Monday, 29 October 2007

Wh... wha... what ... did... you sa ... sa ... say ... Bottler?

A lot of people have pointed out that the Bottler's public statements under pressure have lately been marred by a curious new tendency to stutt ... stutt... stutt ... stutt... stutt... STUTTER!

I have read, too, that Ed Balls as a child also had a slight stamm ... stamm ... stamm ... STAMMER!

Now, I may be the Daily Brute but I am not an unrelieved brute. Well into my 20s I had a pretty bad stammmmm ....mmmm .... mmmm ....ER myself.

Even now, I am conscious of it from time to time.

So believe me, I sympathise with anyone with a genuine stutter. It is in every sense cripplingly cruel. There are the words, dying to be uttered yet tantalisingly out of reach, your inability to say them reducing you on occasion to a sense that you have become little better than a smiling, speechless nonentity. Yet there is nothing apparently the matter. So why can't you do what everyone else can do? Why can't you TALK normally?

There have been moments when I have wanted to scream out loud. For reasons no one has yet convincingly explained – faulty wiring? traumatic childhood memories? – what should be wholly straightforward – introducing yourself, asking the time, on one memorably awful occasion struggling to read an essay as everyone looked anywhere but at me – you simply can't do what everyone else can. You can't talk. It can create a sense of worthlessness you feel will never pass.

I repeat: I sympathise.

Except that in the case of Brown and Balls I don't.

There are two reasons for this. First, the Bottler doesn't stutter.

Stuttering may never have been properly explained. But I know for a certain fact that it is not something you suddenly acquire. Not real stuttering. That's in built and beyond anyone's control.

But curious hesitations in your speech ... repetitions ... words half spoken, half pronounced, semi uttered, repeated again and finally spat out: that is the Bottler these days.

It's the performance of a man lacking in confidence and desperate to pretend otherwise. No wonder the words stick in his mouth. No wonder he so obviously fails to convince.

Balls, however, is different. If it is true that he stammered as a child, he has a handicap I doubt he will ever recover from.

As Gordo's backroom brain, public speaking was rarely likely to prove a problem. But as an MP and, even more, as a performer in the Commons, he will have to confront his demons all the time.

And the trouble is that they will never go away. Not under pressure.

Will they come to cripple him? Who can say?

But they may come to dominate him. Every time he has to make a major speech, every time he has to stand up as a minster in the Commons, every time he has to go in television and every time he has to talk on the radio, he will, I guarantee, have gnawing away at the back of his mind the thought that he will reach a certain word and be unable to say it.

Any long-term stammerer can tell you about the tricks they use to avoid saying particular words and phrases. But not too many of them will be government ministers.

Balls has a big problem. Were he honest, he would already be thinking of another career.

There is a serious irony here. Balls is, big time, a bully, a man who has had all the advantages of big-shot back-room status without ever needing to display himself on the public stage until relatively recently.

But subject him to the unblinking glare of the camera, the Commons or the public statement under pressure and that one word he can't say will always be there.

He has already faltered. He has already hummed and haa-ed in public in ways that made only too clear he was creeping around words and phrases filled with personal pifalls. He has already turned in the classic stutterer's cover-up performance. Adroit but fuelled by the horror of public humiliation.

He is in the wrong job.

So, reason two, why don't I feel sorry? Because he is at heart a bully. And this bullying is, I am convinced, an attempt to justify the empty inadequacy I know he feels about his stammer.

Admit his problem and he would win near limitless support. Who could possibly blame him?

But the stutterer can never admit his or her problem. They always want to seem normal. They have already been humiliated enough. Denial is the default position.

It is a crippling position for a major figure in any government to be in. For one occupying as a central a role as Balls, it will one day prove terminal.

A compex man, yes? A likeable one, no?

One riding for a certain public fall, yes.

I repeat: he is in the wrong job.

UPDATE
Conscious that I might have done Balls a disservice, I have since checked, on Youtube, a number of videos of his talking. In the process, I came across a particularly intriguing example. It is the speech he made to the Labour conference last month, his first of course as secretary of state for the now renamed Dept. of Education and Skills, now the Dept. for Children, Schools and Families (or, as it preposterously styles itself, department for children, schools and families). You can find it here.

It is a commonplace among stutterers that the words they almost always find hardest to say are those beginning with the letters of their own name. The reason is that there is almost nothing more certain to provoke shame in the stutterer than being unable to pronounce their name, hence there are few moments more pressurized for a stutterer than introducing themselves. By extension, all words beginning with these letters can take on an equally terrifying, unsayable quality.

Balls begins his speech: 'It is a great honour for me to address conference today and to open this morning's education debate.'

As any seasoned stutter watcher will confirm, there are brief but clear pauses before the words 'conference' and, more tellingly, 'education'.

How difficult must it be for Ed Balls to be faced daily with having to say the word 'education' when it doesn't merely start with the same letter as his own name but with the whole of his own name?

Which rather prompts the thought: was the Department of Education renamed because Balls can't say 'education'?

Compensation culture chapter 2

I suppose it had to happen. Lawyers in America are cranking themselves up to fight lawsuits for damage caused by man-made global warming. You can read about it here, where there is incidentally a picture of one of the arch movers in the business, a Texan lawyer called Steve Susman (who incidentally and very far from hilariously 'teaches a climate-change litigation course at the University of Houston Law School').

Infinitely more encouraging is a blog I have only lately discovered, Climate Skeptic. It is run by an American, Warren Meyer.

Among much else that is hugely impressive on his site is a video, just released by him. It is clearly a home-made production, put together for almost no money. But it is compellingly well done: clear, coherent and, to this resolute non-scientist, entirely believeable.

Just one other thought. It may well be wishful thinking but I offer it up anyway. There is enormous pressure on us all to accept the catastrophic consequences of man-made global warming. Politicians love it because it gives them the opportunity to look grave and statesmanlike while doing what they love best: bossing us about and putting up taxes ('essential to guarantee our survival, etc, etc, etc, bollocks, bollocks, bollocks'). Al Gore is merely the most shameless example, though Stern and the UN run him close. Scientists, or at least the government-funded variety, love it because their dire warnings guarantee lots and lots of funding while making them feel very important about themselves and pandering to their own political prejudices.

It strikes me that the blogosphere, at least for now unregulated and free from political pressures, offers exactly the opportunity for a genuine expression of dissenting views. In which case, the likes of Meyer, industrious where I am indolent, informed where I am ignorant, should be applauded and then applauded again.

I leave you with this quote from the admirable Meyer:

Gosh, it's an amazing coincidence that the steps proposed to curb CO2 (reduce oil use, demonize oil companies, limit growth, increase government interventions in free economies, limit global trade) exactly match the political goals held by many leading climate catastrophists long before greenhouse gas theory was even born..

He is the first recipient of the brand-new Daily Brute HERO OF THE WEEK AWARD.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

It all adds up


Read about it here.

Except of course it doesn't.

Could there be any more precise illustration of the dislocation from the real world when you are spending other people's money?

Friday, 26 October 2007

Why socialists are stupid Pt. 3


Or, more specifically, why this particular socialist (and look! here he is, above, and hey! dig that crazy tie-shirt combo, Terry!) is stupid. Actually, stupid isn't quite the right word. Pig-shit ignorant is closer. Or maybe just irredeemably thick.

He is, I promise, the genuine article, an unreconstructed Scottish socialist of the oldest of old schools, supremely, magnificently reactionary and wonderfully, wonderfully, stupid. And of course violently anti SNP.

I have only just discovered his blog, so it is clear that there are many happy hours of browsing ahead of me.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of reading his precisely crafted bon mots, I urge you all to rush to councillorterrykelly.blogspot.com

You won't regret it.

£26,069

What Shalid Malik, Labour MP for Dewsbury, spent on stationery last year. That's an awful lot of pencils, Shalid.

Lots of lovely lies

The ever admirable Jeff Randall highlights just how and why the Bottler is an habitual liar. Here it is.

But there is a further point he might have made: that the over-riding, permanent priority for all governments is to highlight what they claim are their successes and cover up their failures.

For a perfect example, read this.

Bill of Bollocks

Just as the Blair government in its early days was keen to demonstrate its cool modernity, to say nothing of its republican instincts, by revamping many of the institutions of government (though only provided it was to its electoral advantage: hence reform of the House of Lords and Scottish and Welsh devolution but not even an attempt so much as to acknowledge let alone to address the West Lothian question), so the Bottler, frantic to demonstrate his 'vision', now proposes a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. The increasingly poodle-like Jack Straw explains it here.

Please stand by for chaos. It will not work. It will be botched. It will be badly thought through and badly implemented. And it will cost a fortune.

For a direct parallel, consider the changes to the electoral rules in Scotland. Though clearly intended to be rigged in Labour's favour, they no less clearly backfired. The result was that almost 150,000 Scots were effectively disenfranchised and Labour lost its majority in what it had complacently regarded as a permanent fiefdom.

For a combination of incompetence and dishonesty, and all at staggering cost, it takes some beating. Except that now we will see an even larger fiasco.

What a hoot.

Balls

The Telegraph this morning claims that: 'Balls, like Brown, has a Rolls-Royce brain'.

I strongly suspect you could have said the same thing about Stalin and Mao. You could certainly have said it about Robespierre. It entirely misses the point.

Both Brown and Balls are profoundly weird. They may be clever. But they are also undeniably emotionally stunted. Neither possesses an ounce of charm or any other characteristic that makes people likeable. They bear an uncanny resemblance to Edward Heath.

Dimly aware of this defect, they compensate by assuming a goggle-eyed, bullying insistence that only they know best.

It is precisely no surprise that two such obviously dislikeable people should have allied.

There really is nothing ...

... quite as much fun as spending other people's money. And here is the proof.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Global warming pt. 2

Since my post about why global warming is bollocks, I have been doing a little digging. Nothing too strenuous, you understand. But a degree of digging nonetheless.

My starting point, perfectly understandable given my extreme old age, was that in the 1970s it was widely believed that we were imminently at risk from a new Ice Age. Now, on the other hand, we are equally at risk of being fried alive.

What caused these doom-laden predictions to be swung through 180 degrees so that, rather than being encased in ice sheets two-miles thick, we now apparently face being variously boiled alive or drowned by rising sea-levels as the ice-caps melt?

My first discovery was that among the earliest advocates of the new ice age was a man called James Hansen. Appealingly, he has since emerged – surely not following the money? – as one of the prime prophets of global warming. Nonetheless, in 1971 he devised a computer program that made plain that the world was heading for a 'disastrous new ice age.' You can read about it here.

It strikes me that Hansen has got his bases covered in a pretty shrewd way. Frozen or boiled? Hardly matters. We are all doomed anyway. And he's the man who told us. That's what I call far-sighted.

Yet intriguingly – and it will be interesting to see if Hansen is obliged to flip-flop back to his original domesday scenario – it seems a growing body of opinion is now emerging to suggest that it is an ice age after all that will do for us. As scientific ignoramus No. 1, I am scarcely in a position to judge. But this article kind of rings a bell, however silly it may be about Prince Philip (I mean, perhaps he did arrange for Princess Diana's death: but I don't think even Fayed would claim he is to blame for global warming).

An even better historical perspective is to be found here.

None of which changes my basic objection to the high priests of climate change. Which is (other than the fact that they are socialists, of course), they haven't got the foggiest idea what is going to happen.

They are guessing. If you can't predict what the weather will be next week, how can you know what it will be in 50 years' time? It is equally obvious that they are driven by headlines. If I was pitching for a government grant to study the world's weather, I suspect I would be more likely to get the money if I came up with something along the lines of Catastrophe Looms: Humanity Faces Extinction! as opposed to I'd Just Like To Try To Know More But Please Bear In Mind That I Am Dealing With A Vast and Near Infinitely Complex Subject No One Understands (except James Hansen).

One of the biggest sticks used to beat us round the head by the climate change believers is that there is a 'consensus' among the scientific community that man-made global warming is not just happening but that its causes are known. Leaving aside – to the extent that I can claim to understand it – the point that 'consensus' is antithetical to scientific understanding, there have been plenty of other such consensi that were wrong. Galileo may be the prime example, but those eminent men of medicine who argued in the 19th century that typhoid was caused by vapours rather than germs in water are no less striking an example, not least as they believed that the science was on their side.

In other words, no one knows. And anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or stupid. Or, more probably, both.

The food fascists ...

... just won't give up. Why do they feel so relentlessly compelled to tell us how to live?

Read about it here.

Interesting fact of the day


George IV as Prince of Wales once spent £2,000 on a set on handkerchiefs.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Climate change bollocks

The Daily Brute, scrupulous to the last, has so far avoided commenting on climate change.

There is a very good reason for this: I am no scientist. My understanding of even the most basic scientific processes is all but non-existent.

So why do I know that man-made global warming, aka climate change, is utter bollocks?

Because, just like socialism, it is clearly a religion.

The parallels are striking.

Both are anti big-business, especially the American variety.

Both are dedicated to relieving us of our money and spending it on our behalf.

Both consider it an urgent imperative to boss us about and to control how we live.

Both violently denigrate their opponents (capitalist pigs and climate change deniers).

Both deal with imagined paradises (contented workers and pastoral idylls).

Both routinely lie and distort data to prove their cases.

Both are accordingly very stupid.

Ergo, man-made global warming = bollocks.

Case proved, I'd say.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

More Olympic idiocy


From today's Times and already well blogged but further evidence of the collective lunacy driving the 2012 games. It will be a disaster.

I am particularly taken by this gem:

Even drivers not travelling to the Olympics will be affected by the plan [to ban cars] because, for two months around the Games, one lane on several key routes in London will be reserved for 80,000 members of the “Olympic family” – athletes, officials and media. These routes, dubbed “Zil lanes” after the routes reserved for the Soviet Politburo cavalcades in Moscow, are likely to be policed by dozens of cameras and a team of enforcement officers.

So now we have it, it's official. London will emulate Soviet Moscow in allowing the chosen few to travel by car. The rest of us can just walk or pile into tubes that won't work. But don't worry. Think of the 'legacy'!

For a detailed and closely reasoned analysis of just how and why the Olympics destroy cities, have a look here. OK, it's mostly about Chicago, which is bidding for the 2016 games – suckers – but it makes the points devastatingly well.

The daily round of despair


There are times when, contemplating the world from my French fastness, the world appears to consist only of utter, irredeemable stupidity. Here is a more or less random sample from the last week.

The government intends to tell the parents of fat children that their children are ... fat.

And there is this example of health fascism, if anything even more sinister.

At the same time, we learn that firemen are forbidden to take down bunting or put up Christmas lights on the inevitable grounds that it is too dangerous.

Meanwhile, here is another example of corrosive state interference.

And, guess what, it turns out that all the recommended limits for safe drinking were invented, conjured from the air, yet accepted as absolutes for 20 years.

And then there is the small matter of the EU Treaty. Has there ever been a more obviously dishonest act by any British government in the last 100 years, say? 150 years maybe? It is more than shameful.

If there is a common thread it is that all these acts of bone-headed cretinousness are generated by socialists of various ilks, all certain of their far-sightedness (and need to keep their jobs). Will they ever get the point? People do not want to be pushed around by self-appointed, self-important nonentities for the simple reasons that 1) it is none of their business; and 2) it never works. In fact, perhaps more than any other single factor it is the endless incompetence, invariably hideously expensive, that makes these golly-we-are-jolly-important-here's-another-wise-initiative-from-us twats so unbearable.

The same can't be said of this article by Rachel Sylvester in today's Telegraph. The degree to which the paper, much like the Daily Mail, appears to have nobbled lately by the Bottler has been fairly widely reported. But it seems the damage has gone even deeper than was feared.

She writes:

A recent report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, however, hints at a subtle but significant break with the Blair years. Two of the authors, Richard Brooks and Nick Pearce, have, since writing it, been hired as senior advisers by Mr Brown. Although the report advocates diversity in the providers of schools and hospitals, it warns that there are some situations in which "markets" in the public services are "likely to fail".

"As a narrative of reform, 'choice' has been particularly unsuccessful: it has alienated the workforce without capturing the imagination of the public," it concludes.

On education, it says that local education authorities (a bĂȘte noire for Mr Blair) must be responsible for allocating places in order to stop the best institutions "cream skimming" clever pupils in their area.

On health, it argues that the "use of quasi-markets" should switch from secondary care in hospitals to primary care and the management of long-term conditions. Instead of parents and patients having "choice", it says they should be given a louder "voice" – with more power over local priorities and greater personalisation of services.

In other words, schools and hospitals should be made more convenient for users, rather than being forced to compete for patients and parents. They should also be controlled locally, rather than from Whitehall. It is potentially as radical an approach as Mr Blair's, but it is different and Mr Brown needs to explain how.


I know I am often rather slow off the mark but can someone please explain to me how if 'choice' over schools and hospitals is ruled out, a louder 'voice' will compensate? Ditto, what does 'more convenient for users' mean if it is not 'choice'? It's gobbledegook, mere words, meaningless noise, the whole designed to demonstrate to us the Bottler's vision when it is perfectly obvious that his only vision is one rooted in early 70s student socialism: more and more taxes leading to more and more centrally directed 'investment', none of which works. In fact, not only is the money effectively just being hosed away, there seems good reason to believe that the Great Brown Boom was all an illusion anyway.

The only bright spark in this otherwise relentless gloom is the news that the Brown/Blair split was if anything even more poisonous than we all thought. And that Ed Balls is more of a total turd than even I imagined.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Quote of the day

Courtesy of EU Referendum, here is Margot Wallström, fragrant communications director of the EU, on the Lisbon treaty meeting.

Everyone seemed determined to stick to the deal made last June – i.e. finally put the wrangling over Institutions behind us so that we can get down to the real business of the EU: implementing policies that people want.

That people want! THAT PEOPLE WANT! Who precisely, Margot? Was there anyone particular you had in mind? Do me a buggering favour.

The first Heath award


The Daily Brute is delighted to be able to announce the first of what will be an annual Heath Award, a £25 million prize to be awarded to the country's most charmless politician and named, naturally enough, after the great Sulker himself, Sir Edward Heath (RIP).

The prize will be awarded at a lavish ceremony to be held at a venue to be announced very shortly.

This is an award that will grip the nation!

Nominations close on October 26.

Vote now!

Vive l'empereur!


It was obvious from a long, long way out that Blair fancied himself as the president of the EU, one of the few jobs in the world sufficiently prestigious for a man of his towering, global stature.

What is less obvious is why the Bottler should apparently support him in this bid. If you spend almost 15 years trying to knife your boss in the back, it hardly seems likely that you would then agree to his being your boss all over again only in an even more elevated role.

I mean, honestly. Think world summit. Who gets to stand in the front row next to the US president? Who gets relegated to the back alongside the leaders of Lithuania and the Maldives.

Or was back-row status part of the price Brown paid to get to No. 10? Was he that desperate?

Or is it all in fact no more than a fiendish Blair-Sarko plot to stick one on the Bottler?

Seriously sinister


If the stories here and here are true, they represent one of the most sinister and ugly threats to us all.

Thank you WONDERFUL European Union for allowing the Italian government even to attempt to tell me, an Englishman, what I can and cannot write on any blog while, in the meantime, planning to charge me for the pleasure, in other words to regulate me and thousands of others out of business.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Telly for sale ... only slightly used


Some of you may remember the three predictions I made last week.

Those with shorter memories can read them here.

All three were wrong.

Hence, in a spirit of calm deliberation, the television has been destroyed, the cat kicked and the children sent to bed without so much as a crust of bread.

Never let it be said that I am not PERFECTLY REASONABLE!

Incidentally, I also have a crystal ball to dispose of. All reasonable offers considered.

Pretty crap game ...

... but well done SA.

Easily the better team. Incontestably worthy winners.

England have been magnificent. But South Africa were clearly the better team tonight.

Even more to the point, to a man the South Africans were modest, honest and straight foward after they had won.

No praise too high.

None of which means I am not bitterly disapointed.

But there was no shame losing to a team of such obviously good guys.

So, again, well done SA.

But watch out!

It will be different next time!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

More lies


Everyone should read this. What a hoot!

Christ, why do we have to put up with this shite?

The EU stitch-up

Vast swathes of coverage in the papers today about the EU stitch-up in Lisbon yesterday. Charles Moore in the Telegraph is especially good. Matthew Paris in The Times is also characteristically sound. But there is plenty more in this vein and you hardly need me to point you to it.

But there is one point that can never be stated enough. The government, now led by Gordon Brown, categorically promised a referendum on the EU Constitution/Treaty. It has reneged on this promise. In other words, it has lied.

Furthermore, it knows it has lied, just as parliament knows it has lied, the media knows it has lied and much of the public knows it has lied.

Needless to say, Brown is banking on the fact that sooner or later we will all become thoroughly bored by the whole question and that the most obvious political consequence will be only that, as with Maastricht, continuing controversy will highlight splits in the Conservatives.

I think he is wrong. It's only a feeling. But I have a strong sense that the whole business is going to blow up in his face. In short, that people are fed up with being pushed around by Brown and his smug ilk. Specifically, that they are fed up with being lied to.

I hope to God I am right.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Slight technical hitch with crystal ball


Oh dear. I was wrong about Andy Murray and the Madrid Masters. He lost last night to Nadal, going down 7-6 6-4 in what, from all accounts, was a fabulous match. Though there may be some slight consolation in losing so gallantly, it is still a loss.

The question now, of course, is whether this minor technical glitch with my crystal ball will be fixed in time to guarantee England's win over the beastly Boks on Saturday and Lewis Hamilton's winning of the F1 world crown on Sunday.

It has since come to light ...

Yes, it most certainly has.

Tessa Jowell has owned up. In a written parliamentary answer on October 16 – and why written? why not delivered in person? could she possibly have lost her nerve? – she acknowledges that when, in July, she told parliament that the Department of Media, Culture and Sport had employed no consultants to advise on the setting up of the 2012 Olympics in the current financial year and only two in the previous financial year she was talking out of her arse.

This is what she wrote:

In my previous answer to the honourable member for Faversham and Mid-Kent on July 9, I stated that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport had not employed consultancy firms to work on the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in the current financial year and that two consultancy firms were employed in 2006-07. However, it has since come to light that during 2006-07 a total of six consultancy firms were employed by DCMS on Olympic-related business. One of these firms continued to work on Olympic-related business in 2007-08 and a further four consultancy contracts had also, as of July 9, been entered into during 2007-08.

The cost of consultancy firms employed by the Olympic Delivery Authority in 2006-07 was £50,494,000 and in 2007-08 (as of July 9) was £10,753,000. These costs reflect the process of establishing the ODA [Olympic Delivery Authority] and building up organisational capacity while ensuring key delivery milestones are achieved.


In other words, the two consultancy firms employed in 2006–07 were actually six and the no consultancy firms employed in 2007–08 were actually five. OK. Fair enough, Tessa. Good of you to tell us. Appreciate it.

Further, they came at the bargain price of only £50.5m in 2006–07 and, in the three months she admits to in 2007–08, £10.75m (which, pro rata, works out at £43m pa). Loose change really. Hardly worth bothering about.

How can cock-ups like this happen? It just beggars belief.

Will anyone be fired? I somehow doubt it.

But the really interesting question is by how much the 'new' new budget for the games will now go over budget. I wrote about this last week – and here it is.

I am now seriously beginning to think that even my top estimate – and my guesses can surely be no worse than Tessa's – of £50m is too low. On the other hand, if even the biggest brains whirling around in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport are unable to count up to five, I don't suppose any of us will ever know.

Please note, too, the exquisite use of government speak in Tessa's statement. We now have not an organising committee but ... drum roll, drum roll ... an OLYMPIC DELIVERY AUTHORITY – do they have their own delivery van, I wonder? – charged with achieving KEY DELIVERY MILESTONES.

Fabulous. Nice to know our money is being so well spent.

Time to move on

You can imagine the high-fives, the whopping and the crowing in Downing Street when first the Dutch and then, more senstationally still, the French voted against the EU Constitution in the summer of 2005. Blair's gamble of promising to hold a referendum on whether Britain should sign up to the Treaty, a vote he was certain to lose, had been spectacularly vindicated.

The Constitution was dead. Ergo, no referendum was needed. You can hardly hold on vote on a measure that no longer exists, after all. But Blair could still look us all in the eye and assert his democratic credentials without, happily, the inconvenience of having to put them to the test.

You can also imagine that a further default position was being prepared.

In the certain knowledge that the Constitution would be reinvented, renamed and reintroduced – exactly as it has been – and that demands for a referendum would then be aired all over again ('But prime minister, you promised us. You said so in your manifesto ...'), Blair (or his successor) would be able to say, 'But this isn't the Constitution. This is the Treaty. We never promised a referendum on that.'

And of course technically this is exactly right. It would only be necessary to change a single comma in the original document to be able to claim that it was different.

Hence, the Bottler in Lisbon solemnly intones that, 'It is now time for Europe to move on and devote all our attentions to the issues that matter to the people of Europe — economic growth, jobs, climate change and security.'

But not, please note, referenda. These, clearly, are not issues that matter to the people of Europe.

In my fonder fantasies, I like to think that politicians who lie so blatantly may one day be exposed and punished for their mendacity. Actually, not so much punished as humiliated before being held up to ridicule, reduced to quivering heaps and left blubbing for mercy, crying out piteously.

But only in my fonder fantasies.

Thus are we all fucked by our masters.

Time to move on indeed.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


Yet another Ofsted report damning the state of British state schools, secondary schools especially. It's in all the papers. You can read about it here, here and here.

It raises one inevitable point, however. Ofsted is nominally independent. But to all intents and purposes it is a government body, funded by the taxpayer.

Is there accordingly even the remotest reason to believe that it is not every bit as inefficient as every other arm of the government?

Further, it stretches credulity to breaking point to believe that the government doesn't lean on it to massage its reports.

As the worthy Wat has pointed out, even the National Audit Office has succumbed to these pressures. It's hard to believe that Ofsted is different.

Incidentally, for those with a taste for the kind of vacuous gobbledegook without which apparently no government department can exist these days, these are Ofsted's mission statements. Note the cool absence of capital letters and the random use of bold type.

have pride in making a difference for children and learners
always seek to improve
take responsibility for what we do
trust each other and value our differences
support one another and celebrate achievement

Incidentally, Ofsted's budget for 2007-8 is £202m. So it's not exactly what you might call cheap to run.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

You read it here first


Three predictions for the weekend.

1 Lewis Hamilton to become F1 world champion (and put the snivelling Spaniard Alonso firmly in his place).

2 England to win the rugby world cup (well, of course).

3 Andy Murray to win the Madrid Masters. The what, you cry? The Madrid Masters, a big cheese tournament being played this week in, well, Madrid.

And of these three, which is the most important. Andy Murray, I reply.

Ho! Ho! you ripost. Have you gone quite mad?

No, I haven't and I will tell you why.

One, in tennis terms the Masters tournaments rank only just behind the Grand Slams in terms of prestige. All the big players are there. There is big money on offer and lots of ranking points. Accordingly, winning one is a pretty big deal.

Two, British men's tennis, despite the valiant efforts of the noble Tim, has been a disaster area for what feels like several millennia (and incidentally I don't count Rusedski, an affable dolt but a dolt nonetheless, as British). But Murray is going to change this. He is, in every sense, the genuine article, a player who I think has the capacity to rank not just with the game's best but the game's very best, the likes of Federer (of course), McEnroe, Sampras, Laver, etc. This is rarified company.

Three, for a British player this is uncharted territory. No British man has won a Grand Slam singles title since Fred Perry in 1936. That's 71 years. But believe me when I say that Murray has what it takes, an almost freakish gift combined increasingly with power.

Four, given that no less than eight British drivers have won the F1 championship, taking 12 titles between them, and that England are still the current rugby world champions, however remarkable it will be for Hamilton and the England rugby team to win this weekend, it won't remotely compare in scale with Murray winning a Grand Slam, which he will and toward which winning the Madrid title this weekend will be a significant stepping stone.

OK?

Interesting fact of the day


Gibraltar has been British for longer than it was ever Spanish, 294 years against 221 years in fact.

Talking bollocks


The always admirable Wat Tyler highlights today the utter bollocks of the government's hilarious claim that Surrey and other similarly verdant parts of the Home Counties have been taken over by gangs of crazed middle-class drunks. It turns out that the most of the so-called research used to justify this insane assertion was in effect made up using what are called synthetic estimates, otherwise known as guesses. Read it here.

There is only one point I would like to add to this otherwise comprehensive rebuttal by the worthy Wat, and that is the use by the BBC, which of course accepts the report uncritically, of the terms Hazardous Drinking Hotspots and Harmful Drinking Hotspots to describe the sites of these shocking, Gin-Lane style revels. Here is the relevant webpage.

I know the BBC likes to dramatise stories. It's what journalists do, after all. But to call the likes of Runnymeade and Woking Hazardous Drinking Hotspots suggests a degree of hysteria akin to mental instability.

Think about it. In Runnymeade, 26.4% of adults (who the BBC helpfully points out are over 16) regularly drink between 22 and 50 'units' of alcohol a week. That's between seven and 16 glasses of wine or 11 and 25 pints a week. In other words, because two-and-a-half Runnymeadeans out of ten drink a glass of wine a day, the town is instantly designated a Hazardous Drinking Hotspot against which the full might of the nation's health fascists must be deployed.

This is getting serious.

There is more of the same health fascism to be found here, if you are interested.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

This has to change


All day, in my dilatory way, I have wondering about Dawn Primarolo's insanely stupid comment yesterday that too many of the 'middle classes' are drinking too much and that, 'This has to change', as she so memorably and cretinously asserted.

In, say, 50 years time, it should be possible to offer a more or less objective summary of the Blair/Brown administrations.

I think it would be fair to say that Dawn Primarolo will not loom large in these accounts.

Given which, perhaps we should all raise a glass in celebration of her moment in the spotlight now.

It looks unlikely to come again.

Cheers, Dawn! Same again?

The oddness of the United Kingdom

The Bottler's dithering about whether to go to the RWC final on Sunday seems as good a reason as any to post on a subject I have given a great deal of thought to for many years (almost all of it entirely inconsequential of course – but thought it is nonetheless, or at least what passes for thought in my addled antiquity). So now am I am going to share the results of my deliberations with you.

The Bottler's problem is that he is Scottish. And Scotland, though part of the United Kingdom, is at least historically a separate country from England and Wales, to say nothing of Northern Ireland. Except of course that it isn't. With the Act of Union in 1707, whose 300th anniversary in January was so shamefully uncelebrated by our Great and Glorious Government, Scotland, England and Wales became a single entity.

In 1801, they were joined by Ireland, until then a de facto Anglo-Scottish colony. This created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, from 1922, when southern Ireland was granted dominion status within the British empire (it won full independence in 1937), the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this is an extremely unusual constitutional arrangement.

In effect, you have four countries – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – in one – with the United Kingdom the over-arching authority. They share a common head of state, a common central government, a common currency, a common defence policy, a common foreign policy and, though each has it own national capital, a common capital. But Scotland, which retained its own legal system and church in 1707, Wales and Northern Ireland also have their own parliaments, the first two modern Labour party creations, with responsibility for significant areas of policy (though that in Wales, its scope more limited than those of the other two, is technically only an asembley).

England, tellingly, does not. But then England has always been the dominant partner and accordingly has always felt less need to assert itself. If the national capital is in England, the national government is in England and the national parliament is in England, the need for a local parliament in England inevitably seems less than pressing.

But this instantly highlights one of the most obvious tensions of this curious union: that the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish have always felt hard done by. It may have been a long time ago, but both Ireland and Wales were forcibly subjected by English conquest (even if the kings of England at the time, Henry II and Edward II, were Frenchmen – though it is also worth pointing out that England, too, even earlier, was also conquered by a Frenchman, hence the fact that his warlike descendents were in a position to impose themselves on their smaller, Celtic neighbours).

For its part, Scotland, impoverished, remote and intermittently the victim of English invasion, was forced into a union with England for the simple reason that England was rich and it was poor. If you like, England bought the Scots.

A further layer of complication is added by the fact that between 1603 and 1668, England, Wales and Scotland were ruled by the kings of Scotland, the years of the Commonwealth aside. This did not mean they were united. Through the largely accidental workings of inheritance, they merely shared a monarch.

Were you setting out to devise a rational means of government, I think it would be fair to say that the above process would probably not suggest itself as a logical means of arriving at your goal. Nonetheless, however circuitously, the union of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom has been overwhelmingly successful. Politically, it has been a model of stability (by way of comparison look at France and Germany: actually look at practically any country other than those in the Anglo-Saxon orbit, as the French would say: notice a pattern?) Further, the contribution of the peripheral members has been arguably at least as important as that of England. Whether as empire builders, industrialists, thinkers or scientists, the United Kingdom has consistently unearthed a series of world-shaking figures.

So why is there such misunderstanding? Why in fact is the Bottler, a Scot, inevitably going to look and feel so uncomfortable in Paris next Saturday? Where has British identity gone? If Lloyd George could manage it, why can't Brown?

The first and most obvious answer is that history, to the extent that it is taught at all in schools these days, is very badly taught. This problem is compounded by the instinctive leftie desire to seek out victims so as to lay into their supposed oppressors, which almost inevitably means the English. Scots/Welsh/Irish equals victims; English victimisers. Even the Vikings come out of this process better than the English. Sorry, St Cuthbert: you brought it on yourself.

The second is narrowly party political in ways that reflect immense discredit on the Labour Party. The Thatcher revolution of the 1980s inevitably threw the Labour party, then decidedly unreconstructed, back to its heartlands, Scotland conspicuously among them. Having gained power in 1997, inevitably New Labour sought to reward these Scottish heartlands by giving them their own parliament, a move that simultaneously allowed it to proclaim its modernising instincts (old = bad, new = good) while rewarding its traditional supporters. Wales benefited similarly.

At immense expense, the Labour party introduced parliaments in Scotland and Wales that effectively did no more than add to the already gargantuan cost of government in both countries while simultaneously ripping apart precisely those improbable, unforeseeable qualities that had made their union with England so successful.

Thus do ignorant, short-term political goals undermine what history has bestowed you.

No wonder the Bottler, a Scottish, Labour MP and prime minister of the United Kingdom, is going to feel so acutely uncomfortable in Paris next Saturday.

He has been very precisely hoist by his own petard. And the wonderful thing is, he didn't just arrange for it, he actually lit the thing himself.

And now - drum roll, drum roll – a tiny quiz (in the unlikely event anyone has survived this far).

1) Where does the term Union Jack, the flag ie, come from?

2 Who was the last English king to lead troops into battle? Extra points for the year and the name of the battle.

Another Bottler own goal

It is typical of the tactical ineptitude of the Bottler that he has managed to box himself into a corner over something as trivial as whether he should go to the Rugby World Cup final in Paris next Saturday in which, for the benefit of my Martian readers, England are playing South Africa.

Just like his various pathetic attempts to celebrate Britishness, the Bottler's apparent espousal of English sports teams, sprung on an unsuspecting world earlier this year, has never been more than a transparent attempt to demonstrate to English voters that he is not just a great, grim, hulking Scot consumed with loathing for all England teams.

Happily for us all, it instantly backfired, the English recognising it as wholly bogus, the Scots despising him for even pretending to support any England team.

Thus should he go to Paris, you can guarantee it will piss off both the English and the Scots yet again. And frankly, in his fragile mental state, I don't think he'd be able to cope with the boos that would ring round him from the England fans.

Brilliant! The man is a genius! Yet another tactical masterstroke from the mighty brain! Well done, Bottler!

Stop Press
He is going to Paris. He better bring some ear plugs.

The great EU lie

It seems to me astonishing that the entire country is not up in arms over the Bottler's broken promise to hold a referendum on the EU Treaty.

The Labour manifesto in 2005 was categoric on the point. Now, however, blathering on about red-lines and the fact that was then called a Constitution is now called a Treaty, the Bottler has said there is no need for a referendum.

This is the most outrageously dishonest statement I have ever known in British politics. It's a lie, pure and simple, and one with immense consequences.

In May, when it was confirmed he would take over as prime minister from Blair, the Bottler said that 'to build trust in our democracy, I'm sure we need a more open form of dialogue with citizens and politicians to genuinely talk about problems and solutions. It is about a different type of politics, a more open and honest dialogue.'

More 'open and honest'?

Do me a buggering favour, Gordo.

I am stunned he thinks can get away with it, dazed by the audacity and shamelessness.

But the terrifying thing is he looks as though he is going to.

By the way, rather charmingly in the Guardian today La Toynbee manages to blame it all on Thatcher. Good to know some things never change.

Friday, 12 October 2007

I think I am going to be sick

Al Gore is the joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The what? The Peace Prize?

In what conceivable sense has making a dodgy film about global warming contributed to peace anywhere in the world?

The Olympic fiasco unfolds


I remember precisely the moment when London was awarded the 2012 Olympics. I was watching the announcement on French telly. As London's name was read out, the French commentary team went absolutely silent. After about five seconds a solitary voice broke the funereal hush. The comment was eloquently simple.

'Oh la la! Oh la la!'

That was it. Nothing more.

The point of course was that Paris provided London's main competition and, having been turned down for both the 2004 and 2008 games, the city was everybody's favourite to capture the 2012 games. Its campaign, backed by the full apparatus of the state, had a momentum that rapidly came to seem unstoppable. There was a powerful sense that this time, surely, the French could not fail. London's bid, by contrast, was not only late but clearly underpowered. As much as anything else, the city's eventual success was a remarkable testimony to Blair's powers of salesmanship. He and Sebastian Coe, head of the London bid, formed a remarkable duo.

But well before London's bid got properly underway, it was obvious that a London Olympics would be a disaster. The only consolation was that the prospect of London's winning was so remote. I can assure you that it wasn't only the French commentary team who were dismayed when London won.

First of all, I defy anyone to justify how and why spending billions on a two-week sports festival, however prestigious, can conceivably be justified. Even according to the original budget of £2.375bn (which astoundingly included a 50% contingency fund), the cost would have been £169m a day. Get that, a day. But of course that original budget was just a guess, a number apparently plucked from the air. By November last year, only 16 months after the original announcement, the budget had been increased to £8bn, or £571m a day. In March this year it was upped again, to £9.3bn, £664m a day.

To give a further flavour of this Alice in Wonderland budget forecasting, this month it was announced that the cost of the main stadium – for which there was only one bidder to build it, note – had been increased from £280m to £496m. Meanwhile the cost of the acquatic centre, otherwise known as a swimming pool to you and me – for which there was also only one bidder – had increased from £75m to £150m.

There is good news, however. In announcing the 'new' new budget in March, Tessa Jowell proudly asserted that 'winning the Olympics had brought an extra £7bn of investment to one of the most deprived areas of Europe'. So, there you have it. It's official. After 10 years of Labour government London is 'one of the most deprived areas of Europe'. What would Tessa make of Romania, you wonder?

However, all this is rather beside the point. As is the fact that if the budget can increase by almost 400% in less than two years, there is clearly considerable scope for it to go up by much, much more in the remaining five years between now and the games themselves. What will the final figure be? £20bn? £30bn? £50bn? All that can be said with certainty is the government's guess is literally as good as mine.

No, the key is that all this vast expenditure will be wholly, utterly and entirely wasted because – and here I am very happy to stick my neck out – none of the projects, despite having ever larger sums lavished ever more frantically on them as the deadline approaches, will be finished.

How do I know? First, because the games are effectively being run by the government, another way of saying that cock-ups are not likely, they are guaranteed. Second, because there has been no major building project over, what, say the last 50 years that has not been late and ludicrously over budget. Given that these include not just state-run but private-sector projects the prospects for the games can hardly be considered rosy.

Examples
Wembley Stadium: original budget £458m; actual cost £827m (80% over budget)
Millennium Dome: original budget £400m; actual cost £790m (95% over budget)
Channel Tunnel: original budget £4.9bn; actual cost £12bn (145% over budget)
Jubilee Line extension: original budget £2.1bn; actual cost £3.5bn (55% over budget)

There is also the matter of Pickett's Lock. This for those not in the know was to be the site of a purpose-built 43,000-seater athletics stadium in north London which would host the 2005 World Athletics Championship. When the plans were first approved, in July 1999, Chris Smith, then secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport, ringingly declared that: 'The stadium is the best thing to happen to athletics in the UK for a generation.' In September 2001, the original budget was upped from £87m to £110m. The following month the project was scrapped entirely.

It is heartening to realise that the projected cost overrun of Picketts Lock –£23m – would pay for less than one hour of the London Olympics even if the present budget of £9.3bn is adhered to (which it won't be, of course).

If only the same could happen to the Olympics. It would save such agony. Even now it's not too late. Let the French have the games and write off what has already been spent. However expensive, it will be a bargain compared to ploughing ahead with what, I promise you, will the shambles of the century, not merely ruinously expensive but simultaneously reducing us to a laughing stock.

Still, if it's laughs you're after, have a look at this. But if it's laughs and sense you have a taste for, then read this.

(By way of comparison, the budget for the Athens games in 2004 was 3bn euros, the actual cost 12bn euros, a healthy 400% overrun. We have more in common with the Greeks that you might think.)

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Plus ca change ...

... plus c'est moins la meme chose. Or at least this time it is anyway when it comes to Saturday's France-England semi-final in the rugby world cup.

Forget Brian 'Pitbull' Moore. These days the snarls and the hatred have given way to a sort of hugely improbable Anglo-French love-in, le rugby-man turned district nurse-cum-sobbing I-love-you-really blubathon.

These are the captains of France and England talking two days out from a titanic clash. They sound as though they might as well be holding hands.

Christ, and there I was assuming the whole point was to rip the other player's balls off.

It gets worse. Bernard Laporte, the Stasi agent personified (though actually the coach of France) has said he'd like to help coach the British Lions in 2009.

More drink. At once!

Still, England still to stuff the Froggies on Saturday ... not of course that I don't love them all dearly.

How very inconvenient


Ha! Ha! Ha! Up yours Gore!

Take a look.

For England, Harry and ... the Bottler!


Now here's a bit of a teaser for the Bottler.

A lot of people commented that whereas both Sarko and Helen Clark, the prime minister of New Zealand, were at the epic France-All Blacks game in Cardiff on Saturday, the Bottler was at neither the England game the same day nor the Scotland match the following day, this despite his professed love for the game.

True, I think it's fair to assume that he may have had other things on his mind at the time. That said, even if he couldn't have managed both games, he might at least have made it to one. In which case – oooooh! agonising decision – which one? Choose England and you are guaranteed to antagonise the Scots. Choose Scotland and you immediately give the lie to the claim that, as a true Briton, you support England.

Not such worries this weekend, however. The Scots have been knocked out. Only England remain. Now it's true that he went to the England-Germany footy game over the summer (and got roundly booed for his pains). But will he put his rugby mouth where his rugby shorts are and head for Paris this weekend?

He might like to consider that there will be upwards of 40,000 England fans at the match, none of them I imagine natural Labour supporters or, for that matter, particularly keen on the gallant Scots.

So, will he go?

Why socialists are stupid Pt. 2


Socialism doesn't work. This can be taken as a given.

There are degrees of course. A more or less modest amount of socialism, as in Wilson's administration between 1964 and 1970, produces a more or less modest amount of failure. A rather larger dose, as in the Wilson/Callaghan administrations of the 1970s, leads to a rather larger degree of failure. And of course a full-on application of the medicine produces utter prostration (cf the Soviet Union, Cuba, Burma, the eastern bloc, etc, etc, etc). But it doesn't change the fact that every time – not just most times but every time – the result is failure.

So why persist? The answer is that socialism is a religion, an article of faith. As such, it requires that you can't admit you are wrong.

This is not to say that the present government is no more than a updated media-friendly version of 1980s Benn/Kinnock socialism. Blair and Mandelson saw to that. It is at least superficially a friend to business, a party of the centre rather than of the left per se, hence the crucial ditching of Clause 4 in 1995.

But it is socialist for all that. More particularly, it is socialism a la Brown. And what does that mean?

Brown may have been hooted at lately for his banging on about vision when, to all intents and purposes, the man appears entirely blind. But it would be wrong to say he has no master plan. The problem, however, is that like all socialist master plans it hasn't worked.

What is it?

That given an economy in sufficiently good health, courtesy of course of his prudent, far-sighted economic management (no mention here of the foundations laid by the Tories or of the global economic upturn over the same period), it is possible to increase taxes steadily, preferably by stealth, and then unleash a vast cascade of cash on the sacred cows of the socialist pantheon. Hence the deluge of money lavished above all on the NHS and education since 2001, the idea being that Brown can then boast of vast increases in public spending – meaning, by definition in his Cyclopean world view, inevitable improvements in services – as opposed to Tory spending cuts, code for inevitable cut-backs and reductions in services. (It is worth noticing that he was up to this again yesterday in his clunking performance in PMQs).

It would be tiresome to detail the limitless failings of the NHS and state education since the unleashing of the Bottler's billions. Others have done it far better than I could ever hope to. Take a look here, here and here for starters. This is a particularly fine example. More here, too, from the beautiful Camilla Cavendish of The Times. There is a vast amount in the same vein.

But the point is that in the face of these failings, all achieved at prodigious cost, the knee-jerk socialist reaction is: More of the Same! If the health service is still not working – though it is of course perfect – that means we must spend MORE MONEY. It is all oddly reminiscent of Barmy Benn's belief after Thatcher's election in 1979 that the failure of the Callaghan government was the result of its not having gone far enough. It should have been more socialist, not less.

The reason of course for these myriad failings is that, as I have said before, governments are constitutionally incapable of running any business. They bring a bizarre incompetence to bear that is all their own and which guarantees failure. It becomes all the more hilarious of course when, dimly aware of their failings, they then attempt to ape the private sector in the belief that works for that must work for them, too, the only result being yet more failure though this time dressed up in half-digested management gobbledegook plus, at even greater cost, even more managers.

Will the penny ever drop? No, because for that to happen you have to admit you are wrong. And being wrong, for the faithful, is akin to apostasy. Much better to remain in denial and so true to your poor, misguided socialist beliefs.

Better, in short, to remain stupid.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

The right resurgent?


Is it fanciful to suggest that the overwhelming preponderance of right-wing blogs in the blogosphere points to the first signs of a rolling back of the Left's hitherto unchallenged occupation of the political moral high ground?

Since at least the mid-60s, arguably much earlier, it has been an absolute article of faith among all bien-pensant opinion that Left equals Good and Right equals Bad. It is a view that has permeated almost all sections of society and that underpins and in many ways circumscribes all political actions.

Take the hijacking of the word 'progressive'. Socialist policies are always 'progressive'. It follows therefore that conservative policies must be 'regressive'. Thus tax cuts = bad, tax increases, especially when paid for by someone else, = good. In much the same way, America is always wrong (though fun to visit, of course), the Third World always right (if rather less fun for holidays: Chad anyone?). It goes without saying that fat-cat-dominated big business is the fount of all that is sinister and corrupt as well as clearly responsible for global warming (a term now mutating into 'climate change', a necessary precaution just in case it turns out the Earth isn't getting hotter after all). Likewise, private education, which actually works, is a bastion of class-driven privilege while state education, which doesn't, is a monument to far-sighted idealism. Ditto even more so health: the NHS enjoys almost literally untouchable status on the Left. And racism of course is the evil beyond all others, though curiously only when perpetrated by whites (say the word fuck on television and your right-on credentials are guaranteed: so for a real laugh, why not try saying 'nigger'?).

The list goes on. What was most the odious regime of the last 50 years (America aside, of course)? The Soviet Union? North Korea? Albania? Burma? Cuba? Chile under Pinochet? The last one will always get some points but the correct answer is of course South Africa followed closely by Israel (odd to think it was once held up as a model of socialist aspiration).

Worst tyrant? There have been some hefty contenders after all. Mao? Ceaucescu? Castro? Amin? No, in joint first place are Bush (jr), Reagan and and arch-villain Nixon, though honourable mentions are reserved for Allende and any pre-Mandela South African leader.

Ditto, over the same period which British politician has consistently been reviled as the essence of evil? Well, Thatcher of course. (Maybe that one's too easy).

These are ingrained reactions, unshakeable, unchallengeable, undoubted. They drive not just the BBC but much of the rest of the media. They reign supreme in academia as well as in every council in the land. They explain a vast and growing public sector as much as a vast and growing set of official attitudes towards gender (silly me: I always thought this was a grammatical term), inclusiveness, positive discrimination, risk avoidance and the environment. They hold us all in thrall.

So how come they are not all over the blogosphere? Put it another way, why is it the Right that is so obviously making the running?

The answer seems to me pretty straightforward. That whatever the prevalence of left-wing attitudes among the metropolitan elite, they are far from shared by the population at large. And the wonderful thing about the blogosphere is that it allows anyone with something to say a direct, unfiltered means of doing so which bypasses not only traditional political parties but traditional media outlets, too.

And who has the most to say? In fact, not just who has the most to say but who has consistently found the most entertaining, provocative, incisive, irreverent and memorable ways of saying it? The Right. Look through Iain Dale's list of the top 50 left of centre blogs and you find only a tired, leaden-footed collection of plodders. As important, they attract hardly any comments. Either practically no one is reading them or they just can't be bothered to react to them. The spiky subversiveness and near instant responses generated by likes of Dale himself, Guido Fawkes, Dizzy, DK and the other standard-bearers of the Right are nowhere to be found.

The only lefty blog to attract comments regularly – and strictly speaking it isn't a blog at all – is the Guardian's Comment is Free. But intriguingly, a huge number of the comments, certainly almost of all of the most coherent and well-argued, are far from lefty. Quite the opposite. Take at look at this piece of characteristic bollocks in today's paper by George Monbiot. He is slaughtered in the comments, rent unto shreds.

All of which can only be an immense cause of satisfaction to those, such as me, who for years have railed against the consistent lefty bias of our poor, benighted world.

Is this the resurgence of the Right? Have we got the buggers on the run? That's what I call properly progressive.

Last word on the Bottler ...


... at any rate for the time being.

Though you could hardly expect them to do anything else, those in the Bottler camp have been girding themselves to mount a defence of their man. The results have been predictably feeble.

La Toynbee in today's Guardian claims the Bottler kept both his temper and his dignity in yesterday's cringing press conference. Hardly less laughably, also in the Guardian, Tom Clark asserts that the same press conference saw the Bottler 'recover his professional stride'.

In general, the arguments are that he never said he would call an election so why the fuss now that he hasn't? And that any damage to the Bottler is temporary and of interest only to a handful of Westminster obssesives. Given time, his gravitas will naturally resurface.

The former is transparently stupid, the latter hardly less cretinous.

There has been a sea-change and no one should be in any doubt about this. More remarkable is that it has come hardly 100 days into a premiership that started so promisingly, at least in the Bottler's terms. More startling still, it is entirely the Great Strategist's own doing.

Can any prime minister have so utterly undone himself in so short a space of time?

He was disastrously disingenuous and shifty even with the poddle Marr on Sunday. Yesterday, facing the press, he was even more sweaty and unconvincing. Worse, he lied. His claim that his decision not to hold an election had nothing to do with the polls – that even had the polls shown a likely 100-plus seat majority for Labour he still would not have called one – is the most outrageously unconvincing lie I have ever heard from any politician, or at least one who claims to believe in democracy. That it was delivered amid a flurry of nervous ticks, gulps, hand waving and stuttering, his face haggard and grey, his grin forced and fixed, says all you need to know about a man on the skids.

The bully exposed, the spinner exposed, the liar exposed. He is done for and he knows it. It is an astonishing spectacle.

That the third-raters with whom he has surrounded himself – and can anyone honestly say there has ever been a Cabinet more undistinguished than this gang of place-seekers and toadies? – should now already have begun to splinter and position themselves in the inevitable race for the succession says it all.

The estimable Rachel Sylvester in today's Telegraph is particularly good on their slimy manouverings.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

The most spectacular own goal ...



... of all time has now been scored by the Great Steersman.

What a strategist! What a genius!

In hardly 10 days he has managed not just to transform Cameron's credibility but to shoot himself plum in the middle of his foot.

Magnificent!

Saturday, 6 October 2007

As Gordo dithers ...


... over the weekend, gnawing away at his fingernails, before coming to his inevitable decision not to call an election, it is worth considering just what has led him into this cul-de-sac in the first place.

It is perfectly obvious that those pushing most enthusiastically for an election are the incredibly creepy and not-entirely-human Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander. It is also perfectly obvious that their motive was that they saw an election an opportunity not just to crush the Tory party but to exterminate it. Gordon would then assume his anointed role as Father of the Nation, gravely presiding over his Big Tent in which would be found the Government of all the Talents (ie Gordo himself, his preening cronies and a couple of token, self-serving Tory has-beens).

If you were Balls or Alexander, this would be a perfectly reasonable goal, guaranteeing you a major role in a government which would, if the argument is taken to its logical conclusion, effectively endure indefinitely.

Happily, of course, the real world doesn't work quite so neatly. But please never lose sight of the fact that it is self-interest, first, last and everything in between, that is the guiding principle behind the toad-like Balls and Alexander.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Bottler Brown

Well, it may not be official yet but the odds against an autumn election are lengthening all the time. Brown has bottled it.

It could have been so different. The Brown ‘bounce’, implausible though it was from the man who had been at the heart of the Blair government for over 10 years, was based on what he insisted were the obvious contrasts between himself and Blair.

Where Blair was gimcrack and obviously lightweight, Brown was sober, measured and stern. Where Blair could only chase headlines, Brown, the Great Steersman, understood the imperatives of the long term, of prudence, of the country’s real interests.

Bollocks from first to last, of course. But it was the perception that counted.

Then, obviously opportunistically, he sensed that perhaps there was a snap election for the taking. Characteristically, however, haunted by the horror that maybe he just might not win it, he havered.

In the meantime, his spinning was suddenly shown to be just that. Plus, against all the odds, the Tories rediscovered themselves. Grudgingly, teeth gritted, false grin in place (though nails bitten to the quick), the election talk was hastily abandoned, his acolytes reduced to muttering that he had never said he would call one in the first place, that he was getting on with running the country and that in any case the election talk was never anything more than Murdoch-driven media hype.

In short, the Great Strategist had shafted himself. Damned if he did, damned if he didn't.

But there was an alternative, one that could have immeasurably reinforced his standing.

He could have announced on entering No 10 that he recognised that he had no popular mandate to take over as prime minister and would accordingly be calling an immediate election. Second, that he shared the country’s anxiety over the proposed European Constitution – sorry, sorry, Treaty: God, I must learn to start calling it a Treaty – and would simultaneously hold a referendum on it. The one would in effect have been a vote for the other.

The media, fawning in its anxiety not to fall out with him, would instantly have proclaimed his wisdom and far-sightedness and his determination to place national over party interests.

As it is, would anyone now like to offer odds on Brown being smuggled, heavily sedated, out of No. 10, Anthony Eden-style, this side of Christmas?

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

5,846,000 reasons to be scared





The estimable Legitimate Tangent highlights today the enduring nonsense of the public sector job ads in The Guardian. They are a precise and disturbing measure of the inexorable growth of officialdom in all its many pointless guises, made all by the more sinister by the impemetrable jargon in which they are inevitably dressed up.

A random glance at the paper reveals armies of Asylum Case Owners, Reputation Officers, Complex and Additional Needs Managers and Anti-Social Behaviour Support Officers .

Mission statements, the more fatuous the better, abound. Stockton is a ‘No Smoking’ Authority, Positive in Disabled People and an Investor in People. As a Strong Community Leader, Milton Keynes operates a Smoke Free Policy. Brent is Positive about Disabled People. Derby ringingly declares that is is Making People’s Needs Our Priority.

It took me five minutes to find these examples.

Between June 1998 and June 2005, an extra 680,000 public-sector jobs were created, taking the total numbers employed by the state or local authorities to 5,846,000. If that is fractionally over 20% of a total working population of 29 million, more alarmingly these 680,000 public-sector jobs represented 35% of all jobs created in Britain in the same period.

By any measure, this marks a significant economic shift from the productive to the non-productive sector. If I get the time, I’d like to find out what the increase in public-sector pay has been.

Still, if it is perfectly obvious that a prime driving force behind this expansion has been Gordo’s need to build a huge client state of Labour voters, there is a further factor at work here worth highlighting: that all organisations, private or public, exist to become bigger and more powerful. That’s what they do. It’s a fundamental internal dynamic.

If a business becomes bigger, it’s because it’s making money. Profit provides an exact measure of its success. But the public sector doesn’t do profit. It does regulation. Ergo, the more you regulate, the more you are successful.

The increases in public-sector employment are not just costing the tax-payer grotesque sums, they are creating more and more people whose prime purpose is to tell us what to do. In other words, to boss us about.

Here is an example, trivial in itself, sinister when taken to its logical conclusion.

Building regulations. These exist to make sure that unscrupulous Rachmann-like types don’t build houses that will fall down or catch fire. Which is fair enough, no? But once you decide that you, the local council, can demand that smoke alarms be installed, that the wiring won’t fry the inhabitants alive and that the roof won’t blow off, it is small but logical step for you to then to start telling people how to decorate their houses.

You think I am joking? I’m not. I wrote a property piece some years ago about a modest terraced house in Basingstoke that the council had bought and was doing up, the intention being not just to restore it to its original Edwardian appearance but to make it energy efficient.

Laudable enough, you’d think, even if inevitably the project was over budget and behind schedule.

However, in the course of this exercise the council decided that from then on no house in the street could have plastic-framed windows fitted in place of wooden ones. Similarly, no house could be given stone cladding.

Their reason was that both were ugly and, as such, fundamentally altered the character of the street.

In fact, I agree with them. I think plastic windows are very nasty and that stone cladding, briefly in vogue in the 60s, is preposterous, turning perfectly respectable houses into strange, mis-proportioned structures. But just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean that others might not find them wholly wonderful. Plus, if plastic-framed windows are widely used it’s also because they are infinitely cheaper than wooden ones.

But much, much, much more to the point, what business is it of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to tell the owner of any private house that they can’t install any kind of window they like? It’s their house and it’s their money. Same with cladding. Same with painting your house tartan come to that or sticking a plastic shark on your roof.

And of course not only do they presume to tell what you can and cannot do with your own property, they charge you for the pleasure. Not just council tax, which you have to pay anyway for them to empty your dustbins half as often as they once routinely did, but a separate fee.

Heart sinks.

Why socialists are stupid Pt. 1



This is a theme I hope to develop at some length over time. For now I plan merely to state the basic point: to wit, that anyone claiming to be a socialist or to support, have sympathy with or be inclined towards socialism is, put simply, very stupid.

This is one of the eternal verities of the world: Socialism doesn't work. Ever. In any shape or form.

The great and hideous joke here is that, despite the overwhelming evidence of its consistent and predictable failure, those on the left continue to assert not only its superiority but the need for more and more of it.

True, at least in Britain the jettisoning of Clause 4 may have marked the emergence of a more designer-friendly, or at least voter-friendly, socialism in contrast to the heavy-industry, Union-dominated obsessions of of the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Similarly, in the wake of the disintegration of the Soviet Union only the nuttiest can still contend that communism itself offers any solution. Look at Burma.

Yet you need only consider the NHS and state schools to realise that socialism is still very much alive and kicking in Britain.

These are institutions in apparently terminal decline despite prodigious increases in funding. They also stand in stark contrast to the palpable successes of their private equivalents.

Yet rather than free them from the state, the prevailing socialist doctrine of the 21st century demands the precise opposite happens.

It beggars belief.

The point is very, very, very simple. Governments can no more run schools and hospitals than they can run supermarkets. You have to be very, very, very stupid to believe otherwise.

Imagine if food retailing had been nationalised after the war. We would all still be rationed to a couple of potatoes and a powered egg a week. Which in effect is precisely what has happened with hospitals and schools – except the potato and the egg cost about 10 times what they are worth. And are disgusting.

As I say, socialism = stupidity.

More to come ...

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Told you so

... Ok, so that's premature but I am more than ever certain there will be no election this autumn. This about sums it up.

In essence, Brown is a great big coward, the bully personified. He is terrified of losing an immediate election and being turfed out after less than six months in office, consigned to oblivion, reduced to a laughing stock, etc. The comparisons with so fleetingly ignominious a stay in power and Blair's 10-plus years at No. 10 would be more than he could bear. You need only consider Cherie's cackling glee if Brown were to lose a snap election to understand just how utterly determined he will be to avoid even the faintest possibility of defeat.

On the other hand, if he holds out till 2010, however catastrophic his premiership and even if the Labour Party is exterminated in an election then, he will at least be able to claim that he was PM for almost three years. Hardly impressive. Even Heath managed nearly four years.

But a hell of a lot better than five months.

He hasn't sulked and brooded, conspired and plotted for over 10 years to become the prime minister with the second shortest term in office.

Sputnik



50 years old today.

Happy Birthday Space Race!

Monday, 1 October 2007

Goodness

I am getting good at this linking.

Just to prove it, why not read today's offering from the biggest prat in Britain.

It didn't work

But, this time, I think it will.

May I accordingly urge you to visit this chap. He is jolly good.

More hmmm...

Being a persistent kind of chap, I haven't given up my quest to link to other blogs. As I said before, I reckon legitimate tangent is a worthy blog to try.

Will it work?

Hmmm...

Well, whadya know. It didn't work. All I managed to do was to turn the other existing links into red type. Interesting, eh?

This isn't actually a post ...

... it's an experiment. I want to see if I can get text to link to other websites. For no very particular reason, I think legitimate tangent is a worthy subject for my first attempt.

It has to be said that if it does work, however, I don't think I will be doing it too often. First, because the automatic link button doesn't work on my version of Safari meaning that I have to type in by hand a series of mystical and easily confused symbols (arrows, colons, quotation marks, equals signs and so on). Second, because my computer has a French keyboard and practically every symbol on it brings up a different symbol. Thus, press, for example, a semi-colon and you get this: >. Helpful, no?

On the other hand, you also supposed to be hit control/shift/a to bring up a link box. And guess what? That doesn't work either.

Lying Works – Honest

There is a fundamental dishonesty to Gordon Brown that, considered objectively, is astounding. I say 'considered objectively' for good reason.

It is easy, given the daily hurly-burly of the political world, not least the endless quest for new headlines, to lose sight of a number of fundamentals.

So here are just a couple of those fundamentals.

For 10 years, Gordon Brown nurtured am immense grievance that he was not prime minister. This did not stop him from claiming that he was the real power in Tony Blair's government. Nor did it prevent him from consistently conspiring and spinning against Tony Blair (a man who it is impossible not feel profound contempt towards but who was at least, however improbably, the democratically elected prime minister).

Having, however, finally heaved his way to the top of the greasy pole (which no popular mandate, please note), from which, eyes bulging, he at once began to gaze in immense self-satisfaction, he then declared that it was time for a new beginning.

Wait, wait, wait, you cry. One minute he is asserting that he alone is the architect of New Labour, the stern and vigilant guardian of an unprecedented decade of economic growth, the mastermind behind three election victories (interesting he could do this last time without apparently any idea of where the money came from). The next he is proclaiming the need for a new, sober, spin-free start. So what exactly has he been up to for the last 10 years? Was it another Gordon Brown who was chancellor? Can there really be two of them rattling around?

I realise that in writing this I am hardly laying claim to anything new. It is not as though this essential falsehood on Brown's part has not widely publicised. But his overwhelming need to have his cake and eat it remains a key fact in any assessment of the man.

Point two: the referendum. Or, rather, not the referendum. Whether or not Brown personally supported the manifesto pledge in 2005 to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution is irrelevant. Ditto his own views on the desirability or otherwise of the Constitution, aka Treaty. The only point that matters is that his party, whose election campaign he oversaw, explicitly promised one.

And now, because he knows he will lose it, there isn't going to be one. In other words, he has lied. It is as simple as that.

This from the man who can hardly stop boasting about his 'moral compass'. The effrontery is staggering.

Needless to say, if there is an election this autumn – and I am certain there won't be for the simple reason that Brown can't absolutely guarantee he will win it, meaning his premiership will have ended in shortlived ignominy – you can be sure there will be no more silly talk on his part about a referendum.

He is creepy beyond parody.