31 May 2010

Gloom descends

I really do not understand. This flotilla had humanitarian cargoes. Those on board were unarmed. Would it have cost the Israelis to let them through? Was stopping the flotilla worth killing people?

There are times when I despair ...

29 May 2010

Silly boy

Just because he's a millionaire ex-banker who appears a bit smug sometimes, he should not be barred from claiming legitimate expenses. And £900 per month is a lot of money (although he probably receives more than that in interest every month). And if he wanted to keep his sexuality under wraps, perhaps he would have been better off by not claiming at all for his accommodation arrangements. Especially as those arrangements looked a bit dodgy even before the rules were clarified.

Furthermore, the expenses row over the past year provided him with the opportunity to sort matters out, relatively quietly. An opportunity which he chose not to take.

But, hey, we all make mistakes, though not often to the extent of putting the career at risk. So move along, nothing to see here. But it's going to end in tears, isn't it?

28 May 2010

To wear the ermine

So there you go. Jack McConnell, Helen Liddell, John Reid, Des Browne to grace the House of Lords.

Somehow, sticks in the throat ...

Talk is cheap

Is our new Prime Minister getting carried away by his own rhetoric? Here he is, quoted in The Independent:
Mr Cameron will insist that economic power can be spread across the regions and new hope brought to the unemployed: "Can we inject new life into the private sector, so that enterprise can drive not just our recovery but the re-building beyond it?
"Can we go from an economy built on debt and borrowing to one built on saving and investment? Can we re-open Britain for business? My answer is an unequivocal, emphatic yes."

Unequivocal? Emphatic? Aye well maybe. Difficult to see how it could be done without lots of additional government spending. Or perhaps, like Tony Blair before him, he is confusing the announcement of an intention with the reality of achievement.

27 May 2010

Flogging dead horses

I see that the new Government intends to reform the welfare benefits system.

Of course, each year, the previous government (and the one before that, ad nauseam) promised much the same thing- and failed. But this time it will be different. And Iain Duncan Smith is such an inspiring and competent administrator. We must believe that he will succeed, must we not?

26 May 2010

Music of the week

As they are re-assembling for one last gig this summer, I thought I should show the younger readers this lot from 39 years ago:

Apparently, Rod Stewart is to be replaced by Mick Hucknall - bad mistake.

I'm getting too old for this ...

Gerry Hassan of The Scotsman gives you the complicated version:
Scottish Secretary Danny Alexander and David Mundell, his deputy, have made it clear where they stand on the Calman tax powers. They have gone out of their way to give no clear "commitment" to implement the powers, while also saying that it was their eventual "intention" to do so if everything goes according to plan. They underlined as pivotal in this, discussions with the Treasury and Scottish Government. It is no coincidence that these are two of the biggest opponents of the Calman tax powers for opposing reasons: the Treasury because they see them as a threat and too radical, and the SNP because they don't think they go far enough.
The Calman tax powers are arguably the most ill-conceived proposals ever put together in modern Scotland. They would damage Scotland's finances and economy, not increase fiscal autonomy; undermine fairness and not in any way advance transparency. Importantly, for a pro-Unionist document, they would exasperate [exacerbate?] potential conflict between the Scots and UK governments over assessing the Scots tax take, crucial in how you estimate how much of the block grant the UK government withholds.

Me, I'm a more simple soul. I have never been convinced that HM Revenue and Customs have the practical means to collect differential rates of income tax according to geographical residency. (I appreciate that the Scotland Act provides, within limits, for just such differential rates, but has the Treasury ever done anything to amend its systems to provide for this?) Calman would open the door to even greater differentiation. And, even if HMRC were able to deliver, would the systems of the larger cross-border companies such as Tesco or M&S be able to make differential deductions from staff salary payments? My pension is paid from Newcastle under a UK scheme; I pay a certain amount of income tax every month. But I very much doubt if the payer has a system which can tolerate making a different percentage deduction from my pension than from my counterparts down south.

Nothing is impossible, so they say. But it would not be easy and it would probably be expensive. In the meantime, I have yet to see any appreciation of the practical problems of implementing Calman. But let us wait and see.

Caja not so Sur

Further to my post on Monday about the travails of my bank, I decided that I had better check out the position. So yesterday morning I visited my branch of CajaSur.

Still standing; doors still open; Carmen, the attractive young lady behind the counter, handed over my euros in the usual way.

I confess that I was not aware that it was run by the Catholic Church. (It's not as though the manager dressed as a nun, with bowls of holy water at the door.) As an atheist, especially a protestant atheist, I would prefer my euros to avoid falling into the clutches of those with an overt religious persuasion. Not that it matters now; the previous bank directors have been replaced by nominees from Spain's central bank (although they're probably also Catholic).

Oh well, this minor spasm of excitement appears to be over (at least for me, though the rest of the world seems to be taking it seriously). For which, much thanks; I can't cope with excessive excitement. Had to go to the pub yesterday lunchtime to restore my equilibrium.

Keeping red boxes safe

Perhaps it's my twisted mind but I rather enjoyed this story in The Guardian:
Now ministers are being told they must travel to their constituencies by second class public transport, but for security reasons their red boxes must travel to the constituency separately in a private car. So when one minister, who cannot be named but whose identity is known to the Guardian, asked his private office in the past 24 hours if he could accompany his red box in the car to do some work, he was told this was not allowed under the latest rules on ministerial travel. As a result, he will be travelling several hundred miles by train to his constituency, where he will greet his red box.

Thus certain types of papers (for that is all a red box contains, apart from an occasional sandwich) require a greater degree of security than the poor human beings who have to read them and presumably absorb their contents. So Al-Qaeda is welcome to capture and torture the ministers but God forbid that they get their hands on the papers.

Strange how priorities evolve, isn't it?

25 May 2010

Quote of the day

Rachel Sylvester in The Times (here):
The problem is that this is only the start. Yesterday the Chancellor and Chief Secretary sliced delicately through IT budgets and consultancy contracts with a scalpel. Before long they will be running down Whitehall politically naked, with blood dripping from their axes. There is a big difference between £6 billion and £156 billion, the overall size of the deficit. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said that yesterday’s announcement represented “less than a tenth of the fiscal repair job that will be needed over the next few years”. The really difficult decisions will come in the Budget next month and the autumn spending review. A Government that started out looking like a Richard Curtis rom-com will end up looking as gory as a Quentin Tarantino movie with bodies all over the floor. This is going to end up as Four Weddings and an Awful Lot of Funerals.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

24 May 2010

The boy done good

Ok, it took him five sets but he made it. Young Murray vanquished an awkward opponent in Gasquet. Lots of mistakes, and he'll need to improve enormously to make an impact in the later stages. Nevertheless, no shortage of stamina.

But, hey, a Scottish sporting success. Rejoice!

The Labour leadership battle

Miliband 1, Miliband 2, Balls and that irritating guy Andy whatever. It's not an inspiring lineup.

I have had my suspicions for some time. And now I can reveal the truth. They are not human; they are xylons from the planet Tharg, a form of artificial life brewed up in the vats and the laboratories of that benighted planet. Sleeper agents for the Dark Lord, awoken at last by Gordon Brown's demise.

You doubt it? Look at the evidence. Those funny little haircuts, for a start. And consider the way in which they occasionally relapse into trotting out gibberish (aka nulabourspeak) when put under pressure. They're supposed to be in their early 40s; problem is that they've always been that age. (Who recalls seeing a young Miliband apart from obviously photoshopped pictures?) If they ever went into a pub (which they never do), they would order campari or dry white wine; it is only at election time that you will see them with a pint (but you never see them drinking it). No, we have to accept that the aliens are taking over the Labour Party.

Of course, Abbot and McDonnell are real human beings, but unfortunately neither of them is going to win.

My outstanding financial acumen

Would you care to guess the Spanish bank in which I keep my pennies? The Guardian reports:
The Bank of Spain intervened after CajaSur, a local lender hit by the collapse of the country's property sector, failed to merge with a rival bank.
CajaSur is one of 43 not-for-profit regional lenders and while it is unlikely to strain the Bank of Spain's finances, bond markets will view the move as a further signal of the country's difficulties. Spain has already struggled to borrow from the international money markets and further turmoil is likely to spook investors.
The Cordoba-based CajaSur was controlled by the Catholic church until the Spanish regulator removed the managers over the weekend, appointing administrators.

Oh shit ...

Quote of the day

Charlie Brooker in The Guardian on the creation of artificial life:
Here's what happened: the scientists created a computer simulation of the goat bug thingy, then fed the code into a genetic synthesizer. You know, a genetic synthesizer. It looks like a George Foreman grill, but in white, and with twice as many winking lights on the top. They fed it into that. Probably using a USB stick. Anyway, the DNA grill heated up and went beep and "produced short strands of the bug's DNA", which I imagine were an absolute bugger to pick up with tweezers. Said strands were then "stitched together" by some bits of yeast and E coli, which eventually knitted the strand into a complete million-letter-long DNA sequence, which you're probably incorrectly picturing right now.
So far, so baffling. Then it gets weirder. To "watermark" their artificial bug, the geneticists spliced a James Joyce quotation into the DNA sequence. The unsuspecting genome now has the phrase "to live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life" written through it like letters in a stick of rock. In other words, it's the world's most pretentious bacterium. After Quentin Letts.

I hope that the process is now understood.

22 May 2010

That's the way it goes

Peter Housden then, as a replacement for Sir John Elvidge? (Who he?)

No previous connection with Scotland as far as I can gather. A teacher, turned educationalist, not a civil servant before 2000. (Not a real civil servant therefore; no grounding in drafting GF answers or PQs or submissions,)

Was none of my ex-colleagues in the Scottish Office worthy of a step up?

Or is Whitehall seeking to re-establish its dominion over the Scottsih Civil Service?

Historical Note: Within living history, the only previous incomer as Scottish Permanent Secretary was Nicholas Morrison in the 1970s. And he was brought in as a clean pair of hands following the Pottinger affair.

20 May 2010

Straight out of 'Yes Minister'

When Ministers don't know what to do about a particular subject, they set up a committee (or a commission as they are now more fashionably known). When Ministers know what they want to do but fear it may upset some of their supporters, they set up a committee. When Ministers disagree among themselves about what they should do, they set up a committee.

The purpose of these committees/commissions is to postpone the evil day when Ministers have to make decisions. Such a postponement may amount to many months, even years. And in the end nothing may happen. Cynical? You bet.

Unbelievably, the Cameron/Clegg regime, in its brief existence, is proposing to establish nine such commissions.

Reform of the House of Lords? It will not take place within the foreseeable future. Dealing with the West Lothian Question? Ditto. Sorting out the banks? Ditto with knobs on.

Bring back Gordon Brown: he only set up three or four commissions per year. And he knew what he wanted to do; he just needed some intellectual underpinning.

Update: The Guardian suggests that there are actually 27 reviews about to get under way.

Naked shorting

It's not as much fun as it sounds. Basically, it involves selling assets you don't have so that you can buy them back later when the price falls. Simple, really.

No, I don't understand it either (and I'm not sure that these guys do).

Anway, Angie does not approve of the practice, and that's good enough for me.

19 May 2010

Music of the week

Dunno: sometimes it makes me feel happy, sometimes sad. Always worth a listen:

A question of process

Once upon a time, the newspapers used to quote what politicians had said. Nowadays they quote what politicians are about to say. Hence this quote from Nick Clegg in The Independent:
Raising the coalition's sights, the Deputy Prime Minister will say: "I have spent my whole political life fighting to open up politics. So let me make one thing very clear: this government is going to be unlike any other.
"This government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state. This government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is how we build a society that is fair. This government is going to persuade you to put your faith in politics once again."
Aye well. Treating parliament with disrespect by telling reporters in advance what you are going to say is hardly likely to persuade me to put my faith in politics once again. Government announcements should be made first of all to parliament. To do otherwise is not only an abuse of process but it demeans parliament itself. Why bother to pay attention to a parliamentary announcement when you can read it in advance?

18 May 2010

Georgie and David - the odd couple

The matching body language says it all:

Quote of the day

From The Times (here):
David Cameron is Eton-Oxford-country- clubby-cutglass-shooting party sort of posh, whereas Nick Clegg is Westminster-Cambridge- metropolitan-foreign-glottalstop-trustfund sort of posh. Cameron is upper-upper-middle class with a dash of English gentry, but Clegg is middle-upper-middle class with a hint of European aristocracy.

Have we got that clear now?

17 May 2010

A postcard from Spain

So how is the Spanish economy? Answer: terrible. Unemployment at 20%; VAT about to increase to punitive levels of above 20%; and last week's announcement that the salaries of public servants are to be reduced. And this is the country where the banks escaped virtually unscathed in the recent troubles.

Not that any of the above is likely to have more than a marginal effect on our little village on the Costa Del Sol. The main problem here is the lack of British tourists, principally attributed to the sterling/euro exchange rate. The position has slightly improved this week (with the English schools on holiday) but the place is very far from bustling.

Meanwhile my lotus-eating continues. My fags are more expensive than last time, at 40 euro per carton. But that is about £25 per carton cheaper than in the UK. I reckon that, if I can take eight cartons home, then that more than pays for the price of my return flight.

On the booze front, the standard price for a pint of Mahou in the pubs is two euros (say £1.80), although at least one of the locals I patronise is charging 1.50 euros. Yesterday I had a splendid Sunday lunch of chicken, stuffing, roast potatoes, mash, cabbage, carrot and broccoli for a mere 5 euros.

What do I miss about Edinburgh? Not a lot, to be honest. The i-player for a start. A pint of Deuchars - this Mahou is pleasant stuff but it's not IPA. Tesco delivering my groceries - I need to go out and lug them home myself. Amazon - my post box here is too narrow and even modestly sized parcels are diverted to the post office (a bureaucratic nightmare if ever there was). But, most of all, the beautiful light of the Edinburgh dawn in May at 5 am viewed from my kitchen window. Nothing compares.

But, hey, mustn't grumble - life could be a lot worse ... Back in a few weeks.

Poetic justice

This is what happens when you abandon your natural friends in France and Germany for a bunch of nutters: you lose influence. The Independent reports:
Britain's new Chancellor of the Exchequer faces his first European defeat tomorrow when the Ecofin committee meets to sign off the EU's controversial hedge fund directive.
George Osborne did try on Friday to delay the crucial finance ministers' meeting, to give the new Conservative-Liberal coalition more time to marshal its arguments against the highly unpopular measures. But his requests were rebuffed and, despite vociferous City campaigning against the new rules, Mr Osborne is understood to feel that negotiations are too far advanced for him to be able to mount an effective defence.

In any case, who gives a toss for the hedge fund community? If Brussels wants to stick it to them, we should be cheering. (And I know that they are supposed to make a lot of money for the UK - it's just that so much of the benefits seem to be limited to a small magic circle.)

16 May 2010

Arizona's shame

I fell in love with the state in 1980 and subsequently visited several times. The relaxed atmosphere, the desert, the dry heat, the mountain forests, the terrific breakfasts, the free cocktails on the hotel terrace before dinner, the micropubs, the sports bars, the long straight roads: what was not to like? I would base myself in the university town of Tempe or nearby Scottsdale, full of impossibly beautiful young women (and young men).

And now they are introducing a version of the sus law. Well, I must now pack away my sun-devils polo shirt and my Scottsdale t-shirt - they will not be worn in the foreseeable future.

We are not winning

The problems of Afghanistan seem to have been sidelined in the light of the election here and the economic problems in Europe. But progress in that benighted land has literally been thin on the ground. The Independent reports:

Starting in February, 15,000 US, British and Afghan troops started taking over the Taliban-held area of Marjah and Nad Ali in Helmand province. Dozens of embedded journalists trumpeted the significance of Operation Moshtarak, as it was called, as the first fruits of General McChrystal's new strategy which was meant to emulate the supposed success of the "surge" in Iraq in 2007.
Three months after the operation in Marjah, however, local people say that the Taliban still control the area at night. Shops are still closed and no schools have reopened. Education officials who returned at the height of the US-led offensive have fled again. The local governor says he has just one temporary teacher teaching 60 children in the ruins of a school. Aid is not arriving. The Taliban are replacing mines, the notorious IEDs, removed by US troops and often use the same holes to hide them in.
Pentagon officials increasingly agree with the Afghan villagers that the Marjah operation failed to end Taliban control and put the Afghan government in charge.
For how long must British troops fight and die in an unwinnable war? The new UK government must surely take the opportunity to look for an early exit strategy.

15 May 2010


For some reason, I began watching the BBC2's Young Musician 2010 earlier this evening. Splendid programme, well worth watching on the i-player.

All of the kids should have won, though Lucy the percussionist was my favourite. What really impressed me was that these were ordinary teenagers with extraordinary talents. All of them were nice guys, of whom their parents should be proud.

Uplifting. Enough to restore my faith in Britain's youth.

Quote of the day

Mr David Cameron (here):
"The radio went off as I was just waking up in my own bed at home," he told The Sun. "I heard 'This morning, the Prime Minister will ...' and I thought 'Oh God, what's he doing now?' And then I thought, 'Oh no, hang on a second; it's me.'"

So he's not totally in the bubble, yet ...

14 May 2010


For reasons which I do not understand, BBC Scotland persists this evening in showing Landward, while the rugby goes a-begging.

You may nevertheless watch the semi-final (in effect) of the Magners League between the Ospreys and Glasgow Warriors by making use of the red button on BBC2 or, if you have a certain type of freeview, by going to the top channel numbers to access BBC2 Wales which is showing the match live.

Alternatively, you can watch the match on your computer (if you have broadband) by clicking on the appropriate button on the BBC Sports website.

Is there a point to BBC Scotland? Who knows or cares?

PS Not to be missed. Running Down a Dream, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at 9pm on BBC4 (always providing the rugby has finished).

Still reading the runes and still getting it wrong

I do wish the hacks would stop telling us what we did or did not vote for. Johann Hari of The Indie is only the latest:
Don't fall for the people who say the Lib Dem vote was "ambiguous": a YouGov poll just before the election found that Lib Dem voters identified as "left-wing" over "right-wing" by a ratio of 4:1. Only 9 per cent sided with the right. Lib Dem voters wanted to stop Cameron, not install him. So before you start squabbling about the extremely difficult parliamentary arithmetic, or blaming the stupidly tribal Labour negotiators for their talks with the Lib Dems breaking down, you have to concede: the British people have not got what they voted for.

I don't have to concede any such thing. The voting system under which we operate does not enable the electorate to vote for or against a coalition or a hung parliament; instead, the electorate in its 650 constituencies votes for or against a particular representative of one of the political parties. Accordingly, the British people have indeed got exactly what they voted for.

It is only the hacks (and to a lesser extent the pols) who like to intuit some wider intention on the part of the electorate. And I wish they'd stop it.

13 May 2010

Envy is ugly but then so is making political gestures

Yeah, yeah. I'm deeply impressed that Cabinet Ministers have decided to cut their salaries from £141, 647 to a lowly £134,565. Aren't you?

I don't suppose that it may have occurred to them that even the lower figure is wildly beyond the dreams of the vast majority of the population ...

The new refreshed Labour Party?

Miliband announces that he is a candidate for the leadership. But perhaps it was not a good idea to surround himself with five greying or balding middle-aged white men in grey suits plus two women for whom grey seems the dominant colour.

Things can only get better. I hope.

The new Ant and Dec

Cleggy is the one with the yellow tie. I think.

12 May 2010

Music of the week

A tribute to the great lady who died at the weekend:

It's a rough old trade

Let us have a modicum of sympathy for David Mundell MP, the sole Tory MP in Scotland for the past five years and the only one to be elected last week. He may not actually have been good enough to deserve appointment as Scottish Secretary (and facing the massed ranks of Scottish Labour he might have been in some trouble if he had secured the post). But he would not have been human had he not entertained the thought that the poisoned chalice might come his way. Alas Danny Alexander (who?) of the LibDems has been appointed, so Mr Mundell will have to dream on - at least for a while.

Sic transit gloria Mundell.

Quote of the day

Matthew Norman in The Indie (here):
Malcolm Rifkind raced from camera to camera yesterday morning like a whippet with a dollop of Colman's up its bum, screeching like an outraged Victorian maiden – someone get that dry old spinster a shot of laudanum – about the Tories being two-timed by Clegg. But what the hell was he supposed to do?
It's understandable if an ingenu like Mr Rifkind, with no more experience of power politics than you'd expect of a Thatcher cabinet minister, doesn't understand this, but the primary function of political parties is to gain power.

11 May 2010

Cameron and Clegg back in bed together

I was going to write a post about how the Con/LibDem alliance is back on but then I had the thought that I and probably you have had enough of this taradiddle.

Besides, I am defrosting the fridge.

10 May 2010

Nice to see some rational debate

It's a hoot:

Political whoring

So little Nicky is prepared to get into bed with either Gordon or Dave, depending upon which of the latter is prepared to offer the more alluring blandishments. Not an attractive picture, is it?

And, regardless of how attractive the harlot may be when men have the urge, it is their misfortune to be reviled once that urge has been slaked. So little Nicky better watch himself.

Furthermore, while it is probably inevitable that, from time to time, a lady of the night may find herself propositioned by more than one suitor, undue delay or prevarication in making a decision is unlikely to be greeted with enthusiasm.

I don't remember all this nonsense when Holyrood had to establish a coalition. But the palace of varieties at Westminster increasingly resembles a brothel - and a somewhat low-rent brothel at that.

Are we supposed to be impressed?

The Scottish Government gets carried away with a couple of new acronyms. Here is the press release:
Aberdeen's Inverdee House, home to two SEARS (Scotland's Environment and Rural Services) bodies has been officially opened by Rural Secretary Richard Lochhead.
The opening marks the latest SEARS co-location following the success of last year's Golspie opening and will ensure closer working between the two organisations.
The new building is also based on an eco-friendly design and is one of only five buildings in Aberdeen to have achieved a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) excellent rating.
Yes, some idiot civil servant wrote this deathless prose and, believe it or not, it was approved by a Scottish Government Minister.

Financial skulduggery

Well, it looks good and the markets (who seem to have replaced what we used to know as the gnomes of Zurich) seem to like it. The Guardian reports:
European governments early this morning approved a €500bn deal to save the euro after 11 hours of talks that took place against the prospect of the single currency drowning in a tidal wave of debt and default fears, and even a question mark over the whole European Union.
EU finance ministers meeting in Brussels had quickly agreed a modest "stabilisation mechanism" worth €60bn for eurozone countries in trouble.
But early this morning the Spanish finance minister Elena Salgado announced that the ministers had agreed to make a further €440bn available, a proposal suggested by Berlin and Paris, which would also involve the International Monetary Fund and come in return for pledges of swingeing spending cuts from countries needing support.

Do I understand what it means? Not yet, I don't. (For example, where is all the money coming from?) But these EU deals tend to come apart on closer inspection. Let us hope that they've got it right this time.

09 May 2010

Quote of the day

Tim Harford does not understand women; and economic theory doesn't always work in the real world. He states:
To answer your question, shoes are “income inelastic” if you do not cut back much on shoes when your income falls. They are “price inelastic” if you do not cut back much on shoes when their price rises. Something tells me you think shoes are inelastic in both respects.
I would argue that a more pertinent term here is “diminishing marginal utility”. The first pair of shoes protects your feet. All subsequent pairs of shoes are merely variety. I write without fear of contradiction when I suggest that the more shoes any one person has, the more time each pair will spend at home in the shoe cupboard.

Well yes, but I rather doubt that the ladies think in these terms. I am very far from being an expert in women's psychology, but even I know that a new pair of shoes does wonders for a girl's morale. And don't ever try to tell them otherwise.

Get someone to interview - anyone will do

I hesitate to offend, ahem, a distinguished former party leader, but the BBC reports:
A senior Scottish Liberal Democrat has said his party is willing to look elsewhere if they cannot convince the Tories to adopt electoral reforms. Nicol Stephen, the former leader of the party in Scotland, said the Lib Dems were in a "strong position" to achieve change in the voting system.

Does anyone really believe that Mr Stephen is in touch with the decision-makers in his party or that he knows what they are thinking? Or is it just BBC Scotland scraping the bottom of the barrel?

Number of the day

$230 billion - the amount that British banks have lent to the Eurozone. (From here)

Why do these clowns keep getting into trouble? Bonuses, huh - they should be sacked.

08 May 2010

Why a Labour-LibDem alliance wouldn't work

Look, it's basically a matter of arithmetic. Labour's 258 seats and the LibDems' 57 only add up to 315, a bit short of the 326 required to command a majority. Even allowing for the absence from Westminster of the four Sinn Fein MPs, it's still on the short side. And they cannot really count on the SNP and Plaid.

Furthermore, neither the LibDems nor Labour will be short of bolshie backbenchers. If you think that all the Labour MPs want to vote for proportional representation, think again. And once the public sector unions unleash the walkouts and the strikes, expect the leftwingers in the party to start kicking up a fuss.

After all, why would the LibDems want to ally themselves with a party that lost 90 odd seats in the election? Propping up a tired and diminished Prime Minister?

So what should Nick do? I still reckon that his best bet is to allow the Tories to form a minority administration. If he can get something worthwhile in return, he could promise to consider abstaining on the Queen's speech and on the Budget. That way, he could get the credit for behaving responsibly and avoid the ignominy attached to the proposed backroom deals. Another general election is bound to come along sooner rather than later.

07 May 2010

Clinging to the wreckage

Latest projections from the BBC (here):
The BBC projection suggests David Cameron's Conservatives will have 306 seats. If there are 10 Unionists elected in Northern Ireland then Mr Cameron might be able to command 316 - probably still slightly too few for him to be sure of winning a Queen's Speech.
But Labour and the Lib Dems together would have 317 seats, according to the BBC figures, which even with three SDLP MPs would still leave them at 320 - again probably just a few votes short.

If I were Gordon, I'd be inclined to pack it in and tell her maj to call on Cameron. Because, even with Clegg's LibDems, Gordon does not have sufficient troops to rule the roost. Let Cameron take the opprobrium for the savage cuts and turf him out once he has shown his hand. But Gordon will no doubt be desperate to retain his place in No 10.

Either way, another general election is on the cards sooner rather than later. And won't that be something to look forward to?

06 May 2010

Choices, choices ...

Will I stay up for it? Yes, of course I will.

But I don't much fancy Dimblebore on BBC TV nor his chum Jeremy Vine on the latest version of the swingometer. And ITV? Well, it's ITV, isn't it; they don't really have the pennies to put on a decent show.

The radio, then? Radio 4 has Jim Naughtie and that woman Carolyn Quinn (awful, awful, awful) which kinda rules them out. While the World Service has pompous old Robin Lustig. And of Radio 5, the least said the better.

So I guess I'll be channel-hopping as usual.

No comment

Euro to the £:
Source: BBC

It's the big day

Do you really want this to happen? From The Indie (here):
David Cameron moves into Downing Street and immediately announces the make-up of his Cabinet: William Hague is confirmed as Foreign Secretary, George Osborne as Chancellor, Michael Gove as Schools Secretary and Andrew Lansley as Health Secretary. But there is disappointment for Chris Grayling, who had hoped of becoming Home Secretary; the job goes to Jeremy Hunt. In a downbeat speech Mr Cameron warns of deep public spending cuts ahead, confirming that an
austerity Budget will take place within 50 days; does that mean the rate of VAT will rise? The National Security Council meets to discuss the Afghanistan war.
The Queen's Speech on 25 May includes moves to set up "free" schools, scrap identity cards and regional assemblies, and impose a public sector pay freeze for a year.

Vote wisely. And may the best man win, provided it's not a Tory ...

05 May 2010

Music of the week

In 1981 (or maybe 1980), I saw this group perform this song at an open-air concert in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Yeah, I know, but in my younger days I got about a bit.) I've still got the t-shirt.

What really impressed me at the concert were the Coors tankers (the size of petrol tankers) dispensing beer from a tiny tap in their side.

Quote of the day

Back to the Greeks. This is Larry Elliott, a writer whom I usually admire, in The Guardian:
... while demand is going to be sucked out of the Greek economy through a three-year pay and pension freeze, together with a big jump in VAT, there is unlikely to be a pick-up in exports to compensate. Instead, the slump will deepen. Greece, without the benefit of stronger growth, will be unable to meet its ambitious targets for reducing the deficit, which in turn will lead to demands for even deeper budgetary cuts, which will weaken demand still further.
That is not a recovery plan. It is an economic death spiral.
Aye well, I'll not disagree too strongly. But the only alternative seems to me to be abandoning the euro and defaulting on the debt. And the consequences of such action are probably just as difficult - and not just for Greece.

Does no-one care about the frogs?

Never trust a vegetarian. At the drop of a hat, they will be sneaking off to devour a bacon sandwich. Look at this lot, as reported in The Independent:
Water voles have developed a penchant for one of the most rarefied delicacies of French cuisine – frogs' legs – conservationists have discovered. The shy and furry rodents, immortalised by the character of Ratty in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, had previously been considered entirely herbivorous, subsisting on a diet of aquatic plants.
But ecologists from British Waterways found evidence of unusual eating preferences among water voles during a recent survey of the Kennet & Avon Canal in Berkshire. At several of the animals' "feeding stations" in the canalside vegetation were numerous dead frogs – with their legs removed.

Disgraceful behaviour. I bet that they are LibDem voters.

04 May 2010

Celebrity endorsement

Now look, beggars can't be choosers. Murdo was the best the Tories could get. OK, he's not Shir Sean, nor JKR but, hey, an ex-Celtic footballer is better than nothing. It could have been worse. Couldn't it?

Tactical Voting

I understand the necessity of it. Politics is a rough old game. And maybe I'm being sentimental. But when I see Labour bigwigs like Peter Orangeman Hain and Blinky Balls suggesting that Labour voters might support the LibDems in those seats where the latter have a greater chance of defeating the Tories, I always think of the poor Labour candidates in such seats. How must they feel, hearing that the high heidyins in their party are prepared to sell them out? Their one chance for glory, admittedly a slim chance but a chance nonetheless, being sacrificed for the allegedly greater good of overall party advantage.

03 May 2010

In praise of the backroom boys and girls

Why Cameron is not fit to be Prime Minister. The Guardian reports:
Amid signs that the Tories are failing to build a decisive lead, Cameron today reassured wavering voters that frontline services would not be cut.
Pledging to act in a "big-hearted way", Cameron told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "What I can tell you is any cabinet minister, if I win the election, who comes to me and says: 'Here are my plans' and they involve frontline reductions, they'll be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again.
After 13 years of Labour, there is a lot of wasteful spending, a lot of money that doesn't reach the frontline."

Well fine, bloody fine. We all admire nurses. But somebody needs to recruit them, and someone else needs to pay them their wages, and someone else needs to provide them with their uniforms. By any definition, these somebodies are not frontline staff; does that mean that they can more readily be dispensed with?

And what about the mechanic who maintains the hospital's heating system, the receptionist who books in the patients, the kitchen assistants who prepare the patients' meals, the accountant who does the hospital books?

Hospitals are complex organisations, which is why they need administrators. I accept that there may be too many of them and that some of them may be overpaid - but sacking the lot is not a sensible answer.

So can we stop pretending that cutting the public sector is a simple matter? And can we abandon the false distinction between frontline staff (good) and backroom staff (bad)? And could the politicians at least pretend to be grown-ups?

Doom and gloom somewhat abated for the moment

After a weekend of black depression when I feared the Tories might be pulling away, my equilibrium is somewhat restored by today's two polls. YouGov has the Tories at 34%, with the LibDems on 29% and Labour on 28%; ICM has the Tories on 33%, with both the LibDems and Labour on 28%.

A Tory lead of 5 percentage points simply doesn't cut it in terms of delivering an absolute majority, while neither Labour nor LibDems are slipping back towards wipeout territory. So game on, as the more excitable sports commentators are wont to say.
Have we not been here before? The BBC reports:
Eurozone members and the IMF have agreed a 110bn-euro (£95bn; $146.2bn) three-year bail-out package to rescue Greece's embattled economy.
In return for the loans, Greece will make major austerity cuts which Prime Minister George Papandreou said involved "great sacrifices".

Aye weel. You might want to avoid counting your chickens. The Germans need to secure parliamentary agreement to the loans. And then there is the prospect of legal action in the German courts to declare the loans as unconstitutional.

01 May 2010

It just gets worse and worse

Scandal. Cleggy is an intellectual. Not only does he read books but he reads difficult ones - Beckett no less.

What is the world coming to? A decent politician might admit to an occasional dalliance with Deighton, Clancy or Archer (if a Tory). I know that all the Labour pols claim to have read Tressell but no-one really believed them. Whereas Cleggy sounds as if he really has read Beckett.

It will end in tears, I tell you.

On the prospect of a Conservative Government

Draw the curtains, Mabel, and put out the lights; we may as well go to bed for the next five years.

Many of you won't remember what it's like. Well, it's no fun, I can tell you. Skies are grey, the plagues return, even the birdies will stop their singing and Hibs will be relegated.

Expect to be taxed until the pips squeak. They may not increase your national insurance contributions but Georgie-Porgie will have his evil way with VAT and income tax. The bankers will be alright, of course, and the rich will duly escape their liability for inheritance tax. On the other hand, the poor will be ground into dust with savage cuts in welfare benefits. And they'll take away my bus-pass.

Cameron's moonface will be ubiquitous on the telly and I will grind my remaining teeth at his assumption that the natural order of things has been restored. The nasties (think Grayling, think Hammond, think - horror of horrors - Liam Fox) will come out of the woodwork to torment those of a liberal disposition. And that solitary Scottish Tory MP, the one with the uncanny resemblance to the opera singer in the Go-Compare ads, will be on Scottish Newsnicht three times a week.

And don't think they'll do anything serious about electoral reform or parliamentary expenses. The House of Lords will continue to exert its baleful influence and Scottish MPs may or may not be allowed to vote on non-Scottish matters. Calman will put in a drawer and forgotten about, while the howls of outrage from north of the border on this and on the cuts will calmly be ignored.

So prepare yourself for the misery to come. Because, sure as eggs is eggs, a hard rain's gonna fall.