31 August 2010

In praise of ...

... Edinburgh public libraries, especially Stockbridge. Pleasant helpful staff. And for the princely sum of 20 pence, I was able to print off my boarding pass for next week's trip to Spain.

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.


So the coalition government is choosing to opt out of (or not to opt in to) an EU directive to co-ordinate member states' action against sex traffickers. What possible justification could they have, other than seeking to appease the Tory wingnuts? Well try crunching down on this set of weasel words from the Home Office:

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 trifle optimistic?

The Herald reports:
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

Not so difficult after all

Some of these women hacks ask the most difficult questions. Here is an example from The Independent:

Joan Smith: Why do WAGs stay with men who play away?

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?

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

The Airdrie Savings Bank

Well yes, I have been to Airdrie in the past and was less than impressed. But if the savings bank is good enough for such luminaries as Tom Farmer, Brian Souter and David Murray, then I might well have opened an account for the few bawbees left me by Slasher Osborne.

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

Quote of the day

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


The Guardian reports:
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.

It's a fairy tale

Once upon a time, there was a young chancellor of the exchequer named Gideon. (He called himself George but his real name was Gideon.) When Gideon prepared his first budget, he decided that he should call it progressive. Nobody was clear about why this should be, as the budget's centrepiece was a hike in VAT, which was unquestionably regressive - in that it obviously had a more adverse effect on the finances of the poor than on those of the rich.

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

Has it come to this?

Is it fair to ask senescent footballers to cast aside their zimmer frames in order to don the national colours once again? Is a 40 year old, who can barely break into a run, the best we can do?

Despair ...

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.

Rugby in the Gaelic

It's a funny old world when Teuchter TV can do things that BBC Scotland and STV can't or won't. The Caley Merc reports:
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.

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.

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.

23 August 2010


Headline in The Independent:

Torrential rain hits Britain

What they mean: It's been a bit wet in the south of England.

21 August 2010

Quote of the day

Politics is not what it was. Here are some of the instructions issued by the Miliband D team on how to organise support parties, as cited in The Independent:
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)".

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.
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.

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

Music of the week

The one and only k d lang:

High politics and the Hibees

I don't want to write about Mr Rowland's aborted bid to become Tory treasurer. I merely note that, if Mr Cameron had consulted the Easter Road faithful, some of this unpleasantness might have been avoided.

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.

Bye-bye GI

Look, it's complicated, OK? Yes, Operation Iraqi Freedom has been brought to a close and the Americans have withdrawn their combat troops, all apart from 6000 troops due to go before the end of August and a further 50,000 troops who will remain in Iraq up to the end of 2011. Those 50,000 will be mainly tasked with training up the Iraqi army but will still engage in joint patrols which will no doubt lead to combat operations.

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

The greed of public sector fatcats - again

Hard to defend, not least for sneaking out the news in mid-August. The Herald reports:
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

Quote of the day

Norman Smith of the BBC (here):

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.

Yeah well.

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.

A trick of the light

Does Voldemort suddenly reveal that he was a good guy after all? Does Iago indicate that he just wanted to test Othello's love for Desdemona? Does Cap'n Bob reappear to explain that he had tucked away the money in an investment hidey-hole and that all the pensioners would be paid in full? Does Fred the Shred renounce his sins and promise from hereon to devote his life to social work?

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


Is BBC3 obsessed with under-age girls? Here is an extract from last night's TV schedule:
  1. 23:15–00:15
    How an ordinary schoolgirl from the Isle of Man became a teen icon in Japan. (R)
  1. 00:15–01:15
    4/6. The contestants face their fourth work placement as teachers in a posh secondary school. (R)
  2. 01:15–01:45
    4/6. New mum Michela is struggling to cope with her new workload and the loss of her freedom. (R)
  3. 01:45–02:15
    3/6. Model Lucie Brassington makes her debut at running her own pageant, Miss Mini Photogenic. (R)
To say the least, weird.

The dirty man of Europe

Well, what did you expect? That, when push came to shove, the Tories would stand by their environmental promises? The Guardian reports:

The coalition is watering down a commitment to tough new environmental emissions standards, raising the possibility of dirty coal-fired power stations such as Kingsnorth going ahead.

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.

Even with LibDem Huhne in the box-seat at the Department of Energy, the coalition is revealing how little it cares for greenery ...

14 August 2010

Just to cheer you up

Headline from The Telegraph:

Summer is unofficially over with thunder and lightning due in parts of the country this weekend and damp weather predicted until November, forecasters said.

Don't worry - be happy.

Dr Liam No-mates Fox

The Defence Secretary is running out of chums. The Independent reports:

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 ...

A brief aperçu

Picture the scene. Pisa Airport, last Tuesday. Waiting in the check-in queue for his flight home after his brief Italian holiday is the Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP, our beloved First Minister.

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

Good enough for government business

Ah yes, TopShop. Not an emporium I usually patronise. But I understand that it is not renowned either for the quality of its products or for its sterling service. "Cheap and cheerful" appears to be its watchword (or watchwords).

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.

All talk and no trousers

See that Mr Cameron pontificating about tourism? His words are at variance with his policies. Simon Calder of The Indie explains why:

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.

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.

Well worth a read

The Independent prints one of the greatest ever speeches - by the late Jimmy Reid. Here is the start:

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

Sex and the mobile phone

Not a lot of people know this:
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 ...

A big bad Conservative took away my playground

Is this another candidate for a Cameron U-turn?

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?

(None of this applies in Scotland where I assume there are no special arrangements for children's playgrounds.)

11 August 2010

Music of the week

Don't even try to analyse the lyrics - just enjoy:

Acronym of the week

A bit childish, perhaps, is this mania for grouping countries under unwanted labels. The Independent reports the latest:
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

Treading a well-trod path

Not very convincing, is it? The Independent reports:

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.

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?

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

Quote of the day

From The Guardian (here), anent Sarah Ferguson's financial troubles:
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

Hung out to dry?

No doubt rather sensible of Mr Cameron. The BBC reports:

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?

Just like old times

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

Doing their homework?

Yes - I know that the ostensible purpose of this blog is to discuss Scottish politics. But these are the dull days of August and nothing much of any significant political interest is taking place.

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?

Beyond satire

From the US Army Times (here):
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.”
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.
No doubt the Taliban will be pleased to hear that they are being shot at with green bullets.

Shades of indulgence

Seems a little tawdry, somehow, but if you wish to commemorate the papal visit, here is where to go to buy your Benedict t-shirt, baseball cap or fridge magnet.

05 August 2010

Quote of the day

From a Halifax ad (shown twice on ITV4 during the halftime interval of the Liverpool-Rabotnicki match):
"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

Music of the week

Casus belli

How a tree almost started a war. The Independent reports:
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.

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.

Result: five dead, because of a tree, for such is the way of the Middle East.

Oh Silvio

You have to admire his stamina.

The man will be 74 next month.

The picture above is of one of the ladies involved.

The equalities

It is hard to believe that the Chancellor's budget could be struck down by the courts but that appears to be the implication of St Theresa's letter. The Guardian reports:
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.

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."

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.

This business of government: it becomes increasingly complicated ...

03 August 2010

The myth of the beer belly?

Much as I enjoy a pint or two of the foaming liquid and much as I respect CAMRA for saving Scotland from Tartan Special and Kestrel lager, I cannot really put any faith in the proposition advanced in this article in The Independent:

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.
But if slimmers wish to believe it, then who am I to discourage the poor souls?

02 August 2010

Public spending squeeze

This seems short-sighted, even mean-spirited. The FT reports:

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.