Monday, June 30, 2008

Stupid Project? Hazel's There

MPs, and particularly Ministers, are busy people. When it comes to invitations to events or openings, the ratio of ones they attend to ones they reject is at least 1 to 10 for even the most minor MP. So when an MP gives time to a cause or project, it means it must be relatively close to their heart.

So it comes as absolutely no surprise that Hazel Blears is to preside over the public opening of Festival of Flight in Salford. This is a project which, according to the Manchester Evening News is about:

"... opening doors and opportunities for students who have felt excluded from the world of flight due to their race and also aims to ground stereotype views of young people from black and ethnic backgrounds."

In other words, it's about telling yet another industry that they're a bunch of racists who don't like Muslims and other minorities getting involved. Obviously this is nonsense. The aviation industry is concerned with only one thing - standards. Such is the serious nature of the job, that successful candidates are always the very cream of the crop. If this happens to mean that minority candidates are underrepresented, then so be it. I'm much happier knowing that my pilot is the best available, rather than a token. Perhaps we should deal with the real problems of religious intolerance and extremism facing the world, rather than constructing fake ones to fight here at home?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dumbness Strikes Again

I'm looking forward to hearing Hazel blather on about Labour cutting crime in Salford, because she has been the victim of two crimes within as many weeks. This time, her official car was broken into and the sat nav and a mobile phone were taken.

Might I ask what these things were doing in the car, and presumably on display? I remember once having a leaflet put on my windscreen by the police, effectively telling me that the car park I was in was a target for thieves, and that I should not have anything of value on display in my car. To be honest, this is just common sense anyway; I didn't actually need the leaflet. But the police can take things a step further. A friend of mine had his sat nav stolen once, and when he told the police that it had been in his car at the time they said it was going to be low in their list of priorities because he had brought it on himself. So, government officials who don't know not to leave valuable things in cars, and police who don't investigate crimes. What an age we live in.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Qwerty Hazel

The Guardian is reporting that Hazel Blears never types anything. According to a staffer:

"It was rather easy to work out what documents were lost... everyone who works for her went through their archive of sent items and looked for ones to Hazel... I have never, ever, seen Hazel type."

I know that MPs use staff to type letters, prepare documents, conduct research, and anything else that needs doing. There simply isn't time for the majority of them to do everything themselves. However, I also know that MPs do, on occasion, write letters or do things on computers themselves, particularly when it's something really significant, personal or important. So, if you've ever received a letter from Hazel thanking you, expressing sympathy, answering a question or anything else, if the Guardian is to believed, she had absolutely no hand in writing it whatsoever.

Hazel's Evil Plan

As I'm sure you are aware, the controversial Planning Bill is voted on by MPs this evening. It is worth noting that Labour have deliberately planned this vote on the evening of the Henley by-election, to cash in on the fact that a few Conservative and Lib Dem MPs will be away from the House.

Among other things, the Planning Bill abolishes the Planning Minister (in this case, the dreaded Hazel) having the final say on major planning decisions, such as airports, power stations and things of that ilk. Instead, such power will be invested in an unelected planning quango. Hazel appeared on GTMV this morning - because she loves its hard-hitting journalism - and had this to say:

"Under this Bill they get a chance even before a proposal comes forward to really have a say so I want to make sure the public get a bigger say... I'm going to make absolutely sure that people in future get a bigger say than they've had in the past."

Apparently, under the current rules, people only get one chance to appeal against major planning decisions of this nature; I presume to the Planning Minister. Hazel contends that this new proposal will give people three separate chances to appeal. But she ignores the two most important issues here. First of all, what is significant is not how many bites at the complaint cherry people have, but rather in what fashion they can express their outrage if they don't get the decision they want. Theoretically, if Hazel makes a hugely unpopular decision, it will have consequences for the government, and maybe even her as a sitting MP. But if an unelected quango makes an hugely unpopular decision, where is the mechanism to remove its members? And secondly, because we all have experience with Labour and quangos in the past, I have no doubt that this quango body will be stuffed to the brim with Labour supporters. This will tend to mean that the government will get the decisions it wants, while someone else will take all the flack for them. If the Planning Bill passes tonight, and if the quango starts making some pretty awful decisions, I hope people will remember the government which created the body in the first place.

Update - the Bill has passed by a majority of 43; 303 to 260.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Contradictory Hazel

Hazel's little project over the last week, aside from heading down to PC World to get another laptop, has been to promote her department's Migrant Impact Fund, which is designed to help communities deal with the influx of immigrants. When did we start using the world 'migrants' instead of 'immigrants'?

Anyway, in the House of Commons on June 11th, Hazel said this:

"Local authorities, working closely with their communities and public, private and third sector partners, are best placed to manage change."

This seems reasonable enough. Local politicians and public sector workers tend to know where best to put money for their local amenities and services. However, in a speech the same day, Hazel said this:

"I believe it can make the biggest difference not by being allocated in bits and bobs to a hospital here, or a police station there, but by supporting local service providers to come together and develop shared solutions to shared problems - say, a joint programme on interpreters or language lessons, or a website where local authorities and their partners can share information on local population change."

First of all, do public service providers actually need the help of the government to come together? But secondly, and most importantly, Hazel is completely contradicting herself here. In the first quote she says that local people know what is best for their area, but in the second she seems to suggest that they don't. She doesn't think that when local people say they want more money for law enforcement or hospital funding they are actually reflecting the needs of the area. She's doing her usual thing of saying 'actually, you don't want money for this, you want money for what the government wants to spend money on', which in this case means language lessons and do-nothing websites.

So this is yet another instance of Blears telling us how free we are, when actually she wants to tell us exactly how to do things. Her plan actually involves bodies called 'cohesion teams' for crying out loud!

Friday, June 20, 2008

PC Hazel: Part II

This time, it is that other form of PC; political correctness.

It seems as though Hazel's department - that is the Department for Communities and Local Government - is the only governmental department that can confirm it has met targets for women, minorities and the disabled being in top jobs.

Two of Hazel's favourite things in one; targets and positive discrimination.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

PC Hazel

No, not the dreaded political correctness; Hazel has had her laptop stolen. Depending on which news outlet you look at, the laptop either had sensitive documents on it or it didn't, but one thing seems clear to me; that laptop shouldn't have been anywhere near a constituency association office in the first place. It doesn't matter that the building has security, ministerial computers should be kept with ministers, or in the departmental buildings.

I am trying to think of any 'sensitive' material that's kept in my local Conservative association building, and I nothing comes to mind. There's a big box of posters from when William Hague was leader, awards from Central Office given out in the early 1980s, and a computer which looks like it was around when Ted Heath was in No.10. In fact, I seem to recall the building was broken into a few years ago, but the thieves actually didn't bother taking anything.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday Stupidity

What with the whole David Davis business, Hazel has found herself limited to endlessly parroting the same quotes over the last few days. That is largely why blogging has been a bit limited since the middle of the week. However, this weekend Hazel has turned her fire on Dominic Grieve, the new Shadow Home Secretary. Grieve attracted measure of controversy when, after the 7th of July attacks on the London Underground, he said the attacks were “totally explicable” as a result of anger amongst many British Muslims. I disagree with Grieve insofar as he placed the blame almost entirely on the Iraq war. I personally believe that extremists will look for any excuse to justify their murder and mayhem, so just blaming Iraq doesn't wash with me. However, Grieve is correct in trying to get to grips with the root causes of terrorism. Hazel, however, sees things differently. She says:

“It is astonishing that the man David Cameron thinks should be Home Secretary believes we need to understand the actions of bombers. It is clear that Cameron and his new Shadow Home Secretary have failed to get to grips with the essential issue of national security and seem to be soft on terrorists.”

In other words, Hazel isn't interested in attacking terrorism at its most basic level, by dealing with the indoctrination of the young and vulnerable men who become bombers. She'd much rather just deal with terrorist attacks after they occur by passing lots of laws saying the government can spy on us and lock us up. It's short-term political posturing at its absolute worst. Hazel also doesn't seem to understand how the British legal system works. Leaving aside the libelous claim that the Conservatives are "soft on terrorists", the very fact that she uses the word 'terrorists' at all is telling. The people who will be locked up for 42 days are not terrorists, they are suspected terrorists. In Hazel's world there's no such thing as innocence until proven guilty, it seems.

Update - A quote from Hazel, given to Radio 4's Sunday programme on 8th June:

"That’s just common sense. If we’ve got an issue where we have to build resilience of young Muslim men and women to withstand an extremist message."

That was part of her attempt to justify spending money on Muslim groups who try to curb extremism. So what exactly is her problem with what Dominic Grieve said?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Blears on Davis

Let me say first of all, well done David Davis. You've done something out of principle, a concept foreign to Blears and her cabal of simpering mediocrities. Hazel had some thoughtful words:

"The Tories are plainly in disarray and confusion over the serious issue of national security. Behind Cameron's facade are the same old Tories fighting like ferrets in a sack."

How many Conservative MPs rebelled against their party on the 42-day vote? One, just one; Ann Widdecombe, in case you were wondering. How many Labour MPs rebelled against their party? 37 - more than 10%. So Hazel, which party is actually split on this issue? And a government which cannot come up with one case where longer than 28 days was necessary is the one that is in disarray.

"This forced by-election is a farce - and an insult to the voters in Haltemprice and Howden.''

Yeah, I hear people there really hate politicians with backbone, principles and honour. And David Davis has proven he has what it takes to gain the support of his constituents. He increased his majority by some 3,000 votes (to 5,116) at the last election, and got 22,792 votes in a 70.1% turnout. By comparison, Hazel Blears, in the Salford seat where a mule with a Labour rosette would win, saw her majority go down by 3,000 and only managed to get some 13,007 to vote for her in a 35% turnout. David Davis's Liberal Democrat opponent won around 17,000 votes; Hazel's challenger got just over 5,000. Davis is a fighter and a winner; Blears is a whinger and a waste of space.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hazel Welcomes Idiot

A Conservative councillor from Southport, Les Byrom, has defected to the Labour party. Byrom was Conservative group leader from 1991 until 2005, and his defection seems to have come as something of a shock to his colleages. Hazel Blears has had this to say:

"Here is another top Tory who has seen through David Cameron's shallow salesmanship and said 'enough is enough'."

There are many things to say about this. First of all, it's a sign of the tragic state of affairs and lack of confidence in the Labour party that a Cabinet member and Secretary of State is wheeled out to gloat when a councillor from the middle of nowhere defects to them. Secondly, I'd consider David Davis, George Osborne or William Hague to be worthy of the title of "top Tory", not some guy from Southport. And thirdly, are Labour now totally committed to being rude about every single salesman in the country by using their profession as an insulting term?

What is also interesting is Byrom's reasoning for defecting. He wrote a letter, which I have been unable to get hold of, but I have found some extracts here:

Byrom has blamed his decision on the Conservative Party's "unprincipled approach to policy-making, determined less by what is right for the country than what will produce the maximum short-term partisan advantage... Nowhere is this issue more stark than in the current debate about pre-charge detention."

In other words, it's the 42-day detention issue. But clearly Les Byrom is unable to read, otherwise he would have seen this recent ICM opinion poll that showed a 65/30 percentage split in favour of 42-days detention. In other words, the Conservative viewpoint isn't anything to do with "gaining short-term partisan advantage", because it's actually the more unpopular opinion. It is Labour who are playing politics on this issue in an attempt to look tough on terrorism. They have security agencies, police figures, and Parliamentary committees lining up to tell them 42-days is either unnecessary or dangerous, and yet they are continuing to trick and bully MPs into voting for it.

Hazel, you're welcome to him. I'm sure you'll be very happy together.

Update - Iain Dale has a bit of background that makes this story even more interesting.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Onward Christian Soldiers

On Thursday 12th June, Hazel Blears will join Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street for a reception. The guests will be members of the Christian community organisation Faithworks, and in particular the winners of the 2008 Faithworks Awards.

I am only speculating, but does this seem rather convenient to anyone else? Just this week, we've had the Church of England slagging off the government, and Hazel justifying Labour's prioritising of Islam on the grounds that it might stop extremism. I note that the Faithworks Awards were actually awarded earlier this year on the 5th February; does it really take that long to organise a 'congratulations' reception?

One to Watch

It seems to be something of a common occurrence for Hazel Blears to approve planning decisions which involve building lots of cheap houses on the outskirts of towns in marginal seats. There's a story here about a 450-house development in Northampton which is being pressed ahead with by a local development corporation, against the wishes of South Northampton Council (Conservative lead). The Northampton South MP, Brian Binley (Conservative), has written to Hazel Blears to request a meeting. Her final decision will be worth keeping an eye on.

Northampton South was a Labour gain at the 1997 election, but Brian Binley won it back for the Conservatives in 2005, with a majority of 4,419.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Afraid of the Dark

Channel 4 are going to show a documentary tomorrow night called Gordon Brown: Where Did It All Go Wrong? I'll make extra effort to catch it, purely because of its awesome name. But The Guardian has apparently seen it already, and have a choice quote from Hazel. Apparently, she was against the election-that-never-was last autumn because 'Labour voters would not turn out on dark nights'. I've heard "the electorate are sending us a message", and "people are concerned by global economic forces" as excuses for poor Labour election results, but "Labour voters are scared of the dark" would certainly be a new one.

Told You

I blogged back in May about Hazel hating Christmas, and how there wasn't time for a Christmas message but there was one for the Sikh holiday of Vaisakhi. Well, now a Church of England report makes the claim that the government only pays attention to other religions, particularly Islam, while paying "lip service" to Christianity. Like Hazel, I haven't read the report (I have better things to do with my Sunday), but the BBC is paraphrasing Hazel as saying that 'the claims were unfair, as ministers regularly engaged with the Church'.

In my aforementioned post, I drew attention to the non-existence of any form of Christmas message in 2007. I have now had a more detailed look in the publication section of the Communities and Local Government website, and there isn't a single specific Christmas message in the archive, which goes back to 2000. You can search the entries here. In the interests of fairness, Hazel Blears only became the Secretary of State in June 2007, but the absence of any message still highlights the government's dismissive attitude towards Christianity. Also, there is an Easter message from earlier this year, but Christmas is the big cheese of Christian holidays. There is, of course, a Ramadan message, though. It's only for 2007, but I'd be willing to bet money one will appear next year as well, whereas the Christmas message will be conspicuous by its absence.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Hazel in the Deep End

The government is planning to spend £140 million to encourage people to swim more, particularly the over 60s and teenagers. You can read more about the story and the money here.

Hazel Blears has said:

"More people get involved in swimming than almost any other sport. It's a great way for people of all backgrounds and all ages from across the community to come together, keep fit and have fun. This is a fantastic initiative and I am delighted to support it."

Yes, we all know what a useful tool for bringing people together swimming can be. You only need to look at lovely stories like this and this to see how people of all faiths and backgrounds love swimming with others. Then of course there's the fact that you don't need to be able to swim to be part of the Metropolitan Police's Marine Support Unit, because that would be discriminatory. Honestly:

"The MSU's selection process (which involves a swimming test) has been reviewed to ensure it does not disadvantage any sector of the police workforce. This has led to the timed element of the swimming test being withdrawn, making the test fairer."

I therefore look forward to British Airways employing blind pilots, and the NSPCC making Ian Huntley its Chief Executive.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Remember Reading?

Two days ago I posted about Hazel Blears putting a halt on a building project in Reading. I suggested that maybe these posh, inner city flats would be too expensive for the Labour voters she'd like to see living in the two marginal seats Reading has to offer. So it comes as no surprise that Hazel has given the go-ahead to a project to build 1,750 homes on the outskirts of Gloucester. You'll note that in Reading the development was wanted by the council, and local residents. In Gloucester the council, residents and two MPs were against it, including Gloucester's Labour MP Parmjit Dhanda. It's worth noting, however, that Dhanda actually blames her decision on the inspector whose report she followed.

Dhanda's majority in 2005 was 4,271, and the seat only went Labour in 1997 after 27 years of Conservative control. Make of her decision what you will.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

And Then What Happens?

I'm sure you have seen this news all over the place today. I'm linking to just one story about it, but pretty much every news organisation is carrying it in some capacity. Broadly speaking, £12.5 million is going to be given to councils to divvy up between various projects which try to combat Islamic extremism. And let's be honest, that's where it's all going. The measures are supposed to be used for all faiths, but we're not exactly seeing problems with Hindu extremists, are we? This sounds all well and good; I'm all for stopping problems before they become bigger ones, and if evidence suggests that schemes like this can help then I guess it's sensible to try them out. But I'm still bothered by something that I haven't read a solution to anywhere.

I'd like an assurance, from Hazel Blears and Jacqui Smith, that any organisation that takes this money and then does absolutely nothing with it will be charged with terrorism offences. Taking money meant for combating terrorism and extremism without using it for such purposes is support by any definition of the word.

Monday, June 02, 2008

What is Hazel Up To?

It appears as though Hazel has halted a £400 million property and land development in Reading. The project, known as Station Hill, was proposed by Reading Football Club owner and local multi-millionaire John Madejski. The development was to consist of new homes and shops, as well as an arts centre and a public square. But Hazel has put the brakes on it, and you can read more here.

What troubles me about this decision is Hazel's reasoning. I don't know the exact details of the proposal, so on some grounds I have no idea if her decision is the right one. But her justification for this decision, as delivered by a spokesman, is:

“Having regard to this policy, the Secretary of State is of the opinion that this is one she ought to decide herself because she considers the proposals may conflict with national policies on important matters.

So the people of Reading can't build what they want purely because it conflicts with what Labour has planned for the region? Maybe Hazel is worried that the new houses will be too expensive for the Labour voters she likes to cram into the South East region. And as both Reading Parliamentary seats will most likely be Conservative after the next election, she could be worried about that too. As a final point, doesn't say, voting Conservative, conflict with the national policies of the Labour party? Maybe they should ban us doing that too, since they like banning and controlling stuff so much.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Getting Back on Track

Apologies for the lack of posts in the last few days. I pondered trawling through a load of old Hazel stuff, but it's much more fun to pick the latest ideas and speeches apart instead. Hopefully with the recess ending today, Hazel can get back to her delightful ineptitude in the coming days.