Friday, 31 August 2012

Bruce Anderson on drift..

There's such a good piece by Bruce Anderson in ConHome today over the sense of drift widely assumed by commentators who McCawberishly wait for something to 'turn up' on the economic front, when there's so much that desperately needs doing on the social front. Well worth reading..

Mad as a hatter..

In an extraordinarily delusional piece in today's Times entitled 'Lib Dems can't just leap into bed with Labour', Roy Hattersley lectures the Coalition partners with hubristic arrogance - no orange bookers, Danny Alexander will have to go, anyone who shook hands with a tory and even St. Vince of Teddington is suspect..

This really is patronising drivel. If Labour ever have the privilege to form a coalition with the Lib Dems, it will be because the British electorate wish it. They will need to embrace it with enthusiasm and make it work for all parties concerned. And that Mr Hattersley, will involve just a little humility..

Grim odds..

From today's Times..

Staff at one underground station came up with odds for the Paralympic opening ceremony.

Parachuting royalty: 500-1. Wheelchair disco: 50-1. Emilie Sande: Evens. Hey Jude: Grimly inevitable..

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Sexual fidelity is a gift, given freely..

In response to an article in the Guardian by Helen Croydon suggesting that monogamy is a fairytale, you will find the following reply from Greenthumb:

I don't care whether monogamy is 'inherent' or not - if not, neither is wearing clothes, taking medicines or writing poetry. This part of the argument is pseudo-scientific special pleading.
In my experience of monogamy, the 'never-ending happy ending' is one that you create, together, deliberately, day after day, in the moments of connection, in between the bins and the dropped socks.
However, sexual fidelity is not a one-time deal - sign on the dotted line and never think about it again. It is a gift, given freely if it means anything, and given each time the question arises. Like making a happy ending, it is an act of will and of love.
Harder work perhaps than riding the head-rush of sexual chemistry - but, I think, far more satisfying. 

Monday, 27 August 2012

Words for teenagers..

Northland College principal John Tapene offers the following words from a judge, who regularly deals with youth:

Always we hear the cry from teenagers 'what can we do, where can we go?' My answer is this: go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons and after you've finished, read a book. 

Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun. The world does not owe you a living, you owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy and talent so that no one will be at war, in sickness or lonely again. In other words grow up, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone not a wishbone. Start behaving like a responsible person. You are important and you are needed. Its too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday. Someday is now and that somebody is you.

Rod Liddle on hypocrisy..

Really amusing column from Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times on the years of unspoken dishonesty of grade inflation. He finishes with the revelation - A long time ago, when I worked for the BBC, I once attempted to address the problem of the corporation's seemingly inherent liberal bias by employing, as a reporter, a tweed-jacketed, red-cheeked, bespectacled, marble-mouthed crypto-fascist. He was so visibly, hilariously Conservative that I thought it might be a Harry Enfield prank. But no, he was real enough. He was Michael Gove, and that was his first paid job.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Matthew d'Ancona gets it..

For decades, grade inflation has been the sleepless rust in the examination system – the disgraceful victory, year after year, of politicians' hubris over teenagers' prospects. To witness even the earliest, fractional signs that it has, at last, been halted should be a matter for national celebration. The calls for inquiries, probes and witch hunts are further reassurance that the change is real, that Michael Gove is determined to see it through, and that those with a stake in the status quo know they have a true fight on their hands.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Tanks..

Beneath the turbine hall of the former Bankside power station, the Tate Modern has developed a series of vast former oil tanks into an exhibition space, specifically for 'performance' art.

I have to say that most of these felt pretty trivial to me and unworthy of visiting; except one.

In a huge, circular room in the farthest recess of the Tanks, you will find an exhibit by a Cuban artist called Tania Bruguera.

Outside, you will have to wait in a queue. It is the only queue in the Tanks. And depending upon the whims of the supervising staff, you may have to wait some time. The queue is part of the performance. Sometimes they make people wait more than an hour, or until they lose interest and disappear. Sometimes they do a deal - we were invited through from halfway down the queue by a woman who whispered in our ear that she would let us in for a piece of chewing gum...

Inside, what felt like an exclusive audience - probably no more than six people - wandered around shell shocked by the terrifying high-pitched noise of a metal grinder - sparks flying eight feet into the air - as a man sat nonchalantly polishing a massive metal sign.

On it, in that chillingly brutal and utilitarian, twentieth-century-industrial-foundry sort of way, were the words Arbeit Macht Frei..

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Tessa Jowell on Greg Rutherford..

'One day I walked into the flats (in the athletes village) and saw a tall red-headed athlete dressed in team GB kit. I walked up to him and said "you're going to the stadium?" "yes" he replied, "to compete in the long jump." I wished him good luck and squeezed his hands. Two hours later, Greg Rutherford was the Olympic champion.' Tessa Jowell

Friday, 17 August 2012

Not such a good idea..

Just seen a tweet from Deborah Mattinson on school playing fields -

'why not solve the playing field crisis by insisting private schools open up theirs to local state school kids?'

Where do you start.

Leaving aside the obviously difficult idea that 8% of schools (the private sector) could simply open up their sport facilities and solve the problem for the other 92%, just take a look at the most famous - Eton.

Eton probably have the finest sporting facilities in the country. But unfortunately, the three nearest schools - Windsor Boys, Slough Grammar and Churchmead School Datchet, all have good playing fields including all-weather pitches, tennis courts and gyms..

Then you have to ask how many state schools would find it easy to get their pupils (during a one hour games period remember) to private schools like Stowe, Charterhouse or Marlborough - each set up in their own extensive grounds, precisely to provide an environment away from the distractions of urban life.

I'm sure you get the idea..

Mice update..

Since our cat, Indy, brought in a mouse a couple of weeks ago, we seem to have been inundated. The score so far: 1 escaped, 2 murdered, 1 electrocuted in the toaster (my mistake), 1 set free.. and a rather too contented moggie.

Causing misery for millions & destroying Europe's future..

"There are no rules on how to leave the euro but it is only a matter of time. Either the south or the north will break away because this currency straitjacket is causing misery for millions and destroying Europe's future…It is a total catastrophe. We are going to run out of money the way we are going. But nobody in Europe wants to be first to get out of the euro and take all the blame." True Finns leader Timo Soini.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

BBC defends left wing political bias..

On the day when the New Statesman re-printed an interview with Director General Mark Thompson admitting 'massive left-wing bias' at the BBC, I can report that such bias is not just historic but alive, well and being vigorously defended by none other than the offending Newsnight presenter, Gavin Esler.

An apparent consequence of yesterday's monthly inflation figures from the ONS, was that annual rail fare increases based on the formula used by all governments from the mid 1990's onwards, RPI + 3%, and due next January, are likely to be pretty steep - that is, if the Coalition decides not to lower the current rate, an assumption the BBC is always prepared to make.

Accordingly, they invited Angela Eagle on to the program to give us Labour's view of the consequences of such a move - as if exactly the same annual process never happened under thirteen years of a Labour government. Unfortunately, nobody appeared on the program to give the Coalition's perspective. As Gavin Esler explained, the program tried to contact the government but no one was available to appear. So rather than offer the views of opposing backbenchers, past transport secretary's, or an historical analysis of how fare increases have varied with inflation, or some other non-politically biased perspective, the program continued to broadcast a blatantly left wing interview without riposte. As I tweeted at the time, 'Maria Eagle giving uncontested Labour party broadcast on #newsnight - no political bias by BBC there then..'

And the reply I got from Gavin Esler? '@polittiscribe government were asked to take part. They didn't. Their choice. If you think they should, please let them know. #newsnight'

So there you have it. If you can't get a Coalition transport spokesperson to appear, you can use tax payers money to broadcast a blatantly biased political interview with equanimity. No attempt to present the subject in an unbiased way. No attempt even to suggest it wasn't biased - indeed, by trying to blame the government's no-show, Gavin Esler admitted that it was biased..

Same old BBC. Same old left wing bias.

Monday, 13 August 2012

What future for the Lib Dems..

Liberal Democrat Voice reports today that 48% of Liberal Democrats would prefer a deal with the party that has systematically destroyed them over the last two years, whilst 19% would choose a Liberal-Conservative pact at the next election.

Neither of course are probable, given the level of support they have polled over the last two years. Single figure poll numbers became a feature of the LibDems within just a few weeks of taking government, thanks to devastating and deeply personal attacks from Labour and the Left.

What is surprising is the total lack of a centrist vision in British politics - social, economic and constitutional - without which the Liberal Democrats have very little future..

Britain just did it alone..

Who now will want to get up and querulously try to insist that we risk losing out if we ‘go it alone’ as and when the European Union slumps into some sort of unhappy federalism and we politely head for the exit? 

On the contrary, the sheer manic quirky national energy unleashed by these Games shows that once the conditions are right this country can do truly astonishing things – all on its own.

Charles Crawford on Britain's Olympic success

Tim Montgomerie on Paul Ryan..

The biggest enemy of the safety net isn't the politician who says that you can't spend money you don't have. The enemies of social justice are those who let debts run out of control and who oppose necessary reform. If Paul Ryan can convince people that he believes in state help, partly because of his personal experience, then people may trust him with the scalpel.

If you are suffering from toothache, you certainly want treatment. But when the dentist enters your mouth, wielding the drill, you don't particularly want to see a glint in his eye.

Tim Montgomerie on Paul Ryan..

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Dan Hannan describing the Left..

"..the ultimate political narcissism, privileging the moralistic (holding the correct opinions) over the moral (doing the right thing)." @DanHannanMEP

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Saving A & E..

Several times in the last three weeks I have been asked to sign a local petition to stop the closure of the Accident and Emergency unit at my nearest hospital - The Charing Cross on Fulham Palace Road. This is a major teaching hospital - part of Imperial Health Trust where Imperial College medical students are trained. I have had two minor surgical procedures carried out successfully at the hospital over the years and have visited friends there, when being cared for. This is my local hospital. It is central to the delivery of serious health care in my community. And yet I cannot sign that petition.

You see, I am not a health economist, a clinician or an expert in the optimum distribution of A & E departments across West London. I simply do not have the expertise to be able to judge which A & E - or any other departments - are required for the population distribution. 

But I do know that within five miles of where I live, I have A & E departments at the Charing Cross hospital, the Hammersmith, the Chelsea & Westminster, the Ealing, St. Mary's, St. Thomas's, University College, the Whittington, and the Royal Free. All of them major teaching hospitals. All of them with state of the art, multi-bleeping, scrubs-wearing young doctors able to save all our lives at the touch of a million watts of defibrillation.. 

Now you see my problem. The vicinity of three major medical colleges has resulted in a significant number of teaching hospitals in West London. No doubt all of them will have clinical contracts with health authorities across the UK for elective surgery and other medical procedures. All of which I have no problems with. But Accident and Emergency? The clue of course, is in the name. A & E is designed purely for the local population. With the best will in the world - and the fastest ambulances - you cannot deliver emergency medical services in West London for the residents of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire or Surrey. 

I understand that local people worry about the closure of A & E services at their nearest hospital. Naturally these need to be fully explained along with what objectives are being achieved and what outcomes provided. But when so much over-capacity ensures an obvious local alternative, objections verge on the hysterical.

Friday, 3 August 2012

News links..

David Cameron is to abandon plans to reform the House of Lords

"The Prime Minister will announce in coming days that the reforms have been shelved in a decision likely to cause a major Coalition rift. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader, had viewed the introduction of elected peers as a key policy and senior Conservatives now fear he will scupper planned reforms to electoral boundaries." - The Telegraph

Cameron says Osborne will stay until 2015 - GuardianCity AM
"He and Osborne must come up with a radical supply-side agenda for growth over the next few months, while retaining the planned public spending cuts. They need to show that they get it. If they don’t budge, and the economy continues to shrink, and the deficit to rise, the clamour for a change of leadership at the top of the Conservative party – still a minority view among MPs – will become unstoppable." - Allister Heath in City AM

George Osborne told by Conservative aide that 'dramatic' action needed to escape ‘economic mire’ - The Telegraph reports on yesterday's intervention on ConHome.

The Telegraph's Donata Huggins: "Mr Stride's suggestions for George – even when sandwiched in plenty of caveats and flattery – demonstrate that Mr Stride must be feeling confident in his criticism. Statements like Britain needs  "something pretty dramatic to pull us out of the current economic mire" aren't exactly party line."

George Osborne’s allies slam talk of plan to nationalise RBS as ‘nuts’ -Scotsman
Alistair Darling came within a whisker of fully nationalising the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds in January 2009 as their share prices plunged, the Financial Times has learnt. The former Labour chancellor eventually refrained from doing so, deciding instead to keep the money in reserve in case further bank bailouts were needed."
  • RBS has this morning reported a half-year loss of £2bn, compared with £1.4bn a year earlier - BBC
Cough drops won't do when chemotherapy is required; Polly Toynbee encourages Miliband to be radical against capitalism - Guardian

Research shows that the wages of under-30s have dropped by more than 10% - Independent

Thursday, 2 August 2012

News links..

One Cambridge hospital shows what can be achieved by ending the curse of state monopolies
"Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, previously described by ministers as “a clinical and financial basket case”, released its latest performance data yesterday. In just six months, waiting times had been turned around – from the worst in the region to the best. Patient care had improved; satisfaction ratings were higher than ever. Money was no longer being wasted. Staff morale was up. Even the unpopular car parking fees had been scrapped. The reason? Last year, Hinchingbrooke was taken over by the private sector."- Sean Worth in The Telegraph

Labour lead would drop to 1% if Boris was Tory leader
"A YouGov survey for The Sun showed Labour’s current poll lead would be slashed to one point if Boris was Conservative leader. It revealed 34 per cent of people would vote for a Cameron-led Tory party, while 40 per cent would vote for Ed Miliband’s Labour. But if Boris was leader, support for the Tories would rise to 37 per cent, while Labour’s would fall to 38 per cent."

Coalition considering £5 billion purchase of remaining shares in RBS but George Osborne said to be opposed
"The fact that ministers and officials are considering the proposal, which would mean taxpayers taking full responsibility for the bank’s toxic debts, shows how exasperated they have become at the barriers they believe banks are placing on lending." - FT (£)
  • Business help scheme 'could end up subsidising banks' - Metro
Gloom for manufacturing and London's economy
"Britain’s moribund economy was yesterday rocked by an ‘absolutely dreadful’ slump in factory output as the Olympics and the crisis in the eurozone hit business. Manufacturers suffered their worst month for more than three years in July as the deepening recession showed no sign of easing, according to a closely-watched survey." - Daily Mail
  • George Osborne desperately needs to come up with a proper supply-side growth plan before he loses the trust of his party - Allister Heath in City AM
Jeremy Hunt admits Games have put off London's tourists - Independent
Experts warn stayaway policy by civil service and blue-chip firms could inflict damaging blow on capital's economy - Daily Mail
  • Armed forces now make up half of all Olympics security personnel: "The total number of military personnel involved in overall Olympics security now stands at more than 18,000, including 11,000 helping to secure Games venues, with the rest working in specialist roles." - Express
  • Cameron's visit to Northern Ireland raises new questions about why it's Team GB, not Team UK - Belfast Telegraph
  • Cameron was in Glasgow on Tuesday to lend his backing to the city’s bid to host the Youth Olympics - The Glaswegian
  • The politicians sneaking off to enjoy the London 2012 Games - Telegraph
Support for Scottish independence falls again with new poll showing 54% to 30% advantage for staying in the Union - Times (£)
  • "Scottish Labour is seen as “out of touch”, “incompetent” and “boring”, a YouGov poll has shown, exposing the mountain party leader Johann Lamont has to climb if she is to seize back power from the SNP at Holyrood." -Scotsman
Steve Richards on rich satirists mocking weak politicians
"Many satirists are powerful and wealthy. Jimmy Carr's made much of the bankers' greed: ho, ho, ho! But then it emerged he was greedy, too, and earned millions more than most of the politicians he mocked: ho,ho,ho! This has become a slight problem with Have I got News for You, in which Ian Hislop, earning thousands per programme and buttressed further by his powerful base of Private Eye, mocks obscure cabinet ministers who have virtually no power and have no idea where they are heading in terms of policy or their careers." - Steve Richards in The Independent

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Web Links..

David Cameron knows he's on course to lose the next election; Rupert Murdoch wants Boris to lead the Conservative Party, says the Telegraph's Benedict Brogan

"David Cameron is on course to lose the next election, and his leadership, and he knows it. He has admitted as much to friends, who are even now using the summer weeks to debate what might be done to get the Prime Minister out of his difficulties. ... significantly, I hear, Boris met Rupert Murdoch recently to discuss how his candidacy might be promoted, and has invited the media tycoon to join him at the Olympics. It is said that Mr Murdoch wants to get rid of Mr Cameron. Westminster has noted the Sun’s growing enthusiasm for Boris, and how it contrasts with the vitriol the newspaper now reserves for Messrs Cameron and Osborne."" - Benedict Brogan, Daily Telegraph
  • Boris accused of 'appalling judgment' by City Hall opponents - Daily Mail

And, sure enough, The Sun attacks George Osborne as the "master of the U-turn"
"The master of the U-turn was at it again, abandoning his National Loan Guarantee Scheme to boost cheap loans to small businesses — the very project that was one of his Big Ideas at the last Tory Conference. ... A replacement project under a new name will be unveiled today. ... George, it is what your schemes achieve that matters, not what fancy names they are called. ... While you tinker, businesses are dying." - Sun editorial
  • George Osborne's National Loan Guarantee Scheme may never meet its £20 billion target now - The Times
  • One-in-five Conservative supporters would prefer Vince Cable as Chancellor, suggests ComRes poll - Independent
David Cameron's Olympic wrestling match with François Hollande

"Mr Cameron was asked about President Hollande's remarks during a visit to Glasgow to promote 'the Games legacy' and to back the city's bid for the 2018 Youth Olympics. ... He said: 'There are French medals and there are some British medals too ... I think there has been a bit of a misunderstanding about the empty seats. ... we are doing everything we can to make sure that unused seats are made available to volunteers, members of the armed services personnel, and we are also putting more of these seats on sale.'" - Daily Telegraph
  • David Cameron is to announce the setting-up of a £10m science research centre on the site of the Olympic drug-testing laboratories - BBC
Olympics comment:
  • London is suffering as Olympic boost outweighed by losses - Allister Heath,City AM
  • The economic cost of London 2012 has been high - Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • The Olympics let us wave the flag for Britain - Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
And the Prime Minister also applies pressure to Alex Salmond
"David Cameron attempted yesterday to force the pace on the terms of the Scottish independence referendum by offering Alex Salmond a meeting at the end of September to finalise the details of the vote. ... In what was a clear attempt to put pressure on the First Minister to accept a one-question yes-no referendum, Mr Cameron, speaking during a visit to Glasgow, appealed to Mr Salmond to recognise that the Scots deserved to have the terms in place 'quickly'." - The Times
  • YouGov poll suggests that Alex Salmond isn't yet making gains - Scotsman
Francis Maude looks to make progress on civil service reform

"Francis Maude, the cabinet office minister, on Wednesday asked think-tanks and academics to look at alternative ways of structuring Whitehall. He asked them specifically to look at the New Zealand model, whereby top mandarins are reappointed each time a government changes, allowing ministers to choose their own departmental heads. ... The consultation is the first example of the UK government outsourcing policy development, something Mr Maude promised he would do when setting out his vision for a slimmer civil service in June." - Financial Times (£)
  • Government plan puts Civil Service impartiality at risk - Oliver Wright,Independent
Dominic Grieve holds back the release of Iraq War papers — perhaps for another three decades
"Mr Grieve said holding back the papers were necessary to protect the privacy of Cabinet discussions. ... ‘Serious and controversial decisions must be taken with free, frank – even blunt – deliberation between colleagues,’ he said. ... ‘If there cannot be frank discussion of the most important matters of Government policy at Cabinet, it may not occur at all.’" - Daily Mail

Chris Grayling accused of "trying to censor" a video designed to help people appeal against decisions to remove their disability and sickness benefits -Guardian

The Daily Mail says that IDS should stay put (rather than replacing Ken Clarke at Justice)

"Leave aside that IDS is no lawyer, which need not necessarily disqualify him from handling legal matters in the Cabinet. ... his Welfare Reform Act makes a start towards realising his vision that benefits should never be more attractive than a fulfilling life of work. But it’s known that the Treasury is worried about the costs – and it will take a strong man like IDS to keep the reforms on course. ... among the greatest weaknesses in our system are revolving-door ministers and the lack of long-term planning. Those who are doing valuable work, as are Michael Gove at Education and IDS at Work and Pensions, should stay put." - Daily Mail editorial

Yesterday's ToryDiary: Will welfare be one of the Conservative talking points ahead of 2015?

Andrew Lansley repels calls for an investigation into why some hospital trusts are using nurses as cleaners - Guardian

Public Accounts Committee: government data "must be easier" - Daily Telegraph
  • Superfast broadband will be available in 90% of UK by 2015, says Ed Vaizey - Guardian
The Free Enterprise Group of Conservative MPs encourages BAA to introduce a compensation scheme if it expands Heathrow

"MPs in the Tory 'free enterprise group' believe that BAA should follow the French example of speeding up big infrastructure projects by providing ample compensation for local residents affected by noise and other pollution. ... Kwasi Kwarteng, Tory MP for Spelthorne, in January flagged up the idea of BAA sharing its financial gain from expanding Heathrow with local residents in a free enterprise group pamphlet. ... 'I’ve mentioned it to BAA and I think it’s something they would be open to,' he said. However, he envisaged a limited compensation scheme applicable to fewer than 5,000 people, some of whose homes would have to be demolished to make way for a third runway." - Financial Times

Chairman of the National Conservative Convention warns on gay marriage
"[Emma] Pidding today told BBC Radio 4's World At One: 'My concern is that we are potentially upsetting our members and activists when I have one goal, and that is to obtain a Conservative majority government in 2015. ... Ms Pidding said the issue of gay marriage was of passionate interest to 'a few individuals' on either side of the argument but was not a priority for most Tories." - Daily Telegraph

Eric Joyce MP has been fined £600 for cutting off his electronic tag to compete in a Parliamentary boat race -  Daily Telegraph

"Labour doesn't get it: the NHS needs new ideas to survive" - Nick Seddon,The Times