31 August 2010
Yes, I do have a printer but it is less than functional at present. And yes I am returning once again to my bachelor pad (is that slightly out-dated?) on the Costa del Sol.
So viva Espana and viva Edinburgh public libraries.
A Home Office spokesman said: "Human trafficking is a brutal form of organised crime, and combating it is a key priority for the government. The UK already complies with most of what is required by the draft EU directive.
"The government will review the UK's position once the directive has been agreed, and will continue to work constructively with European partners on matters of mutual interest. By not opting in now but reviewing our position when the directive is agreed, we can choose to benefit from being part of a directive that is helpful but avoid being bound by measures that are against our interests."
Does this flannel carry any meaning whatsoever? Surely better to agree to opt in and seek to strengthen the proposed directive in negotiations? I thought that Cleggy approved of Europe and that he wanted to co-operate with our EU partners?
30 August 2010
A Conservative revival in Scotland could take as long as 25 years, a senior party source has admitted as the Scottish Tories undertake a fundamental review to map out their future following a poor General Election performance.What? So soon?
29 August 2010
Ooh! I'm so puzzled. Could it be their wonderful conversation? Or the fact that, almost by definition, they are young, fit and (usually) healthy? Is it their fashion sense?
Joan Smith: Why do WAGs stay with men who play away?
Perhaps the answer lies in remembering the Caroline question to Mrs Paul Daniels: "What first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?"
28 August 2010
But I would have to journey to Airdrie, not the most accessible place in the world if you don't have a motor. So, with apologies to the inhabitants of that quaint little rural village, maybe I'll wait until they open an office somewhere more civilised ...
27 August 2010
Lord McConnell (here):
"As I enter the next decade - my 50s - I look forward to new challenges.
"I will continue my work on peacebuilding - across the world post conflict reconstruction is the single biggest development challenge of our time."
Just like a beauty queen of days gone by. If I were being unkind, I might point out that our Jack has neither the face nor the legs to match.
26 August 2010
Staff running parliament's new expenses system have been verbally abused and reduced to tears by MPs frustrated by the tough new rules, documents show.Aw diddums. Did big bad MP make you cry?
Pathetic. Grow up! Get some backbone! Did you think it would be easy? These MPs have had it on a plate for donkeys' years. About time someone put the boot in.
Then a big bad thinktank called the IFS came along and crunched the numbers. Gideon and his coalition pals hated the IFS 'cos it was good at sums (whereas politicians were notoriously innumerate). And the IFS in its fussy, pedantic way concluded that the budget was far from progressive. Not that Gideon cared much; he had only said it was progressive in order to attract a cheap headline and to confound his parliamentary opposition (as labour politicians were also not very good at sums).
Because Gideon was on holiday (in a secret location), it fell to Little Nicky to leap into the breach and, wielding the sword of truth, to defend the honour of the coalition. Alas, Little Nicky botched it up good and proper by suggesting that the IFS had failed to take into account the coalition's proposals to get the unemployed off benefits and into work. This was all a bit fanciful as nobody believed that the coalition's proposals would work. Even if they managed to reduce the numbers on benefits, there was unlikely to be any work for the unemployed to go to. But Little Nicky burbled on and on, thus giving the IFS even more publicity than if he had kept his mouth shut.
And so the IFS emerged from the imbroglio with its reputation enhanced, while Little Nicky once again looked like a prat.
And that's the story so far. Tune in to the next episode when Gideon tries to explain why he failed to carry out the equalities assessment of the budget as required by statute.
24 August 2010
PS Perhaps, Mr K Dalgleish would care to look out his boots? Or Mr J Jordan might take out his teeth once again? And I feel sure that Mr J Holton (Six foot two, eyes of blue, big Jim H is after you!) could once more do a turn.
Glasgow Warriors’ home game with Leinster on Friday 3 September will be covered live on BBC Alba, launching a season-long programme of live professional rugby matches on the Gaelic channel, it was announced today.It's not as though the mainstream channels have anything else of value by way of live sport to offer. And I refuse to believe that it would have been expensive. So well done BBC Alba. And I hope BBC Scotland and STV are suitably ashamed.
BBC Alba will then cover the Edinburgh’s home match against Munster on Friday 10 September at 7pm, live from Murrayfield.
BBC ALBA has signed an exclusive deal to show live Magners League rugby in Scotland for the next four years. The channel is committed to showing at least eight Edinburgh or Glasgow home matches per season, and has teamed up with Irish, Welsh and Italian broadcasters to also provide live coverage of selected away matches for both sides.
23 August 2010
21 August 2010
Hosts are given precise timings to ensure the "big day" runs smoothly. They are told to be home by 5.30pm so they can "give the place a quick vacuum and general tidy (or not, if you're not that type)".Young Mr M seems to be confusing the business of politics with that of middle class socialising. I can remember a time when Labour Party politicians were more interested in socialism than socialising.
They should then "put the oven on and get the nibbles in. If there are drinks, get them chilling [and] pick some music". Now is the time to get membership forms "at the ready" and line up the entertainment – a David Miliband video.When people arrive, "take their coats, get them a drink" and get them to fill in a "sign-in sheet". There should then be 20 minutes of introductions and general political chat.
Those of us who regard drinkies and nibbles with considerable distaste have obviously been cast into the outer darknesses. Furthermore, should Mr M be enlisting the support of non-vacuuming types? I doubt if they would fit in to his squeaky clean approach to politics.
20 August 2010
Anyway, Mr Rowland has recently acquired a bank in Luxembourg (as one does) and would have been too busy to play at being Tory treasurer.
And, yes, the Iraqis had an election in March but they have yet to establish a government. And, admittedly, July was the worst month for two years with a reported 535 fatalities. A further 59 were killed by suicide bomber on Tuesday this week. But the country is said to be stable enough for the Americans to withdraw.
Nor is Iraq financially sustainable:
The [US] state department ... requested $1.8bn for Iraq for the coming financial year, a figure subsequently slashed by the House and Senate.
Members of Congress say that Iraq, with its huge oil reserves, should take a bigger share of the financial burden, but state department officials believe it will be eight to 10 years before Iraq is self-sustaining financially.But don't dwell upon the downside. And don't ever ask if it was all worth it. Just rejoice, if you can ...
19 August 2010
Fury erupted last night over six-figure salary and pension benefits to senior executives at a Scottish Government agency.
Enterprise Minister Jim Mather was called on to explain why Scottish Enterprise gave its chief executive Lena Wilson a £234,000 pension-pot top-up, and her predecessor Jack Perry a £115,000 pay-off following his resignation last year.
And the Scottish Government does not make much of a fist in defending it:
A Scottish Government spokesman said it was keeping a tight rein on public-sector pay. He added that it had frozen top earners’ pay and asked quango chiefs to waive their bonuses.Cue hollow laughter.
17 August 2010
There is among senior ministers a growing concern that the relentless talk of cuts, cuts, cuts is beginning to sound a bit like a stuck record - and that there is a pressing need to move the government's political agenda on to another track.
The fear is that the public will begin to think that all this coalition is interested in is hacking back public services and that the future is dark and bleak.
Is the Coalition interested in anything other than cuts? Maybe education, but that seems to have fallen away when Gove got his lists wrong and few schools signed up to become academies. Whereas cuts are what floats coalition ministers' boat and what tickles their erogenous zones. Indeed, all the signs are that Slasher Osborne and his crew are drooling over the prospect.
Is the future dark and bleak? You bet. Unless, of course, you are a banker or a tycoon.
Bad man does good thing? A noble, generous gesture or the product of a guilty conscience? If it is the former, why do I keep expecting some sort of spin, a hidden motive, a revelation that there is a con involved? Why cannot I just accept the fact of the donation, give thanks and move on?
Villains should remain villains: it's what we feel comfortable with.
At the risk of being churlish and of denying royalties to the Royal British Legion, no, I will not be buying the damn book.
16 August 2010
- 00:15–01:154/6. The contestants face their fourth work placement as teachers in a posh secondary school. (R)
Well, what did you expect? That, when push came to shove, the Tories would stand by their environmental promises? The Guardian reports:
Even with LibDem Huhne in the box-seat at the Department of Energy, the coalition is revealing how little it cares for greenery ...
Green groups are aghast that a flagship policy called for in opposition by both Lib Dems and Tories, and which they last year tried to force on the Labour government, will now not be implemented in the coalition's first energy bill to be published this year.
14 August 2010
The number of senior officers in Britain’s armed forces is likely to be cut as part of sweeping measures to tackle a £37 billion black hole in the defence budget.
The thinning-out of the military hierachy was one of the main proposals presented by Liam Fox in a keynote speech today in which he called for the Ministry of Defence to be leaner, less centralised and more transparent.
The good doctor has already upset No 10 with his maladroit removal of the improbably named Sir Jock Stirrup as Chief of Staff. He is also at daggers drawn with the Treasury over the financing of the Trident replacement. So who will he turn to when the boom comes down?
Couldn't happen to a nicer fellow ...
Nothing much is happening, however. So the FM withdraws from the queue of ordinary mortals and is next seen being ushered through the check-in procedures ahead of the vulgar throng. He is then transported from the boarding gate to the plane (even though it is only a few yards) and duly ensconced in the front row of the aeroplane. Similar treatment at the other end sees him whisked through passport control.
What? You thought that Ryanair treated everyone - without fear or favour - like cattle? Get away!
13 August 2010
But its boss, Sir Philip Green, has been appointed as an efficiency adviser to the Cameron government, to identify spending inefficiencies and potential savings. Let us leave aside the little matter of the fact that he bases himself in Monaco; that is a matter between him and the taxman. But I beg leave to doubt if this is the man to understand the way in which government spending works. The procurement of weapon systems, or road improvements, or hospital drugs, or agricultural research is rather different from commissioning cheap skirts and tops from Asian sweatshops.
But Sir Philip has pots of money, so his appointment must be all right, mustn't it?
Oh dear, oh dear. The Guardian comments:
Green is prickly about questions surrounding his tax status. Last night he is said to have called a newspaper journalist a "fucking tosser" after being asked whether his appointment raised questions about his tax affairs.Somehow, I don't think that this appointment is destined to be a success.
I grow increasingly tired of fatuous Cameronian interventions which amount to little more than headline-grabbing in an attempt to look busy during the holidays.
Mr Cameron is absolutely right that Britain punches below its weight in attracting overseas visitors, but that is largely because governments have never taken this invisible export seriously; we do not even have a ministry with "tourism" in the title.
Furthermore the UK imposes tough visa rules on the nations with the fastest-growing, travel-hungry middle classes, including Russia, India and China.
Add in the imminent rise in VAT, which will make us more expensive, and an air passenger duty structure that appears designed to export stopover traffic to Amsterdam, Paris or Dubai, and the multi-billion-pound tourism deficit looks here to stay.
Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in Britain today. People feel alienated by society. In some intellectual circles it is treated almost as a new phenomenon. It has, however, been with us for years. What I believe is true is that today it is more widespread, more pervasive than ever before. Let me right at the outset define what I mean by alienation. It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It's the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision-making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies.
Many may not have rationalised it. May not even understand, may not be able to articulate it. But they feel it. It therefore conditions and colours their social attitudes. Alienation expresses itself in different ways in different people. It is to be found in what our courts often describe as the criminal antisocial behaviour of a section of the community. It is expressed by those young people who want to opt out of society, by drop-outs, the so-called maladjusted, those who seek to escape permanently from the reality of society through intoxicants and narcotics. Of course, it would be wrong to say it was the sole reason for these things. But it is a much greater factor in all of them than is generally recognised....
I urge you to read all of it.
12 August 2010
A new study conducted by online dating service OkCupid.com has revealed iPhone users have sex with twice the number of partners their Android-using counterparts have.
By the age of 30, men with an iPhone have had around 10 different partners. Their BlackBerry counterparts average around 8.1 partners.
Men with an Android-powered smartphone might just about be ready to trade in their device - with an average of only 6 partners by the time they are 30.
I suppose that there is little hope for those of us without an iPhone or a Blackberry or an Android smartphone (whatever that is); while those of us without any kind of mobile phone must be beyond redemption. Let me hope that no-one tells my girlfriends ...
Hundreds of playground developments are being mothballed following government spending cuts.
The Department for Education (DfE) has frozen grants to 132 local councils for up to 1,300 play area schemes – many of which were originally designed by children.
The only developments allowed to go ahead will be those where construction has already started.
It is unclear how many planned playgrounds will now be scrapped.
If the kiddies' milk ration is to be regarded as sacrosanct, should their playgrounds be sacrificed on the altar of Slasher Osborne's axe-wielding? Is there a significant difference which justifies milk as opposed to playgrounds?
11 August 2010
If the UK can export more to the Brics and the new "Civets" (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa), the monthly trade figures may turn out to be the best, and possibly the only, regularly good economic news in the years ahead.So you can add CIVETS to BRICs and PIGS (or maybe PIIGS).
Background Note 1: The term 'civet' is more usually used to describe a group of smallish tree-loving mammals found in the tropics.
Background Note 2: There must be considerable doubt about the economic capacity of most of the so-called CIVETS to absorb significant increases in British exports - but, hey, the guys should keep trying.
10 August 2010
I mean, it's the kind of thing all Prime Ministers say. And it secures a headline or two. But the promised crackdown never seems to materialise. The cost of benefit fraud is said to be £1.5 billion; but this represents less than 1% of total benefit costs of over £160 billion. Is it even possible to eliminate all fraud? Or is there an irreducible minimum, up with which we simply have to put?
An "uncompromising" crackdown on benefit cheats will be unveiled in the autumn, David Cameron pledged today.
The Prime Minister said reducing the £5.2 billion annual cost of fraud and error would be the "first and deepest" cut in public spending.
As for error, that can hardly be the fault of the claimants. And who was it that made the system so complicated in the first place? (And Gordon Brown is not the sole culprit.) Furthermore, reducing civil servant numbers is unlikely to improve matters.
This government needs to do better.
09 August 2010
The Queen was "deeply concerned" about Ferguson's debts, according to the Sunday Telegraph, and had discussed them with David Cameron recently at one of his weekly audiences. The newspaper said Prince Andrew, Ferguson's ex-husband, was masterminding a "rescue plan" to avoid the embarrassment of filing for bankruptcy.The idea of Prince Andrew masterminding anything conveys a certain risibility. But if it keeps him away from yachts ...
08 August 2010
UK Department of Health calls to scrap free nursery milk in Scotland have been ditched by Downing Street.
Westminster has powers to end free milk, yet the cost of the scheme in Scotland is met by Holyrood.
In a letter to the Scottish government, UK Public Health Minister Anne Milton said the scheme was costly and there was no evidence of health benefits.
But Downing Street scrapped the move after it emerged Prime Minister David Cameron was not aware of the proposals.
But where does that leave Ms Milton?
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Some things never change. But as homage to the original milk snatcher in the 1970s, this takes some doing. The BBC reports:
Free milk for nursery children could be scrapped in Scotland under plans drawn up by the UK Department of Health.
06 August 2010
And, yet, we have an election in about 9 months. Would it be over-optimistic of me to presume that the backroom (and indeed front-room) boys and girls of the main parties are girding up their metaphorical loins in preparation? I appreciate that the Tories are once again pondering their collective navel; and the less said about the no-hopers of the LibDem persuasion the better.
Are the SNP organising themselves in the elaboration of a robust defence of a local income tax, ironing out the little (and not so little) difficulties caused by inadequate preparation the first time round?
Is Labour preparing a sound,defensible case for revising or replacing the council tax, rather than (as last time) leaving the matter to the last minute, thereby allowing themselves to be exposed as not having thought the matter through?
Do bears do their business in porcelain toilets?
This summer soldiers will start fighting with a new, “green” bullet that Army ballistics officials are touting as “the best general purpose 5.56mm round ever.”No doubt the Taliban will be pleased to hear that they are being shot at with green bullets.
The Enhanced Performance Round contains an environmentally friendly projectile that eliminates up to 2,000 tons of lead from the manufacturing process each year in direct support of Army commitment to environmental stewardship.
05 August 2010
"Better deals for our current account customers."The truth, as spelled out in The Herald earlier in the day:
Bank of Scotland [of which Halifax is a part] is writing to tens of thousands of small business customers telling them that it will no longer pay interest on their current account balances, as owner Lloyds Banking Group unveils bumper first-half profits of £1.6 billion.
While UK base rates of 0.5% mean business customers of Bank of Scotland do not currently receive interest on their current accounts, the move by the bank could cost them many millions of pounds in total when the benchmark cost of borrowing eventually returns to more normal levels.
Do you still believe the banks are honest?
04 August 2010
It was a miserable, scrawny thing, probably a spruce and – after a 46-degree heatwave in Lebanon – its foliage blocked the Israeli security cameras on the Israeli-Lebanese border near Addaiseh. The Israelis decided to use a crane to rip it out. But there's a problem. No one is exactly sure where the Israeli-Lebanese border is.Result: five dead, because of a tree, for such is the way of the Middle East.
In 2000, the UN drew a "Blue Line" along what was – in those long ago, post-Balfour days – the frontier between the French mandate of Lebanon and the British mandate of Palestine. Behind it, from the Lebanese point of view, stands the Israeli "technical fence", a mass of barbed wire, electrified wires and sandy roads (to look for footprints). So when the Lebanese army saw the Israelis manoeuvre a crane up to the fence yesterday morning, they began to shout at the Israelis to move back.
The moment the crane's arm crossed the "technical fence" – and here one must explain that the "Blue Line" does not necessarily run along the "fence" – Lebanese soldiers opened fire into the air. The Israelis, according to the Lebanese, did not shoot in the air. They shot at the Lebanese soldiers.
Theresa May, the home secretary and equalities minister, warned the chancellor that cuts in the budget could widen inequality in Britain and ran a "real risk" of breaking the law, a letter leaked to the Guardian shows.Despite this letter, it would appear that Treasury completely and utterly ignored the advice when it came to the budget and - possibly - to the public spending review. As The Guardian reveals, the court cases are now in preparation.
The letter was sent to George Osborne on 9 June, less than a fortnight before his emergency budget, and was copied to David Cameron.
May wrote "there are real risks" that people ranging from ethnic minorities to women, to the disabled and the old, would be "disproportionately affected"....
May warns that government spending decisions face being struck down by the judiciary. "If there are no processes in place to show that equality issues have been taken into account in relation to particular decisions, there is a real risk of successful legal challenge by, for instance, recipients of public services, trades unions or other groups affected by these decisions."
This business of government: it becomes increasingly complicated ...
03 August 2010
But if slimmers wish to believe it, then who am I to discourage the poor souls?
A huge real ale festival opens today with new research claiming that beer can help people lose weight - when drunk in moderation.
The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said a third of men and women wrongly believe that beer has more calories than other alcoholic drinks.Swapping wine for beer for just one week would save as many calories as a half-hour jog, Camra claims.
02 August 2010
Civil servants within the Treasury are to sit at smaller desks closer together in order to squeeze hundreds of workers from elsewhere in Whitehall into the building.
The attempt to sub-let part of 1 Horse Guards Road, just off St James’ Park, is the latest austerity measure by George Osborne as the coalition insists on hairshirt measures government-wide.
Sure, you can always squeeze a few extra bodies into any given space. But anyone who cares to visit the first or second floor of Victoria Quay at Leith will see the dispiriting result.