30 April 2010
29 April 2010
2. She does not respond to the answers of her interviewee. It's as if she has all her questions written down in advance and is going to proceed with them come what may.
3. Every damn question is preceded with "Do you think that ..."
There are plenty of splendid female presenters on the BBC including Ritula Shah and Lise Doucet (although the latter speaks too quickly sometimes), while the World Service has lots of them, including Anne-Marie Sieghart and Clare Balderson. So why is damn Martha given the plum of World at One?
But, hey, it's happened. We are fortunate indeed if this is the worst complaint with which to berate one of our political leaders. And the man has suffered enough. So let us move along ...
28 April 2010
Cocky, fake, slimy, inelegant, ineloquent, charmless, witless, weird, sinister, glacially cold and luminescently remote, he may be the most chillingly repulsive politician of even this golden generation. If Pixar set out to create a CGI character to embody everything the public has learned to despise about its political class, they'd be thrilled to come up with this lizardy schemer, who may have slipped through a tear in the fabric of space-time himself. Certainly he seems best suited to skulking beneath stone archways, in a purple robe, sibilantly sidling poison into the bloodstream of the medieval Vatican.Don't sit on the fence, Matthew, tell us what you really think.
Is Blinky really that nasty? Well, probably. Worth reading the whole article.
27 April 2010
26 April 2010
None of the parties has come clean about the public spendng cuts and/or tax increases required to reduce the deficit to the level to which each is ostensibly committed. None of them will therefore have a mandate to do what needs to be done. Which in turn means an unholy row when whichever of the parties (or combinations thereof) takes office seeks to implement a programme for action. Winning the election may not therefore be of longer-term political advantage. (Insert here your own 'Ah didnae ken/well ye ken noo' joke).
What do the polls tell us? I draw two main conclusions. First, the Tories are stuck at about 35%, enough to give them the most seats but not enough for an absolute majority (despite Boris' entertaining but mistaken fulminations in this morning's Telegraph). Unless the Tories can get much closer to 40%, we are faced with a hung parliament. A week is a long time in politics, I know, but is it long enough for the toffs to recover a winning lead?
Secondly, Labour are now lying third in terms of the popular vote. Regardless of how many seats this may deliver, it will be seen as a defeat for Brown and the manoeuvring to replace him has already begun. Unfair, perhaps, as Labour was never likely to have a winning hand at this election; but it has been a shoddy, ill-directed campaign up to now, marked by an increasingly desperate flailing about in the search for a tune which will play with the voters. Can they recover the ground lost before next Thursday? Of course they can. Will they? Seems doubtful to me.
Meanwhile, the First Minister is reduced to petulantly stamping his feet on the sidelines. Our Alex is giving an all too accurate impression of a wee laddie shouting at the assembled throng 'Look at me, look at me'; nobody sees him, however, and nobody is listening. But grace under pressure is not a quality one usually associates with Mr Salmond.
So there we are. Cursed to live in interesting times.
FT costings of a range of the choices that the next chancellor will face show that almost the whole population would be hit as the new government makes £30bn-£40bn of cuts in real terms to halve the deficit.Don't expect to hear any explanations in Thursday's debate.
An online simulator, developed by the FT using government figures, suggests a saving of that scale would require all of the following: a 5 per cent cut in public sector pay; freezing benefits for a year; means-testing child benefit; abolishing winter fuel payments and free television licences; reducing prison numbers by a quarter; axing the two planned aircraft carriers; withdrawing free bus passes for pensioners; delaying Crossrail for three years; halving roads maintenance; stopping school building; halving the spending on teaching assistants and NHS dentistry; and cutting funding to Scotland and Wales by 10 per cent.
But as long as the richest get richer, that's all right.
23 April 2010
Today's YouGov poll in The Sun has the Tories on 34%, the LibDems on 29% and Labour on 28%.
Ok, it's stretching it a bit to suggest that the LibDems can put on 9 percentage points in less than two weeks, but who knows?
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) assured the public that air services were safe last night, despite the emergency grounding of RAF training flights following the discovery of volcanic ash. Responding to the decision to suspend flights of the £69m Typhoon jets to check for the presence of volcanic particles, Britain's air regulator said commercial airlines had made "no reports of damage to [commercial] planes".
The existence of ash in the Typhoon, stationed at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, echoed the damage done to a Finnish Boeing F-18 Hornet, which collected sharp volcanic dust following a test flight last Thursday. The Finnish air force released pictures of the engine, saying: "The images show that short-term flying can cause substantial damage to an aircraft engine." Last night, the Ministry of Defence sought to downplay the threat to passengers, saying the ash had not caused any damage. "These are very high-performance jets so they are just being extra-cautious," a spokesman said, adding operational flying would continue.
22 April 2010
But now the boot's on the other foot and the rules can simply be ignored. The Guardian reports:
The budget airline Ryanair today sparked a furious response from politicians and risked a consumer backlash by refusing to pay the hotel and food bills of passengers stranded by the volcanic ash cloud, in a blatant refusal to abide by strict EU consumer rules.
As Britain's skies opened for business at last after a catastrophic six-day shutdown, the carrier's chief executive, Michael O'Leary, told passengers his airline would not meet hotel and subsistence expenses incurred while they were stuck abroad. Ryanair would reimburse travellers the original price of their air fare and no more, he said.
Whoever said that the world was fair was wrong.
The final word goes, as it should, to Melanie Phillips. "Unfortunately Cameron has gone along with Labour and the British intelligentsia in moving the centre of political gravity to the left," blogs Her Imperial Madness. "Thus the Conservative Party effectively agrees that the true common ground of political and public life is actually an extremist position." I'll spend a few days working on this. I think she's saying that even a majority-held central position is axiomatically extremist if it isn't hers. But still early doors.
She's as daft as a brush ...
The Mail: "Clegg's Nazi slur on Britain: Lib Dem says our 'delusions of grandeur' at winning the war are greater cross to bear than German guilt"More like Fox News every day. The consolation - they wouldn't put the boot in if they didn't think that Cleggy has a good chance.
The Express: "NICK CLEGG'S CRAZY IMMIGRATION POLICY"
The Sun: "NICK Clegg was plunged into a sleaze row last night after it was claimed cash from Liberal Democrat donors was paid into his private bank account."
The Telegraph: "Nick Clegg, the donors and the bank account payments"
I refuse to provide links to these rags - if you want to read them, you'll have to look them up yourselves.
But I cannot see how his latest ploy has any hope of success. Vote for us, or the world will go to hell in a handbasket, is at best a counsel of despair. It is utterly negative, conveying no hint of the optimism necessary to convince the voter that somewhere out there is the possibility of a better future.
It is also patently and demonstrably untrue: coalition and/or minority governments are no less capable of taking the difficult decisions, especially when the three potential partners pusillanimously share the central proposition on the need to rein back the deficit. Would a Conservative government adopt a programme which was radically different from that which might be adopted by a Lib-Lab coalition? Only in the minor details, important but hardly game-changing.
So enough of the blackmail, Ken. Tell us what you positively want to do and stop panicking.
21 April 2010
Naturally, there was no sign of George Osborne, who is now widely believed to have been bundled into a priest hole last week, and may well be secured there for the remainder of the campaign. Poor George. Imagine being so distasteful, even before holding office, that it is regarded as politic to keep you from public view, in the manner of an acutely porphyric Renaissance princeling who once tried to hump the Queen of Spain's leg. Pray heaven he gets an outing in the next few days, or people will begin to talk.
I thought that he was supposed to be managing the Tory campaign. But the faceless suits seem to have taken over.
20 April 2010
Consular officials faced tired and angry travellers in Madrid after coaches promised by Gordon Brown failed to materialise. The Prime Minister announced they were already in Madrid but the Foreign Office tonight admitted that the coaches would not leave Dover until tomorrow morning. A Foreign Office spokesperson said 50 coaches would leave in the morning, followed by 100 more over the coming days. They would be unlikely to begin transporting travellers back to Britain until Thursday at the earliest.
Sky News has the same story:
Mr Brown told Radio One's Newsbeat programme that people may be able to travel to Madrid as a "hub" as it has been unaffected by the volcanic ash affecting flights across Europe.
He said that people stuck in Asia, Africa and America could land in the Spanish capital before being taken back to the UK in coaches laid on by the Government.
"We're putting on coaches from Madrid," he said. "There's 100 already there in Madrid to do it."
But as thousands of delayed travellers arrived in the city, there was no sign of the promised coaches.
Was he told that 100 coaches were already in Madrid? I doubt it - civil servants are trained to avoid misleading ministers. And why tell the Prime Minister something that would so quickly be exposed as untrue?
Is it a form of Tourette's syndrome, where a minister blurts out what he would like to be true or what he thinks his listeners would like to hear, regardless of the consequences? Or does he somehow convince himself that announcing something makes it happen?
Furthermore, he has previous form.
Whatever the reason, because of this inability to distinguish the truth, he deserves to lose the election. We simply cannot have this man making up fairy stories as he goes along.
19 April 2010
In a Guardian interview Cameron adopted a clear Vote Clegg, Get Brown message, saying: "It is the Conservatives who offer decisive change – anything else and you risk being stuck with what you have got."
After a weekend in which some senior Tories attacked the Lib Dems head-on, their leader took a different tack. "My response to all this is to redouble the positive," he said, insisting he will not indulge in negative tactics to claw back lost support.
Given that his main message is that we risk five more years of Labour, how can this be perceived as a positive approach?
18 April 2010
16 April 2010
Me, I blame that nice Mr Darling. If he hadn't used anti-terrorist legislation to seize the Icelandic assets in British banks and if he hadn't insisted on penal terms for the repayment by Iceland of the money he'd used to compensate British institutions for the losses of their Icelandic investments, we might not be facing the revenge of the Norns in the form of all this ash. But there's no use crying over spilt milk.
According to The Independent, the situation is as follows:
The last time the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano on the southern flank of Iceland erupted was in 1821 and that event took almost two years to subside. Volcanologists are unsure whether the current eruption is going to be a similar, long-lived affair with months or even years of air-traffic disruption.
This eruption is not particularly big, but there is a possibility that it might continue for weeks or months, making it difficult for air-traffic controllers who have to take every precaution to prevent aircraft from flying into a cloud of ash, which cannot be detected by an aircraft's on-board radar.
Now think about that for a moment. Let us say that the interruption to air traffic lasts for the next six months. No summer holidays this year, not if they require flights; not even any weekend mini-breaks (unless you fancy Blackpool or Rothesay). Sport will be disrupted - how will Man U or Bayern Munich get to Madrid for the Champions League final? I understand that there are already doubts about this weekend's Heineken Cup matches. And what about the World Cup in South Africa?
Then there are the airlines - how many of them would survive a prolomged lay-off? And all those jobs at airports.
Let us hope that the volcano stops spouting and the wind changes. Soon.
15 April 2010
13 April 2010
They must have thought about it. Or are we expected to believe that the election will simply magic away the need to cut public spending and raise taxes?
And, yes, I know that no-one will welcome a whacking great increase in VAT or a cutback in spending but we are all well aware that either or both is bound to happen. We're not all children - what will be the effect of promising us sweeties then wielding the axe?
Put not your faith in politicians - they'll screw you again and again and again.
12 April 2010
The euro soared in early trading on Monday as traders welcomed a rescue package for Greece agreed by Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.How many times does the EU have to pretend to organise a bail-out for our Greek chums, before the markets twig that it's never going to happen?
The single currency, which has been battered in foreign-exchange markets so far this year, was up almost 2 cents at $1.3683 in London trading. It also climbed against sterling and the Japanese yen.
11 April 2010
Incidentally, this is my 2,500th post since I began this blog nearly 5 years ago. What an utter waste of time and effort! Still, it's been fun for me and I've enjoyed it. Congratulations to those of you who have stayed with me down the years.
10 April 2010
It's good to see some naked social engineering for a change; never mind those libertarian liberals who insist that the government should keep its filthy mitts out of the family bedroom. And as for those cohabiting couples who refuse to get married, well the loss of the transferable bit of the allowance serves you right. When I were a lad, it was called living in sin and, I tell you this, there's far too much of it going on.
Of course £3 per week is not a lot of dosh. But if it encourages married couples to stick together, even when they're miserable through hating each other, then it is to be welcomed. And, as a bonus, you don't even need to have children to be a qualifying couple. (Obviously, the little wifie would need to stay at home rather than work, but that's the best place for her, surely.)
And I'm confident that the bankers will be delighted to be financing the scheme. A chance for them to do some good. Of course they'll squeal about it and threaten to move to Switzerland, but as usual they'll only be pretending.
HMRC will also be chuffed. They will need more staff to handle all the claims, to monitor them and to advise employers of the revised tax allowances, because I doubt if it can be handled under the PAYE system.
So, a happy outcome all round. What's next? A reintroduction of national service, perhaps?
Gordon Brown's claim that the murder of Croydon teenager Sally Anne Bowman would have gone unsolved under Tory proposals to overhaul the DNA database were yesterday dismissed as "election fever" by civil liberties groups.
The prime minister accused the Tories of abandoning their traditional tough stance on crime by saying they would put an end to the indefinite retention of DNA profiles of people arrested but not convicted for violent disorder and remove the bulk of the records of innocent people.
He cited Bowman's murder in 2005 as an example of a crime solved using Labour's comprehensive DNA database – but Human Rights group Liberty said her killer, Mark Dixie, was caught because his DNA had been matched after it was taken over a violent assault in 2006.
Bowman, a 19-year-old aspiring model, was murdered in the driveway of her Croydon home. Dixie was convicted in 2008 on the basis of DNA evidence which also cleared her boyfriend, who dropped her off moments before she was killed.Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "Election fever seems to be confusing the debate about DNA retention. It has been suggested that the tragic case of Sally Anne Bowman was only solved because her murderer was 'an innocent' on the database. In fact, he was arrested for a separate violent offence and it was then that his DNA was matched to the crime scene. We all agree that DNA taken on arrest should be checked against unsolved crimes. This is entirely different from stockpiling the DNA of innocent men, women and children for years on end."
09 April 2010
He [Cameron] will give a £1.2bn inheritance tax cut to the richest 2 per cent in Britain – with most going to the 3,000 wealthiest estates (including his wife's). Then he promises to end the 50p top rate of tax, giving another £2.4bn to the richest 1 per cent. Then he has pledged to cut taxes on the pensions of the richest, handing another £3.2bn to the same 1 per cent. Then his marriage tax relief policies will give 13 times more to the rich than the poor. To pay for this, he will slash programmes for the middle and the skint, like the Child Trust Fund, SureStart and state schools.So he ain't no Robin Hood. Same old Tories.
I like to pretend I'm a hard man. As I was in the movie Get Carter. Of course I'm 77 now and I can't mix it with the baddies like I used to. But I've still got all my marbles - well most of them, I fink.
And, yeah, alright, I did threaten to leave the UK and become a tax exile. But the voters should listen to me because I'm the salt of the earth, doncha know.
Anyway, this posh git (says his name is Dave) wants me to attend his announcement of a new national service scheme. Bit of a waste of time, if you ask me. The scheme is voluntary and it only lasts two months, which is hardly going to make any difference. But I'm doing nothing else and it offers some publicity, and maybe a seat in the House of Lords.
No, I don't remember The Muppet Christmas Carol. Or The Swarm.
The Duchess of Cornwall was taken to hospital in Aberdeen today after fracturing her leg as she was out walking near the Prince of Wales's Highland retreat on the Balmoral estate.If you want to be picky about it (and I do), as it happened in Scotland, should it not be the Duchess of Rothesay?
Sympathies about the leg, by the way.
Public sector chiefs earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year would have their salaries cut back by a Conservative government under a radical scheme to link their earnings to the lowest-paid workers in their organisation, David Cameron announces today.
Er, not quite. Let's try again:
A Tory government would establish a fair pay review to ensure that no senior manager in the public sector can earn more than 20 times more than the lowest- paid person in their organisation.Oh, they're going to set up a review. How exciting - not.
What sort of fatcat salaries are we talking about? Well, the highest quoted is £392,000. And how many are likely to be affected? Perhaps as many as 200. OK, it's not going to change the world, but the principle is not unimportant. Nevertheless, it seems a lot of effort for not a lot of reward.
Meanwhile, the obscenities of private sector fatcat pay, such as this one, are permitted to continue unhindered.
08 April 2010
CLAIMS by a former US ambassador that Hamid Karzai has a drug habit are based on a classified report about life in the presidential palace, western officials have told The Scotsman. In it, sources close to president Karzai, allege he gets high in a presidential toilet.Peter Galbraith, the former deputy head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, told US television this week that Mr Karzai has "a certain fondness for some of Afghanistan's most profitable exports".
THE Conservatives will today provide further evidence of their campaigning fire-power as Annabel Goldie takes to the air in a frenetic attempt to visit all their Scottish target seats in a day.Ms Goldie will use a helicopter to travel from Hawick in the south, Edinburgh in the east, Argyll in the west and Aberdeenshire in the north in a move echoing David Cameron's announcement that he had booked several aircraft to hurtle him around the country.
But hidden halfway down the article was the truth:
Ms Goldie will be joined by shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague on a day of hectic campaigning.Despite The Scotsman's implications, did you really think that Bella would get a chopper without Mr Hague tagging along?
" Whirliebirds was a TV programme back in the dark ages which featured two helicopters.
Day two and Sarah Brown's election wardrobe seems to be heavily reliant on the plain coloured cardigan. Yesterday's version was lime yellow with a round neck, while on Tuesday she showcased a powder violet version from Reiss, styled with a narrow leather belt. Commentators have already filed the campaign cardigan as "school-run dressing".
Hey, if the lady wants to wear a cardie, then it's OK with me ...
07 April 2010
Labour has pledged to bring at least 100,000 skilled jobs to Scotland in five years, as part of its vision for a "high-tech" economy.
Scottish leader Iain Gray made the claim as the first full day of election campaigning got under way.
It would be nice if it were true, but it's only words. 20,000 skilled jobs per year for five years? Not probable. And even if it were achievable, where are all the skilled workers to fill these jobs?
06 April 2010
Today, we have the shadow chancellor in The Times:
George Osborne today insisted he could cut taxes and the deficit without raising VAT.Don't be a silly-billy, Georgie-Porgie. Of course you can't.
This is a seminal moment for librarianship. For 134 years, geeky men with acne and prematurely aged women in spectacles have quietly gone about cataloguing books according to the principles of Melvil Dewey, largely ignored by the rest of us. But now rock legend Keith Richards has admitted to a passion for librarianship, and a failed attempt to apply the Dewey system to his own large private library.What next? Jagger and differential calculus? Lady Gaga and botanical taxonomy?
03 April 2010
You will note that No 10 goes for bare-faced denial. No suggestion of a mistake or a misunderstanding. No, just argue that black was white. And don't give a toss whether anyone believes you. Meanwhile No 10's credibility is once again dragged into the sewer.
After the disaster on the Caribbean island nation three months ago, which killed an estimated 230,000 people, a celebrity cover version of REM's "Everybody Hurts" was produced, with the Prime Minister announcing that he had decided to waive VAT on the single.
However, as The Independent revealed yesterday, a furious Whitehall row erupted when officials at the Department for International Development (DfID) were told that the Treasury was going to make them find the lost revenue by taking it from other (non-Haiti) aid projects. Sources at both departments confirmed the plan....
Downing Street subsequently denied that this had been the plan and, following this newspaper's report, announced yesterday that no aid projects would suffer. No 10 said that DfID would initially foot the bill for the lost VAT – and that the Treasury will now have to refund it.