minus one to the BBC, again.)

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Jobless Bloke: "I Love Lisa"

While I was messing around with the word 'hypnosis' on YouTube, I stumbled on this gem.

I certainly like to listen to the sound of her woyce and I really dig the deep, hype-notic sleep that her beautiful, green-eyed woyce generates with a little of what amounts to your basic counting, as far as I can tell.

Good/bad, this puppy would definitely sleep with Lisa. (That is what she said, right?)

Whatever. But you know what? I reckon this is a Tory party political aimed at indolent male dole spongers. Brilliant! This will be one of the most effective deficit reduction strategies of all time. A government-subsidised young Russian(?) dominatrix's sex promise in exchange for significant efforts finally to find a job and stick with it.

It's definitely novel and it could be a winner. So well done, George Osborne! (As long as that's not your sister. That would be weird.)

BP's Hayward Should Go Now

BP: Big Problem
Iain Martin has just quite justifiably wondered out loud when David Cameron is going to answer the ridiculously shrill and totally unjustified anti-British sentiments, disguised as tough-guy criticism of BP Inc for the Gulf oil disaster, emanating from the irritating Obama's noise hole. He says:
President Obama’s attitude to the company is starting to grate. Astonishingly, pressure is now being applied on BP to reduce its next dividend, or else. That is a matter for the management and board of BP to decide upon, not the president of the United States. The air is thick with threats from the Obama administration about what lies in store if the company does not do as it says. The assaults on BP come tinged with a hint of anti-Britishness.
In this climate of distrust, a letter writer to the FT this morning asks when the U.K. government will speak up to defend BP. It is a fair question, one we can expect to hear more often.
I agree, but I also suspect there is a fairly simple answer to this vexing question. It could play something like this. By leaping to the defence of the multinational oil giant, Cameron could, but will not want to, be seen by implication defending someone who is accident prone and insensitive in Tony Hayward, and who really has only himself to blame for what Martin calls his "monstering" by the US media.

I would have thought, therefore, that Cameron will only begin to defend Britain's good name, currently being indirectly but consciously impugned by a suspiciously energised (but pretty ineffective) US president, when the embattled BP supremo does the decent thing and quits.

Leaving Obama's nauseating anti-Brit dogwhistle propaganda aside for a moment, the issue of Hayward's departure must now come first. Whatever Obama's up to, and I think we in the UK pretty much all know what that is given his pretty appalling treatment of what we are led to believe is America's closest and most loyal ally during his spell so far as leader of the free world, it's Hayward that's really giving Britain a bad name - whenever he opens his mouth.

The longer he remains in post, the longer we will undeservedly take the flack for his many apparent shortcomings, the longer Obama will be able to get away with his pathetic political displacement activities and the longer it will be before Cameron can launch some kind of diplomatic damage limitation operation. With Hayward there, the PM's hands are pretty much tied. The BP boss has been that bad.

But having said all that, if any Obama fans deign to read this post and choose, predictably (and usually rudely) to disagree, I have one word for your sort: Bhopal.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Talking Rubbish

It was good to hear that Eric Pickles has officially scrapped Labour's preposterous bin tax. I'm all for recycling, but using tagged, chipped, electronically tracked bins as an excuse effectively to spy on and surcharge people on their already astronomical local taxes severely damaged the integrity of a what is, at least on the surface, a decent cause. An incentive scheme is a far more sensible idea if we really must go down this road.

Personally, I think recycling is a bit of a scam as it is has been permitted to develop as an the industry thanks largely to the previous administration's cavalier approach to all things concerning private companies earning public money, civic duty and civil liberties. Currently, huge private firms hoover up council contracts and then make a heck of a lot more money out of waste management via exploitation of what should be, as I said, a good cause, namely recycling. Consequence? Hardly anything is actually recycled in this country as a proportion of the total and yet we are already paying far more for the privilege of having our household waste taken away. Pickles' idea therefore seems to be the best of a bad set of options. If people are to be forced to pay more for refuse collection, and forced to sort out their own rubbish, then yes, some kind of payback incentive is a reasonable idea. Maybe it should go further and become a full rebate for getting your recycling 100% right. That would be a real incentive and prove the sincerity of any council's recycling motive.

Predictably on the Today programme this morning, John Humphreys seemed quite keen to attack even this popular and modest Tory government policy by trying to argue the toss with a pretty no-nonsense Norfolk councillor who had only briefly looked at the Windsor and Maidenhead pilot scheme on which the new government policy is apparently based and was having none of Humphrey's puffed-up, scornful nonsense. Humphreys eventually seemed to realise he was talking rubbish and marginally altered his inappropriately confrontational tone towards the end. In fact, I'd say he was pretty comprehensively 'owned' by whoever that interviewee was, actually, and it was a very pleasant experience for this listener. I've never really heard anyone who likes the sound of his own voice more than Humphreys, apart from, possibly, David Dimbleby. Oh, and Paxman. Not forgetting Marr who's shaping up as another fine lefty BBC windbag as well. But that's another story, I suppose.

Whatever anyone thinks about the abolition of the bin tax proposals, this to me is another example of the Tories trying to right Labour's wrongs. It's therefore worth praising just on those grounds, even if it is merely a shuffle in the right direction when it comes to this country's sorry record on recycling, value for money for local services and councils' continuing erosion of privacy and individual rights (including the rights guarding against trespass by council officials), and local government 'snooping'. In the end, that's perhaps what was at the heart of this issue, not recycling. In that sense, what Pickles has done is to begin the process of tackling the surveillance mentality of far too many local authorities and to reframe the authoritarian zeitgeist that prevailed under Labour in a small state philosophy that should help to bring about a shift towards a freer society. I have no doubt that this is his aim, and it's laudable in its libertarianism.

Whether he achieves any more than making sure our bins continue to be dumb trash cans rather than being permitted to evolve into spying robots working for the state remains to be seen. But it's a start.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

AWOL Brown Should Be Kicked Out Of Parliament

Mandrake (Tim Walker) in today's Sunday Telegraph reveals that one of Gordon Brown's last acts as Prime Minister was to secretly cut the future incumbant's salary by £250,000 over five years.
Gordon Brown's failure to turn up for the State Opening of Parliament may well have been because he couldn't look David Cameron in the face. Mandrake hears that one of Brown's final acts in the Downing Street bunker was quietly to organise a pay cut for his successor which he must have known would leave him out of pocket to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
On Brown's orders, the Prime Minister's remuneration package was cut from £194,000 to £150,000, but this was done with such stealth that no formal announcement was ever made.
Now, some might say that that was done for sound economic reasons since the country faces economic collapse due the parlous state of the public finances - thanks, er, to Brown. That conclusion would be completely naive. Even Walker's conclusion, jovial as it is, and quoting a 'Whitehall source' is wide of the mark in my humble opinion.
"This was pure Gordon," harrumphs my man in Whitehall. "Quite prepared to make the big sacrifices – so long as it wasn't him who actually had to make them."
Not so. While his pocket-lining, self-serving instincts were certainly part of the motivation for his actions, Brown did this out of pure malice for his successor. That's why he did it secretly. As a result, Cameron will earn little more than he did as leader of the opposition, and could well earn less in terms of salary alone given that he has also handed himself and the cabinet an example-setting 5% pay cut, unaware that Brown had already sabotaged that good faith gesture.

As far as I'm concerned, Brown is a seriously twisted individual who finished the way he started in office, by sticking two fingers up ostensibly at the hated Tories, but really at the entire population of the country he pretty much single-handedly ruined. He must be held to account, and, if fraud or corruption are ever uncovered, brought to book for his crimes against the people of Britain.

In the meantime, let's focus on something else. It's not just that he couldn't face David Cameron at the Queen's Speech, or that he hasn't turned up in parliament once on behalf of his constituency since he was booted out of Number 10, or that he has continued to draw an MP's salary while, in effect, going AWOL (I hear he's been in up in Kirkaldy but effectively incommunicado since his ousting)...these things are bad enough. It's not any of that, however, but something far simpler. Clearly, there is a strong case for him to be suspended from parliament pending a review of his activities, or lack thereof, since regaining that safest of safe seats, (and whether his supporters in that safest of safe seat like it or not)]. If necessary, legislation should be introduced to this end. It should be applied not just to Brown but to any MPs suspected of not discharging their duties of office adequately.

Well, I know it won't happen - which is a pity - but, in the end, something must be done about Brown. He deserves some kind of punishment for his vicious spite and, ultimately, his cowardice both in and now out of office.

If nothing else, though, we should expect and demand better from our backbench MPs.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Inflation Storm Clouds

That senior economists are even talking about inflation now, having pretended it didn't exist for so long, should be a source of anxiety. That one of them should say something like this should be the prelude to panic.
In an opinion piece for on Friday, Mr Bean writes: "Some people have suggested that a bit of extra inflation now might actually be a good thing. After all, wouldn't it help to get the economy going by reducing the real value of public and private debt? This is severely misguided.

"Aside from the dubious morality of redistributing wealth from savers to borrowers, we have seen from past experience that a bit of inflation has a nasty habit of turning into a lot of inflation."
Deflation was a smoke screen for devaluation and new debt. However, someone has now broken ranks to warn of the true nature of the coming catastrophe: hyperinflation.

We're doomed! Doomed!

Of course, I forgot. Without debt (money - or rather the promise of non-existent money), and more and more of it at that, the entire world economy would collapse into depression. Stupid me...

Get it? I don't. Let's get this straight again, without debt there would be no money = Great Depression II.

Well, you figure it out because I sure can't.

Dangerous Subversives, Section 3

I always liked the steel-fisted, tooth breaking irony of this large larf at the lawmaking killjoys way back in the beginning of the day 20 years ago. Hell, I was there! And after I'd been studying my bollocks off at uni for two years, by 1991 I thought this video was just a fecking documentary. How laughably wrong I was.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Serendipitous Oil Spills

Dizzy has found a remarkable website charting the spread of the Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill. It's a hefty leak, and what you can do with this tool is superimpose its vast expanse on wherever you like in the world to see just how huge it is. I suppose there is some valid environmental message in such an exercise somewhere. I'm not sure what it is, exactly, beyond 'Cor, that really brings it home to you', or maybe, 'Cor, isn't the ocean big!'.

There is another use, however, of this program, as Dizzy demonstrates. You can bury your least favourite bits of your own country under thirty million barrels of oil slick. Neat. Dizzy chose Scotland. I sort of approved at first, but in the end it wasn't target-rich enough for me, so I opted for an alternative ground zero of Huddersfield so that I could take out the entire expanse of the two giant northern English conurbations and Labour heartlands.

Unfortunately, I had to take out York, Harrogate, the Peaks and the Dales in order to get Tyneside. Oh, and half the Irish Sea, all of North Wales - and Shrewsbury. Well, sacrifices had to be made to get them all under the one spill - without threatening the Home Counties. Besides, who's really going to miss Mold? And I did save the Lake District...sort of. You just can't get to it any more.

Getting Education Right

Gove will have to take-on the teaching unions -
and he will win
I was pleased to read last night on the Spectator website that 1100 schools have already taken up Michael Gove's invitation to opt for 'Academy' status (basically to opt out of LEA control in the old parlance). I remember last week some heavily unionised lefty university 'expert' on state education, or whatever she was, on Radio 4 (where else?) trying to poo poo the whole thing with the usual nonsense about it creating a two tier system. Well, it didn't before - at least not in the sense she meant - and it won't this time. Opting out leaves more central funding available for schools that need the boost, so that they too can eventually become more independent, manage their own affairs and rid themselves of stultifying state prescribed educational ideology, so long the blight of the education system of Britain - at least since the evil that was the late 60s/early 70s was perpetrated.

In any case, what's so bad about a few high standards for once? What socialists, especially ones who think they're educators of some sort, don't get is that academic aspiration is as natural as any other form of ambition. It cannot simply be magicked away with a wave of some socialist wand, or, more likely, suppressed through some sort of highly divisive forms of social engineering. There is demand for genuine quality - elitism, even - and it will never go away, whether people like Ed Balls think they can make it go away with their interfering, top down interventionist, ideologically motivated lawmaking or not. The point is they haven't - and never would have. Socialists have always thought they could mould human nature by manipulating society by using taxation and interventionist laws as some sort of blunt, clunking sculpting tools. Signs are, after another 13-year dose of them has caused another national cataclysm, that they will never change. They will never understand that,as history shows, the many glorious aspects of human nature evolve gradually over time, and the best politics is the politics that evolves with it, reflecting it while simultaneously creating a society in which the aspirational, ambitious, optimistic, adventurous parts of human nature have the opportunity to flourish.

Still, even though the socialists have once again failed to break the population's general spirit, though they tried as hard as ever, especially through our schools, not least by diluting the exams system to the point where GCSEs, for instance, are almost completely worthless now as tests of a child's intellectual and academic development in any given discipline (especially for prospective employers), you have that nagging sensation in the pit of you stomach that Michael Gove has arrived just in the nick of time.

First, we have the Academies, liberating good schools from central control. Then, we have the other two thrusts of Gove's brilliant, triple-pronged revolution, of which the most important by far is the dismantling of Labour's insane education quangocracy, itself a heavily politicised, labyrinthine, undemocratic, bureaucratic nightmare designed for one purpose: social capture. Gove's already started by abolishing the General Teaching Council (thank God) and two others. The former organisation was designed quite simply to create and monitor a generation of under-experienced, under-educated, over-trained, over-paid, indoctrinated teaching robots - and exclude all others. It worked! Well, its website (all these damn quangos have elaborate websites that seem to mimic government departments' - anyone ever noticed that?) published this note from the gallows yesterday:
The Secretary of State for Education announced on Tuesday 2 June his intention to introduce primary legislation in the late autumn which will abolish the General Teaching Council for England.
In response, the GTC said: 'The GTC was created by Parliament to work in the public interest to improve standards of professional conduct among teachers, to contribute to raising standards of teaching and learning and to raise the standing of the teaching profession.
'We are seeking legal advice on our position and will be seeking urgent clarification from Ministers and Department for Education officials on the implications of today’s announcement for the GTC’s work over the next period and for its staff and Members.'
Looks like they ain't going to go gentle into that good night. So much the better. A public spat will finally bring a bit of scrutiny to bear on these shadow/duplicate government organisations, so expensive and so suspiciously beloved by Labour, that have sprouted up like so much fungi on a fallen oak.

Oh yes, the second part of Gove's three prong revolution is the so-called free schools. Brilliant, and like all organic children of private enterprise, some will fail but most will succeed spectacularly, which will no doubt irritate that lefty, GTC-type woman on Radio 4, who tried to poo poo these too as being 'unprofessional'. Unprofessional? Ha! If the chaos and despair we currently have in Britain is what 'professionalism' (socialist style) delivers, then bring on the amateurs! In fact, and joking apart, I think that Gove has already worked this out. He's trying to break a monopoly of education supply that's grown up over the past thirty or so years, and that has betrayed our children so comprehensively and failed this country so utterly. He knows that the only people who really, genuinely care - or should care - about children's education are parents, not teachers (and especially not unthinking, doubleplusgoodthinking, inadequate young robot teachers). That parents are somehow 'amateurs' should not preclude them from having a huge say in their children's school career.

I know, I know, there's more to it even than all this. All I'm really saying is that Gove looks to me like the real deal - and he must be supported fully and without hesitation. However, having said that, judging by that GTC comment, which is public remember, he is going to be pissing off an awful lot of establishment interest groups (and remember, the left is the establishment in education). Perhaps that's his intention. Well, if it is, he needs to remember that annoying quangos before you dispatch them is one thing, annoying the NUT, with its 300,000 members is quite another. Though having said that, his abolition of the GTC has, strangely enough, gone down reasonably well with the NUT. Its General Secretary, Christine Blower, said yesterday:
"From its inception, the GTC has struggled to overcome the fact that teachers felt it had been imposed on them. Equally, the annual fee of £36.50 has remained a sore point. The NUT has consistently argued that teachers should not have to pay the GTC fee.
"Under the GTC, teachers now feel over-scrutinised. Last year's 'code of conduct' was a worrying development, encompassing activities and behaviour outside of work. It sought to turn aspirations for best practice into rules. Any replacement for the GTC needs to distance itself from the belief that a watchdog can also reserve the right to make intrusive judgments on teachers' personal lives.
I wouldn't count on this superficially supportive sentiment lasting too long if I were Michael Gove, however. She goes on:
"Rather than have outright abolition, all teachers ought to be consulted on whether they believe a professional council for teachers should be maintained. What we cannot have, however, is a council which is at the whims of any Secretary of State. If we are to achieve the holy grail of evidence based policy making, free from political interference, there would be merit in looking at the recent proposal for a Chief Education Officer along the lines of the Chief Science and Medical Officer."
Interesting, isn't it? The NUT was quite prepared to put up with Balls' eternal meddling and politicised interventions. It was even happy, in the end, to put up with the sinister GTC's politicised prescriptions and intrusions. Why? Because Balls is a comrade and the GTC is basically populated by comrades. As soon as Gove comes along, however, with his exciting (or terrifying, if you're a comrade) brand of pragmatic radicalism and a fresh educational philosophy, the time has come for another quango, quick! Or, at the very least, an expensive, 'independent' tsar civil servant who used to be a professor of something or other mildly educational at the University of Brixton, but who, above all, is a comrade.

Gove is definitely doing something right!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Not NICE Again!

Swansea city centre last Friday night. NICE!
Another one of these pejorative, interventionist (socialist) medical reports has just been released by one of the UK's many health scare professional quangos, this time calling for enforced national temperance. I have several bones to pick not just with this particular, latest piece of medical meddling in people's lives, but with these kinds of moralising "experts" and this sort of lifestyle intervention nonsense period. They seem to think that if something "costs the NHS" x-billions of pounds, they have the right to launch into moral crusade mode, as if the NHS is some sort of precious thing with a life of its own that must be protected as an institution over and above the people who pay a fortune for it and whom it is bloody well meant to serve, doubleplusungood lifestyle or not. These are the same clowns who helped give us the pub smoking ban, with no discernible impact on smoking rates anywhere seen so far as a result of it, but the destruction of the entire pub industry imminent thanks directly to it. Hewitt's and Labour's masterpiece.

I'm not going to rant too much about this latest here - haven't got the time this morning - but I will say two further things. NICE is the same quango that regularly fails to take on big pharmaceutical corporations to get the price of, for example, life saving cancer drugs down so they are affordable. Instead it simply rations them, but never objects when the NHS iniquitously refuses further free treatment to patients who opt to buy the drugs for thousands of pounds privately. Why does NICE behave like this? Well, I was unsurprised to find out from Private Eye not that long ago (no links, sorry) that a suspicious number of "experts" who work for NICE also have strong connections with big Pharma. Surprise surprise. So it is hardly surprising that I do not trust them when they start pontificating about how people should live their lives. Sure, drink related illnesses kill 10,000 people a year (so they say). But you know what? About 500,000 people died last year, many after prolonged periods of treatment for things like heart disease and cancer and most of those diseases were the product of old age rather than any specific, chronic lifestyle problem.

Of the 500,000 dead, most were over the age of 75 (some 66% of all deaths for 2009, says the ONS). So the real "problem" for the NHS is that better diets, hygiene, sanitation, inoculation, peace, affluence, antibiotics and yes, medical technology, means that Britain's annual death rate is plummeting. And that means the NHS is having to cope with tens of thousands more elderly and infirm bods each year - and guess what, it can't. But it can't talk about that so it allows one of its quangos to go into displacement activity overdrive by talking about binge drinking which, let's face it, is far more a social ("Broken Britain") issue than it is a health issue. Ask anyone who lives in any town centre anywhere in the UK.

That's the general point. The second point is that while there are lots of good reasons to encourage people to live healthier lifestyles, especially if they are drinking too much, smoking, not getting enough exercise and/or taking drugs, you have to give them a reason why. Attempting to force people to drink less by hammering them in the pocket and saying that a) it's for their own good, and b) it's for the good of the NHS (as if some patients are somehow more 'deserving' than others) has never worked, won't work today and will never work in the future. All it will do is hammer the poorest and those millions in Labour heartlands up and down the country living on benefits while annoying the hell out of the middle classes who have done nothing wrong generally speaking (although NICE or that moron Liam Donaldson will doubtless come up with another spurious, anecdotal study on middle class binging), but who will be forced to stump up another chunk of money to fund the biggest bottomless pit the world has ever seen - the NHS.

But that's what this is really all about, isn't it? The National-bloody-Health Service. Well, at least Andrew Lansley, the new health minister, has seen some sort of sense.
"Regarding Nice's recommendations... it is not clear that the research examines specifically the regressive effect on low income families, or proves conclusively that it is the best way to impact price in order to impact demand."
He went on: "The root causes of social problems lie not just in Government policies - although 24-hour drinking legislation has severely undermined clinician and police efforts to get to grips with this problem - but in social norms and peer influence.
"We must work across Government, society, communities and families to challenge negative social norms and promote the positives."
Between the sociology-speak lines, this is more or less a comprehensive rubbishing of the report and a libertarian reading of the causes of the binge culture. A cause for hope, then, if not for celebration. We finally have a health minister with a brain. Next thing he can do is use that brain again to save his department, and us, about, oh, potentially £70 million in 2011 by abolishing Labour's drug-rationing, talkative, 1999 brainchild altogether.
the Institute [has grown since 1999] from an organisation with no staff, premises, or bank account and a nominal budget of £8.5 million a year, to a body now employing over 270 people, with offices in London and Manchester, and an annual budget of £35 million which is set to more than double over the next few years.
...said one of its talking heads last year. Well, there's been an election since then and there will be no need for a shadow, unelected Department of Health, inventing work for itself and expanding its remit daily, from now on thanks all the same. Abolition should be imminent. Well, you decide. Here's its website. It looks suspiciously like another Department of Health to me. So, and I say this with unabashed relish, this report should be that particular expensive quango's swan song.

'NICE' to have known you as they say.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Israel Will Never Change - And Never Should

It never should, is my point, when its very existence is at stake. Now, I have to be careful what I say here because of my line of work. I can't afford to get too mixed up in the political side of this latest hooha over Israel's security policies and the nefarious activities of spurious 'aid workers' who themselves seemed to think they needed to be armed and travel in division strength to perform best in their capacity as putative angels of mercy. With that in mind, I think I'll stick to the historical dimension. (Possibly - we'll see how it goes ;)

In addition, I have to be careful because some pointless commenter on my last post has said that my writing style (I didn't think I had one) stinks and that I don't know how to punctuate. Now, I don't mind the first meaningless dig - that's about taste - but the second one is patently bollocks. Nobody know's how, to punctuate better than me. they really dont. It felt like I was being told off by Pee Wee Herman. What a weirdo. And all because the twit in question thinks that David Laws isn't a troughing thief who deserved all he got - and more.

Anyway, back to Israel. I would like to make a couple of points about this latest non-story coming out of that part of the world, and they mainly concern the British reaction to it and what history tells us the Israeli reaction to that British reaction will be. There is a prejudice against Israel that runs so deep in this country that it is pretty difficult to quantify. It emanates from several sources and comes in a number of varieties but it all amounts to the same thing: loathing. Powerful political, lobbyist and media blocs in the UK indulge a fairly private agenda that is driven by a desire to kick Israel, and to see Israel kicked, as hard and as often as possible. That Israel's desire to search 10,000 tonnes of 'humanitarian' gear being shipped to terrorist-run Gaza warranted such a vicious reaction from the suspiciously well-armed, boarder-repelling 'aid workers' was very telling to me.

That these terrorist sympathisers' film of the inevitable firefight, as Israeli soldiers sought to defend themselves from what must have felt like a deadly assault, was the footage preferred and shown over and over again on British televisions speaks volumes about the unconscionable bias of Britain's mainstream media, especially (naturally) the BBC. Just imagine if this had been the USA and ATF officers or the US Coast Guard had been violently repelled by a foreign ship's crew and passengers. "Nine dead?" people would say, "Uncle Sam must be going soft in his old age. They were lucky they weren't all shot!" No one would have batted an eyelid.

But oh no. This is the plight of the Palestinians, so we have to bring out the standard, Pavlovian hyperbole and hysteria. The Left, the George Galloways of this world, who hijacked this issue long ago as they do with all issues they think possess the required propaganda potential to further the Marxist cause and the coming dictatorship of the workers, make the worn-out, cliched Israel=USA=Zionist Conspiracy=Great Satan lunatic link and condemn both the Jews and the USA for just about everything in the entire world they can think of (and probably things they can't), while the Establishment blames Israel because that's been official Foreign Office policy since the end of WWII, when Britain was humiliated by the new Israeli state into very kindly buggering off.

Allied - or maybe alloyed - to these unsavoury truths is the role of a highly partisan and blinkered media, whose journalists fall into one of the two above categories: leftwing dogma on Israel (BBC, Channel 4 etc.), or Establishment dogma on Israel (Telegraph, Times and so on). I've ignored the Far Right anti-Jewish dogma because as far as I'm concerned, it's fundamentally so far beneath contempt that it's not worth contemplating seriously. Suffice to say, however, it does complete a rather ugly picture. And then there are the Arabs!

But both the key positions in Britain, Left and Establishment, are equally corrupt when it comes right down to it because both are motivated by the same thing: prejudice. And this grows from shared characteristics of basic dishonesty, ignorance and/or malice. Without fully appreciating the entire history of Israel and Palestine unadorned with propaganda, from the late nineteenth century onwards, for instance,and Britain and America's roles in the creation of the new state post-war - America leading, Britain marginalised - then no possible resolution of the situation is remotely possible today. Furthermore, it would be wise not to forget the events leading up to and during WWII that directly led to the creation of the state in the first place. The Jews certainly haven't. Nor should we because when nutters start talking about wiping Israel off the face of the earth, Israel takes it deadly seriously; she will defend herself, as would we if we were in the same boat. They have every right to do so. They will not just quietly go down to the gas chambers this time around.

Finally, a note about the moderate, objective, professional media voices who always make me think there might be hope for truth in this country, and, therefore, hope for Israel after all. Today, the two Iains, Martin and Dale, deserve a special mention. Their writing on the subject of this unfortunate incident has been right out of the top drawer so far, and both should be commended for showing the rest of UK MSM journo-land what real unbiased reporting and commentary looks like.

(Incidentally, I don't "do" unbiased because this is my blog and these are my thoughts. If you don't like them, or how they are presented or expressed (or punctuated, grrr), then vote with your feet, do, there's a good punter.)