Monday 28 February 2011


The cost of unleaded petrol in the UK continues to rise and will probably rise even more over the next few weeks as the crisis in Libya pushes oil prices higher.

It is thought that by the middle of the week £1.32 a litre (that’s an amazing £6 a gallon), will be the price over large swathes of Scotland. It may well be more on the islands and in the North West Highlands.

Is this then, a brilliant time to apply the promised fuel escalator, which will add another 5p a litre to the cost of petrol. That would mean that be the end of April we would all be paying another 10p a litre at the pump.

And depending how far the troubles spread into the serious oil producers, that is to say Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, this may be just the beginning of the price hikes, which some have suggested could see petrol at £2.00 a litre before the end of the year.

So surely the fuel stabiliser, first proposed by Alex Salmond and included in the Tories election manifesto, and then dithered over by David Cameron on the grounds that it would be difficult to administer, must be brought into play. This would cut the tax rate as prices rose, meaning that the government would continue to receive the same amount of tax revenue as it had anticipated, at no, or little, extra cost to the driver.

And it’s not just motorists that will have to cope with steep rises in prices. Public transport companies, taxis, airlines train companies running diesel trains will all be hit (and so will their passengers). And as most things in the shops are transported by road of d
iesel train, that means we can look forward to more inflation in everyday items (with increased revenue to the government).

Even electric train rail passengers will be hit hard as inflation increases on the back of dearer oil. Commuter fares are linked to the RPI. So the cost of season tickets will be likely to rise by 10% plus at the end of the year because the Government now allows even the regulated fares to rise by 3% above July’s RPI.

So George, if you are reading this, I’m sure you will do the sensible thing, and set the great minds of HM Treasury to find a way of introducing a fuel stabiliser. If they fail I’m sure John Swinney will explain how to do it, if you write him a nice friendly letter...

Saturday 26 February 2011


I've had rather a busy weekend doing loads of stuff, so the posts have been a bit lazy, with a couple of jokey ones and borrowing a post from James... Sorry guys! Will do better, I promise.

Lawyer: Did you blow your horn or anything?
Witness: After the accident?
Lawyer: Before the accident.
Witness: Sure, I played for ten years. I even went to school for it.

Lawyer: How old is your son that is living with you?
Witness: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can't remember which.
Lawyer: How long has he lived with you?
Witness: Forty-five years.

Lawyer: What was the first thing your husband said to you when he woke that morning?
Witness: He said, "Where am I, Cathy?"
Lawyer: And why did that upset you?
Witness: My name is Susan.

Lawyer: How was your first marriage terminated?
Witness: By death.
Lawyer: And by whose death was it terminated?

Lawyer: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in the voodoo or occult?
Witness: We both do.
Lawyer: Voodoo?
Witness: We do.
Lawyer: You do?
Witness: Yes, voodoo.

Lawyer: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
Witness: Yes.
Lawyer: And what were you doing at that time?

Lawyer: What is your date of birth?
Witness: July fifteenth.
Lawyer: What year?
Witness: Every year.

Lawyer: Trooper, when you stopped the defendant, were your red and blue lights flashing?
Witness: Yes.
Lawyer: Did the defendant say anything when she got out of her car?
Witness: Yes, sir.
Lawyer: What did she say?
Witness: She said 'What disco am I at?'

Lawyer: Mr. Smith, you went on a rather elaborate honeymoon, didn't you?
Witness: I went to Europe, Sir.
Lawyer: And you took your new wife?

Lawyer: You say the stairs went down to the basement?
Witness: Yes.
Lawyer: And these stairs, did they go up also?

Lawyer: She had three children, right?
Witness: Yes.
Lawyer: How many were boys?
Witness: None.
Lawyer: Were there any girls?

Lawyer: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
Witness: Yes.
Lawyer: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
Witness: I forget things.
Lawyer: You forget. Can you give us an example of something that you've forgotten?

Lawyer: Can you describe the individual you saw?
Witness: He was about medium height and had a beard.
Lawyer: Was this a male, or a female?


I’ve always been intrigued by the way that some Libertarians define their so called "liberty", and how the absolute imperative of them being allowed to do what they want is balanced against the fact that it denies that same liberty to other people.

If I were as eloquent as James Kelly, I would have written this article. Instead I suggest you might like to read it in its original form at Scot Goes Pop. It’s exactly what I would have said, if I’d had the wherewithal!!

There is an interesting tailpiece on the Welsh Referendum too, intelligently and amusingly written.

Friday 25 February 2011



You have two cows.

You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.

You sell them and retire on the income.


You have two cows.

You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the band, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.

The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.

The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.

You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release.

The public buys your bull.


You have two cows.

You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when the cow drops dead.

You have two cows.
You go on strike because you want three cows.


You have two cows.

You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty time the milk. You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowikimon and market them worldwide.

You have two cows.

You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.


You have two cows, but you don't know where they are... You break for lunch.


You have two cows.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.

You count them again and learn you have 12 cows.

You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.


You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you. You charge others for storing them.


You have two cows.

You have 300 people milking them.
You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported the numbers.

You have two cows... both are mad.

Wednesday 23 February 2011


You would be hard pressed to make this up.

This morning at around 6 I heard that Turkey and the USA had sent in boats to rescue people from Libya. Since then I have read that Bulgaria, Russia, China, Tajikistan, France, Portugal and several other nations have managed to remove their citizens from the country.

Bulgaria even sent in military aircraft.

Britain, however, was doing its best to charter a plane this morning, while oil workers were saying that they had tried to get in touch with the British Embassy in Tripoli but that no one had got back to them.

Later in the morning, after criticism from families of ex-pats and from the Labour opposition they had stirred their stumps and a plane was due to leave at 12.30, with another later in the day and yet another tomorrow.

As of 7 pm, the chartered flight due to leave at 12.30 pm still hadn’t gone (according to on line papers). It was on the tarmac at Gatwick, broken down. And Alistair Burt, a Foreign Office minister, pictured below, said when questioned about it: "Sometimes planes develop faults through nobody else's fault or error. We will hopefully get those planes out as quickly as possible."

Hopefully Mr Burt? Hopefully, you say? Oh well, there’s not much you can do in an emergency when British citizens are trapped in a foreign country that is in the middle of a violent and deathly revolution and a plane brakes down. Especially if you’re only the government. I mean it’s not like you could get another bloody plane or anything, is it?

I’ve just checked and it appears that the plane has now left (8pm). At long last.

And Cameron has the brass neck to say that he has done everything possible to get stranded Brits out of there, and that the FCO officials were working round the clock to get people out. He said: "I don't want to give details of the exact plane arrival times or what ships and when, but we are doing everything we can to make sure we
get people out and there are all sorts of different means that we can use to make sure that happens." Just as well you didn't hand out the timetable, huh? What with it all coming down to one broken plane.

All I can say is that they seem to be pretty crap at it if they were doing everything possible and this was the best they could manage. I think too that they might want in their redundancy programme to look at some of the officials who work round the clock to produce a laughing stock fiasco like this.

Tuesday 22 February 2011


David Cameron has said that the West has been wrong to support dictators in the Middle East. In a speech to the Kuwaiti national assembly Cameron said that Britain would back democracy campaigners now seeking greater rights across the Middle East.

He said that in the past Britain’s foreign policy has been dictated by it economic interests and that has stopped them pushing for and promoting Western democratic values.

He felt it was wrong that Britain supported Mr Mubarak and that, under Labour, had fostered relations with Col Gaddafi in Libya. He pointed out that two Labour Prime Ministers had met Gaddafi to promote British interests in their large and lucrative oil economy, paving the way for 150 British businesses to work there. Well, the Tories would never have done anything like that, would they?

He said that British interests were best served by upholding British values; freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to use internet and in the rule of law. Hmmm right, we shall see when the riots begin in England, just how we practise what we preach.

Now this all sounds to me like we are going to have an ethical foreign policy again, just like we did for the first couple of weeks of Labour’s government in 1997. It soon fell by the wayside as the need for arms sales to keep the economy afloat reared its ugly head, and then the need to follow George W Bush to hell and back in the most unethical of wars became central to Tony Blair’s plans to be a leading world figure, if only in the shadow of the great Dubya (as the junior partner of the special relationship).

You see, I can’t much remember there being any Conservative objection to our relationship with Egypt (witness the picture at the top of the page). America was Egypt’s friend; Britain could hardly be otherwise. And America decided to allow Gaddafi back into the international community after he denounced terrorism. Pour encourager les autres, as it were. Iraq wouldn’t get rid of its (non existent) WMDs, so it got war. Libya denounced terror, so it got trade. What was Britain going to do? What indeed would the Tories have done?

So speaking in a country with only limited democracy, he was good enough to tell them that he respected their right to take their own decisions.

At a press conference later, Mr Cameron was asked if his pro-reform message applied to Saudi Arabia, but he declined to answer. Hmmmm, yes, well we certainly wouldn’t want to upset Saudi Arabia, a country where you can be flogged on the street for failing to take part in prayers, and where most of the government is made up of the king’s relatives. The trouble is that they have vast oil reserves and that they spend billions every year on British arms. And, after all, Mr Cameron’s tour entourage does include several defence industry executives.

So limited ethical foreign policy then Dave?

Some magical double acts! (1) Margaret Thatcher doing business with Hosni Mubarak: (2) Mad Gaddafi and Mad Brown making business happen: (3) Moving in for the kiss... Tony and Muammar, sweet: (4) Davie boy, all alone and very moral. Creitable, but a difficult position to keep up, specially when Saudi Arabia is not going to bend for the UK.

Monday 21 February 2011


Iain Gray really is a card, isn't he? After last week’s opinion poll put the SNP ahead by 10% and gave him a very embarrassing 33% on “satisfaction” compared with Eck’s 51%, he said that Mr Salmond had been in parliament for 20 years and was a one man band, so it was not surprising.


Well, I’d put it this way Elmer: The SNP has been in government for 4 years at a difficult time when initially the grumpy Mr Brown was tighter with Scotland’s grant than he had ever been with a Labour government in Edinburgh; the BBC and the newspapers have consistently called him out on every little thing, sometimes deliberately bending the facts so that they can make him and the SNP look bad, and as for a one man band (snigger), if it were true, it would be a deal better than being a broken record, with no live musicians.

In fact it is not true. The SNP is a veritable phiharmonic orchestra by comparison with Labour. The front bench of Cabinet Secretaries and their ministers are first rate. John Swinney, in particular, has been a magician with money. If I’d not actually been in the man’s office I’d swear he had a printing press on his desk running of BoS £100 notes. And it is disingenuous of Gray not to acknowledge the excellence of the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health whose strong showings at FMQs in Mr Salmond’s rare absences and on television shows such as "Question Time" have been excellent.

In fact if I were in charge of the SNP campaign, one of the posters I’d produce would show the difference between the senior front bench team and their Labour shadows. The comparison is laughable.

Gray also denied that Wendy Alexander’s notice of her intention to stand down to “spend more time with her family” was as a result of his refusing to offer her a cabinet seat in his government if he were to win the General Election in May. He answered, with a patronising and sexist remark, saying that it was difficult for women with small children in politics and felt that perhaps the family friendly hours of parliament hasn’t helped enough.

Yes Elmer. You can say that all you like, but we’re not buying it.

In fact he then went on to have a dig at Mrs Alexander by bragging that Labour had been behind in the polls by 16% when he took over as leader. And since then he had gone "head-to-head with Alex Salmond in Glenrothes, in Glasgow north east and in last year’s General Election – on every occasion I have won and I have won well.”

There was me thinking that the General Election last year and the Glenrothes and Glasgow by-elections were contests for the London, England parliament, which would have been the responsibility of Gordon Brown and Spud Murphy. What with Mr Gray not having a clue what Mr Brown and Mr Murphy thought about Mr Al Megrahi, I would have assumed there must be very little communication between London Labour and it’s Edinburgh Office. Only on some things maybe?

Pics: (1) Nah, please, don’t, I’ll try to make the next joke better! (2) Who’s she burying? I mean he wasn’t THAT bad Nicola. (3) That’s how wide she can open Mr Gray. I’d get on the phone and offer her Justice if I were you. (The numpty you have there is useless!) (4) Just so there’s not favouritism here’s a pic of Nicola, she’ll wish had never gone out... or maybe she was just trying to remember Elmer’s real name.

Saturday 19 February 2011


This came as a surprise to me. There are only two countries in the world which appoint unelected clerics to their parliament, giving them the right to vote on all the issues that face the country.

One is Iran, and the other is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

At present 26 Church of England bishops, a substantial block, can sit in parliament as of right and vote on our laws including on equality of opportunity, and employment laws, while they themselves refuse to obey these laws, discriminating against females, gays, and refusing to countenance proposals for euthanasia and dignified death. They say that they are in parliament to do God’s will, but in the meantime their church looses adherents by the day, and they spend their bishops’ conferences in Africa discussing the iniquities females and gay bishops, when all around them there is famine and pestilence.

The Noble and Right Rev Lord Harries of Pentregarth has said that he is there to show "parliament is accountable not only to the electorate but to God". Hmmm. Well, as The British Social Attitudes Survey, according to this article in the Independent, the most detailed study of public opinion, found that 59% of us say we are not religious, I think that the noble lord might want to reflect about where his responsibilities lie, and that the £300 a day expenses he can collect for his attendance is paid, not by God, but by you and me.

If you, like me, think that this is all wrong, then according to the article, the situation may be about to get even worse. Because, although when in opposition Nick Clegg called for an all elected upper house, it seems that that’s not the way that the deputy prime minister, responsible for constitutional change, now sees it. Like so much of the deputy prime minister’s vision, it has undergone a gigantic change in direction. He now favours a house only 80% elected, with the Noble and Reverend gentlemen being allowed to continue to sit, and for there to be additional representatives of other religions joining them. (As a matter of interest Roman Catholic bishops could never be among them as they are banned by Canon Law from taking part in the government of any state other than The Holy See of the Vatican City.)

I imagine that the next thing he will be telling us is that he has decided that they should still wear red cloaks and wigs and be given titles that get them the best seats in restaurants, and give their children honorary titles.

It is ironic that one of the least religious societies in Western Europe should find itself, along with the theocracy Iran, allowing the church to have a say in its laws, without them being elected to do just that.

Cameron recently told minority religion adherents in this country that they must learn to behave like us. They had to accept equality in all matters of gender, sexuality, and race. He apparently feels that that is what defines us as a society. (Well maybe it seemed like a catchy line, even if he knows it to be utterly and laughably untrue.) He might like to instruct some of the ‘home grown’ religions to do the same thing before he allows them seats on the red benches as a matter of right, seeing as they don't appear to believe in anything that 'defines us as a society'.

Pics: (1) The House of Lords wherein sit the elements that make us part theocracy: as usual, of course, it’s nothing to do with Scotland! (2) Richard Harries; elected by God. (3) Nick Clegg; elected (for the last time?) by the people of Sheffield: (4) Ayatollah Khomeini; also elected by God, but a different one from the one that elected Dickie.

Thursday 17 February 2011


The government has dropped its plans to cut in housing benefit by 10% after 12 months of claims. The cut was proposed in George Osborne’s June budget last year, however, as realistically it would only have created homelessness, crime and misery, Boris Johnston and Nick Clegg are thought to have scuppered it.

The cut was supposed to be an incentive for the unemployed to find work, which is a very good idea, but there really have to BE jobs before you can put someone out of their home for not having one.

I have a professional interest in Welfare Bills, having worked for many years trying to get people off benefits and into work.

To be fair to IDS there
are some good things in this bill. The benefits system is being streamlined and simplified. Currently there are far too many JC+ staff who know little of the complex rules, and millions of pounds is wasted and much misery suffered as people are over or underpaid, because staff are hardly trained, lowly paid, overworked and have very low morale. I must say that I have never hated a job as much as the 8 miserable months I spent there.

IDS tells us that there are 500,000 jobs in the jobcentres every week, but a recent report said that 90% of jobs available are part time, and my experience of JC+ is that many of them are not just part time, but very part time.

“Cleaner: 1 hour a day 7-8 am, (2 hours Fridays). Min Wage. Must be flexible and available for extra hours as required. Key holder. Experience required with buffing machinery. References requ’d!” What use is that to most people?

No one would argue that getting people back to work is important. We have nearly 1 million unemployed 16-25 year olds. That is a scandalous waste of lives, as unemployment not only means poverty now, it is also associated with ill health and premature death in the future.

The trouble is that except for the start of the New Deal programme in 1997/8 we never do it properly. We send people along to job search courses willy nilly. All the wrong people together in a room, all with different needs; all looking for different types of work.

We underpay the staff who work with them, in what can be a very challenging job, and frequently get staff who have little knowledge or interest in what they are doing.

But for all that there are successes.

And what the successes need are jobs. Not part time jobs with zero hour contracts; not jobs which are totally unsuited to their needs and talents. We need decent suitable jobs with fair pay.

"What will happen is British people will genuinely be able to get British jobs because they will be incentivised to take those jobs, we will expect them to take those jobs but work will pay better than benefits. A life on benefits will no longer be an option for somebody.” IDS told the BBC.

So quite apart from falling into the trap that Brown fell into with his Britishness, I look forward to him finding the estimated 6 million jobs which will be needed to ensure that ”a life on benefits will no longer be an option”.

Incidentally, he talks too about sorting the sick note culture. He might want to start with JC+, which when I was there, was so badly managed that around 10% of the staff were off sick long term!!

Pics: (1) Boris, sporting his Mrs Thatcher bouffant, was the first to see the folly on housing benefit cuts. (2) People under 35, however, will be forced out of their homes and into shared accommodation to get housing benefit. (I don’t think the authors have been outside London.) (3) IDS was hoping to grab 10% of the housing benefit after 1 year’s claim, but Nick and Boris spiked his guns.


I think that this says everything that we need to know about the Big Society and about Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maud. "You little people need to do these things. Ministers of course, don't."

Well done Eddy. Gosh! You made him look like the toffee nosed prat he is.

Wednesday 16 February 2011


I don't care much for big business supporting political parties, nor for that matter for trades unions doing it, but life is life and we start from where we are, not from where we would like to be.

So, with the unions funding Labour and the big financial organisations funding the Tories, we have to be grateful that this money is coming to us.

Getting our message through with a hostile press and a hostile state broadcaster is a hard job. The rubbish that is printed about the SNP has been startling over the years, and the way that some achievements have been ignored in the main stream media, including the BBC, is jaw dropping. The curled lip of some presenters when the government is mentioned brings shame on a supposedly neutral state funded organ.

So we need to be able to get the message across with posters, ads, tv and most important of all, people.

The SNP is lucky. Its members get off their backsides and do what they can, whatever that is, from folding communications and putting them in envelopes to going out “chapping doors”. We are lucky that our main asset costs nothing. But other assets do cost money and we will have to pay for the advertising campaign which we must mount.

We need a million pounds. Let’s see if we can get it.

(As so often on this blog, my thanks go to Cynical Highlander for bringing this to my attention.)

Pics: Isn't it one of the prettiest and the best places on Earth (despite today's weather)

Tuesday 15 February 2011


Downing Street has apparently recruited yet another member of staff, but at least this one won’t require massive bonuses and fabulous expenses, as he is a cat, indeed a rat-catching cat.

The new member of Team Cameron was recruited from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home after a rat was twice recently caught on TV cameras running up and down outside the door of number 10, waiting for it to open.

On January 24th, the BBC reported that the government had no plans to bring in a cat. It's a comfort to know that some things never change.

The new recruit is called Larry and first indications show that he won’t require to go to the house of lords when he retires, nor will be he much bothered about a knighthood or a CBE.

He is untried as a ratter but staff at Battersea gave Larry an excellent reference. He had, they said, a "strong predatory drive" and enjoyed playing with toy mice, suggesting that he will be a good rat-catcher. Hmmm. At least the strong predaTORY drive will go down well with his new boss.

He was a stray before being taken to Battersea, so he is a tough wee cookie, having had to live on the streets and fend for himself. Again, in the dog eat dog atmosphere of Downing Street that should prove to be a positive.

In 1997 the ratter, Humphrey, retired shortly after Tony Blair arrived in Downing Street, having decided that he was allergic to Cherie. He was succeeded by Sybil, the pet of Alistair Darling, in 2007, but she returned to Scotland after discovering that dodging Gordon Brown’s flying Nokias was a much more dangerous job than she had signed up for and after blotting her copy book when she tried to catch Thatcher on one of her many visits to advise the prime minister..

Pics: (1) Larry the Cat: David Cameron’s new way of flushing out rats in Downing Stree. He seems very small to deal with the likes of Liam Fox. (2) One of the rats caught on the TV cameras. I suppose there has been in increase in the desirability factor since the last resident left. He probably lived on porridge and skirlie, washed down by water. The pickings will be better under this fellow. (3) Humphrey the Cat who served under John Major (when he developed a taste for peas) and Mrs Thatcher (when single malt was the plat du jour), but who found Cherie a wee bit hard to live with (guacamole and sun dried tomatoes gets tiresome) and indeed had to be sedated to appear in a photograph with her.

Monday 14 February 2011


When Mrs Thatcher first arose from out the azure main...this was the charter, the charter of the land. Tories, never, never, never would U-Turn.

But times have changed and nothing can be the same..not even the "warmth" and "love" for her famous catch phrase: "U-turn if you want to the Lady is not for turning".

Regretably her party's current crop are not of the same mettle. And U-turns seem to be the order of the day.

But where to start? Oh yea "we are all in it together"!

Such a lovely feeling of togetherness....not..all in it together? Well not MPs, the Royal Family and now it seems Whitehall mandarins! So we are not all in it together at all. U-turn? Just one among many.

The “Big Society” is in the soup with absolutely everybody disagreeing with “call me” (except Dean), so we got yesterday's announcement of £100 million knee jerk aid to bribe people into being facilitators. No Need to go over the details. It was well covered in an earlier post.U-turn?

New Politics® is also in trouble, with two Tory MPs Bernard Jenkins and Dr Sarah Wollaston being very critical of the strict whipping system employed over the NHS reforms (in England). It seems that latter, an NHS doctor pre 2010, wanted to be on the committee that scrutinised the bill, but was told she could only be on if she did not table any amendments that the Government had not approved and HAD to vote for the Government line no matter what. What was it “call me” had to say about that before the election 1n 2009? Oh yes:

“There are far too many laws being pushed through, with far too little genuine scrutiny from MPs. And excessive whipping of MPs by party hierarchies further limits genuine scrutiny. This has to change.”

Then of course there is the reason Dr Wollaston entered parliament in the first place. Remember when “call me” wanted people from, and with experience of, the real world after his old lot proved to mostly be totally out of touch and on the fiddle. So he threw the Tory selection process open, well Dr W is one of that intake. Clearly though she is not a party patsy and so now her HNS experience are not wanted on the committee to scrutinise the HNS Bill. Isn’t New Politics wonderful, looking a lot like the old kind. U-Turn?

Then on to DEFRA and that daft woman Spelman. Her big idea was to sell off all England’s forests. Starting with an initial 15% that would raise £100 million right away and then more later in tranches. But regrettably that idea did not go down too well in the shires where 85% of Tory voters including Boris Johnson’s sister didn’t like it. Bit of back pedalling came up with still selling off the 15% but a consultation on the rest. Not good enough so then we were told that the 15% would only be sold to nice responsible people who would look after it. Still not good enough so now that 15% has also been included in the consultation. Why bother with a consultation? U-Turn, well there have been so many here it’s hard to keep track.

Oh dear I feel I have not even got started with this subject but look at the length of the post already, and we have not even begun to tackle Michael Goves various U-turns. That is even more complex than DEFRAs an would probably make a post all of its own.
Well there have been so many in these few short months of Tory rule that I was thinking of asking the readers what their favourite U-turn is!
Pics: Margaret Hilda getting ready to not do a U-turn; Dr Woolaston; The idiot Spelman and the pickled egg (the latter hasn't done a U-turn yet I don't think!)

Sunday 13 February 2011


In a world where so many things are uncertain, it is good to know that some things can be relied upon. And it’s heart warming to know that what can be relied upon is at the heart of the Great British Establishment. Now doesn’t that just make you proud to be British?

Well, it shouldn’t because what I’m talking about is, that despite the recession, despite job losses, despite pay freezes and general melt down which the English Justice Secretary warns us is going to hit home this year, the people in Whitehall got themselves bonuses which rose by 5%...well above the official rate of inflation.

More than £136 million was paid out to Whitehall staff with some senior managers pocketing £50,000.

According to the Telegraph:

The highest-spending department was the MoD, £42.7 million, while the DWP paid £27.6 million. HMRC spent £13.4 million on bonuses, and
DfT set aside £12.4 million. The FCO spent £8.5 million and the Home Office spent £7.6 million. The highest individual payouts (£49,900) went to staff at the MoD and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The next biggest individual bonus payment (£42,134) went to staff at the Department for International Development (DfID). The biggest Home Office bonus was £28,000 and several other departments, including the FCO, handed out lump sums of £15,000.

The average figure for inflation in 2009-10 was 2.25%, while Whitehall bonuses rose by 5.3%.

What makes it even funnier is that leading the protests about it were MPs who are not shy about taking pay rises while the rest of us go without. They took £1,000 each of a rise last year, and this year are set to take a 1% rise, which is, admittedly less than inflation, but at a time when people are having their pay frozen or reduced, a bit of leading from the front would be welcome. After all, they shouldn’t be broke. £66,000 is hardly a pittance for a job that requires no qualification and no training period. And most of them supplement that with directorships.

Gordon Brown’s government is quite rightly getting the blame for this outrageous waste of public money, it having happened in a year when he was prime minister.

Why people in totally secure jobs at or towards the top of the Civil Service, with their gold plated pensions, guaranteed honours and six figure salaries deserve bonuses in the region of £50,000 is beyond me.

It hasn’t gone without note that the MoD has not only the highest spend but the most expensive executives, which is a bit of a joke considering the complete cock up they have made of purchasing, logistics and conduct of a war. The DWP are second at a time when the dole queue has nearly doubled, so well done them. HMRC is in total melt down because of staff shortages, computer foul ups and record low morale, considering several million people have been paying the wrong tax. And the Home Office never has been, and probably never will be, fit for anything, never mind purpose.

So if they roll out the old chestnut that they could get better in the private sector, then we should tell them to go and try it. On the above records, and never having their accounts signed off, I should think they’d all be engaged by the DWP in a year’s time...

...signing on.

Saturday 12 February 2011


What a week just past, and a week to come for the UK government.

David Cameron is going to re-launch his Big ‘Moral’ Society (the moral bit is new, but the rest is the same), and explain that there is a morality which runs through the policies of all the coalition government. (Did he not hear about Labour’s embarrassing interlude when they announced a moral (ethical) foreign policy but within a week were found to be exporting weapons to some autocracy, after which we heard no more about morality?)

Cameron’s actually pinning his Savile Row shirt to this one, because he is saying that he is 100% behind the policy, which so far has been somewhere between a damp squib and a bit of an embarrassment with some saying that they don’t know what it’s about but most suspecting that it’s about government attempting to get people to do voluntarily what used to be done by the government.

Additionally there have been the embarrassments of one of his flagship Big Society councils withdrawing from the project because of government’s cuts eating into the money for funding it, and his Big Society Tsar having to reduce the amount of voluntary time he can give to the project because of the need to earn a living. (Not to mention that someone pointed out that the initials BS are used by those in polite society to refer to bullshit.)

Many on the right wing of his party (who clearly haven’t grasped the fact that if they can get people to volunteer to work for nothing they can close more public services and release more money for tax cuts) have been giving him a rough time over the vagueness of the scheme.

An aide has said that he needs to stress that the Big Society is about personal morals in terms of charities and volunteering and that it is a concept that right-wingers should applaud.

But the coalition is also running into trouble with its AV referendum legislation, as the government will hope to overturn the Lords’ amendments, whereupon it will be returned to the Upper House in its original state. If their lordy ones decide to be awkward they can refuse to accept the Commons’ changes. This will risk the legislation missing its deadline and will render it unusable for date of our General Election and the council elections in England. It is difficult to know if this particular piece of legislation would really count as being in a party manifesto, and whether thus, the Commons can demand supremacy. (Although the Liberals’ manifesto included a referendum on proportional representation, it most certainly didn’t refer to a referendum on AV, which in any case is not proportional, and the Liberals described as “nasty”.) Actually, don't you think it's rather strange to give this unelected lot a vote on elections at all?

We may yet have no referendum, at which point how much longer can the coalition hold on to their Liberal left wingers and the Tory right wingers.

There has also been a reversal of the cutting of funding to help poor people in debt. Ministers though, have said that the cut £25million being replaced with £25million from another source after redundancy notices had been issued, was not a U-turn. Of course it wasn’t. And Michael Gove has been told that his changes to Labour’s school refurbishments scheme were illegal. (He insisted on bringing it out about a week after his appointment, without proper scrutiny by either the staff [it was all wrong] or the lawyers.)

It does seem to me that this government is “coming apart at the shewing” (as my gran would say). I wonder what the bets are now on it lasting till this time next year.


Pics: The truth is that most people, who have time and inclination to do voluntary work, do it anyway. Cameron banging on about it won’t encourage many more, and may put as many people off. A specimen AV voting card, blamed in Scotland for so many spoilt papers. It’s an amazing feat that there are actually seats that haven’t changed hands since the days of Vicky. Elections are fought and won on a small number of marginals. For the rest (of whatever party) it’s a career for life.


It relates to the geography of the Middle and Near East, Arabia, and North Africa

I did OK on Africa, the Near East, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and most of the peninsula, although the little countries at the bottom got me a couple of crosses. But where I was pretty lost and did a fair pile of guessing was in the former Soviet “stans”.

I thought it was a pretty fun way of learning and I was pleased to see that there are other quizzes to be had.

In view of recent events in Egypt and Tunisia, and current events in Algeria and Yemen, and with the almost certainty of more desire for democracy, for which we have been calling for a long time, and yet almost certainly won’t like when it comes, at least in some of the countries, I think it’s an area of the world worth knowing a little more about.

Good luck.
Pics: A street scene in Mauritania, and the flag of Chad.

Friday 11 February 2011


Most days when I drop into Morrison’s, I glance at the headlines on the journals that I’d never bother with online... The Sun, Star, Record, Express, Dandy... and I think it’s fair to say I rarely come away without smiling, or tittering, but today I couldn’t help let out a real loud laugh.

Afterwards of course, I realized that it wasn’t funny, but somewhere between bad and wicked.

The headline was “Britain in the EU: this must be the end”. Funny, I thought. What’s that about?

Then with incredulity I read:

In a (sic) historic Commons decision, MPs overwhelmingly rejected proposals to give prisoners the vote.

They voted by a margin of more than 10 to one against bowing to a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights. The moment of defiance, after decades of submitting to EU institutions, was being seen as a turning point in the battle for British independence from European edicts, judges and bureaucracy.

What? A couple of weeks ago I read on Calum Cashley’s Blog about Richard Baker not knowing the difference between the ECHR (47 signatories of Council of Europe) and the EU (27 member states). Now I can imagine that the distinction wide and wonderful though it may be, might have escaped the notice of Richard Baker, but the Daily Express? In a newspaper where presumably the stories are checked by senior staff and legal advisors and sighned-off by an editor, surely someone would have known that the two organisations are entirely different.

But no. The Daily Express doesn’t know the difference.

Now whether you like the EU or not, you really can’t blame it for everything that has Europe somewhere in its name. If MPs do indeed vote to come out of the EU on the basis of the decisions of the ECHR, aren’t they going to look a wee bit silly when the next ECHR decision comes along.

What made me angry was that the Express knows full well that the two organisations have nothing to do with each other, but in order to sell paper and stir up anti-European sentiment it tied the two together because of the supposedly emotive issue of prisoners’ rights to vote. And that is despicable.

On the subject of the rights to vote, frankly I have no idea what is bothering everyone, why Mr Cameron is made to feel positively queasy by the notion, after all:

We allow prisoners the right to a healthy diet and medical treatment;
We allow them to sleep on beds with sheets, mattresses, duvets, or blankets; We heat their cells;
We allow them visits, let them smoke;
We allow them to phone out of prison, and to enjoy recreational facilities;
We allow them home for the weekend. (Jeffry Archer even went to a party at a cabinet Minister’s house during one such weekend);
We allow them out to work.

Why would we deny them the right to vote?

MPs (and this is nothing to do with the ECHR) who commit crimes and go to prison for a year or less are not only allowed to vote, but keep their job and their salary. So how does that seem fair?

Judges give custodial sentences and noncustodial sentences for exactly the same crime, dependant on home circumstances, family, gender, etc. Why would the imprisoned person lose their vote and the non imprisoned not?

It’s a storm in a tea cup; a great load of Xenophobic rubbish. There’s nothing the Express likes better, and it’s shameful.