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.