Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Wallace on Helium


It is never a good sign when anyone, let alone a politician, starts talking in a voice that makes him sound like 60s novelty band the Chipmunks. But that seems to be the default of Wallace when asked about anything to do with the economy. The man who would be prime minister defaults to the little boy who used to have his head shoved down the bog at school. He sounds like a teenager playing at politics, and serially unwilling to face the reality of life. Cuts to taxes will be paid for by the wealth they create in the future. Isn't that great? Isn't that just dandy? I wonder if that would work with my bank manager? I would like to borrow money to buy a Porsche. This will make me happier, and will get me to work quicker thus making me more productive. I will then be able to pay off the loan quicker. Give us the money.

 I would just like to place on the record my prediction that, though the Tories will lose seats this Thursday, it will not be as disastrous as many are assuming. Why? Well, just listen to the clip above. We're patriots. Can we really do that to a country we love?

Wallace you see is the Harry Potter politician. Not only is he weedy and nerdy, but he actually seems to believe in his magic wand policy, and that he can hide it all under an invisibility cloak. He would borrow more wouldn't he? No, in the medium term he would borrow less because he would magically restore growth. But how would he fund his extra spending and the VAT cut that worked so well under Labour last time? Well reach for that invisibility cloak again. Nothing to see here.

The position of Labour can be summed up as follows: The current government is borrowing, and has failed to cut the deficit enough, borrowing more than they planned. At the same time, according to Labour, they are cutting too far, and too fast. This is stifling growth, despite the fact that government figures show that spending will increase every year under this government. The deficit is being cut, just not very quickly.

Labour's plan is to borrow to 'invest', which used to be their word that described all government spending, and would probably be again. But this would be magical investment that would create growth out of thin air, thanks the grand magician Keynes whose memory is so abused by politicians without the balls to cut their coat according to their cloth. So they would borrow even more than currently planned, but this would be good borrowing, magic borrowing, that would create magic beans which we would all plant for our golden tomorrows.

Inspiring isn't it?The local elections are on Thursday.


Monday, 29 April 2013

Real Politics - Embracing the Rise of UKIP


The press, as an extension of the Conservative Party, have been going to town on UKIP over the weekend. It is of course a compliment to that party's chances in this Thursday's local elections, held in areas that are, by and large, naturally Conservative. Thanks to my move last year I now live in such an area, a place full of people who own cars, work, know the names of their neighbours, even like them. Oh and it's also, in the phrase of a former BBC DG, hideously white. I overheard the conversation between a couple of elderly ladies the other day. One referred to 'coloured people'. If she had done so in London she would probably have been arrested by the Met and sent off for re-education. Yet she wasn't being racist. She was just using the language of yesteryear. It's easy to do so out in the sticks.

Perhaps that's why the BBC and other metropolitan media don't really get these large swathes of the country. This is where the so called strivers live, the areas where people go to when they've done comparatively well in life. The Daily Mail sells well out here, although we shouldn't judge them for that. Say what you like about the Mail, but it is a very well put together product that knows its audience. It is a Conservative paper of course, but it is also a conservative paper. It could easily be a UKIP one.

Those thinking that the revelations about some candidates this weekend will hole the UKIP ship below the waterline are almost certainly kidding themselves. Did they not notice the recent by elections these last few months, you know the one in which the Lib Dems held on to their seat despite their former MP being in jail? Or there were the seats held up north in which scandals were reported just prior to polling and had no measurable effect. The public use these elections, if they think about them at all, as ways of sending messages to those in power, but also to all of the major parties. Those same parties see what they want to see anyway, and so it is all an exercise in pointlessness.

But we get excited about them all the same. Local elections are the same but on a bigger scale. Next year's utterly farcical and pointless European elections even more so.

The vast majority of people will not bother voting this Thursday. They will do so, not because they don't care - although that is certainly true of some - but because they don't see that it will make any difference. This is not because they doubt that our politicians can control things, although there is clearly an element of that. It is because our parties have congregated together on the fabled centre ground, and deny us any kind of choice.



That's why UKIP is popular. It is saying things the rest of the parties don't want to say, not because it won't play well with the electorate, but because it won't play well in London and the homogenous unreal world of the Westminster bubble. But, as usual, instead of responding to this clear popular sentiment, the parties are playing the man rather than taking a good hard look at themselves. This is as true of Labour, indeed probably more so, than it is of the Tories. UKIP after all bear a striking resemblance to the Conservative Party in many ways. It's why people like me toy with voting for them when we are really fed up.

Because the people who are enthused by UKIP are normal. They are properly normal, not like the Nigel Farage normal. That is just a decent approximation of normal that looks good on television. He is just normal compared to other politicians, particularly those who are career politicians, and have never had a proper job. Ironically many of the people who thanklessly stand as local councillors, for all of the parties, or who knock on doors and push leaflets on their behalf are the same. They do it because they believe in what they are doing and want to make their small contribution to making a difference. It is the apparatchiks at the top of the parties, the professional political class who think they know best, or disassociate themselves from the grass roots who have turned the public off politics. As UKIP has shown, people do still care. It's just that the main parties no longer allow them to express themselves. It has become controlled. Mavericks are disapproved of or even ejected.

This sanitised, anodyne world is what politics has become. UKIP is a reaction to that, born of anger and frustration. It started as a perfectly reasonable anger at our continued disenfranchisement with regard to Europe, an anger created by all of the parties, but in particular those who promise referendums and then renege. But it is now boiling over into other areas. Immigration is one of course, and we have weasel words on that, but UKIP is now an assembly point for those who feel voiceless and disengaged. That is a healthy thing in any democracy.

So will I vote this Thursday for UKIP? I don't know. I'm tempted, although there are an awful lot of loons in the party who would never stand a chance of being a candidate for any other party, but then again is that a bad thing? If people have opinions you don't like then it is your prerogative to say so, or not to vote for them. Or you can hold your nose and vote for them regardless to punish the others. It's up to you. That's the beauty of democracy, nobody is going to imagine such a result means that we are as a nation now a bunch of misogynist, racist, crypto fascists, any more than Italy thinks that Mr Grillo is the answer to their problems, although you never can tell with Italian politics.

But the chances are it will be a wasted vote, and will risk letting in Labour or Lib Dems who would then interpret this as a mandate for them to carry on regardless: that the nation is moving to their side.

The Tories are aware of this danger, but still cannot or will not see what needs to be done, possibly for fear of offending Lib Dems. Yet that in itself is an opportunity. If Lib Dems want to present themselves as the party holding back Tories then let them. Let them shout it loudly from the rooftops. The public ought to know.



As Margaret Thatcher showed, and as her death reminded us, politicians who have convictions rather than focus groups, who do what they believe is right, rather than what is popular, can and do arouse passions in people still. How refreshing it would be if we had someone stand up and announce measures that will be difficult, possibly unpopular, and even, that word so often deployed in the last couple of weeks, divisive. Someone who would stand up to the combined forces of the EU and our own civil service, to the lawyers, and the vested interests, from the City of London to the unions. Parliament is supposed to be sovereign in this country, it can sweep all before it if it is minded to do so. So why has it become hostage to the rights advocates and the focus groups, to the pettifogging bureaucrats of Brussels and Whitehall?

So here is a short list of items the Tories should announce they want to introduce if they can get it through parliament, happily the Queen's Speech is just next week:


  • It is clearly economic lunacy, given the size and persistence of our debt, deficit, and unemployment, to persist with an open door policy to this country for all of Europe, especially recent entrants. It is an act of almost criminal negligence to give them unfettered access to benefits and the NHS. Thus it will be suspended immediately until further notice.  
  • With this in mind it is time to consult the British people about Europe by means of a referendum. The legislation for that referendum will be introduced immediately, with a date for it next year. We believe that this simple act would be a shot in the arm for the British economy, but also that the current state of Europe and the persistent denial of the political class about its persistent problems, means something bold needs to be done. If the other parties disagree then they should have the guts to say so in a referendum campaign rather than denying the British people a say. 
  • We will introduce a short bill allowing the deportation of Abu Qatada. His stay in this country at our expense, having entered illegally and broken the rules at every opportunity whilst simultaneously using the law to frustrate the will of the democratically elected government, must end. The courts have behaved shamelessly in this regard. This is not the rule of law, this is the rule of lawyers. It will have precisely no effect on our ability to criticise the human rights of other nations even in the unlikely event that they listen to us anyway. This absurd abuse of rights meant to protect ordinary people from the re-emergence of a totalitarian state has turned into a charter for lawyers to make up laws as they go along. 
  • Similarly, all foreign citizens who commit crimes in this country, and are given custodial sentences, will be automatically deported with no right of appeal save for the normal appeal process against the conviction or sentence itself. 
  • We will start to introduce time limits for benefit claims for unemployment. Those who do not get work within say two years will be required to take work given to them on the minimum wage. This work will be working for good causes, helping out charities, the elderly etc. Training courses will be provided as an alternative. 
  • As part of the drive for efficiency and better value for money, the government will reduce the size of the Cabinet to a more manageable number. Accordingly we will be looking to abolish or merge various departments. DFID will be abolished immediately and merged into the Foreign Office. We are abandoning our commitment to maintaining and ringfencing international aid. It doesn't work, is open to corruption, and we can't afford it.
  • The principle of a free healthcare service for all at the point of use will be enshrined in law for those who are citizens of this country. However we believe that there are better ways of delivering that service. We will be looking for radical reforms, starting with GPs contracts. These have been an unmitigated disaster. We hope that GPs recognise this, and work with us for a workable solution that serves patients better and allows them access to doctors they know and trust 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year thus taking pressure off the hard pressed, and frequently abused Accident and Emergency service. 




Obama Maps Out Future Career in Comedy

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Review of the Week


After last week's bombing in Boston, more details emerged about the bombers and their motivations, although they remained difficult to understand. The bombers' mother, in the face of the evidence, refused to believe that her sons had been responsible for such carnage. She even contrived to blame America for what had happened, wishing that the family had never moved there.

In the wake of those appalling events in Boston, London's marathon runners turned out in force, and defied those who would spoil the fun and fundraising efforts of thousands. 37, 000 runners turned out in near perfect weather to take on the the even more forbidding obstacle of those long, lonely 26 miles. Meanwhile, here in Britain, we imprisoned yet more jihadist cretins in Christopher Hitchens's memorable phrase. These had planned to wreak carnage on Britain's second city, although much of it may have been little more than fantasy. They were picked up by Police having been monitored for months, in the lead up to last year's Olympics.

The Sunday Times issued its annual rich list for the twentieth time, finding that our richest are in fact almost all foreigners. Top of the list was Alisher Usmanov, although all is not well even for the mega rich - he is also the majority shareholder in Arsenal.


The latest Turner Prize short list was released prompting the usual ridicule and consternation, not necessarily in that order. To my mind Jack the Balancing Dog should be the winner. But then he has not been included in the short list, having been regarded as altogether too coherent and arty for those who decide these things.

The newspaper industry staged a fightback against attempts to impose state regulation on it, thus ending 300 years of press freedom. They proposed an alternative arrangement which would keep in place the heavy fines and prominent corrections but without the state being involved. Even Harris, a spokesman for Hacked Off, the shady organisation that has been leading the charge for state regulation, and has the leader of the Labour Party in its thrall like a docile labradoodle, described the proposals as a temper tantrum by powerful people used to getting their own way. He sounded very much like he was having a temper tantrum himself.

It was announced that the appalling weather we have been suffering of late has had an impact on the nation's diet. Weetabix Minis are officially off the menu for the time being. It is however a boon for parents of our poorly performing school children both academically and in terms of their health. A future GCSE question will ask how many conventionally sized Weetabix biscuits should be used as a substitute. Anyone answering three or more will be kept behind for extra tuition and referred to their GP for dietary advice.

In another sign of the weather affecting our diets, there is apparently a shortage of lobsters because of colder seas. I have not yet read of this creating major angst, except on the streets of Kensington and Mayfair.



Despite the fact that I have recently become a customer of its phones and computers, Apple reported its first fall in profits for over 10 years. If they would like me to talk them up as a satisfied customer they should feel free to get in touch with offers of free products and support.

Associated Press had its Twitter account hacked and the resultant free-for-all created a panic on stock markets as hackers told the world that Obama's White House had been attacked and the president injured. When it was reported that Ed Miliband had met with George Galloway it was widely assumed that he too had been the victim of hacking only for it to turn out to be true. Oh and it was also true that Nigel Farage did enter a Strasbourg lap dancing club. Whether this was unwitting only he truly knows.

On St George's Day, George Osborne, no relation, presented a report telling Scots that, whatever the Nats say, and they say lots of things that bear little relation to reality or truth, the chances are that Scotland will not, after independence, be able to carry on using the pound. This had Alex Salmond fulminating and accusing the boy George of scaremongering, which is a classic way for them to avoid telling us that this information scared the living daylights out of those who want independence. It is of the decidedly inconvenient kind. The wheels are coming off the independence campaign faster than a Glaswegian near a battered Mars Bar.



The Bank of England announced that the next £5 note, which might or might not break with tradition and be made of plastic, will feature on the back the image of Winston Churchill, the last prime minister to receive a state funeral and curiously overlooked until now for featuring on our currency. Mervyn King, the outgoing Governor of the Bank, expressed the hope that the new notes may come to be known as Winstons. This is as opposed to Churchills presumably, possibly because younger generations would assume this referred instead to the animated cartoon dog who advertises insurance. Oh yes! We were not told whether Sir Winston will feature on Scottish notes. Presumably, since by then they may have their own currency and be a foreign land, they will be able to select their own heroes. William Wallace perhaps, or Adam Smith. Or maybe Alex Salmond himself, the man who turned them into a colder version of Cyprus.

Elsewhere in the world of high finance, the Co-op Bank decided to pull out of a deal to buy several hundred Lloyds TSB branches in what was supposed to represent a welcome injection of competition to British banking. The Co-op decided that the economy was too uncertain and thus the purchase too much of a risk. They did so the day before it was announced that the economy had grown by a better than expected 0.3%. With banking and economic acumen like that Lloyds TSB customers may feel they have dodged a bullet there. The branches will now be floated we are told, which does not mean they are to be put on an ark and told to sink or swim.

Last Sunday Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, seemingly confused by his manager's metaphorical team talks, took rather literally Brendan Rodgers's exhortation to get their teeth sunk into the opposition. He bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic and was subsequently banned by the FA for 10 games commencing immediately, and meaning that he will not play again until October. Plenty of time for those anger management classes, or possibly to be fitted with a muzzle.

The nation was gripped by the denouement in ITV's superb crime drama Broadchurch. Watched by an audience of around 10 million, it was an 8 episode long character study of a community torn apart by the murder of an 11 year old boy. Confusingly ITV announced that there will be a sequel. They're not going to turn this little seaside town into another Oxford, Denton, or Midsomer are they?


In a sign of the enterprising spirit our Chancellor wishes there was so much more of, especially if we are to have to start importing our whisky after next year, a brewery found that the best way to sell more beer is to have a rock band on board. Trooper is a beer 'designed' by Iron Maiden. Singer Bruce Dickinson has even brewed a batch. This has led to unprecedented demand and the brewery working 6 days a week for the first time in its history. Quite how one designs a beer is a mystery, but it sounds so much more rock and roll than having a perfume, a designer label or some other consumer frippery. Let's just hope that a Rolls Royce has been driven into a vat at some point.

Finally, and in an act of genius I wish I had thought of, erotic novelist Chad Leslie Peters advertised for someone to have an affair with him so that he can write about it. Eschewing imagination for realism is clearly the way to go. I haven't yet got to the love scene in the rewrite of my book Light and Truth, and so there is an opportunity for applicants to get in touch and to be immortalised in print. Form an orderly queue, girls. I'm sure I can get around to you all before Chapter 23.

Interlude

Sunday Funnies

Interlude

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Decline and Fall of Ben Elton


There is much delighted comment in many newspapers this week about the decline and fall of Ben Elton. From angry, anti-establishment young man of comedy, to hapless purveyor of hackneyed, derivative crap in the form of his latest sitcom, the dreadful, execrable The Wright Way.

But this is hardly a recent development is it? Ben Elton, whose stand up comedy was always, shall we say, in the eye of the beholder - and I don't say that as a Tory, if you didn't like lefty comics you would never see any comedy - was nevertheless a talented sitcom writer. Unfortunately he was past his peak 20 years ago. And, it should be pointed out, he was never really writing this most conventional of comedy forms, in angry young man, anarchic mode. This is a man who admires and seeks to emulate Dad's Army for crying out loud. Even The Young Ones, which first got him and his co writers noticed, only ever toyed with anarchy. It was very much Guardian approved, in that it was PC before the term was ever invented. This was a classic case of middle class mores being poked fun at by middle class people. These are people who are perpetually disappointed in the working classes and their disagreeable tendency to be insufficiently right on.

Elton's greatest triumph was of course Blackadder, probably one of the top 5 British sitcoms ever written. How much of its success is down in fact to Richard Curtis and the brilliance of a cast led by Rowan Atkinson is moot. But all went on to greater things; Elton had peaked.

He did, after this period, go on to write the rather good Thin Blue Line. In that the Dad's Army influences were there for all to see. It was a deliberate, and half decent attempt, to write proper character based comedy, even if some of those characters were straight out of central casting. It should be noted that two of the actors of this successful project have been transplanted to his new sitcom. David Haig is essentially playing the same part as in Thin Blue Line, along with Mina Anwar who is doing much the same having done very little since. Presumably Atkinson was, or made himself, unavailable; perhaps after reading the script.

In between these projects Elton also produced the utterly awful Blessed, and a film on much the same subject: Maybe Baby. Blessed in particular eschewed any kind of characterisation, preferring instead to have characters shouting long, angry monologues at one another. It was like one of Elton's old stand up rants but given to actors.

And finally, we should point out, Elton is responsible for the travesty that is We Will Rock You, currently packing in unsuspecting, and presumably undemanding tourists in London's West End, and earning Elton and Queen, on whose music it is based, a pretty penny I have no doubt. Yes Elton set aside all principle to pen one of the original, and most contrived juke box musical abominations. He did it with men who had played Sun City. In years gone by he would have delivered an unfunny five minute rant about that. Now he doesn't even give the lines to actors, he goes into business with the perpetrators instead. That's middle class morality, as Alfred P Doolittle might have said.

The worst part of all of this is that getting television programmes made is an expensive and time consuming business. Writing them is a constant process of banging one's head against a brick wall, even if you can get them to let you in to have access to the wall. I have been in various stages of development hell with my various projects for years, ultimately with nothing to show for it but bruises to my skull. This might explain the results of my MRI brain scan last week, but that's another story.

So how is it that Elton, a writer 20 years past his prime, keeps getting new commissions? Did whoever shelled out a million quid for this tripe actually think the script was funny? When I send a script it is sent back with lots of helpful tips and criticisms, much of it bollocks. Did the script for The Wright Way (even the title is dreadful - oh let's call him Wright, then we can call it the Wright Way, geddit?) go through a process like this? Or did they see Elton's name, forget about the last twenty years, and just ask him to get on with it?

There is a central rule of thumb with shows like this: if you see the trailers and they don't make you laugh, the chances are that those were the best bits the poor sods who make those trailers could find. So why couldn't the commissioners, producers, directors or actors see how bad this was? Okay, forget about the actors, most wouldn't know a decent script if it came hand delivered in a gold lame suit by the ghost of Arthur Askey - another with an inexplicably long career - wearing a battered comedy hat, and singing that fucking bee song. They would probably think it was ironic and post modern. It might be an idea for a sitcom, or at least a sketch.

Television may not be an exact science, but surely there are some things which even the highly paid executives of the BBC can spot? If not then the new DG has more of a problem than he might have realised. He may have changed the name of his departments and got rid of that silly Vision nonsense, but he may well have people working for him who still don't have any. Or a sense of humour.

A Quick Paws For Some Real Art. A Late Entrant For The Turner Prize?


This is Jack the Balancing Dog, here doing his best Andy Warhol impression. Is it too late for him to be entered in this year's Turner Prize? Here are some more of his prodigious feats of balancing.











Thursday, 25 April 2013

Britain Grows - A Little


So, a triple dip recession remains unprecedented in the UK. First quarter growth was 0.3% - better than expected by many of the so called experts who seem to get these things wrong almost perpetually. That in itself is a result if you happen to think that the best way for Britain to heal itself is to maintain what the present government is doing, and then re-elect a purely Conservative government at the next election. That prospect is a little more likely with these figures.

 And, though the figures still mean that we are struggling for growth, they are better than many dared to hope. When you consider that manufacturers are struggling to export thanks to the woes of the Eurozone, and we have a construction sector that is looking deathly pale, allied to one of the coldest and snowiest winters in living memory, this begins to look like a half decent performance under the circumstances. Strip out the effects of North Sea production too, and the economy is showing definite signs of greater vitality.

If only the government had not taken the easy option of cutting back on investment, that's proper investment not the Gordon Brown spin type, if only they could reform our planning laws, and had the guts to do something about much needed London airport capacity, we might now be looking at an economy racing ahead. Instead we are tentatively looking at green shoots, although of course nobody will have the guts to say so until we're well into summer metaphorically speaking.

So I'll say it. There are green shoots. They are clearly visible. The British economy is actually a lot more robust than we give it credit for. It is not without its problems, and we are clearly some way off from normal growth. But the signs are encouraging if not wholly positive.

What we certainly don't need is more debt piled on debt. What we need is for the government to continue to gently squeeze the public sector so that taxes can be cut at some point in the near future. That, along with a highly unlikely bout of common sense in Europe, is what can drag us out of the hole we are in. But, on balance, the hole could have been a lot worse. If Labour were in control they would still be digging, and calling it Keynesianism. The best part about this news is that we will be spared the sight of Ed Balls mugging for the cameras and pretending, very unconvincingly, to be upset by these figures as he tells us, more in sadness than in elation, despite that smile he finds hard to hide, that he has been right all along,

You are talking balls, Mr Balls. If the economy does now start to recover what will Labour say? What will their line be for the next election? Their strategy has been for the economy to hand the next election to them. That, along with a few other things this week, may now be unwinding for them. Do they have anything else to say?

The Furnace In The Sky

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

PMQs 24th April 2013 - The Rare Appearance of Dave Edition


What a long time it seems since we were last here. That's because it is a long time. Dave last faced parliament on 20th March. And we are not going to be seeing much of him for the next couple of months either. Today's session will be one of only two before June. Thanks to the innovation of holding the Queen's Speech and starting a new parliamentary session in May rather than November, Daves gets to skip a few more sessions thanks to the prorogation of parliament. He's getting as bad as Gordon, although he hasn't yet skipped PMQs so as to attend to a visiting foreign dignitary on Horseguards as Brown once did. Clearly watching soldiers marching up and down and being inspected required the premier's attendance.

There was due to be a PMQs session last week but then they held the funeral of Lady Thatcher instead. The week before parliament assembled to pay tribute to her. Mrs T used to face questions twice a week. Dave, Gordon and Tony do it once a week, and not that often if they think they can get away with it. But then they don't seem to relish it as she did.

So what has happened while we were away? Well a great deal obviously. But the good news for Dave is that, notwithstanding tomorrow's GDP announcement, he may get the feeling that he has turned a corner. Wallace was forced last week to give a pep talk to his troops who are feeling a bit down in the mouth, and fractious too. What a pep talk from Wallace sounds like I can't begin to imagine. Is it a one nation pep talk? Does that mean that Labour MPs actually know what this means? And the Tories have a spring in their step, almost as if they have been pepped by Dave. The death of Margaret Thatcher wasn't a happy event for them of course, but it did unite them in turning their fire on the enemy rather than the leadership.

There is a hint too that Wallace may be about to get a rough ride from the press. His lack of policy is being commented on a great deal. That and the story that Labour may be intent on promising to spend more than the Tories after the next election has got the hacks interested. Add in the revelation that Wallace had a meeting last year with George Galloway and we could soon see the revival of the Red Ed stories we got so much of in the early days.


And so to today's session. Despite the long gap the PM only had to offer his condolences to one family of a soldier who had lost his life in Afghanistan since March.

Speaking of private grief, David Amess stood up, invoked the late Mrs T, in particular with regard to her European views, and wondered if Dave would take into consideration the act that his 101 year old mother would like to express her democratic opinion before she departs this mortal coil. Dave reminded her that voting for him two year's hence would guarantee that referendum. It's on the record.

And then it was Wallace who decided, apropos of what it was not clear, to talk about the NHS, and a few cases of people being left waiting in A and E. Was this a new and unprecedented development? Demand has gone up certainly, but that hardly makes a crisis.

Dave wheeled out his usual spiel about believing in the NHS - at least he didn't claim to love it as is sometimes, nauseatingly, the case - and about the government's commitment to increasing spending on health. Labour did not agree he claimed.

Wallace talked about targets. You might have thought that 13 years in power might have disabused Labour of the notion that targets are a good way of running the NHS. Apparently not. He accused the government of failing to hit waiting time targets. Disgraceful somebody behind him shouted. Wallace claimed that we are seeing an A and E crisis.

Dave fired back a few statistics. More tellingly he brought up Wales, run by Labour under devolution, and a favourite of the PM's for that reason. They were not hitting any targets he claimed.



Wallace ignored this and claimed that everything was hunky dory when his lot left power but has mysteriously all gone wrong since.

But Wallace had left a goal as gaping as Barcelona's seemed to be last night. Dave stood up and spoke of Stafford Hospital, a scandal that took place under Labour, when funding was at its height.

Wallace claimed that this was a disgraceful slur on the hard work of doctors and nurses. Hard to see how really, but he seemed quite convinced. But he was making little headway. This was just another exchange of statistics and targets. Wallace then spoke of the £3 billion taken away from 'frontline services' whatever that means by the government's reorganisation.

Dave told him he was in denial about their record and Stafford. And he produced more figures on Labour spending plans.

And so it went back and forth like a never ending tennis rally. Those of us watching, and who could make neither head nor tail of the various figures being bandied about, ended up none the wiser, and with tennis neck. Wallace's claims of crisis seemed ridiculous however, and his 'what is he going to do about it? call sounded like a schoolboy taunt as so often. Dave emerged entirely unscathed and even the winner after he deployed a telling soundbite later in the session. 'I thought it was the Labour Party, not the welfare party' he sneered. It was a good line that Labour won't like one bit. You could tell from the look on Ed Balls's face. Perhaps the tide really has turned for the PM when Labour cannot even make the Tories sound bad on the NHS. Will the public really buy his argument that things are so noticeably worse in the NHS under this government than under 13 years of Labour that included disasters like at Stafford. Probably not. It was a clear win for Cameron of almost Bayern Munich proportions.




Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Salmond, St George, and the Pound.


I've never really been one for this modern phenomenon among we English of celebrating St George's Day the way the Scots, Welsh, and Irish celebrate their national days with such pride and fervour. It doesn't seem very, well, English to me. We have no need for such demonstrations of national pride, of asserting ourselves. It's all a bit vulgar.

But the reason it is happening these days is a reaction to those other celebrations, those assertions of national, and indeed nationalistic pride. The English are fed up of being cast as the villains, of being bad mouthed by our fellow countrymen. The past is not actually our fault. This chippiness displayed by so many of the minor nations of our island is a relic of the long distant past. The Irish, Welsh and Scots have considerably less reason, in the era of devolution, to resent rule from London than do the people of Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle or Liverpool, or indeed those who live in the countryside and are dictated to by metropolitan types.

And so it is entirely welcome that George Osborne chose today to publish a report into the idea that Scotland will be able to leave the UK but will be able to carry on using the pound, an action that the rest of the UK, but in particular the English, will happily acquiesce to. As George Osborne didn't quite say: why should we?

This country had the good sense to stay out of the Euro having experienced the turmoil of ERM membership. It would be an act of supreme folly to hand a blank cheque to another newly foreign country.

It is of course true that we couldn't stop Scots using our currency. The Americans couldn't stop them using Dollars to buy goods if such were their desire. But that is a different consideration entirely to the one the SNP are assuming, that a country which represents less than 10% of UK GDP would get a seat at the table which decides UK monetary and fiscal policy. Unless of course the Scots are giving the English a veto on their fiscal policy. If so what is the point of independence?

And that is the point isn't it. On one issue after another the argument for Scottish independence is running into obstacle and logical absurdity after another. A union successfully forged over three centuries, a union that sees, uncontroversially, free movement of people and goods between Scotland and the rest of the UK, but predominantly England, is to be cast asunder because of the juvenile prejudices of one party, and in particular one man.

On issue after issue, Salmond has been caught out either lying or being economical with the truth. He commissions imaginary reports, and refuses to publish them. He concocts factoids that do not stand up to scrutiny. He ignores the recent history of the Euro, ignores inconvenient legal opinion, and that of Brussels bureaucrats. His argument for independence is based on assertion at odds with reality.

Any mature analysis of the case for independence would have concluded that the game was up the moment Salmond's arc of prosperity in Iceland, Ireland et al was exposed as a sham by the financial crisis. But the SNP could not bring themselves to admit that. They might have earned more respect had they just claimed the emotional case for independence, although canny Scots might still have looked askance at the opportunity to impoverish themselves so that Alex Salmond can look smug at international conferences, and call himself prime minister rather than first minister.

Instead the SNP have had to resort to ever more fanciful claims about what they will be able to maintain after independence. From defence to the economy, from European membership to retaining the pound, they have consistently been forced into ludicrous claims, telling others what they will do, and how they will treat independent Scotland.

Today George Osborne, speaking for the silent majority, told them that actually the rest of the UK will probably not be feeling that generous.  Scots can vote for independence if they wish, but they cannot do so on the generous terms Salmond must assume to make it viable. The English are fed up of being taken for granted. No doubt Salmond will tell him later today that he is wrong. We English will give him exactly what he wants. Is that really the best he can do all the way to a vote next year?


Monday, 22 April 2013

Broadchurch Denouement


If, like me, you have been enjoying ITV's excellent and engrossing Broadchurch, you will be particularly looking forward to tonight as we get to find out whodunnit.

It's a sign of how gripped the nation has become over this show that two of Radio 5 Live's commentators in the great biting barnstormer yesterday afternoon broke off from commentating on Luis Suarez and chums to wonder out loud about who was the culprit. Like me they have decided that it is probably the husband of DS Miller, played by the brilliant Olivia Colman. She will get to deploy her renowned acting range yet again tonight, particularly if she learns that her son knew something too.

We have been very well served with drama these last few months. Spoilt for choice on some nights even. And ITV has produced a number of barnstormers, of which Broadchurch is just the latest, along with the excellent Last Weekend and Mrs Biggs. The BBC pitched in with Good Cop, and Accused (an episode of which starred a certain Ms Colman again giving a stunning performance) along with the sublime Parade's End: probably the best thing on British TV in five years.

This is proper grown up television we are being served, television that trusts in the intelligence of the viewer, lets the story and characters develop, demands our attention. It explores proper social issues like the impact of grief and guilt, and families struggling to cope. It tackles the topical issue of press intrusion, and has echoes in real cases we have all seen, and watched on the news.  How refreshing it is that, in the wake of those long, wordy, gloomy Danish murder stories, we are being served up their British equivalent. We can do it, it just takes producers and commissioners to have the guts, and take the risk. The rewards are there for all to see when it is done well. Broadchurch has been near the top of the ratings, second only to the soaps.

The star of Broadchurch is ostensibly David Tennant, but, as so often, Olivia Colman has unfussily stolen the show. If she now gets some much deserved attention it will not be a moment too soon. Since the days of Green Wing she has been getting my attention, but look through her CV here, and that was only mid career. She may have started out in slightly wacky, and off beat roles, which is why I noticed her - I like that sort of thing - but she has now gone mainstream. I strongly suspect that tonight, we will see why casting directors so readily turn to her.

PS

Well, I was right. It was Joe. But a superb last episode despite the fact we predicted who the killer was. They told the story. They let the characters find out, react, grieve, hit out. I cannot praise it highly enough.

And apparently there will be a second series. I'm not sure how that will work. But it's intriguing.

We Are Not Alone, But We Might As Well Be


The news last week that astronomers have discovered two watery planets a very very long way away is, on one level, an astonishing achievement. This is an area of the science that has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. From looking for wobbles implying the existence of planetary systems to actually being able to imply the presence of water on those planets is a huge leap for mankind to pluck out a phrase.

But the fact that conditions exist elsewhere in the universe for life, or at least the kind of life we understand, should hardly come as a surprise. It was a statistical certainty given an infinite universe. The chances are that we will discover, possibly in the next 20 years or even sooner, that there is extra terrestrial life elsewhere in our own solar system, or at least that it has existed.

Ultimately there is nothing particularly unusual about our own solar system, or even this blue green planet that we live on. The only unusual part about it is that we got lucky. But then someone has to win the lottery too. We won in the lottery of life by just being here. Remember that the next time your numbers don't come up on Euromillions.

We are a trillion to one chance, maybe even more. It's beyond my mathematical ability. This is not because life evolved on this planet, that is probably, as we shall soon discover, quite common. The chances of it evolving to the point where it becomes intelligent, self aware, and then starts looking to the skies and speculating about what is up there, that's the unlikely bit. The trouble is that, along the way, we also invent gods, start killing one another because of what those imaginary gods tell us about the universe and morality, or for more prosaic reasons like the acquisition of bits of space dust, otherwise known as precious metals.

And we are not the only reason why our existence to this point is so unlikely. The universe, and indeed our own planet, are constantly trying to kill us. Here on Earth we have volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes and disease (essentially other life forms trying to out evolve us) not to mention a constantly changing climate veering between encasing us in ice and frying us, and giving us existential angst as we convince ourselves that it's our fault.  It's just fortunate for us that we are at the top of the food chain.

Meantime the universe is bombarding us with radiation, dark matter (possibly), tons of meteorites every year, and engaging us a in a game of dodge oblivion as we play chicken with the detritus of creation.

The chances of life evolving, you see, are probably quite high on a cosmic scale. The chances of it lasting long enough beyond microbial life to evolve, however, are increasingly remote because various forces will wipe it out on a regular basis. It's happened here. It's just that we, and the mammals we evolved from, got lucky. Very lucky. We got lucky that the dinosaurs that so fascinate us got wiped out.

But even if life manages to evolve to the point we are at now, manages not to nuke itself back to oblivion, and manages to evolve in the same way we have so that it cares about what is out there, the chances of them doing so in the same small corner of space so that two civilisations can communicate with one another are fantastically, cosmologically unlikely.

And then there is time. We forget about time. The universe is around 14 billion years old. Our planet is around 4.5 billion years old. Even if you accept that life could only have evolved to this stage in the last third of the universe's history so that all of the other requisite elements needed for it had the chance to be created in suns and supernovas, that still leaves 4 billion years. We have been around in our present form, as homo sapiens, for around 100, 000 years, civilisation for only about 5, 000 years, dependent upon how you define civilisation. We have only really begun to become technologically capable of communicating and understanding in the last 50 years, 100 years at a push. What are the chances that we have done so at exactly the same time as another civilisation, near enough to communicate with, in a galaxy in which it would take hundreds or thousands of years, as technology currently stands, to send and receive a message?

The universe is probably teeming with life. Intelligent life could be common too. On the other hand it is much more likely that we are the lords of the Milky Way, not because we are especially clever, but because we got lucky and survived long enough to reach this point. The fact that there are other habitable, equally lovely worlds out there should encourage us to reach out and start exploring. We sent the Voyager spacecraft out in the late 70s and they are only just reaching the edge of our solar system. If we are going to start colonising the galaxy we had better get started. Unless we invent warp drive any time soon, it's a hell of a journey, and we can say with near certainty that ET or Mr Spock are not going to turn up with some helpful hints.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Luis Suarez - Here's Something To Get Your Teeth Stuck Into


If you haven't already heard, Luis Suarez, before equalising at the end of the game against Chelsea, got his teeth really sunk into the game by biting a Chelsea defender. Controversy follows the Liverpool striker around, sometimes nearly as closely as defender Branislav Ivanovic, who was clearly a little too close for Suarez's liking. But at least it gives the pundits something to chew over this Sunday night. Above is a quick bite size video for you.

Interlude

Review of the Week


The week got underway with the maiming and murder of runners in the Boston Marathon. Home made bombs made from pressure cookers, and loaded with explosives and various items designed to wreak as much damage as possible, were left among the spectators and family members gathered near the finishing line.

By the end of the week the police and FBI had identified a couple of suspects seen on CCTV apparently leaving the packages and then mingling in the crowds. They turned out to be a couple of brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsamaev, originally from Chechnya. They didn't seem, on the face of it, to have any connections with terrorist groups, although they had been showing signs of greater radicalism, and Tamerlan had been interviewed and cleared by the FBI in 2011. Quite why they chose to take the bloodthirsty path they did remains a mystery, and a worrying one if the idea is common amongst similarly disenfranchised and bitter young men. Religion is just an excuse. These two were fundamentally no different to those who go into schools or shopping malls with semi-automatic guns.

They were eventually cornered, a gun battle took place, one was killed and the other, Dzhokhar, after driving over his downed brother, went on the run only to be captured alive a few hours later.


On Wednesday, Lady Thatcher's funeral took place at St Paul's and, though some protested, they were massively outnumbered by those paying their respects to a woman who devoted her life to the country she loved. Yes a record celebrating her death had got into the charts, although that doesn't take much these days, and yes a few parties had been held, but the silent majority prevailed in the end. The Baroness was given a suitable send off. Some ministers shed a tear or two. The public applauded. Opinion polls showed that, by and large, the public regarded her as a force for good, who came along at the right time. Those who disagreed came up with many reasons for their dislike, many of which didn't actually stand up to scrutiny. Some seemed to have hated her despite the reasons for their hatred taking place several years after she left power.


In Saudi Arabia, three men were forcibly removed from a culture festival for being too good looking. The men, officials said, were too handsome, and it was feared that women would fall for them. It's not enough, apparently, that women must be clad in black from head to toe and be accompanied by male relatives, they must also be protected from their own lustfulness by removing any temptation they might be able to glimpse through those little slits in their slinky black outfits. In future those applying to enter Saudi Arabia (a loaded sexual term that one when I think about it - probably unIslamic) will be graded on looks. The chances of my ever getting to go there for an alcohol free holiday so that I could gaze longingly at the women and sing 'get your face out for the lads' to them is looking remote. It does make you wonder how the 2022 World Cup in neighbouring Qatar is going to go. How will they cope with all of those attractive, fit and wealthy footballers? Thank Allah that David Beckham will almost certainly have retired by then. Peace be upon him.

In a victory for common sense, and final proof that fashion truly is for credulous morons, the parish of Terrebonne in Louisiana had the good sense to outlaw the wearing of trousers at half mast. Quite why any of our youth regard this as desirable has long been a mystery. But then youth usually is. Actually the best way to dissuade them from showing the world their pants and bums is to tell them that this is an accepted way for gay men to advertise their availability for sex.


The magazine Tatler, beloved of society types, came under fire for its piece about 'Best Society Breasts.' They commended Louise Mensch, or at least a couple of parts of her, who objected.

Yet another government scientific adviser opined that Homeopathy is nonsense and should not be available on the NHS. No doubt he will receive a stiffly worded letter from Prince Charles. Why anyone should listen to the potty prince on any subject remains a mystery. He appeared on television this week treating us to his dubious opinions on art, and his even more dubious personal art. If only he used homeopathic paint and ink - you know, very well watered down to the point where it is just water.



It was a bad week if you own gold. The price continued to plummet despite the continued travails of the Eurozone with Cyprus threatening to hold a vote in parliament on the latest deal. They are going to have to sell their gold, which partly explained the collapse in prices. But only partly.

Elsewhere even China's economy looked to be having a fit of the vapours as growth disappointed there.  This put the frights on the stock markets as well as the gold markets. By the end of the week China was suffering a huge earthquake measuring 7.1.

Here in Britain, Tony Blair, here on a rare visit to attend Margaret Thatcher's funeral, took the opportunity to give an interview in which he criticised the current leadership of the Labour Party and their strategy of just appealing to their base and a few Lib Dem renegades. There was also a story, not very convincingly denied, that Labour would promise to eschew austerity, such as it is, and spend more than the Tories if they win in 2015.

Finally, in sport, the Masters was won by an Australian for the first time. That should be compensation for their upcoming thrashing in The Ashes.

Sunday Funnies

Sunday Funnies

Interlude

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Video Diary 20th April 2013


Here at last is this week's video diary. It has taken a while as it does every week, but then the end results, I hope you will agree, are definitely improving. I'm not going to win an Oscar any time soon for my editing skills, but I am getting ever closer to being invited to make porn videos. I'm getting that good!

Interlude

Interlude


Watch this video carefully, Phil Collins manages to pull off the remarkable feat of being in two places at once. Drumming and standing at the front singing. It's no wonder he felt able to appear a few years later at both Live Aid venues courtesy of the time difference and Concorde.

Friday, 19 April 2013

North Korea Runs Out of Sabres to Rattle


We have been rather distracted this week, what with the bombing of marathon runners, the funeral of a great world statesman/woman and today the pursuit of a Chechen madman, but have you noticed that, for another week, World War III has failed to commence as promised.

North Korea has gone rather quiet, probably because there are only so many threats of the imminence of war one can make without actually making good on your rhetoric before you start to look rather silly.  Thus this week no diplomats or foreigners have been advised to leave the Korean peninsula, missiles have stayed stubbornly unlaunched, and even the threats have been curtailed. The most we have heard about North Korea was the alleged controversy concerning my old university, the LSE, and the use of some of its students as 'a human shield' for a Panorama report that told us nothing we didn't know already.

The whole BBC/LSE argument was as nonsensical as much of the rhetoric that comes from the socialist hellhole itself. So the Beeb pretended to be students as cover. What's wrong with that? Most people who work for the BBC, with the possible exception of the terribly serious Rory Cellan Jones, behave like students at the best of times. It was probably extremely convincing. Were lives endangered? Not really. They got in and out without any problems didn't they? Will this put the kibosh on future trips to North Korea to undertake serious study. Well let's hope so, and are you serious? It was a guided tour with all the interesting bits missing from the itinerary. It's fortunate that the average LSE student (I was an exception) is filthy rich. I hope they had a lovely time. But the academic value of the trip was on a par with a media studies excursion to the Daily Express.



But, as it has been a very busy news week, it may have escaped your attention that the DPRK did in fact issue a set of demands this week. In return for not nuking their neighbours with weapons they don't actually possess, they want the withdrawal of all sanctions imposed to punish them for nuclear and missile tests, they want the US to pledge to stop engaging in 'nuclear war practice,' whatever that means, and they said the denuclearisation of the peninsula should begin with the withdrawal of US weapons.

Not surprisingly their southern cousins couldn't make head nor tail of this set of demands, calling them 'incomprehensible and illogical.' The next set of demands will probably demand an apology for that. But it does illustrate how hard it is to negotiate with people whose reality is starkly different to that of the rest of us.

What they don't seem to realise is that both Seoul and Washington have finally realised that they are in a vicious circle with North Korea, and seem commendably determined to break it at last. The North has got by for years by making threats, winning concessions by giving up weapons or the development of them, only to then begin again when they get desperate by restarting the very things they previously agreed to give up in return for those concessions. This is their game now. It's not working. That's why the threats became louder than usual. But eventually those threats had to end. Now they are left wondering what to do next. The only up side for them is, though they look rather silly, they usually do. And at least they didn't actually explode any bombs, send up any missiles, or move any troops as they prepared for their war to end all wars. They can't really afford to.


The Anti Smacking Consensus



A study has found that smacking children does them no long term psychological damage so long as they know that they are loved. Another study has found that bears defecate in arboreal areas.

Nevertheless this study has prompted all kinds of righteous indignation from those who have decided, apropos of sticking their finger in the air and seeing which way the wind blows, that all violence is wrong, even if it is a slap on the wrist. A study? Well clearly it is the wrong kind of study when it comes to the wrong conclusions.

Across the country of course there will literally be millions of people brought up in the 60s and 70s in loving households with two married parents as was the vogue in those days, who will have received a slap from time to time, or merely a severe admonishment from one or both of their parents, which was often worse. They can see that sometimes a light slap to a naughty child is necessary, but have signed up to this modern notion that slapping a child is plain wrong because the so called experts say so.

But why do the experts say this? It isn't for any valid reason you could ever put your finger on. It is just an airy notion, a modish theory much like the idea that teaching grammar and facts is unnecessary in the age of the computer.  Such ideas, they tell us, are old fashioned and prescriptive. Of course the fact that they have created their own dyed in the wool prescriptions for what is and is not acceptable is conveniently overlooked. When challenged they howl down anyone who disagrees, much as they are doing with this study.

It's remarkable when you think about it that we listen to these so called experts at all. People have been raising children for thousands of years. They know that you cannot reason with a wilful toddler, that sometimes a light slap that does no lasting damage is the best way of preserving him or her from harm. We also knew that teaching children the basics was a foundation for later education, from learning the alphabet to times tables and the key dates in history. Children needed to learn these things in order to for them to learn to think and make up their own minds thereafter.

Then suddenly we arrive in the late 20th century and experts decide that all of this, which seemed to be working pretty well, is not only unnecessary, but positively harmful. How do they know? Well they're experts aren't they.

And it became a badge of honour for parents to say they never hit their children. In the same way that now we never judge children. We must praise them ceaselessly lest their self esteem is damaged. Why? Because the psychologists, that's doctors who couldn't cut it in real medicine, decided that the old ways were wrong and stifling. Quite how they came to this conclusion is never asked. Do the courts when dealing with expert witnesses ever ask how they came to their conclusions? Perhaps they should. They might give their opinions less weight if they found it is all theory based on nothing much.

I imagine that this latest study will be quietly ignored by those who claim to know best. We live in the era of evidence based decision making, but it is an era that cherry picks evidence to suit an agenda. That, needless to say, is not supposed to be how it works. How much more honest it would be if we just said we don't want to smack our children because it doesn't feel right morally. I could respect that. Science? Well psychology isn't a proper science. And it just isn't that clear cut. If it were they would be able to tell us which children are going to grow up to become axe murderers and do something about it. But they can't can they. They're just good at concocting theories nobody can test after the fact.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Gove Canes The Teachers


I see that Michael Gove is keen on cutting down the number of holidays enjoyed by pupils and teachers at present, amounting to 13 weeks a year, and second only to MPs for those who seem to spend little or no time doing what it is they are actually paid for. Incidentally, did you know that there are only going to be 2 PMQs sessions between now and June thanks to the various holidays and prorogation of parliament planned for the next few weeks?

But back to teachers. Gove is absolutely right that students need to spend more time actually in school, and that our present arrangements are ridiculously outdated and unsuited to a modern world in which we are already falling behind our eastern competitors thanks to the 'progressive' teaching so beloved of our schools.

Now clearly our teachers are going to be unhappy about this. It's a given. That's part of why I am writing this whilst laughing. But you have to wonder what reasons they will give for objecting to this reform. Are they going to argue that additional days in school are bad for children, sort of a variation on the safety argument deployed by the rail unions whenever bosses want to do something modern and based in common sense? Indeed they could deploy the safety argument: we can't teach them any more than at present - their brains will explode. Will they argue that they need double the amount of holiday a year to most people so as to cope with the stresses and strains of modern teaching, notwithstanding the fact they are currently demanding to only spend 20 hours a week actually in the classroom?

It's fascinating to speculate. It's fascinating to wonder what excuse Christine Blower will come up with,  and the look of scorn it will attract from Paxman on Newsnight.

So please go ahead with this much overdue reform, Mr Gove. It's too great an opportunity to pass up. It will produce pupils better prepared for our ultra competitive world, or at least will give extra time to teach the poor little sods how to read and write. Who knows they might even be able to shoehorn some useful teaching in there about grammar, punctuation and the like. The sort denied to my generation.

But best of all it will really piss off the teachers, and so add greatly to the gaiety of the nation. Indeed it might be the best way yet thought of to get rid of under-performing teachers who would be sacked in any other profession. Only four weeks a holiday a year? Might as well go and get a real job then.

There Is Such A Thing As Society - But It Doesn't Owe You A Living


One final word on Margaret Thatcher before we move on: Are we, as some are claiming, a nation divided, and divided by her?

Nonsense. If we are divided, we are divided by attitudes, not of the haves and have nots, not between north and south, but by between the go getters and what we might term the sit backers. These people are not necessarily lazy, feckless or scroungers, although some certainly are. They are the sort of people who have bought into the political fantasy propagated by Labour that the state can and will provide. That, if jobs are not available, it is the responsibility of the state to create them.

We saw that exemplified yesterday in Goldthorpe yesterday, a former mining community that turned out to celebrate the death of the woman they regard as their nemesis, notwithstanding the fact that their mine closed four years after she left office.

But facts like that don't touch people who like to pose as victims. And boy can miners play that particular card. Yet analyse what it is they are complaining about. It is that their one industry community was cut off from the teat of the state when their mine was closed and all the jobs went.

But why? Stop a moment and think how absurd that allegation is. Yes a source of jobs closed down. But this is not a community stuck in the back of beyond. Goldthorpe is not in the Australian outback, it is not in the wild west. And if it is difficult to travel to other jobs then move. Why is this such a difficult concept? Do people who live in other isolated communities, in the countryside for instance, bemoan the fact that they cannot get work on their doorstep? Or do they shrug and commute? Millions do it every day. Why is Goldthorpe any different?

What the miners strike was all about was their assertion that they are a special case, that we as a country owe them a special debt, and an everlasting subsidy so that they can continue in their grimy, dangerous jobs in perpetuity producing a product that was too expensive, and no longer the best way to create energy. A kind of superannuated welfare system for people that work but only want to do one job. The Thatcher government said no. So, it cannot be repeated often enough, did the bulk of the British people, the Labour Party, which had also closed hundreds of inefficient and uneconomic mines, and all of the national press.

The claim of the miners is no different to those who think they should be able to have their lives paid for by welfare. We are overwhelmingly against that, we should take the same view about those who think they are special cases deserving of subsidy. That is the economic reality we all face. It is the accepted legacy of Margaret Thatcher.

And the funeral yesterday seemed to underline that. Yes there were some dimwits who came to make some facile point that even they don't really understand. But by and large the nation said goodbye to Lady Thatcher with dignity and respect. She even got a round of applause. Some have said this was a London indulgence, that the rest of the country, north of the midlands, cannot see why such a fuss was made. This is patronising nonsense too.

Yes the parts of the country that faced the worst of the new economic reality are overwhelmingly in the north of the country, but not exclusively so. Therefore this sense of victimhood tends to be at its most prominent there. But the reason they hate Thatcher is because she told them the truth. It's just that they don't want to hear it. They prefer to blame others for their fate rather than get up, dust themselves down and find a solution.

Does society exist? Of course it does. But it doesn't owe you a living. That is up to the individual with the help of society. It provide that through education, training and welfare while you find work. It cannot and should not provide the work itself, except in public sector jobs that are actually needed. That is what the then Margaret Thatcher told us all of those years ago. The Left and Labour Party know she was right, because it's the only economically viable solution. Yesterday, except in certain parts of the country that have isolated themselves from the rest of us, and from reality, we saw the acceptance of her prescription for our enduring ills as we adapt to the new economic reality.