Friday, December 26, 2008
"Tax inspectors have divided England into 10,000 new 'localities' with each neighbourhood ranked on the socio-economic class of its residents and environmental factors such as crime and traffic levels.
The inspectors have even purchased demographic data disclosing how many company executives, pensioners or students live in particular streets, The Daily Telegraph has learned.
This has been collated on a secret database which is being used to assess the desirability of neighbourhoods to help determine council tax bills if Labour wins power again at the next election."
I don't need to comment very much on this, though I should say that those who honestly believed that the debt was going to be paid off with a 45% tax on the richest earners were clearly living in some sort of cloud-cuckoo-land. And isn't it convenient that this story leaks itself out - complete with denials, of course - on Christmas Day/Boxing Day, when precisely nobody will be reading the papers? Oh, and this process is being dealt with by the department of a certain Hazel Blears, so please do direct any questions or comments to her.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I extend to all of you my best wishes for the festive season, and hope that you all have a terrific Christmas. I'm thankful to each and every one of you who has contributed to Labour Bollocks - and Blears Watch before that - over these past months. I'm pleased that I seem to have something of a regular crowd of readers, and I hope to continue with this venture next year. In my life away from all this I have a new job starting in the next few months - yes, a job in the middle of Gordon's recession - so that might affect how the blog operates over time. However, I'd very much like to build on what I have started, and I hope that will be possible.
Thanks once again, and merry Christmas,
Monday, December 22, 2008
It comes courtesy of the Mirror, and in particular from Kevin Maguire's latest attempt to insert himself as deeply as possible into Gordon Brown's colon. This might just be the most staged photograph in all of human history. Things to look out for:
- Gordon with his jacket off and Sarah in a simple top. It says 'we're serious, but can relax'.
- Gordon's patented 'paedo smile'. The one which proves he is incapable of smiling like a normal person.
- Gordon is wrapping or unwrapping a present, which makes him look stupid either way. If he's unwrapping it, he's doing it at least four days early. And if he's wrapping it, what sort of stupid bastard tries to wrap a present while balancing it on his knees?
- Sarah sitting on the floor to make the whole thing look more relaxed and informal, but it actually looks like Gordon is hogging all the sofa and refusing to budge up.
- The look of admiration on Sarah's face as she gazes up at Gordon, which makes her look like an extra in a Leni Riefenstahl film.
- It's daytime, but Maguire tells us that Gordon is working "a Herculean 12 hours a day." I therefore presume that Gordon Brown is some sort of vampire, who does most of his actual work at night - when he isn't posing for photographs.
- The angle contributes to Gordon's gigantic puppet head looking even more puppety than usual. Not a sign of it being staged, but important to point out.
If you can see any more examples feel free to put them in the comments.
"A report calls for Manchester to have a David Beckham park, Edinburgh's library to be named after JK Rowling and for British Olympic medal winners to have streets named in their honour."
"John Healey, the Local Government Minister, will call on councils to introduce the new naming policy saying it is great for local democracy and local pride'."
"It recommends that Birmingham commemorate J.R.R. Tolkien and that London recognise Twiggy and David Bowie."
"It also urges Boris Johnson, the London mayor, to pledge that every Briton who wins more than two medals at the 2012 Olympics has a street in the capital named after them."
And to remind you of what Gordon Brown said to the Guardian last April:
"I think we're moving from this period when, if you like, celebrity matters, when people have become famous for being famous. I think you can see that in other countries too - people are moving away from that to what lies behind the character and the personality."
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Believe it or not, I would have no problem with lifelong Labour supporter Ferguson managing such a team. He's the most successful British manager in a generation, and his name is assured on the list of all-time greats. But it's a bad idea because it's exactly what the bastards at FIFA and UEFA would like us to do. Sepp Blatter (President of FIFA) and Michel Platini (President of UEFA) are both critics of the current setup, by which England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own Football Associations and national teams. It annoys Blatter because he's a dickhead, and it annoys Platini because it means UK teams get more qualifying slots for European competitions. Therefore, there is a real danger that by going ahead with a UK team at the Olympics, we will harm out barganing position in the future should FIFA or UEFA ever attempt to amalgamate the national FAs. To appear willing to bend on this issue could be fatal.
The other reason I dislike this is because it's Gordon Brown trying to fly his British flag again. We know he hates the English; hospital closures in England but not Scotland; tuition fees for English universities but not Scottish ones. Admittedly this is partly because of the Scottish Parliament having jurisdiction in this area, but Scottish Labour MPs were whipped into voting for tuition fees at English universities. This is yet another plank in his plan to convince us that he's not an English-hating arsehole. Of course the irony of all this is that he can't see how his attempts to appeal to everyone in the UK could end up destroying the century-old structure of our national sport.
And there's another side to this as well; one where Brown gets to dole out freebies to his core vote. With the SNP rising in prominence in Scotland, Labour need to hold most of their seats there to win the next election; especially if the Conservatives squeeze them in England. The BBC article reports that:
"Among suggestions which have been floated to boost public support for the idea include hosting the first match of the tournament at Scotland's national stadium Hampden Park."
So Glasgow could get the first football match in a tournament won by London, and which will largely be paid for by London taxpayers. They get all the perks - increased revenue from tourists, supporters and fans - and don't have to foot the bill. Furthermore, surely offering presents to Scotland, but not Wales, England or Northern Ireland, is just going to make them dislike the plan even more than they already do?
Thursday, December 18, 2008
"The Tories' behaviour [over the Damien Green affair] has raised fears that the police were being politicised, making it more difficult to win public support for my proposals for some members of the police authority to be directly elected."
No, you stupid bitch. There's a difference between the police being seen as the extended arm of the government and them being responsible to an electorate. The issue with the Damien Green case was that it appeared as though an opposition MP had been arrested and questioned because he made the government - more precisely, you - look incompetent and devious. A politicised police force representing the political will of the people is a good thing; a politicised police force representing the will of the government is a dangerous thing.
"Looking at what has happened over the past two months, there has been a fundamental shift in the way people think about the politicisation of the police. I put that down to the London mayor's intervention in the resignation of Sir Ian Blair..."
Let us be under no illusions here; Ian Blair was the most political Commissioner the Met has ever had. This was the man who let police cars drive around with 'Vote Labour' posters in the windows. To say that Blair wasn't both a political appointment, and a Labour puppet, is facetious and dishonest. Turning to the way he resigned, Smith's argument crumbles further. The only person who can hire or fire the Met Commissioner is the Home Secretary - not the Mayor of London. All Boris Johnson did was express the opinion that he no longer had confidence in Blair. Johnson also has a responsibility to those who elected him - and in his wider role as Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority - to ensure the Met is working in London's best interests. If it isn't, he is obligated to say so.
The simple fact is this; Labour don't want elected police chiefs because then the police will start doing what the public wants, and not the government's bidding. Smith is blaming the Conservatives to save face; her real concern is that she'd lose the police as a political tool. As Dan Hannan says over at the Telegraph: "Police chiefs are already political; they're just not elected. They represent, in microcosm, the tragedy of our quango state." Quite.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Lord Butler of Brockwell, cabinet secretary from 1988-1998, said that Gordon Brown's actions were "wrong" and "regrettable", and emphasised that : "It would be a pity if that permission wasn't given. In fact, it would be wrong."
Gordon Brown's spokesman said: "The prime minister is in Afghanistan, so it is not top of his list of priorities."
This brief statement is so typical of Brown, and indeed Labour in general. The actual meaning of the statement is: "Gordon Brown is in Afghanistan and helping the troops. The Conservatives are only concerned with getting their grubby hands on power. They don't care about real issues - Gordon does." It's Gordon Brown using the troops to avoid doing something every Prime Minister before him has done, and purely because he's a vindictive and petty little shit. And does he really expect us to believe that he's so busy he can't pick up a phone and give the civil servants the green light? Pathetic.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Also, how much of a coincidence is it that Brown makes this 'surprise' visit at a time when he's getting the shit kicked out of him by the Germans, and has been caught lying about knife crime statistics?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Bad Hazel! Surely there are enough people working in your silly little department to let MPs know when you plan to visit their turf?
Anyway, the latest group to apparently get some help are the middle class professionals who might lose their jobs in the coming months and years. This story was actually the front-page headline on the Telegraph this morning. Essentially, the government is promising some £120 million to universities and colleges to offer bursaries and new courses for these people. They want them to study for higher qualifications like MAs and MBAs based on the logic that: "once the job market improves, it will be beneficial for them to be able to explain a gap in their CV as time out to study for a new qualification."
This might all seem fine, but there are a number of problems and plenty of misconceptions and untruths hidden under the surface. First of all, if and when the recession is over and companies are going to start employing again, these people will still find it harder to get back into work than they might think. The reality is that every company likes to keep costs down. So when presented with someone with a decade of experience and a MBA, and who was made redundant, or with someone who has less experience but the same qualifications and who is a decade younger, they will more than likely go for the younger option. The reason for this is that they can pay them less. I'll give you an example; my father was made redundant from his job a few years ago. He got the job with no formal qualifications, though he had one or two by the time he left. He was replaced by two people, both with BSc degrees, and with salaries two and a half times less than he was earning. I'm not doing the sad violin thing here; he was delighted to be able to retire. But my point is that the one thing that keeps costs down more than anything is being able to hire younger people at the bottom end of the salary scale instead of more experienced individuals, however qualified they might be.
Let us also not forget that this is the government which effectively made it much harder for professionals to change careers. Last year, some £100 million was cut from the budget which funded second degrees. This meant that someone who say, had a BA in English and wanted to study for a BSc in Biology to begin a new career, had to pay the degree costs in their entirety. You might think this is reasonable, but the reality is that this constricts the experience market, keeps people in jobs they don't want, and narrows the skills base of the workforce. At a very hypothetical level, a person with two degrees in two different subjects can do two jobs; a person with two degrees in the same subject - as with this current plan - can still only do one job.
Something else that is worth mentioning is this. If someone becomes unemployed, but takes up education on a full-time basis, that person is no longer classed as unemployed; they become a student. So with unemployment expected to hit 3.5 million over the coming year or so, I'm sure the government would love to siphon as many of those people as possible in to education to make the figures look a bit better.
I mentioned earlier that a person with two degrees in the same subject can only do one job and, while this is clearly an exaggeration, it probably had you wondering why it had to be in the same subject. Can't they do a further qualification in something else? Simply put, the answer is no. In order to do a Masters degree, a person usually has to have a solid foundation in whatever subject it's in; usually in the form of a graduate degree. Back when I did my MA, I had to fight tooth and nail to get the one I wanted, and I had a graduate degree that was in many ways very similar to the MA I intended to study. So a redundant research scientist can't automatically do an MBA anymore than a redundant claims adjuster can do an LLM.
I don't think I am unreasonable making these points. From a certain point of view you can sort of see what the government is trying to do; my issue with it is that it can't work in the way it's being spun, and doesn't reflect the reality of the employment market. And when the government has deliberately taken steps to hamper the chances of professionals looking for new careers, it seems astoundingly wasteful to throw the same amount of money at providing qualifications that are unlikely to help anyone.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Putting two and two together doesn't take a genius. The government whips its MPs into voting against a measure that would have left them unable to control the Green investigation within the House of Commons. This behaviour - and indeed the outcome of the vote - will undoubtedly make them look bad, as it makes them appear partisan over an issue which should be anything but.
So, just to recap; barely minutes before (in anticipation of winning the vote) or afterwards (upon knowing the vote was won), Labour controlled Haringey Council fires a woman who the public have wanted rid of for weeks. This will now fight with the vote story for top billing in the press, and will most likely win that battle. Didn't Gordon Brown promise an end to spin?
"I think it lets people off the hook if you say that somehow it is the responsibility of the welfare state... It was her [Karen Matthews] responsibility and hers only. I think it is slightly insulting to the millions of people who are claiming benefits and looking to get back into work... to say that they are at risk of turning into Karen Matthews. So I think that there is a danger in what David Cameron is saying."
Except that isn't what David Cameron is saying, at all. The only time he mentions five million people on benefits is when he says:
"Today in Britain, there are almost five million working-age people out of work and on benefits. This is a tragedy. Work gives life shape. It gives people esteem and responsibility. It powers our economy. So we’re going to end the something-for-nothing culture. If you don’t take a reasonable offer of a job, you will lose benefits. No ifs, no buts."
And in relation to the Matthews family, which is mentioned much earlier in the article, Cameron said this:
"The details are damning. A fragmented family held together by drink, drugs and deception. An estate where decency fights a losing battle against degradation and despair. A community whose pillars are crime, unemployment and addiction."
Cameron shows family breakdown, drink and drugs and the culture of benefits as problems which can be linked, but which require various methods to tackle. At no point does he say that everyone on benefits is the next Karen Matthews. What says that is the title of the article, which was very clearly assigned by the Mail, in full 'disgusted' mode: 'There are 5 million people on benefits in Britain. How do we stop them turning into Karen Matthews?'. It seems that all Purnell has done is look at the title and form his attack on that basis, with no recognition of the perfectly valid points the article makes. And there is a point to all this - to make Cameron look like he's attacking everyone on benefits, and not just those who deserved to be attacked. How typical of a Labour politician to fail to look beyond a headline when the detail is the most important part.
Friday, December 05, 2008
"It didn't take long for the euro-fanatics in the Labour party to seize on our economic difficulties for their own political ends... It's true that our economy is doing worse than the rest of Europe. But our deteriorating economic performance is not a good reason to join the euro."
Caroline Flint responded with:
"Nonsense, [there are] no plans for Britain to join the euro... George Osborne is shoring up his own standing in the Conservative party by synthetic outrage over a non-story."
Hear that? No plans for Britain to join the euro. But what was it Peter Mandelson said on the Today Programme earlier this week?:
"My view is that the Government is right to maintain the long-term policy objective of taking Britain into the euro, but it is not for now."
It doesn't matter whether this is a matter for now or the future. Mandelson admits it is a long-term policy objective of the government to take Britain into the euro, and Flint's hot air and screeching should not be allowed to obscure that fact.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
"Uh... eeeeeeeeeeee... the banks know very w-well, er, what actions the government is taking, what responses we expect; we're working together. There's no point in working against, er, each other in this situation. We have to work together to work through these problems, er, and that's what we're doing."
So that'll be a no, then?
It really is quite pathetic that the government have plucked this policy out of thin air, probably with the intention of wrong-footing the Tories or winning a 24-hour media boost. As Dizzy has shown, Brown lied about it yesterday in the House of Commons, and the banks show no sign of being bullied into accepting the proposal. The Conservatives are often being accused of playing party politics with issues; usually by Brown, and usually because he doesn't want to answer difficult questions. But what we have here is the government playing fast and loose, not only with the truth, but with people's homes and financial arrangements for the sake of good press.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
"Michael Martin is a proud man with strong working class roots but this has made him a target for the silverspoon Tories who want a speaker schooled at Eton rather than a former sheet metal worker. They can't abide a working class man doing well. Michael has been at the receiving end of a string of unjustified attacks from the Tories. This witch-hunt must end. This is not just an attack on Michael but an attack on the working classes. The Tories remain true to form."
What he should have said is this:
"Michael Martin is a supremely unqualified man with a slow mind and a gigantic chip on his shoulder, which has made him a target for the Tories who want a speaker who isn't a Labour stooge. They can't abide a man spending £4,200 of taxpayers' money on his wife's taxi fares. Michael has been at the receiving end of a string of justified attacks from people who don't share his own outdated views on the British class system. The career of this useless man must end. This is not just an attack on Michael but an attack on all the over-promoted Labour shills who are doing all they can to destroy this country's institutions. The Tories remain pretty darn awesome."
And what he was actually thinking is this:
"Michael Martin is a proud man with strong working class roots, and this automatically makes him a better person than the silverspoon Tories because I'm a bitter man with plates of chips on all my joints. People who go to Eton are scum and should be forced to eat my shit. I'm not jealous. People should only be allowed to do manual labour, and that will become a reality once I have fully exerted my now unrivaled influence on the Labour Party. Tories can't abide a working class man doing well, and I love it when the upper classes suffer. This is a perfectly consistent position which shows me to be a nice, caring person, and the Tories to be bastards. Michael has been at the receiving end of a string of unjustified attacks from the (again, bastard) Tories. This witch-hunt must end, but I will continue to mention Eton every five minutes. This is not just an attack on Michael but an attack on the working classes, so rise up my Communist brothers and cast the Tories out from their palaces of gold and exotic women! The Tories remain true to form because class is all that matters to them. But not to me; I don't care about it at all."
Monday, December 01, 2008
"By carping on about debt levels, the Tories are both increasing the risk of higher import prices and hence domestic price levels by talking the currency down."
In order to make such a statement, Kenyon would have to prove that 'carping on' in such a manner will affect such things. The reason why he hasn't is because he can't. We saw only a few weeks ago how, after George Osborne had warned about the quarter-value drop of the pound against the dollar, the pound actually went up the next week. International currency markets care very little about what individual people say, let alone what Shadow Chancellors say.
"Any politician that continues to whinge about debt levels is debasing the currency. Rather than focusing on Conservative shadow home affairs spokesman Damian Green and the ham-fisted way in which the police handled their investigation into a possible serial leaker of government documents, I'm much more concerned to see Conservatives in the dock charged with treason for undermining sterling."
You got that, right? Any attempts made to talk about Labour increasing the national debt to £1 trillion should be seen as treasonous, and those who speak of Gordon Brown's master plan in less than glowing terms should be carted off to the Tower of London for a prompt hanging.
"Wikipedia helpfully states: 'In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more serious acts of disloyalty to one's sovereign or nation.... A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor.' Quite so."
Here we see it confirmed that Kenyon sees no difference between the Labour Party and the United Kingdom. If you don't support the Labour Party you are against the nation, because the Labour Party, naturally, only works in the nation's interests. It's thinking like this that leads to the Gulag you sinister, totalitarian wanker.
"Public money is allocated to support Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, if any one can think of a better way of bring the Tories to their senses, I'm all ears."
What utter nonsense. Public money on a vast scale is allocated to support the Government; it's called the Civil Service. And no administration in history has done as much to undermine the impartiality of the Civil Service as the one we have now. It's telling how shocked Labour were that the mole in the Damien Green story was a Conservative supporter; probably because they thought they'd hounded them all out.
It is often a charge levelled against the Conservatives that under the surface we're all racist, bigoted homophobes who hate poor people and the working classes. What Kenyon shows with this article is that there are those in the Labour Party who wish for an end to democracy, the creation of a fascist state, and the silencing of all opposition through the ritualistic abuse of law.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Moving on to the Damian Green story, I'd like to look at something the press hasn't really covered. There are many things about this story that just don't seem right; 9 anti-terrorism officers arresting a middle-aged MP at his home in Kent; the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister claiming to know nothing about it; the Speaker of the House of Commons letting police search an MP's private office. There are so many things about the story that stink it's a wonder that people haven't started gagging when reading about it. But something that seems to have been missed is the alleged offence Green was arrested for; that of Misconduct in Public Office and a Conspiracy variable of it. Here are some highlights of the CPS guidance on this offence:
"It should always be remembered that it is a very serious, indictable only offence carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. A charge of misconduct in public office should be reserved for cases of serious misconduct or deliberate failure to perform a duty which is likely to injure the public interest." I don't think anyone could question whether these requirements have been met. In fact, they look so far removed from this case one has to wonder why on earth this offence was used as cause for arrest. Admittedly charges have not been brought, and the CPS guidance technically refers to factors to be considered when preparing a charge, but the fact that the case looks so weak to begin with is relevant. Could you really say that this was a case of 'serious misconduct', or that public interest was at risk? Not a chance in my book - if anything, Green was acting in the public interest by leaking documents the government wanted to keep secret.
"The threshold is a high one requiring conduct so far below acceptable standards as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder." If anything, wouldn't Green's actions see him gain public trust? The government has kept information quiet because it was politically embarrasing, but which also related to issues of great public concern. Does leaking information that is awkward for the Labour Party but of obvious public interest really qualify under this requirement?
"There must be a breach of duty by the officer, [which is wilful and which is such that the conduct is] an affront to the standing of the public office held." In other words, the conduct must be the opposite of what is expected from the person in question. But leaks in politics are like grains of sand in the desert. During the mid-90s it was often joked that Robin Cook had an army of moles inside government departments; they are very much par for the course. And what about the BBC's Robert Peston leaking potentially harmful economic information, or the government leaking they were considering a £1,000 Christmas windfall in the PBR? These things are leaks, but it seems that leaks are only not allowed if they are propagated by Conservative MPs, rather than journalists or the government.
If Damian Green has done something seriously wrong without a reasonable excuse, then of course the law should apply in the correct fashion. But at the moment it looks as though he has been arrested for doing something that is simply part of politics, and for making the government look bad. He seems to have been arrested for doing his job.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
"The National Identity Scheme will bring real and recognisable benefits for British citizens by offering a more convenient way of proving identity and helping protect people from identity fraud."
Leaving aside the fact that here we see yet another example of a Civil Servant pushing the government's agenda - when the hell did this become okay? - there is another issue here. There is absolutely no way ID Cards will prevent identity fraud; in fact, should the database become corrupted, infiltrated or lost on two fucking CDs in the post, there's a good chance every single one of us will be the victims of identity fraud of some kind. Let's take a look at the Identity and Passport Service's website, with my comments in sexy red:
"Criminals can copy personal information (from a bank statement, for example) or steal or forge the documents – such as utility bills – we currently use to prove identity." True, but the introduction of ID Cards will not stop bank statements or utility bills being produced by banks and utility companies. And the way identity thieves get ahold of these documents is by going through rubbish and intercepting post; not robbing people on the way to the bank.
The National Identity Scheme is designed to be far more secure than anything we use at present. Security is built in to the system in the following ways:
"- Biometric data is held both on the card and in the National Identity Register (NIR). A criminal may steal your card, but your unique biometric data cannot be taken from you. Anyone trying to make a major financial transaction, for example, would have their biometric data checked against that held in the NIR. If they were not the registered cardholder this check would fail." But all this means is that this particular type of identity fraud would be prevented; when a fraudster actually poses as someone in the bank. It doesn't stop them using your information to apply for a false driving licence, passport or TV licence. It just means that identity fraudsters will find a new way of working within the parameters of the ID cards.
"- Each ID card has a PIN known only to the cardholder." So what? So do Chip and Pin cards, and the evidence suggests that credit card fraud has actually gone up since signatures were done away with.
"- Each card also has a biometric image of the cardholder’s face. This looks like a photograph and can be used for a quick visual check that the customer presenting the card is the genuine cardholder." That's what they say about passports too, but that time my brother and I checked in for a flight by accidentally using each other's passports suggests otherwise.
We expect the increased security offered by the National Identity Scheme to:
"- make it far more difficult to commit identity theft and fraud." They assume.
"- act as a deterrent for the future." It will deter people from certain types of identity theft and move them towards other types. You will never stop the problem with ID Cards.
"- make it much easier to catch and prosecute those who attempt identity theft and fraud." How, exactly? ID Cards are going to be optional, apparently. So do you really think that people planning a life of crime - and most identity thieves are career criminals - are going to sign up to have their fingerprints and other information put on the database?
The simple truth appears to be that the people responsible for introducing ID Cards are resting a substantial amount of their hope on the fact that the scheme might prevent identity fraud. So the fact that their arguments on this front are so easy to shoot down is almost disturbing in itself.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The other plank of this policy is to make it an offence to pay for sex with a woman who is 'controlled for another person's gain'. In other words, it will be a criminal offence to pay for sex with a prostitute who is 'managed' by a pimp or drug dealer. Yet again there is a lack of logic here. First of all, this technically covers brothels which are run by collectives of women; in fact the English Collective of Prostitutes (quite possibly the most amusing Trade Union in the world) has said as much. Secondly, it creates yet another situation where word of mouth is going to be the only evidence in a court of law. All a man needs to do is say: "I asked her if she had a pimp and she said no", and he's got a perfectly valid defence worked out. I suspect an astoundingly low rate of conviction as a result. And, leaving aside the problems it will probably cause for the prostitutes themselves, it also shows how Jacqui has completely missed the point. A large number of prostitutes are foreign, and are controlled in slums and ghettos by foreign pimps who usually double as people smugglers. But the ones who are UK-born and bred tend to work as prostitutes to pay for a drug habit, booze or even just food and shelter. Prostitution is a social problem created by social conditions, and you don't cut it out by making criminals of the men who use them or by making it much harder for the women to earn money. That'll just drive it even more underground where working conditions will get worse and their outlook will become even more bleak.
Monday, November 17, 2008
As you may have read, the Organ Donation Taskforce appointed by Gordon Brown recently reported that presumed consent for organ donation should not be introduced in the UK. Dr. Paul Murphy, a member of the taskforce, had this to say:
"It has the potential to undermine the concept of donations as a gift, to erode trust in NHS healthcare professionals and the Government, and negatively impact on organ donation numbers."
Pretty conclusive stuff, I thought. But Gordon doesn't seem to have any interest in what his own taskforce has to say, arguing:
"While they are not recommending the introduction of a presumed consent system, as I have done, I am not ruling out a further change in the law. We will revisit this when we find out how successful the next stage of the campaign has been."
In other words, he's going to ignore them and keep banging on about this issue until he gets what he wants. Just what is this next stage of the campaign going to be? Trial runs perhaps, which will no doubt force people on to the donor register against their will. Or spending our money on a publicity campaign to tell us why we're wrong and Gordon is right? Who knows.
And it is most obvious that Gordon Brown intends to force this on us eventually when you look at the target he has set:
"The proposal is that we double the number of volunteers to 50 per cent. If we can't get there quickly, then we will return to the proposal I have put forward, which is a presumed consent system."
Yes, you read that correctly. He wants to double the number of people on the donor register in a very short space of time. To give you some figures; there are currently nearly 16 million people on the register; over 2 million more than the total votes Labour won in their 1997 landslide, to give just one comparison. And to accumulate those 16 million people has taken over 30 years, from the introduction of the Kidney Donor Card in 1971; the current register was established in 1994. What all this shows is that Gordon Brown has set an arbitrary and almost ridiculously unobtainable target to justify forcing his plan on the country.
Friday, November 14, 2008
"In the next election we will have substance because we have experience and a serious leader. And we show substance as we confirm to the electorate that we understand that the world has changed, and we have the ideas and the policies that can equip Britain to master those changes."
There's something deliciously ironic about a paragraph stressing the importance of substance appearing in an article which contains absolutely none of it. But the thing I really like about it is the way in which Alexander is trying to spin the Labour narrative that Obama won the US election because:
"At the core of Obama's campaign was a belief that only progressive politics had the answers to the challenges of the time. Relentlessly, he made the case for government action in responding to the problems faced in the economy, in energy and environment policy, in education and in healthcare."
The reason he is doing this is, of course, obvious. The only way Labour can sycophantically attach themselves to Obama is by trying to hijack and present his campaign as one built on 'progressive' politics. There's nothing progressive about Labour's plan to tax us all up the wall, give a bit of it back by taking out a gigantic loan on our behalf, and then asking us to pay it back with interest in a couple of years, but that's another issue. The simple truth is that the moment Obama's 'change' message becomes an issue, Labour - as the incumbents - are left pissing in the wind. So I think it's time for Alexander to take a look at Obama's website, which is currently displaying this little image:
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
"They can't show definitively how they can guarantee to pay for it."
It will be paid for by not having to give those same unemployed people their unemployment benefit anymore. Also, considering this is the man who is going to borrow money to pay for tax cuts, the richness of this comment is staggering. He has spent years jeering at the Conservatives - however well-budgeted their proposed tax cuts might be - only to offer a barrage of unfunded tax cuts himself, paid for by increasing the national debt.
He also said:
"A fiscal stimulus means you are prepared to add to borrowing in conditions where you have low national debt," and that funded tax cuts "[were] not a fiscal stimulus."
There are many things wrong with this statement. First of all, fiscal stimulus is defined as 'a tax cut and/or an increase in government spending'. It does not automatically involve borrowing; it can be a funded tax cut. Funny that a man who was Chancellor for 10 years didn't know this. Also, national debt is not low. This graph from the Office of National Statistics is useful in this respect:
Expressed as a percentage of GDP, the national debt was 43.4% at the end of September 2008, which is roughly £645 billion. At the end of September 2007 the debt was a much smaller 36.2%. The highest it has ever been was in 1997 when it was 44.2%, so the debt is getting close to that level once again. For Brown to say that national debt is low isn't just dishonest - it's a barefaced lie. As a final point, see those pink dots on the graph above? They highlight where Gordon Brown is telling us the national debt is; a conclusion he has reached by magically leaving Northern Rock out of the equation. Yet another lie from our deceitful Prime Minister.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Just a fortnight after claiming unjustified success in the war against poor behaviour in schools, Ed Balls has a new outlook on the issue. He has decided to blame parents for getting in the way of schools disciplining their children. He said:
"Schools are doing a fantastic job of turning around poor behaviour, which is crucial to improving results. However, we need parents to continue to play their part. When I talk to heads they say behaviour is one of their main concerns. Some talk of giving detentions to pupils only for the parent to come in and demand their child is let off. Whilst the vast majority of parents work well with schools, a small minority are not supporting heads to maintain discipline."
I would agree with him that some parents certainly do behave in this way. Even I remember from my days at school how a couple of unruly pupils were never punished because the teachers knew how much crap their parents would kick up. It honestly wasn't worth their time and effort. But overall, this is classic Labour bollocks. Rather than address the real problems that cause misbehaviour in schools, and indeed the rules and regulations that prevent teachers from dealing with it; Balls finds one factor that contributes to a tiny percentage of cases where poor behaviour goes unpunished and focuses entirely on that. If he really wanted to help teachers deal with badly behaved pupils - and their annoying parents - he could just repeal section 52 of the 2002 Education Act, which means that parents have the right to appeal the expulsion of their children. But that would be far too sensible.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
"There is a trend towards politics being seen as a career move rather than call to public service. Increasingly we have seen a 'transmission belt' from university activist, MPs' researcher, think-tank staffer, special adviser, to Member of Parliament and ultimately to the front bench."
"We need more MPs in Parliament from a wider pool of backgrounds: people who know what it is to worry about the rent collector's knock, or the fear of lay-off, so that the decisions we take reflect the realities people face."
So I thought I'd take a look at Hazel Blears's career to make sure she doesn't fall into her own trap. Here we go:
1977 - Completes CPE (the professional course for solicitors) at Chester College of Law.
1978 - 1980 - Trainee solicitor working for Salford City Council.
1980 - 1981 - Worked in private legal practice for a year.
1981 - 1983 - Solicitor working for Rossendale Borough Council.
1983 - 1984 - Solicitor working for Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council.
1984 - 1992 - Elected member of Salford City Council.
1992 - 1996: Chairman of Salford Community Health Council.
1997 - Elected Member of Parliament for Salford.
Her route to Parliament isn't exactly the same as the example she has given, but then her example is a fairly common route for Conservative MPs (and a few Labour ones). Hers is still a pretty standard route for a Labour politician though; council employee, to council member, to council chairman, to MP. So it seems that the one year she spent in private practice is the only period of time when she wasn't working in politics.
Guido also draws attention to a video made by some Labour diehards/spivs. I won't link it here because I don't want to add the the number of people actually watching this nonsense. You can see it via the link if you so wish, and it pretty much consists of the usual snide jabs at the Conservatives. But the bit I found most interesting is how the video criticises George Osborne, with the captions: "Has a history degree" and "Once worked in Selfridges".
Now, maybe I'm missing something here, but why does George Osborne's history degree mean he won't be a good Chancellor? I seem to recall that a certain Gordon Brown has two history degrees - an MA and a PhD. And the current Chancellor has a law degree - an LLB. In fact, the only people in the Cabinet with any sort of economics qualifications are the PPE graduates and Ed Miliband, who studied it at a postgraduate level. I'm not saying what degree a Minister has is relevant to their job at all; this is precisely why the Civil Service exists. But some consistency from Labour wouldn't go amiss. And as for the 'Selfridges' comment, I trust we can take that to mean that Labour are now against people who have had ordinary jobs becoming Ministers of the Crown? Postman and shelf-stacker Alan Johnson might want to have a word with them about that.
Monday, November 03, 2008
"... promise[d] broadband access to all learners aged five to 19 whose families qualify for the help", and which "involves a "free laptop or other computer with relevant software and hardware" bought with a Home Access voucher, as well as technical support."
Was pretty much a copy of a pledge he made in 1999:
"The plan was to allow low-income families to lease subsidised laptops - then usually costing at least £1,000 to buy - for about £5 a week from their employers. Firms were given tax breaks if they provided old computer stock, which had been upgraded, to employees for home use."
So not content with using troops for political posturing, Gordon Brown also lies about being nice to poor kids. Maybe we should come up with a Dickensian nickname for him; something wonderfully onomatopoeic like Miser Grumblebroon...
Sunday, November 02, 2008
"It won't have escaped your notice that the Government has been very active in announcing new policies in the last couple of weeks. As befits the return of Mandelson this is mostly spin. However, they are filling the newspapers and we need to respond. We need ensure we have a strong and steady flow of our own policy ideas, speeches and announcements to release between now and Christmas. Please note that these do not need to be economy themed. Nor do they necessarily need to be brand new. Ways of refreshing existing policy, perhaps a policy we announced previously but didn't get much attention, can be very successful."
It might not be the most honest way of getting policies heard, but O'Shaughnessy has a point. With Gordon Brown parading himself all over the world as some sort of economic saviour - which is about as rich as Christmas cake - the Conservative message has been pushed to the back pages in recent weeks. By continuing to mention policies, both old and new, the Conservatives hope to get some of the media focusing on them once again, but also aim to combat Labour's nonsense assertions that they don't have any policies.
Liam Byrne, unsafe driver and Minister for the Cabinet Office, had this to say:
"This is yet another example of the Tories attempting to distract attention from the fact that they have no coherent proposal to deal with the current global economic turmoil. Families need to be on the look out for slick Tory PR that doesn't include any new answers for the challenges we face. This is pretty desperate from the Tories - instead of focusing on how to deal with today's issues they are rehashing the same old policies."
First of all, is anyone else as bored as me with all this 'the Tories don't know how to get us out of this mess' nonsense? Leaving aside the fact that quite a few ideas proposed by the Conservatives have been adopted by the government, Byrne's logic is akin to a murderer criticising the police for arresting him instead of helping him bury the knife and flee the country. The Conservatives have been quite detailed in their plans to prevent this sort of thing happening again - see George Osborne's speech last Friday, for example. And they are, rightly, attempting to make sure the public see Labour as responsible for the mess they have largely caused. The Conservatives don't have to come up with a solution because it's not their mess, and you don't offer to clean up somebody else's shit.
But it is Byrne's second point that really takes the biscuit. Apparently the Conservatives are all about slick PR, and are just rehashing policies. Leaving aside all the evidence to the contrary, particularly Osborne's aforementioned speech, this is is hypocrisy on a staggering level. Does Byrne not remember what happened last year during the Conservative conference? Does he not recall Gordon Brown trying to divert attention from the Conservatives by going to Iraq to announce the withdrawal of troops who were largely already home or set to come home anyway? Has he chosen to forget Brown's promise to make troop announcements to the House of Commons? And does he think that playing politics with the lives of troops is a lesser crime than pointing out that the Conservatives have plenty of policies, that they are right for this country, and that the government is desperately trying to save it's own arse?
Saturday, November 01, 2008
"We are lucky in Don Valley that we have local post offices in most outlying villages and towns. But it is too easy for residents to take their local post office for granted. Mike and Barbara Fussey have made a welcome investment in modernising this branch to improve the service for customers. My message is if you value your post office use it."
Yes, because the general public are known for taking their post offices for granted. There hasn't been a massive national campaign to stop the government closing 2,500 Post Offices or anything like that. Oh, wait, there was. In case you were wondering, Caroline did indeed vote for those closures, and also voted against a motion which stated that the House of Commons:
- Regrets the proposal to close up to 2,500 post offices.
- Recognises the vital role post offices play in local communities.
- Notes the concern and unpopularity amongst the general public of closing such a large portion of the network.
Caroline has a scroller at the bottom of her website that shows how she has voted on various issues. Perhaps she should add 'voted to close local Post Offices' to it?
Friday, October 31, 2008
Q: Do you have any phobias?
A: I have a strong fear of Tory governments. But that’s entirely rational, so may not count as a phobia.
Ha... ha... ha.
Later on she says:
Q: Complete this sentence: The thing I hate about politics is...
A: Rude politicians.
And of course she is justified in saying this because Hazel is never rude about anyone, ever. She is certainly never rude about Boris Johnson:
"Because the last thing a modern, diverse, international-class capital like London needs is a fogeyish, bigoted and upper-class twit for its mayor."
Hazel Blears - 24th September 2007 - Labour Conference
"He's a nasty, right-wing elitist, with odious views and criminal friends..."
Hazel Blears - February 29th 2008 - Labour Spring Conference
I was going to suggest that Hazel partake in a little self-flagellation to rid herself of all that self-loathing, but the thought of her actually doing that made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"We’ve made huge progress on school food but what goes on outside the school gates is as important as what happens inside. Schools, parents and local authorities all need to be working together to make sure our children and teenagers get the kind of healthy food that will set them up for success in life.”
He will praise the actions of (Labour and Lib Dem run) Waltham Forest Council, who have banned takeaway shops from being opened within 400 yards of schools or youth clubs. He will also suggest that teachers ban pupils from leaving school grounds during their lunch breaks.
There are many reasons why this suggestion is ridiculous. First of all, it's complete nannying, which I hate anyway. Secondly, it will really annoy the kids, and give them yet more reasons to misbehave. Thirdly, if he and this council really think kids won't walk an extra 400 yards to get a portion of chips or a kebab then they do not live in the real world. I remember when I was at school doing precisely this for 2 or 3 days a week; those when the school kitchen was serving a variant of gruel for lunch. And fourthly, surely all this does is deny small businesses the locations they need to succeed? Never mind limiting the number of kids, which this plan won't do anyway; it will most likely move the shops to the ends of roads, away from town centres, and away from precisely the sort of customers - such as passer-by traffic from pubs -that they need to stay in business.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
But it really needs to be pointed out, time and time again, that the reason why petrol costs so much in the first place is because there's so much tax on it. As this graphic from the BBC shows, for a litre of unleaded petrol selling at £1, over 65p of the price is duty and tax:
Opposition politicians have echoed Brown's calls for lower fuel prices, which is both welcome and massively annoying. It is correct to say that since oil prices have effectively halved, it is wrong for fuel companies to retain their profit mark-up from when the prices were at their highest. But I do wish both the Conservatives and the press would mention to Brown just how much he could help people pay their bills if he stopped taking such a big slice of the cake.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Much of the interview dwells on an apparent lack of opportunities for poorer people to go to private and fee-paying schools. Prescott specifically mentions his trip to Rugby (from 5.45 in the audio sample):
"I went to Rugby though, and I talked to the few comprehensive school kids who went to the private school - they have to do that to get the charity money, so they have a sprinkling of working class kids going there..."
It is well known that the Charity Commission has put pressure on private schools to do more to justify their positions as charitable organisations. Here is a news article specifically referring to Rugby itself with regard to this issue. First of all then, there's no 'charity money' up for grabs. Charitable status perhaps, but no charity money. Prescott's tone - particularly the use of the word 'sprinkling' - also suggests that he sees their intake of poorer children as some sort of token gesture. This is a claim the headmaster of Rugby, Patrick Derham, has denied (from the BBC article):
"We are delighted by what the foundation has achieved so far but there are many more excellent candidates that we can currently fund. By raising more funds, we will be able to share the benefits of a Rugby education as widely as possible and to safeguard these benefits for future generations."
And that quote is preceded with the line: "Rugby denies it is simply trying to meet the public benefit test as set out by the Charity Commission." There is also significant evidence of Rugby's intentions on their website:
"All scholarships to Rugby carry a basic fee reduction of 10% but they may be worth up to 100% of fees, if family need can be shown through a means test. There is no limit to the number of scholarships we offer. We make awards to all those who show the requisite skills and potential."
So Rugby offers unlimited scholarships, worth anything from a 10% to a 100% reduction in fees, providing the potential pupils are academically strong or show prodigious talent in another field. Hardly a 'sprinkling', Mr. Prescott.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Today, after sending his wife there last week, Gordon Brown was in Glenrothes campaigning in a by-election. He avoided questions about his motivation, and denied he was showing his desperation by getting involved in the campaign by saying:
"I was here a few weeks ago... I wanted to come and explain to people what we are doing in this global financial crisis to make sure people are properly protected."
The first thing one has to say is, if he's so keen on explaining to people why what he's doing is good for them, why didn't he go to Crewe and Nantwich to explain why abolishing the 10p tax rate and then giving them some of their money back via complicated tax credits was such a great idea?
But it's also very clear that Brown is trying to appear to campaign without actually doing it properly. We all heard about Sarah Brown being guarded by the Praetorian Guard while walking around Glenrothes, but her husband went one step further in terms of being cowardly. According to the Associated Press article, Gordon Brown:
"... met [three] families [for 20 minutes] in a cafe in a car service centre next door to the Labour campaign headquarters on an industrial estate."
So he most likely met sympathetic voters, in a sympathetic setting, away from as much press as possible, and for less than half an hour. What a statesman he is.
Friday, October 24, 2008
"They've got rotten teeth, need a bath, run around drinking, have big beer bellies and just watch the footie. For someone coming from the coast and moving there it just kills you."
I've never been there, so I can't say whether he's telling the truth. Yvette had this to say though:
"I'm proud to live in Castleford... it's a great town with really strong and warm communities. If he's too pathetic to cope with Yorkshire weather and Yorkshire life, it's a good thing he's run away home."
She loves Castleford so much, in fact, that she and husband Ed Balls bought a house worth £655,000 in North London. To be honest, however, the most pathetic comment of the whole saga comes from Labour councillor Yvonne Crewe who said:
"I have lived in Castleford all my life and there's no better place to live anywhere. The people are magnificent."
Just read that again. She has never lived anywhere else, but there's no better place to live anywhere else in the world...
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Here is the DCSF page on the results, and it draws particular attention to these statistics:
• the vast majority (94%) of teachers rate behaviour as acceptable or better in their school;
• over half of teachers (52%) think behaviour has improved or remained broadly the same over the last five years; and
• a strong majority (83%) think they are well equipped to tackle poor behaviour.
Here is a BBC report on the same survey, and it includes the following information:
• 48% of teachers said behaviour had worsened in their school.
• this figure was 54% among secondary school teachers.
• 70% of teachers overall said behaviour was either good or very good.
• only 6% rated behaviour as being poor.
Where do the DCSF get this figure of 94% (and its reverse of 6%) from if the BBC are claiming that 48% of teachers say behaviour has gotten worse? It appears as though they have done it by lumping together two different types of data; like adding centimetres to inches. The 94% seems to have been reached through combining - in some way I can't work out - the percentage of teachers who think behaviour is 'better' and those who think it is 'acceptable'. These are two entirely separate criteria but have been blended together to reach this ridiculously inaccurate boast.
The DCSF rather undermine their own point with their next statistic; that 52% say behaviour has gotten better or stayed the same. This combines exactly with the BBC figure of 48% of teachers claiming behaviour has gotten worse. And since the 52% is a combination of two responses, we can therefore comfortably assume that the 48% represents the largest single group of respondents.
In short, the survey tells us that very close to half of teachers think behaviour in their schools has deteriorated over the last five years, and that - based on DCSF combining of two types of response - a good number of them don't think behaviour has gotten any better, either. The fact that a good proportion of teachers find these new levels of misbehaviour to be 'acceptable' seems to be the only statistic that matters to the government. So when Ed Balls says: "It shows that the media view of widespread disruption and lack of respect simply does not ring true for those actually teaching young people", he is clearly talking bollocks.
Rather than take apart the statistics, which others have already done, I'd much rather look at what Jacqui Smith has said about the figures. In the same BBC article, she says:
"Let's be clear, this isn't crime that wasn't being recorded or wasn't being reported or wasn't being dealt with. It just wasn't being recorded in the category 'most serious violence'. "So all of this crime has been dealt with."
Hang on a minute. Even if the crimes were being 'dealt with' wouldn't their incorrect categorisation affect, say, how they were prosecuted? If someone is recorded as committing a minor assault, whereas it was in fact a case of grievous bodily harm, won't they then be prosecuted for committing a minor assault only? After all, if the CPS came back to the police disputing their opinion on what charge to use, surely the police would change the records to reflect the more serious charge? Have offenders received lighter sentences because of this recording error?
"It's just that I wanted to focus particularly on most serious violence and therefore we needed to be sure that everybody in terms of categorising it was categorising it in the same way, so that we'd be able to track whether or not all the things that we're putting into place are making a difference."
A rise of 22% would indicate that these things the government has been 'putting into place' are not working.
"What the statisticians are clear about is that the increases in the most serious forms of violence have actually in terms of numbers been more than counteracted by the decreases in less serious violence."
This says a lot about statistics. While it might be true that this rise in serious violent crime has been offset from a statistical point of view by a decrease in less serious crime, that misses the point. Apply such a statistical analysis to another situation; a hospital, for example. It would be like boasting that a particularly vicious cold was prevented from spreading, but that MRSA killed an extra ten people than it did the year before. It means that during a pub fight you are less likely to be punched in the head or shoved around a bit, but are more likely to have your eyes cut out and your face slashed off with a broken bottle. Wonderful.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I hope that by broadening my coverage I will be able to post more. Despite Hazel's general annoyingness, she had periods - like over the summer - when she said absolutely nothing. So this blog should be a bit busier. I also now have an e-mail address in my profile, should you want to bring any comments/stories/random info to my attention.
I hope you'll find this blog both useful and a bit of a laugh.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Blears Watch has a small but dedicated following, and I'm pleased that you give some of your time to this little venture. But I have decided that it is time for me to move on. No, the blog history isn't going anywhere, but the name and location will be changing. For as much as I loathe Hazel Blears, I feel there are many other people in government who are being spared my attention. Therefore, I plan to refocus the blog on the government as a whole. This will give me a wider range of people to comment on, and will also ensure posts on a more regular basis. For those of you who have linked to me, I will be sending you more information in the coming days about the changes. Because the address will change suddenly, be sure to check out some of these people - including Steve Green and Lord Elvis - for the new one.
P.S. Do I change my name too, I wonder...?
Friday, October 17, 2008
You can see the list here. The ones that are no longer true, and some which were either misleading or deliberately untrue from the beginning, tend to stick out even more in the current climate.
Monday, October 13, 2008
"This is a special occasion for the UK's Muslim communities, but people of all different backgrounds and walks of life share your joy, thanks to the double blessing of the diversity that so enriches our society, and the common values that bring us all together."
Interesting, because I wasn't actually consulted on this. I don't wish anyone a bad Eid ul-Fitr, but I reserve my right not to give a rat's arse about whichever religious festival Hazel is so joyous about on any given day.