Friday, December 26, 2008

It Begins

We all knew after the ridiculous national debt increase announced the in PBR that Labour would have to find the money from somewhere to pay it back. The Telegraph is reporting that:

"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

Merry Christmas

Dear All,

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,

The Raven

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Wife Is A Prop, However

It seems what while Gordon Brown's children may not be props - though this photo suggests otherwise - he has no problem with his wife being used as a piece of scenery. Back in September we had her 'surprise' introduction for Gordon at the Labour conference, and now we have this photo:
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.

Not On My Street

I don't really need to say much on this one. It should suffice for me to give you a few quotes from this Telegraph article:

"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

Brown's (Foot)Balls

I didn't really pay that much attention to this story when it appeared on Friday, but there are things about it that have begun to bother me over the last couple of days. Gordon Brown wants Sir Alex Ferguson to manage a UK football team to compete in the 2012 Olympics in London. It has been known for some time that Brown is keen on this idea, but not only is it a fundamentally flawed one, it also serves as a Labour spin operation.

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

Jacqui Has No Idea

I have often thought that Jacqui Smith has no real understanding of the issues she tries to talk about. She might have been to Oxford, but there's something tragically thick about her. She recently spoke to the Guardian about Labour's plans to abandon the idea of elected police chiefs. It's worth noting that elected local police chiefs - akin to sheriffs in the USA - has been a long-standing Conservative policy. Smith, among other things, came out with these little nuggets of stupidity:

"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

Gordon Uses The Troops... Again

As we all know, Gordon Brown is in Afghanistan at the moment; looking sweaty, awkward and weird in another part of the world. Back home, the Conservatives are waiting to organise talks with senior civil servants, as part of a convention dating back over fifty years. The purpose of this convention is to allow for a smooth transition should the ruling party lose the next election, and to ensure that any major policies of the incoming party get initiated promptly. The Times is reporting that Gordon Brown has blocked these talks from taking place.

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

Not Much Of A Surprise

Gordon Brown was in Afghanistan this morning, making a visit the Telegraph reported as a 'surprise'. Whether this means it was a spur-of-the-moment thing or just unknown to the press in advance is not clear. However, I'd have thought that for the brave troops out there (and indeed in Iraq), getting a visit from Gordon Brown is just about the worst surprise they could get. The word 'surprise' carries with it positive connotations; a bonus at work, a nice birthday present, or something else that's generally pleasant. Having a visit from the man who has neglected to provide you with cars that are impervious to bombs, despite you driving around in an area full of bombs, is a surprise akin to your bowels falling out of your arsehole in the middle of your wedding.

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

Harman Tells A Funny

From the BBC:

"[We would] rather have Superman as our leader than their leader who is The Joker."

Well at least there's no mistaking her for Batman's arch-nemesis.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Naughty Hazel

Just after Michael Martin's 3:30 statement about Damien Green and computers, Conservative MP for Wllingborough Peter Bone stated that Hazel Blears had visited his constituency last week, in her Ministerial capacity, without informing him. This is in breach of a convention that exists between MPs - see page 11.

Bad Hazel! Surely there are enough people working in your silly little department to let MPs know when you plan to visit their turf?

Educational Nonsense

One of the tactics Labour has adopted during this recession is to throw money, or appear to throw money, at the social groups that might be disadvantaged by it. This might seem well and good, though common sense suggests that this approach doesn't work properly if you have to borrow the money you wish to throw. It's a bit like taking out a second mortgage to pay off the credit cards you maxed out by trying to pay your original mortgage which you couldn't afford in the first place.

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

Unlikely Coincidence

At 5:52 this evening, the government won a vote in the House of Commons to maintain a structure to the 'Damien Green Committee' which will, among other things, give them an overall majority on it. The Labour vote was subject to a two-line (or possibly three-line) whip today, as Bob Marshall-Andrews stated at the beginning of the debate. At 6:02 this evening, the BBC launched their first version of this story; Sharon Shoesmith - of the Baby P disgrace - has been fired.

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?

Deflecting The Issue

We all know that a favourite tactic of Labour's is to essentially misquote Conservative and other opposition figures to make them appear uncaring, foolish or wrong. James Purnell has just done this regarding David Cameron's article in the Mail on Sunday. Some on the right - particularly the Spectator - are full of praise for Purnell, and not just in relation to the welfare reforms he plans to unveil this week. They forget that there's a difference between what Labour says and what they actually do, and I personally don't think we should praise the government for trying to sort out a mess they said never existed. But on to what Purnell has said:

"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

Ignoring Mandy

Not paying attention to anything Peter Mandelson has to say is usually a good thing; just think of all the trouble Adam and Eve would have avoided had they not paid attention to that blasted snake. But it's probably a good idea for the Europe Minister, Caroline Flint, to listen to him. That way she can avoid making an arse of herself. In a speech today, George Osborne said:

"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

Just Say No

Peter Mandelson was asked if the banks have agreed to the government's mortgage interest relief plan. He said (in video):

"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.

Brilliant Brown


Image courtesy of the Telegraph.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Derek Simpson's Crazy Mind

Derek Simpson, General Secretary of trade union Unite and effective owner of the Labour Party, had this to say about Michael Martin's recent troubles:

"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

Dangerous Talk

The depths that Labour and its supporters will sometimes go to to claim moral superiority and righteousness are sometimes just staggering. I present to you this article at Labour Home by one Peter Kenyon:

"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

Timeless Balls

The Times is carrying an interesting story about Ed Balls allegedly working for Gordon Brown before he became an MP. Apparently, if Balls was working for Brown while being paid to do so by a charity - in this case the Smith Institute - he would have been in breach of electoral law. But the story caught my attention for a different reason; mainly the fact that Balls has only been an MP since 2005. I find this staggering; his smug appearance, snivelling personality and highly punchable face have become such powerful reminders of Labour's attitude to politics that I honestly thought he'd been there from the very beginning.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Staggering Times

First of all, apologies for the lack of posts this week. I have been burning the midnight oil and work and haven't had time to blog.

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

Joker Brown

Well that was interesting wasn't it? A trillion pounds of national debt, NIC hitting low to middle incomes by £4 billion, and increases to alcohol duty and income tax for the sake of a temporary cut in VAT. George Osborne was on fire today. And doesn't this picture sum up what is wrong with Gordon Brown? Taken from the front page of the Telegraph, we see Darling and Cooper looking solemn while Osborne smashes into them. Brown, on the other hand, seems delighted with something. Maybe it's the thought of Darling taking the blame for his mistakes, or maybe he's just a lunatic? Who can say?

Where Is Darling?

I have decided not to blog on the PBR today; at least until we've actually had it. Even then, I'm sure my points will be explained by plenty of people who write better than me, and who know more about the issues. But one thing that has been so interesting about all this is the complete absence of Alistair Darling. He has given the odd interview or soundbite, but all the noise has been coming from Gordon Brown. When Brown was still Chancellor he ran the show on PBR day - not Blair - which just shows what a megalomaniac he is to still be doing it. So the BBC - always keen to help out Labour - have made an effort to remind people that Darling still exists, as this picture next to a Brown quote shows. How nice of them.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Home Office Logic

This story reveals that the penalty for not updating your information on the ID Card database could be as much as a £1,000 fine. But for me the more interesting aspect is how the Home Office don't actually seem capable of justifying their widely promoted idea that ID Cards - and the National Identity Register - will protect us from identity theft. A spokesman for the Identity and Passport Service - part of the Home Office - said this:

"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

Jacqui Isn't Getting Any

Only a sexless leftie freak could see the logic in Jacqui Smith's latest policy idea. In essence, she wants to allow police to name and shame men who are seen kerb crawling, by printing their identities in local newspapers and on posters. Leaving aside the fact that this is a colossal waste of time and resources, what we see here is yet more prying into your private life. I don't think men visiting prostitutes is a particularly good idea, but if that's what they want to do then I'm not going to stop them. And if they want to tell their wife/partner, that is a matter for them and them alone. This scheme essentially turns the police and the government into arbiters of private sexual behaviour. What's next; a man from the Home Office coming to check how many times you thrust when humping your wife?

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

Gordon Knows Best

Gordon Brown's Stalin-like lust to control everything around him never ceases to amaze me, and this time it's our organs he's after. I know everyone is focusing on G20 stuff today, which is why I'm looking at this story instead; to stop it getting swept under the carpet.

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

Substantial Bollocks

You have to hand it to Douglas Alexander - Secretary of State for International Development and brother to the only fish ever to lead a political party in Scotland. He has written an article for the Telegraph today which is so full of crap it would probably shit its pants if it laughed. I'll come on to the best bit in a moment, but have a read of the article and then read this paragraph again:

"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

Brownies Everywhere

The Spectator has coined the term 'Brownies' for all those little lies Gordon Brown likes to tell, but which for some reason journalists rarely pick him up on. At his monthly press conference this morning the Prime Minister was unloading Brownies like a dealer at Woodstock. Commenting on the Conservative proposals unveiled this morning to help companies through the recession - essentially cutting the amount of National Insurance they pay if they hire the medium/long-term unemployed - Brown said:

"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

Ed Hates Parents

First of all, an apology for not blogging over the weekend. I wanted to do a little Remembrance Sunday post but was out for the entire day doing various things. Now, back to business.

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

Do As I Say; Not As I Do

It seems that Hazel Blears's speech to the Hansard Society has been reported in two halves; with most media outlets focusing on her comments about blogs. Therefore, I managed to miss what she said about 'career politicians'. She said:

"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.

Assorted Nonsense

I'm going to do a little poking towards Guido today; not that he really needs the traffic. First of all, I'd like to draw your attention to his brilliant rebuttal of Hazel Blears's attack on blogs. Her attack seems to be based on the grounds that the political blogosphere in the UK is lead by the right and doesn't support the government. Guido does a far better job of demolishing her suggestions than I could, and his article is well worth a read. Note that her comments would seem to tie in with Peter Mandelson's mullings about bringing UK domain registration under government control. Spooky stuff.

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

Liam Byrned

Mr. Byrne, I wonder if you can explain this article by the BBC's Justin Parkinson? In it he points out how Gordon Brown's pledge at the Labour conference which:

"... 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

Liam Byrne's High Horse

The Telegraph is reporting the details of an internal Conservative memo from James O'Shaughnessy, Director of Policy and Research, which read:

"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

Another Minister Blames You

Caroline Flint, Labour MP for Don Valley, Minister for Europe and enthusiastic user of swear words, would like to remind you to use your local Post Office. During a visit to a Post Office in Branton Caroline said:

"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

Bucking Idiot

Labour MP Karen Buck in the House of Commons:
"Mr Speaker, I wonder whether it might be possible for you to accept a note signed by everyone on the Labour Benches, because for the next 18 months we all intend to do little else other than attack the Shadow Chancellor."
Comforting to know, isn't it?
In other news, scientists have perfected a new type of electron camera that can digitally remove make-up from photographic subjects.

Rude Hazel

It seems as though Hazel hates herself. She recently did the Total Politics questionnaire, and her answers are here. She reveals her hopes, fears, loves and hates, and all the other things that nobody wants to know about her. She even shows how funny she is:

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.

More Campaignin'

Gordon Brown has spent another day campaigning ahead of the Glenrothes by-election next Thursday. Except, true to form, it isn't proper campaigning at all. As shown on the helpful map below (courtesy of Jess The Dog), Brown has travelled about 500 yards from the Labour HQ to visit a Velux windows factory.The yellow box is my addition. It shows the location of the garage Gordon visited last weekend. So as you can clearly see, Gordon is really putting the effort in. The only thing that worries me about this is that Gordon wouldn't be campaigning at all if he knew Labour were going to lose; he's too much of a coward to do that. Therefore, maybe Labour's internal polling might be leaning towards a win. We shall just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nanny Balls

Ed Balls really has it in for certain types of small business, which is precisely what you want to hear during a recession. He's not happy about children being allowed to leave school and buy food from takeaway shops during their lunch breaks. He will say to the Healthy Eating in Schools Conference:

"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

Oily Bastard

Fresh from taking credit for lowering global oil prices - which he has actually had nothing to do with - Gordon Brown has again called for petrol prices to be cut. There is a degree of logic in his argument; oil prices have halved, and yet the price at the pumps has only changed by about 10% and oil companies are currently making record profits.

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

Prescott Slanders Rugby?

With the BBC seeming to do all they can to promote the Labour party and its causes, John Prescott is hosting a programme (at 9pm) on BBC 2 tonight called 'The Class System And Me'. And in order to drum up some awareness for it, he was interviewed on Radio 4's Today Show this morning.

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

He Even Sucks At Flip-Flopping

On 21st May this year, Gordon Brown told the House of Commons that: "it is the tradition that Prime Ministers do not go to by-elections." This, of course, is not true, as it was a tradition Tony Blair did away with. Brown made that comment in response to a question from David Cameron regarding the then upcoming Crewe and Nantwich by-election. In the end, Brown didn't go, Labour lost the seat, etc etc etc...

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

Grim Up North

Yvette Cooper has had plenty to say recently, and not just about the looming recession. Australian rugby player Ian Henderson has insulted Castleford, the Yorkshire town he lived in when he was playing for the Bradford Bulls. He said of Castleford and its people, which is in Yvette Cooper's constituency:

"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

Naughty Kids

I have been reading about a survey commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), and have noticed something a little fishy. For some reason the full survey results are not yet available on the DCSF website, but comparing the information they have released with that from other sources has proven interesting.

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.

Jacqui's Fibs

As I'm sure you are aware, a big story this morning is how the police have, apparently, been 'undercounting' crime. The main charge is that a number of case of grievous bodily harm have been categorised as less serious assaults instead. The end result of this is that the most serious type of violent crime has gone up 22%.

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

Due Congratulations

I'm sure Gordon Brown will be delighted at being voted the 10th least talented person in Britain by members of the public. He was beaten to the No.9 spot by Kelly Osbourne - no relation to George.

A Job For...?

In all that has been written about the non-story that is 'George Osborne went on a yacht once', nothing has baffled me quite as much as Gordon Brown's comments today. At the end of PMQs, Brown said: "This is a very serious matter indeed and I hope it is investigated by the authorities." But who exactly does he mean?

In the same article, Labour MP Tony Wright, chairman of the public administration select committee - the parliamentary committee which would look into any impropriety- had this to say: "I am not sure which authorities Gordon thought he was talking about - the only one I can think of is the Conservative Party" and "we are not talking about corruption here, there was no corruption. We're not talking about law-breaking, there is no law-breaking."

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission has said: "There is no offense in electoral law in soliciting a donation... no one has presented any evidence under legislation that an offense has been committed.''

Leaving aside the fact that Osborne has strongly denied a donation was solicited at all, their conclusion also seems pretty clear. So who on earth is Gordon Brown talking about? Maybe this lot?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Isn't This Nice?

So, it begins; Labour Bollocks is up and running. I have pictures of testicles and everything! The old Blears Watch stuff is being kept in the archive as it would be a waste to delete it. However, now that I'll be focusing on everyone involved with the government and the Labour party, I will re-categorise all of Hazel's stuff with her own tags.

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.

The Raven

Monday, October 20, 2008

Changes Afoot

Dear All,

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.

Thanks,

The Raven

P.S. Do I change my name too, I wonder...?

Friday, October 17, 2008

What Achievements?

Iain Dale has come across a great little scoop; Labour have removed a list of their so-called '50 Greatest Achievements' from their website. I mention this here because for a period of several months a link to said list was displayed proudly on Hazel's website; if you look at it now, it was where the NHS button is now if my brain serves me correctly.

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

Hazel Speaks For You

And apparently you love the Islamic holiday of Eid ul-Fitr. From the Communities and Local Government website:

"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.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Muslims Are Special

Remember when 'Communities in control; real people, real power' was published I criticised the racial slanting of the 'young advisors'? Well, now Hazel has gone one better than simply over-representing ethnic minorities in youth bodies; now Muslims get one all to themselves. The Young Muslim Advisory Group is made up of 22 Muslims aged between 16 and 25, and will advise ministers on the issues affecting them. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with this idea, but wouldn't it be nice if Hazel could understand proportionality? If the youth of a faith which represents less than 3% of the population get their own advisory group, it would be spiffing if the remaining 97% of us would be afforded the same luxury.