Wednesday, 30 June 2010

English Tories adopt SNP policy

Kenneth Clarke the English Justice Secretary will set himself on a collision course with traditional Conservatives today by raising the prospect of thousands fewer criminals being sent to jail. Reports the Times.

In his first major speech since returning to government, the Justice Secretary will say that short-term sentences are ineffectual warehousing at best and often turn petty crooks into serious offenders.

“Many a man has gone into prison without a drug problem and come out drug-dependent,” Mr Clarke will say at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies in King’s College London. His speech will be a devastating criticism of the “prison works” policy first proclaimed by Michael Howard, then the Home Secretary, in 1993. The speech has caused nervousness in No 10, which is concerned that it marks a dramatic shift in recent Tory party policy on law and order. David Cameron was special adviser to Mr Howard when he first advocated the policy.

The Ministry of Justice is seeking to find huge savings in its £9.6 billion annual budget. Mr Clarke will argue that Britain cannot afford to build more jails and should use the economic crisis to reform the criminal justice system.

Here is that usual lack of coherence between what goes on in England and what goes on in Scotland. No doubt the above mantra will sound familiar as it is something that the SNP’s Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacKaskill has been advocating for years. In Scotland the Tories jumped up and down at the very thought of not locking up minor malfeasants, as I think did the Lib Dems the current monkey to the Tory organ grinder in England. Do the Tories north and south bother to confer? Or don’t they care that they lack any semblance of coherence? No wonder a north/south divorce is on the cards. I’m sure that the Tory policy north was as a result of Tory attitudes south and now the south change tack without bothering to concern themselves with the north.

To be fair of course it seems that English Tories are not likely to be all that happy at the thought of drug addicts and the mentally ill being free to walk the streets of Tonbridge Wells. All the more so in light of Theresa May’s telling them all yesterday that 25% savings will have to be made in policing.

So is this a case of social democracy winning through? Are the Lib Dems finally going to act as a brake on the worst excesses of Toryism, at last? No sadly not they are just going to keep cranking that organ handle despite their support collapsing round them. The real crux of the matter is that keeping people in jail is expensive, and Clarke is right, putting people in prison for trivial offences creates a whole bunch of hardened recidivists and balloons minor social problems into major aspects of the broke Britain. Oh and of course once free these people become the unemployable underclass (or the lazy and idle depending on how you look at it) that spend the rest of their lives extorting dole out of the outraged of Royal Lemington Spa.

I have said that in order to make these people do something they don’t want to do (i.e. work where available) you will need a massive stick, no amount of carrots will do the job. But that is a subject for another post.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


The new Tory government in London are really clamping down on Benefits, doubtless as their way of reassuring their core vote that they haven’t gone soft just because they have a few daft Liberals about the place to make up the numbers.

Labour and SNP politicians have criticised plans to relocate people in a sort of Stalinist way, from areas of high unemployment to places where there are jobs. (Erm, where? London I suppose?)

The plans have been described by both parties put forward by Iain Duncan Smith as a return to 1980s’ “on your bike” policies of old Norman Tebbit whose constituency IDS now represents.

IDS said millions of people were trapped in places where there was no work and were unwilling to move for fear of losing their homes. He talked about “ghettos of poverty” where people were unable to find work but lacked the ability to leave. The scheme would allow people to go to the top of the housing list in another area, even it if was hundreds of miles away, rather than giving up their right to a home. Doubtless this will knock people already living in the area, down the list.

And for what...? In so many cases the jobs on offer will be at or just above minimum wage. The cost of moving is thousands... well above what poor people could ever hope to afford. And what about when the job comes to an end? After 3 months as the firm folds or the work dries up? Will they go to the top of the list to move back again, with no job to come to, but desperately wanting home to their family and friends?

Mr Duncan Smith needs to realise that mobility is a privi
lege of the rich. Moving house for them is almost always a matter of making a profit. Moving for working class people is an expense they can rarely afford. Given the state of the jobs market and the rapidity with which companies go under and jobs disappear, it’s a big risk. Mobility is much more difficult, like most other things, when you are poor.

Duncan Smith said Britain had one of the most static workforces in the western world, with people locked to areas and the result that there were more than 5,500,000 people who “simply don’t do a job”. Ah, that’s the reason they don’t do a job is it Mr Duncan Smith. I always wondered about that. So if they all just get off their fat, lazy backsides there will be jobs for them all ....right? What nonsense.

It’s not often I agree with Iain Gray but I’m right behind him when he said that the latest plans showed how little the Tories understood the reality of life for those seeking work or living on low incomes.

Grey pointed out: “Families cannot move around the country every time a parent is out of work. Politicians should be creating jobs in local communities, not trying to move unemployed people around like pieces on a board.”

Eilidh Whiteford for the SNP said: “Instead of endangering economic recovery with short-sighted cuts and reverting to policies which proved disastrous in the 1980s, the new coalition Government should be investing in growth and job creation across the UK.”

There was also criticism from Ed Balls and Ed Miliband.

We are all in this together, so we’re going to really hammer the poor and we can discuss it all at the next garden party, or perhaps at the Henley regatta. I’m sorry; I thought IDS had more about him than this nonsense.

Norman Tebbit and his beloved leader Margaret Hilda, and IDS, apparently having learned little about working class life.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Bye dobre: to było naprawdę dobrze znać możesz.....

.....Or, as we say here: Goodbye: it was REALLY nice to know you.

I’ve heard a lot of criticism of Poles and other Eastern Europeans over the last few years. It seems that everyone has a mump about them. “They come over here taking our jobs”... or as comedian Marcus Brigstocke said: ” ’doing‘ our jobs”.

And of course because they are often good looking and that bit different, with the sexy accent, there are the whinges that they take our women too.

The theory goes that as they will work for the minimum wage, employers will take them on in place of the local labour who have debts to pay, and the Child Support Agency chasing them if they take a job and, as a result, require something in the region of £450 per week to keep them and all their various and sundry offspring to a wide variety of the local female population (and believe me, it’s true).

Of course, around Dundee where the wage paid by most of the factories (except the really good ones like Michelin and Day International, and until they closed down recently, NCR) is the minimum wage or a penny or two above it, and was long before the Eastern Europeans arrived here... and will be long after they are gone, that theory doesn’t quite pan out locally. But I accept that in the big cities where wages are far higher that may be a fair comment.

As for them pinching all our females, I’ve found some soap and water before you splash on the “Coolwater” sometimes works wonders...oh, and clean teeth work too!

So, many people who are not employers will be happy to see them melting off back to Poland now that the misery of living here is greater than the misery of living in an ex-communist country.

But not me.

Oh no.

I live in a street of tenements which is a mixture of owned and 'buy to let' flats. Because of uncertainties, some years ago, over the possibility of a new road going through the area, the place has become run down. So what we have are low rent properties, which, until the Eastern Europeans arrived, were increasingly being rented to ....erm, how shall I put this.... undesirables. Drunks, druggies, people you’d rather never meet never mind live near to. Music poured from open windows, kids ran riot over everything, rubbish was strewn about the street, shouting and screaming and the sounds of murder and mayhem ensued when it appeared one of them had intruded upon the favours of his next door neighbour’s good lady... or the other way round... who knows....who cares?

And the turnover was awesome... but as one set moved out (in the middle of the night), another set, just as repugnant, moved in.

Then along came the Poles. They must have been a godsend to the “buy to renters”. No more moonlight flits. They kept their homes clean, cultivated the back yards and grew vegetables and worked most of the time, so you never heard them... and they actually put their rubbish in the bins provided, like human beings. They didn’t by and large have any thieving children and they had no interest in scoring people’s cars or puncturing their tyres. Life became bearable again.

I expect you can guess what’s happened now that the Eastern Europeans have gone back....

Friday, 25 June 2010


At the risk of crossing swords with my dear bloggy mate Dean, I feel obliged to put down my feelings about the Duke of Rothsay, Earl of Carrick, Great Steward and Lord of the Isles, and his use of his position and connections to intervene in matters well outside the remit of the Royal family.

This time it has ended in tears as a high court judge described his opposition to building plans as "unexpected and unwelcome".

Justice Vos ruled that Charles's intervention in plans for the £3bn Chelsea barracks redevelopment placed the rulers of Qatar, who owned the site, in "an impossible position" and had an impact on the views of the elected politicians charged with deciding on the plans' merits.

The whole story is here, but in essence Voss found that Qatari Diar, a property development company owned by Qatar's royal family, changed its plans for the prime London site as a result of the Charles's direct complaint to the Emir that he did not like the designs by the firm of Lord Rogers.

Charles made clear his opposition to the plan at a meeting with the Emir and he wrote to the prime minister of Qatar saying the designs were part of a "gigantic experiment with the very soul of our capital city".

He wanted instead something more "old-fashioned" like the buildings in "Bath or 18th-century Edinburgh" in its place.

Justice Vos said that Qatari Diar was "caught between a rock and a hard place" as a result of Charles’s intervention and that the company had been forced to make decisions with "diplomatic and political implications".

The judgment said that the Duke had used his powerful influence lobbying fellow royals and was prepared to put pressure on the mayor, Westminster city council and the media. This put Qatari Diar in a very difficult position and left Qatari Diar executives trying to "calm the political waters and prevent royal feathers being further ruffled".

Vos also ruled that even after the Qataris had decided to pursue an alternative scheme, Charles's position continued to have an "impact on the views of the officers and politicians (but primarily the latter) at Westminster city council and the Greater London authority".

This is absolutely insupportable. The role of the monarch is to be aware, to advise and to warn her Prime Minister, in private, without ever expressing a public view. The role of her family is to support her in this.

The people who deal with planning consent are elected not bred, to do so.

I predict that when Charles takes over as head of state he will have the delicately balanced relationship between government and monarchy tumbling down round his ears within a couple of years, possibly sooner if he insists on having that woman that the Church, of which he will be head, does not recognize as his lawfully wedded wife, crowned as Queen Camilla Parker-Bowles.

It’s no secret that this blog would be happy to see the royals replaced with an elected head of state. If Charles of Rothsay continues to behave in this way we may well get our wish.

Thursday, 24 June 2010


I noted that whilst we are all in this (by "this" I mean bankrupt Britian) together, the directors of the awful Railtrack... you know the company whose shoddy work makes millions of train journeys on the worst railways system in Western Europe into a living hell, announced their bonuses today.

They of course, bless them, have reacted to the advice of the government not to be ostentatious about them, being ostentatious about them, and they are even bigger than their massive six figure salaries.

Network Rail’s top directors are getting bonuses totalling more than £2.25 million, including £641,000 for chief executive Iain Coucher whose annual salary is £613,000 and who drives an Aston Martin DB9. (Hmmm, I’m always suspicious of someone whose name translates as “to sleep”.)

Unbelievably NR chairman Rick Haythornthwaite said the bonuses "had been earned". Clearly this is a man who speaks a different version of English from the one I call my maternal tongue and used up his talent for English trying to learn his over-long name.

Everyone it seems, who has anything to do with the railways has warned the company not to pay massive bonuses, but when it comes to greed, this lot appear to be practising for seats in the House of Lords, such is their monumental cheek. Philip Hammond the Transport Minister in England said he was "very disappointed that NR executives have accepted bonuses of this scale in the current climate". Bob Crow of the RMT union said that they had "got away with daylight robbery", and the Office of Rail Regulation also criticized the size of the bonuses.

Like the banks, who do exactly the same kind of thing, this company is subsidized by the taxpayer, and to pay bonuses of this size for a frankly shoddy service is kicking us in the teeth over and over and over again.

It shows that they hold the people who pay for their subsidies in utter contempt. And there is nothing anyone can do about it. They have it all sorted so why would they care?

It's a lovely feeling, this being all in it together... comradely and warm knowing that life is equally miserable for all and some of the top brass may suffer too... After all, have you tried to live without an under butler, and an upstairs maid?

More seriously government will have to try to get a grip on the flouting of the “all in this together”.

Garden parties, massive bonuses, private jets and helicopters, ministerial cars, despite Cameron’s ban on their use for non essential journeys, etc, etc, are really rankling with people who are being told that for the third year their £150 a week can’t be increased, and in fact their hours may have to be reduced, or they may be made redundant...

....And God help them if they are because there will be someone from the Dept of Work and Pensions at their door within the first half hour telling them that unless they get a job within 2 days their benefit will be stopped.

Photographs: Aston Martin driver Iain Coucher; and pictures associate with Railways and Stations in Britian.


Some people just ask for it, don’t they?

Yesterday, at the start of the Slovenia v England game, the staff of the Dundee City Council crashed the whole computer system and the Council site was unavailable to tax payers for transaction of business.

The management (and I use the term loosely, because it implies some sort of foresight, forward planning and control, none of which has been in any way evident) quickly blocked the BBC website which was live streaming the match.


The action they took was to stop the match being shown. Right.

The only councillor they could find to comment was a Liberal Fraser MacPherson (without whom the pages of the Courier would be decidedly bare). He rather lamely said that he would speak to Council chief executive, David Dorward, to make the point that they should not be watching sport in council time. But he pointed out that because of flexible working practices some staff may have saved up time and might have been watching in their own time.


Don’t they have homes to go to?

MacPherson continued: “The bottom line is no one is going to object to staff watching sport in their own time as long as management is Ok with it. We would have to be sure that there were sufficient staff to maintain services and particularly those staff in public facing positions.”

What? Again. If they were doing it in their own time, but on our equipment why would there not be sufficient staff in public facing positions (whatever that is?)

If staff are at work, they should be working. If staff are finished work, they should go home, or to an internet café or whatever to watch the match. No one should be watching the match in the office. If we allow people to watch sport why can’t they watch Emmerdale or Strictly Come Dancing? What nonsense.

How could other staff do their job effectively with the distraction of television entertainment? That’s not what the computers are for.

A council spokesman has said that measures have been introduced to stop this happening again.

So let me just enlighten him or her to the fact that we, the people who pay for this, are incandescent. Why aren’t the people who were logged in to the BBC website being disciplined? It would happen to me if I did it.

Ironically the very next day, the Dundee Trades Union Council, in the form of Mike Arnott, its secretary, has suggested that as many as 660 jobs may be lost in Dundee City Council in the cutbacks. Apparently 600 were due to go before the Budget and that has been revised upwards because of the austerity measures announced by Mr Osborne.

The council’s administration leader, Ken Guild, refuted this saying that the figures had been “plucked out of the air”. He declined, however, to say if the figures were in any way realistic. He said that he didn’t know how many people would be going, but rolled out the usual platitudes about avoiding compulsory redundancies. It seems, however, that there will be many more unemployed in Dundee in the near future.

Whilst I hate to see people made redundant, I really can’t help but wonder what we, the Council Tax payers, get for our money.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


Isn’t Youtube a wonderful thing?

We can watch our favourite singers; or see episodes of programmes that we never thought we would catch again... Things from our childhoods that were lost forever, are suddenly available again. I was over the moon when I found The Famous Five mysteries taken from books I loved when I was a kid.

But most important of all, Youtube is a platform for new talent to be seen, and to do what this group of guys has done.

Each one of them: Charlie McDonnell, Edd Plant, Tom Milsom and Alex Day is a talented musician in his own right, writing and performing his own stuff, and producing his own videos, but as “Sons of Admirals”, they have combined their talents of musicianship and video production to great effect. They chose an established song rather than one of their own, possibly because it was fairer that way, given that all four have written excellent material. “Here Comes My Baby” was a hit in the late 60s for a singer called Cat Stevens, something of a cult figure among certain sets of youth to this day.

The lads met through Youtube and got together because each admired the others’ work, and I can’t help but imagine the opportunities that that must open up... I'd certainly have taken advantage of it if it had been around when I was their age.

I think this is a fantastic song, a great production (I love these drums Tom), and and lovely, light, easy to watch, funny video. I hope you will too!

Oh..... for the more intellectually curious of you who want to know why the group is called “Sons of Admirals”, Alex explains here.

Free Scottish services to go south?

I didn't want to blog on the budget, I'm already sick of hearing about it. But it seems that the coalition that "we in Scotland" (to coin a phrase) did not vote for are going to level the playing field between north and south come what may. After all the thought that scrounging Scots should spend England's money on making life in Scotland better for the poorest must be a genuine threat to their precious Onion (oops, I did that on porpoise!). Oh and services going south is metaphorical not literal.

As a result of the coalition budget Scotland is facing a potential £5 billion-plus cut in spending over the next four years, seemingly throwing into jeopardy a range of benefits, including free personal care of the elderly, concessionary travel and free university tuition.

The warning from a leading economist came as the Scottish government also issued a grim forecast that George Osborne’s measures could pitch the country into “a spiral of decline”, threatening economic recovery north of the Border.

The deepening crisis for Holyrood’s spending plans comes as a result of Mr Osborne’s decision to slash unprotected government department allocations across the UK by 25 per cent by 2015.

Economic experts said that it meant spending in Scotland was almost certain to fall by an estimated 16 per cent over the same period — 4 per cent more than predicted by Dr Andrew Goudie, the Scottish government’s chief economic adviser, in an analysis in April, and bringing the annual block grant from the Treasury down from £30 billion a year to around £25 billion.

The reduction would have been even more dramatic without Osborne’s concesssion that health and education spending in England will be protected. The Barnett Formula, which decides the level of Holyrood’s block grant from Westminster, means that Scotland gets a proportion of all new spending in these sectors south of the Border.

However, Professor David Bell, Professor of Economics at the University of Stirling and adviser to Holyrood’s Finance Committee, said that, despite that cushion, the impact on public services in Scotland would be “dramatic”.

He added: “This is going to be difficult to effect with efficiency savings alone. I just cannot see that happening.

“You either have to cut back on services or you start to charge for previously free public services. “My view is that consideration of whether free personal care, concessionary travel and other free services can continue to be delivered cannot now be avoided,”

Professor Bell pointed out that the Scottish government’s Independent Budget Review Group (IBRG), due to report at the end of July, will have to consider the full implications of yesterday’s package.

Not guaranteed to happen I suppose, but puts things under serious strain.

Sunday, 20 June 2010


I’m a little worried.

I heard that Mr Cameron was going to get a little harder on people who persistently refuse to work, and who scrounge off society. And, having worked in the business of getting people into work for more than 10 years, I thought ....Good.

He’s going to do something about the ones that the DWP are afraid of... you know, the ones who’ve been done for murder or GBH or armed robbery, and who present a thug-like exterior to the Job Centre and who, therefore, are excused most of the 'back to work' rubbish that successive governments have churned out.

I also thought that it was likely that he would target the “I’m going to have babies for a living” set. The ones that every time it looks like the dole may be catching up on them get themselves pregnant again. “Oh... I’ve fell pregnant... I dunno how that could have happened” (Maybe the same way as last time and the time before and the time before that... just with a different partner.)

But I was wrong. According to
The Sunday Post, Willie Durrent of Dunfermline was called to a “fit for work” interview while undergoing radiotherapy for head and neck cancer. He was being fed through a tube in his neck and the man has less than a year to live.

OK, you might think that the Dept of Work and Pensions, like the rest of us, is capable of error and that, when they were called to appraise them of the fact that he wouldn’t be able to attend and explain why, the clerk would have apologised profusely and given sincere condolences... you know, like human beings do when they discover that they have got it badly wrong and one of their number is terminally ill.

Well, that’s where you’d be wrong. To the Durrents’ shock, they were told that the meeting was compulsory and all the DWP could do was delay the interview.

No, “sorry you’re dying...” just “get your lazy arse in here for an interview or we’ll stop your benefit”.

Mr Durrent is not a compulsive scrounger. He has in fact worked all his life and he is 58. He is however dying of cancer, and that makes it impossible for him to work any longer. You’d really think they could do better.


In an article written for the Sunday Telegraph our Prime Minister has laid out the duty that every citizen, or rather subject, has to support the troops in Afghanistan.

He says that it is the whole nation’s “social responsibility” to put troops at the “front and centre of our national life”. He goes on to say that with Britain at war in Afghanistan, the public has to give full and unequivocal support to troops and their families.

In an attempt to invoke a wartime spirit of another time... and another war... he states that there is huge respect for the Forces and that he wants it expressed more loudly and more proudly.

Mr Cameron says: “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone — so next Saturday (Armed Forces Day) I hope we see an explosion of red, white and blue all over the country. Supporting our Armed Forces isn’t just a government responsibility, it’s a social responsibility.”

Now anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I have the deepest respect for the armed forces. The bravery of the lads out in Afghanistan is literally awesome and I’m humbled by it. Every time I hear of another death, I weep inside for the waste of a young life, be it Canadian, American, English, Scottish, Afghan... A life is a life and a waste is a waste.

However, Mr Cameron, understand this:

Firstly, most of us don’t need to be told what our social responsibility is. We know, thank you.

We are not children and we resent being nannied and told what to feel, think and do by someone who’s been in the job 10 minutes and prior to that was an ineffectual opposition leader who couldn’t better the worst prime minister in living memory.

No Mr Cameron, I’ll not take lessons in social responsibility from someone who spent his years at Oxford in the Bullingdon getting wrecked and wrecking restaurants, just because he could, because had a rich daddy who would pay up.

So don’t tell me how to behave.

Secondly, respect for anything is only respect when it is heartfelt and meant. Not when it is ordered by the prime minister, or by anyone else. You really haven’t learned much for all your expensive education, have you?

The war Britain is fighting is unwinnable. Afghanistan will never be conquered. Statistics out today show that the situation is getting worse daily. We’re in this war because America wanted us in it. And we’ll come out of it when Mr Obama, or his successor, tells us to. If you had any real feelings for the troops you’d arrange their withdrawal within the next 2-3 months.

As an opposition, with the country behind you, you could have argued to take the troops out. You could have fought tooth and nail for more money, for a decent Secretary of State, for better conditions and more compensation for the returning injured troops. All of that should have been at the centre of your agenda, and you should never have stopped until you defeated what passed for a government in the last few years.

But you didn’t do any of that and when you got to Downing Street you put wide boy Lame Liam bloody Fox in charge. What a joke.

And now you’re telling us to get out the red white and blue next Saturday on Armed Forces Day?

You should be ashamed.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Dunkirk Spirit and the Royal Palaces

In light of the looming cloud of cuts to be borne by the citizens of this country and in light of the fact that we are constantly being told what the nation can't afford, and of course in the Dunkirk spirit that her majesty has insisted on in her call to her family not to show ostentation. (Trips to the world cup and travel by coach and six aside.) I thought it would be interesting to look at the cost of the royal family itself and see if we could afford that. Well I have to say that it is quite a subject and one which would have occupied thousands of words in the form I had planned. So in order not to bore the readers of this blog I have decided to simplify matters and look at the property services grant that keeps the royals in palaces.

The property services grant-in-aid is the annual funding provided by the DCMS to the royal household to meet the cost of property maintenance, and of certain utilities and related services, at:
. Buckingham Palace;
. St James’s Palace (pictured top), Clarence House and Marlborough House Mews;
. The residential and office areas of Kensington Palace;
. The Royal Mews and Royal Paddocks at Hampton Court;
. Windsor Castle and buildings in the Home and Great Parks at Windsor (pictured middle).

The properties are referred to as the “Occupied Royal Palaces” or the “Estate”. The Estate comprises some 360 individual properties with an aggregate floor area estimated at approximately 160,000 square metres. Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and Windsor Castle State Apartments, together with offices, service areas, workshops, stores, coach houses, stables and garages, represent approximately 75 per cent of the total area. In addition, there is the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, some 271 properties available for residential use, mainly by staff and pensioners, and 12 properties used as communal residential accommodation for staff.

The occupied royal palaces are held by the queen as sovereign. The DCMS has overall responsibility for the maintenance of and provision of services to the occupied royal palaces. With effect from 1 April 1991, however, management and operating responsibility was transferred to the royal household.

Estimates of the queen's wealth often mistakenly include items which are held by the queen as Sovereign on behalf of the nation and are not her private property. These include royal palaces, most of the art treasures from the Royal Collection, heirlooms in The queen's jewellery collection and the Crown Jewels.

The 'inalienable' items held by her majesty as sovereign, rather than as an individual, cannot be disposed of by the queen and must pass to her successor as sovereign. The queen and some members of the royal family past and present have made private collections – such as the stamp collection begun by George V. This is separate to the Royal Collection, although exhibitions and loans of stamps are sometimes made. This is an interesting discussion in its own right. Is property aquired by the royals over the generations, by whatever means, but undoubtedly with the aid of the state really their own personal property?

The queen owns Balmoral and Sandringham (pictured bottom), both inherited from her father. The queen also owns the stud at Sandringham (with a small amount of land in Hampshire). Her majesty owns no property outside the United Kingdom.

So there you go. Quite a property portfolio we have there then. I personally think that if we have to cut things to the bone we could do a lot worse than start here. Do the queen and her family really need 360 individual properties. And do they really need all that accomodation for servants etc, come to think of it do they really need all those butlers, footmen, equerries and so on. Not show ostentation? I think the royal status quo is ostentatious enough.

Friday, 18 June 2010


We got an idea of what the austerity drive will mean for the first time yesterday as the coalition Government signalled billions of pounds of cuts to hospitals, libraries, leisure projects and roads.

Free swimming for the over-60s and under-16s is to be abolished. A Stonehenge visitor centre is not to go ahead saving £25 million. The £7 billion programme to replace the fleet of Sea King search-and-rescue helicopters is suspended. More than £1 billion for the young unemployed is to be cut and an £80 million loan to Sheffield Forgemasters cancelled. A long-planned hospital in Stockton-on-Tees will not be built.

So there you go in the same week that we are squabbling about who should go to a garden party with the Queen, £1 billion to help young people into work is being cut. That begs the question how is the coalition going to get jobs for all these people and get them off JSA?

Danny Alexander (late of the Scotland Office) detailed an unheralded announcement to the Commons. He said that the Treasury was cutting 12 projects worth £2 billion and suspending a dozen more worth £8.5 billion. In addition, he said that he had found a £1 billion hole in the public finances, where Labour had committed the Government to programmes financed by non-existent under spending, which brought the total necessary savings to £11.5 billion.

Yesterday’s cuts are but a foretaste of what will follow next week when George Osborne will use his Budget to announce by how many tens of billions he intends to reduce spending.

Mr Alexander’s axe fell three times on Sheffield, potentially costing the constituency of Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, more than £100 million. Along with the Forgemasters loan, which had been intended to support the nuclear industry, a £13 million industrial park was cancelled and £12 million plans to modernise the city’s shopping centre suspended. So nuclear power stations and weapons yes; ancillary investment for the nuclear industry no. That should make for safe new power stations or are we going to buy that all in from Iran or North Korea?

Well there you go as usual its garden parties and royal junkets yes; help for unemployed young people no. Hundreds of new Lords yes; new hospitals no. Nuclear weapons that we will never use yes: search and rescue helicopters no.

If this is only a drop in the ocean to what we can expect next week and then you add in tax hikes as well I would not be surprise if the legendary patience of the British people snapped rather like it did over the poll tax and civil disobedience was the result.

Thursday, 17 June 2010


I read in the Sunday Post this week (yes, I know it’s Thursday, but I’m a slow reader) that the estimated cost of security during the Pope’s visit to Scotland this autumn will be around £70 million.

Now that’s a lot of money in any language (especially if the wee man’s only coming here to give Sophia Pangloss her red hat back).

As this is a State Visit and the Pope is here by invitation of Her Majesty’s government (ie wee Spud) as Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, we have to pick this bill up.

The security money, it seems, will come out of the Scottish government’s budget, despite the Scottish government having played no part in the invitation. And according to the article in the Post, the Scottish government says that it can’t afford it.

Now to be fair the Scottish government can easily afford £70 million pounds; it’s a lot, but in governmental terms it’s next to nothing, but at a time when pensioners are finding that their services have been cut, libraries are closing down, children’s services are being reduced etc, I think that Holyrood is quite right to say it can’t afford the money for a one day visit by a foreign head of state.

I’m not denying that this head of state may be important to a proportion of the Scottish population, and for those who feel that way his visit will be a huge event in their lives. The fact that I can’t see why, after all faith in God, is faith in God, not in a man in a long white garb, is of little relevance.

I’m also wondering who’s making the vast profit out of it. Who provides this security? As popular as the Pope will be with some people, he will be equally unpopular with others, I accept, particularly given his personal involvement in the scandals that have surrou
nded the Church, but £70 million... for one day?

The British Government invited the man on behalf of the British Queen. They should pay. And, as the Post suggests, it wouldn’t hurt if the obscenely wealthy Vatican City State were to put its hands in its pockets.

Alternatively Sophia could just nip over to Vatican on one of these cheap flights and get her hat back herself.

Pics: Sophia's hat (modeled by an elderly citizen of a small Mediterranean country), and an example of some of the Vatican's wealth that it might conside selling to pay for the Pope's security (in fact Michelangelo's Pietà which is in St Peter's Basillica, Vatican)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Just a wee thought crossed my mind the other day when I was listening to the news about Jock Stirrup and his employment situation.

I mean, the guy was supposed to stay till some time in the middle of 2011, but clearly the new minister for wars, Liam Fox, with his deep knowledge and understanding of all things military, much more for example than Mr Stirrup himself, who’s only been in the services since the late 1960s, has decided to sack him. Fox said he wanted "the best people to be in the appropriate posts".

Fair enough.

I don’t approve of this broke little country punching above its weight in military matters, poking its nose into all manner of things that don’t concern it, and about which it knows nothing. But I have always said that if, in order to give an impression of some semblance of importance, we have to continue to pretend that we still have an empire, we must always, always kit our men out for the job, provide them with the weaponry they need, the back office they need in logistics, etc, and the best possible management at all levels. In short, "the best people to be in the appropriate posts".

Now if Mr Stirrup is not the best that there is at the top, he should go, but surely now, today, this minute. Not in 5 months.

Firstly because the new Libtory government is conducting a strategic defence review, and it would be sensible to have the new man in post to carry that out... as he’s the one who will have to operate within the parameters of its findings.

Secondly because a man who has clearly been sacked and is working his 5 month notice, can have no real authority; no real respect. Everyone now knows that he doesn’t have the confidence of the government.

And thirdly, and by far the most important reason, because the guys out there in danger, doing the fighting, need the best NOW. Not in 5 months’ time.

Maybe someone can explain why they are not getting it.

And, while we are talking about our men getting the best, can we remind ourselves that Mr Fox has a rather dodgy record on expenses, and in particular a mortgage over claim of £22,476, and cellular phone bills of £19,000!!!!!!!!!...... He also has a record of breaking parliamentary rules over visits to Sri Lanka, and failing to declare interest in Sri Lanka in debates, which, big man that he is, he blamed on his staff. And rather dangerously for a War Minister, he has said: "Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together or we will all fall divided." So we know where we shall be standing over the Middle East in future.

I hardly think that Mr Fox has demonstrated that he is the best we can have as our Defence man. He only got a reasonably senior brief because he stood for the leadership of the Tory Party and came third to David Cameron and David Davies.

I think he should resign with Mr Stirrup, as of tomorrow.

Pics: Liam Fox: You can tell a man by the company he keeps, and here he is with Mayor Giuliani and some old woman they picked up..... and poor old Jock, whom Liam thinks won't be up to the job in 5 months.

Obama piles on the anti-BP pressure despite Cameron's efforts to defend Britain in "warm" phone call.

President Barack Obama has again vowed to "make BP pay" for not only the multi-billion dollar clean-up of the Gulf of Mexico but also the restoration of the region's economy, undertaking to force the British oil giant to set aside the money he believes it owes as "a result of [its] recklessness.". So much for the “warm” phone call with David Cameron.

In his fiercest rebuke against the company in the 58 days since the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, he promised to get tough with BP and to ensure that it meets all costs he believes it should pay.

In a direct attack on the company's dividend policy, Obama said that the money needed to cover the as-yet unquantifiable costs must be deposited in an independent "escrow" account. "This fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party." "I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness," he continued.

The strong words, which came in Mr Obama's first national address from the Oval Office in the 18 months since he took office, came ahead of his crucial meeting with Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP's chairman (pictured), and Tony Hayward, its chief executive, at the White House later today.

Mr Obama also used the speech to make public the appointment of Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, as his new "oil tsar" for the region, charged with developing a "long-term Gulf Coast restoration plan as soon as possible." The plan, which will be designed by states, local communities, conservationists and fishermen and funded by BP, is aimed at reviving the "beauty and bounty" of the Gulf region and co-ordinating how that will happen.

Likening the spill to an "epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years," he went on to detail the government's involvement in the clean-up to date.

In an 18-minute speech replete with military metaphors, he referred to the "battle" the US is "waging against an oil spill that is assaulting" its shores and citizens, and spoke of the "battle plan" of action to clean up the growing slick.

At the weekend the President supposedly reassured Prime Minister David Cameron that his frustration over the mammoth oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is not an attack on Britain.

Cameron's Downing St. office said the two leaders had held a "warm and constructive" telephone conversation for more than 30 minutes.

Cameron is under pressure to get Obama to tone down the rhetoric against of a major British company, fearing it will hurt millions of Britons who hold BP stock in investments and pension plans.

Cameron's office said the prime minister "expressed his sadness at the ongoing human and environmental catastrophe," but stressed BP's economic importance to Britain, the U.S. and other countries.

It said Obama recognized that BP – which he has pointedly referred to in public by its former name, British Petroleum – is a multinational company, "and that frustrations about the oil spill had nothing to do with national identity." Obama said he had no interest in undermining BP's value. The company's stock has lost 40 percent of its value since the oil rig fire on April 20 that unleashed the United States' worst oil spill.

Downing Street said the two men agreed that BP should continue "to work intensively to ensure that all sensible and reasonable steps are taken as rapidly as practicable to deal with the consequences of this catastrophe."

But when the White House finally released its official statement, only one of the 10 sentences referred to the oil spill. It said the two men discussed the impact of the spill, "reiterating that BP must do all it can to respond effectively to the situation."

Later, a senior Obama administration official, speaking anonymously, described the private conversation and confirmed that the president had told Cameron "that our frustration has nothing to do with national identity" but focuses instead on "ensuring that a large, wealthy company lives up to its obligations."

The official said Obama told Cameron that BP "must meet its obligations to those whose lives have been disrupted," and that the administration "will insist everything be done to cap the well, capture the oil, and pay for the cleanup, the environmental damage done and the tens of thousands of economic claims as a result of this disaster."

Downing Street also said Cameron and Obama reaffirmed their belief in "the unique strength of the U.S.-UK relationship." It announced that Cameron will visit Washington July 20, his first trip there since taking office in May.

How naive of those pro-British, pro-conservative bloggers, columnists and commentators to expect Cameron to stand up to Obama and protect those supposed vital British interests. But in actual fact it's a multi-billion pound international corporation that cut corners and precipitaed a monumental natural disaster. The fact of the matter is that the xenephobic British press whipped this up to sell papers. I for one never though for a second that Cameron would do anything other than what he was told.

Was there ever a small hope that the pro-US tories would stand up to Obama? Not a chance. The only sop that Obama made was to allow Cameron’s office to release its view of the phone call first. One which as you see is starkly different from the US version. And has Obama toned down his anti-BP rhetoric as a result of the call? No of course not. The best our dishwater PM could do was to get Obama to stop using the word “British”. How ridiculous of people to have expected Cameron to have done anything other than what he was told to do by the President. Now Mr Cameron is going to trot off to America because butt licking is so much more effective in person.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, has been invited to attend a Buckingham Palace garden party hosted by the Queen. Each year British MEPs are entitled to two tickets to one of the Queen’s three garden parties at Buckingham Palace. A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace confirmed that an invitation had been issued this year. She said that Mr Griffin was eligible to nominate himself and the Palace would not discriminate against democratically elected representatives.

His possible attendance plunges the palace into fresh controversy over its attitude to Griffin, who has been convicted of distributing material likely to incite racial hatred.

Mr Griffin is invited is in his capacity as a North West of England MEP and has provoked concern that other MEPs would boycott the eve
nt. Other MEPs and opponents of the far-right party warned that Mr Griffin’s invitation “utterly compromised” the Queen and risked politicising the annual event.

Claude Moraes, a Labour MEP for London, said that the move “deeply politicises and embarrasses the Queen”. “She has been forced into an extremely difficult situation. I would expect some people to boycott the party. If people knew about this it would clearly spoil the occasion for a lot of them. “It has utterly compromised the Queen and she is made to feel that she has to make a political decision.”

Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP who trounced Mr Griffin in his bid for the seat of Barking and Dagenham, said: “It sickens me that Nick Griffin uses his elected position to gain access to the Royal garden party.”

How terrible that her Majesty should be forced meet a person elected by some her subjects. I am not a supporter of the BNP but let’s review some of the people the Queen h
as met in the past: Robert Mugabe, Idi Amin, The Shah of Persia and Nicolae Ceausescu. None of them was elected and they had all committed far worse crimes than incitement to racial hatred. So why did she meet them? It must have been politically motivated and she was told to by the PM/Government at the time because it was politically expedient.

Nick Griffin may be a revolting character but he was elected by the people. If in these times of Dunkirk spirit and us all tightening our belts, we can still afford to have garden parties then it is HMs job to invite MEPs and what is more it is their job to go. But the best solution of all would be to save the money and not have garden parties state dinners banquets etc etc etc. Maybe if as David Cameron says its going to change the country for ever we can’t afford the Queen!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Labour London Mayoral contest rigged?

Oona King

Labour general secretary Ray Collins has hit back at accusations about the integrity of the selection process for London Mayor, levelled by Jim Fitzpatrick, the MP for Poplar and Limehouse. Fitzpatrick claims the party rigged the selection process in favour of ex-mayor Ken Livingstone.

Fitzpatrick is backing Oona King's bid to be the party's mayoral candidate. Ms King is the ex MP for Bethnal Green and Bow who was defeated by George Galloway in 2005.

Collins assured the MP that Labour's procedures are "fair and democratic" after Fitzpatrick claimed that the party had failed the "openness and fairness" test in the selection process.

Fitzpatrick wrote to members of the party's ruling body, the National Executive Committee, calling for a number of changes, including ensuring candidates have equal access to information, and a review of the electoral system used to select the candidate.

Collins published his own response today to "correct a number of inaccuracies".

London Labour party members had expected the contest to begin at the end of this year but in a surprise move last month, the party announced the selection would run almost parallel to the Labour leadership election and would be completed before the annual conference in late September.

Some party insiders fear it gives potential contenders, including MPs who lost their seats at the general election, little time to consider their options .

The deadline for nominations for the London selection is 18 June and the candidate will be announced on 24 September, a day before the new Labour leader is announced.

Just two candidates have so far put their names forward: Livingstone, who was mayor for eight years, and King.

The east London MP told the Guardian: "If there is not an open contest there is not a level playing field ... it is in my view rigged on the basis that it is not going to be a fair contest. Ken is already the favourite to take the nomination because he has been preparing for this since the last [mayoral] election in 2008 ... now the party has given him the advantage of time and information and it does not seem fair."

The Labour chief said the party's National Executive had discussed the mayoral selection in March and had agreed to receive a report after the general election "to ensure Labour's candidate was in place for this year's annual conference".

He said that far from keeping King's campaign team in the dark, they had already met Labour party officials and they were briefed on the process, timings and had the opportunity to ask questions.

Collins also rebutted a suggestion by Fitzpatrick that the fact that the former mayor's chief of staff, Simon Fletcher, who is leading Livingstone's campaign, worked until recently in Labour's London regional office "raised legitimate questions as to whether unfair advantage or insider information has been given to one campaign over any other as a result of these arrangements".

Collins said Fletcher's temporary contract as a political researcher during the general election had come to an end immediately after the election.

"I am absolutely determined that the party's administration remain neutral in these contests and can assure you that no assistance has been given to any candidate to disadvantage another," he wrote. "I do not accept that being a former staff employee gives one mayoral candidate or leadership candidate an unfair advantage over another."

Livingstone has coveted the role since losing office and routinely attends City Hall events to watch his successor being grilled by the London assembly. He has held two London conferences in the past 18 months under the banner of the Progressive London coalition, which has been widely seen as preparation for his bid to be reselected as Labour candidate.

Fitzpatrick, who admitted relations with Livingstone were tense after the former Labour mayor shared a platform with Fitzpatrick's political opponent at the general election. Respect candidate George Galloway, also complained that it was "extraordinary" that the selection process, including the electoral process, had been "rushed through" rather than ratified by the wider party at the conference.

Collins pointed out that the process was agreed in 2002 – before the 2004 mayoral election – and had simply been "reconfirmed" last month.

He also assured Fitzpatrick that all shortlisted candidates would have "equal access" to party lists on payment of a £100 fee.

Oh dear it seems that the mayoral contest will be a kind of carnival of the failed. But it is nice to know that dirty tricks are still the order of the day in the Labour Party. Whatever happens with Boris thrown in the London Mayoral contest should be a hoot.

Sunday, 13 June 2010


What on earth kind of rubbish have we got as representatives in Westminster?

Firstly we were told in the last parliamentary session that more that 50% of our MPs had been dishonest in their dealings with expenses. That’s more than 50% of our MPs had fiddled their expenses, or stolen from the taxpayer.

And then we had the audacity of the three MPs who considered themselves to be above the law because they were MPs, citing an English Bill of Rights dating from 1689 as their reasoning and, if you please, expecting to be allowed not to stand in the dock, where common criminals stand, as if, for some weird reason they should not be considered either common or criminal.

Fortunately the judge threw it out saying: “I can see no logical, practical or moral justification for a claim for expenses being covered by privilege and I can see no legal justification for it either.” But the point is that the chancing toe rags tried it on at our expense (because they are on legal aid now that they are unemployed).

Additionally, in the last session it seemed that hardly a week went by without one or more of our noble lords being found with their regal snouts in the
golden pig swill of the House of Lords Expenses system, and when the law got near to them, an official stamped on legal proceedings saying that it was all perfectly within the rules. So, in the Lords it’s within the rules to cheat on expenses by lying about your accommodation. High time it wasn’t.

Then we had the programme on Channel Four which organised an undercover sting and found host of MPs prepared to sell themselves to the highest bidder, for thousands of pounds for a day’s work, on top of their salary for the days’ work that we were paying them for. (Amazing how people like Pat Hewitt could get two days’ work into one day.)

Now we read that the new office for trying to stop the MPs stealing money all over again was forced to erect a sign at its Commons offices warning MPs: ‘We will not tolerate abuse of staff.’

Apparently MPs are furious at the way they have been treated. Paul Farrelly, Labour, sent a complaint to Nigel Gooding, the man in charge of the IPSA, saying the new system was "prehistoric, amateurish, self-defeating and bureaucracy gone mad".

He wrote: "I have been asked for a copy of my passport or birth certificate to prove my date of birth. Why that is necessary, I do not know. More importantly, as I have used my overdraft limit, my mortgage payment will bounce, causing me embarrassment and further charges
. You could easily have saved us all this aggravation."

Awww wee shame. Try buying road tax, signing on, getting a national health dentist. That’s aggravation.

It’s the kind of thing the rest of us have lived with for years, and it’s the kind of thing that you people brought upon yourselves when you stole all our money. Tough! Now you know how it feels, and you had no idea before. You get zero sympathy from me.

In the meantime Mr Gooding has announced his resignation from the post, for what he calls " for the sake of my health and sanity”, so abusive have MPs become, when they discovered the expenses office was actually going to do its job this time and the gravy train was in the sidings.

What a third rate lot they are.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Chick Chick Chick Chick Chicken, Lay a Little Egg for Me.

"Only in America", as Danny, our mate from Missouri and "Letter From America" fame would say.

Yes, once again they’ve done it... just when you wouldn’t have credited that they could. Danny relates the story... as follows:

It's been big news that the majority (Democratic) leader of the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, might well lose his Senate seat which is up for re-election this year. Nevada voters are pissed at him for various reasons, and of course the loss of a Senate leadership position due to an election loss would be very big news.

It was almost taken for granted that a mainstream conservative Republican, Sue Lowden, would win the Republican primary and pose a big challenge to Reid in the general election.

BUT, in a television interview during the primary campaign, Lowden was expressing her opposition to Obama's health care bill. When pressed to explain how she thought poor people should pay their doctors for medical care, she pointed out that in earlier years people would barter for their doctor's services. She said that in the past, people might pay their doctor with a chicken. So you see, she opined, people should be sort of creative about how they pay their medical expenses.

INSTANTLY, she became the CHICKEN LADY. She was laughed at not just in Nevada....but all over the country. And her campaign headed into the crapper. She was followed around for the rest of the campaign by people dressed in chicken costumes.

OK. That’s pretty cool I think, but there’s more to come. Danny goes on.....

The primary election was last Tuesday. There was a ruling in Nevada that people in chicken outfits could not be posted at the polls......but that if any voter wanted to dress like a chicken to cast his vote.....well, there was probably nothing that anyone could do about that. Yep, she was defeated. The Republican winner was Sharron Angle, the Tea Party candidate......a far right wing loony who wants to abolish Social Security, do away with the federal Department of Education, and promote Nevada as a nuclear waste dump. And...get this.....she once suggested a reinstatement of national prohibition of alcohol. (Alcohol prohibition in a state where the majority of the entire state population lives in Las Vegas?)

So Harry Reid will face this crazy right wing teabagger instead of the mainstream Republican in the general election. His sigh of relief could be heard all the way back to Washington.

And you thought that Gordon “bigot” Brown was an electoral disaster.... huh!

Nevada makes him look like a rank amateur.... Come to think of it.....................

Thursday, 10 June 2010


The Tories have promised to get people off Incapacity Benefit and JSA and into jobs.

They have also promised to drastically reduce the size of the civil service, presumably by sacking staff, and to increase the age at which men and women can retire.

This is a subject I’ve visited before on the blog, and I do so again because according to the
Dundee Courier a new study by the GMB union shows that there are 650,600 people of working age in Scotland who are economically inactive and 175,200 people registered unemployed. But, as of this week, there are just 21,700 notified job vacancies across Scotland.

The Tory’s policies will increase unemployment by large numbers. Each year a certain number of people retire to be replaced by school or university leavers on the job market, but with the age for female retirement rising from 60 to 61, then 62 and by stages to 65 to make them at long last truly equal with men, there will be fewer people retiring and fewer vacancies to fill.

Then there are the civil service cuts that the Tories have promised. They will be swingeing; vast numbers of staff can be expected to go and in addition there will be the people who depended on these civil service personnel to spend their money in their shops, restaurants, gyms, hotels....etc. They will downsize too. And so the miserable cycle of unemployment will begin.

The Tories say that the private sector will supply the ne
w jobs, but exactly how that is going to happen I’m not sure. Mrs Thatcher managed to created quite a number of jobs in finance and insurance, but ...well, the bottom has kinda fallen out of that market here, and in any case most of the existing or soon to be unemployed would, had they been capable, have taken that kind of job with big fat bonuses when they were in supply.

Where are the jobs going to be for the people who actually live in the country and aren’t some fairy tale dream that the politicians have created? You know, the ones that find reading and writing hard; the ones that can’t spell too well; the ones that speak with heavy regional accents and bad grammar; the ones that swear lots and punctuate with F***s rather than commas and semi-colons?

Currently in Dundee 5100 people were chasing 797 jobs and 20,300 people of working age were recorded as economically inactive. That’s around 25,000 people chasing 800 jobs (31 people for every job) and that’s before all the redundancies from councils and civil service.

And one of Dundee’s biggest private sector employers D C Thomson, the Courier’s publisher announced over 300 redundancies today.

So who will create these jobs? We might need around 800,000 of them across Scotland.

I’ve worked in the employment business for 10 years and more now and I can’t see foreign companies bringing manufacturing jobs here unless we bribe them with all manner of costly concessions, and allow them to employ eastern Europeans. For the life of me I can’t.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Individual liberty and Planning law

The Times reveals an interesting move by Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, in the so called small government coalition, to introduce new regulations to stop developers concreting over thousands of gardens. Measures to stop “garden grabbing” by property developers are to be announced today after growing concern about high-density housing. Developers sometimes buy up one family house and gardens and build flats or three homes on the same site. Residents have little success in blocking these developments because of the demand for social and private housing.

Private gardens are often the main victims of denser development in city and suburban areas as authorities come under pressure to build new homes. In future residential gardens will not be classified as “brownfield land” — or land that has already been built on — which has made it difficult for councils to refuse developments.

How very interesting in light of the government’s commitment to small government and not restricting the right of the individual to say have guns or make a shed load of money by building a multi-storey car park at the bottom of their garden. This surely will have the individual liberties nutters jumping up and down demanding to be able to build what they like on their gardens. After all if I buy a Grade 1 listed Tudor mansion and want to install a sunken Jacuzzi bath a lift and a heli-pad on the roof why should nanny state restrictions stop me?

Greg Clark, the Planning Minister (yes they have one, pictured), will also announce the abolition of minimum targets for the amount of housing in a given area, which has contributed to a mushrooming of homes. Under current stipulations at least 30 homes need to be built on every hectare of developed land, making it difficult for large-scale developers to get planning permission for bigger homes and gardens. This I admit seems sensible and will hopefully stop those ghastly housing developments where you can hear people going to the toilet in the next door house it is so close. But somehow I don’t think it will, after all the more houses you can cram on the more money is to be made.

Campaigners say the abolition of the density targets will end cluttering, ill-thought-out high rises and homes that are too small. Some planners have warned, however, that the combined decisions will lead to more development on greenfield land, which has never been built on. The Planning Officers Society has said: “If it’s garden grabbing out, then it may be countryside grabbing in.” In the past five years 180,000 homes have been built on gardens and land already containing a property.

A survey commissioned by the Communities Department earlier this year showed that garden grabbing is an issue for more than 40 per cent of councils but is concentrated in relatively few areas including the South East, London and the West Midlands. Aren’t these the heartlands of the small government lot? Surely it’s not a question of small government till my neighbour wants to build a nuclear power station in his garden and then its hurray for planning restrictions and petty fogging bureaucracy?

Monday, 7 June 2010


To be fair there are many instances of corporate leaders getting it wrong when their companies are in the news for all the wrong reasons. Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein, for example, thought for some weird reason that his company’s contribution to the recent financial crisis was “doing God's work." Right! Weird god he has.

But BP’s Tony Hayward has outshone even Blankfein with his tactlessness since the company's Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew up on April 20, killing 11 people and sending oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, destroying natural habitats and devastating the economy for fishermen and tourist related industries, possibly for decades into the future.

BP initially estimated that between 1,000 and 5,000 barrels of oil were escaping into the Gulf each day. However the current consensus is that it's between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels per day. After 44 days, it is the biggest spill in America and there are no signs of a end to the disaster.

According to MSN, here are some of the idiot Hayward's bizarre statements since the accident:

On April 29, The New York Times reported that Hayward, apparently exasperated, turned to fellow executives in his London office and asked, “What the hell did we do to deserve this?" A possible answer might be the company's 760 safety violations over the last three years.

On May 14, Hayward attempted to persuade The Guardian that "the Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume."

Only a few days later, he told Sky News that "the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest." Tell that to the birds as they say. Many scientists consider it to be an environmental disaster the full extent of which remains unknown for
the moment.

On May 30, Hayward was less bullish and decided to play the sympathy card. He told the Today show that "there’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back." Bless... If he wasn’t his life back, I’d suggest that all he needs to do is resign. The 11 people his accident killed don’t now have that option.

On May 31, he told the world that ecosystem-threatening underwater oil plumes—consisting of droplets of partially dissolved oil suspended in water that many scientists have observed—do not exist. He said simply, "There aren't any plumes."

On June 1, Hayward responded to claims that cleanup workers were being sickened by the fumes from the oil they were exposed to by suggesting another possible, non-oil-spill cause. When nine workers fell ill, according to Yahoo News, he told CNN that "food poisoning is clearly a big issue."

But Hayward is not alone in his manful struggle to spin the news in the face of daunting factual evidence. His colleague Bob Dudley, managing director of BP, told NBC's Meet the Press on May 30 that "I think Tony's doing a fantastic job." To paraphrase President George W. Bush during another poorly managed Gulf Coast disaster: heckuva job, Tony.

Sunday, 6 June 2010


Now, let me start off by saying that this matter does not affect Scotland, and so some may wonder why I bother to blog about it.

My answer is that it is less the actual item, but more the principle that bothers me, and that the perpetrators, in certain matters, govern my country as well as England.

The matter in hand is the English NHS’s centralized database which Labour had set up and was ready to roll as of April passed. Both Conservative and Liberal Democrat election manifestos promised to scale back on what they called Labour's database state, and both parties' health spokesmen pledged before the poll that the centralizing of NHS medical records would be halted.


It was therefore a rather strange situation when, in a parliamentary written answer (the type used to slip out bad news) the Heath minister Simon Burns said: "Uploading of information to the Summary Care Record will continue to take place, where the relevant general practitioner practices and primary care trusts (PCTs) agree that patients have been adequately informed about the process, and properly enabled to opt out should they wish, and where GP practices and PCTs are satisfied that data are of an appropriate quality for sharing."

Well, that seems like a very strange “HALTED” to me.

OK. We can argue till the cows come home about whether or not this centralized system is a
good idea or not. If you have just been in an accident, are unconscious, in another town in your country, and allergic to say morphine, you may be very glad that your record is accessible; if on the other hand, someone sticks the whole thing onto a memory stick and sells it to the highest bidder, then you may not.

It isn’t that that I want to discuss. It is the fact that with around a month gone since the election the coalition has changed its tune on some of the Labour’s Surveillance Society that was due to be dismantled.

What excuse can there be? It’s not a coalition compromise. Neither party was in favour of it. Last year, Stephen O'Brien, health spokesman for the Tories, said a Conservative government would dismantle the NHS IT system. And earlier this year Norman Lamb, health spokesman for the Liberals said that the NHS IT scheme had been a disastrous waste of money and should be abandoned.

So why not abandon it?

It can’t be that there was something top secret that, as opposition parties, they were not allowed to know about, as there may sometimes be in say Defence or Treasury, or to do with the Secret Services. Nope, this is just a policy about health data bases, nothing secret or dangerous.... except of course to the people who are on them.

So, why the change?

Any ideas?

We’ve already had the policy that the size of parliament is to be reduced, but first they have to create 200 or so new Lords.

So what is next for U-turns?