Apparently, prisons are considering re-toxification programmes for inmates who are on the verge of release. I'm not going to mince my words here, the idea is absurd.
Let me put this straight though, I'm not saying it's absurd because I'm vehemently anti-drugs. In fact, my libertarian tendancies mean I believe that if people choose to take drugs then that is up to them, they do so at the risk of the law but it remains their decision. For me the Government's role should be one of massive education about the dangers of taking substances, and should reinforce exactly why certain drugs carry such severe penalties for possession and dealing. What the Government should not be doing is actively helping people take drugs, and "re-tox", whichever way you put it, is doing just that.
The argument in favour of this approach is that former heroin addicts are dying of overdoses on release because they've gone clean and don't realise they can't handle as much anymore. However, "re-toxing" addicts in preparation for release is nonsense as it makes the de-tox programmes they are put on a complete waste of money. Not only that, we would effectively be sending people out of prison straight back into the crminal world they came from. It's an absurd idea because it is entirely circular.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
"I had Edwina in the studio for half an hour" - Iain Dale
Iain, I salute you!
Listen to the whole Hamilton interview podcast here
Monday, May 29, 2006
According to the New Labour think tank Demos, we should be abolishing police authorities and replacing them with the "management structures used for SureStart".
Would this be the the same SureStart which the Department for Education and Skills own annual report has shown to be failing?
Yesterday, an Irish tabloid ran an exclusive interview with Martin Ingram, the former MI6 agent handler who unmasked Freddie Scappaticci as a British spy two years ago. In the interview, Ingram said that Martin McGuinness was an MI6 asset in the 1990's kinown as J118. Sinn Fein have been produced a rapid denial of the allegation calling it "nonsense". Click here for more details.
When I first saw this story, all I could think about was Sir Humphrey's dictum of "never believe anything until it's been officially denied". If it does turn out to be true Martin McGuinness is fucked.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Everyone knows that Labour in Lanarkshire has been dodgy for some time. I'm pretty sure The Little Red Book has at least one piece about the area's ongoing sleaziness, and it seems today is no exception for Lanarkshire.
According to the Scotsman a police probe has been launched into bribery and corruption allegations at North Lanarkshire council. The investigation stems from a Labour councillor called Sam Love who blew the whistle on apparent back-handers. The allegations include "sweeteners" being given in exchange for hassle free planning consent, and, according to one councillor "things like hospitality to Celtic games, and then things in brown paper bags."
Saturday, May 27, 2006
There is an article in tomorrow's Business by Tim Montgomerie from Conservative Home on the rise of right wing bloggers. I think Tim is spot on with his analysis, and for those that want a slightly more technologist view of the rise of blogging and other new web technologies I strongly suggest a quick glance at an article by Tim O'Reilly about Web 2.0.
Hat tip: Iain Dale
In a speech at Georgetown University today, Tony Blair put forward the case for a New Labour administration at the UN - or more accurately - him. If there was anything quite so obvious as a job application for Secretary General of the UN then I'll be buggered if I can tell you what it might be.
He basically stood there and did a bit of classic Blair. He pinned his "reformer" badge on the wall and said how the UN ought to be. You could almost hear D-bloody-Ream playing in the background. It was like they changed something in the Matrix.
It's fair to say that - scandals aside - I don't think Blair's political ambitions are by any means over. Like his predecessor Major he's already said he won't go to the Lords, and unlike Major I don't think he will take up a prominent position in the Carlyle Group. However I would be surprised if he doesn't try to represent their interests wherever he may end up. Todays speech indicated (to me at least) the direction he is looking in.
For anyone who might be wondering, I do actually agree with his view that the UN needs to be reformed so it is more responsive to international crises, however the jury is still out on his "solutions".
Friday, May 26, 2006
In the Bush/Blair press conference a little while ago a question was asked about the "end of the special relationship" referring to Blair's leadership troubles at home. In response Bush wanted Blair "to be here so long as I'm the president".
Has Bush just done a Lembit Opik and sealed Blair's fate? After all, the first step towards resignation for any top ranking Labour MP is to receive the full support and confidence of your boss first!
It appears that the website of the National High Tech Crime Unit has been shutdown and replaced with a page that says:
"If you are a member of the public wishing to report a crime or criminal attempt, please contact your local police force within your country of residence. Details of UK police force contacts can be found at www.police.uk"
So there you go. Need to report a high tech crime? Report it to the local police station, assuming it's not after 6pm or a weekend otherwise you're buggered.
Update: Just found this in Hansard
Margaret Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he plans to replace the contact service formerly provided via the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit website.
Mr. Coaker: The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), as part of the National Crime Squad, became part of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) on 1 April 2006 and now operates under the title of SOCA e-Crime. The NHTCU was never a crime recording centre and always requested members of the public to contact their local police force. The NHTCU provided a website that contained a great deal of advice relating to harm reduction and awareness surrounding the use of computers and the internet. The content of the website has been saved and discussion is ongoing as to the most appropriate location for this to be available. Organisations and members of the public who wish to report a crime should continue to contact their local police force in the normal way.
I guess that means SOCA do the job now but you still have to go to your local police first. Problem is they closed all the police stations near me!
Thursday, May 25, 2006
According to figures published today the total cost of fraud and overpayments of dole, income support and tax credits for April 2004 to March 2005 is £960m.
I expect the knowledge that the Department of Work and Pensions is burning our money doesn't come as a surprise to many. The figures make a mockery of the DWP's calim that it is targeting benefit fraud.
The company that said it would produce the first $100 latpop has released the first pictures of the kit. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is hoping that Third World country will sign up for the laptops in their droves.
I imagine they're far more likely to be signing up for water purification facilities, medical supplies and the other general requirements for civilisation to survive.... but I could be wrong.
This morning started out so well. My copy of The Little Red Book arrived last night so I cheerfully read it on the way to the bus. I picked up my Telegraph from the shop got on the bus and began to indulge myself in the news of the day at which point anger set it.
Happily the Cherie Blair/Hutton Report story was getting coverage. The Telegraph mentioned that Alastair Campbell's partner Fiona Millar had been on Sky News and called for Cherie Blair to apologise as well. She had conceded that it was not an approriate thing to do and that "the right thing to do is to apologise"
Now correct me if I'm wrong here but wasn't her boyfriend at the auction and didn't he autograph the fucking thing too? Is she saying that is appropriate?
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
According to an ICM poll for the Guardian today the Tories are now 2 points ahead of Labour on the question of who will do better with public services.
The poll also shows what is becoming a now common trend in that when Cameron is up against Gordon Brown his lead is greater than if he were against Blair. In fact the latest poll shows Cameron's lead doubles when Brown is in charge.
Mike Smithson has more detailed (and far more expert) analysis over on politicalbetting.com.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The Liberal Democrats have managed to stoop even lower since the tragic death of Eric Forth MP. The funeral has not even taken place yet and an email has been sent out to thousands of activists urging them to report in at Bromley and Chiselhurst for leafleting duty. The email sent out by the party's London campaign team even gives tips on how to get to Bromley by train.
I know the Lib Dems will stoop low, but I never realised they'd go this low.... (who am I kidding?)
Update: The The Scotsman is reporting that Ming Campbell has apologised and lambasted those that sent out the mail.
I actually read this little gem of a story in the Evening Standard last week. At the time I planned to blog it but then my 1 year old son distracted me. Thankfully Iain Dale picked it up from the Mail on Sunday.
The story is a classic bit of New Labour sleaze. Last week, Cherie Blair and Alistair Campbell autographed a copy of the Hutton Report and then auctioned it at a Labour fundraiser. The Hutton Report for those that don't remember (shame on you!) was the report investigating the tragic suicide of Dr David Kelly (a government's weapons expert). For Blair and Campbell to autograph a copy of the report and then auction it is a pretty spectacular piece of insensitivity towards the Kelly family, and quite frankly, is rather disgusting. Talk about rubbing salt in the wounds.
Apparently BBC news has picked the story up today (on the screen not the website(yet)) so it may roll a bit further than before. It's certainly a brilliant example of the remoteness and sheer arrogance of the "comfy sofa" circle of friends in Downing Street.
Update: It appears that Tory MP, Stewart Jackson, has put down an Early Day Motion demanding a public apology
So as predicted by Iain Dale yesterday, the Sun is claiming Tony McNulty's scalp over the foreign priosner's fiasco. McNulty was the man in charge of the Immigration and Deportation brief which failed to protect the public safety from foreign prisoners convicted of murder, rape etcetra etcetra (you read the news, you know).
McNulty has not been fired though, he's just done a job swap with Liam Byrne, so now he's the Police Minister. Yes, that's right, he's now in charge of the Police and - consequently - in charge of ensuring public safety.
Joined up government at its best! It was sublime, then it was ridiculous, then it became absurd and now it's just plain weird.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Yesterday, the Sunday Times carried an interview with Sir Alistair Graham, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. In the interview, Graham savaged Blair's "judgement" in not maintaining proper standards in the public life.
Given I'm advertising the Little Red Book it won't be surprising that I agree with Sir Alistair's analysis of Blair's government.
"Opinion polls [show] the public think this government is as sleazy as the last. He [Blair] has paid a heavy price for ignoring standards... We suspect he is pretty lukewarm to the work we do"
Blair's lukewarm feelings to the Committee may well be showing through if the West End Final edition of the Evening Standard is to be believed. It suggests that the Watchdog is about to suffer significant funding cuts.
Is this Sir Alistair Graham's punishment for publicly stepping out of line?
According to the Daily Mail, the pre-World Cup charity party as David and Victoria Beckam's house this past weekend was a bit of a washout.
But what should we make of David Cameron's decision to go along as a guest of the Sun editor Rebakaha Wade? As Guido pointed out last week, the Sun appears to be doing things that might suggest a coming switch in its allegience. Is this latest bit of hospitality with Wade another indication of the future direction of the Sun?
"The idea that what we're actually trying to do is insert mincing metrosexuals into gritty northern marginal seats is complete rubbish."
From an interview with Tory Radio
Sunday, May 21, 2006
The EU is making a move to takeover and control not just the Premiership, but also have overruling power over every national Football Association. The aim is to enable the European Commission to "direct the sport" at a pan-European level.
The genesis of this insane idea stemmed from a recent meeting of MEPs called "Professional Football – Market or Society?". I shan't bore you with all that they said, the summary is pretty simple. The football market must comply with the EU internal market rules (no one seems to realise it's a global market), and the sport should be used by politicians for socially engineering EU intergation. The good news is that UEFA think's it's a stupid idea.
As most fans know, when politics and football gets mixed it's horrible. Can you honestly think of anything worse than some EU bureaucrat being able to overrule the FA, UEFA and even FIFA in pursuit of some insane pan-European integrationist objective? As much as I distrust Labour, Blair is supposed to be a football fan so hopefully he will do the right thing for once. I just hope he doesn't take the same view as Kevin Mitchell at the Observer who seems to think that football needs saving and the only people who can achieve it are politicians.
Football doesn't need politicians (EU or otherwise) interfering in it. The sport is already a pretty successful self-regulator. Government has no place in the beautiful game.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
You know how it is when a New Labour reshuffle works in your favour. You "hit the ground running" and re-announce whatever your two predesessors said they were going to do. And so it is for the new Secretary of State for Edumacation, Alan Johnson. Johnson announced that junk food would be banned in schools from September, he also re-announced £280m which was promised last year to improve school meals.
If you're curious about the history of all this, it's very simple. A couple of years ago a celebrity chef highlighted the scandalous crap that schools feed to children, the government jumped into action and said it was outrageous too. They then launched a "review" (at great expense to the taxpayer), which took a year or so to conclude what they already knew. The Secretary of State then announced the Government was going to "allocate" money (from the already agreed budget) to improve school dinners and create "guidelines", the Secretary then got sacked and replaced by a new one who said the same thing but did so like he was announcing something new.
What doesn't get mentioned is that most schools have agreed long-term contracts with catering suppliers, so the guidelines will be ignored because of economic realities. With all the social engineering will in the world the kids will still go to the chippy anyway. If you don't believe me drive past the school from the original Jamie Oliver show at lunchtime.
According to the Guardian website, an immigration officer in Croydon has been suspended after he tried to help an Zimbabwean asylum seeker (who also just happened to be a rape victim) with her application in return for sex. He told her he knew "how to win her case" and said he's tell her everything at a hotel, "when we are alone because you are going to have sex."
I wonder what anglo-saxon John Reid used when he was told about it?
When the news broke that five illegal immigrants from Nigeria had been nicked whilst working as cleaners in the Home Office the New Labour spin on it was as predicatble as ever. Blair's official spokesman said that because "they were caught" it showed that "the system worked".
The problem is it then transpired that the five men had not only been cleaning in the opffice that deal with immigration status, but that some of them had been cleaning the offices for up to three years. "The system worked" then quickly became "no system [is] 100% foolproof" from the Home Office official spokesman.
I don't expect many will be surprised the Government have misled the public on this and had to backtrack when they've been caaught out, it's become par for the course these days. But doesn't it make you feel great to know the people in charge of national security are so competent with their own office security processes?
When David Davis said that the Home Office had gone "from the sublime to the ridiculous" I think he may have actually understated the situation.
Friday, May 19, 2006
The European subsidiary of the American health insurance giant UnitedHealth Europe has had it's contract to run a GP's surgery in Derbyshire challenged at the High Court. The challenge is being made on the grounds that the North Eastern Derbyshire PCT went against residents' wishes by signing the deal to allow the American giant to take over the running of the local surgery. It is argued that the failure to consult residents is in contravention of the Health and Social Care Act 2001.
For anyone unaware, UnitedHealth Europe is one of New Labour's "preferred" bidder for NHS contracts. this is most likely why the other bids were overlooked at the time of tender. UnitedHealth Eruope is also one of the revolving door businesses that people in Government have a tendency to leave at join at a high level. The President of UnitedHealth Europe is former senior health policy advisor to Blair, Simon Stevens, and the firm has used former Health Secretary Alan Milburn to lobby on it's behalf.
Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying the private sector in the health service is necessarily a bad thing. However, UnitedHealth Europe's incestuous links with Government are, and the awarding of contracts (even if UnitedHealth were the right choice in some cases) leaves a funny smell in the air.
The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze comes out today. Just 18 days ago Iain Dale and Guido, put 100 or so New Labour scandals out to tender in the blogging community. The mission as it were was for bloggers to take on writing small sections each for the book and get the copy back to Iain and Guido by that weekend. The book is officially published this coming Monday and can be pre-ordered online at Politico's, Amazon, it will also be available at the tills in Waterstones apparently.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Sorry people, I'm one of the "sad people"... First person in was Bonnie, northern tart basically. Second guy in was crazy nutter called Pete, the line is he has Tourette's Syndrome... I think it's bollocks but it will become clear over 13 weeks. If it's not real it'll show by tomorrow. More to follow as they arrive.
21:25 - George, the public schoolboy. They made a point of saying his biggest fears are tranvestites and "hyper-gay men". So I guess that tells us what is coming next then.
21:30 - Here we go. Shabaz, a hyper-gay asian musilm with a scottish accent. GO DIVERSITY!
21:38 - 30something female plastic surgery obsessive called Leia. Boring.
21:40 - Imogen, a Welsh ex-beauty queen. Wonder if she's from Swansea?
21:43 - Mikey, a scouser who likes making anti-feminist comments and general political correct stuff. I bet it's a show. The big question for me is whether's he red shite or not. If he's a blue then he can do no wrong for me.
21:45 - An "Exercise Scientist" (wtf?) called Dawn. She's an old misanthropic social misfit who hates other people. Too much Satre clearly. I expect she'll be out quick.
21:50 - Glyn, an 18 year old lifeuard. All you need to know is that he's a twat. Oh yes, he's welsh too.
21:55 - Canadian gay guy called Richard who epitomises every gay steretype in the world. Apparently he's willing to engage in necrophilia.... which is nice.
22:00 - A dancer called Grace. Little rich girl basically, "my mum bought me a £340K flat in Notting Hill"... George has someone to talk to now.
22:05 - Lisa, chinese northern lass, but for some reason when I look at her all I can think about is "Ting Tong from Tooting!"
22:07 - Sezer, early 20s, a very very rich stock broker who clearly doesn't need the money but can afford to take the time off. A wanker basically.
22:10 - Nikki, a model tart who's primary dream is to be a footballers wife. I want to slap her.
That's the lot (for now). First impressions.... it's going to be rubbish, but I always say that and it won't stop me watching.
Eric Forth MP died last night. Such great Parliamentarians are rare these days. His death is a genuine loss to the party, the country and democracy.
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics the total number of people out of work has climbed by 177,000 to 1.59m during the past year, and by 44,000 during the first quarter period of January to March 2006. This puts the jobless rate at 5.2%, a four year high.
At the same time as these statistics were released, the Employment Minister Jim Murphy said "this quarter there are more people in work and fewer people out of work, but the number of people looking for a job has increased.... We must build on this progress"
I'll be buggered if I can reconcile the Government's figures with the Government's words. Can you?
Quote taken from EPolitix
Whilst driving to pick the wife up yesterday I was listening to PM on Radio 4. They were talking about the illegal immigrant story and whether the Labour minister appearing (his name escapes me) had the "faintest idea" how many there were in Britain.
All of sudden I heard the Labour minister say (and I admit I paraphrase here); "This is not a party political point but this has been the case since Michael Howard", he then repeated the same sentence at least two more times.
Excuse me, but it was a party political point. It's trying to draw the conclusion that because the system was "broken" under the Tories that excuses not doing anything to fix it for nine years, and "it's all the Tories fault anyway!".
What does it take to get the Government to take responsibility for anything? Seriously - and this really isn't a party political point - the Government has been in power now for nine years. It surely cannot continue to hide behind previous Government's actions (or inactions) as a means of excusing it's own failures? Can it?
In preparation of the 2008 London Mayoral elections a new blog was launched the other day by a friend and I. The blog is called Anyone But Ken was born because we both believe that a great city like London deserves better than someone as obnoxiously vile as Comrade Ken Livingstone. Livingstone's commissariat in City Hall has been wasting our money for too long, and we both want to see it ended.
We are asking bloggers to lend us their support. If you want to see Ken gone like we do, then link to this site, and we'll add you to the Blogroll.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Needless to say it's a commonly held view that the Asylum and Immigration system in this country is tad - shall we say - shagged. Yesterday, in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee it was confirmed in all it's shagged up splendour by the director of enforcement and removals at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, Dave Roberts. Rather than hearing me bang on about it here's the transcript courtesy of the Telegraph.
David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall: How many people do you think are here illegally at the moment in the UK?
Dave Roberts, director of enforcement and removals, Immigration and Nationality Directorate: Well, I haven't the faintest idea.
Winnick: How many people do not comply with reporting requirements?
Roberts: Compliance issues around reporting is an interesting question for us.
John Denham, committee chairman: How many don't comply with reporting requirements?
Roberts: I can't answer that question in the direct way you ask it.
Winnick: Are you in a position to tell us about the number of people who are not removed when all their appeal processes are exhausted?
Roberts: I haven't got that figure … We don't track individual cases.
Winnick: You've got me there, as a simple person. If X isn't entitled to be here, the question is why isn't X removed? That is an individual case, to my simple mind … What about the number of people sent letters from the Home Office saying they must leave compared with the number of those who are actually removed? That is a simple question.
Roberts: It was a simple question and we simply don't keep that information … in terms of the number of letters sent to people who are refused permission to stay here.
Denham: You must know how many people have been told to leave the country.
Roberts: I don't have that information, Mr Chairman.
Winnick: I am amazed. This seems to illustrate a mockery of the immigration control system.
Roberts: I can understand the committee's frustration here.
Winnick: The public's frustration, Mr Roberts.
I'm lost for words... seriously.
I'm a bit late to the party in passing comment on Blair's decision to openly state that the nuclear power option is "back on the agenda". Besides the fact that he's made his own Energy Review pointless by telling us his conclusions before it reports, I'm going to go out on a wing here and say I don't agree with using nuclear (sorry Gav but you're wrong).
Now I'm no greenie before anyone suggests it. I drive a 4x4 and I regularly use it to pop round the corner to the shops. The way Labour is addressing the growing energy problem is arse about face though. The problem is not energy usage and the need for renewables, the problem is the equivalent of signal attentuation on copper. We leak power from source to use. We leak it in a massive way. Something like 65% of power we produce is lost when it leaves the power stations and makes it way to the end consumer. If we tackle those kind of problem then there won't be an energy crisis.
That means increasing and promoting localised power generation by people. Local based solar power generation in communities, wind turbine usage at people's homes and even the return of home generators where fuel is delivered. The cost of nuclear power when offset against the gains would be an insane route to take in a country where we're already being taxed to the eyeballs. These reasons are beside the continuing question about handling nuclear waste after use. A recent report I believe concluded the best place for such waste is a big hole in the ground, a bit like asbestos but a lot worse.
The problem of energy over the coming years is certainly important, but it's the problems in the supply chain rather than problems in production that we ought to be addressing.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
I know it sounds like a rather silly question, but whilst mulling over current affairs at work, I mentioned that it looked like friend of friend had been overlooked in favour of one of the better known A List candidates (presumably a reward for significantly reducing a Labour majority!).
It was at this point that I was told that the A List candidate was a terrible dancer. I was reliably informed they'd been spotted some years before in NG1 dancing very badly with a "friend".
The question is, what is it that makes people think they can dance? I believe they say everything begins with an e.
I regularly leave the house in the morning in a brilliant mood, by the time I've been on a bus for ten minutes my anger is boiling as I read my paper. Today was no different to any other day. I was rather busy at work yesterday so missed the news about this "Let's Talk" iniative that Blair embarked on. What a joyous occassion this was, Blair, Two Shags, and the Chipmunk stand in front of lots of people and essentially say "the criminal justice system is totally buggered, and we really need to fix it"
Far be it from me to sound like a Valley girl but.. hello!? You've been in power for nearly a decade. You've been telling us that crime is down; you've been repeatably telling us that you are rebalancing the justice system in favour of the victim not the criminal; you've created hundreds of new crimes; and yet now you've decided the system is broken? WTF?
Do you think we'll just going to forget that you've been in power for eight years? Is there a Ministry of Truth that I don't know about that is re-writing history? Who are we at war with this week?
Monday, May 15, 2006
From the Government News Network
"If you decide to go back to using ladders and a bucket for window cleaning during a drought, remember to make sure you have assessed all the risks."
I'm truly lost for words. Why don't we just have a Ministry for the Bleeding Obvious? I can't believe we're paying for this stuff, I really can't.
The MOD has released a number of reports under the Freedom of Information Act today.
The documents relate to a review in 1996 into the handling of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena sighting by the MoD. A study was commissioned into whether there was any evidence of a threat from the many sightings of "things in the sky" in the UK.
The truth is out there.... maybe.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
According to figures obtained by the Sunday Telegraph from an internal Home Office document, 10,000 crimes per month are being committed by people who are under the supervision of the probation service. Offences range from theft right up to rape and murder.
"Each month, an average of 7,846 criminals on probation are arrested, cautioned or convicted of a new offence - covering a total of 10,206 crimes."
The figures are pretty damning, but should we really be surprised? As long as sentencing continues to be weak, and we let prisoners out early these figures are a statement of the bleeding obvious really.
The Probation Service is clearly not working, but what's worse is that the Government clearly knows the system is failing and is doing nothing about it, again.
I'm not quite sure when I started reading Spiked Online, in fact I'm not quite sure how I even found it. If you can handle the ideological conflicts you might have about it being the successor to Living Marxism then it can be quite enjoyable. I personally like the way it tries to cut through bullshit. Today for example, I read a piece by Brendan O'Neill about British casualties in Iraq. It's opening line says it all really.
Iraq is becoming less dangerous for British troops - and the IRA killed twice as many soldiers in one year as Iraqi insurgents have killed in three.
The full article is here.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
After two days of reflection I have now calmed down enough to write something about the London Mayor, Ken Livingstone. During the past week, Red Ken has made some commitments for his third term election bid.
First up, he says he'll increase the Congestion Charge to £10 a day. For some people that will literally cost them thousands a year as there are parts on the periphery of the zone where people don't actually live in it but due to one-way road systems are forced into it whether they like it or not. Interestingly this has occured significantly in the Kensington and Chelsea area, but it's not a tax on the rich honestly. For anyone reading who doesn't live in London, don't believe the hype about the Congestion Charge getting London moving. The parts that were gridlocked before it was introduced are still gridlocked. The Strand, The Barbican and Charing Cross Road don't need pedestrian crossings, you can just walk between the cars.
The second thing Ken has said he'll do is making Bus and Trams travel free for everyone under 18. Under 16s have already been given total freedom on the travel network (increasing vandalism and anti-social behaviour on buses) which resulted in price increases 2% above inflation even though Ken made a manifesto commitment not to raise the price. He's now saying that the prices are going to go up again.
London is now the most expensive capital to travel in the world, Ken wants to raise the prices even more and what do we get? Well, he's spending thousands on hosting a party for one dictator, Hugo Chavez, and he's recently travelled to China and compared the Tiananmen Square massacre to the Poll Tax riots.
God help us all if he wins again.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Do not be fooled by the news today saying Brown and Blair have struck a deal on pensions which will see pensions re-linked with earnings. They've certainly reached a deal, that's true. They've reached the deal that they'll promise to do something in 6 years time long after a General Election which will be fought on a Labour manifesto that has yet to be written.
I wonder if anyone will ask Blair or Brown if the re-linking of pensions to earnings is a manifesto commitment for the next election?
According to Government figures today, the number of people filing for bankruptcy in the first quarter of 2006 is over 80% higher than for the same quarter in 2005. In fact the total number of bankruptcy petitions for this quarter is just short of 40% of the total for the whole of last year.
A colleague of mine was one of the people that filed for bankruptcy last year and from what he's told me there are people out there who actually specialise in taking advantage of the bankruptcy laws. They are - if you pardon the oxymoron - professional bankruptees.
Since Gordon Brown changed the law, those who declare themselves bankrupt only have to remain in that state for 12-36 months. After that they're free to start applying for credit again and the slate is effectively wiped clean. It's hardly a surprise that such a system should be abused.
Perhaps we should be ammending the law in order to spot serial bankruptees who are making an easy fortune?
For anyone travelling in London these days it's dificult to miss the number of Government sponsored posters on the Tube (be they from Blair or Comrade Ken). There is one that particularly annoys me though. It advertises for Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) with a slogan of "Make A Visible Difference". I think we should stress the word "visible" here. For that is all PCSOs actually are. A visible presence of someone dressed in police-like uniform walking around the streets. The powers available to PCSOs (laudable as the job is) are no more than an oridinary citizen. They're not warranted, they cannot arrest people with anymore legitimacy than a "citizens arrest" (ever tried making one of those?). You may indeed ask "what's the point then?", and thus we return to the poster's slogan.
The real worry though is that if we're going to openly promote that PCSOs are about creating the perception of police officers on the streets, rather than actually tackling crime, then we send a message to the criminal of "you can actually ignore these people, they're only here to stop everyone feeling nervous". It's not quite tough on crime, more tough on the perception of crime.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
This story hasn't really gained much coverage today but yesterday Vladimir Putin, in the Russian equivalent of the State of the Union address stated very plainly that it was "premature to speak of the end of the arms race". He went on to argue that "it is going faster today" and is "rising to a new technological level". He also went on to portray the United States in the traditional role of Russia adversary and said the "stronger our military is, the less temptation there will be to exert such pressure on us."
Pretty strong stuff in my view. I realise that some might think me a little alarmist, but I do think that Russia is very much a forgotten country these days. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union people have taken Russia for granted. After all, it was facing massive change and progression toward democracy. It needed time to find itself and rise to the Western standards of statehood.
The problem is that hasn't actually happened. As I wrote a week or so ago, Russia has, under Valdimir Putin, created a strange hybrid system. A body politic that has merged rampant oligarchical capitalism with intense authoritarain soviet-style control. It's only natural that Putin (a former KGB man) would eventually start saying what he is saying (not to mention their position on Iran's nuclear ambitions). What is most suprising is the way Putin's address has seemed to measure so low on peoples' radars. We should be very aware that the Bear is still alive and it wants to start kicking again too.
The lead actor from the political satire "The Thick Of It", Chris Langham, has been charged with 15 counts of making indecent images of children.
More details here
Last night Iain Dale was invited on to BBC Newsnight in relation to the Tory "A" list of candidates. I'm not going to bore you with the details of what the list is about and rather safely assume you have a clue.
One of the things that Iain said whilst being interviewed struck me as rather salient and it's worth repeating. If we're going to have a list of the "very best and brightest Tories" who should take priority over other lesser mortals in the party then let's make it public. After all, these people want to be part of public life so they shouldn't have a problem with letting the public know who they are. It'll certainly be better, as Iain said, than names being dripped out to the media.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
I rarely find myself agreeing with what Simon Heffer writes, but his comment piece in todays Telegraph is spot on. General synopsis is "Brown lacks the killer instinct required for a leader".
Read full piece here.
The biggest waste of money that Brown has forced on this country in my view is the Tax Credit system. I'm not talking about the over-payments or the mistaken payments here - all worthy of their own posts no doubt - I'm talking about the system itself.
Ever since I first saw the idea of tax credits when I did my dissertation they screamed out at me as entirely nonsensical. Putting it simple, what is the sense in taking peoples money through income tax, shifting it around a bit, and then giving it them back minus the cost of shifting it around?
Why not just not take it in the first place? Why not just apply the same crazy formula through the tax code system? You could still have "means testing" of a sort, but it would just be invisible. People wouldn't have to fill out ludicrously long forms about their entire life in order to get £20 a month from the Treasury. Make it a tax break instead based on actual income and nothing more.
Yes, the people that shift the money around in the system might lose their jobs as a result, but if they're working in that sort of role already I doubt they will have trouble finding alternative employment. There is no such thing as a job for life, and the welfare system should be there to serve the country, not bleed it dry unnecessarily through insanely obvious inefficiencies.
We can also get rid of the paradox of losing tax credits because you save. Currently if you have savings you get less back. The more you save, the less the system calculates you can have. The current system - by design - actually punishes the least well off if they want to be frugel, how crazy is that?
At the end of the day, tax credits are little more than a 21st Century Poor Law. I do wonder what we as a Party intend to do about them.
We tend to get a lot fo polls commissioned at the beginning of the month and most of them held out this month until after the elections. Today we have YouGov's poll (after Populus yestedray). YouGov's methodology (as far as I can tell) is more respected by the psephologist, and they tend to be more accurate historically (feel free to correct me on that if I'm wrong).
YouGov's poll today gives the Tory Party a 6 point lead over Labour. It also shows that Blair's approval ratings are lower than they;ve ever been and according to the Telegraph he's actually the most unpopular Labour Prime Minister ever now.... which is nice.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
The Financial Times today is reporting that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is going to host a political fundraiser for her re-election campaign.
Does this mean Murdoch has pinned his flag against the darling of the US Left as the 2008 Presedntial candidate?
Thanks to Tangled Web for the original link
It would appear that getting a kicking from the Tories has had another knock-on effect for the Labour party. They are putting forward proposal to effectively "gerrymander" the local election boundaries in order to marginalise Tory support and make it easier for them to bounce back. In the interim report commissioned by Brown and Prescott, Sir Michael Lyons says that council's political boundaries should be adjusted to create 'closely contested elections'.
Shadow Local Government Secretary Caroline Spelman is quoted on the Conservative Party website saying "The local elections saw voters punish the Labour Party for its inefficient councils and incompetent government. It would appear that if Labour can't win elections, they'll fiddle the boundaries instead. Their postal voting reforms have already compromised Britain's traditional reputation for free and fair elections. It now seems that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown will stop at nothing to hang on to power."
Thanks to outsider for pointing this one out to me
This is not a joke. According to a Populus poll in The Times Labour have hit their lowest poll rating since 1992 and more importantly the Tory Party has an eight point lead on 38%. The even more interesting thing is that Cameron's lead over Brown is even greater with the party on 41%.
John Prescott has given his first interview to the papers and he reckons that those calling on Blair to go are "damaging" the party. Yes, seriously, he accuses THEM of damaging the party. Good init?
Read it here
Monday, May 08, 2006
Is anyone else getting really annoyed with the "orderly and stable transition" line? I realise that in politics you have a line on things, but they could at least try and be creative with the bloody thing but maintain the meaning couldn't they?
According to a leading tax expert, Jon Prescott should be paying £366,000 tax a year on his grace-and-favour properties because the changes that have occured to his "job". Basically, you are exempt from tax if properties are a required part of ones role. Given that Prescott now only appears to have a title rather than a role he is probably no longer exempt.
More details in the Telegraph
Sunday, May 07, 2006
On Jonathan Dimbleby this morning the issue of the 50 MPs letter and the Brown handover was the main talking point. When it came to interviewing the Lord Chancellor, Falconer said about the leadership that he didn't think Labour should be "retreating to a position that lost us votes in the past". So that's him off the Brown Christmas card list (assuming he was on it in the first place of course).
The Sunday Telegraph has today published a full copy of the letter that is apparently circulating amongst Labour MPs. In the letter they say they want a timetable for Blair's departure laid out by the NEC no later than the end fo the current Parliamentary session. click the image for the big version
According to the Telegraph, Gordon Brown (in a GMTV interview still to be broadcast) says:
"There is going to be a transition to a new leader, whoever that leader is.... I think the important thing is that we set down how we are going to bring about that renewal."
Apparently Brown's aides are adament that this does not mean Gordon is calling for Blair to provide an exit timetable. Just after telling the Telegraph that there are reports that they muttered something which sounded like "3,2,1 you're back in the room"
Saturday, May 06, 2006
The Today programme's gaffs always astound me. I used to get apoplectic about them but the high blood pressure is just not worth it anymore, I find it's easier to laugh and get on with the day. I'll never forget the time James Naughtie said "if we win the general election" in an interview with a Labour apparatchik (might've been Gordon I think).
Anyways, my thanks go to DFH (via Guido) for this little gem. Ed Stourton interviewing Gordon Brown and calling him Prime Minister (if you listen carefully you hear the words "forgive me Prime Minister). The 5 second mp3 is available here
David Cameron has called for changes so that power flows from Parliament rather than then the office of the Prime Minister. The proposals include increasing the power of Select Committees and reducing the power of the whips.
"In a number of important areas - going to war, agreeing international treaties - there is no formal mechanism for consulting Parliament, the nation's elected representatives... In other areas like making senior appointments, reorganising government departments, the Prime Minister is able to do exactly as he likes without consulting Parliament at all."
Personally, anything that increases the power and more importantly the relevance of Parliament is always a good thing, otherwise iy really is little more than an expensive talking shop.
Friday, May 05, 2006
In amongst running a Campaign Centre yesterday I was doing a little bit of telling here and there. If you're lucky you get to talk to a nice Labour or Lib Dem person, if you're unlucky you get a complete tit. The complete tits are usually the young'uns who became political consciousness in 1997 and know only how to shout "the tories blah blah blah" and lack independent thought. Thanfully I didn't get one of them (I did follow him round whilst he leafleted though just to wind him up but that's another story(, insstead I got one of the Labour candidate.
She was nice enough (nice enough that I'm not going to name her and embarras her on her first day as a councillor), we had a healthy discussion about politics, Blair, the influence of Thatcher all that kind fo thing. I explained to her my view that Thatcher wasn't a conservative but was a radical and she seemed geuinely interested by it. The conversation then took a stranger turn as she openly said to me that she loved "One Nation Toryism". Well needless to say I was taken aback. This candidate had been int he Labour Party for 20 years, as the conversation continued she kept saying "I agree, this is worrying me". Does that mean that she is "true blue red"?
Yesterday, I was one of the many great and good Tories that took on the insane challenge of fighting a safe Labour council seat. I think - originally at least - we were just going to be paper candidates but for some reason the quintessential English characteristic of loving the underdog came alive in me. My running mate and I basically decided that we would go for it as it were. We knew we wouldn't win (although admittedly there were some heady days of mindless euphoria and dreaming on the streets), but we thought we'd give it a shot. It was never going to be a serious campaign, we were just going to leaflet the ward over a period of six weeks with different literature and see what happened.
As the campaign went on (and we were first to the blocks by a mile on that) we suddenly heard rumours that Labour were canvassing the ward. Now you have to remember that this is probably their safest ward in the entire Borough. Even if their vote collapsed they wouldn't lose it, to have them canvassing meant we must have had them worried. They carried on canvassing as well and on the day - whilst I and others concentrated on our target wards - they were actively getting their vote out in the safe ward for the first time since god knows when. It was great to sit back and say "we made you do that!" (our target ward went from a 1000 Labour majority to only 150 as well, I think we stretched them to be honest).
Now like I say, we were never going to win, there was a pretty big mountain to climb. At the last full elections in 2002 the third place slot went to Labour with around 1,200, our fourth place got about 450. We wanted to beat that and I had a feeling that we could reach 600 if we were lucky. When the block votes had been counted we were on just over 600. At that point my running mate and I shook hands and were chuffed to bits. But then the splits came in, the result... my running mate broke 800 and I was not far behind (I put it down to my position on the ballot paper, my running mate swears blind its because I am ugly). Labour's third place slot? Just over 1300. We doubled our vote, and they barely moved theirs and they knocked up! It makes me wonder, what would've happened if we had canvassed and knocked up too.
One final thing, the Labour lot were actually gloating at us that they had managed to hold their safe seat. Even when I told them we only did it for a bit of laugh at their expense they wouldn't believe.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
So I've been out all day in the sun doing stuff for the local elections, I've finally got online and saw that the good Mr Dale has posted a quote from PMQs where it appears Blair may have told a porky. I know.. Blair telling a porky? Whatever next!
Anyhow, when asked about the extent of New Labour acievement he apparently said that the achievement also included:
‘double maternity pay and double maternity leave, there is also the extra child benefit as well, and there is of course the case that we have spent more on pensioners and that we have re-linked the basic state pension with earnings. That and many, many other things.’
As Iain points out, they;ve done nothing of the sort and that is a Tory policy. Still, he's been in the job a long time so I guess he can calim repsonisbility for making the mistake and stay on and ensure that it doesn't happen again!
NOTE: At some point during the maddess of tomorrow I will check that quote in Hansard just to be sure (not that I mistrust Iain of course
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Guido posted about this earlier, but basically it looks like the killer of WPC Sharon Beshenivsky should've been deported and is essentially "on the run". Can Clarke really survive?
Excuse me whilst the geek in me rushes to the surface. You see, I may be a political anorak but in my spare time I'm a professional geek in the IT industry, so when I heard the news that the Office of Government Commerce is to trial Sun's Java Desktop Linux I understandably got excited. Sticking a finger up to Microsoft and moving away from their oppressively expensive licensing model can only be a good thing, especially in Government. Now what we really need is to get them using Slackware instead of Sun.
Monday, May 01, 2006
The BBC is reporting that the Prescott Affair is causing concern amongst the Labour backbencers. Stephen Pound MP is quoted as saying: "People on the doorstep, oddly enough, have been raising the Prescott issue more than the Charles Clarke issue... on the doorstep [it] is causing huge problems."
Can anyone hear the knives sharpening? A few more revelations of infidelity (whihc is looking very likely) and I expect we'll hear some more noises from other quarters.
According to the Sun today, Clarke didn't offer to resign as he said. The Sun is reporting that the first time Blair knew about it was when he heard Clarke saying ti had happened. Apparently this is why Blair left Clarke on his own in the Commons to face the music after PMQs.
Hat Tip: Iain Dale
One of the commonest things I read these days are arguments that Cameron (and the Tories) are leaving behind something called "core conservative values". Accordingly, the values which make up small 'c' conservatism are - broadly speaking - small government and low tax. It thus follows that because Cameron has not announced policies to reduce the size of government or to specifically lower tax he is no longer conservative. In my view that argument is fundamentally flawed because it starts from false premises. Instead of viewing Cameron's leadership from a starting point of conservative values (or rather ends), we should start by seeing the leadership in terms of conservative principles (or rather means).
The question is what are those principles? Arguably conservatism comes down to two things, change and complexity. These two principles should not to be considered in isolation though as they are interdependent upon each other. The first principle of change refers directly to the conservative approach to establishment. The conservative will incline toward maintaining the established order, or at least where it does change things those changes will avoid overt radicalism - continuity (even if it is only perceived) is the key. The second principle of complexity relates to the conservative view of the world. Put simply, conservatism rejects grand abstracted narratives of society and human affairs. Human affairs are far more complex than that, and policy, as a result, should reflect that complexity. Policy put forward by the conservative will always be based on measurable observations of how things are working rather than abstractions of how things ought to be working. The conservative will therefore equally reject socialism as he will reject hayekism, for both fail to acknowledge the complex and unpredictable nature of society and human affairs.
Given the two principles of conservatism outlined (very briefly) above, are Cameron and the Tories acting within them? I think the answer is "yes" but I think it needs qualification. There is, some would argue, evidence that Cameron is not following the principle of change in relation to the party itself, thus to say he follows conservative principles is contradictory. It's certainly true that Cameron has made much noise of the need for the party to "change". However, this "change" refers to the perception of what the party is about. Since the 1970s the party has not been directed in line with conservative principles. It may have had conservative values as its ends, but it's means to them were naked radicalism. When Cameron talks about the need for the Conservative Party to change, I think he is referring far more for the need for it to be conservative again and leave its radicalism behind. That does not mean we reject what Thatcher did as wrong, we just have to acknowledge that she was anything but conservative.
It seems to me that the criticism that Cameron is leaving core conservative values behind fails when held in comparison to conservative principles. However, I also think that those who make the criticism are radicals rather than conservatives.
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