Sunday, September 30, 2007

These bottles are a little small

Amusing tale from the Young Britains Foundation drinks reception. Apparently during the planning phase they found some competitively priced wine. Having ordered 60 bottles they arrived and the box was, shall we say, small. Turned out the reason it was so cheap was that it as miniture bottles.

EXCLUSIVE: Dale to leave politics to become Blackpool hotelier?

Currently they have a shortage of the letter "I" in the sign shops in Lancashire. Could this development be an indication that we're all coming back to Blackpool next year too?

'Fast track' accreditation that is slow

I am slightly apoplectic now as I finally have a pass. I also heard a shocking tale of a woman who arrived at 8.30 this morning, paid £105 for 'fast track' accreditation and got the pass at 12:00. Lord knows how long you have to wait if you pay the standard rate.

I will update with other stuff later.

Abolishing stamp duty

Now I have to say that the idea of raising the stamp duty threshold to £250K is going to appeal to a lot of voters, especially in the south. The question is will it appeal north of Watford where the average house prices are significantly lower and we need votes? The raising of the threshold will effectively abolish the tax for the vast majority of people which is always appealing when you're buying the single biggest purchase of your life.

I'm wondering though what the Labour response to this will be though. The duty on house purchases cannot be a stable figure as it moves with the market so it won't be that easy to find a figure and then imply a cut to health serives, for example, as a result. Actually, in this 'new politics' world we keep being told we're in Brown will probably just nick the idea if it looks like it is hugely popular. That will of course be after he has rubbished it first though, because that is how it works now.

Brown really does want to listen

As I am writing this using my phone you can't have links, but the front page of this morning's Mail on Sunday doesn't make pleasant reading from an information surveillance point of view. Apparently the Government is about to authorise powers to inspect all land and mobile phone records right down to local authority level. How liberal! Now we know what Brown meant when he said he wanted to listen to the British people.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

No pass yet

Isn't Blackpool wonderful? Well not if the people issuing passes lose your photo and also lose the spare you sent in case they lost the first (which you happened to send them two months ago). Add to this the 'We just issue the passes, write to the party chairman to complain' attitude and Dizzy becomes angry. So much so that as I left the church I sounded like the Devil's Kitchen. Time for a Stella now.

Update: Someone suggested in the comments that I do a 'don't you know who I am' moment........ tomorrow. I will sit down in the church and blog it and then take Communion to beg forgiveness.

Saturday Observation

Gordon Brown praises Margaret Thatcher and invites her to Downing Street. No comments from Labour ministers.

George Osbourne praises Thatcher in the Spectator, and Labour minister John Hutton says it shows a "retreat to the right" and that the Tories remain "unchanged".

How does that work then?

To all those who voted for me

Well what can I say but thanks to all the people who voted for me in what became the Top 500 political blogs. Yes, at the end of the day it's just a list, but to come third behind Iain and Guido is pretty amazing.

Thanks.

Oh look another couple of polls

There are two polls out this morning in the Telegraph and Times that look horrible for the Conservative Party and brilliant for Labour. As I said earlier in the week, this is the conference bounce, obviously compounded slightly with a Brown bounce.

I would be extremely surprised if the gap doesn't narrow significantly after next Wednesday, much as I would have been extremely surprised if the gap had not widened this week. It's pointless doing polling in conference season really. You're average ordinary doesn't really do politics, so they're far more likely to answer based on the last person they can remember seeing that they didn't feel the urge to vomit at instantly.

In my view the next election will be a funny one. There is no doubt Brown has energised the Labour base. In some respects though I think this will mean that the Labour vote will go up in the places where it is going to win anyway.

The boundary changes and marginals will not follow quite such uniformity and I imagine that we may see a reversal of the last election in the sense that Labour's share of the total vote increases whilst their share of the seats decreases. I could be wrong of course.

Friday, September 28, 2007

BBC TV journalist has Naughtie moment?

The following video from the Labour Conference by the BBC has been posted on YouTube because the person being interviewed in it called Margaret Thatcher a "bitch". Personally I thought the words of the interviewer at the end were more interesting.

"Agreement on an issue, housing, something that is certainly coming through on the focus groups, something Gordon Brown is promising to do and the more we can do... the more we can hear on that the better."

Was that an expression of personal opinion there by a BBC journalist who quickly recovered from a Jim Naughtie "when we win" moment? Surely not?

The power of Internet fundraising?

No one really cares about Ron Paul in the Republican nomination race. When I say they don't care, in the UK at least he is a non-entity and unlikely to win the nomination so often gets ignored. That said, earlier this week he said on his website that he wanted to raise $500,000 by the end of the month.

In three days of online donations the target was hit and he has currently raised $648,000 and has now changed his target to $1 million. Whether you agree with his small government politics or not, that is an absolutely amazing amount of money to have raised in less than a week online.

Hat Tip: Crossed Pond

The Little Chipmunk's secret forums?

Remember my posts about Hazel Blears' Department of Communities and Local Government website having relaunched with forums and blogs? It should come as no surprise that the place is Tumbleweed Central.

It boasts that it has 3,771 users who have contributed to 47 threads and 79 posts, which suggests it has a serious lurker membership. Mind you, if you look a little closer it becomes apparent that (at the time of writing) it actually only has 17 threads, with 39 posts.

So where are the other 8 threads and 50 posts. They couldn't be in the secret forums here and here could they? Sneaky huh? I bet they're either full of civil servants wondering why no one wants to discuss "New-look Local Government Pension Schemes", or Government employed webdevs laughing about what a pointless exercise it all was.

Government screws Thames Water customers for £12.5m

The BBC has just published an interesting bit of "Breaking News" saying "Ofwat to fine Thames Water £12m". The report says

Thames Water is facing a fine of more than £12m for "inadequate" reporting and customer service. Water services watchdog Ofwat said it was fining the firm £11.1m for failing to provide "robust information". A further £1.4m penalty is being imposed as poor processes and systems meant users received poor service and missed payments they were entitled to. Thames has pledged to challenge the fine saying it will divert money from repairs, meaning customers lose out.
Why would Thames Water say such a thing you may wonder? Well that would be, as Croydonian has pointed out and the BBC hasn't, the Notes to Editor in the press release from Ofwat states,
"Penalties are paid into the Consolidated Fund and are not returned to customers".
That would be this Consolidated Fund which is basically the Government's bank account and can be spent on whatever it wants. As Croydonian points out,
"Having been wronged by Thames Water, instead of compensation being made to the users, the entire tax payer base gets a minor benefit by way of the State having 12.5 very large to play around with which it will not have to find elsewhere."
Can't say I disagree. Basically we the customers of Thames Water have just been screwed by the Government as the company that has given us poor service has had a massive sum of money taken away from it that it could have spent on improving service, and we're all supposed to be happy about this?

Update: Just to be clear, I'm not saying Thames Water don't deserve to be chastised. But any fine should be paid back into improving service, not swallowed up to fill the Government's financial black holes.

Free the Wookie!

Friday is here!

Is the 'vast right-wing conspiracy' back?

What an hilarious over-reaction there has been by the Labour Party to the research by Danny Finkelstein at the Times about the Bob Shrum similarities in Gordon Brown's speech. Initially they just rubbished it, and then Andy Burnham decided it was actually part of an 'insidious smear' campaign by the Times which has apparently become an arm of the Tory Party.

The last point stems from The Fink's previous job as scriptwriter for William Hague, which apparently invalidates his analysis. You have to love the way supposedly intelligent people roll out these weak play the man and not the ball arguments don't you? It's a bit like me saying that if the Fink criticises Cameron it's nonsense because he used to be in the SDP. As Blair once said in Opposition. 'Weak, weak, weak'.

The fact is Brown's speech was littered with lifted phrases from past clients of Shrum. It's a mild embarassment, that is all. Reacting like a cornered animal and lashing out a paper that has been largely supportive of you for ten years saying it's involved in some sort of anti-Brown conspiracy tells us far more about the personal insecurities of Brown than the amusing, but largely meaningless plageurism ever could.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

More evidence of why the Internet is great

If you havn't seen the mental student shouting about conspiracy theories to John Kerry and then getting tasered don't bother. It's boring. This version of the incident is funnier.

Hat Tip: Play Political

What an inspirational leader!

I bet if you were a Lib Dem this video would really make you think "YEAH! LET'S DO IT!"

Is he on valium?

Could it be Mercer and/or Bercow?

There have been rumours circulating from Blackpool that there may in fact be two defectors coming this weekend designed to overshadow the start of the Tory Conference. Well I did ponder if it could happen again. We already know that Patrick Mercer is not going to Blackpool (or at least his office said he wasn't). Now Adam Boulton's blog has revealed that John Bercow, the MP for Buckingham, isn't attending the seaside resort either. One shouldn't draw conclusions from ether of these things of course. But it's interesting that two MPs that have taken Brown's 30 pieces of silver are both not attending their own party's conference.

The question for me is this though. If anyone were to defect what could they have been offered? After all, there is no way in the world that someone could hold a seat in, for example, Buckingham given the majority. So if they jumped ship this weekend, and Brown did call an election next week, they would basically be kissing goodbye to the Commons. I guess they could, if it happened, be offered the House of Lords maybe? But is that likely?

Anyway, this is all wild speculation of course. But it occurs to me that if you're going to defect then you're probably going to be mindful about your seat and whether you can hold it, and this would apply either way. If someone in the Labour Party with a 18,000 majority jumped ship to the Tories they're not likely to overturn that majority unless they're Jesus himself with the local electorate - and even then I wouldn't bet on it.

Update: An anonymous commenter has said that this post is rubbish. I did actually concede that one shouldn't draw conclusions. But I have been wondering this morning what sort of thinking one would have if one did choose to defect. It seems to me that you're only likely to do it if (a) you have some guarantees for your political career, or (b) you're in a marginal where the chance of holding the seat when representing the other side is not out of the realm of possibility.

Illegal immigrants in lorries

We all know the tales about how illegal immigrants sneak into the UK in the back of a lorry. How novel it is therefore that Liam Byrne has announced the following:

The fight against illegal immigration took another step forward today with the launch of a purpose-built lorry to detain illegal immigrants in Poole.
Errrr.... I'm a bit lost for words. It's beyond satire, it really it is. Actually, it's not just beyond it, it's run up the road, around the corner, and is pelting away up the M1 like a Porsche doing 177mph. There must surely have been chuckling amongst wonks when they came up withthe idea, no?

Coffee House redesign!

Thanks to [insert chosen deity here], the Spectator Coffee House blog has had a makeover. The very best thing about is that they're moved that irritating expanding flash advert for Mercedes to the top of the pager instead of along the side.


This may not bother some people, but that ad, and this happens at Ben brogan's too, really does not behave well in Firefox for Linux. Whilst it doesn't expand, the space in which it expanded into has a layered white space anyway. This meant that I couldn't read some of the text in posts without loading a different browser.

It's the little things that please geeks like me. Having said this, should you decides to buy the 2007 Guide to Political Blogging you will find an article in there by me that praises the Coffee House blog and suggests that it has the potential to become as big a hit online as Salon and The Corner have no become in the US.

Geography lessons may be needed methinks

How bizarre, the Labour blogger Mike Ion appears to agree with the assertion that, "At their best, the Tories were a party for the Home Counties. Now they can't even properly claim that constituency".

Shurely shome mishtake?

Note: In fairness to Mike he is (a) a northerner, and (b) a Manchester United fan (I think) and the total letter was really making a clever football Chelsea metaphor. Of course the latter team won last night, whilst the former lost...... to Coventry, hahahahahaha.

Tory Radio redesign

I meant to post about this yesterday, but forgot. Jonathan Shepard's Tory Radio has had a total makeover and has come rocketing forward in the multimedia stakes from it's original style of "click and download" podcasting.

It now has embedded players which will be good news to many people who would prefer not to have download large files. They also have a new longer list of columnnists and have some interviewed lined up for the conference.

Labour triangulate on law and order

Spin is dead, remember? Funny therefore that this morning's Indy carries a fall trailing of Jack Straw's speech today that claims he will propose a 'Tony Martin Bill' to protect 'have a go heroes'. I'm willing to bet such changes in the self-defence laws will not come about. It's all part of a triangulation stratgey for an election whenever that may be.

Would you defect to be a spy?

What with all this further talk of Tory defections to Brown I got wondering last night about whether anyone has ever 'defected', but really been a sleeper agent for the side they left with a handler and all that jazz?

It seems to me that if you were willing to do it you'd have to accept losing friends and the lik, but let's say you were old, were planning to step down, and no longer happy with life on the back benches. Power, especially secret power, is a strong aphrodisiac aftert all.

The idea of being a spy, and a double agent at that, would surely be appealing in the twilight of a political career wouldn't it? Would you do it?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Hand of Shrum

BIt late off the mark with this one, I see Guido and Ben Brogan have already linked to it, I've been playing with my new phone all evening though you see. If you get a chance though you should really read this posting by Danny Finkelstein.

He has spotted some remarkable similarities between Gordon Brown's speech and many others that have been penned by the American Democrat favourite, Bob Shrum. Basically Brown's speech was textbook Shrum from start to finish, and echoes so many previous speeches penned by the man himself.

Is it racial profiling?

Ethnic breakdown of the little over 32,000 anti-terrorism stop and searches in London in the past 12 months.

17,348 - White (54%)
6,755 - Asian (21%)
4,287 - Black (13%)
1,806 - Other (5.5%)
2,199 - Not recorded (6.5%)
The current population of London is approximately 7,500,000 and the Asian community represents somewhere around 13-14% of the total population. It's also growing quite rapidly whilst the white community is decreasing according to Hindu Council.

When you allow for statistical anomolies, population growth, random stop and searches compared to specific reasonable suspicion based one, the idea that this is all about racial profiling seems to me to be a little out of perspective. No?

Descoping the Manifesto

Whenever an election comes, there will be a manifesto required. Of course, normal people don't read manifestos, and if you ever hear a politician tell you otherwise they're lying. The only people manifesto's get read by are, either political undergraduate when doing an essay, political obsessive, political blogger (now) and political journalists. In a world of pithy PR it must short, snappy, and express ideas in simply ways.

I shall never forget comparing the Tory and Labour manifestos in 1997. The former was dense whilst the latter was slick and simple. Whilst your average geezer on the street won’t have batted an eyelid at them, the Labour one's singular advantage over the Tory one was that it didn't need much translation in the media. The media class wrote it for the media, and in many cases it could be easily reproduced verbatim as newspaper copy.

We've been told that Ed Miliband is involved with writing the Labour one this time round, whilst Oliver Letwin is writing the Tory one. Both wonks of course, so both could be highly dangerous moves, especially when you consider Letwin's last outing went a bit overboard on the academic rhetoric with his "shift from an econocentric paradigm to a sociocentric paradigm." We can only hope he doesn’t go that way again.

Add into that mix the older head bangers on the Tory Right (can someone tell me when they will die please?) and you have the potential recipe for disaster when it comes to the Tory manifesto. If it isn't "purist" enough they'll all start choking on their Ovaltine and might forget to take their pre-bedtime meds (this could be a good thing actually). Perceived to be too "purist" and we'll have "cave in to the nasty party", it's all so predictable really.

So what to do? Well if I were advising Cameron or Letwin (which of course would never happen) I'd be making the case for using some project management principles when drawing up the manifesto. Separate out your policies into four groups: must haves; should haves; could haves; and would haves. Then descope everything accept the first one and half groups.

Labour's success in 1997 was not merely the Tory collapse. They realised that much of what they could or would want to do was "out of scope" and when something is out of scope you don't even think about it. You remain fixed on what's in scope and don't let yourself be distracted from that roadmap.

It’s a cliché to say that you under-promise and over-deliver but it’s true. Sadly the head bangers of old don’t seem to get that anymore.

"You're being stabbed? Please hold whilst I check the manual"

Yesterday, Alan Johnson announced that there was going to be £97m funding to help tackle violence and abuse against NHS staff. Apparently "lone NHS workers" will be given devices that "will help locate users and link to a trained individual, who can summon help if needed." There will also be money spent on "training in personal safety, conflict resolution and dealing with verbal abuse for all NHS staff who need it."

Clearly this is an emotive subject, someone who is physically attacked - whether an NHS worker or not - should clearly be protected by the law. But I find myself wondering about the practicalities of this specific spending for some reason, although I readily admit I'm probably being shamelessly cynical.

For a start, what is a "lone NHS worker"? My guess is this is probably going to be a health visitor, a district nurse looking after the elderly, maybe a lone paramedic? What use is a special alarm presumably with GPS going to be for one of these people if they are in the middle of the Cumbrian pikes or the middle of the countryside in general?

Even if they're in a city the response time for an emergency is likely to be so long it's too late. This is especially the case if you first have to raise the alarm, go through to a call centre, which then decides whether you're being beaten up enough to warrant attention. And then there's this "abuse" angle.

What constitutes abuse that deserves to have attention? Will there be a list of swear words that define whether or not the abuse is strong enough? "Oh I'm sorry, she only called you a cow. If you could perhaps provoke her into calling you a twat then we can send SO19 around straight away to take the granny down." You get my drift.

Obviously that won't happen though because they're going to be taught "personal safety", which I guess will be either "run like you're being chased by a tiger" or "Welcome to to the DoJO". Having said that, wouldn't both those things go against the training in "conflict resolution", which, rumour has it, will be carried out by Liverpuddlian's with perms telling people to "calm down".

Yes, yes, such large sums of money being spent on protecting NHS staff from violence and naughty words sounds laudable, but I simply can't see how it will stop it happening. Most of the lone NHS staff will have a mobile phone anyway, or maybe even a radio. If they press the "alarm" it's going to be for a serious emergency that will be dealt with after the fact in most cases anyway.

It's a terribly morbid thing to say, but I always remember a graphic novel by Raymond Briggs about nuclear war called "When the Wind Blows". The elderly couple in it follow the Government's advice and climb into two poatato sacks each (bottom and top half) not realising they're actually make-shift body bags. Spending money on a trackable alarm won't stop the violence, it will just tell them where to find the body - assuming they press it in time.

The Listening Prime Minister?

Abuse of political power?
Image hotlinked from Guido

The impact of television expsure should not under-estimated

Now some people might read this post and say "well you would agree with it, you're a Tory" but Danny Finkelstein over at Comment Central has done an excellent commentary piece on the election fever that is sweeping the political obssessives of the nations.

It's the second to last paragraph, and the last sentence in particular that caught my eye though.

Of course, the Tories present a tempting target. It’s very hard to see them winning a majority in an autumn. But is it so hard to see them depriving Labour of its majority? There are serious contradictions in the Tory strategy. Perhaps even insoluble ones. A short dash to the polls might allow Mr Cameron to go to the country without even trying to resolve them. Anyone who can’t conceive of Mr Cameron appealing to undecided voters in a burst of television exposure is demonstrating a failure of imagination.
He's spot on here I think. Sure, if there was a an election within minutes of announcing it Brown would have the upper-hand. But it would be dangerous for anyone to under-estimate the power that a campaign, with its blanket coverage, can gain any politician.

Brown attends a "gay disco"

Apparently, Gordon Brown attended a "gay disco" last night hosted by Stonewall at the Labour Conference. Now, personally, as someone who dislikes identity politics with a passion, I just call it a "disco" because what the attendees choose to do with their genitalia really has got bugger all to do with who they are if you excuse the pun.

However, what I thought was interesting was the comment on LabourHome which asked the question "Another attempt to blur out his poor voting record?". They were of course referring to this Pink News investigation which noted that Brown has never attened Parliament for votes on gay rights since Labour was in power.

Something tells me that this probably won't really be a problem for Brown. What might be a problem though is this rather 1980s assumption by many on the Left that it is the somehow the natural home for gay people.

Cruddas fears becoming the chipmunk

"Quote of the Day" contender I think from Jon Cruddas on his Spectator Conference Diary. Commenting on being pn a panel at a fringer meeting he says,

In the end I sounded like a GB cheerleader, at one stage I think I even said ‘another year of outstanding achievement’. I fear I am turning into Hazel Blears.
What a horrible thought!

Indy snobbery shines through

I've not had a pop at the Independent for a while so I was rather pleased when I read this on the bus. Apparently a draft of George Bush's speech was accidentally sent out and it had phonetic aides on pronouncing foreign names in it. I know, it's a scandal isn't it? The man is so thick he can't pronounce Aung San Suu Kyi without an aide! And yes I'm being sarcastic.

Seriously though, of course this a funny story because of the cock-up. And yes, it's sort of diary story'ish and made all the better by the fact that Bush's pronunciation of words, what with his Texan accent, help feed into the meme that he is somehow not actually very bright.

But really what got me mildly annoyed was the way the whole thing is portrayed as a serious news story, but is actually a "lets all laugh at the funny sounding yank who can't read like us clever people" story. It's utter snobbery of the highest order, and it's made all the more irritating by this bit.

While prompts were provided for Kyrgyzstan [KEY-geez-stan] and Mauritania [moor-EH-tain-ee-a], he was offered no such help with Sierra Leone or with Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader in Burma. He made two runs at the latter and mangled the former, seemingly renaming it Syria Leone. (A member of his axis of evil, surely.)
See the bit in brackets at the end? And Simon Kelner wonders why Blair called his publication a viewspaper not a newspaper? Jesus wept. It's like a sarky Ed comment in Private Eye added into the text of a full page story in the International News section. It's utterly pathetic and not serious paper of record journalism.

Also just think about this for a second. Put a Texan accent in your head, and then say "Sierra" to yourself with it. It's actually perfectly reasonable that spoken at pace it could come out sounding like "Syria". I'm willing to bet as well that early drafts of speeches by many world leaders have phonetic aides in them as well - of coruse, in those cases it would probably be perefctly alright, but if you're Bush it's proof that you're a bit of dummy.

Can they get to 15 or 22?

Well I did say on Monday that the election speculation calender was sliding about didn't I? A quick glance in this morning's Times and we learn from Peter Riddell that it could be the 8th November now. How many more weeks can be added before it becomes too much?

Opinion on YouGov Poll

So Labour have an 11 point lead in today YouGov poll. YOu can read my opinion on this here and here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Prezza in second jabbing incident?

Conference is always full of gossip, and the hacks will always be looking for a scoop of course. They were doing it last week, they're doing it this week, and no doubt they will be doing it next week too.As it happens I've just heard a rather amusing bit myself.

Apparently Cathy Newman from Channel 4 News learned that Johns' Prescott and Reid might have been paid to do BBC interviews in contravention of BBC guidelines - serious stuff if true given the Blue Peter cat incident and other assorted scandals the corporation have faced recently.

When she went to ask Prescott about it, he's said to have jabbed his finger at her (not fist), called her a silly girl, and then put his hand over the camera that was with her. I guess that John is still John?

A quick note of thanks...

Thanks to the judges who scored me highly enough to make me second in Iain's "Guide to Blogging 2007: Top 100 Right of Centre Blogs". I was judge in the category and I'm pretty sure I ignored myself, or I gave myself ten out ten for everything.

I can't remember as I have a memory like a sieve. Let's hope it was the former, but if it was the latter then it may be how I managed to beat Guido (and to think they say cheats never prosper! :-D )
N.B. I genuinely cannot remember if I scored myself or not.

Update: I have been reliably informed by someone (not Iain) that I may indeed have judged myself and scored myself as outstandingly brilliant. It was of course a fair reflection of myself.

Fastest Government U-Turn in History?

Alan Johnson is speaking to the Labour Conference as I type and has been talking about, following on from Gordon Brown's speech, the need to solve issue of uncleanliness. At the same time his department has issued a press release with the title:

Johnson crack down on cleanliness and infections
So err... a few minutes ago they were going to punish those that failed to clean hospitals adequately. Now they're going to "crack down" down on the cleaners for errr... cleaning well?

Surely this is a candidate for the "Fastest Government U-Turn in History"? Or perhaps the Dumb Press Officer of the Year award for not using 'UNcleanliness'? Amusing that a department which deals with the body has a problem where the arse appears not to know what the elbow is doing I think.

CampaignTV launched....

Am having toruble getting the video to screen capture, but basically it is currently showing documentaries about how great the Labour party is. Which I guess shouldn't be a surprise given it's tag line about progressive politics.

The page renders really slowly, the buffering of video takes forever, and the plugins they are using appear to primarily support Internet Explorer and if you're lucky Firefox under Windows.

Giuliani milks 9/11 a little bit more

Have just read this via this. The Yahoo! headline says it all really:

Giuliani party seeks $9.11 per person
Makes the auctioning of a signed copy of the Hutton Report look almost mild in the "milking it" stakes, huh?

Some soldiers' tax bills are worth more than others?

As revealed by Iain last night, the MoD has today announced that it considers some soldiers work more worthy of Council tax rebates than others. Defence Secretary Des Browne said,

"I am delighted to announce a further enhancement to the operational welfare package. Armed Forces personnel who pay Council tax and who deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan will be entitled to a tax free payment of 140. This payment is designed to offset around 25 per cent of their Council Tax payments whilst they are on operations. It underlines the Government's commitment to support our Armed Forces and their families.
How exactly giving only some actively deployed soldiers a rebate on their Council tax but others not shows the "Government's commitment to support our Armed Forces and their families" is beyond me.

Not the front page he would've wanted I imagine

The Sun

Monday, September 24, 2007

The New Messiah has spoken and will lay his hands on us all

Should anyone be wondering about the tune that the Lord Protector came in to the conference hall too, and exited too as well. It was Reef and called "Place Your Hands On". Not that he is at all messianic in his belief or anything like that. Here are the lyrics:

Oh place your hands, on my hope,
Run your fingers through my soul,
And the way that I feel right now,
Oh Lord it may go.
Put your hands on, put your hands on. (x4)
You know you cannot hide, from whats inside,
You know you cannot hide, from whats inside.
So I ask of you to help me through,
I ask of you this thing to do.
Put your hands on, put your hands on. (x2)
So lay me down, for a while,
Join my body with my mind,
And I cried at the common one,
For weeks aft he died.
Put your hands on, put your hands on. (x4)
And the way that we feel right now,
Oh Lord it may go.
Gordon is here to save us all you know. TESTIFY!

Britain, Britain, Britain, Britain, Britain

I've lost count of the number of Brtiain's in Brown's speech. Got to 26, and as Guido notes, only one mention of Scotland.

Update: Coppers are to get thousands of PDAs so they can log crimes online. Wonder how long it will be before someone cracks into that 3G stream - assuming they can get it too work first.

Update II: Triangulation from the Right which can be summed up as. "Tough on crime. Tough on the immigrant bastards that cause crime"

Update III: Apparently we're going to have super-powerful Matrons back in hospital to tackle MRSA. That soounds familar doesn't it? Almost sopunds like a 2005 Tory manifesto commitment.

Update IV: Just in case the Labour faithful didn't know when to stand up and clap he closes with thw words "I will always stand up for you" . Cue lots of people standing up, cheering, screaming like children, and Gordon looking shifty.


Harman: 'I don't know how to work Facebook'

You have to love a well placed microphone that can pick up things you maybe don't want people to hear. Currently the Labour Conference is presenting awards to local party organisations that have achieved electoral success. The awards are presented by Harriet Harman and they have a photocall.

One CLP that had successfully used, amongst other things, Facebook, won an award. As we know, Harriet Harman is not just a blogger, but has her own Facebook account too. A technologically savvy MP one might think... if only for the stray microphone that caught her saying to one of the award winners:

"Luke's been trying to get on my Facebook but I can't add him. I don't know how to work it"
I guess clicking the link in the email alert is just too much for her!

Dennis Skinner unimpressed by Quentin Davies

Quentin Davies has been speaking to the Labour Conference about how he is now this marvellous Labour MP who really just loves Labour and always has. He's just priased all the policies that he's argued against and/or voted against for years.

And just to make the point of the rank hypocrisy of his words the BBC constantly cut to the "Beast of Bolsover" Dennis Skinner who was either laughing his head off or shaking it at Davies words.

Wendy Alexander is errr...

How bizarre, I've just watched Wendy Alexander, the Scottish Labour leader address the Labour Conference, and apparently the Conservative Party is concerned with the "politics of envy" whilst simultaneously she accused the Tories of not caring about social justice and equality.

*scratches head*

Harman: Lies and contradiction

Interesting, Harriet Harman has just told the Labour Conference that the Conservative Party only has one non-white representative in the "whole of the Parliamentary Tory Party". Clearly she can't count as I can think of four off the top of my head, Adam Afriyie MP, Lord Sheikh, Lord Bagri and Sayeeda Warsi. Added to this, she also said that being Labour means that you "hate intolerance". Intolerance of intolerance... hmmmm.

Cruddas goes "off the reservation"

Isn't it odd? The Labour Party is apparently totally behind Gordon, and yet on the day of his big speech we have Jon Cruddas writing in the Independent challenging the Labour leadership on the matter of workers rights.

He's also given an interview to the Times where he "throws down challenge on party reform and immigration" and calls the Immigration minister Liam Byrne "immature". And he's also keeping a conference diary for the Spectator where he reports that a deal to quell disunity might be falling apart.

Could there be a fight brewing under the surface of the slick media management?

Have Labour launched a nifty bit of spyware?

The more observant of you that clicked on the screenshot in the last post may have noticed in the top right-hand corner a link that says "Download the labour toolbar".
Time to crack open a network analyser and see exactly what that little browser add-on is doing methinks!

Labour Party disowns Harriet Harman?

Lots of changes and web developments going on over at the Labour Party it seems. They have a special all-singing and dancing Conference website, and they also have something in beta called Labour Central which has, amongst other things, Harriet Harman's blog.

Amusingly when you click the link to go to the Deputy leader's blog directly you are preented with a message which says

"You are now leaving Labour Central. The Labour Party is neither responsible for, nor necessarily endorses the content of the Website to which you are going
Redirecting to: "http://blog.harrietharman.org/?p=73"
So let's get this straight, you have Harriet Harman's blog on Labour Central, but if you view it from her website directly then the same words of the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party are nothing to do with Labour Party? Hmmmmmm.

You need to practice what you preach Darling

Well I'll give the Labour Party their due. They're really going for it with video content on their YouTube channel from the Conference. I particularly enjoyed this interview with Alistair Darling. Fast forward just 2 minutes in and listen to him say,

"Stopping this practice where people can put risky investment off-balance sheet and nobody sees them, and then when things go wrong it causes a problem"
Does this mean PFI is going to go on-balance sheet?...... Didn't think so.

The ever-sliding electoral calander

Having read the papers this morning, and briefly glancing at the BBC last night, I'm even more convinced that the election speculation is just part of a pretty transparent strategy to keep everyone guessing as long as possible and make CCHQ panic (which is working it seems).

Just look at the moving dates. First it was speculation - that I was part of - that it would be very early October. I now think the source of those rumours was actually a bt of Labour disinformation. Then the date moved to the end of October, and now the date being floated is November 1st.

My ever-so cynical head can't help but think as the Tory Conference closes there will be a rumour that it will be November 8th or 15th. I could be wrong of course.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

SilverfishTV to launch '18 Doughty Street' for the Left?

Oh how I laughed when I discovered this rather pathetic attempt to hide CampaignTV.org by Silverfish TV, the Labour Party's favourite production company. On Thursday I posted a screenshot (below) and pondered whether this was going to be part of an election campaign, or just Labour's next attempt at pushing itself on the web.

Shoot forward to today though and when you hit the site you are presented with something slightly different that looks like this.
So that's that then. Nothing to do with Labour at all, and I'm sure not a reaction to my original post about the site. But wait, did something flash up before that final page appeared? It did didn't it? It couldn't possibly be this could it?
A picture speaks a thousand words now doesn't it? Using a redirect and a frameset to try and hide it did make me laugh though. Looks very much like 18 Doughty Street will have a competitor very soon doesn't it? The Online Political Media War it cometh!

Update:

Cash for consultations?

Still half-asleep really, but not so tired that I can't be in shock after reading this via this, the long and short of it is this. An NHS consultation on closing hospitals took place in a loaded room, where the non-medical attendees (i.e. ordinary folk) always voted in favour of Government policy.

At the end of the day, the medical staff were asked to leave, and then all the oridnary folk were allegedly given an envelope with £75 in cash in it. Now some might say that's bribery but I don't. I reckon it's a pay rate for Labour Party members (well above minimum wage I note).

Now some might brush this aside, however, assuming it is true, the consultation was attended by the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, and the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. That's the leader of the DoH and the leader of the country at an consultation where cash was surreptiously handed out to those that attended and voted the right way.

That is mine, and your money being used to pay stooges to spend a day creating the false impression that there is support for controversial policies, and the Prime Minister himself is at the events. It sounds like something out of the Soviet Union.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Political memories

It's funny, but the "first political memory" thing has sprung up again, and this time I have been tagged by Iain to spill the beans. I'll be honest, I have to define this question in two ways, I have "political memories" which are of events, and then I have what I consider "politically conscious" memories which are slightly different.

I was born in 1975, so my earliest memories will inevitably be from the 1980s. I don't remember Thatcher winning power, but bizarrely I do remember my Dad picking Argentina in his work sweep stake in 1978 and winning. Speaking of Argentina, I guess one of the first things I remember, in the "events" section, would be the Falklands War, and Thatcher in the amphibious landing craft. I can also remember Brezhnev dying in 1982 and then Andropov following him not long after.

When it comes to politically conscious memories though my first would have to be the Wall coming down. I can remember watching it happen on the TV in my lounge. However, my most vivid political memory is 1991. I was in Budapest when the coup against Gorbachev occurred. The sense of awareness, anticipation and genuine fear of the family I was staying with (and their friends) about how the events in Moscow might impact on their lives once more left a mark on me.

Election fever and "Brown Tories"? It's all nonsense

Well you've really got to laugh at this haven't you? According to Brown's chum Paul Dacre's newspaper, the Labour Party is saying they have identified a new voter called "Brown Tories". These are apparently Tories that have great admiration for Thatcher but believe Brown rather than Cameron can "match her steadiness under fire" so they will vote for him instead.

Besides the fact that ZERO evidence has been produced to show this new class of voter, the idea that Thatcher fans will vote for Brown is bloody absurd. I'm not saying that they will, necessarily, vote for Cameron, but there is no way in the world that a Thatcherite is going to vote for a centralising, high tax, high spending socialist like Brown.

This is all just part of election fever that is being stoked by Brown in order to keep CCHQ frightened. By all accounts it's working too. Uulike Iain I don't think there will be an election in October. The EU diary commitments make it very unlikely for a start, plus the fact the Labour Party have not managed to get their media monitoring units in place.

Right now the strategy is just to unhinge the Tory Party and make them panic in light of the polls not going their way.

Alicia Silverstone launches PETA campaign.... naked

The following is a new ad by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) trying to encourage people to become vegetarians. You have to hand it to them really, find a celebrity member who is attractive, say Alicia Silverstone, get her to strip off, film her, and hope that convinces people to eat more chickpeas and soya.

Nope, didn't convince me either. Enjoyed watching it greatly though. Now, if only PETA could get Liv Tyler in there at the same time?

Note: PETA are mental. They don't seem to be quite so mental in the UK (yet).

Brown codifies "jobs for the boys"

Well Gordon Brown did say he was all about "change", so I guess the news that he has weakened the Ministerial Code to allow ministers to also hold directorships should really come as no surprise. Digby Jones, or should I say Lord Jones, appears to still be holding multiple directorships whilst also Minister for Trade. So much for restoring trust in politics.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Appeal: Stop the pun-writing sweat shops

They updated LabourVision!

Blimey, Ed Balls is on a video update to LabourVision (it's only taken two monthes to update). Apparently, in the video Ed Balls is answering "you questions". I'm not sure where these questions are, where they came from, but apparently they had over 100 comments!! (if you listen carefully it sounds like he wants to say thousands but then stops himself)

Be warned, it's nearly 15 minutes long. If anyone can get past the first 3 minutes can you let me know. I couldn't take it.

One slight observation though. Is it just me, or does it sound like Ed Balls is talking down to us in a infantile way? It's something about his tone.

Mini-Dale launches blog

For the past week or so some people might have noticed that iain Dale has had a stand-in on his blog. Well the stand-in, Shane Greer, has now launched his own blog at shanegreer.com. Expect heavy sarcasm and lots of kindly posts about Ming Campbell who he loves.

* Please note, the title of this post is a joke.

Reality Check

Have just spotted this interesting quote

"Ming can breath a sigh of relief. Its not just the Lib Dem conference delegates and blogosphere which have lauded his speech - even the media, which has delighted in reporting a conference taking place in an alternative parallel universe all week, has been forced to admit his speech was pretty damn good" - Stephen Tall Lib Dem Voice 20th Sep
Why is it interesting? Well just look at the cartoons from the four "quality" papers of the UK media this morning.
Guardian

Daily Telegraph

The Times

Independent
I see what Stephen means. The media were clearly overwhelmed with repsect and admiration for Ming Campbell as a result of his stormingly good speech!

Is a conference pass debacle coming?

The Tory MP Nadine Dorries has blogged about how her conference pass is being delayed because the local constabulary want to double check who she is. Interestingly, I spoke with Fingerprint Events this morning and was told that my pass was still going through security checks with Lancashire Police.

Fair enough - slightly worrying - but also confusing. You see, I registered online in July, printed out the form, got a photo done and then Fingerprint received them by mail on July 12th (so it's not like I registered at the last minute). The forms have been sitting in an In-Tray for two and a half months. What's more, my hard copies were sent in the same envelope as someone elses who received their pass two weeks ago!

I do have some news though for anyone wondering whether they will get their pass on time. Apparently, if you have registered for pre-accreditation then St Johns Church, opposite the Winter Gardens, will be open from this Tuesday for people to collect passes from.

Yes, that does seem crazily early, but I guess some people who are local to Blackpool might find it useful. I was also told the place would be open until 10pm most evenings. I'm not sure if the early opening is indicative of expected problems, or just precautionary because of the problems last year.

If Brown calls an election next week it could all be cancelled and then any ptoential embarassment might be averted!

Coventry to host Holocaust Denier and BNP?

Apparently the BNP are going to be hosting a speech with the 'historian' and Holocaust denier David Irving in Coventry. There is also a protest being organised for outside, would be good to see some cross-party support for it.

It's not "presumed consent'. It's "presumed ownership" and it's wrong

Who owns you? Do you own you? Are you the ultimate one that has ownership of your person, your being and your physical presence? There is one thing for sure in the news this morning, the Government doesn't think so. The Government thinks it owns your body. Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Health, has decided to make the question of registering everyone on the organ donor register unless they opt-out part of the health agenda. He's raise a "taskforce" to look at the question of what they like to call "presumed consent".

On past perforamnce it is fair to equally presume that the this "solution" to the lack of available organs for transplant is their stated position, however it is wholly disingenuous to call it "presumed consent". It is actually "presumed ownership". At its very core, a policy that automatically states that every man, woman and child in the country is available for harvest after death unless they specifically say otherwsie shift the the ownership presumption of our very physical presence on to the state.

"Ahhhh!" but the cries go up. "We need organs and this will solve the problem, and you can still opt-out". The argument against however is not a negation of the problem. It is simply putting the fact that whilst something must be done, this something is not something we must do. How about, instead of using donor cards which require a person to consciously make the decision to ask themselves the question about donating, we start asking the question to people more directly?

There is nothing to stop a doctor/hospital registration process asking the opt-in question. Whilst it may sound macabre to say "if you die do fancy giving your corneas away", it is certainly better than the state presuming ownership of people unless they state otherwise. After all, how can you presume that the person you take the organs from is someone that wasn't on their way to opt-out when the bus ran them over? Let's not beat around the bush here, the argument on this one is not about solving the problem of organ donation, it is far more deep than that.

This is about the fundamental relationship between individuals and the state, and the ultimate question of property rights. The reality that we own ourselves is evident in so much of our law already, a quick look at the fact that it is not illegal to take but merely illegal to possess them tells you this fact.

I own me. Not the Government. It has no place presuming ownership of my body from birth until I tell it otherwise. To do so is an affront not to my civil liberties, but liberty itself.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Russian billionaire takes down blogs

I don't particularly like Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads, and I think this is quite well known. He knows what I think of him I'm sure. In my view, I think he often take things along paths that lead to overly conspiratorial ends, especially on the matter of blogs and blogging.

However, he still has every right to say what the hell he wants online about me or anyone else. I am a NetLibertarian and this space we exist in is a free network of words, ideas and binary data. So I have absolutely no problem with saying that the news that the plug has been pulled on his site (nah the whole server it seems) because of what he wrote about a Russian/Uzbek billionaire, as well as the site of Craig Murray (former Uzbek ambassador) is not a very good day for freedom of speech.

It's worth noting, and I put my industry hat on here, that this will have happened with such speed because the provider in the UK can be held liable for the content it hosts, rather than just the author. The precedent was set some years ago with Usenet and Demon Internet if I recall correctly.

Whilst this does not make it right, it shouldn't be forgotten that the company will have been protecting itself by acting as it has with threats from laywers. They, as much as Tim et al, are the victims of legal pressure and restriction on free speech.

I imagine Tim will not be gone for very long though. A new host will be found somewhere, and his right to say what he wants, however right or wrong it may be, will be restored.

More details over at Chicken Yoghurt

Note: Boris Johnson and Bob Piper have both been impacted by this affront to free speech as well as they are hosted on the same server that has had the plug pulled.

UPDATE: I have just read the offending article that was reported to be defamatory. I am presuming that Tim Ireland reproduced it from Craig Murray's site, or that perhaps Craig Murray was the target and Tim Ireland found himself involved that way. Whether what is contained in it is factual or not is problematic though from a legal standpoint. As one person said to me, "I'd say a deaf, dumb, mute barrister would be able to deal with that."

Freedom of speech yes. But if you do libel someone in the process then you're going to have to deal with it. The annoyance with libel of course is that it is not a matter for the person libelled to prove a story is false, but rather the person that wrote it to prove it is true. The article I have read by Craig Murray actually appears to concede a lack of evidence whilst still making assertive statements about the said Russian billionaire. It doesn't look good from a legal standpoint even if what he wrote is actually true.

Update II: The precedent I mentioned earlier about content liability was "Dr Laurence Godfrey vs Demon Internet". It is very easy to note that the closure of a website so quickly can occur if you have good lawyers. But Fasthost's decision to act as it did should be viewed within the context of the legal precedent the market is currently operating under.

Are Silverfish and Labour preparing for the online election battle?

Back in August I noted how LabourVision, the Labour YouTube channel had seemed to fizzle out and had not been updated for some time. Quite a shame really, and surprising given that there seems to be a consensus of how the Internet will play ever greater roles in campaigning.

Speaking of which, does anyone remember Silverfish? The chummy with Labour production company that "speculatively" registered Gordon Brown leadership domains in advance of the non-existent contest, then said it was off their own back but did eventually find themsleves the owners of the domain that Gordon eventually used?

Well they've been registering things again (and building stuff this time as well). Now, whilst I have no idea whether they are actually linked to the Labour Party in this case, let's be honest, it's a fair presumption to think that something like CampaignTV.org might be something to do with politics. That's not to say it is you understand, merely that on past knowledge it would be unwise to dismiss it out of hand and say it isn't.

Looks good doesn't it? Lots of flashy stuff with video. Could this be Labour's next step on the web after the disaster that is LabourVision? Only Silverfish know of course, and I would expect a denial anyway.

More importantly, if it is some new project for Labour to present themselves on the Net, could its current state be indicative of a forthcoming election? Are we about to see "attack ads" in the UK from Labour to take advantage of the deregulated Internet?

One might ask, what's the point of password protection if you can view most of the site anyway? Well it's the video that is being protected, not the site itself. I wait with baited breath.

Is the world flat?

The one in the middle doesn't know!

Campbell concedes that Lib Dem vote is a protest vote

Ming Campbell is currently doing his speech to the Lib Dem Conference. He made a clever joke referring to Redwood as a Vulcan and presenting ideas from the "bridge of the Starship Free Enterprise", sadly the delivery was pathetically poor. Especially when he said "they're policies Dave, but not as we know it".

My favourite bit though was when he said that the Lib Dems must be the party for those that are alienated and don't have a voice. In other words, they must be the party of the protest vote. This is why they will never win a majority.

Lib Dem Conference Quote of the Day

Responding to Channel 4 News' Cathy Newman about Lib Dem education proposals Sarah Teather MP apparently said,

I'm just the Higher Education spokesperson. Nobody tells me anything."
Just honesty deserves to be praised!


Lib Dems accept donation from oil company

The Lib Dems, as many will know, love to be holier than thou. Thus when the scandal about their dodgy criminal donor broke it caused them huge embarrassment. This week in Brighton they have called for the hammering of non-domicile status residents of the UK, and railed against those that use offshore havens.

This morning their breath-taking hypocrisy has been laid bear in the Times which reports that one of their biggest single donors, Alpha Healthcare - the Jospeh Rowntree Foundation is the biggest should you be wondering - is actually a company controlled in the offshore tax-haven of the British Virgin Islands.

Of course it's not just on matters of tax that they play this hypocritical game. We already have their environment spokesman Chris Huhne owning shares in environmentally destructive mining companies after all. And yet, after a week in Brighton they persist in telling us how they are the true party of the environment. Why, they've even gone so far as to say they want to scrap petrol and diesel cars to tackle climate change.

What I'm having problems with is how this squares with a couple of pertinent point. First up is their Scottish leader's demands for a share in North Sea Oil revenues. If you're going to beat the drum about how green you are then demanding that you have a share in revenue for something you believe to be bad might not be the best way to go about it?

Secondly, and another thing that might show you up to be mildly hypocritical on such matters would be if you accepted political donations from an oil company. Yes, you know what is coming next. Not only do the party that hate non-doms accept donations from them, but the party against petrol cars also accepts donations from petrol producers.

OK, so it's not massive amount, but back in April the Scottish Lib Dems (who seem to be quite vocal at the moment about North Sea Oil) accepted a £10,000 political donation from First Oil Exploration (North Sea) Plc. I wonder how they feel about the news they want to remove part of their market?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Opinion Leader Research reported for bias over nuclear consultation

Channel 4 News has just run a report about, if you excuse the pun, fall-out, from the Government's nuclear consultation. Deborah Mattinson's OLR (and also Brown's preferred pollster) has been reported to the Market Research Standards Board for hosting a bias consultation. OLR have refuted that this was the case.

Some may remember the post I did the other week that suggested the questions were loaded in a manner to achieve the Government's already desired outcome, or what it called, the "preliminary view", not forgetting of course the family links between Gordon Brown, Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper and the nuclear industry.

One can but hope that the complaint to the Standard Board comes to something, but it probably won't.

Google Docs explained

Makes me think of my prediction last December.

Brown and Darling take charge at Bank of England?

Interesting piece in the Financial Times.

British banks will be able to borrow from the Bank of England for three months using mortgages as collateral, the central bank announced in an extraordinary U-turn.

The humiliating move for Mervyn King, Bank governor was announced on Wednesday morning when the Bank said that next week, it would be willing to swap £10bn of cash for a wider range of commercial bank assets "including mortgage collateral".

Up to now, Mr King has insisted that such action would be tantamount to bailing out banks that had made risky lending decisions and would sow "the seeds of a future financial crisis" because it provides after the event insurance for risky behaviour.
So that's that then? Mervyn King doing the Treasury bidding?

Gordon's control-freakery reaches LabourHome?

It's been well reported in the press that Gordon Brown has been trying to curtailing the ability of Labour Conference to raise contemporary resolutions that criticise the Labour leadership. As one would expect this has certainly upset some of the Labour blogosphere who fear for democracy at the heart of their party.

The curtailment on their right to speak is, one imagines, merely the icing on the cake after the woman they consider the "she-devil" was welcomed by Gordon into Downing Street at the end of last week. In fact, as Guido points out, the membership of LabourHome 'Back to the Roots" has reacted strongly to the visit of Thatcher by posting the following animated gif pointing out what Gordon said, and what he now does.


Sadly the original post with the image that Guido linked too appears to have been deleted, presumably by the site admin who is also hopeful prospective MP, RecessMonkey. I guess the Gordon Brown meme of restricting any internal dissent whilst telling everyone he's listening has now reached the Labour blogosphere? Well, at least maybe the bit that wants to get somewhere in the party appparatus?

Update: Animation pixelated and re-hosted to protect the innocent.

Lib Dems way past the fringe of idiocy

You have to love rabid europhilia sometimes because it just produces the most hilarious nonsense. And where better to get such things than the Lib Dem Conference and the fringe.

The other day the UKIP leader Nigel Farage attended the Lib Dem fringe in order to argue against the EU Constitution and in favour of a referendum. Obviously Farage also wants complete withdrawal from the EU and so it wouldn't be long befoe that topic came up for discussion.

During the debate one hysterically stupid Lib Dem member stood up and apparently said that if the UK left the EU then Felixstowe harbour would close within 24 hours and that Germany would no longer trade with Britain.

Now, whatever ones views on the EU, the idea that the home of Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW would no longer want to sell to one of its biggest markets overnight is absolutely loopy.

Observation of the Day

Possibily one of the worst and most misunderstood phrases to enter the policitical lexicon in recent years is the instituionalised-ism, and the following observation illustrates why.

"The Police are institutionally racist" - The Left accepts it as a truism they've known for years. Old Whitey in the police is a nasty bigoted git who hates anyone who isn't just like him. The Right is outraged arguing you cannot condemn the entire contents of the apple cart as rotten just because there are a few rotten apples in it.

"The BBC is institutionally leftist" - The Right accepts it as a truism. Auntie is fall of lefties pushing a lefty world view. The Left is outraged arguing you cannot condemn the entire contents of the apple cart as rotten just because there are a few rotten apples in it.
If only Macpherson had used the term groupthink instead the absurdity above wouldn't have happened.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Have the DWP read the Civil Service Management Code?

We all like to get our travel paid for if we can right? Well I do anyway. If you;re really lucky, or should I say you're in senior management you might get to travel business or even first class. It's usually based on your pay grade at the end of the day.

The same is true in the Civil Service and within Government departments. First class rail travel for example is quite heavily restricted as part of the terms and conditions of service for staff in senior grades within the senior civil service. Obviously Ministers and the officials accompanying them fall within these allowances.

Having said this though, there is, according to at least the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, a policy to encourage staff "to travel standard class where appropriate" and to also "take advantage of discounted or other cost effective travel options which may be available (e.g. special offers, day returns) wherever practical."

And then of course there is the Civil Service Management Code along with the Ministerial Code about travel. The latter of which states that "Departments and agencies must ensure that staff use the most efficient and economic means of travel".

So can someone, anyone, please tell me - in the name of all that may be Holy - how the Department of Work and Pensions managed to spend £9.48 million on first class rail travel in the past 12 months? At merely a rough estimate that must be at least 50,000 first class tickets. Do they all have weekend homes in Scotland or something and bill the tickets to the office or something?

Two things seem likely, they've either not read, or are choosing to ignore the rules written down about finding the cheapest alternatives available.

Brown and Darling are just shoring up the marginal votes

Now that Brown and Darling has decided to underwrite every single customers' money that is in Northern Rock with taxpayers money, I find myself wondering, would he have done the same for Barings? Something tells me that he wouldn't. After all, Barings was a bank for rich people who didn't live in marginal seats and would never have voted for Labour anyway.

Let's not be under any illussion here, the decision to underwrite every customers money with a cheque from the taxpayer has bugger all to do with trying to calm everyone down and stop panic withdrawals. It's about shoring up Labour votes in the event that Northern Rock goes under.

Government projects consistently doomed to delay and over-spend

Wherever there is a project there is a project manager, and wherever there is a project manager there is RAG (red, Amber, Green) report. When it comes to Government, all the projects have regular "Gateway Reviews" which produce a RAG rating by Office of Government Commerce.

It may come as little surprise to some that Government projects don't do well when it comes to RAG reports. So far this year there have been 44 Gateway Reviews carried out by OGC. Of them 59% received a red, 34% received an amber, and just 7% received a green. In fact, since 2002 the average Gateway Review green rating for Government projects has been just 13%.

This means on average for the last five years, 87% of all reviewed Government projects have been in jeopardy of being delayed and going over-budget. Like I say, no surprise there. If its any consolation the number of red alerts as been steadily rising year on year. Oh wait.. that's bad too.

It's crash, not flash

Yesterday, I made the throwaway remark in the comments of this thread that I didn't think the taxpayer should bail out Northern Rock, or any bank for that matter. This produced a reaction from one poster saying that the Bank of England wasn't the taxpayer. As we see from last night though, it really is the taxpayer that is underwriting Northern Rock's customer liabilities now. Saatchi & Saatchi are right, he's not flash.

Image shamelessly lifted from Guido

Lib Dems brand England rugby captain a bully

If you ever needed just the smallest bit of evidence that the Liberal Democrats are not really very serious then you can guarantee that the discussions and motions at their conference will provide it to you. Take for example yesterday where they passed a motion calling for schools to develop policies to tackle bullying. Sounds perfectly reasonable I know, but at its core is the assumption that school's don't have bullying policies already, which obviously nonsense.

However, what is more bizarre, and frankly absurd, is that during the debate, the England Rugby captain, Phil Vickery, was called a bully because he tripped someone up deliberately in that full-contact sport being played on the world stage in France currently. According to the Times, Maureen De Beer, from Harrow, asked "What is the culture we transmit to children? If you look at our sports fields, we have recently had the England rugby captain. What do we see in the papers? Oh, he's going to miss a couple of matches".

It is not known at this point whether someone took her down at the knees.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Using cabs to nick illegal immigrants?

Last year the Home Office apparently spent £962,533 on taxis. This in itself is quite an impressive sum of money, however, in a response to Mark Hoban MP, Liam Byrne seems to have let something quite worrying slip. In writing to Hoban and giving him the above figure he also said,

The majority of expenditure, £666,440, was incurred by the Border and Immigration Agency on operational activities.
For once I don't care about the money (that much). I'm slightly more bothered by the news that the Border and Immigration Agency - who as we all know now have flashy new uniforms - are using taxis as operational transport!

I mean sure, I've heard of hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out redundancy notices to your own staff. But should the people "protecting" our borders be relying on them to carry out their operational duty? I now have visions of Agency staff waiting to go on a raid in their new uniforms whilst a voice from a phone says in their ear "yeah, it'll be two minutes mate, it's a blue mondeo"

Saudi's agree Typhoon deal

The Government of Saudi Arabia has reached agreement with the UK Government to purchase 72 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. The agreement follows plans outlined in December 2005 to establish a greater partnership in modernising the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces.
Amazing what can be achieved if you just drop a Serious Fraud Office investigation, huh?

More like money slipping through their fingers

If like me you watch far too much television you may have seen the following advert (found on YouTube which is being slow (again!)) in the past month or so popping up during the advert breaks of The Bill and X Factor. It's part of a campaign called In Our Hands by the Learning and Skills Council.

Should you be by any chance wondering, it cost the LSC, £324,367 to commission. This represented 4% of the total budget the LSC has for the campaign of £8 million. A snip of the budget really, until you realise that to show it during the summer as meant they've paid the TV channel £2,410,716 (ex VAT). They're also planning on spending a further £658,380 in Jaunary on the campaign.

The purpose is, of course, to drive people to the website, the website itself only cost £6,460 (ex VAT) to design, which sounds cheap, but then that figure excludes scoping, information architecture, development management and project management costs. Anyone who knows a little bit about IT project will know that a hell of a lot of money excluded.

So what's the traffic like? Well, in the eight weeks since the campaign launched they've managed to get 79,296 visitors. The vast majority of which were during the first couple fo weeks since when it has tailed off to an average of about 1,200 visits a day. So currently it's costing them somewhere in the region of £20-£30 a visit.

Money well spent then!

Well you could stop producing expensive documents for a start

I've just learnt about a rather neat little report from the Cabinet Office called Making Government Work Better". A laudable goal you may say, but you do have to wonder whether spending £50,299 on an 80-odd page document (that's £625 per page(ish)) is in keeping with the spirit of the title, no?

Joined-up Government at its very best

Apparently between 1st January to 30th June 2007, 84% of beef, 93% of lamb and 76% of pork used for catering in the headquarters of the Department for Children, Schools and Families was imported.

I'm guessing they missed the memo from July 2006 when the Secretary of State at DEFRA, David Miliband said "I want British government to support british farmers".

Well that didn't take long....

Northern Crock

Government to start three month financial advice trial

Oh how I laughed when I read this little gem. Apparently the Government is funding a three-month trial in the North West of England so that people can obtain sound financial advice.

But remember boys and girls, making note of the high debt-based society we have now, or noting the failure of Government to encourage financial awareness is nothing more than political opportunism, unless its the Government that is acknowledging it of course.

Will Sheffield Hallam be the birthplace of the coup against Ming?

A couple of anonymous posters have commented in recent weeks asaying my post are getting too long. What can I say, no Parliament means the short punchy stuff based on the day-to-day stuff just isn't there. However, I hope this post will do, as it poses a simple question.

Why did the former Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam, Richard Allen, register a domain name in July for his successor, Nick Clegg, of nickclegg.com when Nick Clegg already has a website at another address?

Is Mr Clegg having a redesign done by his predecessor? Is his predcessor planning to usurp him and make a run for Parliament again? Or maybe Clegg is preparing the way for a 'special' website that differentiates him from his standard MP one? I can't help but remember that Hazel Blears used .com for her deputy leadership bid whilst maintaining a .co.uk as her MP site.

All very curious indeed, I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation though!


 

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