Monday, 21 December 2009

Defending yourself

I never thought I would wind up giving a Tory Shadow Home Secretary wholehearted support but there is always a first time. There used to be a 'self defence' protection if you attacked a burglar or other intruder. Somehow over time it has gone into reverse & it is the victim of crime who, if they defend themselves, is now the criminal in the eyes of the law. This has got so insane that a female pensioner who poked a teenage yob in the chest was hauled up before the local magistrates. If someone is threatening you with a weapon in your own home can anyone explain how you are supposed to know what is reasonable force to defend yourself. "Please Mr Burglar have a cup of tea while I ring the disinterested police & get a ruling on how hard I can hit you". It is high time this daft interpretation of the law was reversed.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Breathtaking Banks

I struggled to believe what I was reading when Heather McGregor,in the Observer of 18th October,wrote under the headline 'No they [Bankers] didn't cause the crash.Bankers deserve to be rewarded'  Observer 18th October). The people who really deserve high pay & Knighthoods/Peerages & all the rest are the likes of Ross Brawn who picked up a dead Formula 1 racing team & in less than a year took it to a World Championship, in the process preserving a large number of highly skilled manufacturing jobs in Northampton. Or the Indian eye surgeon who so skilfully removed a cataract from my 91yr old uncle. Not people who simply push other peoples money round a computer network creaming off a percentage at every stage.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Camerons cronys

The George bit of the David & George show says Labour is seeking to "suck up to business" and the Tories were not "bedazzled by big money" and would "not fawn over" wealth creation. He surely jests. Assuming the Tories win the General Election (by no means as certain as some would believe) there will be at least 50 MPs with Financial Services backgrounds. Moreover the Tories have recruited two exceptionally wealthy City performers (Michael Spencer CEO Icap and Stanly Fink former CEO of Man Group) as the Party's co- treasurers. Cameron has also created a network of supporters, many with City backgrounds, who have special access to him. Let us assume that Cameron & Osborne are sincere about curbing the excesses of the financial services industry, any one who thinks that they would be allowed to do anything effective about it is living in fantasy land.

A different double standard

So Alex Fergusson is upset that the ref didn't go on playing injury time until Manchester United could score the winning goal - like they did previously with a more compliant referee. Boo hoo. How sad.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Double standards

Of course we don't want Iran to have nuclear weapons but let's try and look at it from their point of view then we might get somewhere. Israel has a nuclear arsenal (which it denies - so we shouldn't get upset about others lying should we?) and the means to deliver the weapons on Iran. It has threatened air strikes on Iran and I don't recall the USA in particular giving them a good slapping & telling them in no uncertain terms 'no way'. Israeli aggression over the last 40yrs has been jaw dropping. Terrorist attacks on Israel are not an excuse. Imagine the reaction, especially in America, if we had blown up Catholic housing estates in Northern Ireland after an IRA bomb in Manchester. When we invaded Iraq, Israel had been in breach of more UN resolutions, and for longer, than Saddam. It is not anti-semitic to point out that there is a double standard of truly gargantuan proportions here. If you were an Iranian would you not want your own bomb?

Where is UKIP

I was under the impression that UKIP was against overseas & foreign interference with our sovereign Government & democratic process. I therefore look forward to hearing their howls of protest at the blatant intervention of the Unelected President of the World via his so-called newspaper in the forthcoming General Election.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Carrot & Stick

Once again teachers, anybody but the parent of the bully, must do something & be accountable. Can no one see what impossible nonsense this is? Schools have anti bullying strategies which quite rightly focus on trying to get to the bottom of why kids bully and sort out the problem, more often than not successfully. But in any population there is always a hard core who refuse to respond- and I mean 'refuse'. It is not the methods, dedication, psychology or what have you that fail. We don't want to admit it but some people are just determined to be bad. To capture their attention we need to stop using human rights in the way that was never intended i.e by protecting the perpetrator rather than the victim. Teachers property has been vandalised and they have been beaten & even killed intervening in bullying incidents. Parents of bullies threaten teachers - one even drove his car at a teacher. No one, let alone a teacher, is allowed to use the force that is necessary to restrain the determined bully. For a minority of thugs we need to bring back corporal punishment. They might then be receptive to rehabilitation. Right now they see the 'punishment' that we are allowed to dish out as a joke and an ASBO as a medal. Before anybody gets too excited at this such evidence as there is suggests that only something like 5% of young offenders would need this hardline. It is the gesture of last resort but it should be there.

Monday, 21 September 2009

BBC telescope to the blind eye

When all the NW MEPs took up their seats in the European Parliament the BBC NW & National news chose to feature Nick Griffin & no one else. I complained & got the BBC party line about having to be impartial. Now we have Griffin on Question Time & I complained as follows "Once again we get the same old excuse about obligation to be even handed to a legitimate political party. Fair enough but does the BBC have to be in such a hurry to give Griffin air time? Chris Davies, Liberal Democrat MEP for NW England, has just started his third term in the European Parliament. This was not mentioned on the News when you reported on Griffin taking his seat. Chris knows about the workings of Europe. Griffin knows nothing. Chris is a controversial figure especially over his support for the Palestinians. He has also led the EU Parliament on some important environmental issues. He would make a lively panelist. Yet Chris has never been invited. So much for 'balance'& 'impartiality'". The BBC's reply to this complaint refers me to the programme editors blog & quite deliberately misses the point.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

News or no news?

James Murdoch is reported as saying that the BBC's 24hr news channels  and web site
were inhibiting the ability of commercial competitors to invest in news. The variety of interpretation of words within the English language is one of its' great strengths. I have been exposed to the concept of 'news' within the Murdoch Empire in Australia & the USA, as well as in Britain and I confess I struggle to equate them with my understanding of the word and thus I have difficulty in understanding his concern. Indeed the arguments he uses for constraining the BBC are precisely those that perhaps could usefully be applied to his own empire.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Inconsistencies & Questions

As of 1st April 2009 the total annual remuneration of the Prime Minister was £197,689. The boss of RBS gets an annual salary of £1.2 million just for turning up to work and millions more if he does anything useful. Way down the pecking order from the boss, annual financial sector bonuses exceed the Prime Ministers salary. Whatever ones view of Gordon Brown there is surely something wrong here. Why does Gordon (or anyone else) want the job? Could it be that power is more important than money? I wonder if we capped ALL financial sector remuneration at £200000 p.a. how many would actually quit?

Barons & peasants yet again

Two stories in today's [8th August] Financial Times. On the front page, Stephen Hester of RBS bewailing the continued criticism of the bank(s) saying that the numbers of top performing staff leaving had doubled in the first six months of 2009 after the bank agreed with the government to place restrictions on future bonus payments. The fact that all Mr Hester has to do is to get the banks share price to 70p in three years to earn himself £9.6million, does, I'm sure, not influence his view of the role of the bank for the public good. I had no sooner finished mopping up my tears of sympathy when lo, on the back page of the FT Money supplement, we find that the banks are refusing financial support to SMEs forcing some sound and valuable businesses to go bust in the process. The global financial industry had to be kept afloat (sadly) but we should have allowed Northern Rock & RBS to go bust just to make the point to the others & deny Goodwin & Applegarth their grotesque rewards for failure. It has to be probable that depositors funds could have been protected for the same kind of money that has in any case been pumped into these two banks.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Sick joke=British justice

John Kiely was today jailed for 5yrs. It should have been 20yrs & he should have been stripped of everything he owned. This man terrorised hundreds of poor people who had borrowed trivial sums from him on which he charged outrageous interest. It was reported that he had made profits of £2.9m from 2003 until his arrest. Only last year he was given a Licence to trade in financial matters. So much for regulation & justice. Meanwhile 1400 female shoplifters, of whom 80% will re-offend within two years of release, are clogging up the prisons at a cost of some £35000 p.a. each. Is this really financially smart,let alone justice?

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Barons & peasants again

Headline on the front page of todays Observer: ' Pay freeze threat to all public workers'. The small print doesn't say whether this will apply to those on the top of the pyramid as well as the worker ants at the bottom but I'll take a decent wager that excuses will be found along the lines of 'need to attract the best talent' so that the 'haves' are exempted from pain. How long will the mass of the people continue to put up with this? Sadly, since they seem to think that voting Conservative [ or failing that BNP or UKIP] will do something for them, I fear it will be quite a long time.

Barons & peasants

David Schwartz writing in the Financial Times of 4th July describes the £9.6m pay package for the new RBS chief as 'draw dropping'. Apparently this is justified by the challenge of the job. David Schwartz says " Funny that, I thought he was paid £1.2million a year [the basic salary] precisely to handle a challenging job. The RBS Board appears to believe £ 1.2m merely encourages [him] to turn up for work each day. Getting him to act costs extra" It is truly extraordinary that this supine Government, who now own this catastrophe of a bank with our money, are allowing this to happen. It has to be an organ like the FT to protest about it. Hooray for them - one might have thought they'd be on the bankers side.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Bye Bye BNP

Across the whole EU those MEP's who are of similar persuasion to the BNP increased by 8. The Front National (France) lost 4 MEPs & is virtually bankrupt. Vlaams Belang (Belgium) went down from 3 to 2. Nick Griffin is described by one potential collaborator as “not very smart”. To qualify for Group funding under EU rules they need to form a collaborating group of 25 or more from a minimum of seven different Member States. Because they can't agree on much except general hatred it looks like the best the far right group will do is 14 MEPs. [the PW of Geert Wilders (Holland) has decided it will not join any group]. In truth the BNP has been given far too much attention. The way to stuff them back in their box is to attack their policies as necessary, not give them massive publicity by throwing eggs at them. Their influence in the European Parliament is effectively nil.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Invisible Europe

My EU blog of 18th May was sent to the local papers on 26th May and finally published on 6th June!! Our 'Party Manifesto' for the EU emerged about 4days before the election. Our first EU Election broadcast never mentioned Europe. Fat lot of good all that was. In the NW,apart from Chris Davies, our local and National EU election effort was invisible.'Don't mention the EU' was like the Fawlty Towers 'Don't mention the War' sketch. If we really are the pro-Europe party then our leaders have got to stop pussyfooting round it and meet UKIP, the BNP & Eurosceptic Tories head on on every possible occasion.If we think that relentlessly putting the case for Europe is a vote loser will the leadership please say so then I can resign from the Party & save myself a stack of money and a lot of hard work.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Football tears

Paying 50% tax above £150000 per annum income is so unfair on premier league footballers struggling on a mere £2million a year AFTER tax - or so they would have us believe. They might even go & play overseas. Hooray. Then we might just get enough English players in the league to allow us a decent National team. And the ticket price at premier league matches might just possibly become affordable by ordinary fans. What a disaster!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 18 May 2009

EU Elections 2

Most Liberal Democrats will find this message tells them what they already knew but it is clear that there are millions in Britain who have no idea how the EU works & readily believe all the lies. There is so much misinformation about the EU put about by those who delude themselves that if we were to leave it some fantasy life of happiness & prosperity would suddenly occur, that it is hard to know where to begin. Let's start with 'undemocratic' & 'unelected'. EU Commissioners are appointed by the ELECTED Governments of the Member States. Their actions are supervised by a Council of ELECTED Ministers from the Member States & scrutinised by ELECTED members of the European Parliament. That is why it is important to vote in the forthcoming EU elections, and to vote Liberal Democrat. Our MEPs, and especially Chris Davies in the NW region, are amongst the hardest working, most transparent in their expenses, and in the forefront of reform.

EU Parliamentary Elections are at fixed terms – not like our General Elections which are held at the whim of the Prime Minister whenever he/she thinks it is most advantageous. In Westminster, once we have elected a Government with a working overall majority there is no democratic way the behaviour of that Government can be controlled (unlike the EU). That is why Blair was able to take us into an illegal war despite the biggest public protest in living memory. Nobody elected Rupert Murdoch, to whom our Prime Ministers seem to need to pay court. Nobody elected the financiers whose greed & incompetence have brought the country to its' knees.

Liberal Democrats do not pretend that the EU is perfect. The Lisbon Treaty is an attempt at improving how it works. Liberal Democrats have been accused of breaking a promise of a referendum on this treaty. We did not promise any such referendum. It would be a futile waste of taxpayers money. If every country in the EU voted against it, the EU would still exist & would carry on operating as it currently does. Liberal Democrats argue that any referendum should be about whether Britain should leave the EU or not. That is sufficiently fundamental & important to warrant a referendum.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Convoluted Cameron

During a debate on the issue of MPs expenses on 3rd July 2008 David Cameron's troops defeated an opportunity to go some way to fix the problem. Now that the issue has massively blown up in his face he presents himself, (during his hijack of his own European Election party political broadcast on 15th May), as the standard bearer for honesty, truth and righteousness. He must arguably be in the running for the title of greatest political hypocrite of the decade.

The all party House of Commons Members Estimates Committee were asked in January 2008 to review MPs pay and allowances following the censure of Conservative Derek Conway for excessively paying his son for limited services. This Committee reported on 25th June 2008. Motions were tabled by Harriet Harman for debate on 3rd July 2008. The section on Expenses was introduced by Liberal Democrat Nick Harvey which essentially recommended strict tightening of the auditing procedures. Don Touhig, Labour, tabled an amendment which took most of the teeth out of the proposals and the Tories trooped in to support it. Shortly afterwards Nick Clegg wrote to Cameron and Brown suggesting joint talks to fix the problem. He was ignored.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

European Elections

Election material is now beginning to plop onto the doormat. I once got a letter published in a National paper suggesting that I had come to the opinion that we should pull out of Europe because the rest of Europe would be so much better off without us. It's about the only letter I've ever had published that got a reaction - most of it abusive & anonymous. But one dear chap did sign his name & his concern was loss of our national identity. So I wrote to him in a friendly fashion & asked if he found the French any less French, Gerrmans less German etc. He replied that he'd never been abroad. The 19th century quotation "Fog in the Channel, Europe cut off" is still alive & well. Being pro-Europe is a tough ask.

MPs Expenses

In all the smoke & thunder surrounding MP's expenses we should not forget that there may well be a substantial majority of the 646 Members who have NOT abused the rules. Liberal Democrat, Sarah Teather MP, has never claimed her second home allowance. She lives just half an hour from Parliament and, under the idiotic rules which are still in force, she would be allowed to claim up to £24000 . There was a chance to overhaul the system last summer which was not taken. Immediately after that failure Nick Clegg wrote to Brown & Cameron proposing joint talks about reform. He was ignored. Now we have to endure the Brown & Cameron (aka Tweedledum & Tweedledee) yah boo spectacle as each tries to outdo the other in their passion to 'do the right thing' which is code for digging themselves out of a hole that is entirely of their own making.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

None so blind as those that will not see

Since the collapse of the financial system there has been a veritable deluge of information about how & why it happened. One cannot hope to study it all. However one does not have to give the matter too much study, or be a financial expert, in order to gain enough understanding to see clearly that those Bankers, Politicians, & others who were in a position to know, who said that "--- it could not have been foreseen" are either liars or incompetent or both. The truth is that they didn't want to foresee it & we should remember that when we talk about remuneration, taxes & elections.

Not just the Gurkhas

Now it is the unedifying spectacle of the Government abandoning those heroic Iraqis who put their lives at risk by acting as translators for us. Mind you there is an impeccable precedent for such disgraceful behaviour. Once the Spanish Armada had been safely defeated Elizabeth I declined to pay the sailors.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Messages not messengers

Just about every faltering Government has found some senior politician to bleat that "We are not getting our message across". This is a coded statement. In the current case Hazel Blears knows perfectly well that it is NOT the presentation that is the problem. It is the "message" itself that is wrong but she dare not say that. So New Labour goes on treating the electorate like they were idiots & will duly get trashed.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

50% and all that again

Although now it's 60% which is the effect of the £1 for £2 reduction in personal allowance for those over £100000 per annum. Pensioners who are lucky enough to get about one fifth of this income have suffered the same 60% as their extra personal allowance is clawed back. This has being going on for years but the media hasn't said much about it.

50% and all that

Following the media frenzy about soaking the rich & punitive taxation that has been flooding the media since the budget one might be forgiven a certain cynicism. Although only some 1% of the population make more than £150000 per annum that 1% includes just about anyone who is anyone in the media circus.

Goodwin again

I'm not going to join the clamour for Sir Fred to be stripped of his knighthood. When we allow convicted felons to retain peerages; award instant peerages for political expediency etc., why single out one individual? If you scrutinise the Honours Lists you find that those truly deserving of some recognition - those who have devoted their lives to the (low or unpaid) service of others, or who have done some act of bravery or suchlike - wind up with the lowest award. Meanwhile Peerages & Knighthoods & such go to those who have already had richly rewarding lives - financial & otherwise. The whole system should be massively reformed.

Sunday, 26 April 2009


Not being a product of modern education I ought to do a better job of checking my typing for errors.

Tories don't cange

Like leopards Tories don't change their spots. Cameron is whipping up a campaign against some of the rewards paid to top 'executives' in the public sector. Whilst one might be tempted to agree with him we should remember that, at least since Queen Margaret of Finchley (aka Thatcher) came to the throne, the Tories have been implacable in their hatred of the public sector. The attack is also a useful diversion away from the focus on financial services rewards.

Ghurkas simply have earned the right to be here

This Government, and especially the increasingly awful Jaqui Smith, just cannot get anything right. The issue is not how to control the number of Ghurkas coming to live here. The vast majority don't want to, and given what New Labour (or more accurately fake Tory) has done to this country over the last 12yrs what 'foreigner' would want to come & live here unless they were a filthy rich tax avoider. The issue is one of principle, a word whose meaning is clearly beyond Ms Smith's comprehension. Ghurkas, all of them, have simply earned the right to come & live here if they wish.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Financiers in Fantasy Land

Those who live in the 'Financial World' still don't seem to have acquired any understanding of how the rest of us live. Pension contributions of up to £245000 p.a. qualify for the full 40% income tax relief - which itself is outrageous. In todays FT a 'Wealth Policy Director' states that: " --- public indignation over [bankers pensions] could lead to an attack on higher rate tax relief enjoyed by ordinary people". There aren't THAT many ORDINARY people who pay 40% tax and of those that do, even fewer could even dream of diverting anything like £245000 p.a. into a pension pot. This is another perk for the filthy rich so admired by that staunch Labour figure Peter Mandelson.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

School discipline

A hot topic, in this week of Teaching Unnion meetings is disruptive pupils & worse parents.I have some exposure to primary education. In the region of my experience there are typically 10% of pupils on any school roll who have serious behaviour problems. Of those about three quarters are responding well to modern methods of behaviour improvement with the support & involvement of their parent(s). The staff work incredibly hard on this process and are always elated when a child settles down.

The difficulty is that, from the Director of Children's Services down through the system, there is NO effective way of dealing with the remaining 25% of disruptive kids & their equally disruptive parents except to throw more effort at them. Given that little kids crave attention above almost everything else this escalating 'attention' given to the disruptive does not encourage the 'good'. The 'system' refuses to accept that there will always be a tiny minority who will reject all currently available supportive measures. In at least one instance, which I doubt is unique, a parent's behaviour,( a mother), included threatening a teacher & gatecrashing a class,& was so bad that the Governors sought legal advice as to the powers they had to ban this parent from school premises. The answer was not many until an actual assault had taken place.

The amount of disruption that this very small minority of out of control kids and their even worse parents can cause is huge but we should not exaggerate the numbers in this category. Instead we should realise that there
comes a time when one has to take severe rather than supportive measures with this group and have some separate system outside mainstream education for dealing with them. To many of us this admission of defeat is unpalatable but we must remember the bigger obligation to provide the best chance possible in life to those kids & their families who want to take their opportunities.

One justice for the rich - not much for the rest

So RBS is going to shed some 9000 jobs. Fred Goodwin won't care. I don't remember it exactly but in one episode of Sherlock Holmes the line was 'The law is with us always but justice is rather rare'. How true. If there was any justice Sir Fred would be stripped of everything he possess & left to live on job seekers allowance but the law lets him keep his wealth. Then we hear of companies reducing their contribution to employee pension funds. Never hear of reductions to their Executive Pension Scheme funds do we.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

No fair play under Labour either

G20 has come & gone. Liberal Democrats made strenuous efforts to get some
involvement. We understand that the time pressures, especially on President
Obama, were considerable. If it couldn't be done it couldn't be done. What is
not right is the huge & successful effort the Government made to stop us when
they should have made a big effort to support us, (and the Conservatives -
Cameron eventually got half an hour), and show off, however briefly, the
breadth of British Democracy

No Democracy under Labour

The Government has forced through Parliamentary Select Committees for the
English Regions & has so manipulated the rules for the make up of these
Committees that they will always have a Labour majority - even for those
regions where Labour is NOT the major party. Liberal Democrats & Conservatives
have therefore decided to refuse to nominate MPs for these Committees. So the
Government has decreed that they will meet just with their own MPs!

Monday, 30 March 2009

Home Secretaries

The Home Secretary is responsible for the ordering of the lives of us ordinary mortals in a way that benefits society & keeps us on the straight & narrow. At least that is how it is supposed to work. Some Home Secretaries take it upon themselves to interpret that brief as requiring intrusion & control to a massive level. Is it therefore unreasonable for us to expect such a holder of that high office NOT to make silly mistakes in their own personal behaviour? Why should WE be forgiving? Anyone who can even spell 'integrity' let alone have any concept of what it means would resign.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Bankers contracts & common justice -4

There were lots of stories & comments in last Saturdays FT about the US politicians proposal for a 90% rate of tax on excessive earnings. I have argued in earlier posts that this is the kind of measure that should be applied. It can be cut back after a few years once it is clear that the message has been absorbed. The message is a simple one. Why on earth should financial services people be exempt from the pain that everyone else is suffering as a direct result of financial services actions? There is, as yet, very little sign that the financial industry is even prepared to recognise that it screwed up. Most of the comment is about 'global', 'couldn't be foreseen', 'not my fault mate - was the other guy' etc. Personally I am hugely encouraged by the shrieks of pain now emerging from the sector in response to this proposal. The counter argument is that we need the talents of those that got us into this mess to get us out of it. What rot. The people who are grafting away to salvage & recover what they can from the wreckage are not getting paid these obscene amounts of mony anyway. When I was working as a professional engineer, if I had been responsible for constructing something that fell to bits I'd never have been asked to supervise its' reconstruction, even if I was best placed to know what had gone wrong. Why is money so different?

Bankers contracts & common justice -3

One cannot condone the vandalising of Sir Fred Goodwin's property, despite ongoing frustration about the rewards for failure & the 'vandalism' he & his kind have inflicted upon the lives of ordinary people. However it was reported on the news that the RBS is still picking up the tab for the cost of his security. If true this really is pushing things beyond any kind of acceptability & it is something that could, & should, be stopped forthwith if not sooner. It is not as if he can't afford to pay for it himself. What next I wonder? Is RBS paying for his cleaning lady & his toilet paper?

Monday, 23 March 2009

BNP Policeman

No doubt the Association of Chief Police Officers had good 'policing' reasons for, in 2004, banning serving officers from being members of the BNP. No doubt also this decision was promulgated throughout the police service nationwide. The sacking of a BNP member from Merseyside police is thus a simple matter of industrial misconduct. The BNP is, however, a legal, legitimate political party. Despite its' abhorrent views, as Liberals we should be very careful about banning its' members from employment & other public functions. The voters are not fools. The more the BNP is allowed to open its' mouth the more it will condemn itself. We do not further the cause of opposition to its' views by creating martyrs or by driving its' membership underground. On the contrary we should attack it in public & at the polls at every possible opportunity & with the utmost vigour.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Social workers must be accountable

I doubt if social workers would deny the truth of the headline to this posting but what is completely UNACCEPTABLE is that such accountability is applied to poorly paid, poorly trained & overworked people & not universally, - especially not to politicians, media, financial types & all the others who see personal accountability for the misery & damage they inflict as an excellent requirement on everybody but themselves.

About 25yrs ago I was at a conference attended largely by publishers, journalists & media types. There had recently been a big engineering disaster with loss of life - the Piper Alpha platform probably. Anyway the media frenzy was all about engineers accepting personal liability for their mistakes. That proposition received much support from the floor until eventually my flapping hand was noticed. I had the opportunity to say that, as a professional engineer, I would accept the proposition provided that all the other professions in the room did the same. It is once in a lifetime that you get the chance to be a real show stopper. The debate was concluded forthwith. Nothing changes

Cabinet Government

Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer of 15th March reports a meeting between the new Tory 'stars' & veteran former heads of the Civil Service Lords Butler, Wilson & Turnbull to be advised of the virtues of Cabinet Government. We know that under Blair & Brown Cabinet meetings were & are considered an irritating waste of leaders valuable time but different under the Tories? Older folk will recall a sketch from the fabulous 'Spitting Image' in which Thatcher had taken the Cabinet out to dinner. When asked what she would have she replied steak. 'And the vegetables?' asked the waiter. 'They'll have steak too' replied Thatcher.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Scottish Independence

Fascinating to hear Alex Salmond on the Andrew Marr show arguing just now that if Scotland had been independent for the last 10yrs it would have built up a reserve from RBS & HBOS taxes which would have been retained in Scotland over that time rather than being remitted to London. This reserve would have allowed Scotland to rescue its' own banks. Since there is not a shred of evidence that these taxes would have been so retained one must admire Mr Salmonds capacity for spin. Indeed , given that most of the leaders of the failed banks were Scots, & that Gordon Brown, whose policies enabled those bank leaders to bust the economy, is a Scot, & that many of the leading Westminster Labour politicians who supported their Government are Scots, such evidence as there is suggests that those taxes would have been most unlikely to have been retained for the purpose Alex Salmond suggests.

I lived & worked in Scotland for almost ten very pleasant years. I have children who still live there & grandchildren who were born there. But I have to say that Mr Salmonds relentless 'victimhood' at the hands of the wicked English, & the support that he is gathering for that view, is now getting to me. I find myself wishing that he had got his wretched independent Scotland ten years ago. Then I wouldn't have had to put up with his snivellings nor have to cough up huge taxes to bail out his arrogant greedy compatriots.

I also hear that Scottish LibDems are prepared to collaborate with the ScotsNats. I don't know what that means but if it means some form of pact beyond that which already exists then it's the straw that breaks this camels back.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Data (non) Protection

Is it really too much to expect that some miniscule vestige of sanity might be allowed to penetrate our Laws?
A certain Bank has convinced itself that in order to prevent identity theft it is better to go on sending sensitive information to an old address rather than recognise a simple but obvious change of said address. In order to remove this blockage 'verification' documents are required. Of course if these should go astray in transit an identity thief has all that is needed for instant success. Never mind. Rules is rules - clearly drafted by imbeciles.

But I know you want worse. A person 'phones from a Bank and asks for my wife. This person, apparently on pain of dismissal, and allegedly because of the Data Protection Act [Given the amount of data that has been lost by Officialdom what a damn fool title that is], is not allowed to tell me WHICH Bank. My wife goes on the 'phone & a conversation ensues. She might, of course, NOT have been my wife. In fact no effort was made to check. She could have been any female hauled in off the street. In any case if we had been setting up an identity fraud does anyone seriously think that we would not have been aware of all this rubbish & been word perfect had 'verification' questions been asked?

The fact that identity theft is growing at a massive rate demonstrates that all this nonsense, apparently enshrined in these Acts, is simply an exercise in window dressing designed to give the illusion that these issues are being taken seriously whilst achieving absolutely zilch except irritation & raised blood pressure. Nothing new there then. Most of the deluge of legislation over the last decade or so has been to placate rather than achieve.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Bankers contracts & common justice -2

Ooops. Should have been Sir Fred

Bankers contracts & common justice

On the 28th Feb the FT carried a letter defending Sir Ron Goodwin's pension & pointing out that Governments should be defending contact law and accusing Vince of stirring up mob hatred. I sent in a reply as follows which has not been published.

" Firstly I agree that the Government must indeed defend contract law no matter how morally disreputable a specific contract might be. However it is not the Government (or Vince Cable) that is "fomenting as much social
unrest as possible". Sir Fred Goodwin & his ilk, unaided by anyone else, are doing such a superb job of it.

The "mob" has seen tens of thousands of ordinary people, for whom a pension of even one tenth of Sir Fred's is beyond their wildest dreams (3.8 million pensioners have savings of less than £1500), lose their jobs, their homes,
their savings income, their pensions & the value of their shareholding in RBS et al all thanks to the likes of Sir Fred. There needs to be some shame from, & retribution upon, these people. What we get from them instead is the equivalent of an obscene gesture. No wonder the "mob" is incandescent.

The Government does have some legal levers to extract some retribution but it chooses not to use them.The original letter's author is also right when he thus accuses politicians of being part of the cause & "currying favour". We should remember that as recently as the summer of 2007 both Brown & Cameron were making speeches to, & about, City bigwigs telling them, & everybody else, what utterly fantastic folk they were & what a huge contribution they have made to the economy. Brown & Cameron were unusually right about the last bit - except it is a contribution the country could very well have done without."

Monday, 2 March 2009

Civil Liberties

On page 21 of the Observer of 1st March the story is of police going over the top (sadly an all too common event nowadays) in searching & confiscating personal belongings at a Kingsnorth protest. The facts uncovered by LibDem David Howarth. Congratulations to him.

But on P 6 & 7 of the same paper there is the much bigger story of the 'Liberty Group' conference in London. As the headline says 'Liberty groups unite to defend UK rights'. The paper writes ' Yesterdays gathering was by far the largest civil liberties convention ever held in Britain' . No mention of the Liberal Democrats. Were we there? If not why the hell not? This has been OUR cause for many years & we should be on the front bench & on the platform as a speaker at these events. How on earth did we let David Davies be the 'winding up' speaker?

Monday, 23 February 2009

Watching that marvellous series 'Iran & the West' I was struck by the lack of reference to the impact of Israel on, especially recent, Iranian attitudes. The Federation of American Scientists produces copious evidence that Israel has nuclear weapons. As long ago as 1975 the US was convinced that Israel had them. In 1986 Israel jailed Mordechai Vanunu for whistleblowing. On 26th May 2008 ex-President Jimmy Carter said Israel has up to 150 nuclear weapons. Other estimates are around 80. Yet Israel refuses to confirm that it has any at all. During the Iraq/Iran war tens of thousands of Iranians died from Saddams US weapons yet Post 9/11 Iran gave considerable help to the US only for Bush to lump them in with the 'axis of evil'. Bush then invades Iraq with his British puppy dog wagging its' tail at his heels. That man was the biggest threat to world peace since Adolf. He may have gone, but in 4 or 8yrs another such could easily be elected. Meanwhile Israel bombs Syria 'on suspicion' & without any significant complaint from the west about it & we've seen the recent Israeli 'response' in Gaza. Can ANYONE reasonably expect the Iranians to drop what they are doing on the mere words & promises of Western Politicians? If I was an Iranian you bet I'd want my own nuclear bomb.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

A True Hero

An uplifting piece for a change that brought a tear to my hard bitten old eyes. In the FT of 21st Feb there was a lengthy obituary to a Dutch Doctor, Willem 'Plim' Kolff, 1911-2009. In summary during the Nazi occupation of Holland he helped many people escape labour camps & worse. He also somehow managed to invent & build the world's first successful kidney dialysis machine. It didn't work first time & patients died. The first success was on a Nazi collaborator. Kolff said " We have to treat patients when they need help even if we don't like them". He went on to lead the development of an artificial heart; man made eye; artificial ear; and one of the first sophisticated prosthetic arms. He believed that his work should benefit everyone, not just one individual, so he never patented any of it.

In an era where the philosophy seems to be that if you are not a rotton bastard you are a stupid bastard we can only pray that there are still people like him out there.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Fair Play & Taxes

The Government cannot interfere with properly drawn legal contracts however disreputable these might be. We are not going to get rid of the bonus culture, and the damage done by greed and rampant self interest by pleading to peoples better nature.Those that caused the financial system to collapse do not have a better nature. Nor are we going to repair the Governments collapsing tax revenue by conventional means

What the Government CAN do is tax. For this Tax Year, & the next two, ALL income, however derived ( home or overseas) & however disguised, ( including pension contributions), in excess of half a million pounds should be taxed at 100%. This might be unfair on those who maybe deserve their money but no more unfair than the loss of livelihood, home, etc. suffered by ordinary people through no fault of their own. In fact those caught by this tax are already so wealthy that in reality they wouldn't miss it .

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Words you mustn't use

Setting aside Chris Huhnes gaff over defending the Governments daft decision to exclude Wilders from Britain, thereby giving the visiting nonentity publicity to die for, I am struck by the difference in treatment of Carol vis a vis Jonathan. In my book the latters offence was much worse. When I was small boy in WWII I had a rag doll whose name I must not say and a childrens book about a child I may not name & his little umbrella. Both were much loved & treasured & if they did anything for my views on racism, which is pretty unlikely, the influence would have been one that warmly embraced difference. Well meaning legislation to prevent real abuse is hijacked to promote a quite different agenda. Hypersensitivity is stirred up & freedom of speech goes down the gurgler. We should stop pandering to this nonsense, grow up, get a sense of humour & a life. In terms of improving race relations it is unnecessary intolerance of the trivial that masks the need to be truly intolerant of the important. When I lived in Australia in the 1990's I was often called a 'pommie baaastard' and nine times out of ten it was used to describe a 'mateship' and when it wasn't it was the user of the phrase that was diminished.

Right to die

Two recent controversies in the news. Firstly should alcohol abusers be denied liver transplants & a Law Lords opinion which doesn't really move us any further forward in protecting those who respect the wishes of those who have had enough of life. If we could only convert hypocrisy into GDP we wouldn't have a financial crisis.

Taking the Euthanasia ( or as we now call it Assisted Suicide) issue first,we should remember that actual suicide is desperately sad but it is not nowadays illegal. It therefore simply should be the right of anyone to decide for themselves the circumstances under which they wish to be 'put to sleep' when they can no longer do it unaided.

When you have one liver and six patients needing it, the 'playing God' argument of the anti euthanasia brigade is nonsense. Some person or group has to decide who gets the liver & the criteria ought to be based, & I believe usually is, not on punishment for past behaviour, but on prospects for clinical & post op lifetime benefit. Still a very difficult decision which is agonised over by those in the best position to take it, and not assisted by sanctimonious external busybodies laying down rules to suit their own agenda.

The next argument is that vulnerable people might be pressurised by relatives to end it all. The pro-lifers scorn for the basic decency of most of humanity is truly impressive. If our lawmakers cannot draft a workable law including adequate, but not self defeating, safeguards then they have no business to be in power. Whoops - perhaps I've just shot myself in the foot!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

BBC wrong again

I am greatly saddened by the disintegrating standards at the BBC, a unique institution that seems hell bent on self destruction. Its' latest insanity is to refuse to broadcast the appeal for aid to Gaza on the pathetic grounds of 'impartiality'. It is compounding that folly by refusing to listen to the torrent of distinguished outrage directed towards it.

Of much less import, but symptomatic of the same breakdown, was the way it handled the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand affair. It is not the function of the BBC to spend millions of the licence payers money promoting such people. There are other places they can go to display there talents. Similarly the ubiquitous Jeremy Clarkson who seems to think it OK to set fire to a rare car on television - a great example to vandals everywhere.

And we all know how 'balanced' the BBC is when it comes to giving air time to the LibDems.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Michael Spencer of Icap, and David Ross, co-founder of Carphone Warehouse are
amongst some of the richest men in Britain and are also friends of David
Cameron .Indeed Michael Spencer is Treasurer of the Conservative Party. They
have both been engaged in controversial share dealings which, although not
illegal, hardly help us to believe David Cameron's assertion that the Tories
are the party best placed to look after the interests of ordinary people.

As far back as Dr Beeching, of railway destruction fame, but particularly
since Thatcher, we have been led to believe that putting a 'businessman' in
charge of major public services is the solution to the all problems. Hopefully
the current financial crisis, which has revealed the breathtaking stupidity &
incompetence of so many of these grotesquely overpaid individuals, will
finally bury that myth. One is reminded of the comments of that iconic
economist of the 1930's, John Maynard Keynes, who when asked why, if
businessmen were so stupid they continued to make money, replied "because they
do business with each other".
I've been quiet for some time but up & running again now.
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) three million eight
hundred thousand (3.8 million) UK pensioners have total savings of less than
£1500. Fat lot of good David Cameron's proposal to scrap tax on savings
interest is to them. A current rates they would be just over 5p a week better
off!! Sorry David. Hot air & headline grabbing will not help us get out of
this mess. Try some solid & realistic LibDem policies instead.