Sunday, 31 March 2013
Today I start a new regular feature on this blog: my review of the week. It will be here every Sunday morning.
In what might have been a rather slow news week in other circumstances, thanks to Easter, newspaper editors gave thanks to North Korea which spent all week trying to convince the world that it was very very angry and about to wage war on the lot of us, to reunite the Korean peninsula, and bring down their enemies who keep taunting them with missiles, and planes that actually work. Oh and food. We all have food. Decadent western bastards!
The Fat Leader posed in front of maps, with really quite newish looking computers too, detailing how he would soon be raining fire on the continental United States with missiles he doesn't possess. The element of surprise was not an issue for him, no British style ruses to keep his war plans secret, and put the enemy off the scent. His control room - not quite Bond villain, more a Blue Peter creation with plywood and sticky back plastic - was clearly designed to impress rather than actually make decisions.
Here in Britain, large parts of the country started the week with snow on the ground once again. The Met Office informed us that this was set to be the coldest March in 50 years and then admitted, almost but not quite sotto voce, that some of its past long range predictions had not been very helpful or accurate, you know the ones when they said it was going to be warmer or drier than average only for it to turn out to be the precise opposite. These forecasts were probabilistic they informed us. To some of a cynical turn of mind they seemed instead to be a simple extrapolation from what had happened before. Dry few months? It will continue. Warm few months? Yeah, more of the same. Why bother with the super computers; why not just look out the window?
There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth as David Miliband, heir apparent of the Labour Party, who had kept waiting Prince Charles like for someone to hand him the crown, announced he was abandoning his party and constituents and buggering off to New York to save people internationally instead. He was only having to do this because he had also hesitated too long when one of those nice jobs in Brussels had been offered to him on a plate. It's to be hoped that International Rescue does not need someone decisive in a crisis.
A 10 billion Euro bailout was agreed with Cyprus which actually amounted to daylight robbery of its citizens' bank accounts. The authorities finally opened the banks again on Thursday, and Cypriots found that large parts of their money had disappeared, and they could only take out small amounts of what they had been left with. Oh and they couldn't take it out of the country thanks to draconian exchange controls. Critics pointed out that, in order to save the Euro, the EU authorities had created a second class Euro which Cypriots cannot spend anywhere else in the single currency zone. So what is the point of it? Oh, and as usual, the EU had found a way to do all of this without having to have any of that tedious, and disobliging democracy involved.
BBC journalists staged another short walk out to protest at having to work harder, and the bullying culture alleged now to pervade their shiny new corridors. Most viewers did notice the change, and rather liked it. There was markedly less 'commentary', fewer newsreaders standing up in front of large screens for no obvious reason, and no Huw Edwards with his curiously darting eyes. He looks for all the world like a shifty salesman who cannot look you in the eye. The journos did however announce that, were Nelson Mandela to die, they would all down placards and go back to work. Of course they would. Probably not for Margaret Thatcher though. I wonder if they will include this plaudit in Mandela's obituary.
An 18 year old woman was jailed for posing as a boy to trick a girl into having sex with her. The world wondered how the hell that would work, especially as they discussed marriage and having children together, but there were frustratingly few prurient details on offer.
In another triumph for British policing, in the week when it was revealed that up to ten officers colluded to bring down a Tory Cabinet Minister, Lincolnshire Police successfully hunted down and shot - a cow. The Lincolnshire Rozzers reacted with speed to this threat, despatching four marksmen and eight other officers to the scene. It is not known if Paul Gascoigne showed up at the scene of the drama.
In another trumph for Italian justice, and a boon to the sales of her forthcoming book, it was announced that there will be yet another retrial of Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito.
It was National Cleavage Day this week, an event celebrated in typical style by elements of our tabloid press. Less predictably it was celebrated by the NHS, which gave £5, 000 breast augmentation surgery to Josie Cunningham who had been afflicted by a 32A cleavage and had complained to her GP about it. She is now the proud owner, as are the rest of us presumably, of a 36DD bust, and has been featured in The Sun. Her new boobs have changed her life, she says. This time last year she had nothing to look forward to she said, but now, well everything is stretched out in front of her, she has even met that Lorraine Kelly off the tele. Money well spent then.
And this week saw the sad death of the actor Richard Griffiths. At one time he was best known for his role as Uncle Monty in Withnail, and I; now it is for Uncle Vernon in Harry Potter. But he was an actor of prodigious ability, notwithstanding his prodigious girth. He will be most fondly remembered for his unlikely role as the lead in a detective drama, Pie in the Sky, and in Alan Bennett's The History Boys, not to mention an excellent Falstaff.
Saturday, 30 March 2013
Aggressive secularism. What exactly is it? Well it seems to be a tag that religious leaders can pin on anything they happen to disapprove of if you read the words of Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury.
Carey has a problem with homosexuality. That is his prerogative. But what does it have to do with secularism, aggressive or otherwise?
And it's all David Cameron's fault apparently. He is aiding and abetting aggressive secularism by trying to drive through gay marriage.
How is that? How is allowing gay, consenting adults to marry and allowing dissenting churches to refuse to perform the ceremony promoting aggressive secularism?
Who exactly is being aggressive here again? Some secularists/atheists it is true find this whole argument bizarre and arcane but most of us recognise the right of the religious to object even if we regard their arguments for doing so as obtuse. I am not one of those who accuse religious objectors to gay marriage of being bigots, although there is certainly an element of that with some of them. It's just that they take care to hide behind their silly superstition to obscure it.
But the aggression seems to be coming from the religious, not the secularists. It is they who are demanding that their beliefs and prejudices be recognised to the exclusion of a minority group. They have no logical reason for this other than a superstition, witness the reasons given by Carey - because Jesus says so.
Oh and it will undermine marriage apparently. How? How will it affect marriage even one iota? People marry because they want to make a commitment to another person and to show it in a legally binding, traditional way before their friends and family. Is Carey seriously suggesting that people will now think twice about that commitment because they let anyone marry regardless of sexual orientation? Or will most people shrug and think, live and let live, turn the other cheek? That's certainly my attitude which makes me a better Christian than the former Archbishop when push comes to shove.
He may know his bible, he may be able to quote the gospels, the trouble is that he then uses this knowledge to oppress people purely because their love life offends him. Don't pretend it has anything to do with your imaginary friend. It's your problem. If pointing this out makes me aggressive then so be it.
According to The Washington Post, the US government is worried by the ever more belligerent and hysterical rhetoric coming from North Korea in the last few days, culminating in them saying this morning that war is imminent and, if provoked by the imperialists, there will be nuclear war, and various bases will be reduced to ashes along with all of South Korea.
So should we take this seriously? Well of course it would be silly to discount the possibility completely: this is not a rational regime. But surely I cannot be the only one who can look through those bombastic, shouted news announcements to what is really going on?
The wobbly music is actually very appropriate. This is a regime, and in particular a leader, that is tottering. One little push, and it could all collapse.
That this is a fragile regime on the brink of disaster has long been known. Even before the fat leader, Kim Jong Un, came to to power a little over a year ago, they were perpetually on the brink of disaster. And so, from the dictator's book on how to cow, and unite a nation, they tend to ramp up the rhetoric, blame everything on outside forces, and try to unite the people behind the government invoking patriotism, something made easier by the fact that most people have no clue about what is going on in the outside world, and just how disastrously they are being led.
But what is happening now is worse than that. Threats and bluster came out of the DPRK regularly under the Fat Leader's father, Kim Jong Il. But not daily. Yes they sank a ship, and fired off a a few shells a couple of years ago, but they did so in the knowledge that they would probably get away with it. The stakes were too high for the South to go to war.
So now they have raised the stakes, or at least are trying to. The Fat Leader is new to the job, and politically quite weak. He needs a diplomatic or military triumph. A military one is unlikely. He could fire off a shell, or two; he could try something similar to the sinking of the Cheonan, but that would be risky. It might actually lead to war, and that is the last thing he wants. He would lose.
And so he is talking tough, and threatening war in the hope of extracting concessions. Succeed and his position will be much more secure. Failure? Well gamblers don't think about failure.
Because that is all this is. This is a man in a difficult, and perilous position gambling on a big win. His threats have failed thus far to extract the concessions and aid he needs, and so he keeps upping the stakes. Unfortunately for him his 'enemies' have grown weary of this form of brinkmanship and quite rightly ignore it. It is the international equivalent of a toddler's temper tantrum getting ever louder as he is ignored by an exasperated parent.
What we have here then is a wonderful opportunity rather than a moment of supreme danger bringing us to the brink of war. The war games and the stealth bomber sorties are a way of saying, come on then fat man if you think you're hard enough. Bring it on. Diplomacy is no different to normal life, it just uses more opaque language. The Fat Leader is overplaying his hand, and could easily fall when he fails.
In the big scheme of things of course North Korea doesn't really matter. Even China is distancing itself from its troublesome and infuriating neighbour. Former comrades, they now regard it much as we do, an irritant, and a potentially dangerous one.
Don't believe those who say that a war between South and North with America joining in would drag in China, and create World War III. China is pragmatic. They would look the other way. North Korea is a last remaining throwback to the cold war, a Stalinist relic hanging on to a discredited way of doing things, and angry at its own impotence. But the people of this benighted country deserve our support now. We must not blink. They may soon be staring wide eyed at the outside world, at what they have been missing as their leaders are strung up or put on trial. This may actually be the beginning of the end for this vile regime - a moment like the fall of the Berlin Wall could be just around the corner.
Don't believe those who say that a war between South and North with America joining in would drag in China, and create World War III. China is pragmatic. They would look the other way. North Korea is a last remaining throwback to the cold war, a Stalinist relic hanging on to a discredited way of doing things, and angry at its own impotence. But the people of this benighted country deserve our support now. We must not blink. They may soon be staring wide eyed at the outside world, at what they have been missing as their leaders are strung up or put on trial. This may actually be the beginning of the end for this vile regime - a moment like the fall of the Berlin Wall could be just around the corner.
Friday, 29 March 2013
For those of you wondering what happened to the video diary, well here it is again. It's back and will now become a regular feature on the blog. As you may have noticed, there has been a redesign this week and now the video diary is back. Posts are going to be more numerous and more frequent and there is more to come in the weeks that follow. I'm not sure at this stage how frequent the video diary will be as it is quite a laborious and time consuming process, but at least once a week is the current plan. I'll see how the numbers stack up.
North Korea, which has clearly never heard of the phrase protesting too much, has released yet more pictures of its preparations for taking on its hated enemies. The above is a picture of The Fat Leader in his country's command centre (it's amazing what you can do with a bit of paint and plywood, but's it's not exactly Bond villain is it?) poring over maps and giving orders. He really could do with a white cat on his lap though, and a scar somewhere on his face would be a good idea. It might distract from his double chin.
The US has incurred the wrath of The Fat Leader by flying a stealth bomber (the real thing, not digital one) over South Korea for some target practice. In response the DPRK sent some hovercraft on to a beach, at least some of which were real, and showed pictures of The Fat Leader looking stern and pointing at things in an impressively commanding way. The North has angrily denounced lip readers assertion that he was in fact saying in the picture above 'Do I look good in this pose? How is my hair? Does my bum look big in this?'
There are reports that the DPRK has put its troops on high alert to protect the nation's 35,000 statues of the Kim clan dotted around the country for the nation's people to admire while they try and forage for food. In a land which is told that the various Kims were born under rainbows and heralded by singing choirs of birds, who can write operas, master military strategy, make brilliant films and, most miraculous of all, manage to get fat in a nation that has eaten all of its frogs out of desperation, statues of these living gods are revered and must be protected. I expect a few digital hovercraft will do the trick.
Remember today as we all have a few days off thanks to another pagan festival suborned by the church, that what we celebrate this weekend is basically this: God sacrificed himself to himself to appease himself and therefore save humanity from himself. If you have a degree in Theology, do you wish you had done Media Studies?
Thursday, 28 March 2013
The rule of law. It's a noble idea: something to which we all subscribe in theory. In practice though, as we saw yet again at the Royals Courts of Justice, the theory is in danger of making our law an ass.
The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld a decision preventing the deportation of Abu Qatada from these shores to face justice in his home country.
Cue lots of sanctimonious lawyers being wheeled out on the television and radio, and commentating on Twitter about the need to uphold the principle: the need for us to stand up against the theoretical use of evidence gleaned from torture. That is the latest high standard our courts have now decided; the hurdle the authorities must surmount before they are allowed to deport an illegal immigrant from these shores, and detach him from the teat of public money he has been supping from for over a decade.
Is that the principle of the rule of law we all subscribe to? Are we all committed to defending the right of a man to come here with a forged passport, enter this country through deceit, and then, once here, demand the right to stay, and have his lifestyle and endless legal chicanery paid for? And that's before we enter into that equation the fact that this is a man who, the courts accept, is profoundly dangerous, and a threat to our security, and the British way of life. Is that standing up for a principle or are we allowing that principle to make us and our laws look ridiculous?
This British pettifogging insistence on dotting every I, and crossing every T is what makes so much of what we do a shambles. It is absurd to assume that we can codify everything, and must then stick rigidly to that code whatever the consequences. The lawyers love it of course, and they have loved the inclusion of beautifully amorphous human rights laws into our system even more. They don't mind the fact that it ties the country up in knots because that just earns them more fees. The rule of law is not meant to be the rule of lawyers; they are supposed to pay heed to the desire and intent of Parliament. The Qatada case shows that they do not; indeed they move the goalposts.
But the fact that the judges and Qatada's lawyers have constantly moved the goalposts, or appealed on new grounds so that the whole process must start again, means that it is now time for the government to do the same. Normally it is reprehensible for governments, and parliament, to legislate retrospectively, but what choice do we have? What choice have they given us? This case is the epitome of vexatious litigation; an affront to justice rather than a case of upholding the rule of law. We are not sending this man to be tortured, and it is not our business to tell other jurisdictions how to run themselves. This man has no right to be here, and is not wanted here, and yet has managed to stay, and cost millions.
The time has come to call a halt to this modern day Dickensian tale of pettifogging incompetence, and purblind stupidity dressed up as principle. Parliament, when it returns after Easter, should simply legislate to send him where he belongs. It has that power. We have done all that can reasonably be done to uphold a nebulous principle that no other country in the world would have observed this far. Put him on a plane. The scales of justice will scarcely wobble. If they do it will be thanks to the vibrations from tumultuous applause.
Yesterday saw the launch of the People's Assembly. Catchy title, huh? This is the little fantasy cooked up by Owen Jones, terribly earnest but always wrong Independent columnist (just a glorified way of talking to yourself) and author of Chavs - a book that managed to write 80,000 or so words on a subject without ever really understanding what Chavs are. Mr Jones alleged charm is that, allied to his fresh faced looks, is the naivety of the student protester. He is the sort of person who occupied St Pauls' last year threatening to change the world. Only they gave this one a newspaper column, albeit one in The Independent.
Why naive? Well take a look here. Little Owen is outraged by the 'political consensus' surrounding a lot of things that lefties concern themselves with like privatisation, banks, people making profits, workers rights and makes various unsupported assertions while doing so. Oh and he's against austerity too, having apparently not noticed that public spending is still increasing.
But what makes him really naive is that, along with his co-assemblyites, Caroline Lucas (surely a Green should be in favour of austerity, they used to be) and Mark Steel - you can hear the Westminster knees knocking from here - he thinks that the people are with him. He is going, he tells us, to galvanise millions to protest against a right wing consensus and the drift to the right we are currently experiencing, no this is what he says, and put a stop to the savage cuts we are currently enduring.
Isn't that fantastic. It's almost as if someone has created a modern day loony left outfit to try and make the Labour Party look sensible and fiscally conservative despite their complete lack of any policies and refusal to talk about cuts. If they listened to little Owen though, managed to avert their eyes from his earnestly bobbing adam's apple for just a second to listen to what the twerp is saying, they would realise that they are falling prey to a right wing conspiracy to be resisted and countered from the hard left.
People like little Owen confuse the unpopularity of the government with agreement with their own absurd agenda. Yet all the polls suggest that a majority of people agree with what the government is trying to do on welfare reform in particular. Unlike your average intellectual lefty who has never had to do an honest day's work and yet claims to talk for 'the people' who do, most can see that borrowing money to fund the state is the road to perdition and real, biting austerity not seen since the war.
Little Owen cannot accept that the reason that we have a consensus of a sort about the need to balance the books, live within our means, is not because it is a closed shop, a gentleman's agreement (with what bitterness he writes that) but because it is simple common sense. Little Owen's remedy? Confiscate people's money. Keep the state going a while longer until all of the assets are stripped and Britain is an economic wasteland. Little Owen lives in a strange nether world in which the Soviet Union and the other great experiments he now wants to repeat never happened. There are none so blind as those who will not read history books.
And what of this fantasy that this consensus he sees is only ever challenged from the right? UKIP's surge is because the political establishment are all in it together, says little Owen. No, UKIP has surged for the same reason that the Lib Dems used to surge. It's a mid term surge. There are other reasons of course, like people's disgust with the EU consensus, but then little Owen probably agrees with that one so he ignores it. Oh and 'the people' generally agree with UKIP that immigration has been too high, little Owen. How do you feel about that?
The very real danger for Britain is the opposite of what little Owen imagines. It is that this country begins to see capitalism as the problem rather than the solution, that all we need is some more taxes, some more spending of other people's money by people like little Owen who always think they know how best to spend, or invest as they would no doubt call it, and who ignore what happened in the sixties and seventies when his solutions were tried.
Fortunately, people like little Owen, who invoke 'the people' in the titles of their grand schemes don't actually listen to the people. They just assume that they speak for them, a bit like union bosses feel free to speak for their members without consulting them if they can get away with it. The people tend to be a disappointment for these class warriors because most people are too sensible to fall for their easy answers.
Little Owen doesn't seem to have noticed that he and his like write for newspapers that are endangered because not enough of 'the people' actually read them. No doubt he would never write for a newspaper that made a profit. Pah! But that is why his assembly will fit into a phone box, or at least it would if the evil capitalists hadn't removed them because they aren't making money. Evil, rapacious bastards! Maybe a bus shelter?
Hilariously, according to the meter on his own article, even a majority of his own readers disagree with him. Good luck getting those millions marching. But I must return to Owen on a regular basis. It's too entertaining not to.
Wednesday, 27 March 2013
For the past few weeks, North Korea has been on an unrelenting campaign to convince the world that it is ready to go to war and so we had better stop being nasty to them. And we probably ought to send them some food too, just to appease them and not because they need it. Oh no.
The trouble is that the fat leader's new toy army is not really capable of doing much. They may be threatening all out war and a nuclear holocaust, they may be painting scenarios of their glorious march into Seoul to reunite the Korean peninsula and help themselves to lots of flat screen TVs and one of those swanky new Samsung S4s the world is talking about, but the army isn't really up to the job. It may be a million strong but it's equipment is woefully out of date. It takes them weeks to get a missile operational and even when it is they frequently miss.
And so the fat leader is waging digital war instead. The above picture has been photoshopped so much it could actually have been taken from Saving Private Ryan. They have also taken to making films about setting fire to Washington DC and invading the south. The fact that their missiles, such as they are, would struggle to reach America's 50th state let alone the east of the country is just a detail.
It would be fascinating to know what is going on in the minds of those responsible for these little productions, these dictator's wet dreams. Are they making them for our benefit, or to satisfy the pretensions of the fat leader himself? Does he actually believe that his tinpot nation is capable of all that he threatens? Or is he aware that the best they can do is create war digitally on a PC laden with software from the decadent west?
While all this has been going on, America and its southern allies have been engaged in war games which required no digital manipulation. Are the generals of the north feeding their fat leader these videos to shut him up? Or do they think we will swallow these videos that could easily have been made in a teenager's bedroom?
But all of this is really rather reassuring when you think about it. The bluster may have been louder under the new fat leader's short tenure, but this is probably because it has to be. The corpulent little tit is having to talk big and concentrate his (digital) fire on the enemy for fear of the fire being turned on him. Unfortunately for him he leads a nation incapable of doing more. The whole sorry shambles is going to come tumbling down sooner or later. The more they shout and try to convince us of their strength, the more we can be sure of that.
There is no PMQs this week as Parliament is now in recess for Easter, although more alert readers may have noticed that I didn't cover last week's either. Sorry, didn't get to see it.
The next session is on 17th April when my review will return.
Is the David Miliband who has announced his resignation from Parliament today a different one to he who posed for the picture above? You would think so reading some of the hagiographies being published this morning. Miliband senior, or Little Milly as I used to call him in the days when he played a role in British politics under Gordon Brown, is a dweeb. He is another one of Labour's posh metropolitan boys who went into politics having never done anything else. He is slightly less dweebish than his brother and his politics are a little more towards the fabled centre ground, the place occupied so successfully by Tony Blair, but that doesn't make him a modern day Attlee. He personifies everything that is wrong with modern politics. It's just that he looks and sounds a little more normal than his brother and so this somehow translates into a political colossus.
The narrative from some has been that Little Milly woz robbed of the leadership by his upstart, nerdy little brother who is a loser and will take Labour to the left and keep them out of power for a generation. Well part of that may well be true, although the way the Conservative Party is going they may hand the next election even to this no hoper.
But the rest of that excuse is nonsense. Little Milly is not the leader of his party because he was too cowardly to strike against the worst prime minister this country has had in the modern era. Labour handed the leadership to Brown without a contest, a contest that might have exposed the fact that he had no ideas, no vision, nothing but a sense of entitlement to have the top job after a ten year sulk. The catastrophe that was Brown's premiership could have been avoided if those who aspire to lead had stepped up to the plate. They didn't. The rest is history.
And as that catastrophe unfolded Little Milly could still have despatched the phone thrower from office. We could all see what a disaster was taking place, from the election that never was to the bust to end all booms he saddled us all with. Little Milly flirted with the idea of a challenge by writing an article in The Guardian but chickened out when the media came calling and when Brown's lieutenants came for the fight.
In 2009 James Purnell, now rewarded with a highly paid BBC job, quit in the hope of sparking a Cabinet revolt. But none came. Little Milly, the man who would be king, kept his head down lest the crown proved too heavy.
Even when he had the chance to be an EU commissioner he couldn't make that less than bold decision and so the job was given to Cathy Ashton, a Labour apparatchik who has never been elected to office in her life but is a salutary reminder of her party's cavalier disregard for democracy, accountability and the public purse.
The one great consistency in Little Milly's career has been his lack of resolve and guts. In this regard at least he is similar to his brother, although at least Wallace had the guts to stab his own brother in the back before spending his time sucking up to his union paymasters who gave him the job, before refusing to take a stance on anything. Indecision seems to be a Miliband trait, but they'll get back to you on that.
And so now Little Milly is off to New York to head International Rescue. I always swore I could see the strings. If only they had an organisation he could lead called Joe 90. It is said that he has earned nearly £1m in the last year giving speeches, which just goes to show how desperately poor the pickings are for those in the market for international ex statesmen to patronise them. He is even the director of a football club that he doesn't actually support. And that more or less sums him up really, a man with vaulting ambition, who wants to do things, more because he feels it his right, but lacks the resolve, determination and guts to take the necessary risks. Principles are for other people.
The nearly man of politics who lacked the guts to go for the top job and now retires two years after losing having spent the intervening period wondering what to do with himself. This is the man who wanted to be leader? We dodged a bullet there. Thank god his new job is nothing like as dramatic and exciting as it sounds. Anybody waiting to be rescued by Little Milly might end up being gravely disappointed. He'll want to consult a focus group first.
Tuesday, 26 March 2013
We are accustomed by now, to politicians, pressure groups, various companies, quangos and regulators, not to mention climate scientists plus the likes of Owen Jones and Polly Toynbee being selective about facts and statistics and managing to cherry pick opinion polls so that they can assume that everyone agrees with them. Indeed Owen Jones is so bound to this way of doing things, so cognitively dissonant, that he is intent on setting up his own new political party - far be it from me to be against a party called Owen, it's just that mine would be more fun.
Owen Jones, the man who not only looks like a teenager but who has the politics to match. Owen Jones, the man with two surnames to show how serious he is, genuinely believes that he will be able to mobilise millions, yes millions, against the government. And he's talking millions of people, not millions of pounds donated by union bosses. Owen is a classic socialist who will end up being terribly disappointed by the masses he claims to be speaking for. Fortunately he's British. If he were Russian it wouldn't be long before he was slapping them in gulags to educate them about the right way to think. I often think he probably chose to be gay because being so heterosexual is so conventional and bourgeois. If only he could change race too. It should be available on the NHS.
The loony left are on manoeuvres. It's going to be fantastically entertaining watching them. The nation needs some loony lefties to laugh at again. I can only assume this is why Labour elected Wallace and keeps Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor.
But this is not a post about lefties and Owen Jones. Or at least it didn't start out that way. No, it's about god. Or God. He doesn't bother with Christian names either, which is odd when you think about it. I know we're not supposed to call them Christian names now for fear of offending people, but surely God could?
Anyway, I seem to have digressed again. It seems that God, or at least those who purport to speak for him, are not above a bit of fiddling with figures in addition to other forms of fiddling that are against all of their vows and which they get quite het up about, at least in public.
They commissioned a poll on prayer. They didn't do so in churches as churches are so empty these days it wouldn't be a proper sample. And so they appointed a pollster. Said pollster, ICM, duly did its job without fear or favour and found, hardly surprisingly, that most people think that prayer isn't worth getting your knees dirty for.
And so the church skewed the figures. They managed to find that four out of five people believe in the power of prayer, this in a nation that only goes to church at Christmas and for weddings, where half of us don't believe in a god of any sort and in which Jedi is fast catching up as the belief system of choice. If it had been four out of five people read their horoscopes or believe in UFOs it might have been more believable. But praying? Who has the time for that?
But apart from the shocking revelation that God apparently needs a spin doctor, this begs the question what was the point of this survey anyway? Is this just because they are running out of arguments to use against Richard Dawkins on Sunday morning television debates? Are they fed up of people snorting with derision when they tell us that they will pray for us? Or is God feeling a bit depressed about the lack of prayer and needed an ego boost? Are we as a nation now supposed to fall to our knees and pray having read that 80% of the nation are doing likewise, or might we reasonably conclude that all of this prayer doesn't seem to be doing much good and give up if we haven't already. Perhaps they would have been better off having a survey tell the truth, that nobody other than that new funny looking Archbish and the now retired Pope as he has nothing better to do prays. Then at least they could argue that this is why the world is looking a bit peaky.
Lately I have taken, whenever we have snow or other cold weather, to, jokingly, blame it on climate change. Yesterday, dressed up as a piece about the retirement of someone who purports to be the government's chief scientist, BBC News did the same. The trouble is that they and Sir John Beddington were not joking; they were deadly serious.
As his parting gift to the nation before he swans off into retirement, Beddington took the opportunity to tell us all, even the parts currently without electricity a week before Easter and cut off by snow drifts, that
The BBC went through the motions of being impartial, sceptics got a very brief mention by their reporter Pallab Ghosh, but you could tell where their sympathies really lay. You could tell because when Beddington asserted that the evidence for climate change was unequivocal he felt it unnecessary to tell us what this evidence is and nobody bothered to ask him. You would think a journalist might ask. But no. We are supposed to take it on trust, cos he's a scientist.
You see the evidence for man made climate change, global warming call it what you will, is very far from being unequivocal. That's why people are sceptical. That's why we keep getting cold winters. That is why we are now shivering through what will soon be the coldest March in 50 years. That's why we came close to running short of gas this week. Call me a pedant if you like, but that sounds a bit equivocal to me.
And if this is all so unequivocal why do they have to keep changing the name of their big scare? Global warming begat climate change and now they are trying to push 'climate disruption' on us. This is a tacit acknowledgement that they got it wrong yet again, that the planet has inconveniently stopped warming and so they are trying to convince us that extreme weather events - which are not particularly extreme in the big scheme of things - are now what we all have to fear. That's why, without any irony whatsoever, they manage to blame cold weather on global warming. Hence my joke.
But it's all getting a bit desperate isn't it? And it's very very undignified. Wouldn't it have been refreshing if Sir John, before he headed off to pick up his pension, held up his hands and said, actually, as a scientist, I have to admit that we may have got it wrong. Those models are wrong. Our predictions have been hopeless. The evidence, such as it is, is equivocal, with knobs on. We might have given you some credit had you done this. Instead you will go down in history as a scientist who wasn't very keen on the scientific method and ignored inconvenient truths. But then so will our national broadcaster.
Monday, 25 March 2013
If you haven't yet seen Michael Gove slam dunk the spectacularly patronising, supercilious and slightly dim Emily Thornberry on last week's Question Time, may I urge you to watch it before it expires on the iPlayer. Just fast forward to about 40 minutes in.
Gove's yadda yadda moment was in response to Thornberry's automaton approach to all issues on which she was asked to opine. She, like so many Labour MPs, but like many across all parties, just spouted the approved party line, didn't deviate, didn't allow her own ideas or experiences to intrude for a moment.
It's sadly typical of so many modern, career politicians. This is why the likes of Gove, Boris, Ken Clarke and dear old Tony Benn manage to attain popularity even as, like Ken and Benn, they are proved wrong about more or less everything. People don't mind politicians being wrong (although it helps if they admit it), there is nothing wrong with them making U turns, it's just nice when they express themselves, argue for something that they passionately believe in. The Thornberrys of this world are merely intent on climbing the greasy pole, saying what it takes to progress, spouting the party line to seek favour - not with us the electorate - but the party leadership. It's pathetic. Why go into politics at all if that is your career plan?
That's why we should take with a pinch of salt the current spin coming from all three parties on immigration. They are competing now to talk tough on the subject, although to be fair it is rather more believable coming from the Tories who seem to be making some limited headway since coming to power. Cameron will be making a speech today on the subject and will talk tough about restricting immigrants rights to social housing for instance. But what of benefits? Why should people who have never paid a penny in this country be immediately entitled to the same as those who were born, bred, raised and worked here? Well unfortunately it's because of the EU, indeed Brussels has even promoted Britain to the rest of Europe as a place you can go to and claim generous benefits.
It's all very well talking tough on the subject now but who handed over these rights to the EU? It's been a slow process starting with Maastricht and culminating in Lisbon on which we were denied the promised referendum.
On immigration in particular, the politics of yadda yadda yadda has been at its most egregious because from Labour and Lib Dems we got lies, evasions and name calling for anyone who dared to disagree. Meantime Labour were operating an open door policy and refusing to put in place transitional controls allowing a vast flood of immigration into this crowded little country, putting downward pressure on wages and upwards pressure on housing costs. It was the law of supply and demand there for all to see, but only now are Labour, thanks to the rise of UKIP, finally acknowledging, for entirely cynical reasons, that they got things wrong. Perhaps, while they are at it, they should tell the bovine masses who vote for them, that it was they who depressed their wages, they who ensured that a whole generation will never be able to afford to buy their own homes. All thanks to a deliberate policy to import three million people who will be more inclined to vote Labour.
It is the politics of unthinking yadda yadda yadda that means we are obeying EU directives to close down coal fired power stations to 'combat climate change' despite the fact we are enduring the coldest winter in 50 years and are dangerously low on gas. And again these are policies that hit the poorest and most vulnerable. When Labour bleat about fuel poverty or people requiring food banks ask them why. Because your cacophony of contradictory and perverse policies cut people's wages, trapped them on benefits and forced up the cost of energy and food pursuing a chimera that is fast being disproved anyway and for which the only evidence was climate models. Thanks to their disastrous 2008 Climate Change Act, Britain is pursuing a ruinously expensive policy that is already causing misery and will cause plenty more as we switch to green energy that doesn't actually generate very much and receives subsidies to do so. Britain may be the birthplace of industry but we are now intent on pricing ourselves out of business, handing business to emerging economies, closing down our own generation stations and watching while they undo what little good this country can do for the environment by building their own coal fired stations by the dozen. Are we utterly mad?
But, worse of all, it's the politics of yadda yadda yadda that sees the people of Cyprus this weekend being blackmailed by the EU elite into either handing over their cash or be abandoned into bankruptcy. All of this to defend their single currency which is actively deepening the crisis, pricing people out of work, ensuring that normal remedies for uncompetitiveness are impossible and exacting an impossibly high price for the privilege. Best of all, or worst of all dependent upon your opinion and where you earn your euros, in order to defend their precious currency they are in the process of actively undermining it anyway. The point of the euro, other than the grandiose scheme of ever closer union, was to unite the peoples of Europe and enable them to trade with one another using one currency freely transferable wherever you live. Except now this is not the case. If your euros are issued by Cyprus you will not be able to move them somewhere else, somewhere safer where they are less likely to be confiscated. So the Cypriot euro is a lesser euro, a second class euro. In which case why bother being in the euro? Why not get out of it, print pounds, let the banks go bust and trade your way back to growth free of outside interference?
Well the reason why this might not happen is the politics of yadda yadda yadda. It might also be termed the politics of the emperor's new clothes. Our politicians are in the altogether a little too often for comfort these days. They are subscribing to policies and spin instead of telling the truth. Some time soon this disastrous failure of democracy will create a crisis. If we are lucky a political great will emerge to rescue us all. If we are unlucky first we will revert to the sort of politicians who still told lies but killed people who disagreed. The politics of yadda yadda yadda is the road to disaster.
Sunday, 24 March 2013
Friday, 22 March 2013
More heavy snow in many parts overnight and yet we are only a week from Easter and April. Are April showers supposed to be icy?
Now I know it's only weather and that this proves nothing, but doesn't it put doubts in mind? We keep having cold winters that not so long ago we were told would be a thing of the past. Now they are an annual events. Children who were supposed to have grown up never seeing snow for themselves are becoming almost as bored and frustrated as the adults are by it. Add that to last year's washout summer and our weather is not conforming to the predictions that the models by which the BBC and others used to set such store by that they often treated these predictions as the top story of the day.
The wheels has come off the great global warming scare. Yet don't the green meanies to admit that they were wrong or to apologise for the insults and name calling, let alone the damage they have done and are still doing to our economy with their ridiculous green energy schemes. We even have a green MP in parliament for crying out loud. Does she still believe in global warming? You'd better believe she does because it was the perfect way for the likes of her to try and curtail the lifestyle she so disapproves of. The very people now bemoaning our current economic woes and alleged austerity were calling for austerity during the boom years to save the planet.
Remember who is to blame for all of this the next time you get an energy bill and as you turn the heating up once again despite the time of year. We should now be in double figures and seeking out spring clothing ranges. Instead we are still shivering. Is it because of global warming?
Our politicians are annoying me this week as you may have noticed. We started the week with them slapping each others backs and actually vying to take the credit for their dogs breakfast deal on press regulation that the press, on both sides of the political spectrum, are in the process of giving the finger.
Parliament may be sovereign. It can, in theory, pass laws on whatever it pleases, but if people ignore its laws, or consider them absurd or unworkable, what do they do then? Suddenly those seeking to take credit for that great stitch up, that shambolic, illiberal, unprincipled, lily-livered kowtowing to a bunch of whinging celebrities will claim that it was not their idea at all.
And, when they do these things, when they say things they know are untrue, and that they know we know are untrue, that should make us angry. Because they are treating us like idiots. When they engage in their silly games of not answering the question, of pulling faces across the dispatch box, of arguing about the theoretical possibility that some people might, just might, buy second homes subsidised by the government as though this proves something momentous, we shouldn't just sigh and change channels, we should erupt in fury that these fucking idiots are governing us.
It is particularly infuriating when they come up with their soundbites. These are meant to resonate with us, when in fact they just patronise and infuriate us. Strivers? Who uses that word except in Westminster? Do we feel better when MPs praise us for being hard working or do we feel like a Dickensian orphan being patted on the head and offered gruel by our masters?
And this week, repeated ad nauseum during the Budget, meaning that they actually think it is a phrase that pays, we had 'aspiration nation.' Aspiration Nation? It sounds like a weird kind of Etonian rap ejaculated awkwardly by someone trying desperately to look cool and down with the kids. How disastrous was it? Well the Daily Mail liked it, that's how.
And why did they come up with it? It's a response to Labour nicking the Tories One Nation phrase. They apparently haven't noticed that every time he says it we all scratch our heads, look puzzled and conclude that he is a nerdish, big nosed prat with absolutely no chance of ever being PM.
Because the fact of the matter is that most political discourse now is not for our benefit it is for the Westminster Village. It is to impress those who make their living in that most incestuous of places - professional politicians, special advisers and journalists who make their living interpreting events, reading between the lines and advising us what everything means, every nuance, every nod every wink. We are meant to think that it is all terribly sophisticated, considered, scrupulously planned, scientific almost.
Except it isn't is it? These people are idiots who have never had proper jobs. They are political obsessives who actually think that a soundbite here, a photo opportunity there, a meet and greet and an appearance on TV with a nicely honed message will spread the message, that all they have to do is take off their jacket once in a while, appear in Downing Street holding a mug and we will all be convinced that these are okay guys, that they are just like us. We can trust them.
Instead what we see is people who argue over trivialities while the world is on the cusp of economic disaster, who actually opine about Hilary Mantel's opinion of the Duchess of Cambridge and who say things like strivers, bedroom tax and aspiration nation.
Thursday, 21 March 2013
It's been a busy news week and so you may not have noticed that, earlier this week, Michael Owen announced his retirement. It's sad but inevitable that he has had to make this call at the age of just 33. But he has not been the player he was for years now, albeit only recently has this been reflected in his formerly stratospheric salary. It latterly became a pay as you play deal and he just wasn't playing that often. The speed had gone and the injuries were persistent.
But he will always be remembered for that goal against Argentina and for this prolific returns both for England and in his early career for Liverpool. His best was when he was just a teenager before the injuries struck, but his best was something we will always remember.
Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Recent history has shown that it is unwise to leap to judgement on modern Budgets in the post Brown era when what Chancellors don't say is at least as important as what they do. Long gone are the days of 4 hour long Gladstonian speeches when he went into exhaustive and exhausting detail. It's wholly appropriate that his modern day successors are no longer allowed to use the grand old man's grand old briefcase.
But at first glance this was another Budget which was broadly neutral, moving money between various groups but not overall adding to or subtracting from public spending. Indeed that is the problem. Spending - for all the headlines about austerity and this morning's spin about cutting budgets to pay for new capital spending - is still rising. That is why the deficit is stubbornly refusing to budge. This government has taken all the flak for austerity whilst failing to actually impose it.
So, when Labour and the Left say they told us so, that the economy is flatlining as they predicted and as a consequence of cuts, remember that. We have not had austerity. We have been spending at nearly the rate they left as their legacy. This is an economy being given vast doses of their favoured medicine, an annual stimulus of £100 billion plus since 2008. It is failing, it is failing because their boom was funded by borrowing and now so is their bust. The state, like a vampire out to kill its meal ticket, is sucking the country dry and then wondering why it keeps needing ever more transfusions to keep it alive.
But, as I say, and with the caveat that the devil is in the detail as ever, Osborne did as much as he could within tight constraints not seen since the days of Healey. Recognising that the cost of living is the issue for millions, he has done what he can, cutting here, abandoning rises there and taking more out of tax, although once again too many are now in the 40% bracket. Corporation Tax too is cut as are Employer NI contributions, moves to be applauded enthusiastically.
Yet that deficit is still there and the debt rising despite the rhetoric and bogus arguments of all parties. The greater worry is this talk of unconventional monetary instruments which we have had quite enough of already. It smacks of easy answers from politicians too close to an election and too constrained by lack of money to do braver, bolder, economically coherent things.
This may not be a disaster like last year but will it be enough? One thing we can say with certainty because we could have written before Osborne said a word, and not just because of that leak, this is no game changer. And it needed to be.
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
It's hard to fully express the contempt I feel for all three party leaders this morning, but in particular this lousy, cowardly, lazy, supine prime minister. But this sorry episode, this chaotic debacle has finished me off with them.
They actually conducted negotiations around a table in the leader of the opposition's office with four representatives of Hacked Off sitting opposite decreeing what is and is not acceptable. Meanwhile Dave seems to have been in bed.
But none of this should surprise us now. We have seen enough of this government, this sorry back of the envelope, principle free shambles to feel only weary disdain most of the time. Until moments like this. This, to use Cameron's slick phrase that turned out to be typically meaningless, crosses a rubicon.
Not that we should ignore the part of the other useless party leaders either. Wallace is congratulating himself on how well he has done. But it was he who invited Hacked Off into his office, who gave these unelected whiners a veto on the British constitution. The Lib Dems? Well they need a new name this morning, they don't seem to understand any part of their own.
Newspapers, websites and bloggers (there is confusion as to whether this dog's dinner catches us too) should simply refuse to sign up to the new regulator. Not one of the party leaders has the authority to do this. None of them won an election, how do they contrive now to concoct a plan to fundamentally change our constitution?
It's UKIP for me now until the Tory plotters prevail and dump Dave. It's time we echoed the words of Cromwell to the Rump Parliament: 'You have been sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go'.
Monday, 18 March 2013
It's a toss up this morning as to what to write about. Which outrages me more, assaults on the freedom of the press or the Euro elite's helping themselves to people's savings? In the end I have decided to write about both because they are connected.
I delayed writing about today's vote on the new press regulation arrangements because of the possibility of a last minute deal. It seems I was right to.
A shoddy compromise has been done, one that leaves nobody happy and the press shackled in a way that ought to outrage us. It's all about politicians saving face, trying to look tough, sucking up to celebrities and victims and failing woefully to show leadership.
If we were not led these days by political pygmies, we would right now have someone telling Hugh Grant to get stuffed and creating, in our unwritten constitution, a US style 1st amendment to protect freedom of speech. It is the very first part of that admirable document because all things follow from it in a democracy. There are no press regulators, no unelected panjandrums dispensing edicts on what is fair and unfair. The American press is subject to the law but politicians cannot interfere thanks to that central inalienable right.
Nobody is defending the worst excesses of the press, but those worst excesses were and are illegal. They were rooted out by other newspapers, not by the police who told us for years there was no serious problem. It is the police, regulators if you will, who failed. Yet the answer is said to be more regulation.
This peculiar faith in regulation tends to ignore our recent history. Banks are heavily regulated but still managed to help create the mess we are currently in.
The best regulator of anything is freedom of information and a press free to investigate and report without fear or favour. Politicians know this. That's why they try to control the news through bullies and unprincipled scoundrels like Alastair Campbell. While in government Ed Balls threatened journalists who had written about him. Now they are trying to do this via a regulator.
Lets not pretend this has anything to do with the Dowlers or the McCanns. This is politicians and rich, famous people trying to pass laws to suit themselves. They don't like being written and gossiped about? Tough. Gossip is human nature - look at Twitter. Phone hacking and harassment by photographers, or rooting through bins are illegal activities for which there are laws. You don't need a regulator to prevent them, you need enforcement of the law and the pressure of public opinion.
These demands for action are coming from vested interests like politicians who didn't like their abuse of public money through their expenses being exposed. This should outrage us all. How dare they? How dare they decide that they have the right to cast aside a central plank of democracy via a shabby deal. The press are not perfect but then what is? The chaotic, sometimes viciously competitive press is what makes it worth reading. Ours is about the best and most diverse in the world. We should be proud of it and hold it up as an example, not seek to stymie it for short term political gain by political pygmies.
And what mandate do these three pygmies have? None of them commands a parliamentary majority. Yet they are proposing potentially the most far reaching change to our constitutional arrangements since the glorious revolution.
We tend to forget that, before the hacking scandal, we were all up in arms at attempts by the rich and famous to create a privacy law for themselves through the courts. Now they are up to the same, sacrificing hard earned freedom of speech for which people have fought and died to stop their peccadilloes being written about in the press. They want it to be like Hello Magazine. We must not let them.
And then there is Cyprus, a classic case of our puny political class robbing us to shore up their own craven stupidity and shortsightedness. They are actually trying to help themselves to the money of savers rather than admit their Euro sacred cow is causing the problems they profess to be solving.
It couldn't happen here? Don't be so sure. Two of our three political parties want a mansion tax to pay for their mistakes and serial inability to balance the books. There was a time when governments could fall for not balancing the books. Now it is seen as the compassionate thing to do and even economically sophisticated. So they create tax after tax to cover up their own incompetence and lies. All that happens is the money is swallowed by the ravenous beast of the state, the economy suffers a little more and soon a new tax is needed which the Pygmy politicians dress up as being about fairness when it is just a new form of tyranny. Confiscating savings just shows how desperate they are.
And this is why we need our free press. We need to expose the folly and the lies. And yes we need the harsh light of publicity on everyone in the public eye. It makes people behave better. Ultimately it has exposed the wrongdoing of the press itself. That is the beauty of a free press. It is a very special, ugly kind of beauty. It is the bulwark that protects us all from those who would take our money and our freedom because they claim to know best. Only the free exchange of ideas will test whether or not they do.
Sunday, 17 March 2013
Friday, 15 March 2013
Funniest story of the week has to be that of David Lammy MP who took exception to a BBC tweet about the colour of the smoke coming out of the Vatican. Lammy, as tends to be the way with the bien pensant left, assumed that this was casual racism. It was the BBC for crying out loud.
It seems that general knowledge is not really Labour MPs strong suit as Diane Abbott once demonstrated on Mastermind and indeed every time she opens her mouth or exercises her typing fingers. Last week Sion Simon tweeted that a friend of his had asked the 'good question' that, if humans are descended from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys. This is not a good question as I pointed out to him. Humans and monkeys have common ancestors. We are not evolved from monkeys.
For those who abuse Twitter as banal and superficial you are missing its great benefit. The informality of it and its instantaneous nature can make fools or even criminals of us all. And it does expose the woeful ignorance and painful tendency of some to play the race card at every opportunity. Twitter in this respect is extremely useful at exposing the stupidity of those who rule us.
At PMQs on Wednesday Wallace made what was probably his best joke since he became leader and started crossing swords with Dave across the Dispatch Box. Could he organise anything in a brewery he asked and the Commons laughed because this incompetence meme had been allied to one or our old faithful bits of humour.
Yet the fact is that the government's U turn on this was perfectly sensible and reasonable. The notion that we should have a minimum price for alcohol is another example of our nanny state gone to extremes. Yes there are some who have a drink or two too many just as there are some who drive too fast or eat too much. We are not about to bring back men with red flags to regulate driving and we are all perfectly capable of eating a nutritious diet, it isn't as if there aren't enough cooks on television advising us how not to spoil the broth.
This whole policy is predicated on a dubious study suggesting, based on models about as reliable as those that tell us that the snow we keep having shouldn't be happening thanks to global warming, that raising the price of alcohol would cut alcohol abuse. It would probably cut overall alcohol intake but would not affect those who are problem drinkers. It would just be a punishment for those of us who like a drink two or three times a week, a glass of wine with a meal, a pint or two after work. We've all drunk more than we should from time to time, but the consequences, well enough known to all sentient adults, are usually enough to dissuade us from doing so again, at least for a while.
We do, it is true, have an unfortunate relationship with alcohol in this country but that has actually been moderating in recent years. We do think about our health and fitness more than we used to. That is all to the good. Binge drinking is a kind of rite of passage but it is something we usually all grow out of. Those who have a problem do not worry about the kinds of pressures that make the rest of us grow up and sober up. That is the very definition of someone with a drinking problem. If pressures of work and family fail to have the desired effect, what chance a few extra pence on a pint?
The government seems to have realised, perhaps a little late in the day, that this was a bad measure and probably one that could be illegal too. But better a sinner repenteth. Wallace didn't seem to have any great issue with the decision, it was just an excuse for a joke. But perhaps this could be the beginning of a welcome period in which govenment stops trying to nanny us about our health and lifestyles. Educate us by all means, provide us with the information but then leave us alone. If there is a long term problem with our health thanks to drink then the remedy would be to charge those who have damaged their health with alcohol, cigarettes or some other excess for their healthcare. Free at the point of use should not mean that people are free to do as they will and have others pick up the bill. Now that would be a welcome change and would encourage responsibility. I'll drink to that.
Thursday, 14 March 2013
Having taken a swipe at David Cameron earlier, let me now commend him for standing up to the opportunist, populist charlatans Clegg and Wallace who are again trying to gang up to shackle our press for the first time in centuries.
They call it press regulation. It is the thin end of a very dangerous wedge.
Lefties don't like a free press - although quite what the reasoning of people who call themselves Liberal is is a matter for debate. They think it should be controlled like everything else, that journalists should have to run their copy past a regulator who would deem things acceptable or unacceptable. In time this would evolve so that the rich and powerful would be able to prevent stories making their way into the public sphere. To doubly ensure this Labour peers recently hijacked a bill attempting to reform our ludicrous libel laws, another way for rich powerful people to prevent being written about, regardless of the truth. In short they want to turn the press into the BBC because that august body has been impressing us all recently with its objectivity and quality journalism.
And so now we are to have a vote on Monday on the government's preferred option for a Royal Charter, an elegant compromise. The Lib Dems and Labour combined cannot win a vote but they can prevent the Royal Charter option going through. And so there will be stalemate. Or a free press, call it what you will.
But it is rather a sign of things to come one can't help but feel. Labour and the Lib Dems combining to put into effect their own very special definition of what is progressive. They are effectively signed up to a olicy dictated by a pressure group, Hacked Off. Wallace hasn't covered himself in glory on this issue from the off, arguing that Leveson should be implemented in full before he had read it in full. This is the man who makes jokes about not being able to run events in breweries and who aspires to be our prime minister. As a newspaper once wrote: will the last person to leave the country please turn the lights out?
Presumably though, since they feel so strongly about it, Labour and the Lib Dems will be putting press regulation in their election manifestos won't they? Won't they? And for those who assume that the next election is already won by Labour, well look at what the leadership is still capable of under no pressure other than from a few celebs and grieving parents. It is what they call in tennis an unforced error. As scrutiny mounts, from our free press, expect a lot more of those from Wallace's Labour.
The above is a new Conservative party election broadcast as we gear up for the forthcoming May local elections. Take a look at it, as these things go it is actually rather impressive. It should be noted however that many Tories will look on it ruefully and wish that the PM had been as impressive at yesterday's PMQs.
David Cameron is good at being statesmanlike and austere - at least in appearance. The problem that I and many have with him is that, though he is good on these occasions and gives the impression that he recognises the state we are in, his actions have spoken louder than his words all too often.
Britain is at real peril, the greatest since the second world war. We are in grave danger of having a lost decade of almost no growth and inflation - stagflation to use the unlovely word for an even more unpleasant phenomenon. We have the loosest monetary policy in living memory, a vast debt and deficit, a currency that is being deliberately devalued in an international race to offload problems on to neighbours and competitors and a polity that is broken and deluded, witness yesterday's vote by the European parliament to refuse to accept a smaller budget settlement.
And what do we have from the politicians? We have lies and evasions, quibbling over trivialities, big bust ups over irrelevances and a reluctance to face up to economic reality. The Tories pretend that they are inflicting austerity on us when in reality spending is still rising and Labour claim that it is all too far and too fast and the reason for our economic woes. In reality we have allowed the so called economic stablisers to kick in, kept spending high, ring-fenced certain untouchables of public spending and refused to make any really tough decisions.
Then again it could be worse. Labour, it's head firmly stuck in its own fundament, says we shouldn't be cutting at all, shouldn't be reforming out of control welfare, presumably thinks taxing people and then handing them money back in universal benefits is fine and dandy and gives bureaucrats jobs and has nothing to say whatsoever about the disastrous performance of the NHS during its tenure when it was shovelling money into it.
We have an NHS not fit for purpose, armed forces being cut while the world gets more dangerous, a police force that lies and spins like the best of politicians, a civil service that looks after itself, resists change and cannot manage any major projects (the changes to welfare will probably be delayed by its inability to manage the IT) education that is there for the benefit of teachers and not pupils and sends students out into the world unprepared and less well educated in the basics than our competitors. We don't have enough homes for everyone and a planning system too cumbersome to build them, we are still attracting and are unable to prevent 100,000 plus immigrants annually to these shores despite long term and record youth unemployment, our industry is still failing to compete despite the pound being at record lows. We have a government that puts off big decisions like the need for new power stations and airports, that calls itself the greenest ever whilst exporting our jobs and risking the lights going out.
And it's all our fault. We the public helped create this mess by voting for people obliged to lie to us, to speak cosy untruths to get our votes. We are being poorly served by our politicians and by our democracy because we don't want to hear the truth. Our politicians are terrified to tell the truth because they know if they do their opponents will pile into the middle ground, promise us the earth and get elected. What we need is a new Thatcher, but most of us still hate the last one we had and are busy electing people determined to unravel all of her achievements. What we will get instead is the Labour Party, left wing and delusional who will create a greater mess and plunge us back into 1970s style chaos and decline.
If we're lucky we will then get a figure who will emerge and be more than someone like Cameron or Osborne who talk the talk but refuse to run the risks of walking the walk. If we're lucky we will get someone who is so appalled by the state we are in that they vow to do something about it, to suffer the abuse and the hatred and do what is needed to restore Britain to vitality and reality. Unfortunately it seems that the only way this reality will dawn is by showing it us, cold and hard in lower living standards, high unemployment and misery for the very people the left are resolved to help. We will have mansion taxes and super taxes, we will have banker bashing and we will drive away one of our last remaining world beating industries.
Britain is now back where we were in the late sixties facing the hell to come. We are on the cusp of a disaster because we cannot face our reality and prefer electing politicians who tell us comforting lies. David Cameron talks about the momentous sense of responsibility he faced when he took his job. What a pity he has avoided so much of it.
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
To be fair to the Catholic Church, which goes very much against the grain, their method of electing a Pope is rather better than the one we use to find a new Archbishop of Canterbury. Lots of pomp and ceremony and smoke coming out of chimneys rather than a so very English faceless committee convened to decide and try and find someone to sit between the rival factions and mediate on issues the country couldn't care less about like female bishops and gay marriage. You have to wonder though, did the last Pope see that the bearded nonentity who held his rival office had resigned and thought it a rather good idea to head off into retirement to spend time with his books?. Being Pope, one suspects, is not all that is cracked up to be - although it's not as bad as being Archbishop.
All kinds of symbolism will be read into this new appointment, most of it bogus. Apparently the new man, formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was a runner up last time and is another elderly man. So it just sounds like buggins turn really. Oh and he is the first Pope to choose a new name - he will be Francis. Quite what this denotes is unclear. Almost certainly nothing, but of course they will tell us that it is a new beginning, a new broom with a new name. Except he's not, he nearly got the job last time.
Oh and he's from South America. This is also supposedly a big deal. Or is it just that the Catholic Church could not continue to ignore that its growth is coming from all around the world except in Europe which is increasingly sceptical and secular? Still I suppose it is a welcome bit of realism.
One thing we can count on is that, being an Argentinian, the government of that country will probably use it as an excuse to keep demanding the return of the Falklands. Yes, the people of that archipelago may overwhelmingly wish to be British and C of E, but god has spoken through his choice of Pope. That's the quality of the argument they usually use so don't count it out this time. Trouble is god chose the last Pope presumably and he has now had to retire through ill health. So god's not looking too omniscient right now. Let's see how wise and enduring this one turns out to be.
Call me aggressively secular if you like, but I don't think the world is going to change thanks to this appointment and for that matter neither will the Catholic Church.
Dave has had another week of ignoring talk of coups as various colleagues and backbenchers offer him advice or make helpful speeches which of course are not coded ways of telling the world that they would rather like to be the next leader. Even Theresa May made one at the weekend. Theresa May! If she is the answer to the current travails of the Conservative Party then I for one must have misunderstood the question. I'm not saying she is not making a perfectly decent fist of probably the hardest job in government. But really? In what parallel universe is she leadership material? They're 10 points behind in the polls. And to Wallace. Did Mrs May tumble off her famous leopardskin shoes and bang her head? Did those talking her up? Why were they wearing her shoes?
Elsewhere this week the Archbishop of Canterbury criticised government welfare policy. No, not the annoying one with the patronising but earnest voice and the silly beard, the one with the silly, pointy face and the expression of earnest uselessness. I know, I can't always tell them apart either, although the lack of a beard definitely helps.
There was a time when the Church of England was called the Conservative Party at prayer. Now they all seem to be socialists, even or perhaps especially, the ones who used to be oil executives. Or maybe it is just that their looks suit Labour and its current leader than the other parties. And of course the C of E, like Labour, is fond of lecturing us about poverty and welfare. It doesn't seem to occur to them that our welfare state expanded hugely under Labour, is still expanding under the Coalition and yet the slightest of cuts will apparently plunge people into despair. Doesn't that sound like something that isn't doing what it is supposed to do, that needs reform?
looking on the bright side however it seems that Dave is about to perform a U turn and drop plans to set minimum pricing for alcohol. So at least the poor will be able to get blind drunk so as to forget their poverty. So perhaps they are not so poor after all?
Oh and this week Wallace tried one of his bold moves that, on closer examination was not so bold. I'm not talking about when he told a meeting of Jews that he is a Zionist only to backtrack within hours when it gave his party a fit of the vapours. No, this was when this most metropolitan of socialists tried to convince the working class he purports to represent that he regretted his party's appalling record on immigration. Wallace is fond of telling the Tories and Dave at PMQs that they are out of touch with public opinion on all manner of things. Yet Labour were not only out of touch with public opinion they actively ignored it and called anyone who disagreed racists. Have they really done a complete U turn on this? Or are they just saying what they think their voters want to hear before they carry on regardless?
The Lib Dems have had a good or bad week according to whether or not you are keen on Chris Huhne. So, according to the latest polls, 99% of Lib Dems have had a good week. Nick Clegg has had a great week. He got rid of one of his rivals, stuck it to the Tories at his conference speech and, trendy as ever, rode the wave of last year's dance craze with his own Cleggnam style as spotted by The Daily Mail. Even when one of his delegates quit on stage he still managed to breeze through it. Perhaps things are finally turning around for Cleggy. Let's see if he's still dancing in May though.
And so to this week's PMQs.
Wallace got to his feet and, with regard to the U turn on alcohol minimum pricing, asked if Dave could organise anything in a brewery. It was a good joke, probably his best ever because it had an underlying message that Labour have been pushing about U turns and incompetence. Dave did not respond that, it was in order to ensure breweries stay open that he was not introducing minimum pricing. He made a slightly weak point in response to a question clearly just asked so that Wallace could insert a joke about Ed Balls. This is the Tory response to Labour jeers about cabinet rifts - well at least we aren't stuck with Balls.
It was made transparently obvious that Wallace had asked his question just to insert the joke because he quickly moved on to the OBR, which last week rebuked the PM for his speech on the economy. Dave didn't answer. He again spoke about having the team he wanted in place at the Treasury. It was all rather weak.
Wallace seemed to be enjoying himself and Dave patently not. One was almost (almost) reminded of John Smith's witty and funny performances against John Major at PMQs (the subject of a forthcoming Sunday Funnies on this blog). Where Wallace lets himself down is that he does still sound like a student politician as he makes cheap points, the sort that probably used to get his head shoved down the loo at school. For the second week in a row he told us he was glad that Dave was getting ready for being in opposition. It's tired and a little pathetic.
But Dave was not doing any better. He was avoiding the question and making points about Labour that were irrelevant and petty. He did however point out, accurately, that industry declined under Labour. It did. It's a little known fact that it declined more under Labour than under Thatcher.
Wallace of course is all about petty point scoring. He does it every week. But then that goes with the territory. His pre-prepared joke about taxi for Cameron however sounded a little more apposite and almost spontaneous because Dave was struggling.
But ultimately Dave made the point, he does almost every week, that, though Wallace and his party may be good at point scoring and opposing everything, they have nothing positive to say about reducing the deficit and what they would cut. They were now talking about investment in capital spending, but the government, he claimed, were spending more than Labour had planned to. All Labour were about was debt, debt, debt.
But by and large this was a win for Wallace. Dave looked ill at ease and had no quips to hand. Sure he produced figures about Labour raising money from the unions but even this was rather wasted, albeit not helped by the constantly interrupting Speaker, who seems to put Dave off his stride more or less every week but does not do the same to Wallace. Wallace was relaxed and combative, Dave was tense and defensive. It was a performance that will not have calmed leadership speculation, however much the leadership tell Tories to stop Tweeting. There were probably thumbs twitching at the end of this exchange.
But then at the end, as so often, Dave relaxed when faced with other questions and got much much better. In response to a question about his own tax affairs and after last week's Wallace stunt about a letter from a banker, the PM produced 'a letter' from Ed from Camden, talked of his £2 million house gained through property speculation and well planned inheritance. He accused him of being a Champagne Socialist. It was good, but ultimately it wasn't as good as the brewery joke or the telling image of Theresa May standing at the edge of the chamber rather than sitting on the front bench. It was not a good day for Cameron. The pressure is on.