Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Asylum Slave Labourers

A Government pilot project that would have forced failed asylum seekers to work in return for their accommodation has been dropped as it amounts to "slave labour" according to Ed Murphy of the Merseyside Refugee Support Network.

Can Ed tell me why they should not be expected to pay their way like the rest of us? If these asylum seekers were paid £50 for doing some community work whilst their accommodation cost £40 per week, would Ed then be happy?

Surreal alternatives

Where are the "Real Alternatives"? I have heard no pronouncements from fabled Liberal Democrat performers Vince or Ming(!) since the French voted 'No' on Sunday. Is it because they are having to rewrite another section of their policy manual? I do hope they keep it in a ring binder as they also need to remove their support for the Euro!!

Thankfully, the Liberal Democrats remain the surreal alternatives.

Tax Freedom Day

Today is tax freedom day, the day you stop working for the Government and keep everything you earn between now and December 31st for yourself. It is five days later than in 2003 and is likely to be sometime in early June next year unless there are any tax cuts. If anyone can tell me how their experiences of public services have improved to merit these extra tax days, please shout!!

A Conservative tortoise

As Europe becomes increasingly Euro sceptic, it would be folly of the highest order for the Conservative Party to choose Ken Clarke as their new leader, a noted europhile!! Any prospects of winning the 2009 election would be lost, it would be easier to concede defeat now and hibernate until we get a new leader in 2010.

What about the 'Yes' vote?

Rather than focusing on the 57% of the French electorate who said 'No', why did so many misguided people say 'Yes' to a constitution with so many ambiguities? Had they not read the Constitution? Did they really believe Chirac's assurances? How can anyone support a "vision" when previous treaties have always reduced the authority of Sovereign nations?


How does Tony do it? He removed Europe as a damaging electoral issue by gambling on a 2006 constitutional referendum. Whether by luck or judgement, events now show this was the right decision as the referendum is now dead. However, what's good for Tony isn't good for the country. It prevents the UK from having a genuine say on the future direction of the European Union, once again we have to "trust" our political leaders to make the right decision for us when Europe has not been explicitly tested by the UK electorate since 1975. It also complicates Gordon's presumed accession of power. Tony would have been seriously weakened following a massive 'No' vote in the UK, just as Chirac has been further weakened in France giving Gordon the perfect excuse to move into No 10. If anything, Tony could now emerge even stronger as "Kingmaker" following Britain's six month EU presidency starting in June.

Monday, May 30, 2005

A French victory

"Never has so much been owed by so many to so few" to paraphrase Winston S. Churchill. Congratulations to the French electorate for disregarding the bullying tactics of the 'Yes' vote and saying 'No'. The sky will not fall in and life will continue as before except for the European political elite based in Brussels. They are left scratching their heads in wonderment at how they can be so out of step with the will of the people.

Having been provided with copies of the EU constitution courtesy of the French Government, the strong 'No' vote cannot be dismissed as the results of an ignorant electorate as some 'Yes' supporters suggest.

Non, Je ne regrette rien

French singer Edith Piaf seems to sum up the No vote quite well for me today, apologies for the rough translation!!

No, definitely no, No, I regret nothing,
Neither the good done to me, or the bad.
I don't care at all.
No, definitely no, No, I regret nothing,
It's paid, wiped out, forgotten, I don't care about the past.

With my mementos, I lit a fire.
My deceptions, my pleasures
I don't need them anymore
Wipe the smiles from their faces
Wipe them forever
And I start from scratch

No, definitely no, No, I regret nothing,
Neither the good done to me, or the bad.
I don't care at all.
No, definitely no, No, I regret nothing,
For my life, my joy,
Begins with you today.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Britblog Roundup #15

The latest Britblog roundup is at Tim Worstall's excellent site here. Once again, thank you for the inclusion Tim!!

A Fine lottery

Since the introduction of fines for driving whilst using a mobile phone, the number of such 'offences' has not diminished at all in my experience. Why does the Government therefore believe that £30 on-the-spot fines for yobbish behaviour will have a positive effect? It only penalises those people unlucky or stupid enough to be yobbish when a Police Officer is present. As most of their time is spent shuffling paperwork around their desks back at the station, the chances of being caught will remain as distant as for car driving mobile phone users.

If fines work as the Government thinks they do, maybe teenagers who become pregnant should be fined £30!!

The education handicap race

King's College London has acknowleged what many parents already know, some secondary state schools are far better than others. However, rather than exert pressure on the Government to reduce this gap by improving performance in the worst schools. King's College has accepted such failings and will adjust their intake accordingly. It "handicaps" pupils from leading state schools by requiring them to achieve higher A-level passes than are required for pupils from weaker state schools. It's effectively a horse race where the most able horses (pupils) are handicapped to make the race closer and 'fairer' for all the punters (parents).

If this practice is widespread, it should create some interesting new dilemmas for middle class parents playing the education system. Should they send their children to leading secondary schools only to take their exams in failing schools? Should they be fully educated in failing schools or continue at the leading schools and hope they are successful despite the handicap?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

When 'No' means 'Yes'

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has declared that if the 'No' vote does not reach an arbitrary 60% majority, the Dutch Parliament could still ratify the EU constitution. Currently, "only" 56% are against the constitution thus paving the way for Dutch acceptance.

The malaise affecting the political classes across Europe is not aided by demonstrating such contempt for the electorate whom they represent.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Don't give up

Having spent £40m trying to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies only to see the rate rise further, the Government is giving up. It can do no more!! It now wants parents (on threat of becoming grandparents) to become more involved. Why Government felt it should replace parental responsibility in the first place is beside the point. Whilst taxation is Labour's weapon of choice for reducing undesirable events, it is not an option here, reducing the benefits available to teenage mothers would have the same effect though. Whilst unpalatable to some, it should be seen as "tough love". It would reduce the incentives for teenage pregnancy as a "career" option. Limiting publicly available childcare support for teenage mothers by placing a greater burden on her immediate family would also help to make teenage pregnancy less desirable.

Prisoners' property rights

Do prisons enforce the property rights of their prisoners? I assume they do, but what would happen if they didn't? If prisoners' personal possessions were kept in unlocked deposit boxes in communal areas, they could hardly complain when items disappeared. Rather than empathising with the victims of crime, they would be the victims of crime! Would this rehabilitate them more successfully than current schemes?

BBC strike

If BBC management give in to union blackmail and do not get rid of 4,000 staff as their plans require, can I go on strike? Where do I demonstrate?

Workers striking over job cuts rather than over pay increases suggests that they are already paid more than they should be and they know it. Maybe BBC management should suggest pay cuts rather than job losses!!

'No' way out

According to Jacques Chirac, a "No" vote on Sunday will reduce Europe to a "Simple free trade zone", whilst a "Yes" vote would multiply France’s influence and guarantee French-style social benefits being applied to the whole union. I can think of no better reasons to vote "No"!!

Unemployment rates of 10% across Europe thanks to the French social model are not desirable either.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A fly in the ointment?

How else can you describe the success of a South Wales hospital that has set up a firm supplying sterile green fly maggots for medical treatments across the UK? The MRSA proof maggots are used as a painless way of treating wounds because they remove dead and infected tissue, while leaving healthy tissue intact. I wish the venture every success in the future.

Bulldozing Labour support

The Government has announced that some people don't want to live in Northern Labour strongholds!! How else do you explain David Miliband's comments that 10,000 houses in nine key regeneration areas will be demolished because nobody wants to live there!?! Why does Central Government feel that it needs to intervene in the housing market like this anyway? It is not confronting the causes of this population haemorrhage, just the consequences. What are the real reasons for this population flight? Too much crime? No job prospects? Poor environment? All these factors can be improved or fostered by Government. If Government partially improved these houses, I'm sure speculators would be keen to buy such houses and complete the refurbishments if the local economy was also improving.
If short term tax incentives are required to achieve this, that's fine, simply knocking down sturdy Victorian houses simply because no one currently wants to live there seems very short sighted. It could also relieve some of the pressures on the housing stock in the South East.

Your inflexible friend

Is the case for ID cards weakened now that the terrorist threat in the UK has been reduced from "Severe General" to just "substantial"? If the 'terrorist threat' continues to diminish in the future, at what point would the Government decide that ID cards are no longer required or will they press on regardless? If one of the goals of ID cards is to limit access to state benefits or public services, why can't the Government say this? Current plans already suggest that benefit claimants won't have to pay the £93 cost of the card!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Triumph of hope over reality

If $40bn of aid has not relieved poverty in Africa, why do Governments think $80bn of aid by 2010 will achieve it? As the marginal benefit of each additional dollar reduces, a doubling of the aid budget will not double the benefit to Africa.

Will donor country aid need to be spent on donor country goods and services to Africa? This will not assist Africa as much as if the goods and services were provided locally.

An open letter to Gordon Brown

I have been fiscally irresponsible and amassed considerable debts that I am no longer able to service, the money being spent on non-productive assets such as cars that have no inherent worth. Spending has consistently been higher than income. It's not my fault this money was spent on the wrong things or that other sums of money just "disappeared". It's also not right that so much of what I now earn is spent on interest repayments. How am I supposed to live on a pittance? I call upon you to write off all my debts. I could then start afresh, keep the car and make a positive contribution towards economic growth.

I pledge that I will no longer be fiscally irresponsible, new management is already in place and only minor corruption will now be tolerated. I will borrow and spend money sensibly in future. Replace me with Africa and Gordon might just agree!!

ID Cards reprise

Will ID cards cut illegal immigration, terrorism and identity theft? Spain already has ID cards, but has recently granted an amnesty for illegal immigrants and experienced the full force of terrorism in the Madrid bombings. Spanish ID cards have already failed to achieve two out of three of this Government's goals.

Can ID cards reduce identity theft? The Home Office estimates that identity theft costs £1.3bn a year. That will be an overestimate to support their case, whilst the cost of introducing the scheme is £10bn. Double this figure to £20bn for public sector project management skills and you have the expected true cost. Do ID cards now represent good value for money? Would the money be better spent elsewhere? What about the costs associated with the new crime of ID card theft?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Getting away with murder?

The single offence of murder or manslaughter is to be reviewed and possibly replaced by a 'sliding scale' in England and Wales of "degrees of homicide". Whilst acknowledging the unique circumstances of every case and consequent requirement for sentence flexibility, will the number of murders actually increase following this reform? Currently, a murderer can expect life imprisonment on conviction. This reform could end that assumption, given the right "motive" the sentence would be reduced. Does this reform therefore require a working assumption that the offence is "First degree murder" unless demonstrated otherwise? How is that policed?

Should the sliding scale approach also be considered for rape cases? Again, many of the cases seem to have unique circumstances and the current lack of sentence flexibility could well be the cause of the current conviction rate of just 7%.

Get a life, become a Prisoner

It can't be long before life 'inside' becomes better than life 'outside' for many prisoners. They already have many of the facilities available to the general population, just without the cost. "Exclusive" use of healthcare facilities - Did Ronnie Biggs join an NHS waiting list when he needed treatment? - television and now possible internet access!! Why should a charity want prisoners to have access to the internet? What would they need it for? Presumably they could do everything online, shop, chat, email and even book holidays. It's just a shame they can't travel!! Maybe that too will become a breach of their human rights given time.

Third World Poverty

If you listen to the mantra of Bob Geldof and his ilk, if only the first world was more generous, third world poverty could be "abolished" for ever. Unfortuantely for him, the BBC highlighted the real problems facing Africa, particularly Nigeria, this morning. Having pumped $300bn of oil since achieving independence, Nigeria should be one of Africa's richest nations, yet Nigerians remain relatively poor. Even more money would clearly not fix the problems Nigeria faces. Proper legal and economic reform are essential to achieve Bob's goal!! Clamping down on corruption, smuggling and reducing Government regulation (not just a British cancer!!) would all improve business conditions in Nigeria and attract more foreign direct investment. A country where imports currently take up to three months to gain customs clearance can only slow an economy and increase poverty. I doubt customs in China, Singapore or Hong Kong are that slow.

Unfortunately, campaigners against global poverty achieve a notable double whammy. They are against global poverty (who isn't?) but they also against global free trade, the only proven means of raising people out of poverty.

BBC Impartiality

Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC, confirmed that the BBC has recently spent £2m of Licence payers' money on an ethnic diversity report to ensure the BBC reflects the British population at large. Will the BBC be spending a similar figure to ensure that 33% of BBC staff reflect the wider population who are Conservative?

A fleeced electorate

Labour knew no bounds when it came to winning the recent General Election, that is certainly how it feels having watched Dispatches last night. Astroturfing - faking "real" letters to regional newspapers, nationally approved letters that can be localised, "spontaneous" organised protests at Liberal Democrat or Conservative walkabouts, fake "genuine people" endorsing their posters. Whilst accepting that all parties want to put a positive spin on their parties and attack the opposition, it does appear that Labour reached dizzying new heights of manipulation that even Goebbels would have been proud of. Labour's pursuit of election victory was all consuming. The electorate were treated with total contempt.

Channel 4 and the BBC were clearly aware this was happening, to it's credit Channel 4 made this programme whilst Andrew Marr, the BBC Political correspondent, was filmed complaining that Tony Blair being hidden from the cameras in one shot. Why was such manipulation not highlighted for what it was
during the election? Did other elements of the media connive with Labour to get the "right" result?

Claims over "Weapons of Mass Destruction" no longer appears an aberration, it's how New Labour operates.

PS Channel 4 are yet to update their site with last night's episode.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Not the Battle of Trafalgar

Only British civil servants could possibly be so ashamed of Britain's proud naval heritage that any reference to beating the combined French and Spanish forces at Trafalgar should be airbrushed out of next month's historic naval re-enactment. Should I complain to the American Embassy that their July 4th Independence celebrations upset my country? Such civil servants dishonour the memory of all those Royal Navy personnel lost fighting for their country over the centuries, primarily against "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys".

It can only be a matter of time before HMS Victory is renamed HMS "It's the taking part that counts".

The Great 2005 Pyramid Housing Scheme

As the prospect of entering the housing market apparently becomes ever more distant for many first time buyers, fear not, Gordon Brown is here. To ensure the 2005 Pyramid House Price Scheme eventually hurts even more people when it finally collapses, the Government will help "selected" first time buyers by buying up to a 25% share in their new homes. If a bank does not "select" you for Government help, take your mortgage application to another bank that does.

The irony is that this scheme is coming just as house prices are already softening, favouring first time buyers for the first time in nearly a decade. Unfortunately, the scheme will stop this softening, subsidising current homeowner wealth rather than potential buyers as the scheme means buyers can now afford more expensive homes.

What will happen when the housing market finally turns and the Government wishes to get it's 25% equity stake in such house purchases back before the nominal value declines is not considered. Will it repossess the homes of voters who are unable to keep up the mortgage payments? Or will it just write the money off? It is only taxpayer money anyway.


Rather than thinking the unthinkable, Government quangos now appear to be thinking the stupid. In a blatant piece of "'graduatism'", Adair Turner, head of the government's Pension Commission, has suggested that professionals with University degrees should have to work until they are 70 before they are allowed to retire rather than 65 for non-professionals. "The difference would reflect the fact that professionals live five years longer than lower social groups after retirement." As life expectancy for women is 81 compared to just 76 for men, maybe he should go further and suggest professional women retire at 75 instead of 70 so life is "fairer" for professional men. Whilst such a measure would be "sexist", being "graduatist" is ok!!

Unlike voluntary lifestyle choices affecting the life expectancy of different socio-economic groups, your sex cannot be altered to improve your life expectancy.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Pity the keyworkers

For their children shall not inherit the house. The Halifax reports that "keyworkers" (Police, Fire, nurses and teachers) are priced out of the housing market in 93% of UK towns. Am I supposed to feel sorry for them alone? Many non-keyworkers are also priced out of the UK housing market yet get no special attention by the media or special schemes funded by the Government. Such schemes only reinforce the currently overpriced housing market. Why the focus on owning a house anyway? It is currently cheaper to rent than to buy. The Halifax Bank also has a clear vested interest in highlighting such "issues".

There are a number of solutions to this problem. Increase the supply of houses by building on greenbelt land where houses are required. Encourage "empty nesters" to move to smaller properties. Raise the pay of keyworkers now by reducing their pension rights in the future so that they are paid more when they need the cash and less in retirement. Most radically, raise interest rates to encourage a house price crash and make houses more affordable for everyone. Unfortunately, all the policies are unpalatable to a certain degree.

Tory death knell

The news that Michael Heseltine supports Ken Clarke for the leadership of the Conservatives comes as no real surprise to me. I just hope no one listens to him, certainly the Conservative MPs who will be selecting the new leader. Michael says that Liberal Democrats managed to attract the professional, publicly employed middle classes. Let them vote Liberal Democrat. I just hope the Conservatives never seek this group's total support. It would be the death knell of the modern Conservative party, disenfranchising more than 8m other voters across England, including mine, who are looking for a traditional Conservative party rather than the currently dumbed down version. This group of voters may feel that modern Conservatives are "privileged and distant" but that equally applies to all the main parties!!

Dutch EU referendum

If it wasn't for the citizens of Europe, the European Union would be great! Even if the French vote 'Yes' in their referendum, the Dutch seem even more likely to reject it. 54% would currently say 'No' whilst only 27% would approve it!! Tragically, Dutch politicians can still ignore this result and approve the referendum on behalf of their mistaken 'electorate'. I somehow doubt that ignoring the "will of the people" would do to their own re-election prospects any good at all.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Child obesity

In shocking new research (if only for being common sense), three year old children who tend to be sedentary, ie watch more than eight hours of television a week ar at greater risk of childhood obesity than those who live more active lives at such a young age.

Will the BBC now act responsibly and reduce the amount of children specific television they broadcast each day?

School Discipline

How to solve the crisis of indiscipline in schools? Appoint some union brothers and sisters who are "Educational Discipline" experts and some other "professionals". Give them a budget and ask them to produce a report by October 2005. Also give them terms of reference, should there be a national code of behaviour? Is more teacher training required? and the job is done!!

Why not involve parents, Chris Woodhead or the Independent Sector who seem to have a relatively good record of discipline in schools? They may not give the "right" answer but it would be the right one!!

Update Teaching Unions have welcomed the new task force, the Task force head does not believe punishment will work, carpets will. It is doomed to failure!!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I've won the Lottery !! (2)

Apologies for the digression but it will be interesting to see how this email pans out. Any suggestions for my next reply would be gratefully received!! My initial response to having won the lottery:

Dear Mr. Nelson

I am really excited to know that I have won the Lottery. Can you please thank Bill Gates for sponsoring it, although one million euros is stingy for such a wealthy man. He is still a wonderful man and I am very happy to used Internet Explorer. Firefox is rubbish.

How do I claim my winnings? I can't wait for the money as there are so many things I want to buy. It has taken me at least ten minutes to calm down. I will keep it a secret from anyone else. Hopefully my luck will last and I might even win the bigger lottery.

Your new friend.

Mr. Half

I've won the Lottery !!

REF: EML/10002244/01
BATCH: 34/007/ILP /SL


We are pleased to inform you of the result of the Euromillions Lottery Winners International E-mail programs held on the 18th of Feb. 2005.Your E-mail address attached to ticket number 30001415366-609 with lucky main number 20 21 26 32 46 drew lucky star numbers 08 09, which consequently won in the 2nd category, you have therefore been approved for a lump sum pay out of 1,000,000.00 Euro. (One Million Euro)


Due to mix up of some numbers and names, we ask that you keep your winning information confidential until your claims has been processed and your money remitted to you. This is part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this program by some participants.

All participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from over 100,000 company and 50,000,000 individual email addresses and names from all over the world.

This lottery was promoted and sponsored by Bill Gates,President of Microsoft, the world's largest software company inorder to enhance and promote the use of Internet Explorer Users and microsoft-wares around the globe. This promotional program takes place every three year. We hope with part of your winning you will take part in our end of year 50million Euro International lottery.

To file for your claim, please contact our fiducial/Claim agent:
DR.Philip Nelson (MORGAN CONSULTANT) TEL:628-636-002.
Email: morgansecu@netscape.net

Remember, all winning must be claimed not later than 10th of June 2005. After this date all unclaimed funds will be included in the next stake. Please note in order to avoid unnecessary delays and complications please remember to quote your reference number and batch numbers in all correspondence. Furthermore, should there be any change of address do inform our agent as soon as possible. Congratulations once more from our members of staff and thank you for being part of our promotional program.

Note: Anybody under the age of 18 is automatically disqualified.

Sincerely yours,
Mr.Agustín Lorenzo Lopez
Lottery Coordinator.

Demo Version Sent.

Vote Yes and lose the rebate

In the spirit of democracy, I have added a new link to my blog, Yes to Europe. Thankfully, they will now have an even greater struggle to convince the British to say "Yes" in the upcoming referendum whilst the French could now be in favour. Why the change in fortune? Mr Chirac has now cleverly linked the French referendum into bashing France's beloved neighbours, the British. By voting "yes", France will seek to review the £3.2 bn British rebate. "We conclude[d] that to be able to incorporate all these demands (on the budget), we need to have a fairer financing of the European budget... which would incontestably demand looking again at the British rebate".

I can guarantee the British rebate will only be reviewed downwards!!

On the eighty seventh day

Day 6 - "Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the EVENING and the MORNING were the SIXTH DAY." (Genesis 1:31)

Day 7 - "Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the SEVENTH DAY God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the SEVENTH DAY from all His work which He had done." (Genesis 2:1-2)

If God was an MP, he would now be able to rest for another eighty days as everything is perfect in the UK. Nothing is so urgent that it needs fixing, reforming or remedial action before October. We are in a new Utopia!! MPs holidays are even more important than curbing the "threat of terrorism" as even legislation to introduce ID cards can wait.

Voting with your feet

So much for the Childrens Society call to boycott the Bluewater Shopping Centre. They condemned Bluewater's ban of "hoodies" as "blatant discrimination based on stereotypes and prejudices". However, on the first weekend since banning "hoodies", visitor numbers at the Bluewater shopping centre actually rose 23% compared to the same weekend last year. That's despite an overall downturn in retailing generally across the UK. People have voted with their feet, supported Bluewater's policy and given the Childrens Society two fingers!!

The charity has achieved a remarkable thing. It has managed to ignore public fears of crime, misjudged public support for the policy and ignored the fact that as Bluewater is a private property, it should be able to determine it's own "house rules".

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Work shy benefit claimants

The Disability Rights Commission is concerned that the Government's intended reforms to Incapacity Benefits risks labelling many claimants as "work shy". Out of the 2.7m claimants, 1m claimants want "to work again". That leaves us with "only" 1.7m work shy claimants. As the overall cost is £7bn a year, and benefits increase after six months and again after one year, no wonder many claimants become increasingly "work shy" over time. Why should Incapacity Benefit increase the longer you stay on it? It's hardly an incentive to find work!! Pensions don't increase over time in the same way.

Speeding Policeman

An advanced Police Driver clocked at 159mph on a motorway, 120mph in a 60 zone and 60mph in a 30 zone has been cleared of speeding and dangerous driving!! Using an excuse that most speeding drivers would like to use, the roads "Were deserted at the time" and "Driving conditions were good". I must remember that one!!

As an advance Police driver, his driving could have been "safe" using it's broadest possible sense on a motorway, but 60mph in a built up zone where the limit is 30 is grossly irresponsible. There is no justification for him being cleared of all charges. Once again the Police show that they are often above the law that applies to everyone else.

Knockout George

'Respect' him or not, I was very impressed by George Galloway giving his US Senate testimony yesterday. It will be interesting to see if the US Senate is able to destroy his evidence given under oath with genuine documentation, point by point.

Oh, the humanity

Two in five internationally mobile, low paid, 'good' immigrants working in healthcare in London are considering moving abroad for better pay and conditions. Welcome to the international labour market. Is this ratio higher or lower than in the past? Without comparatives, it is difficult to determine if this is a growing problem or not. I would be more concerned if new nurses were less likely to want to work in the UK, you will always get staff churn and that could be what this report is highlighting.

I doubt that the Private sector is facing the same issues as the NHS as they do not have the same shackles of nationally set pay deals that are unable to deal with localised recruiting and retention issues. Let the free market work it's magic and this would no longer be a concern.

Why are the other three out of five foreign healthcare workers not looking to leave the UK? Are they not aware of better pay and conditions abroad? With so many nurses leaving, I also assume that the ration of administrators to nurses will deteriorate further, no wonder it's such a crisis for all humanity!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Hidden Home Office Statistics

Why does the Home Office feel unable to provide full disclosure on the number of asylum seekers arriving in the UK in the first quarter of this year? They are down 17% but exclude dependants such as spouses or children, why aren't these people included? If seven thousand families have claimed asylum, that could be a lot more than seven thousand individuals!! Does the Home Office have something to hide?

A shame about sham marriages

It's good to see that one loophole on gaining UK citizenship has finally been closed down. It had been estimated that one in five marriages at Registry Offices were shams. This now appears to have been a gross underestimate, three in five were!!. The policy must be working as the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) are complaining that it penalises genuine couples.

Monday, May 16, 2005

What a hypocrite (2)

The case of the teacher jailed for shooting an air gun at yobs is starting to become farcical. Having been released early by the legal system as her imprisonment was not in the public interest, she has now been suspended by her employer, Salford City Council. Ironically, it's the same city that 'forces' offenders to make floral hanging baskets!! Does the council believe she has brought them into disrepute?

A cheap welfare solution

As welfare reform seems a possibility in the Queen's speech tomorrow, the cheapest and best way to reform welfare benefits would be to end the index linking of the payments. Very rapidly, people who currently receive the benefit would find that they are better off working than remaining on benefit. The only downside would be the lack of additional civil service jobs that could be created to support such a 'creative' solution.

Scottish ID cards

The BBC reports an interesting angle on the expected debate on ID cards. The Scottish Parliament (with it's Labour majority) voted against the introduction of ID cards. Will Scottish MPs in Westminster take their lead and also vote down the proposals or abstain or vote for them despite the wishes of their Scottish Parliament?

Peter Hain also suggests that public opinion broadly supports ID cards. As soon as you point out these ID cards will cost £85 each, people suddenly become distinctly less supportive!!

Liberal Democrat makeover

The Liberal Democrats have reshuffled seating arrangements on their collective fence and have introduced some new people you've never heard of to their "shadow shadow cabinet" replacing other individuals you were never likely to hear much about anyway. Even John Prescott is said to have smiled at the news.

In another ground breaking move, the Liberal Democrat "shadow front bench" now represents only a third of their total Parliamentary party compared to half prior to the election. Both MPs not in the shadow cabinet are "gutted".

Greenpeace Protest

Greenpeace has disrupted production of Landrovers in protest at the environmental damage caused by 4x4s. Whilst they undoubtedly damage the environment, are they the worst offenders? 1.3 billion cattle producing over 100 million tons of methane annualy can have a significant effect on the world's balance of greenhouse gases. Should Greenpeace be trying to block milk deliveries instead? I can't help but think there may just be a little bit of envy coming into Greenpeace's action against a luxury car maker.

Why aren't these Greenpeace protestors working like the rest of us? Are they all on benefits!?!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

School Fund raising

It is a sad reflection that Government funding is apparently not sufficient to provide access to a good quality education across the UK. Parents, local clubs and business provided £1.5bn of funding in 2003/4. As this funding goes directly to the schools, I bet it is better spent than larger tranches of the £23bn of total central funding. Labour should be ashamed if these additional funds help pay staff salaries.

Labour Minister against wealth redistribution

I cannot help but smile when a Labour minister believes he pays too much tax and seeks to avoid the taxman as Lord Drayson has done. He supports a party prepared to increase taxes for middle income, middle Englanders to fund a bloated public sector yet is not prepared to pay his "fair share" by using offshore trusts to keep his wealth beyond the clutches of the taxman. How many people on incapacity benefit could be funded out of £3m he is alleged to have saved in taxes?

I don't consider how many teachers or nurses he could have funded or hospitals built as £100bn is spent on benefits a year compared to only £23bn on schools.

Flying pigs tax

In another move to promote the popularity of the EU amongst its citizens, EU ministers are now considering an aviation tax either on fuel or passengers to reduce world poverty. Why the EU believes there is any link between European aviation and world poverty is beyond me.

If EU Ministers are serious about reducing world poverty, they could make a good start by lowering EU tariffs to developing countries. It could also promote the use of condoms and the importance of basic hygiene such as using soap in the third world.

Uniformed offenders

Home Office minister Hazel Blears is considering making young offenders wear uniforms when doing community service so that the wider community is aware that people are being punished. Assuming the uniforms do not have arrows on them or are dayglo orange, I broadly welcome the idea. I am sure the humiliation would ensure certain offenders are less likely to reoffend. However, I doubt that such legislation would be compatible with current European Human Rights legislation so suspect it's a case of banging the drum for harder sentencing knowing full well that it's not achievable.

Rather than preparing floral baskets in Salford, it would be far more useful if they had to remove graffiti on council estates or remove chewing gum from pavements. I recall a story about German POWs planting flower bulbs in a park to enhance the local community in World War 2. The locals were impressed by how hard they worked. Unfortunately, the flowers all had to be dug up when they bloomed as they spelt swear words!!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Blue Ken

Much as I admire Ken Clarke, the news that he is considering running for the Conservative leadership fills me with terror!! I would like to see a healthy dose of Euroscepticism in the Conservative leadership, not a Europhile who ulitmately wants to scrap Sterling.

Friday, May 13, 2005

We need more MPs to solve pensions crisis

Whilst David Blunkett wrestles with the pensions crisis, I have a novel solution. We should all become MPs. The Telegraph reports that two ex MPs, Stephen Twigg and Melanie Johnson, who lost their seats at the General election can look forward to pensions of £12,500 and £15,000 respectively when they retire. That's an excellent pension for only eight years work. There is also very little risk of their pension provider going bust or making poor investment decisions as we pay for their pensions through our taxes. In addition, they also receive a "resettlement grant" worth 50% of their £59,000 salaries.

Tony Blair can look forward to retire on £76,000 a year when he leaves office compared to the £68,000 I estimate he will pay in income tax this year, excluding personal allowances and assuming the higher rate tax of 40% on all his earnings on his £178,000 salary. If I could also look forward to retiring on a pension higher than the income tax I pay, I wouldn't have a pensions crisis either!!

Labour's Conservative health policy

John Reid, the former Health Secretary, condemned Conservative manifesto proposals for the NHS to pay 50% of the treatment if a patient chose to be treated independently. The proposal would divert £1.2bn from the NHS without doing anything to increase the number of doctors and nurses in the NHS.

Today, Patricia Hewitt, the new Health Secretary is to commit £3bn for private sector treatment over five years. Doctors fear that this policy will risk the closure of NHS hospitals!!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Higher taxes to encourage savings?

Can someone please tell me how increasing taxes will encourage me to save more money for my retirement? If my taxes increase and I want to maintain the same standard of living, I will have to reduce my savings!!

Sterling forever

Had we listened to certain "experts" and politicians over the last five years, we would already have joined the Euro. As a result, the UK would no longer be able to change interest rates in the best interests of the UK economy as is currently required.

Taxed and spent

High taxes are fine when you get something back in return. However, I fear that by the time I come to make a "withdrawal", whether that is through a state pension or through the NHS, the state will have unilaterally changed it's 'contract' with me. Like all contract changes, it won't be in my favour. I will be expected to pay for my NHS treatments and there will be no pension available. The problem is that the Government operates on a "pay as you go" basis. If they were concerned about an ageing population, and the funding crisis this nation will face in thirty or forty years time, Britain should currently have a budget surplus. In thirty years time, I am sure that any protests that I paid my taxes over the years and therefore deserve free treatment will be met with blank faces and "tough"!!

Galling for Galloway

As George Galloway enters Parliament as the new MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, it will be interesting to see if other MPs use the protection afforded them of Parliamentary Privilege to "libel" him. Whilst the US Congressional reports that he received vouchers, George declares that he has "never used any vouchers". It's like me receving Esso petrol vouchers in the past but claiming I never got a free crystal glass...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Worked to death?

As Labour's election victory enters the history books, the Government's limited ability to govern Britain is once again highlighted by the European Union showing who is really in power. Green, Socialist and Communist MEPs have voted that the UK opt-out on the working time directive should be scrapped on 'health and safety grounds'. Ironically, doctors in the NHS complain that this new restriction could damage their career development, endangering the healthcare available to their patients. Labour opposed scrapping the opt out, supporting freedom of choice (No nanny state here!!) and that the measure could make business less competitive.

If other European nations want to give their workers an additional reason to become unemployed through an uncompetitive business environment, that's up to them. Britain needs to remain competitive. Maybe people should start paying more attention to the European elections than general elections in future.

Overtaxed? Oh, dear

Sue Doughty, the ex Liberal Democrat MP for Guildford, laments that their Local Income Tax policy was difficult to sell on the doorstep to working couples whilst pensioners were very enthusiastic. This could have cost her the elcetion. Good. Local Income Tax remains a ridiculous policy, redistributing wealth from one middle class, middle income couple to other middle class, middle incomes couple with parents needing long term care or those with University students.

Are people starting to feel overtaxed? That's not going to be good for the Liberal Democrats or Labour in the future!!

Poor law

For lawyers to complain that sometimes they earn less than plumbers surely shows how ripe the legal aid bill is for wholesale reform. Plumbers are not generally known for being low wage earners!! Unfortunately, in reforming and hopefully reducing the criminal legal aid, the savings will be "invested" in increasing the civil legal aid bill rather than returning money to the taxpayer. This means one group of lawyers simply lose out to another group of lawyers!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Postal Fraud post mortem

As with the millenium bug, fears of widespread electoral fraud through the postal ballot system apparently seems to have been unfounded. I am not aware of any spurious election results or widespread "nobbling" of the election in marginal seats. Some votes do seem to have disappeared whilst other's, notably John Humphries of BBC Radio 4, was impersonated and there was the usual collection of anomalies, eighteen month old toddlers receiving ballot papers and occasional EU nationals. As this does not appear to be widespread and anomalies always occur, should postal voting continue unreformed? The case for reform no longer seems as strong without any evidence to the contrary!!

Don't mention the war

As World Leaders mourn the 27m Russian deaths in World War 2 and celebrate VE day, I hope they also remember that World War 2 would not have commenced without the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact of August 1939. Hitler feared the Soviet response to a unilateral invasion of Poland, so Stalin's agreement was "bought" by being allowed to "liberate" Eastern Poland. Russia was also happy to supply Nazi Germany with food and other supplies whilst Britain stood alone from May 1940 to Germany's invasion of Russia in June 1941. Anyone reading Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad would also be aware of the Soviet's total contempt for the lives of their soldiers too.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Guess the Party 2

In early April, I ran a post on a Labour party candidate entitled "Guess the Party". To my surprise, it has been one of my best posts ever. In terms of hits, it's up there with the best, Google loves it, placing it even above the official Labour party site on certain search words, whilst the comments remain active nearly one month later!!

If only all my posts were as successful...

The Battle of England

Many commentators (apart from the BBC) have noted that the Conservatives won more votes (8,086,306) than Labour (8,028,242 votes) in England, raising doubts about Labour's mandate to govern England. William Rees-Mogg in a superb article in The Times questions England's future relationship with Europe and a possible Scottish Prime Minister. He also states that Labour won 286 seats to the Conservatives 193 seats in England alone. It hardly suggests a strong Labour mandate with which to govern whilst dismissing BBC claims that the Conservatives remain deeply unpopular.

Tuberculosis on the run

The BBC highlights how powerless authorities were in being unable to properly treat a man who infected 12 other people with TB as he was not prepared to be undergo the full course of treatment himself. As TB is a potentially fatal disease, should he be charged with attempted to murder or GBH due to the similarities of a man who infected his lover with HIV?

Loan dolphins

Who is responsible? A couple from South Wales, he's on benefit and she earns £5,000 year, they sign up for a £100,000 loan that the bank approves and only then do the couple realise they can't repay it!! Apparently, it's the bank's fault as they did not laugh the couple back into the street when they applied. The only people ultimately made poorer by this particular deal are the Lloyds TSB shareholders as the loan has been written off. Gordon Brown could only ever dream about such wealth redistribution.

Lloyds TSB will need to sharpen it's lending practices and sales reward schemes in the near future or it will easily bankrupt itself, the market economy in action penalising stupid lending decisions!! I suggest they could make a good start by not lending to people who need such loans the most, those on benefits, unfortunately, this would open the market up to loan sharks instead. Is this what the banking regulators want? How else does Lloyds TSB prevent such stories in the future? Unfortunately, Lloyds TSB emerge from this sorry tale as loan dolphins rather than the loan sharks that they are accused of being.

I just hope it's not the thin end of a wedge where people are able to claim that it's unfair they walked into a bank, obtained a loan they then discovered they can't afford to repay and then get the loan written off. As a responsible borrower, it's typical that I won't benefit from such banks' largesse!! In other shocking news, the couple may have voted Labour...


What's more important, fighting crime or having an ethnically diverse workforce? The Metropolitan Police know the answer, it's having an ethnically diverse workforce!! What other explanation can there be for having a waiting list of potential white recruits as they seek to fast track female and ethnic minority recruits. If any workforce was over-representative of ethnic minorities, would the employer be allowed to fast track white males or would such action be racist? How ethnically diverse is the Commission for Racial Equality?

Teacher's pet

Will there be a spike in domestic pet death rates in June each year now that students can gain an extra 2% in their exam marks if their pet dies on the day of the exam? Is this another method for those who know how to "play the system" can gain at the expense of those who don't wish to or think it's unfair? How do you prove your cat or goldfish died on the day of the exam? Do you bring your pet's remains in or get a "death certificate" from the vet or do your parents sign a declaration that it died? It would take a very strong willed parent not to sign such a declaration if your child's exam results are uplifted by 1%!! What happens if it dies in the afternoon and you did your exam in the morning? Your pet still died on the day of the exam!!

People need to remember that it's not a perfect world, life is a rich tapestry of ups and downs. You can't be compensated for every loss that you may suffer. Should results be downgraded if you have drunk coffee or 'Red bull' or worked hard to improve exam performance!?!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Former "Blair Babe" defects to the Conservatives

In a cracking example of BBC Bias, the news that former "Blair babe" Helen Clark has quit Labour and applied to join the Conservatives is mentioned only in passing at the bottom of this article on calls for Tony Blair to stand down. She has left in protest at Tony Blair's style of Government and she believes that the Conservatives, under a new leader, would be a more inclusive and effective party.

Other recent Party defections have merited their own pages!!
Brian Sedgemore
Robert Jackson
Paul Marsden
Stephen Wilkinson
Amanda Harland

Tony to go?

Labour party heads are barely clear following the hangovers of an historic third successive General Election victory and some Labour MPs are already whipping themselves into a frenzy over when Tony Blair should stand down as Prime Minister.

It's actually a tough call. If Tony Blair stands down before the EU constitutional referendum, the new leader will inherit a referendum that current predictions suggest will be rejected. Hardly a warm welcome for a new Prime Minister. It seems more appropriate for Tony to take the flak over the lost referendum and then bow out gracefully immediately afterwards. This would be the perfect excuse and gives the new leader three years to exert their authority on the party and clamp down on the expected internal squabbles just before the next election. The only risk is if the British electorate actually say yes to the Constitution!!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Ministry of Truth

As Tony Blair announces his new cabinet, I notice there have been some unusual name changes, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister becomes Community and Local Government whilst the Department of Trade and Industry has been abolished, becoming the Department of Productivity, Energy and Industry (DPEI)!! Will these civil servants run around all day looking busy but doing nothing? Should it really have been called the Department of Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness?

As there were serious charges made against Tony Blair's handling of the intelligence around the Iraq war, it would seem an appropriate time to formally create a Ministry of Truth. It could sort the wheat from the chaff of Intelligence and spin, John Prescott, looking for a new role, would be ideal as the first Minister of Truth!!

If you don't value it, don't vote for it

It would appear the English don't value it.

In the final weeks of the election, Tony Blair and his advisors became increasingly worried about a low turnout amongst Labour's core voters, possibly handing victory to Michael Howard "through the back door". To increase Labour's turnout therefore, his advisors came up with the wonderfully catchy "If you value it, vote for it". In England at least, people don't value "it" as the Conservatives won 8,086,306 votes to Labour's 8,028,242. So much for the Labour mandate to increase taxes and "invest" more in the NHS and education.

Stumbling and Mumbling has a good analysis of the the 2005 election results compared to previous elections and analysis of the Iraq factor.

David Blunkett's return

Had I known that David Blunkett would return to Government as the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions I would have been tempted to vote Labour!! As Home Secretary, he sought to overturn centuries of constitutional traditions in the UK such as trial by jury and suspending habeas corpus. Whilst I fundamentally diasgreed with these measures, he was certainly prepared to "think outside the box", will he do the same to the Welfare state?

His first goal will surely be to overhaul the currently bloated Invalidity Benefit paid to 2.7m people. The Welfare State We're in highlights some of the many disincentives to work for the "sick" and disabled people currently in receipt of the benefit. No Conservative Government could ever be "trusted" by left-wingers to introduce reforms to overhaul such a pivotal element of the welfare state that David Blunkett will hopefully seek and introduce.

His other goal will be dealing with the long term pensions crisis. Will he solve it by making long term savings compulsory or increasing the private sector retirement age to 70? Dare he battle the unions and raise the public sector retirement age to 65? Would Gordon Brown allow such a fight as he jostles for the vacancy at the top? Blunkett may try to make long term savings compulsory, but with a dip (at the very least) in the economy on the way, Gordon will not want consumer spending to fall further by making consumers save more and spend less, especially as taxes increase. Otherwise, the policies would surely result in a full on recession, destroying Gordon's image of a prudent Chancellor whose fine stewardship ended "boom and bust" in the economy. It would also make Gordon's working assumption of becoming Prime Minister a little harder to achieve.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Rocky 3

Can you hear the Champagne corks popping in No 10? No, I can't either. As expected, Tony Blair has been returned for a historic third time but on a much reduced majority. He returns with the lowest share of the popular vote for a winning Government ever. He would do well to remember that as Labour's policies are implemented in the future.

Should the Champagne be flowing in Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties around the country though? I am sure it is but the results are not a cause of celebration for either parties despite their gains. Labour has been unpopular for some time, Iraq, Immigration, stealth taxes, Council Tax and trust to name a few, they have been on the ropes sometime and looked fragile. All it needed was one knockout blow and the Conservatives could have romped to victory. They failed to connect so whilst Tony "Rocky" Blair has been winded, he has survived to make his third and final film "Rocky 3". Will Labour be as rocky at the next election?

The Conservatives should have made more gains given the crumbling Labour support last night, but a lot of support to the Liberal Democrats and fringe parties. I still believe that they were not bold enough in their tax cutting and other policies. As thoughts turn to the future, will they become more ambitious and learn from their many mistakes this time or will it be the same menu next time?

The Liberal Democrats have done well possibly gaining eleven seats. However, this does not set the scene for a resurgent Liberal Democrat Party or have entered a new age of three party politics. They would do well to reflect that many ex-Labour supporters will have found the temporary Liberal Democrat shelter welcoming as the Tony Blair storm passes but they could quite easily return should Gordon Brown becomes leader. They need to find a means to keep such support if they are to really challenge in the future. They have also gained in the limited number of constituencies with large student populations thanks to their opposition to tuition fees. In other constituencies with more "balanced" populations, their appeal has been tempered, particularly in South East England, by their desire to introduce a Local Income Tax that would have hurt many "hard working families".

Thursday, May 05, 2005

BBC Exit Poll

If the final election results are anything like the BBC exit poll, the Conservatives should win an additional 44 seats. If nothing else, it will be a joy to watch the BBC pundits and presenters struggle with the concept that anyone beyond their cosy little world could ever vote Conservative!!

On the same basis, the Liberal Democrats should win two more seats!! Just like those heady days of '83 Charlie!!.

"Chickens, hatched and counting" come to mind, but I can't resist...

That's NICE

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), a quango set up to make the tough decisions on NHS priorities that Central Goverment should be responsible but isn't, has decided that to contain NHS spending, treatment for the elderly should be restricted if the risks of treatment are too high or the benefits of treatment are too low. It seems reasonable that if the risks are too high, the treatment should not proceed, however, to deny treatment to the elderly as the benefits are not that great frankly presumably because the benefits will be short term only is quite outrageous. However, it does highlight a fundamental problem of the NHS. As treatment is free at the point of use, no one has to consider the costs v. the benefits of any treatment as the individual does not pay for their treatment. Ironically, whilst you may be too old for treatment, NICE wants conditions that they suggest are "self-inflicted" such as through smoking or over eating continue to be treated as before. What happens if you are a 95 year old smoker with lung cancer!?!

Tough luck if you have paid your taxes over the years and in your dotage, you need an operation that could keep you alive a couple more months. Far better to be irresponsible and be a burden on the NHS when you are younger!!

No wonder the Government is happy to wash it's hands of such decisions and pass such responsibility to an unelected and unaccountable quango.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

What a hypocrite!!

I am a hypocrite. I'm not proud and I feel ashamed. I always try to be fair and have a consistent view over time unless I am presented with new evidence to the contrary.

I previously posted on the perversity of a legal system that imprisoned a teacher for six months who was driven to take extreme measures (firing an air gun) to defend her family and their property from the local yobs (sixteen year old voters, Charles?) but took no action against the yobs themselves. I took the view that she should not have been imprisoned in the first place and that she was let down by the law of the land being the proverbial Ass. Much to my delight, she has been released, having served just one month in prison. However, I find the reasons around this ever so slightly disturbing. Why has she been released early if she was imprisoned for six months? Was it because some people (including myself) screamed and hollered about her imprisonment? Did the authorities cave in to her hunger strike? Do we now live in a country where people can be released early if their family and friends shout or holler loudly enough? Was it the legal system dispensing justice rather than the law?

See, I said I was a hypocrite...

Through the side window

I finally received some Conservative Party literature yesterday through the post, a little late perhaps but at least they have made an effort just like all the other parties. I quickly scanned their fold-out, environmentally friendly leaflet before throwing it away(!!) but, unfortunately, just like all the others, it only tells me how well it can give my money to other peoples' more deserving parents or children rather than my own. It neglects to address a single issue that really concerns me. Congratulations to the Conservatives for becoming the David Beckham of penalty takers.

Having said that, I feel obliged to tactically vote for them simply to prevent the Liberal Democrats climbing in through the side window and winning the local constituency rather than through the back door. Am I the only person tactically voting Conservative tomorrow in a wholly futile attempt to keep out an even worse option!?! Thankfully, Labour are running a very poor third in my local constituency so I can ignore their chances of winning. This naturally discounts any attempts by keen party activists of any party to use creative measures to boost their respective party's popularity.

If I was to vote purely on the basis of which party has courted my vote the most, it would undoubtedly be the Liberal Democrats. Not only have they sent me many leaflets over the last couple of weeks, they have produced a four page newspaper and even leaflet outside of the normal election campaigns. If only they could make the content realistic... If I was to vote on looks alone, the local Labour candidate would win by a mile, no dodgy postal votes required. All other candidates would lose their deposits.

PS Before anyone complains about my own "selfishness", I don't recall anyone complaining about the bidding war for the votes of pensioners or of young mothers whose votes can apparently be horse traded by the political party with the highest "offer". Do such people vote for what's best for the long term future of this country or what's best for their own pockets? As Greg Dyke supports the Liberal Democrats, will he voluntarily pay 50% income tax on his earnings over £100k even if they don't win power?

Blogger off

The "Curse of Blogger" struck overnight. It condemned visitors to a blank screen and a "done" in the bottom left hand corner. I managed to fix the problem by republishing the entire blog but don't know what caused the underlying issue. I did nothing different!!

Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The mother of all hangovers

On Friday morning, we will no doubt awake to find Tony Blair re-elected for a record third Labour term in office. As he reads the newspaper headlines in bed and watches the glowing BBC reports on TV, what will he be thinking? Will he congratulate himself that he has been given another five years in power with which to finalise his legacy? Will he look in the mirror, incredulous at the thought that despite the Iraq war and a legacy of incompetence to date he has remained in power? Will he thank the British electorate for it's vote of confidence in him despite a possible record low turnout or mock their stupidity? Will he convince himself that he now has a carte-blanche to do as he pleases as he can forget the electorate for another five years? Will he acknowledge the importance that a lack of any real opposition to his party has had in his victory? If he can survive the turmoil over the Iraq war and win the subsequent election, will he think he is truly invincible? Who or what could possibly bring about his downfall? The Conservative party won't be able to as it will be licking it's wounds after a third defeat and searching for a new leader. The Liberal Democrats are starting to veer to the left of Labour so doubt they will be the most vocal of opposition parties. The House of Lords, previously able to resist some of Labour's more extreme measures will struggle now that it has a Labour majority for the first time in many years as Tony has recently appointed sixteen Labour Lords.

I fear that only the Labour left or Gordon Brown will be able to oppose him in the coming years.

Monday, May 02, 2005

NHS Dentists

Tony Blair was given a rough ride recently when confronted with the problems people face when getting a GP appointment. Why have the Conservatives tried to highlight the problems of accessing an NHS dentist? I'm sure it's a national problem on a par with GPs appointments.

Greg's support

Greg Dyke, ex Director General of the BBC, has announced that he will be supporting the Liberal Democrats at the election. Here are some of their policies and principles that have swayed his vote:

  • To make more non-violent offenders do tough community work as an alternative to jail.

  • To end the use of imprisonment as a punishment for possession for own use of illegal drugs of any class.

  • To support the EU constitution and ultimately join the Euro.

  • Support the disestablishment of the Church of England in the long term.

  • Abolish the existing blasphemy law.

  • "Prison is the soft option for some criminals."

  • Reform aviation taxes. "We will require airport landing charges to cover the full costs without subsidy from airport shopping."
  • Sunday, May 01, 2005

    Education spending up not down, forward not back

    Labour have been keen to impress by showing that they can spend more of your taxes on education than the other parties, increasing funding per child to £5,500 by 2008. It is impossible for either the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats to campaign against such an increase as the accepted wisdom is that increased spending is always good. Is it?

    The Sunday Times has just published an independent report that concludes that education standards have barely improved despite the massive injection of funds under Labour. Why should we believe that increased funding will improve educational standards if previous increases have failed? Labour seem to apply the same logic as applies to international aid. If existing levels of aid have failed to alleviate poverty in the third world, it is only because not enough aid was given, no other factors can possibly apply.

    The report disturbingly concludes "The gains have been modest but the efforts have been massive. Hundreds of millions of pounds spread across hundreds of initiatives have been invested. One has to ask if the money could have been better spent. It is our opinion that many changes that were put into place without sufficient evidence of their effectiveness before they were released into schools. To take one example, when the National Literacy Strategy was being created, an evaluation with comparison groups and experimental schools was in place but before the results could be collected the urgency to launch the initiative was such that the National Literacy Strategy was pressed on schools before the evaluation could be completed and before lessons could be learned. This was very unfortunate. There can be no substitute for very careful investigation of embryonic policies before they become policy."

    Eseentially then, the politicians are like toddlers playing with a new toy featuring lots of buttons, they press them all but never really know what works and what doesn't, but at least they are seen to be pressing the buttons and that's the important thing.

    The Final Furlong

    As the party horses charge around the racecourse and enter the final furlong of the General Election sweepstake, punters are still unsure as to the winning margin of the Labour horse "Tax and Spend". There are a number of variables that could affect the final result that make the outcome uncertain even at this late stage. "Tax and spend" could tire having had a good race so far. Her legs aren't what they used to be and whilst it has had a number of superb races in the past, it's future prospects aren't what they used to be. Some unkind punters even say that it may be headed for the abbatoir after the next race. The Conservative horse "Immigration" has run a steady race to date but punters often underestimate this horse's abilities to win, it could still catch "Tax and spend" and win in a photo finish. Despite a lot of cheering and support, "Real Alternative" continues to lag "Immigration" where it's been since the start of the race and where it is destined to remain.

    Will the Labour horse be found to have been fed more banned postal votes stimulants than the other horses? Do the public still trust a jockey who has lied in the past and will they unseat him? Who wants the other jockeys to win anyway? Would they be better jockeys in the future than Tony?

    Some of the bigger questions now look beyond this race and consider the next race. Punters unease continues over exactly when Tony will pass his ride to Gordon Brown, sooner or later? Will Tony have the final decision on when or will it be decided for him?

    So much at stake!!