Monday, December 16, 2013

HS2 - blinding us with rocket science

This is what the Government is using to prove HS2 will bring health, wealth and happiness to the provinces. Can Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin or any of his civil servants actually decipher this and explain it to the rest of us?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

London - a capital crime

Deutsche Bank describes Britain as “two nations” – an island of wealth within the M25 and a hinterland of poverty everywhere else.
This is the latest in a long line of pronouncements. The London Standard recently described London as “a world class city state attached to an Eastern European economy”.
Much of this is London-centric provincialism of the worst sort but, in so far as it’s true, it’s because the Great Wen is the seat of power and Londoners are so blind to life north of Watford they keep all the wealth and jobs for themselves.
Oliver Harvey, a Deutsche Bank economist, says economic output per person employed in London is roughly double the UK average; from 1997-2008 the difference in gross value added per person between London and the rest of the UK exploded from £10,000 to £18,000 and has remained roughly constant since then.
The biggest change, apparently, is that London is increasingly detached from the fortunes of the old industrial heartlands. The evidence also suggests that not only does London suffer less from recessions than the rest of the UK, it now tends to bounce back more quickly.
I'm not sure it's as bad as it appears. There are several reasons for this including the question of how you define London and, for that matter, a London business.
If KPMG does work in Germany, is the revenue generated allocated to London specifically or the UK in general? The answer is London because the Head Office is there but it is debatable if it should be credited to the London GVA account.
The fact is that London and the provinces are interdependent and it is misleading to suggest one could prosper without the other. 
More to the point, London may be doing well but much of its personal wealth is built on a wholly artificial house-price spiral which will one day kick people in the teeth (maybe when the Russians go broke); it's living costs are therefore exorbitant forcing up pay rates but resulting in lower standards of living; it is heavily dependent on migrant labour at exploitative, rock-bottom pay rates which create a downward spiral of poverty amid all this prosperity; and as the seat of Government, the centre for the media and the location of head offices, it is guilty of a self-congratulatory, self-justifying financial conspiracy against the rest of the country (no wonder the Scots want to escape). 
The answer is devolution of power, closure of most Government offices in London and their move to the provinces, no matter how much the civil servants kick and scream as did the BBC luvvies forced to move to Manchester.  
An example of the State bias towards London can be seen in the recent debate about arts funding. You will find London gets a vastly excessive subsidy at the expense of the provinces largely because the decision-makers prefer to go to the Opera in London than in Buxton.
The truth is that London-centric policies are denying the rest of the country an opportunity to compete.
A CBI study a few years ago showed State spending on rail transport in London was ten times per head the rate of spending in the provinces.
This simply reinforces the disparity between the capital and the rest, helping to create the vicious circle where it is perceived that the best facilities are in London and therefore sucking into the city all the talented people who would be happier, wealthier and wiser if they stayed well away from the M25.
We may be doomed to get HS2 but that is almost entirely for London's benefit – rich Londoners will be able to pay royal visits to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and still be back home in time to see the latest subsidised play at the laughably-named "national" theatre in London.
HS2 will also benefit London by spreading the commuter belt even further, allowing more poor saps to travel daily to the capital from the provinces to get to work.
It will suck more life out of reasonably prosperous cities like Birmingham but the CBI, city council etc short-sightedly think HS2 is a good idea because they would like the building work, the repair shops etc that it will bring.
Meanwhile the line is to arrive into Euston, that monstrous sixties carbuncle which is already jam-packed, instead of to St Pancras where you could easily change trains for Eurostar.
There is still no direct rail connection between the provinces and the Channel Tunnel even though we were promised such a thing long before the route was opened. Why is it assumed that provincials have no business heading to France or Belgium (and vice-versa)?
Meanwhile look at the scandal over a new "London airport". No doubt it will end up at Heathrow or, if not, at Boris Island.
Why is there any need for another London airport at all when the regional airports (Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands, even Luton) could be expanded to deal with any genuine capacity demand perfectly easily?
This would spread prosperity around the country, it would be cheaper to achieve and less disruptive for Londoners. Yet the attitude seems to be – as always – that if it isn't in London it doesn't really exist.
London is guilty of creating a brain drain from the provinces as a result of this vicious circle. All major investment is London-centric (hell, even the blasted Olympics went to London; when Birmingham bid for them a few years ago, nobody outside the region had a good word to say for it – why? For that matter, why is the national football stadium in London?).
All this investment in London encourages businesses to headquarter there. That sucks in talented people. That, in turn, requires more state investment and so it goes on.
The regions' death spiral has to be broken but that would cost London money, jobs etc and as all the decision-makers are in London, it will never happen. Look at how little money Michael Heseltine has managed to wring out of the treasury for the Local Enterprise Partnerships as an example of the way London dominates and refuses to release any of the reins of power.
There is a chance that in the near future the Palace of Westminster will have to close for refurbishment and MPs will be obliged to meet elsewhere. It would be instructive to force them to meet in the provinces, away from London, and take the civil service with them. If that happened, you would suddenly see a boost in state spending in the area chosen as the seat of parliament because suddenly the people in power would be forced to look at the world from a different perspective.
The poverty in many old towns and cities, the joblessness, the lack of economic growth and the drain on the State that this represents (through benefits etc) are almost entirely due to the London-centric attitude of too many influential people in this country (petty London provincialism, even among exiled Scots, Brummies, Scousers etc).
A balanced economy requires a balanced attitude to London but that would require a massive withdrawal of public investment in the capital. This would be politically unacceptable in London because the place is so crowded already the voters would not put up with it.
Yet it is all an illusion: the City creates money out of thin air and, when it disappears, the provincial taxpayer has to bail out the banks while Londoners continue to receive their eye-watering bonuses while house prices are utterly absurd because London is now the money-laundering capital of the world, welcoming Russian crooks with suitcases full of cash stolen from a country which is in irreversible financial decline.
Pay rates may be lower in the provinces but if you judged the question by standard of living and one of Dave's happiness indexes, I suspect you would find a different answer.


Friday, November 08, 2013

Brussels' useful idiots

Do the BBC and the CBI seriously think free trade between Britain and the European Union would cease if this country withdrew from the super-state?
This week Britain’s bosses’ organisation has been issuing dire warnings about the (completely invented) number of jobs that would disappear if we voted to leave the EU.
Then the BBC treated us to the not-unreasonable comments of Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn saying the company would have to “reconsider” its investments in Britain if we left the EU.
All he said was: "If anything has to change, we [would] need to reconsider our strategy and our investments for the future."
Of course they would.
That does not mean they would close down, shut up shop and move to Hungary as the BBC implies.

What Mr Ghosn and any other sensible industrialist would need to know is that Britain’s trade links with Europe were unharmed.
They may discover they have been improved, which would, we must assume, lead to a reconsideration leading to extra investment not less.

What the propagandists for the EU are trying to do – and not without success – is terrify us into believing that withdrawal would lead to the shut-down of UK plc as a trading nation.
It’s complete nonsense.
This country runs an estimated £70 billion-a-year trade deficit with the EU (and a £13 billion surplus with the rest of the world). That means we import from other European countries a whole lot more than we sell to them.
There is absolutely no chance that they would seek to impose some sort of trade barriers on the UK when they would have more to lose than we would.
Withdrawal from the EU does not mean an end to free trade. Nobody in their right mind wants that. If some sort of trade war were to ensure, the EU would be the biggest loser. So it’s just not going to happen.
The CBI, the BBC and all the other outlets for Brussels propaganda really should acknowledge this as a fact rather than trying to frighten people into submission.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Scottish independence - give us a vote

Now we are paying to keep Scotland in the UK with English jobs in Portsmouth, abandoning centuries of ship-building, I have signed the Downing Street petition calling for a UK-wide referendum on Scottish independence. We all have a right to vote on such a basic question.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Murder on the Brussels Express

Coming soon:  Murder, greed, betrayal, politics – and the Eurovision Song Contest.

A famous headmaster murdered. A petty criminal convicted.

Retired MP Acton Trussell is attacked, poisoned and kidnapped as he tries to uncover the truth behind the murder of the man who educated three Prime Ministers.

Spies. Russian Gangsters. Financial collapse. Quantitative easing. EU bureaucrats. Murder on the high-speed train to the European super-state.

And A Song For Europe – which England might actually win.



Playing politics with people's jobs

The man who should be most relieved the Grangemouth dispute has ended reasonably happily is the MP who was responsible for the whole fiasco – Tom Watson.
In the game of chicken between Unite and Ineos over the future of Grangemouth petrochemical plant, the trade union blinked first.
It’s caved in and the plant will stay open, preserving 800 jobs (for the time being at least).
What seems to have escaped notice is that the roots of all the trouble were not so much industrial as political – and at the centre of it all is Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East.
Grangemouth is in the Falkirk Parliamentary constituency. Mr Watson was at the centre of Unite’s attempt to fix the process for the selection of a new Labour candidate for the seat in advance of the 2015 General Election.
In his capacity as the Labour Party’s General Election co-ordinator, Mr Watson was trying to engineer the selection of Karie Murphy.
Ms Murphy worked for Mr Watson.
Not only that but she is friends with, and he is a former flat-mate of, Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite.
Things fell apart when Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, complained of Mr McCluskey: “Instead of defending what happened in Falkirk, Len McCluskey should be facing up to his responsibilities. He should not be defending the machine politics involving bad practice and malpractice that went on there, he should be facing up to it.”
Mr Watson quit as Labour election supremo and Ms Murphy stood down as a potential candidate even though a subsequent internal inquiry cleared her of wrong-doing.
What has all this to do with Grangemouth? The answer is that the chairman of the Falkirk constituency party at the time of the scandal was Stevie Deans.
Mr Deans was also the Unite convener at Grangemouth. He was accused of signing up Unite members at Grangemouth to the local Falkirk Labour Party to secure Ms Murphy’s selection.
He may have been cleared by the Labour Party’s internal inquiry but Ineos mounted its own investigation into his “alleged inappropriate use of company resources”.
The union reacted with fury, called a strike ballot which won 80 per cent support and the row escalated into a bosses-versus-unions conflict which led to the announcement of Grangemouth’s closure.
The union’s action was described as “the stupidest of strikes for the most idiotic of reasons” by Eric Joyce, the sitting MP for Falkirk who is quitting at the next election after attacking three MPs during a drunken brawl.
Mr Watson has been vocal in his condemnation of Ineos and its boss Jim Ratcliffe, who he described as "billionaire hedge-fund manager [who] was on his yacht in the Mediterranean" at the time, conducting talks via intermediaries.
"Tax avoidance disguises the profitability of this site," Mr Watson added, calling on the government to take action.
He has also said: “Too often it feels like it’s always the little guys that get steamrolled by powerful corporates. Even as an MP I feel powerless to act.”
And he complains that, in disputes such as this, “the little guy always loses”.
The truth is, though, that if Mr Watson had not tried to fix the Falkirk selection process in favour of his, and his union’s, favoured candidate, it’s quite likely none of this would have happened.
If he had allowed plain, ordinary, decent democracy to run its course, who knows, his chum Ms Murphy might have got the job anyway?
Sadly for Mr Watson, as a conspirator his record is not impressive. He it was who led the failed 2006 “curry-house coup” plotted in Wolverhampton and aimed at replacing Prime Minister Tony Blair with Gordon Brown.
It didn’t go according to plan, won no support and cost Mr Watson his job – until a grateful Mr Brown later became PM and rewarded his party disloyalty with a job as a Cabinet Office Minister.
These days the fat blogger – Mr Watson is 18 stone and keen on issuing propaganda via the internet – regards himself as the scourge of the media after he cross-questioned News International boss Rupert Murdoch.
He is one of those wanting to impose state control of the press. No doubt if and when he succeeds in this aim he will silence anyone who suggests that his serial chicanery is not quite as noble and altruistic as the likes to think it is.
At one point in his Commons interrogation of Mr Murdoch, he accused the publisher of being like a Mafia boss. To which we can only conclude: It takes one to know one.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The original swivel-eyed loon

Amazing how people see what they want to see. Last night I watched Alastair Campbell perform in his usual, obnoxious, rude, aggressive and vile way on Newsnight.
He had a go at the deputy editor of the Daily Mail, Jon Steafel, in the row over whether Ed Miliband’s Communist father “hated” Britain and damned editor Paul Dacre.
Steafel was calmness itself. Polite, tolerant, intelligent, measured. Campbell – with no sense of irony – accused the paper of “bullying”.
Yet this spat is now being reported as “Alastair Campbell Demolishes Daily Mail's Jon Steafel” (Huffington Post).
Isn’t Tony Blair’s former spin doctor now thoroughly discredited? Why is he trotted out by his thoroughly intimidated victims in the BBC at every opportunity? How can anyone see his abominable rant as anything other than the splenetic late splutterings of an extinct volcano?
If anyone is not sure which side to choose in the war of Ed’s dad then Campbell’s ravings are enough to drive most of us into the arms of the newspaper.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The great exploding housing bubble

As we inflate another house-price bubble, which is bound to burst eventually, the Bank of England has taken its eye firmly off the ball.
Mark Carney, the Bank’s new governor, has said interest rates won’t go up until unemployment falls to seven per cent – unless the outlook for inflation is that it will be above 2.5 per cent in 18 months’ time.
This is a cop-out because the Bank’s “fan chart” for future inflation will cover every eventuality from 0.1 per cent to 10 per cent.
More worrying, though, is that the Bank’s target of two per cent is based on the Consumer Prices Index, a measurement of inflation which completely ignores house prices.
In an economy so dependent on home-ownership, house price inflation is very significant.
Not only does it tell us how fast house prices are rising, it is used to measure the country’s GDP and, therefore, it has a significant impact on consumer confidence.
The faster house prices rise, the more liberal people are with their money, the more they are likely to borrow and the quicker the economy grows.
This is, in many respects, all to the good. But – and it is a massive but – because the Bank doesn’t take any of this into account when setting interest rates because none of it affects CPI, the end result is that its policy ignores the elephant in the room.
If house price inflation were included in the calculation of general inflation, it is highly likely interest rates would have been higher in the mid-2000s. That would have slowed the housing market, led banks to lend less and would not have encouraged people to borrow more than they could afford, thus reducing the house-price spiral which ended up strangling the life out of the entire economy.
I am told there is no such thing as an inflation measure which includes house prices. This is because inflation measurements are based on an international standard.
But in this country the economy is much more heavily dependent on a buoyant private housing market than it is in many other European nations, where the renting your home is more prevalent.
The other reason we don’t include house prices is because statisticians regard houses as capital investments not day-to-day spending. That’s a fair point but it fails to take into account the impact – psychological as well as economic – of house-price inflation.
Mr Carney is already guilty of abandoning the remit of the monetary policy committee and prioritising unemployment – not part of his remit – above inflation.
That’s bad enough. It is made worse because, as long as the Bank fails to account for rising house prices, the inflation statistics it uses are meaningless. They have only have a passing resemblance to the real economy.
The credit crunch and the worst recession in living memory were caused by rampant house-price inflation which was allowed to go unchecked by the Bank because it was aiming at the wrong target. It seems nobody has learned from this terrible mistake.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mortgaging the future

If anyone thinks the Government debt is manageable, think again. Unless they give inflation a massive boost by printing lots of money – and impoverishing us at the same time – I reckon it will take almost 900 years to pay off.

I woke up at 5am worrying about it and I did the sums.

GDP in the UK is £1,580 billion (2012-13). Government revenue is £600 billion (2012-13). Government revenue represents 37.5 per cent of GDP.

To meet its spending commitments, the Government borrowed an extra £85.1 billion (at least; the Centre for Economics and Business Research puts the figure at £120 billion).

A one percent increase in GDP generates £6 billion of Government revenue. 

All other things being equal (no tax rises, no spending cuts, no inflation) to reduce annual borrowing to zero, the Government would need GDP growth in one year of 14.2 per cent (14.2 x £6 billion = £85.2 billion). 

Clearly that is impossible in more or less any circumstances. Despite annual fluctuations, the long-term trend is for the UK’s GDP to increase at an annual rate of two per cent. 

On that basis, if all the Government’s proceeds of growth were used to repay debt, it would be able to reduce its borrowings by £12 billion a year. At that rate, it would take seven years before the Government no longer had to borrow money to make ends meet. 

However, during that period the total amount of debt would continue to rise, but a little more slowly each year. The debt would increase by £344 billion to £1,544 billion. 

If the Government continued to repay money at the same rate (£12 billion a year) once it had ceased to borrow any more, the total debt would be wiped out in a further 128 years. This assumes the same interest payments are made throughout the period at three per cent. In fact, payments would gradually reduce and therefore the repayment period would be shorter. 

Still, with no increase in State spending, no tax cuts or rises and no inflation, and two per cent GDP growth, it would take the Government about 100 years to wipe out its debt.

However, it is impossible to envisage this Government, never mind successive Governments way into the future, willing to impose such discipline on itself.

Despite all the talk of “cuts”, in 2012 Government spending actually grew at the rate of 1.6 per cent. On the basis that this rate of spending growth is the bare minimum a Government - and an electorate - is prepared to put up with, it follows that, at a GDP growth rate of two per cent, the State has only 0.4 per cent of its proceeds to devote to paying down its debt. 

A borrowing reduction of 0.4 per cent of GDP is £2,336 million. 

At that rate, it would take the State 36 years to reach the point where it no longer needs to borrow money. In that time, however, the total debt would have increased by about £1,272 billion bringing the total Government debt to £2.5 trillion. 

If, at that point, the Government continued to increase spending at no more than 1.6 per cent per year on average and UK GDP remained at two per cent, the total debt mountain would start to be cleared at a rate of £2,336 million (£2.3 billion) a year. 

Actually this would increase as GDP rose so let’s be generous and assume tis has miraculously increased to £3 billion. 

In that case, the number of years it would take to wipe out the debt completely is: £2,500 billion/£3 billion = 833 years to which we must add the 36 years it will take before we no longer need to borrow any money. 

In other words, it will never be wiped out. 

Which explains why today’s politicians have no intention of tackling the debt seriously. It’s not their problem. It’s our bequest to future generations. We are mortgaging the future for generations to come.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

IMF - International Monetary Frauds

The good news is that we’re not in a triple-dip recession. The bad news is that even the IMF is calling for a U-turn.

The truth is the economy is still shackled to the Eurozone where the only winner is Germany.
George Osborne is right to reduce Government debt – though he could cut harder and faster – but until the Euro is put out of its misery, things won’t improve very quickly whatever anybody does.
And the IMF is to blame for propping up the failed currency union.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A very English crowd for Lady Thatcher's funeral

Where I was standing close to St Paul's the most remarkable thing about the funeral of Margaret Thatcher was how polite everyone was. Even the demonstrators were courteous. 

You couldn't see a thing but everyone was offering advice and help on where to stand and where the funeral cort├Ęge had got to.

A thick-set Asian bloke with a banner turned to bloke in trainers and asked everso politely: 'Excuse me are you with the protesters?'

The man turned and replied, equally politely, 'Yes.'

'Where are they?'

'I don't know.'

At that point, a small woman from an Italian TV station turned to first bloke accompanied by her cameraman and asked: 'What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Margaret Thatcher?’

Without a moment’s hesitation he replied: ‘Iron Lady. Because she thought more about her image than the people of Britain.’

Here we had a little demonstration of what is best in Britain - politeness, softly-spoken dissent, freedom of speech. Even in an overwhelmingly Thatcherite crowd, nobody batted an eyelid as this would-be protestor made his views know, albeit to Italian TV viewers.

Elsewhere, there was a posh-sounding lady banging on about how terrible the Freemasons are. At one point she said they should be branded so we could all recognise them. I also saw some bloke with a 'welcome to pig vomit city' banner.

But it was all peaceful, respectful, even good-humoured though nobody anywhere near where I stood, at the end of Ludgate Hill not far from the cathedral steps, could see anything.

It was all a bit of a waste of time really but most of those near me seemed happy to play their part as also-ran onlookers, admirers and mourners to give her a decent send-off.

As the service began and I was leaving, a man with a megaphone declaimed: 'Please get back to work. You were not invited which probably means you are not important. Oh! Somebody called me the C-word or was he offering me some?’

Respect, humour, tolerance, solemnity, calm - the English way of death.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The liberation of the nation

Today’s young entrepreneurs won’t remember what life was like in Mrs Thatcher’s day let alone in the years before she became Prime Minister. But if you are trying to run a small business today then you have a lot to thank her for.

When Mrs Thatcher came to power in 1979, Britain was “the sick man of Europe”. The country was run by the diktat of militant trade union leaders.
You could hardly take enough money abroad to pay for a week’s holiday on the Costa del Sol while access to finance was a massive joke – if you even wanted a mortgage you had to join a six-month waiting list.
Mrs Thatcher transformed the business environment. She welcomed new businesses and entrepreneurs capable of working hard, generating jobs and creating wealth.
It was necessary because she inherited a vast, unproductive lump of loss-making nationalised industries: steel mills, car companies, coal mines and shipyards which employed thousands of people but could not make a penny profit.
There are many obstacles to creating a successful new business. But until Mrs Thatcher came along to de-regulate and free the market, it was virtually impossible for all but the luckiest and most determined because “the State” ran the country.
Today, the obstacles can be overcome – just ask a Business Advice Service chartered accountant. In the 1970s and 1980s, they were often insuperable.
Mrs Thatcher gave us a modern, flexible, dynamic economy. She created the climate which allowed businesses to grow and prosper. If you’re in business today, you are almost certainly benefiting from the decisions she took way back in the 1980s.
And she would be the first to congratulate you on your success.
·         Cranks corner – the Government is now making it easier for nutters of all persuasions to take action against employers who refuse them time off to attend Druid festivals or Mayday celebrations. This from a Government pledged to reducing red tape to make life easier for small businesses.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

We name the guilty men

The people who should be ignored when commenting on Mrs Thatcher:

Nigel Lawson: Tried to shadow the Deutschmark in preparation for Britain joining the European exchange rate mechanism, forerunner to the Euro. Got it horribly wrong and couldn’t bear the fact that Mrs Thatcher was right on the issue so he stormed out in a huff. Damaged only his own reputation, which has never recovered.

Geoffrey Howe: Made the speech which precipitated Michael Heseltine’s challenge to her leadership. Madly pro-EU ex-Chancellor who thought he was cleverer than he actually was and acted out of hurt personal pride not political principle. A self-satisfied weasel rather than a dead sheep.

Michael Heseltine: The ego finally landed when he mounted his unsuccessful challenge for the Tory leadership but couldn’t win. Motivated by personal pride, pique and ridiculous ambition. Another politician undone by his unthinking support for the European Union. His overwhelming vanity would have been a disaster for Britain.

Ken Clarke: Bluff, good-ole-boy who twisted in the knife when she was down but not quite out by telling her that, despite owing his whole career to her, he would not support her in a second leadership ballot and thought she should resign rather than contest it. “She said I was being defeatist. I said she’d been defeated.” Another unrepentant Europhile who even today claims Mrs Thatcher was in support of the EU.

Chris Patten: Arch-plotter, arch-Europhile, continues to look after Number 1 with his various appointments including boss of the still disgracefully anti-Thatcher BBC. Behind Heseltine’s bid for power. Totally untrustworthy.

Tony Blair: He may have been her heir but he learned nothing (he even wanted to join the Euro and we have Gordon Brown to thank for at least avoiding that particular catastrophe) and will always remain the worst Prime Minister this country has ever been cursed with.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The hypocrite's £1 million charter

This blog won't have to sign up to the Government's control orders for newspapers which is just as well because if they tried to get punitive damages out of me they would be disappointed. Not sure the resources stretch to £1 million plus costs.
In a way it's a pity I won't have to submit myself to the jackboot of pettifogging politicians bent on revenge - because I won't get the self-harming satisfaction of telling them where to stuff their statutorily non-statutory underpinning regulation of the still-free-ha-ha press.
What with the jailing of police officers for the heinous crime of talking to reporters and dawn raids on the homes of journalists, you would be forgiven for thinking we were living under some Communist terror regime.
The police state is alive and well and being run from Ed Miliband's
offices by the nation's favourite filthy hypocrites Steve Coogan, Hugh Grant and Max Moseley.
The truth is that, despite what these friends to the stars would have us believe, any crimes committed are more than likely to be prosecuted already. There is no need for new laws governing the press.
This is just a feeble attempt by embittered public figures to wreak
revenge for their various public humiliations.
And with disgusting self-righteousness they hide their hypocrisy by
parading Millie Dowler and the Mcanns as the real "victims".
Let's not forget, though, that Millie Dowler's phone was NOT hacked by the "News of the World" after all - even though that alleged incident sparked the whole farrago.
And as for the Mccanns, well if I expressed my opinions about them I dare say I would be liable for punitive damages.
Regulation of the press is unnecessary, deeply damaging, undemocratic, unconstitutional and irrelevant.
Irrelevant because whatever constraints the State tries to impose will affect only one diminishing segment of the media world - and leave the Internet for all practical purposes unaffected.
When a silly woman like Sally Bercow can utter some trivial Twittering tweet and gain nationwide publicity, the hated Murdoch press are almost irrelevant.
The media must be free. Free to make mistakes and get things wrong and cross the line from time to time.
Without the freedom to transgress, who knows what crimes, misdeeds and abuses of power might never see the light of day? You certainly couldn’t trust the media-monopolising propagandists for the left-wing Establishment (ie the BBC).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oh how I hate Windows 8

Oh how I hate
Windows 8.
As set-up unfurled
I called PC World,
Who give support, for a substantial fee.
They slammed the phone down on me.

Talktalk won't,
Tiscali don't,
Microsoft can't

Then there's the hell
That is Dell.

I tried helplines
Time after press-two time
It's all mirrors and smoke,
A rip-off, a joke.

And as for the IPad
It drives you mad.
It is, I fear,
Over-priced, over-hyped and over here.

PS Have just sent this to Tiscali (aka TalkTalk): I have downloaded Mozilla Thunderbird because, no thanks to you, I have discovered this works with Tiscali and Windows 8 even though you have not bothered to upgrade to make it work with Outlook. However, it will no longer send e-mails (though it still receives them). As this is a regular problem with Tiscali, I assume the problem is somehow your fault. Can you explain how to correct it please? Your website claims "no known outages" and later says you do have a problem. Which is it?

So the reply says:

Email - Known Issues & Outages

We are currently experiencing an issue with our email service and you may be unable to view, send or receive emails. Our engineers are working on this as a high priority in order to restore your service as soon as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience. More information can be found on the following page: Email - Known Issues & Outages

You click on the link and it announces:

Email - Known Issues & Outages

Currently, there are no known reported issues affecting our email services

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours

Astonishing. The discredited boss of the NHS, “Sir” David Nicholson, has made “Dame” Barbara Hakin his deputy. Talk about corruption in high places. 

This woman was head of the NHS in the West Midlands and we all know what a success that has been with 800 to 1,200 deaths at Stafford Hospital alone. 

She is being accused of blocking an external review of mortality rates at United Lincolnshire NHS Trust, and forcing the resignation of the hospital’s chief executive after he raised concerns. 

She is understood to be facing a General Medical Council investigation into her conduct. Yet she has been promoted to one of the most senior roles in the health service. 

This is a disgusting insult to everyone who has ever used, or fears they may ever have to use, the National Heath Service. 

At its very apex is a cosy little club of highly-paid individuals who seem to sail serenely on in spite of the collapse in public confidence in their activities. 

My own theory about why “Sir” Dave has not quit yet is that his pay-off would be so huge the Government would be more embarrassed about that than it is by keeping on this leper quangocrat.

Meanwhile Dr Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, says politicians should be supporting NHS staff. She says: "The constant publicity about how bad the NHS is has the potential to frighten the people who need it most, who might think it's not a safe place to get the care they need."

Sorry Clare but the truth is that only if patients are sufficiently frightened that they demand improvements will the NHS ever be brought up to Third World standard. We are right to be worried. The health service is run by its employees for its employees.

Patients are so-called because they have to wait so long for anyone to bother to treat them.

(I have put their titles in inverted commas because they were clearly awarded for incompetence above and beyond the call of duty and only go to quangocrats or other civil servants competent to squander our money in sufficient quantities to earn them this order of merit).

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Nicholson should not resign, he should be put on trial

If a private company were responsible for the deaths of up to 1,200 people there would be a national outcry and demands to jail those responsible.

Yet, after no fewer than five investigations into what happened at Stafford Hospital, no individual has received so much as a slapped wrist.

How can this be?

The police have begun an investigation into what must be the biggest scandal in the history of the NHS.

Years after the event, they have finally stirred themselves.

Matthew Ellis, the police and crime commissioner for Staffordshire, claims they have “information not in the public domain”.

How they came by it should itself be the subject of a public inquiry.

Why do the police have information which has not been declared even to tribunals set up by the Government?

The latest inquiry by Robert Francis QC uncovered years of abuse and neglect at the hospital leading to the unnecessary deaths of between 400 and 1,200 people.

These aren’t statistics, they’re individuals who placed their trust in a system which ended up killing them – horrific for the victims and their loved ones.

This isn’t a case of an individual nurse or doctor. Mr Francis concludes the failings go right to the top of the health service.

The police investigation is no doubt being staged mainly for political reasons.

Everyone from David Cameron down believes scapegoats must be found, heads must roll and someone should pay.

He says: “One of the important points about the Mid-Staffordshire inquiry is to make sure, when a failure like this takes place, there is proper accountability.

"In the report, you can see exactly what happened to the people who were involved. Some of them were allowed to retire, some were allowed to move within the health service. There wasn't proper accountability, there wasn't proper consequences and that is not acceptable."

Actually Dave, some of them didn’t move or retire, they were promoted, given more money, more power and more responsibility.

And it is not too late to insist on “proper accountability and proper consequences”.

It’s highly likely the police will content themselves with digging out a few especially shocking cases of neglect involving a heartless nurse or two.

But let’s hope they are mounting a major prosecution of people at the very top of the NHS on a charge of corporate manslaughter.

The health service as a whole is guilty of causing unnecessary deaths as a result of several layers of mismanagement, indifference and neglect.

The doctors and consultants must take much of the blame. They saw what was going on but “kept their heads down”, according to Mr Francis.

But the real defendants should be among the £200,000-a-year bureaucrats in whom we mistakenly place our trust.

Chief among these is Sir David Nicholson.

In 2003 he was Chief Executive of Birmingham and The Black Country Strategic Health Authority. In 2005 he took on Shropshire and Staffordshire as well, at about the time people started needlessly dying at Stafford Hospital.

He did so well in the West Midlands he became chief executive of the entire NHS in England in 2006.

He is paid over £200,000 a year, claims £50,000 a year in expenses and enjoys benefits-in-kind worth £37,600.

There haven’t been any successful corporate manslaughter prosecutions against individuals.

But the charge was introduced after a series of disasters including the 1987 “Herald of Free Enterprise” tragedy when 193 passengers and crew died and the 1999 Ladbroke Grove rail crash which killed 31 people.

Corporate manslaughter cases usually end up in large fines for the businesses involved.

There’s absolutely no point in similar penalties for the NHS because the whole case would involve the re-cycling of our money.

But where does the buck stop in a scandal like Stafford Hospital? Surely it must stop somewhere.

Or is the health service such a rambling and unwieldy organisation that officially nobody can be held to account for anything? Is the NHS so big it is always someone else’s fault?

That cannot be acceptable.

We rightly condemn top bankers for bringing the nation to the brink of bankruptcy and some of them, like Sir Fred Goodwin of RBS, even had to quit (albeit with hefty pay-offs).

That was only money. When it comes to lives, it seems no individual is to blame – just a “culture”.

The Francis report says: “The negative aspects of culture in the system were identified as including: lack of openness to criticism; lack of consideration for patients; defensiveness; looking inwards not outwards; secrecy; misplaced assumptions about the judgements and actions of others; acceptance of poor standards; a failure to put the patient first in everything that is done.”

And it’s clear the culture is dictated from the top – Sir David’s department “has not always put patients first”.

So where does the buck stop? Who sets the tone for an organisation? Who is responsible for its corporate culture?

It’s time Sir David was made to face up to his personal responsibility for this national tragedy. But he’s probably so lost in NHS bureaucracy he thinks culture is something they grow in a test tube.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Cameron's jam

The result of the Eastleigh by-election leaves UKIP holding a gun to David Cameron’s head. If he refuses a referendum on EU membership before the next General Election then his party will lose.

The choice is simple. Nobody believes Cameron’s promise of jam tomorrow any more than they believe his promised referendum will be a straightforward in-out choice.

The Prime Minister himself is a committed European. He has often said he does not believe Britain should withdraw from the EU so he will do everything in his power to ensure the people never get a straightforward chance to decide the question.

Unless he holds an early referendum, UKIP will scoop up votes at a General Election in constituencies across the country. And that will deprive several Tory MPs – Eurosceptics among them – of their seats and their party of any chance of forming the next Government.

It will allow Ed Miliband to form the next Government, probably without the assistance of his friends among the Liberal Democrats.

That is not an outcome many people would relish but it looks highly probable unless the Tories can neutralise the threat of UKIP.

There is only one way of doing so. Cameron has his fate in his own hands.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Stephanie Flanders is an economics guru

Flanders the Swan

A year ago, last Thursday
I was strolling in the treasury
when I met a man who though he knew the lot.
He was laying down the law about the habits of bankers
And how little spines a politician's got.
So I asked him:
"What's that creature there?"
He answered, "Oh, it's a h'Peston"
I might of gone on thinking that was true 
If the animal in question hadn't put that chap to shame
And remarked, "I h'aint a Peston, I'm a Gru"

"I'm a Gru
I'm a Gru
The g-nicest work of g-nature on TV too.
I'm a Gru
How do you do
You really ought to k-now w-ho's w-ho's
I'm a Gru
A gneconomics Gru
I'm g-not a Peston or a Mason
So let me introduce 
I'm g-neither man or moose
Oh g-no g-no g-no I'm a Gru"

I had taken furnished lodgings down at Rustington-on-Sea
Whence I travelled on to Ashton-under-Lyne it was actually
And the second night I stayed there I was woken from a dream
That I'll tell you all about some other time.
On the flat screen TV on the wall above my bed
Serious and frowning, was a face I thought I knew;
A Paxman? No, it's not a Paxman. 
An Esler? Unlikely, Really. A Osbornebeest?
When I though I heard a voice...

"I'm a Gru
I'm a Gru
A g-neconomics Gru
I wish I could g-nash my teeth at you.
I'm a Gru
How do you do
I really do k-now w-ho's w-ho's.
I'm a Gru
Spelt G-R-U
Call me a Peston or a Mason and I'll sue
G-nor am I the least like that dreadful Osbornebeest.
Oh, g-no, g-no, g-no, 
G-no g-no g-no, I'm a Gru
G-no g-no g-no, I'm a Gru."