27 March 2015

A conspiracy theorist writes ...

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

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

25 March 2015

Stating the bleeding obvious

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

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

21 March 2015

Music of the week

Quote of the day

From The Guardian  on Mr Tony (here):
Somewhere along the line, your personal manifesto quietly slips from “Education, Education, Education” into “Grease the wheels of dictatorships, grease the wheels of dictatorships, grease the wheels of dictatorships”. I understand it, I do. It could happen to any of us! So I wasn’t all that surprised when Blair said in a speech last weekend that, though democracy in the Middle East was important, it wasn’t any more important than efficacy, or “effective government taking effective decisions”. Indeed, if you’re trying to run a country unencumbered by the views and beliefs of the entire population of that country, as many of Tony’s new business partners are, democracy really could be a bit of a spanner in the works. Blair’s speech was given in Egypt, where he praised the highly effective work of his new pal President al-Sisi, with whom he’s been having some kind of unspecified relationship. Meanwhile, Amnesty International has reported a surge in harrowing incidents of torture and deaths in police custody since President al-Sisi came to power. 

My glass is half empty

There you go:
The FTSE 100 has soared through the 7,000 barrier for the first time in its history, with investors buoyed by the prospect of continuing low interest rates and growing hopes that a solution may finally be found to Greece’s financial crisis.
From here, the only way is down.

20 March 2015


It usually takes more than a day or two for the pundits to discover the feet of clay underlying a budget.  But this week’s Osbornian effort seems to be falling apart rather more quickly.

As the OBR and the IFS have pointed out, there is a huge black hole in the form of £12 billion worth of welfare cuts.  Mr Osborne can’t or won’t explain which bits of welfare spending are to be targeted, even though the options appear to be extremely limited:

According to the Department for Work and Pensions’ latest annual accounts, the UK’s total welfare bill this year will come out at around £167.5bn. However, well over half of this of this – £93bn – is pensions and pension credit, and the chancellor has pledged that his additional £12bn of cuts won’t come from pensioners.This leaves Osborne with the task of shaving £12bn off the remaining benefit bill of £74bn, the equivalent of cutting one pound in every six in just a two-year period.

Then there is the crazy Help to Buy ISA whereby the government will subsidise housing demand, pushing house prices upwards and ultimately benefiting no-one.  Meanwhile the desperate need to increase housing supply is utterly neglected.

More amusingly, in a development reminiscent of the pasty tax, the Chancellor’s proposed tax break for orchestras has had to be swiftly amended to include brass bands.

How soon before we start using the term omni-shambles?

17 March 2015

Bring on the girls

Ann Treneman of The Times gets her teeth into the blessed Nicola (behind paywall):
I have always seen Nicola Sturgeon as a boiled sweet, so hard that bits of her chip off if she runs into something. But these days she is on a mission to soften. Industrial amounts of Downy fabric softener have been used and the result is rather impressive. Gone is the helmet hairdo, so effective that the army has asked for permission to deploy it in war zones. In TV make-up, there is a spray-on foundation that they call “airbrush”. Nicola Sturgeon yesterday had that airbrushed glow.
Is that the worst Ms Treneman can do?


Quote of the day

From a Guardian editorial on the chairman of the Conservative Party (here):
Mr Shapps is an operator. It’s what he is good at. He knew his double life was under the spotlight. He knew what was at stake when he was asked about it. Time and again he signally failed to tell the truth until he was forced to do so by the evidence. To protest against his conduct and character is not in any way, as he shamelessly alleged on Monday, to be anti-business. It is simply to be pro-truth. The truth is that Mr Shapps is a chancer in a job where credibility ought to matter, and once did. The truth is also that David Cameron has made two mistakes with Mr Shapps. The first was to appoint him chairman. The second is not to fire him. 

14 March 2015

Budget mysteries

The Treasury Permanent Secretary is getting his knickers in a twist.  The BBC website reports:

The top civil servant at the Treasury has warned staff he will not "hesitate to call in the police" if anyone leaks details from the Budget.
Sir Nicholas Macpherson has sent an email to officials reminding them he takes rules banning any pre-briefing of next week's Budget "very seriously".
As senior politicians and their political advisers have been leaking pre-briefing budget details for years (as will be apparent in tomorrow’s newspapers), it would seem rather pointless to crack the whip over their civil service underlings.


13 March 2015

Music of the week

Warriors for the dispossessed?

The Guardian reports:
The Conservatives will only win the general election if they can show the electorate that they are the “warriors for the dispossessed”, Michael Gove has said.
In a sign that Downing Street is concerned by poll findings, which consistently show the party is still a tainted brand, Gove said Tories need to show voters what is in their hearts before they can hope to engage their heads.
Speaking at the launch of the Good Right group, the Tory chief whip said: “Only if we remind people of our commitment to social justice, demonstrate our belief in equality of opportunity and affirm that we are warriors for the dispossessed will we be able to win arguments, and elections, and then be in a position genuinely to help the vulnerable and the voiceless. People need to know what’s in our hearts before they are prepared to consider our arguments in their heads.”
Sure, and Jeremy Clarkson is a caring sensitive soul who abhors publicity ...


04 March 2015

Small change

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has been fined £7,500 for breaching Scottish Football Association rules on dual ownership because of his influence on the affairs of Rangers.
According to Wikipedia, Mr Ashley is down to his last £1.5 billion.


02 March 2015

Nice work if you can get it

The Times reports (paywall):
Rona Fairhead, the chairwoman of the BBC Trust, was urged to give up working for HSBC yesterday after it emerged that she was paid more than £10,000 a day by the beleaguered bank.
MPs claimed that Ms Fairhead’s earnings from HSBC, whose Geneva branch has been accused of facilitating tax evasion, raised questions about her priorities because it dwarfs the £110,000 she receives for working three days a week overseeing the BBC.
Ms Fairhead was paid £513,000 last year by HSBC for about 50 days work, including £334,000 as the non-executive chairman of HSBC North America, £160,000 as the non-executive director of HSBC Holdings and £19,000 in expenses and other benefits.
The businesswoman, 53, who also earns £130,000 for working up to 25 days a year from PepsiCo, has insisted that her BBC work is her “first priority”.
Why?  Because she's worth it - probably ...