Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Blair announces Patients Passports... what's the point?

I've just seen a report on Channel 4 News this evening which seems to be suggesting that Tony Blair has proposed introducing Patient Passports in the NHS to allow people to use the money and go to private hospital if they choose.

The whole theme of nicking a Tory policy a year or so after deriding it is hardly unusual, but Blair has clearly lost it. Trying to out flank the Conservative Party from the Right on a policy that can and will never come to fruition as he's leaving in a few months is the sign of a desperate man surely?

As he's never going to follow it through, and it unlikely his successor (whoever that is) will be bound by what he says in these last months, I can see no political purpose in such an announcement. It certainly will not have any electoral impact on Conservative votes. Basically, he's delusional about the credibility of his own position and power.

UKIP suspends MEP involved in embezellment allegations

According to a press release from the UKIP Party Chairman, the UKIP MEP, Tom Wise, who has found himself embroiled in allegations of embezzling tens of thousands of taxpayers money for pretending to be someone else, has been suspended from the UKIP group in the European parliament.

His suspension is pending the completion of the investiagtion by OLAF (the European Anti-Fraud Office) and the UKIP chairman has said that his suspension "should in no way be interpreted as prejudicial to the outcome of that enquiry".

What surprises me about this is that the European Anti-Fraud Office is actually doing some sort of work. Ever since I studied the big European Commission fraud scandal, I've been under the impression that anti-fraud in the EU was more an aspiration than a commitment.

Update: This does appear to be a slight backtrack from the official statement issued by UKIP a few days ago, where they said they would wait for the enquiry to complete and "take whatever steps it deems appropriate as a consequence of that enquiry". Perhaps Tom Wise is in more trouble than was originally thought?

British tsunami! Run away! Run away!

It would appear that the Labour MP for Newport West, Paul Flynn is concerned and worried. Apparently there is now a "consensus expert view" that the flooding of Gwent and Somerset in 1607 was caused by a tsunami and so he wants the British coast authorities to be provided with a tsunami watch early warning system.

No one seems to agree with him yet though. I imagine there's "consensus expert view" on many things that present theroetical horrors, although I'm not quite sure how we would easily monitor for a tsunami generated from the middle of the Atlantic.

My guess is the seismic activity across such a large expanse would end up causing multiple false alarms and people would start finding themselves unable to get insurance or sell their homes because of some thing with very low probability happening.

Still, at least Paul Flynn cares about his constitutents enough to spend some of their money by tabling a motion!

Policies at odds with each other?

Have you ever heard of "Wheels to Work"? No neither had I until about fifteen minutes ago. Apparently it is some scheme to provide teenagers in rural ares with free mopeds and "personal transportation" so they can get to work. Sounds great doesn't it, and to be fair it probably makes sense for local authorities to help young people actually get the jobs.

However, where does this policy sit exactly with congestion, road pricing, the environment and public transport? On the one hand the Government is telling us all that our car usage is evil; we're killing the planet; we must accept paying per usage on the road; and we must all embrace the wonderful *cough* public transport system.

On the other hand it is openly encourages the burning of fossil fuels by the young (how do they afford it?); asks them to add to already congested roads; and discourages development of proper public transport as a by-product of the policy.

Now I'm not suggesting this scheme should be scrapped, what I am saying is that the Government appears to have transport and environmental policies which are completely at odds with each other.

Commons calls for more maggots

Occasionally when you read Early Day Motions you come across one that is actually quite worthy, EDM 993 about the benefits of maggot therapy is such a motion. I shan't reproduce the EDM in full but for anyone who does not know, the use of sterile maggots to treat flesh wounds, especially infected and necrotic wounds is well known to be highly effective.

Essentially, you administer a course of sterilised maggots on to the wound and they eat away the dead flesh etc. Yes, it sounds icky but it really does work. It also could save the NHS literally millions when the cost-benefit analysis is done. It is not particularly common at the moment but the motion calls on the NHS to encourage the treatments wherever possible.

One company that specialises in harvesting sterile maggots is Zoobiotics, who just happen to be based in Bridgend which is also that seat of the MP or tabled the motion represents. There is no evidence of pork barreling - or more correctly, maggot barreling though.

Having said this, if the NHS did take up the practice in a more widespread way, it might provide a sideline work for some of the sterile maggots on the Labour backbenches. Stephen Hepburn perhaps, or maybe Eric Joyce? However, I doubt most Labour backbenchers could be considered "free-range maggots".

Speaking of which, what the hell is a free-range maggot?
I wonder if I will get called a nasty right wing blogger for calling a couple of Labour MPs maggots?

Hands vs Hepburn.... seconds out!

Tory MP Greg Hands has tabled a motion amendment saying that from the word "recalls" to the end of Stephen Hepbrun's anti-Thatcher statue motion should be replaced so the motion recalls,

"the great achievements of Baroness Thatcher in changing Britain for the better including curbing excessive trades union powers, standing up to naked aggression in the Falklands, extending popular capitalism, giving millions of Britons the chance of home ownership and helping to win freedom for millions of people in Central and Eastern Europe; and believes that an impressive statue in Members' Lobby is a fitting tribute to the United Kingdom's first female Prime Minister."
Hear hear.

The cost of Brown's World Cup spinning... thus far

It's only a little thing I know, but some of the papers today are carrying news that Gordon Brown, along with the sports minister Richard Caborn, will be lobbying Sepp Blatter and FIFA today about their "bid" for the 2018 World Cup.

Gievn that the bidding process hasn't started yet, and it is the FA's decision, not the Government's whether we bid or not, it would take an idiot to not realise it's a PR stunt to elevate Brown's international status without actually getting involved in anything that requires a tough decision.

As we all know, Brown has a tendency to disappear at the first sign of tough international issues like Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. As I've commented in the past, the only balls Brown is his protege's surname.

Never the less, the spin machine trundles on, and Brown does his lobbying on a soft issue, presenting his much vaunted "feasibility study" to FIFA and presumably saying "I know this has bugger all to do with me but please be in the photo-op".

One might wonder how much this utterly meaningless spun gesture has thus far cost the taxpayer from our laughably prudent Chancellor's budget. The answer? Just short of £16,500 as it happens. That's how much the printing cost plus the drawing up (opinion polling etc) of the feasibility study cost.

Now some might say this is not a lot of money. Arguably it isn't. But then does one really need to spend £16.5K on a feasibility study about whether England could host a World Cup or whether England would want too?

Think about the questions for a second. Can we do it? Old Trafford, Anfield, Maine Road, Emirates, Stanford Bridge, Goodison Park, Reebok, Villa Park, Hillsborough, Upton Park, White Hart Lane to name just a few. Of course we can do it. Would we want too? What religion is the Pope again?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Blue Shark TV interviews Michael Gove

The multimedia political blog, Blue Shark TV has put a video interview with Michael Gove MP. The format of the interview is very fast-fire questioning with a nifty soundtrack. Apparently, journalists are mischiefs, and politicians are dull. Presumably present company was excluded!

Watch the full video here

Would Reid pass the vetting process?

According to this morning's Times, John Reid is set to become the new head of MI6. Now, admittedly, the headline is a little misleading.

What's being suggested is that he will be given responsibilty for terrorism and security, and that MI6 will stop reporting to the FCO and instead report the Home Office.However, given Reid's well known tendency to intervene and meddle the Times is making a valid point.

There is another more important question to be asked on this matter. Would be pass the vetting process for the job anyway? A former member of the Communist Party of Great Britain; known known to enjoy a tipple; and has alledgely got a bit heavy with people in the past? Black-balled surely?

Opinion Leader Research receives £1.05 million from NHS budget

According to the Health Minister, Andy Burnham, the NHS consultation "Your health, your care, your say" which closed in November 2005 had a total bill to the taxpayer of £1.39 million out of the department's running cost budget.

Of that money, 75%, or £1.05 million went to Opinion Leader Research. That is the same Opinion Leader Research headed by long standing Labour Party consultant, member of the Smith Institute, and friend to Gordon Brown, Deborah Mattinson.

Given that the NHS running cost budget is ultimately in the hands of the Treasury it makes sense to square the circle.

Why Government should avoid knee-jerk web development

A while back the Government designed a quiz on the Department of Work and Pensions website titled "Myths and Facts about Pensions in the UK". Bizarrely, in a resposne to a question about how many people had completed the quiz, the DWP minister James Purnell said that the site

"was designed to present information to users, rather than gather statistics on user views. Therefore the system did not record the number of people who completed the quiz, how far each user progressed or details of responses".
What's the point of having a quiz that you want the public to use for means of education if you're not going to record the level of education the public have in relation to pensions? It wouldn't be difficult to record the answers that were most often chosen, and that information would actually be quite useful.

Still, I don't want to dwell on that part of his answer, instead I want to crow amusingly at the extra detail he provided. You see, whilst he couldn't tell anyone how many people had completed the test, he could say how many people had accessed the quiz over the last six months.

Brace yourself. The Pensions Reform website quiz managed to receive a whopping average of 293 unique visit each month. That's around 9-10 unique hits each day. I wonder how much the development cost was for such wonders.

The Pensions Reform blog does slightly better, managing an average of 2470 unique vistors each month, just short of 100 days.

The truth be known this is just further evidence that the knee-jerk embrace of new media technology by Goevrnment can quite often be a waste of development time, effort, and more importantly money

The Rotten Borough MP Hepburn speaks

The Labour MP for Jarrow (a rotten borough if ever there was one) Stephen Hepburn has decided to negate the importance of Margaret Thatcher in the history of this country by tabling the following motion.

That this House recalls the cruel and divisive reign of Margaret Thatcher and demands that the statue be removed from the Members' Lobby until such time as its erection has been approved by a vote in the House.
I can think of two words, and the second is off. Thatcher, love her or loathe her, deserve a statue in Parliament. She precided over massive social change in this country which has not been rolled back.

If you said to a 15 year old today that 25 years ago you had to wait five months to get a telephone line and you had rent the handset from BT they'd quite rightly think we were all mad. And that is just one, of many great things she changed about this country.

Revoking Evil Decrees and Powers of Evil Wickedness

Every now and again I see something that makes me laugh hysterically like a school girl on skunk and this morning was such an occasion. Whilst walking to the bus stop - before buying the morning papers and becoming angry - I spotted a leaflet under the windscreen of a car.

It was for an African organisation called Evangelical Bible Outreach Ministry and carried pictures of its two "ministers" with biographies stating the following (blue italic stuff is obviously mine),

Dr Lauence Tetteh: He is mightly used of God, affecting his generation with the Gospel (ok!). The blind see, the deaf hear, the shortlegs restored to normal and all kinds of incurable diseases healed in his crusades that he holds around the world (oh dear!)
It gets better though,
Prophet Isa El Buba: Former Islamic terrorist, occultist which he inherited from birth (nice!).... The blind see, the deaf receive their hearing, the lame walk and the dead raised back to life (can inheritance tax be rebated?)
Bless'em!

Monday, February 26, 2007

The World Cup 2018 Scottish bid?

Tomorrow is Scottish questions and I couldn't help but notice a cheeky one tabled by Tory MP for Hammersmith and Fulham, Greg Hands.

He's asked the Scottish Secretary, Douglas Alexander whether he has recently discussed with Gordon Brown "his Ministerial colleagues on Scotland co-hosting the 2018 World Cup".

It made me chuckle anyway.

Darling goes after Murdoch

It looks like Alistair Darling has caved in to growing pressure from backbenchers to start an initial OFCOM invetsigation into Sky's purchase of a significant stake in ITV. Gordon's hands are clean on that one so I guess he'll be hoping that Murdoch doesn't turn against him.

Forensically challenged Home Office

There has been a lot said about potential knee-jerks responses by Government to the recent firearms problems. According to Kablenet the Government is going to improve tracking guns through technology and a new database.

Apparently "from April 2008 the Home Office plans to launch the National Ballistics Intelligence Database (NABID), which will replace the current £1.1m National Firearms Forensic Intelligence Database (NFFID), launched in 2002."

According to a Home Office spokesman, the NFFID is "too expensive" for the police to commission information from. By replacing it with the NABID it will "be cheaper because it will be owned and operated by the police." In relation to the NFFID the Home Office spokesman said,

"The NFFID is owned by the Forensic Science Service. As a highly qualified specialist operation, they charge top end for information commissioned,"
A quick look at the Forensic Science Services website shows that it is actually the trading name of Forensic Science Service Ltd., which is a UK Government owned company.

In other words, the Government owned NFFID has to be replaced by the NABID because the Government is charging itself too much to use it. The solution according to the Government is to spend £4m on a new system as opposed to charging itself less to use the system that it already built and owns.

Clearly an important "Government" announcement

The image below is a press release just issued by the Forestry Commission through the Government News Network. I'm not sure what to say really other than to ask whether it is really appropriate for taxpayers money to be used to promote Travis' forthcoming UK tour?

Are they getting commission on ticket sales or something?

Lib Dems play games with Government mileage figures

This morning, the Lib Dems have said that there is massive waste by the Government for ministerial car usage after it was revealed in a written answer that the Government car fleet (not just ministerial cars but the entire fleet) did 2.8 million miles last year.

Now far be it from me to defend the Government but the Lib Dems are playing games here with the figures. I know because yesterday I did some calculations when I read the mileage figure. I was hoping to make some "this is outrageous" post about it myself.

However, when I did the calculation it was clear that it wasn't that bad at all really. If we assume, at best that a car doing urban driving does 25 miles to the gallon, and there are 4.5 litres to the gallon. The actual cost of fuel for driving those miles, even if one rounds up to £1 per litre that equates to a fuel cost of only £450,000 per year across the entire Government.

If that was just one Department it might be an issue, but across the entire Government it's not that bad if you ask me. Yes, I did just defend the Government before anyone might be confused. Never let it be said that I'm always biased against the Government.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Multi-counting in Trafalgar Square

Apparently there was a protest against Trident yesterday in Trafalgar Square dubbed "Bin the Bomb". As with all protests the estimate figures always make for amusing reading. According to the Stop the War coalition, CND, the British Muslim Initiative, and Respect, there were 100,000 people at the protest. In comparison the Metropolitan Police estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 took part.

Now the Police and protest organisers always have wildly different views of how many people attend protests. The organisers big themselves up, whilst the Police play them down. The thing is, it's rare that the figures are so massively different. Of course, over counting your level of support is probably not difficult in Trafalgar Square on a Saturday.

It's likely that many tourists have suddenly found themselves counted as members of the extremist left/homophobic Islamist coalition.

Surely some mistake?

I just spotted this little advert at E-Govmonitor. I think they've made a typing error, it should say "IBM - Helping the Public Sector to make IBM money"

Is this a remotely credible answer?

Last week, in response to questioning about spending on Royal Mail, the Home Office minister, Liam Byrne said that the Home Office had spent just £1,132 in 2004-05 and £1,624 on Royal Mail. Now I've double-checked this answer more than once just to be sure that I'm not missing a zero or something because I find it absolutely incredible.

I'm pretty sure that Government will have some sort of Civil Service run internal mail system between departments actually based in Whitehall, and I don't doubt a lot of correspondence these days is also electronic.

However, as a first class stamp costs 30p (prior to pricing changes recently), that suggests that the Home Office sends no more than about 30 letters a day to external recipients and so requiring the use of Royal Mail. Unless of they're using another provider of course.

If there is a civil servant out there who might know why this figure is so low don't stay quiet.

Passport theft quadruples in seven years?

In 1999, the number of passports reported lost or stolen in the UK was 62,364. Since then, every year, the number has increased, often two fold. The result is that last year in the UK a staggering 290,996 were reported lost or stolen.

I'm not quite sure what this means. Either we are, as a nation are becoming more scatty and easily mislay things. Or identity theft really is becoming thoroughly endemic and the authorities lack the means to tackle it in a serious way.

Will it blend?

Obviously trying this at home is very very stupid.

Blears, Jowell and McCartney party it together in Hampshire

According to the Register of Members' Interests, Hazel Blears, Tessa Jowell and Ian McCartney all listed two days hospitality at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hampshire, from the former ITV CEO, Charles Allen 50th birthday bash.

Now, I can understand why Jowell might be invited, she is a Culture Secretary in charge of ruining the Olympics through overspend, and Charles Allen is one of her place men on some "Northern regions Olympics legacy" committee, what I don't understand is the other two (the wording in the register is identical for all three).

I wonder if Tessa and Iain McCartney are about to declare their support for the little chipmunk?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Hazel Blears launches her campaign on YouTube

Zero views currently but posted to YouTube over the past couple of days under Hazel Blears new profile. So much for making an announcement today, she's done it on the Net first. You saw it here first!


Her campaign website will clearly be going live very shortly at www.hazelblears.com rather than at her constituency site at the .co.uk address. Currently it is password protected.

It's all getting so 2.0 isn't it!

Update: Her site is now live. Wordpress blog.

Did Blair concede Cabinet re-shuffle power to Brown?

According to a report in this morning's Telegraph, Rory Bremner has said that on the day of the 2005 General Election he rang a Cabinet minister pretending to be Gordon Brown and the minister was so convinced that he started to ramble on indiscreetly about colleague and cabinet re-shuffles. Bremner said that

"The minister in question advised the Chancellor not to bring Stephen Byers back in to the Cabinet, and generally discussed the prospects of other Cabinet ministers mentioned by name.
So the question is, who was it? Bremner is keeping schtum, but he also said he "wouldn't be surprised if it's revealed on the Internet at some stage". Ne'er a truer word spoken.

There is wider point here of course, why was this person advising the Chancellor about who he should and should not bring back into the Cabinet? Does this represent a concession of power by Blair to Brown? Might this explain why Brown has never been fired in a re-shuffle himself?

Update: The Sunday Times says they've heard the tape and it's Margaret Beckett.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday Lunchtime Links

A slight change from normal, I thought, as it's Friday lunchtime, I would provide some people with choice links. The web, as it were, will always provide.

  • Noodling for Catfish - yes grown men really do catch catfish with their hands. It is very popular in the southern states apparently.
  • Squirrel Fishing - A new approach to rodent performance evaluation from Harvard University.
  • The Bad Fads Museum - Boy were there a lot of truly horrific fads in the last century!
  • The Amish Laptop - Does what it says on the tin. It's a laptop for the Amish. OK, OK it's just a joke.
  • Find a Grave - Find the graves of ancestors, create virtual memorials, add 'virtual flowers' and a note to a loved one's grave. Seriously.
Enjoy!

Rising insurance premiums?

Apparently, the Department of Transport has managed to write off £212,325 worth of cars in the last ten months due to accidents. Wonder what that does to their premium?

Update: I am clearly an idiot who cannot read. The figure above is actually the total over three years, not ten months. The figure for the last year is £118,300. I shall get my coat and leave now with shamed embarassment.

EU proposes storing supermarket loyalty card data for Police data mining?

The other day I posted about what seem to be an admission by the Government that it intended to allow foreign countries access to not just the ID card database but also the DNA database.

Since then this rather dry, but worrying, document from the EU has been brought to my attention. It essentially outlines proposals for data sharing and access in the proposed European Police Force (Europol) which states the intention of Europol to store data from comercial parties e.g. loyalty cards, for six months irrespetive of whether it is relevant to a criminal investigation.

In a rather amsuing sentence it says that "the processing of personal data whose relevance have not yet been assessed is strictly limited to the puprose of assessing its relevance". I have to admit I spent a while scratching my head trying to understand the sentence. I then realised that what they were saying was personal data should be stored on the presumption that it might become relevant at some point in the future irrespective of its relevance at the time it is stored.

The document also outlines that the European Data Protection Supervisor should have supremacy over memebr states Data Protection laws on matters of deciding what access people can have to data stored on them.

It all sort of puts Joan's Ryan answer about data sharing in some context somewhat.

HSE to give advice on safely "handling" pigs

My favourite people the Health and Saftey Executive are holding an event especially for pig farmers it seems. They plan to cover topics including "animal handling" and will allow pig farmers to meet and "swap stories with others in the pig farming industry".

I now have visions of exchanging tales of how their technique is better than Rebecca Loos and more pleasurable for the pig too boot. Frankly those are images I do not need on a Friday morning.

How to get a drving license in America

Ever considered what it might be like as a ex-pat Englishman trying to get a driving license in New Jersey? Never fear, Adam at The Crossed Pond has written a useful guide to help you out. It's very funny honestly. Go on... click, it is Friday after all.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Miliband sets up YouTube site?

Whatever is this? A YouTube profile set up last year by someone called David Miliband who posted their first video with official DEFRA logos on about a month ago? Surely not? It's almost as excruciating as the Mark Clarke video.

Labour to receive "bung" from Bournemouth Council for Conference

At the end of January some people might remember the news that Birmingham Council had given a £2m subsidy to the Conservative Party to host this year's conference in the city.

At the time there was, as you'd expect, outrage on LabourHome with charges of "bungs" and "maladministration" being thrown around and general hand-wringing. Alex Hilton aka RecessMonkey suggested that it should be reported to the "district auditor!"

So I decided to email Bournemouth Council and see if they had offered a subsidy to the Labour Party to hold their 2007 conference there. Guess what. Bournemouth Borough Council, like all the other Councils in conference destinations have a "Conference subsidy" budget, specifically for the purposes of attracting large volume conferences.

What's more, the Labour party have been offered a subsidy to hold their Conference in Bournemouth, although the figure has not yet been finalised. Bournemouth has also given subsidies to other political parties to hold their conference there over the past five years.

So much for maladministration, district auditors and so-called bungs! It's standard bloody practice.

Think of the public ignorance!

The Lib Dem MP, Martin Horwood appears to be rather concerned about the impact on public knowledge on closing the Climate Challenge website down.

He asked DEFRA whether it had considered "the potential impact on environmental awareness and activity of the proposed closure of the Climate Challenge website". He also asked them how much traffic it got (can you see him setting himself up a fall here?)

What will the impact on environmental awareness be? Clearly bugger all. The Climate Challenge website managed to attract a whopping 6,383 hits, and we have no idea how many of those were the web designer and people from DEFRA.

The yearly cost of Early Day Motions

The cost of Early Day Motions has been a question that has arisen on this blog and elsewhere in the past few months. many people consider them a bit of a waste of time and to be honest that is a fair assessment for most of them. Unless an EDM gains hundreds of signatures no one really pays attention to it (except maybe me and some other saddos who want to take the piss).

The result is a system that exists primarily to allow backbenchers to be seen to be working, or to simply express outrage and something no one else really cares about. In the most extreme circumstances they get used to issue condolences to celebrities who's pets have died.

So how much do they cost the taxpayer? Well, in 2005-06, the cost of printing and publishing early day motions to the nearest grand was £627,000. The year before it was £614,000. Money well spent?

Don't panic though people, apparently the Procedure Committee are "looking at this matter". Phew!

Never mind the pollocks

Never let it be said that our elected representative don't get their daily dose of Omega-3. According to figures released by the House of Commons Catering services they've been gobbling up fish like nobodies business in the restaurants.

Only last year they managed to consume over 2 tons of cod, 6 tons of salmon (perhaps it was Alex from the SNP?), 2 tons of tuna. Someone has a fancy for octopus too it seems, 11 kilos of the stuff was consumed. Interestingly no one has been eating oysters for the last two years, but some MPs enjoyed 60 kilos in 2004-05 (who's the lucky fella/lady?).

There's also been a year on year increase of mullets in the Commons, perhaps Chris Waddle was visiting the Sports Minister? I was also shocked to discover that some philistine has been eating pollocks, outrageous, but then maybe canvas tastes nice with a bit of butter and parsley?

There been quite an increase in lobster and crab over the past few years, but I'm putting that down to the MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire seeking revenge for his extended family though acts of cannibalism.
Hat Tip: Croydonian for some of the more appalling fish jokes.

Alan Johnson goes after the student vote

The other day I posted about the Facebook race for the Labour Deputy Leadership. There are a basically a number of "XXX for Deputy" groups out there that have been set up by Labour activists students for each contenders camp.

It now looks Alan Johnson has taken the plunge and beaten his rivals to be the first contender to set up his own profile, or should I say his campaign team thought it would be a good idea to do it on his behalf.

As you can guess, his friends are mostly students because this move is in no way opportunistism to shore up the student vote.

Those shifting goalposts on Iraq exposed

I'm not going to pontificate on this for long, but I urge everyone to take a look at the Independent today. The front page of the newspaper feature Patrick Cockburn, and the first two pages are opinion commentary masquerading as news on the subject of Iraq and British troop pull outs. The commentary section is also full of the usual suspects banging on about the announcement yesterday.

The line? Well guess what. The paper that has been moaning about the illegality of the Iraq war and supports withdrawal is now saying that this withdrawal is all wrong and we're leaving Iraq in a mess and running away from our responsibilities.

You'll note that Ming Campbell is even quoted in Steve Richards column from PMQs yesterday, saying "we must take responsibility for the consequences of our actions". So let's get the Lib Dems position straight. We must withdraw troops by the deadline of October but we must also take responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

The Independent and the Lib Dems have a lot in common really. They don't particularly care who ins running the country and making decisions, they just know that whoever it is they're doing it wrong. I wonder where the goalposts of the argument will shift to next?

Is Gore preparing his 2008 bid?

As Oscar night approaches we will soon be seeing the former Vice-President Al Gore walking the red carpet with the great and good of Hollywood's sacchrine plasticity. His climate-change film, "An Inconvenient Trut" (which I ahve not seen) is up for the best documentary award.

The question is though, what did his former 2000 presidential campaign chief Donna Brazile mean when, on the subject of another Al Gore bid for the White House, she told about 100 people at Haupert Student Union, "wait till Oscar night... I tell people: Im dating. I havent fallen in love yet."

Wonder what this will do to the betting markets?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Exploding manholes

On a serious note though, manholes really do explode randomly in America. So remember. A world without America would be a world without exploding manholes.

Government to share ID and DNA databases with foreign agencies?

There has been quite a bit backlash over the past couple of days about the Government's intention to allow the Police to data mine the ID cards database for unsolved crimes.

Such a move would certainly represent yet another step in the direction where the individual is treats as a suspect in all circumstances and information about themselves is no longer their property but instead the property of an ever-growing state.

Last week, during the Parliamentary recess, one of the written questions which received an answer is in a way related to this subject. The question was put forward by Oliver Heald MP and was about the proposals for data sharing across the EU and other foreign nations.

The response from Home Office minister Joan Ryan, in the context of the previously mentioned news makes, for interesting reading. She said,

"There are a number of EU initiatives to improve information sharing in the area of Justice and Home Affairs. In principle the UK is keen to share information with EU partners that will add to our ability to protect the public, where the request is in the interest of prevention and detection of crime and taking account of the justification and proportionality of disclosure in accordance with human rights legislation. The Government are supportive of a current initiative by the German presidency of the EU to transpose parts of the 1/4m Convention into EU law, which includes provisions on improving the sharing of DNA data.

The provision of information from the National Identity Register will be regulated by the Identity Cards Act 2006 which includes no power for information to be given to foreign governments, except in the limited circumstances set out in the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 relating to criminal proceedings carried out by law enforcement agencies overseas."
Got that? The Government is "supportive" of sharing the DNA database and the ID cards across the EU, as well as other "law enforcement agencies overseas".

Incidentally, the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 doesn't just concern itself with terrorism on disclosure matters and actually casts quite a wide net.

Embargo? Too late I read it....

I'm ever so sorry to Croydonain but I broke the rules and read the press release. It seems the TUC has published a press release on their public website stating that there is a press embargo on it. The press release is promoting a Work your proper hours day which is on Friday.

Apparently this Friday (23 Feb 2007) "is the day when the average person who does unpaid overtime finishes the unpaid days they do every year, and starts earning for themselves."

Hate to ruin it for them, but the day we start earning for ourselves is Tax Freedom Day, which has got later and later each year under Gordon Brown's maladministration of the economy and is currently about June 3rd according to the Adam Smith Institute.

I don't know what's funnier, the fact that the TUC thinks we start earning money for ourselves in February, or that they put an embargo on a press release they published on the publicly accessible Internet.

Update: Looks like the TUC have deleted the press release. I wonder, if the press offcier gets fired, will the TUC represent them against their employer?

EU proposes suspension of the laws of physics

If it isn't the Health and Safet Executive it's the EU! Apparently there is now an EU strategy to have a reduction of 25% in accidents at work by 2012 across the EU. Thing is, an accident is by its nature, a random unintentional and unexpected event, so how can you genuinely target a reduction in them? What's the EU going to do? Suspend the laws of physics? Make us all stay at home working from oxygen tents?

Are things getting on top of Iain?

Anyone who bought this morning's Daily Telegraph will have seen that Iain Dale debuted a column in it. Those who read it will also have noticed that Simon Heffer's article was directly above it. I wonder how Iain feels about having Heffer on top of his column?
Note: The Internet has warped my fragile little mind.

To pixelate or not to pixelate. That is the question

This morning, both the Daily Telegraph and The Times have seized on David Cameron's interview on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours yesterday where he said he was looking to send his daughter to a Church of England state school rather than one of the big non-faith based primaries.

Now I'm sure this is big news for many but what I thought was interesting was not the story but the picture. Both the papers carried a picture of David and Samantha Cameron with said daughter by their side. The Times however chose to pixelate Nancy Cameron's face, whilst the Telegraph didn't. Is this significant? I don't know, it's just something I spotted and found interesting.

The World without America

Below is the latest ad produced by 18 Doughty Street and is titled "The World without America". The basic premise of this ad is I think fundamentally correct. We more than likely would've lost WWII if America had not got involved Europe hence Churchill allegedly said Pearl Harbour was the happiest day of his life because he knew the war was won. If America were not the unipolar power someone else would be, and, frankly, the choice is not particularly pleasing.

However, whilst the premise is right there is just something about the ad that feels odd. I can't put my finger on it. Perhaps it's the voice-over actor. I found myself sitting back not sure if I was watching something serious or satire. You may or may not disagree with me on that. Like I say, the premise of the ad is totally sound, the delivery this time left me wanting.


The great news is that embedded video is now working from Doughty Street.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Deputy Leadership Contest 2.0 at Facebook

If the Labour deputy leadership were simply being measured on Facebook performance then it looks like Alan Johnson is storming ahead. Currently Johnson is leading the pack with a massive 200 members in his supporter group, meanwhile languishing far behind in second place is Hilary Benn with just 59 supporters.

Other runners include, in third, Harriet Harman's with 22. Hot on heels in fourth is the still undeclared Hazel Blears outrider team with 15 supporters at the last count. John Crud-Ass doesn't appear to have got on the Facebook bandwagon as yet.

UKIP flower power?

New logo perhaps for the new "Independence Party"? An english rose and no more garish yellow and purple?

What the press release didn't say....

Apparently, the Government's response to a human flu pandemic was tested yesterday and today. Besides the feeling that they're just spinning to us because of the bird flu thing, what was interesting as ever, was what the press release didn't say. Apparently,

"The exercise fully tested the UK's ability to manage the effects of an influenza pandemic by playing out the decision-making process at national, regional and local levels, when there are widespread cases across the country. A human flu pandemic would occur when a new flu virus, to which people had little or no natural immunity, emerged."
At no point do they say whether the exercise was a success or if the Government responded "appropriately". Funny that!

Labour MP in technology coma for nearly 30 years

Supporting something like National Tinnitus Week is probably quite important I guess. As someone who occassionally suffers from the condition it's important that people are aware of it.

However, I'm also pretty sure that walking around with a high frequency noise emitter in your pocket is a more effective way of letting people know about the hell that can be tinnitus over a leaflet.

I'm not quite sure whether spending the £250 odd quid required to table down a motion in Parliament is a good way of supporting it either though. Especially when the person tabling it words it with lamentable stupidity. Apparently David Taylor MP is,

"concerned about the possibility of increased incidence of tinnitus and hearing damage amongst the 'ipod' generation."
Presumably the old codger was in a coma and so missed the invention of the cassette based Sony Walkman in 1979, the Discman in 1984, the MiniDisc in 1992 and the Diamond Rio mp3 player in 1998.

Just to add to the amusement Taylor lists a previous occupation as "computer manager" during the very same period of technology history. However, when I see "computer manager" I tend to read "computer mangler", what with me being a bit of a BOFH.

Did secret Labour lender advise the Treasury?

One of the lenders to the Labour Party in the ongoing "Cash for Peerages" allegations is the co-founder of Capital One Financial Corporation, Nigel Morris. His loan to the Labour Party was a cool million. In November it was reported by the Telegraph that he had refused to comment on the loan as he considered it "confidential".

I raise this because last week, Mark Francois MP (who I'm starting to have ever greater respect for because of his persistent questioning) asked Gordon Brown what "role Mr. Nigel Morris has played in advising his Department since 1997." The answer from the Treasury was, to me at least, intriguing.

John Healey answering simply said, "There is no record of Nigel Morris having advised the Treasury since 1997." Sounds black and white at first, but it looks more like a non-denial denial to me. In fact, it's a classic Parliamentary answers in the way it is uses measured language and ignores the original question.

And let's be honest, Healey hasn't said, "Nigel Morris has never advised the Treasury", he's just said that they don't have an official record of it ever happening. Not, you understand, that I'm suggesting I have evidence that it did happen of course, I'm just saying is all.

For some reason though I now have Sir Humphrey Appleby in my head when he said;

"It is characteristic of all committee discussions and decisions that every member has a vivid recollection of them and that every member's recollection of them differs violently from every other member's recollection. Consequently, we accept the convention that the official decisions are those and only those which have been officially recorded in the minutes by the officials, from which it emerges with an elegant inevitability that any decision which has been officially reached will have been officially recorded in the minutes by the officials and any decision which is not recorded in the minutes has not been officially reached even if one or more members believe they can recollect it, so in this particular case, if the decision had been officially reached it would have been officially recorded in the minutes by the officials, and it isn't so it wasn't."
Perhaps I'm reading between the lines too much? But if there is no record of Morris advising the Treasury, and he genuinely didn't advise the Treasury, why not just say so and remove any doubt?

Blair goes through the motions

According to Peter Riddell, at a recent Policy review meeting held by Blair, Ed Balls casually got up and walked out after ten minutes. Certainly tells you something about the general attitude across the higher levels at the moment.

It sounds a bit like hanging around the hospital waiting for that Uncle that nobody really likes to go just because you want the inheritance - in this case inheritance that will be tax free.

An independent hatchet job?

The Parliamentary sketch is an enjoyable thing, and there are many good sketch writers. A view of the previous day in Parliament with a witty take on it lightens up news that would otherwise consist of death, disease, famine, poverty and global warming.

This is especially the case if you read The Independent which is not so much a "newspaper" as an left wing op-ed masquerading itself as news. The sketch is often the best bit of it, except for today.

Today the sketch, by Simon Carr, was odd. Odd because it did not sketch out the previous day or events in Parliament at all. It was instead a complete hatchet job on David Miliband.

Now don't get me wrong, I can't stand Miliband, and frankly the thought of him being near turkeys worries me as much as I imagine it worries the turkeys, but still, this sketch was just a pop at him, which made me wonder, why?

The sketch was titled, "Why Miliband can never be prime minister", called him "an excitable, foxy little 12-year-old" (true) who does "far too much thinking of "Little Miss Me" (probably true). He then all but said he was liar in his statement to the house on Hungarian imports (which might also be true). He's certainly been weaselly with his words in that respect.

The question remains though, why the sudden attack on Miliband in such scathing ways? Has someone leaned on Simon Carr? After all, the Independent represents the tree-hugging lefty wing of the country, and Miliband has been doing lots of tree hugging recently, you'd think it would be tub-thumping for him?

Maverick sketch writer? Or Brown supporting "not so Independent" editorial line?

Place your bets....

Apparently the new "open selection process" for the new Chair of English Heritage will be beginning shortly with an announcement made in summer of the appointment by the Department of Culture, Media and Sports. Bet whoever gets it is either a member of the Labour Party or heavily linked to them. Even money?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Robin Aitken at the New Culture Forum

The other day I posted about Robin Aitken's new book and also mentioned that I saw Robin Aitken speak at the New Culture Forum about the book back in September.

Tim Montgomerie and Sam Coates from ConservativeHome and 18 Doughty Street were there that night to film the event and it now available to watch on the 18 Doughty Street website here.

South West kids robbed of £300k by Government Press officer

19/02/2007 13:42: "South West kids get £2m pay-out to play out"
19/02/2007 16:57: "Corrected copy - South West kids get £1.7 m pay-out to play out"
Police have issued a description of the press officer saying they are looking for a man in a bad suit with dandruff. He should be approached with caution because he is evil.

Come on.... I need an answer

Government launches ad campaign for stupid people

The Office of Fair Trading has launched a campaign to help stupid people that respond to obvious email scams and dodgy lottery. You know the sort. The emails that come from a Prince in Nigeria who cannot spell Nigeria and says that if you send him £20,000 he'll give you £600 million - because it sounds so believable doesn't it?

I suppose there will be lots of people who think this is worthy campaign to have, but you can bet your bottom dollar the leaflet is on expensive glossy paper and god knows how much they spent on the radio advert. According to the press release they will be mailing thousands of these leaflets out across the country.

You have to wonder how stupid the people who fall for these scams really are though. After all the OFT has felt the need to define the word "scam" for them as well, just in case they don't understand."A scam is a scheme designed to con you out of your cash." Never! They lie!

Frankly, anyone who falls for these things deserves it. I think its called social darwinism.

That justice.gov.uk domain

How interesting, the domain I found last night has today been given a rewrite redirection rule to here instead. Considering it was registered over ten days ago isn't it interesting that it suddenly gets redirected to something innocuous after a story broke?

The fact remains of course that the Department of Constitutional Affairs remaisn the regsitrant of a domain which currently relates to the remit of the Home Office but has been floated as possibly, maybe, moving into the remit of DCA.

I shall wait and watch with baited breath!

It's a bit too late to realise it now isn't it?

According to the Department of Communities and Local Government it has just published "advice for planners on managing flood risk". For anyone remotely interested it stems from this consultation that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister had a few years ago.

The result is this magnificant document. Now I don't expect anyone to read it, it's far too boring, just trust me when I point out one of the key points it makes is that the risk of flooding along with mitigation must be paramount in all planning decisions that get taken.

It's important to stress that this publication does not come from the same Department that has pushed through building projects on the flood plain known as the Thames Gateway without the mitigation of sufficiently protecting the properties being built.

That was done by a completely different John Prescott, Ruth Kelly, ODPM and DCLG. In fact any resemblance to persons and Government department living or dead is purely coincidental.

We don't go North of the river mate....

If the world was turned upside down and the south of the Thames got the Tube network that the north currently has it would be a very different world indeed.

Click Image for readable version
In case anyone is wondering, what you can see servicing the north of the river in the image really is all we get down south.
Hat Tip: Colourcountry.net

Unsubstantiated scurrilous gossip

Sticking with the religious theme of the previous post I've just been told a scurrilous and unsubstantiated rumour that John Crud-Ass might in fact be a member of Opus Dei. What does this mean if true? Sod all really.

Through the Looking Glass: Catholicism and Anglican to reunite?

According to the Times this morning "[r]adical proposals to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope are to be published this year." As the defintion of "radical" goes this is absolutely off the scale. I am an agnostic, what I mean by that is that is the God I'm not sure whether I beleive is most defintely CofE if he does exist.

The split from Rome, whilst it was a long time ago, was not just a religious one in my mind though, it was also a political one. it was about where sovereignty in a nation lied. The settlement that put the Monarch as the head of the established religion was as much a affirmation of British sovereignty as it was a sticking up of two fingers to Rome.

If Anglicanism and Catholicism reunite with the Pope at its head, then what place does the Church of England have within that community? None that I can see. I can fully understand why the Times has run this story as its front page really, it's absolutely huge, and a potential constitutional minefield.

I don't expect His Grace will be amused.

Council Tax hikes for "peace and quiet"

According to this morning's Telegraph, there are plans to base Council Tax valuation and rates on whether or not you live near a bus stop, or local conveniences, or have peace and quiet. The bottom line of the report is that if you live in a sink estate full of drugs and crime you won't have to pay as much Council Tax as someone who lives in a nice house, on a nice street, where the kids don't beat you up for looking at them funny.

If this is true it is an absolute expression of the politics of envy. However, is it true? Ever since the news broken that Prescott might charge higher Council Tax to people with nice views my instinctive reaction has been that the story is bollocks.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't put it past the Government to try it, but I also think that they're politically astute enough to know that a policy like this would be the guaranteed quickest way to drive millions of votes away. Votes that, as we all know, they need.

I'm not sure what anyone else might think of this? If I recall correctly Sir Michael Lyons report on Council Tax is due some time very soon (after being delayed for so long), which makes me wonder whether this is idea is just one part of that report which the Government will reject as an idea.

I could be wrong of course, but that rarely happens these days (famous last words). If I am wrong I promise to eat my hat. *

Update: I've just the papers on the way into work. Seems this is some sort of subjective advice in a guide for those valuing property for revaluation in Wales and Nortehrn ireland and thus might be applied in England. The only question I have is, surely valuing property should be done by looking in the local estate agents window?
* I will have to buy one first.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Falconer rebuffs Brown and begins prep-work for Home Office split?

About a month ago on a Saturday night at 10pm, John Reid announced that the Home Office was going to be split into two, creating a Justice Ministry (handed over to the Department of Constitutional Affairs), and a Security Ministry (taking on the rest of the Home Office's old work).

At the time most people saw this as little more than a bit of spin designed to distract the news agenda on Sunday morning away from the fact that the Police had been arresting people from Downing Street. It worked for the most part.

The plans then appeared to be roundly poo-pooed across Whitehall as the Home Office continued to lurch from one crisis to another. Since which we've heard very little about it, although apparently the "debate" about the split has had the kibosh put on it by Brown.

However, it looks perhaps like the back-biting between Blairites and Brownites in Whitehall continues unabated. I say this because the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer's department appears to be in preparation already for taking over the Justice role from the Home Office.

Ten days ago, the Department for Constituional Affairs registered the domain, justice.gov.uk, on the Joint Academic Whois server (which controls the information relating to UK government domains). They've also pointed it at a web server here but are yet to get the website up and running. It still requires the VirtualHOst to be set up in Apache at the moment.

Update: For anyone remotely interested here's the domain record from JaNet:

dizzy@dizzy-linux:~$ whois -h whois.ja.net justice.gov.uk
Domain:
justice.gov.uk
Registered For:
The Department for Constitutional Affairs
Domain Owner:
The Department for Constitutional Affairs
Registered By:
Cable & Wireless (Allnet) Ltd.
Servers:
ns0.hyperlink-interactive.co.uk
ns1.hyperlink-interactive.co.uk
ns2.hyperlink-interactive.co.uk
Registrant Contact:
Nettie Williams
Registrant Address:
Technical Web Manager
Department for Constitutional Affairs
9th Floor
Selborne House
54 Victoria Street
London
SW1E 6QW
+44 0207 210 8611 (Phone)
+44 0207 210 8633 (FAX)
nettie.williams@dca.gsi.gov.uk
Entry created:
Friday 9th February 2007

MoD launches own eBay... slight price problems though

It seems the Ministry of Defense has set up it's own eBay auction site. You can get everything from aircraft, to ships, to old PCs. Not sure they've got the pricing system right though.

In the laptop section they're selling a PIII 700Mhz laptop with 128MB of RAM for £345. Alternatively you could just go to the real eBay and get something which is double the processing speed, has a Gig of RAM instead and isn't five years old.

This rather optimistic over-valuation might help explain why the Government gets ripped off with IT costs so much. They clearly haven't got a clue.

Update: I've just found this greened-up military JCB for just under £14,000. I want it. I wonder of they take Paypal?

The Brown Book

According to an article in the Independent on Sunday the number one person besides Brown to know in the "Brown Camp" is the Director fo the Smith Institute, Wilf Stevenson. Apparently he is listed in the "Brown Book" of who people need to know to get things done.

The Brown Book also says of the Smith Institute that it is a "think-tank whose work often proves to be a forerunner of government policy. This is not by accident. The institute has the unique opportunity of running its seminars out of No 11 Downing Street."

More from the lobbyists Bell Pottinger Public Affairs and what looks like blatent Cash-for-Access here. No doubt Guido will have a take on this at some point today*.

* obviously today could mean tomorrow or in fact never.

Hain is a "boring bastard" says MP

In this morning's Sunday Times there is an article about files released by the Crown Prosecution Service under FoI which shed new light on Peter Hain standing trial for a bank robbery in Putney in the 1970s.

The papers contain allegation that Hain was framed by the apartheid South African government. Apparently they really hated him.

Very convenient for Hain to have a story out there about how he was the victim of a conspiracy by the South African Government in the press. One unnamed MP summed it up like this,

"All this stuff coming out now at this time is great for Peter... After all, it reminds everyone of the antiapartheid hero he was. Shame he has turned into such a boring bastard now."
Yay for anonymous briefings! They lighten up Sunday morning.

A cricket team of tories at the BBC?

For the past few months I have been attending the New Culture Forum, which, back in September, hosted a meeting with the former BBC journalist Robin Aitken as the guest speaker.

The topic for the evening was "Can We Trust the BBC" and it was an enlightening discussion in which Aitken asserted that the BBC was "institutionally leftist" to the point that most journalists there don't always realise that they're doing it.

The example he cited at the time which struck a chord at the time was that of public spending. In BBC reporting there is a clear presumption of "spending = good", "less spending = bad". That presumption is never challenged by the BBC. The quote of the evening was "you couldn't make a cricket team of Tories out of the BBC".

Anyway, I bring this up because Robin Aitken has now completed and is publishing his book, "Can we trust the BBC?" And, with a nod to Iain for pointing it out, it has been serialised in the Mail on Sunday.

If anyone is interested in reading some contemporaneous notes from the original New Culture Forum event visit Croydonian here.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Observation of the Day

This morning I couldn't help but notice that the contents of promotion fridges and freezers at Morrisons was a plethora of Bernard Matthews turkey products. There were products I'd never even heard, all half price, or buy one get one free. Can't imagine why.

Crossing the Pond

If you're looking for interesting, witty commentary on the news (with a majority US slant) then I'd like to strongly recommend a new blog on the block called The Crossed Pond. It's run by three miscreants I have known for nearly a decade, one Brit, two Seppos.

All three are superb writers, although bizarrely I've just learnt one of them has gone from being a card carrying member of the Libertarian Party to voting for John Kerry. Anyways, well worth a look and guaranteed to be regularly updated.

The Crossed Pond

Volunteer your PC for GRID computing

Anyone who's been online for a little will probably be aware of Grid computing projects like the SETI@Home. For those that don't know, these are scientific projects which take advantage of the fact that there are so many exceptionally power personal computers in the world with literally masses of spare unused processing power.

Ordinary non-scientific people are able to take part by installing some software and when their machine is idle it does number crunching on specific data. In the case of SETI@Home the user takes radio wave data from a section of outer space and analyses it for unusual noises that could indicate extra-terrestrial intelligence. Other projects have included cracking encryption algorithm and sequencing DNA.

Just to get an idea on how good these projects can be, and why people should take part if they can, there was a project recently called WISDOM (World-wide In Silico Docking On Malaria) which ran from October 1st 2006 to January 31st 2007. During that four months the project was able to complete work that would've taken a single PC 420 years to do.

If anyone is interested in getting involved then might I suggest this cancer research project. If you want to get involved you will need to install something like Boinc (that is the Windows version as I'm assuming most people are running it.

America faces self-inflicted doom of Y2K! Run away! Run away!

The US it seems is facing another IT headache around the corner with it's own self-create Y2K type bug. Apparently, back in 2005, Congress voted to extend daylight saving time by four weeks, and it kicks in this year. According to ZDNet this is likely to result in lots of people having diaries and calendars knackered for a month and there is speculation that it could impact on banking systems.

Now, just for a reality check, this is not end of the world type stuff at all. Any big bank/company will - unless they're complete idiots - be using NTP to time-sync all their systems. So long as the NTP server is right (and patched for the change) it won't cause problems at all. Microsoft have also already issued update patches.

If professional businesses are not rolling patches out then it's their own fault.

The Sun backs Alan Johnson

This morning's Sun has come out formally for Alan Johnson as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. At the same time it slated Hain, and essentially called him a loony leftie.

Former postie Alan Johnson today wins The Sun’s backing to be Labour’s next deputy leader — to stop Peter Hain’s bid for the job. Education Secretary Mr Johnson is front-runner to become Gordon Brown’s No 2.

Rival Mr Hain lurched further to the left last night when he was supported by militant train drivers. Aslef endorsed the Ulster Secretary after more pandering to the trade unions and US-hating lefties. Their move confirms Mr Hain as the champion of Labour’s dinosaurs.
Will it be the Sun that won it for Johnson?

Friday, February 16, 2007

The irony of it all

Joined-up Government

John Reid has said he is going to build a new 700 capacity prison block at Belmarsh Category One High Security Prison. Now besides the fact that they have no planning permission for it yet (thanks to Last Boy Scout for telling me that) there is one other problem.


The map above is a satellite image of the area. Thamesmead is a key aspect of the Government's flagship Thames Gateway re-development project. Currently housing prices are falling there, against the trend in the rest of Greenwich and London as a whole. What better way to address it than to extend Britain "Gitmo" on the other side of the road?

Oh yes, and just to add to that amusement, it's close to the river on the wrong side of the Thames Barrier, so when climate change finally does take it toll (as the Government says it will) it will be underwater anyway. On the bright side I live at the top of the hill overlooking the river so I will have a sea view.

Blair loses it in Young Labour speech?

Is anyone watching the speech by Blair which I think is being given to Young Labour in Glasgow? He's rambling all over the place, leaping from education, to health, to terrorism, to ASBOs, to Africa, to China, to globalisation, to the Third Way , back to education, all within the space of about 40 seconds. He's blatently gone off script.

He's totally lost it I swear, and what's more he seems to be re-writing his own political history. Most amusing quote was that he thinks that "instead of the state trying to control, the roll of the state has been to empower". He said that without laughing. He also ressurected the concept of "stakeholder" and said that the Labour Party should be a "stakeholder party".

I wonder if he had a drink at lunchtime?

More honours cock-ups in Downing Street

Title of Press Release: "Knighthoods conferred upon William Stephens and James Treacy"
Content: "The Queen has been pleased to approve that the honour of Knighthood be conferred upon Timothy Roger Alan King, QC on his appointment as a Justice of the High Court."

Perhaps someone has been on the port at lunchtime?
Source

Those Government priorities in full....

This was taken from the front page of the Government News Network about five minutes ago. Besides the top three stories all being the same, its good to see they take priority over the previous three. After all, renewing passports is revenue generating!

Click for large version

In the interests of balance...

Iain Dale's secret DD campaign agenda and why it failed?

Yay! it's Friday!

Does Livingstone send 10 tonnes of newspaper a day to landfill?

As anyone living in London knows, it's only people like me these days that buy daily newspapers. Most people make do with the daily free sheets of which there are now three. The Metro (in the morning) and the London Lite and the London Paper in the evening.

As you can imagine these cause quite a lot of rubbish in the Tube and buses as people have a tendancy to leave them for the next person to read. According to TfL and the Mayor, the total weight of newspaper left on the Tube alone each week day is between ten and twelve tonnes.

What happens to all this paper is a little bit of a mystery. Obviously you'd expect, given the Mayor's "imppecable" green credentials it would all be collected and recycled, but I called TfL and asked and was told by a rather timid lady that the "majority of it gets binned".

This does seem likely though as another person I spoke to said that the cleaning contractors simply litter pick the trains at each end of the line, and then bin the bags when they're full. TfL/LUL's distribution services then pick up the bins from stations, and, to this person's knowledge, do not separate rubbish but instead send it straight to land fill.

Should anyone be wondering what happens on the buses, the Mayor doesn't know as it's up to the companies that run them. So much for Livingstone's "green" strategy. I wonder if TfL would get fined for not recylcing like ordinary people might?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gerry Adams and his friend Charles Kennedy

Honestly, I swear they're buddies. I found Ming Campbell's MySpace site, and Charles Kennedy is one of his friends, and according to Charles' MySpace, Gerry Adams is his friend. Meanwhile, John McDonnell lists Gordon Brown as his friend.

To be honest though I'm not sure whether it's sadder that someone has spent the time setting all these up, or that so many people leave comments on them seemingly in the belief that they are genuine. My personal favourite is on the Ming page which says,

hey mr campbell
its a real honour 2 giv u your 1st comment
u may nt realise, but we actually ave a bit in common
fellow lib dems
both athletic
both very into politics
u- current leader
me- 6th form commitee in skewl, applyin 4 politics at uni
and hopin 2 b an mp, and mayb lib dem leader and then pm 1 day
tlk 2 me some time bout politics
bradz
I fully understand why people drop letter to do SMS on phones, but is it really necessary when you have entire keyboard in front you?

What should Guido do when he's in jail?

According to the Telegraph, Guido has been threatened with jail unless he hands over his papers and information to the Charity Commission about the Smith Institute.

Now, given that bloggers like Guido (when he's not just doing gossipy innuendo) is like an investigative journalist who chooses the blog as his medium for publishing, should they (in general, not just Guido) be threatened with jail if they do not reveal their sources?

I expect Guido's the type of person who would probably go to jail just for the fun of it anyway, so I'm asking the question, what should Guido do when he is in jail? Perhaps a dirty protest that "staines" the wall whilst simultaneously demanding to speak to Mo Mowlam and Mo Mowlam only?

Any other ideas welcome.
Hat Tip: Theo Spark

Labour causes lung cancer

Ok, clearly a joke title, but in my post this morning where I mentioned the problem of mistaking correlation for cause, someone added the following comment

"When studying statistics in the 70s one of the best examples cited was the strong correlation in the increase in lung cancer and the rise in membership of the Labour Party, a good reminder that correlation between two sets of data does not prove that one causes the other."
For some reason I was reminded of this.

World Civilisation or Clash of Civilisation?

Douglas Murray is one hell of a powerful speaker.

You can also watch the rest of this London taxpayer funded event which was held behind closed door here. Another victory the digital media age?

This report is wrong but it's right?

As much as I want to fisk Steve Richards' article in this morning's Independent I can't bring myself to do it fully, lest I become seen as a sad obsessive blogger with a one track mind. I realise that's fashionable these days, but I don't like following trends. Given this I just want to point to two quotes that struck me as interesting instead. Firstly, the opening paragraph of his column which said,

"The much-trumpeted Unicef report on child welfare is an unreliable guide. There are too many sweeping assertions based on tendentious evidence. Even the authors admit they are still learning the most effective ways of compiling evidence. Yet in placing Britain bottom of the international league, it manages still to strike a chord. The authors are the equivalent of novice detectives that stumble on to something big."
Alternatively this could be read as, "I know that bleach is dangerous. I know that drinking it will kill me. I've never drunk it before though so I shall try it anyway". The second quote
"In its distinctive way the report has echoes with Oliver James's best-seller Affluenza. James identifies the insatiable hunger for material well-being in Britain as a cause for clinical depression."
Wrong. Affluenza finds a correlation between clincal depression and desire for material well-being. Correlation is not cause. You could equally find a correlation between masturbation in 12 year old boys and the migration pattern of swans. It does not therefore follow that if swans stop migrating that 12 year old boys will stop getting their rocks off.

Should MPs be encouraged to car share?

So the news rolls on about MPs travel expenses. As I understand, one of the biggest problems is that MPs are given credit cards to use to purchase things like rail tickets. They used to be given books I think. The rules are such that they use this card to purchase a ticket at the face price of the ticket.

It all sounds perfectly reasonable until you think of where the real problem lies. As all us ordinary, non-ivory towered proles know, if you have to do a long journey on a train the state of the railways means that you should buy a ticket in advance as much as is possible. This will save you masses of money compared to just turning up on the day and sticking your credit card in the machine.

So, do we think MPs do that? After all, they have a fixed working week, and it's timetabled with plenty of time in advance. The vast majority of them could, quite easily, buy advance tickets and save the taxpayer a few quid. Sadly, the reality doesn't work like that. As one former researcher said to me, "MPs try to get home early all the time, if they get a sniff there's no votes on Thursday they'll all fuck off at 6pm on Wednesday", and herein lies the problem.

If you're always itching to get home early, and you don't know if and when that might happen, why would you buy a ticket in advance and bind yourself to staying in London an extra day? Easier to just chuck the magic plastic in, type in your PIN, and not worry about it. After all, it's not really your money you're spending.

This leads me on nicely to car sharing by MPs where possible, and I want to use two MPs as an example who I believe still share an office, Mark Tami, and 'propa blogga' Tom Watson. Now, last year, Watson spent £5,077 on rail and £1,914 on mileage. At the same time, his close colleague and office buddy, Mark Tami, spent £7,589 on mileage and £1,310 on rail.

Tami represents the Welsh constituency of Alyn and Deeside, whilst Watson represents West Bromwich East, you can get to Watson's on the way to Tami's. So should they be expected to car share? OK, there will be times when it's not feasible but wherever possible would it not make sense?

I should stress that I'm not attacking either Tami or Watson on this point (although I was surprised that the year before Tami claimed over £12K for mileage), they just happen to be two MPs that I know share an office (or at least did) and who have geographically close constituencies, and appear, in terms of their claims, to travel by different modes of transport. They're a perfect case study for the question, should MPs be encouraged to car share?
Travel expenses sourced from here.


 

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