28 April 2015

Irony

The Times reports:
David Cameron has told voters that they have “ten days to save the United Kingdom” in his strongest attack so far on the possibility of an Ed Miliband government supported by the Scottish National party.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, wants the “best for Scotland and the rest of the UK can go hang”, the prime minister said as he echoed stark warnings issued in the final days before the Scottish referendum seven months ago.
Of course, the one thing that would be certain to endanger the Union would be another Tory victory -leading to continued austerity and a British exit from the EU.

   

Sounds a bit forced

CityAM reports:
DAVID Cameron was in the City yesterday morning, and he bounded on to a stage to announce that he was “pumped up”. He was speaking to an audience of small business owners, trying to convince them that he is on their side – as well as trying to convince the broader electorate that he is passionate about what his party has to offer.
“If I’m getting lively about this, it’s because I feel bloody lively,” he bellowed. Frankly, it was all a bit much for first thing on a Monday morning.
The question was raised as to what our pumped up PM had eaten for breakfast. Porridge, it turned out, not three shredded wheat. (They’ve got him into trouble before when speaking about how many terms he might serve as PM. Not three, anyway).
Not really Cameron, is it?  They always make fools of themselves when trying to be something they're not.

   

27 April 2015

Quote of the day


From The Times (here):
The more you hear about them, the harder it is to like them. Quite what the agenda is when HSBC’s bankers are threatening to quit the UK is not immediately obvious: a dislike of an EU referendum, the Labour party, paying their dues?
In this post-financial crisis world it is easy to forget that the bank levies are not being foisted on the likes of HSBC by a mad bunch of Bennite lefties but by a Conservative chancellor trying to repair the deficit. What part of “all in this together” does HSBC not get?
But if they wish to trust their future to the regulators in Hong Kong, supervised - however distantly - by the communist authorities in Beijing, then hell mend them ...

25 April 2015

Re-writing history

Remarkably (but perhaps not surprisingly), the BBC manages to produce an entire article on the Gallipoli remembrance event without ever mentioning that it was Winston Churchill's idea.  An idea that he pushed for and which went terribly wrong.

The Guardian acknowledges as much:
The Gallipoli campaign, badly planned and appallingly executed, was conceived by Winston Churchill, the ambitious First Lord of the Admiralty, in early 1915, with the war on the western front in deadlock. 

   

Compare and contrast

Cameron in a cowshed, mobbed by a myriad of supporters:


The same event, seen from a more distant perspective:


Not quite so impressive ...

     

23 April 2015

Quote of the day 2

More from The Guardian:
If everything hinges on Cameron’s popularity and Miliband’s improbability, something is shifting. Cameron grows more distant as Miliband becomes more familiar. Though neither of them radiate competence in the way that Nicola Sturgeon does.
The temper tantrums are beginning. No one, Labour or Tory, seems to be able to accept that people in Scotland will vote for the party they want to represent them, and they continue to portray democracy in action as an actual threat to democracy. Tories and Lib Dems are preparing to challenge a Labour-SNP alliance as unconstitutional. That will be chaos. By claiming such a state of affairs to be illegitimate they are pushing Scotland to vote yes in any future referendum.
This Tory panic, though, is real. The two parties are broken. The re-emergence of Major reminds us that it is 23 years since the Conservatives got a majority and they may never do again. We will see a terrible scurrying about behind closed doors after this election, further locking out the voters. And the man who was prime minister just because he could be will have to show some passion beyond disdain for democracy. By then, though, it may be too late to activate the reluctant Cameron, who now appears little more than a political spambot.
No, I don't know what is a spambot, but I doubt if it is a compliment ...
 
 

Quote of the day

The Guardian is complaining about Cameron's self-imposed isolation from real people:
A couple of days ago it was thought that a Google Streetview camera had managed to capture a historic image of the PM having an unstaged encounter with a voter, but it turned out to be just the Loch Ness monster.
Of all the unedifying sights I’ve seen so far this campaign, the sorriest has to be Cameron’s entourage forming a protective huddle round him on a busy platform at Bedford station on Wednesday morning, while the prime minister’s eyes darted nervously about, wondering where his late-running train was.

   

21 April 2015

Must be love

The British political press appears obsessed with a woman who is not actually standing for election to the British parliament.  Here, for example, are the headlines on four separate articles in today's Guardian:

Nicola Sturgeon challenged on spending plans as SNP backs Labour on tax

SNP's Nicola Sturgeon admits she is a Borgen fan

Nicola Sturgeon is in majestic form on the campaign trail in Edinburgh

Sturgeon facemasks can't hide flaws in Tories' Scottish policy

Even the cartoonists are  getting in on the act:

20 April 2015

Keeping you up to date

From The Times (here behind paywall):
Nicola Sturgeon was on the Andrew Marr sofa yesterday, again. She hates Westminster so much that she rarely leaves it these days. But she is very much the television guest du jour. There she was, chirpy in red with the highest (red) heels I have ever seen on a politician, on a charm offensive.
“The SNP in the House of Commons after the election will not be any kind of destructive force,” she said. “We want to be constructive.”
Somewhere in the studio, David Cameron was watching, getting angrier by the sentence: this woman was soooo infuriating. She was implacable. She was chirpy. And she was Scottish! They lost the referendum. She should get over it.
Andrew was now asking, nicely, if Ed Miliband was a puppet and she the puppeteer.“It’s about grown-up, constructive politics,” said Nicola, almost sweetly (well, I do see her as a boiled sweet).
Andrew was asking her if she liked to “shake things up”.
“That is not my approach,” said the woman who has thrown the entire election into a tiswas.

   

19 April 2015

Belling the cat

The possibilities are opening up.  The Sunday Times resorts to fanciful conjecture:
David Cameron, if he has 272 seats or thereabouts, could say on the morning after the election that the Scottish people have spoken, that he has heard what they say, and that the Queen’s speech will accordingly contain a proposal to bring forward a bill for Scottish independence, subject once again to a referendum.
Assuming the currency issue can be resolved beforehand — perhaps by Scottish representation within the Bank of England — and Scotland is allowed to keep sterling, who is to say that the next referendum might not yield a yes?
Labour could never countenance this. The Conservatives could. And the SNP, not short on low cunning, must surely know it. Perhaps this is what lay behind Nicola Sturgeon’s alleged remark to the French ambassador that she would prefer to deal with a Cameron government rather than a Miliband one.
Fantasy politics?  Perhaps.  But surely not outwith the bounds of possibility ...

   

16 April 2015

Where we are

The Guardian seeks to make sense of the current opinion polls:
Based on current projections, the most important numbers to follow are on the one hand the combined Labour-SNP bloc, and on the other the Tory-Lib Dem bloc. These calculations matter as they will most probably determine which of David Cameron or Ed Miliband forms the next government.
Labour is currently projected to win 271 seats and the SNP 54. This adds up to 325, enough to win a confidence vote in the Commons, and there could be an “anti-Tory” outright majority once the votes of Plaid Cymru (three), the SDLP (three) and the Greens (one) are also included.
The Conservatives are projected to win 270 seats and the Lib Dems 29. Even once possible support from Ukip (four seats) and the DUP (nine) is co-opted into the mix, the current government coalition would fall well short of a majority.
But these are based on poll snapshots.  Things might change over the next three weeks ...

15 April 2015

What a wonderful world!

Just to take your mind off politics, you could read about dolphins on the Scottish West Coast:
The west coast of Scotland has scored a wildlife tourism coup with the news that it is fast becoming a hotspot for common dolphins.
Marine researchers at the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust have reported a rise in numbers, with their encounter rate more than doubling over the past 12 years.
or about a plague of voles in Germany:
Battle lines are being drawn across Germany to combat a horde of invaders — small but hungry voles that threaten to wreak economic chaos.
Farmers in central and northern Germany are appealing for financial help from the government to fight the furry multitude, which, after a mild winter, is already eating its way through newly planted sugar beet crop.
“Vole years”, as they are known, appear to be growing ever more common, with epidemics in 2004, 2007 and 2012. The 2007 invasion is thought to have cost the country €140 million.
The cannabis industry, driven by the easing of drug laws across the US, is turning its sights on a new group of potential users — ill and elderly dogs.
The “pet-pot” market is new but shows promise, its pioneers say. Products already available include “Treat-ibles” — canine snacks infused with CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound derived from the cannabis family.
Auntie Dolores Kitchen, the company behind Treat-ibles, suggests that CBD could be used on dogs to suppress nausea, induce appetite and to manage pain and mood disorders.



14 April 2015

Music of the week

Panic attacks?

Perhaps surprisingly, The Times (behind paywall) is wondering if the Tories are on the wrong track:
... the Conservatives seem to have gone out of their way to reinforce their two most serious image problems. First, they found themselves forced into defending the super-rich by Labour’s promise to scrap non-dom status. Then, to divert attention from that, they went into “nasty party” mode, with Michael Fallon’s personal attack on Ed Miliband. It was a perfect example of what Mr Crosby calls the “dead cat” strategy — changing the subject by throwing something so shocking on to the table that people can talk of nothing else — but for many Tories the decomposing corpse just stank. “It reinforced everything people hate about us,” says one ministerial aide. “The message is ‘we sorted out the economy but we’re still bastards’. That really matters when so many people on the doorstep continue to question our motives.”
...
More traditional Conservatives worry that the chancellor is also undermining his party’s greatest strength — the perception that the Tories can be trusted to run the economy — with unfunded spending pledges. In recent days, he has announced an additional £8 billion for the NHS, as well as rail fare freezes costing £1.8 billion and a volunteering scheme that could cost £1 billion to the public sector — on top of the tax cuts already announced by Mr Cameron.
Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people ...



13 April 2015

Wot? No Nicola?

Cooking and drinking

Nice to see Floyd on France, back once again on BBC2.  You can catch the other episodes on the BBC i-player (or on you-tube):


A pedant writes ...

The Guardian reports:
Hillary Clinton announced on Sunday that she was running for president of the United States, promising to be a champion of middle-class Americans if she made it to the White House as the country’s first female commander in chief.
“Everyday Americans need a champion, and I’m going to be that champion,” the former secretary of state and first lady said in a video posted to her website, as she warned “the deck is still stacked in favour of those at the top” despite an economic recovery.
Speaking to camera at the end of a three-minute clip featuring personal stories from Americans of different ages, ethnicities and sexualities, Clinton pledged to ensure people could “get ahead and stay ahead” rather than “just get by”.
"Get ahead and stay ahead" of what?  "Those at the top"?  Seems unlikely.  And is it logically possible for everyone to get ahead?  As Mr Spock might point out, if everyone gets ahead, then no-one gets ahead, in that ceteris paribus they all remain in the same relative place.

Just a thought ...

09 April 2015

For GoT fans

Quote of the day

Armando Ianucci in The Independent (here):


Scots are cock of the electoral walk at the moment. Is Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity this election’s version of the Cleggmania that turned us all into fainting hysterics for a day in 2010? Whatever the phenomenon, Britain has become a land of Sturgeonettes, pining for the ability to be able to vote for her.
No one seems to have explained that even Scottish voters can’t vote for her: she’s not standing for a Westminster seat. But it’s a nice dream and one that encapsulates the topsy-turvy world British politics has entered. The leader of a party whose prime purpose is to break up the Union seems the one politician who most offers a conciliatory message of how partnership can work in politics. She’s become a strangely unifying force.
Remarkable ...

03 April 2015

Last night's debate

The Times, perhaps surprisingly, has the beloved Nicola as a winner.

Alex Massie:
Ms Sturgeon was one of the biggest winners. She made her points clearly and effectively, drawing a contrast between the SNP’s vision and those of the Conservatives and Labour. Voters encountering her for the first time were, I suspect, impressed.
...
Where David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Mr Clegg were forced to acknowledge fiscal reality, Ms Sturgeon backed “modest spending increases” while claiming that the SNP’s approach would reduce the national debt as a share of GDP. But as she will not be tasked with making these numbers add up, this wishful thinking mattered little by the end of an evening in which she had achieved all she wanted.
Magnus Linklater:
Nicola Sturgeon, meanwhile, was relishing the opportunity to take on the big players. She has developed a way of suggesting, with a little smile and a shake of the head, that “boys will be boys”, but she herself knew better. She actually used the phrase “old boys’ network” to imply that this was a Westminster carve-up and only the leavening of an SNP presence would keep them in order. “Labour and the Tories are hand in glove in imposing austerity,” she pronounced.
Amazingly, towards the end, she seemed to be holding the ring between prime minister and leader of the opposition. Here was the SNP as the voice of moderation — moderate on immigration, Europe, the economy. She ticked off Nigel Farage like a hospital matron who has found something nasty in the ward, and threw a grin of disbelief which the cameras caught perfectly when he talked of scrapping the Barnett formula. Whether it meant “No, actually, that’s our job” was not clear, she just wanted him to know she had got his number.
This was not the demeanour of a woman representing a minority party.

   

Quote of the day


What's the score with Rangers?  Douglas Fraser tells us:
Thirty days ago, the nominated adviser for the holding company, Rangers International Football Club (RIFC), resigned. Trading on the stock exchange was suspended. The company was given 30 days to find a new one.
To recap further, a nominated adviser, or nomad, is required by the London Stock Exchange to carry out first-line regulation of a company that's listed on the Alternative Investments Market (AIM) - the junior trading platform for shares in smaller, younger companies and higher risk investors.
The nomad has to make sure that the company's governance is in line with stock market rules. The nomad's reputation depends on it.
So if the regulated company's governance is a burach, there's blood all over the boardroom walls, complaints are piling in, the auditor quits, accountants warn that there's significant risk that the company may not be able to continue as a going concern, and it's doubtful that the football team can win promotion to a higher-earning league... and so it goes on... then any sane nomad would be wise to take his camel and stay well clear.
And that's precisely what's happened.


02 April 2015

Music of the week

May she get well soon.


Over-egging the pudding

 
Panic?  What panic?  Sterling went from $1.483 at 1201 am yesterday down to about $1.475 at about 10 am, but subsequently recovered to $1.483 by midnight.  At the time of writing, it is at $1.479.

Meanwhile the FTSE 100 ended the day up by 0.5%.  It is up a further 7 points this morning.

Is the prospect of a Labour-SNP alliance so terrifying for The Times?

   

01 April 2015

Round the twist

Nigel is losing it:
Big cuts in immigration will allow the nation to return to a time when children played football in the streets, Nigel Farage said yesterday as he unveiled the party’s first billboard of the election campaign.
Nothing to do with the presence of motor vehicles, then?

 

Now there's a surprise

Shock!  Horror!  The boss class are Tories:
More than 100 company leaders have declared support for a Conservative-led government in a letter published in the Daily Telegraph.
I suppose they will next tell us that the working classes are likely to support Labour.

 

27 March 2015

A conspiracy theorist writes ...

So it was the fault of the co-pilot?  The BBC website reports:
The co-pilot of the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps, named as Andreas Lubitz, appeared to want to "destroy the plane", officials said.
Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin, citing information from the "black box" voice recorder, said the co-pilot was alone in the cockpit.
He intentionally started a descent while the pilot was locked out.

There is something disturbing about the way the authorities rush to blame human beings for aeroplane crashes, conveniently letting the airlines and the aeroplane manufacturers off the hook.  In this case, I have no grounds to dispute the initial findings but I am minded to suspend judgment until the investigations are concluded.

25 March 2015

Stating the bleeding obvious

Thus spake the bold Alex:
The SNP would block a minority Conservative government by voting down its Queen's Speech if it holds the post-election balance of power, its former leader Alex Salmond has said.
Mr Salmond said the move could bring down the government if Labour joined in, with David Cameron "locked out".
The Conservatives accused him of "trying to sabotage the democratic will of the British people".

In what sense would the exercise of an anti-Conservative majority in the Commons constitute “sabotage [of] the democratic will of the British people”?  If the people fail to elect a Tory government which can command a majority of the Commons, then it is entirely legitimate - and amply well-precedented - within the bounds of the UK’s first-past-the-post system for whoever can command such a majority to take power.