Friday, October 31, 2008
Q: Do you have any phobias?
A: I have a strong fear of Tory governments. But that’s entirely rational, so may not count as a phobia.
Ha... ha... ha.
Later on she says:
Q: Complete this sentence: The thing I hate about politics is...
A: Rude politicians.
And of course she is justified in saying this because Hazel is never rude about anyone, ever. She is certainly never rude about Boris Johnson:
"Because the last thing a modern, diverse, international-class capital like London needs is a fogeyish, bigoted and upper-class twit for its mayor."
Hazel Blears - 24th September 2007 - Labour Conference
"He's a nasty, right-wing elitist, with odious views and criminal friends..."
Hazel Blears - February 29th 2008 - Labour Spring Conference
I was going to suggest that Hazel partake in a little self-flagellation to rid herself of all that self-loathing, but the thought of her actually doing that made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"We’ve made huge progress on school food but what goes on outside the school gates is as important as what happens inside. Schools, parents and local authorities all need to be working together to make sure our children and teenagers get the kind of healthy food that will set them up for success in life.”
He will praise the actions of (Labour and Lib Dem run) Waltham Forest Council, who have banned takeaway shops from being opened within 400 yards of schools or youth clubs. He will also suggest that teachers ban pupils from leaving school grounds during their lunch breaks.
There are many reasons why this suggestion is ridiculous. First of all, it's complete nannying, which I hate anyway. Secondly, it will really annoy the kids, and give them yet more reasons to misbehave. Thirdly, if he and this council really think kids won't walk an extra 400 yards to get a portion of chips or a kebab then they do not live in the real world. I remember when I was at school doing precisely this for 2 or 3 days a week; those when the school kitchen was serving a variant of gruel for lunch. And fourthly, surely all this does is deny small businesses the locations they need to succeed? Never mind limiting the number of kids, which this plan won't do anyway; it will most likely move the shops to the ends of roads, away from town centres, and away from precisely the sort of customers - such as passer-by traffic from pubs -that they need to stay in business.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
But it really needs to be pointed out, time and time again, that the reason why petrol costs so much in the first place is because there's so much tax on it. As this graphic from the BBC shows, for a litre of unleaded petrol selling at £1, over 65p of the price is duty and tax:
Opposition politicians have echoed Brown's calls for lower fuel prices, which is both welcome and massively annoying. It is correct to say that since oil prices have effectively halved, it is wrong for fuel companies to retain their profit mark-up from when the prices were at their highest. But I do wish both the Conservatives and the press would mention to Brown just how much he could help people pay their bills if he stopped taking such a big slice of the cake.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Much of the interview dwells on an apparent lack of opportunities for poorer people to go to private and fee-paying schools. Prescott specifically mentions his trip to Rugby (from 5.45 in the audio sample):
"I went to Rugby though, and I talked to the few comprehensive school kids who went to the private school - they have to do that to get the charity money, so they have a sprinkling of working class kids going there..."
It is well known that the Charity Commission has put pressure on private schools to do more to justify their positions as charitable organisations. Here is a news article specifically referring to Rugby itself with regard to this issue. First of all then, there's no 'charity money' up for grabs. Charitable status perhaps, but no charity money. Prescott's tone - particularly the use of the word 'sprinkling' - also suggests that he sees their intake of poorer children as some sort of token gesture. This is a claim the headmaster of Rugby, Patrick Derham, has denied (from the BBC article):
"We are delighted by what the foundation has achieved so far but there are many more excellent candidates that we can currently fund. By raising more funds, we will be able to share the benefits of a Rugby education as widely as possible and to safeguard these benefits for future generations."
And that quote is preceded with the line: "Rugby denies it is simply trying to meet the public benefit test as set out by the Charity Commission." There is also significant evidence of Rugby's intentions on their website:
"All scholarships to Rugby carry a basic fee reduction of 10% but they may be worth up to 100% of fees, if family need can be shown through a means test. There is no limit to the number of scholarships we offer. We make awards to all those who show the requisite skills and potential."
So Rugby offers unlimited scholarships, worth anything from a 10% to a 100% reduction in fees, providing the potential pupils are academically strong or show prodigious talent in another field. Hardly a 'sprinkling', Mr. Prescott.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Today, after sending his wife there last week, Gordon Brown was in Glenrothes campaigning in a by-election. He avoided questions about his motivation, and denied he was showing his desperation by getting involved in the campaign by saying:
"I was here a few weeks ago... I wanted to come and explain to people what we are doing in this global financial crisis to make sure people are properly protected."
The first thing one has to say is, if he's so keen on explaining to people why what he's doing is good for them, why didn't he go to Crewe and Nantwich to explain why abolishing the 10p tax rate and then giving them some of their money back via complicated tax credits was such a great idea?
But it's also very clear that Brown is trying to appear to campaign without actually doing it properly. We all heard about Sarah Brown being guarded by the Praetorian Guard while walking around Glenrothes, but her husband went one step further in terms of being cowardly. According to the Associated Press article, Gordon Brown:
"... met [three] families [for 20 minutes] in a cafe in a car service centre next door to the Labour campaign headquarters on an industrial estate."
So he most likely met sympathetic voters, in a sympathetic setting, away from as much press as possible, and for less than half an hour. What a statesman he is.
Friday, October 24, 2008
"They've got rotten teeth, need a bath, run around drinking, have big beer bellies and just watch the footie. For someone coming from the coast and moving there it just kills you."
I've never been there, so I can't say whether he's telling the truth. Yvette had this to say though:
"I'm proud to live in Castleford... it's a great town with really strong and warm communities. If he's too pathetic to cope with Yorkshire weather and Yorkshire life, it's a good thing he's run away home."
She loves Castleford so much, in fact, that she and husband Ed Balls bought a house worth £655,000 in North London. To be honest, however, the most pathetic comment of the whole saga comes from Labour councillor Yvonne Crewe who said:
"I have lived in Castleford all my life and there's no better place to live anywhere. The people are magnificent."
Just read that again. She has never lived anywhere else, but there's no better place to live anywhere else in the world...
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Here is the DCSF page on the results, and it draws particular attention to these statistics:
• the vast majority (94%) of teachers rate behaviour as acceptable or better in their school;
• over half of teachers (52%) think behaviour has improved or remained broadly the same over the last five years; and
• a strong majority (83%) think they are well equipped to tackle poor behaviour.
Here is a BBC report on the same survey, and it includes the following information:
• 48% of teachers said behaviour had worsened in their school.
• this figure was 54% among secondary school teachers.
• 70% of teachers overall said behaviour was either good or very good.
• only 6% rated behaviour as being poor.
Where do the DCSF get this figure of 94% (and its reverse of 6%) from if the BBC are claiming that 48% of teachers say behaviour has gotten worse? It appears as though they have done it by lumping together two different types of data; like adding centimetres to inches. The 94% seems to have been reached through combining - in some way I can't work out - the percentage of teachers who think behaviour is 'better' and those who think it is 'acceptable'. These are two entirely separate criteria but have been blended together to reach this ridiculously inaccurate boast.
The DCSF rather undermine their own point with their next statistic; that 52% say behaviour has gotten better or stayed the same. This combines exactly with the BBC figure of 48% of teachers claiming behaviour has gotten worse. And since the 52% is a combination of two responses, we can therefore comfortably assume that the 48% represents the largest single group of respondents.
In short, the survey tells us that very close to half of teachers think behaviour in their schools has deteriorated over the last five years, and that - based on DCSF combining of two types of response - a good number of them don't think behaviour has gotten any better, either. The fact that a good proportion of teachers find these new levels of misbehaviour to be 'acceptable' seems to be the only statistic that matters to the government. So when Ed Balls says: "It shows that the media view of widespread disruption and lack of respect simply does not ring true for those actually teaching young people", he is clearly talking bollocks.
Rather than take apart the statistics, which others have already done, I'd much rather look at what Jacqui Smith has said about the figures. In the same BBC article, she says:
"Let's be clear, this isn't crime that wasn't being recorded or wasn't being reported or wasn't being dealt with. It just wasn't being recorded in the category 'most serious violence'. "So all of this crime has been dealt with."
Hang on a minute. Even if the crimes were being 'dealt with' wouldn't their incorrect categorisation affect, say, how they were prosecuted? If someone is recorded as committing a minor assault, whereas it was in fact a case of grievous bodily harm, won't they then be prosecuted for committing a minor assault only? After all, if the CPS came back to the police disputing their opinion on what charge to use, surely the police would change the records to reflect the more serious charge? Have offenders received lighter sentences because of this recording error?
"It's just that I wanted to focus particularly on most serious violence and therefore we needed to be sure that everybody in terms of categorising it was categorising it in the same way, so that we'd be able to track whether or not all the things that we're putting into place are making a difference."
A rise of 22% would indicate that these things the government has been 'putting into place' are not working.
"What the statisticians are clear about is that the increases in the most serious forms of violence have actually in terms of numbers been more than counteracted by the decreases in less serious violence."
This says a lot about statistics. While it might be true that this rise in serious violent crime has been offset from a statistical point of view by a decrease in less serious crime, that misses the point. Apply such a statistical analysis to another situation; a hospital, for example. It would be like boasting that a particularly vicious cold was prevented from spreading, but that MRSA killed an extra ten people than it did the year before. It means that during a pub fight you are less likely to be punched in the head or shoved around a bit, but are more likely to have your eyes cut out and your face slashed off with a broken bottle. Wonderful.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I hope that by broadening my coverage I will be able to post more. Despite Hazel's general annoyingness, she had periods - like over the summer - when she said absolutely nothing. So this blog should be a bit busier. I also now have an e-mail address in my profile, should you want to bring any comments/stories/random info to my attention.
I hope you'll find this blog both useful and a bit of a laugh.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Blears Watch has a small but dedicated following, and I'm pleased that you give some of your time to this little venture. But I have decided that it is time for me to move on. No, the blog history isn't going anywhere, but the name and location will be changing. For as much as I loathe Hazel Blears, I feel there are many other people in government who are being spared my attention. Therefore, I plan to refocus the blog on the government as a whole. This will give me a wider range of people to comment on, and will also ensure posts on a more regular basis. For those of you who have linked to me, I will be sending you more information in the coming days about the changes. Because the address will change suddenly, be sure to check out some of these people - including Steve Green and Lord Elvis - for the new one.
P.S. Do I change my name too, I wonder...?
Friday, October 17, 2008
You can see the list here. The ones that are no longer true, and some which were either misleading or deliberately untrue from the beginning, tend to stick out even more in the current climate.
Monday, October 13, 2008
"This is a special occasion for the UK's Muslim communities, but people of all different backgrounds and walks of life share your joy, thanks to the double blessing of the diversity that so enriches our society, and the common values that bring us all together."
Interesting, because I wasn't actually consulted on this. I don't wish anyone a bad Eid ul-Fitr, but I reserve my right not to give a rat's arse about whichever religious festival Hazel is so joyous about on any given day.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Thursday, October 02, 2008
"In the private sector when times are tough you take out the overheads. The consultants are sent packing and the advertising budget is cut. Government should do the same. We are going to put caps on Labour's wasteful consultancy and advertising bills, so that we can make this announcement to you, today... I can tell you today that the next Conservative Government will freeze your Council Tax for at least two years."
Eric Pickles has also pledged to scrap more of the government's beloved quangos. He said:
“Next month we will set out our plans to give more power to local councils and through them directly to the people. Real power, real control and real accountability. To start with, we will scrap a number of unelected, unaccountable quangos. I am not going to read out a long list. All you need to know about them is that they are useless, pointless and they are going to go.”
He also added the following about bin collections:
“We reject Labour’s army of bin bullies and bin taxes. That is why David Cameron has pledged that we will provide funding to allow all councils to introduce proper weekly rubbish collections, on top of recycling. Under a Conservative government, the weekly bin collection will be back and recycling will go up.”
And how has Hazel reacted to all this? Well, her reply is in the same article:
“The truth is their council tax pledge is a con and they have failed to set out where they would find any of the savings needed either to freeze council tax or to spend more on bin collection.”
So she just repeats the same old mantra of 'unfunded Tory cuts' without actually paying attention to what Osborne and Pickles have said. I'd imagine you could do a lot more than just increase bin collections and freeze council tax if you removed a few quangos as well. Also note that Hazel doesn't seem to mind it when Labour makes spending pledges without costing them. I can't seem to find a negative quote from her on Gordon Brown's promises to the Labour conference:
"... we will, stage by stage, extend free nursery places for two-year-olds for every parent who wants them in every part of the country backed by high quality, affordable childcare for all."
"And we want to enable all families to use the Internet to link back to their children's school - and so Jim Knight is announcing that we will fund over a million extra families to get online..."