Friday, 31 July 2009
From John Redwood MP
The government we hear thinks it wrong that elite universities should discriminate in favour of students who achieve the best results. They point out there are others who might be able to achieve whose backgrounds have prevented them. Some of us think it would be a better idea to sort out the worst performing state schools to deal with this problem.
I inivite the governemnt to consider another bad example of discrimination of a similar kind. All my life people like me who love cricket but who cannot play to a high enough standard have been ignored by the England Test Selectors, on the very reasonable grounds that we would not be competitive. I wouldn’t pay good money to see people like me play cricket. Yet isn’t this a bad case of discrimination?
There is age discrimination, as I note they always pick people in their 20s or low 30s, never anyone older. Isn ‘t this discriminating in favour of people who have had privileged sporting backgrounds, as they have been to elite academies which clearly helps them play better than the rest of us? And isn’t it financial discrimination, as most selected have been paid to play cricket, so they get in much more practise than the rest of us who have to earn a living doing something else? Who knows how good the rest of us might be if we practised much of the time and had good coaches.
Isn’t the truth of life this? If you want your country to be good at something you need to discriminate in favour of those who are best trained , most suited and most committed to doing well at their chosen area? Doesn’t that apply to academic as well as sporting life? Isn’t the issue the results of some state schools, not the insistence by top universities on taking the best and the most highly motivated people?
The Woods had to be braved - there was nothing for it but to march straight through 'soldier-style'. If we saw stagnant pools, cow parsley or dandelions it was best to stay away because we'd either catch polio, our mums would die or we'd wet the bed that night. The only welcome sights were patches of dock leaves or a sky seen through a canopy of Elms and Oaks.
Seamlessly we moved further afield to Clayton Ponds & the Quarry, to check out the wildlife and see if all quarry men really did look like John Wayne and see if the bangs were as loud as they were on the television. There were a few warning notices about trespassers and snakes (but notices never apply to children so we just carried sticks, pulled up our socks as high as possible and tucked dresses into knickers).
We would find a place to sit quietly and look out for frogs; it was a place to catch tadpoles & baby frogs in a jamjar to take back home. It was a route children had trodden for donkey's years to check out Sticklebacks, Lady's Slipper, Bluebells & Buttercups for Nature Study projects. The last week of August was always the busiest: an entire class of twenty children would dip nets into the pond in the hope of finding a new species of minnow.
It's all gone now: the wood behind the house; the rope-swing on the oak tree; the fear & awe of the 'witch's house'; the little farm with the dogs and the small pond which rippled when we threw pebbles from a distance and counted how deep it might be. How many children had died in that pond? Every child who stepped too close was the answer: everyone knew someone who knew someone who said they had a cousin who had drowned in that very pond.
Now there are no more meadows, no purple vetch, no buttercups, no daisychains and no cowslips. There's no more sweet-sucking on clover and no love-lies-bleeding - and the deep bracken has gone as well. We never ran down the bracken, not even the bravest boy, for fear of ankle-biting goblins. We always walked atop the hill and obeyed orders: Indian File for fear of snakes to the right and goblins to the left.
It's all gone now. Now it's this. It's good to know that children today can connect with the past, pose the same questions and post the photos on the internet - but they can't run through the trees, check out the mistletoe, smell the bracken or roll down the fields & meadows any more.
And, of course, a witch really did live here.
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Now then, look at this Ladies & Gents, look at this intricate craftsmanship. Think of the hours of loving care and attention to detail that's gone into this little beauty. Oy, you Sir, yes, you in the bomber jacket - how much do you reckon I'm going to charge you for this piece of plastic perfection? Three hundred quid? No! Two hundred quid then? Wrong again, have another go. A hundred smackers? No, not even close Ladies & Gents.
Tell you what, as a special deal, if you buy one today, just give me seventy-five quid, your biometric iris & finger prints and all the civil liberties that have ever accrued to you since the Anglo-Saxon Witan of the 7th Century, through 1066, 1215, and 1258. I can't say fairer than that now can I?
It sounds too good to be true doesn't it but there's not only that, there's more. I know, you can't believe it can you Ladies & Gents? Well, I kid you not - Honest Johnson's my name, ask any of the blokes that ran the stall before me.
Buy one of these and we'll take the worry of looking after your identity off your shoulders - 'cos we know you've got a lot on your mind at the moment what with working out when to put the wheelie bins out so's you don't get fined.
All the information on this card will go into a database belonging to the government and in return for this we're not even asking fifty quid - oh dear me, no! We've thought of everything and to help you with the problem of carrying round all those bulky driving licences that spoil the line of your suit we'll let you have one of these slimline-weigh-nothing handy little fellas for only thirty smackeroonies plus every democratic parliamentary advantage this country has fought and died for in over a thousand years. What d'you say? It's a no-brainer, really it is. Deal?
Oy! Who at the back said 1689? Show us your papers! Officer, arrest that man!
Honest Johnson, the man with the Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear Stall, is coming to a market-place near you.
ID card unveiled
Sir John also confirmed the intention to call Tony Blair (though his evidence may be given in private) along with other senior figures involved in the decisions which led to war. The Inquiry will be "thorough, rigorous, frank and fair" and will cover the period from the summer of 2001 to July 2009.
So, it isn't going to be a quiet summer after all.
Claude Choules is the last surviving British soldier to have served in the First World War. He's 108 yrs-old and lives in a nursing home in Perth, Australia.
When told that he'd become the only British survivor of the War he said: "Everything comes to those who wait and wait."
Claude was born in Pershore - on the banks of the River Avon - in 1901. He served on HMS Impregnable & HMS Revenge and saw the scuttling of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow. He was seconded to the Australian Navy in 1926 and served for another thirty years.
Today, as we remember with pride and gratitude the life of Henry Allingham and await the Service for Harry Patch, we shouldn't forget Claude Choules. He really is 'the last of the few'.
UPDATE: Claude Choules, RIP. (1901 - 2011)
Police should switch their focus away from arresting drug dealers and concentrate on managing the harm they cause, according to an 'influential' report from the UK Drug Policy Commission.
"Maniac drug dealer Tony 'Scarface' Montana today welcomed moves to tolerate his murderous insanity.More crazy news at The Times, The Telegraph and The Daily Mash
Mr Montana, a drug dealer since 1975, said he was 'fuckin' delighted' the authorities had offered not to prosecute him if he stopped killing quite so many people.
He added: "Ju want me to stop killing everyone? I suppose I could only kill four people a week, three at a push, if dat's what ju want."
A spokesman for the Drug Policy Commission said: "Mr Montana is a hard working insane businessman who often finds himself being dragged into inefficient, resource-hungry turf wars. In order for the system to focus on harm reduction we need Mr Montana to spend less time with his guns and chainsaws and more time adding Vim to cocaine and hanging around outside schools."
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Following the mixed messages earlier today from Drowning Street and Mandelson, David Cameron has written to Gordon Brown asking him to clarify his position on a televised debate:
I am writing to ask you to clarify the Government’s position on the issue of a television debate between the leaders of the main political parties.
Five months ago, when I challenged you at Prime Minister’s Questions to a televised studio debate, you refused. This morning, Lord Mandelson said you were open to the idea. But within an hour, a Downing Street spokesperson back-tracked, saying this was not the case.
The Government seems to have a number of positions on this. I’ve only ever had one: a prime time televised debate is just what our political system needs.
It would help to energise our democratic process, engage the electorate and restore trust in politics. Democracies across the world – from Australia to America to Brazil to Indonesia – have benefited from the invigorating effects of these debates. Even in Iran a series of television debates was held during the recent election campaign.
Your previous objection was that a televised debate was unnecessary as the issues were aired each week in parliament. But Prime Minister’s Questions simply cannot compete with the accessibility of a primetime studio debate. I want the chance to set out the choice at the next election to many more people than those who watch on a Wednesday lunchtime.
For these reasons I hope you will today make clear your position on this crucial issue."
I think Cameron has decided to take part in Man in a Shed's Silly Week. I hope he isn't expecting a straight answer.
H/t: Play Political
Link: Let the downfall begin
I wonder if Mandelson has told Brown about this proposed 'presidential-style' live tv debate with Cameron? Perhaps he's planning on having Brown wired up so he can feed him the answers through an earpiece.
Brown has no debating skills whatsoever, we see that every week at PMQs. It will be a disaster for Brown.
UPDATE: When I posted the link there were many comments - most expressing hilarity at the idea of a live tv debate - but they've now all disappeared. This is happening all too frequently with the online msm.
UPDATE: Sadly, it seems that Downing Street has issued a denial already - Brown backs down.
Some police officers are in open revolt against a ban on wearing this 1" badge in their lapels.
Officers at Heathrow were sporting the badges (which cost £1 each to raise money for Help for Heroes) but a member of the public complained they were 'offensive' and officers have been told not to wear them.
Peter Smyth, Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation which represents more than 30,000 rank-and-file officers, said staff in the Royalty and Diplomatic Protection Group, CO19 firearms squad and dog units have joined the revolt.
This isn't the first time there's been trouble at Heathrow: last month, on Armed Forces Day, officers were told to remove the Union Flag from the flagpole above the airport police station because was not an "approved" ensign.
It really makes you wonder what you have to do in this country to have your views heard by Scotland Yard & ACPO. How about demanding a change to the uniform? Or this - Supporting 'Gay Pride'.
UPDATE: Sir Paul Stephenson has now backed down and the badges will be allowed. Thank goodness for some common sense. It's time to crack down on the insulting petty bureaucracy. The member of the public who complained the badges were offensive should be named & shamed - and get a life, preferably somewhere else.
Speaker Bercow will chair a meeting of the Members Estimate Committee next week in order to discuss the £25pd no receipts, no tax, subsistence allowance for MPs.
Although the arrangement was recommended by the National Audit Office and introduced when Michael Martin was still Speaker it was given the final seal of approval by the MEC chaired by Bercow two days into his new office. It's all a bit of a mess really and Nick Harvey LibDem MP is wriggling and denying for all he's worth this morning.
If they had given more thought to the ethics of the expenses issues in the first place they wouldn't now be trying to cover their backs.
All the little things just keep snowballing. It has to be one law for all and everyone equal under it or else the next thing you know we'll be having things like Zil lanes for Olympic wallahs and £1,000 fines for the proles who stray into them. Whoops!
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
I don't like labelling but if anyone has a better solution, please let me know.
UPDATE: Apart from Edgar, who thinks I just talk too much...
If you haven't already visited Rogue Gunner's blog, here's the link to the blog and the full article:
"On a day when the bodies of four UK servicemen are flown back home after making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan the MOD are in the Court of Appeal. Why may you ask are they costing the British tax payer tens of thousands in legal bills? To make the lives of our young injured servicemen some who have horrific injuries better? No, they are once again making our Heroes fight another battle for adequate compensation that must last them for the rest of their lives.That's from a man who's been in the thick of war and knows what it's like. He also knows what it's like to be on civvie street with PTSD and no support. We ask so much of our Armed Forces; is it too much for us to demand our government treats them better? So many charities are springing up now in an effort to fill the void left by government. Here's a link to Help for Heroes.
Sometimes your longest War begins when you hand your uniform in and rejoin civvie street."
Looking back we can see the process, the small steps along the way to where we are now but it's easier to put the handbrake on before you get out of the car than it is to chase it downhill trying to scramble aboard and stop it gathering speed.
Anyway, I've had a quiet afternoon watching a 'comfort' film (Zulu!) and making a determined effort to avoid all political news:
But it didn't quite work because all it did was put me in mind of this:
At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
Oh, hear the reeds at Runnymede:
'You musn't sell, delay, deny,
A freeman's right or liberty.
It wakes the stubborn Englishry,
We saw 'em roused at Runnymede!
At Runnymede, at Runnymede,And still when mob or Monarch lays
Your rights were won at Runnymede!
No freeman shall be fined or bound,
Or dispossessed of freehold ground,
Except by lawful judgment found
And passed upon him by his peers.
Forget not, after all these years,
The Charter signed at Runnymede.'
Too rude a hand on English ways,
The whisper wakes, the shudder plays,
Across the reeds at Runnymede.
And Thames, that knows the moods of kings,
And crowds and priests and suchlike things,
Rolls deep and dreadful as he brings
Their warning down from Runnymede!
You can say what you like about Kipling but he knew how to write populist poems; I suppose some things never change. Except now. Now, some things have definitely changed.
Oh, and to the person who last week twice accessed the email account that I use for this blog, I've changed the password you City of London @rsehole. For God's sake, get a life you great soft cissy girly ...
Secret, un-minuted committee meeting; no public announcement; no debate in Parliament; no receipts; no tax.
The meeting of the Members Estimate Committee, apparently one of the most powerful in Parliament, was chaired by Speaker Bercow - you remember him; he's the one who called himself the 'clean-break' candidate and got in on a ticket of reform and transparency.
As well as Bercow, the committee comprises Harridan Harman, Leader of the House; Alan Duncan, her Conservative shadow; Sir Stuart Bell, close Labour ally of Michael Martin; David Maclean, Conservative, and Nick Harvey, LibDem.
Under the system, how MPs spend the money will not be subject to public scrutiny. The rules state: “Members... may claim a [daily] flat-rate sum of £25 for subsistence. No receipts are necessary for this claim to be made. How members spend the subsistence allowance is for them to decide.”
They've been doing this since March - two months before the Telegraph broke the story about their expenses. Ex-Speaker Martin, oversaw its introduction but Bercow and the committee gave final approval.
It's yet another rule for us and another for MPs when it comes to complying with HMRC. What's happened to Gordon Brown's promise of 'root and branch reform' of the expenses system? No wonder we're all mad as hell.
UPDATE: Here's a blogpost from Gary Gibbon which outlines Sir Christopher Kelly's views on the matter.
Veterans UK on Twitter
Veterans UK online forum
Thanks to VC206 for the heads-up.
Still with the Armed Forces, the Daily Telegraph has launched a Justice for Wounded campaign:
Article 1 explains the technicalities of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
Article 2 gives an overview with quotes from prominent figures
We had news of two more soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Brown, the Treasury and the MoD need their heads banged together.
On top of that we also had news of immigration staff voting to strike (holiday-makers be prepared for long delays but illegal immigrants come on through).
Alistair Darling wagged his finger at the Banks and told them they were being vewwy, vewwy naughty.
Then we had Marrakesh Mandy, he who must be obeyed, saying the better-off should pay for the education of the not-so-well-off. The government shouldn't have reneged on their 1997 manifesto pledge and introduced university tuition fees. Didn't Mandy himself, Blair, Brown and most of the Front Bench have a free University education?
Next there was more guilt-tripping greenery from Oxfam with another Report about Pacific Islanders becoming 'international refugees' and urging "neighbouring wealthy countries to take urgent action to curb their carbon emissions to prevent a large-scale crisis." (When did I vote for Oxfam?)
And then we had this from Unison: four members were banned for using an image of the three wise monkeys because it was feared that some people could find it "racially offensive."
On top of all that, we had a complete load of balls from Yvette Cooper-Bollox who's calling for a new Bank Holiday to remember people killed at work in order to bring us into line with Europe.
I envisage a profitable series of television documentaries and books in the next century or so: What Did the European Union do for Us? "Well," said Pierre-Ahmed, "we had more days off work." "Oh, and I liked the way I didn't have to change my money for that foreign stuff when I go on holiday for two weeks," said Ayesha-Chaznay.
In short, yesterday was a total bollox day.
Monday, 27 July 2009
This utter incompetence highlights the lack of duty of care towards the Armed Forces. An executive agency of the MoD (Service Personnel & Veterans' Agency's Document Handling Centre in Glasgow) is responsible for the safekeeping of the documentation but it appears to be as nonchalantly negligent as the rest of the MoD.
John Hemming MP said: 'There has to be a wide-ranging investigation into the whole system of how wills and other documents of the fallen are handled by the MoD. The Government has no excuse.That's the MoD for you - always looking to protect their own backs first; it must be something they've picked up from Gordon Brown.
'Relatives and fiancees who believe wills are missing have now been stopped by the MoD from telephoning the Glasgow handling centre directly to make inquiries. This smacks of an attempt to protect the MoD rather than the loved ones of the men.'
It is to simplify explanatory material to ensure it does not exclude visitors who come from uneducated backgrounds.Complex phrases will be replaced by simple words, while references to historical figures and events will be explained so visitors with the reading age of a 10 or 11-year-old can understand them.
I see Spot. Spot sees Stonehenge. Spot cocks his leg. Run Spot run.
Scotland, it's your turn now. The reasons they give you are the same they once gave to England.
The changes [to the immigration points system] raise the prospect of thousands more immigrants, who would ordinarily be deported, being allowed to stay in the UK if they move north of the Border.England stands before you as an example; be very careful my Scottish friends.
Scotland has been singled out by a Home Office consultation being published this week because its population is projected to fall over the long term.
Jim Murphy, the Scottish Secretary, backed the changes, arguing that an ageing population means more foreign workers are needed for the economy to flourish.
Immigration rules to be skewed 'in favour of' Scotland
Sunday, 26 July 2009
Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Equality & Human Rights Commission is accused of playing 'race card'
The Mail on Sunday: Just what we need after working hard all year - 16 days, all expenses paid, fact-finding in the South Pacific. Other fact-finding visits arranged include a 5-day trip to Jamaica, which starts tomorrow, a 2-week visit to Australia, a week in Tanzania and 3 days of late summer sunshine in Kenya. All in order "to promote the advancement of Parliamentary democracy by enhancing knowledge and understanding of democratic governance".
The Observer: Plans to hold a referendum on changes to the voting system on the day of the next general election are being considered in Drowning Street as part of a ploy to expose David Cameron as 'a roadblock to sweeping constitutional reform'. Let's face it, killing off half the population & gerrymandering are the only way Labour could win a GE.
Independent on Sunday: Did Mandelson use taxpayer's money to attend a Bilderberg Conference?
News of The World: You've got to laugh - unless you're Bob Marshall-Andrews
Fast forward to 2009 and welcome to Labour's Daylight Robbery Tax:
Click to enlarge.
Documents obtained from the Valuation Office Agency under the Freedom of Information Act show millions of homes have already been secretly assessed by Labour in preparation for council tax hikes after the Election.
The VOA is still compiling the database but if you have a terrace or patio, a window with a view, a conservatory or a balcony you're in their sights just as much as those who overlook a beach, a golf course or rolling acres of farmland.
Shadow Local Government Secretary Caroline Spelman said:
'Gordon Brown's council tax inspectors have been caught red-handed preparing the way for massive tax rises on middle England after the Election, to fill the black hole in Britain's ruined public finances. There is now cast-iron proof of a council tax revaluation by stealth.The full article is here.
'Only Labour would think of taxing people for looking out of their own windows. Conservatives will scrap these tax-raising plans and abolish tax inspectors' rights of entry into your home.'
This is such a shameful tale; they really are despicable: next week Ainsworth is going to the Court of Appeal in an attempt to have the compensation payments of two soldiers reduced by as much as 70%. In one case they actually paid the soldier, he gratefully paid off his mortgage and then they came back, told him they'd made a mistake and wanted it back!
We'll never forgive you for the way you're treating our Forces; not one of you is fit to stand in their presence.
I've forgotten where I found the pic but it's probably one of Grumpy Old Twat's
Saturday, 25 July 2009
Rantin' Rab has captured some of his spiteful vitriol. Isn't it heartening to see that 'Comrade Tom' has "contacts at central office who will be only too happy to get involved"? Perhaps the first thing his 'contacts' would like to get involved with is helping him retrieve his head from his arse.
Click to enlarge:
I seem to remember David Cameron saying he supported the UAF; if so, I think it's time he reassessed that support. The police might like to get off their behinds and investigate some of their activities as well (or is that something ACPO thinks wouldn't be 'in the public interest?) Here's a link to Lancaster Unity, be sure and take a nose-peg with you.
The latest news is that he's still in intensive care following surgery but is responding well.
UPDATE: Within minutes of posting this, the hospital issued another statement saying that Massa is now in a 'life-threatening condition'. Let's all hope he pulls through this. Fingers crossed.
Given the amount of taxpayers' money Parliament has already squandered in one way or another, I suppose another £21,706 is neither here nor there but building a 'Pugin-style smoking shelter' as part of a general £3m facelift is really taking the mickey.
It's wrong on so many levels. At a time when the economy is still in the doldrums it would show a better understanding if they could manage to curb their profligacy, just for a while. Instead they just carry on regardless, remaining untouched & distanced from the effects of the recession.
What really, really angers me though is that when they passed the anti-smoking legislation they exempted themselves from it; smoking is allowed inside the Houses of Parliament in all the bars, restaurants and cafes (which we also subsidise).
Frank Moran, Labour Chairman of the Administration committee says, "All the smoking areas outside Parliament are very exposed and we felt it was a health and safety issue, especially in winter." Hypocrites.
Here's an example of one of the subsidised menus (click to enlarge): I hope the food is cheap, processed, GMO-ridden muck and the ones who've voted for any of Labour's repressive laws since 1997 all get food poisoning.
Friday, 24 July 2009
Here's an extract from an article by Open Europe (link below)
If anyone is in any doubt about the motivation behind the recent, very controversial, tranche of EU proposals for financial regulation, they should take a look at the FT today. There can be no doubt that this is first and foremost about raising rivals' costs.
According to the paper:
Nicolas Sarkozy is planning a massive expansion of the business district on the north-western edge of Paris to challenge the City of London as Europe's pre-eminent financial centre. In spite of his tirades against financial capitalism, Mr Sarkozy wants a bigger slice of the business.
The blueprint for La Défense - which includes several spectacular skyscrapers and, eventually, a further 1m sq m of office space to the west of the arch - lies at the heart of Mr Sarkozy's plans for le Grand Paris : a vast programme of infrastructure improvements and governance reforms that he hopes will turn Paris into Europe's economic powerhouse.
The French government is intent on taking advantage of the City's woes and its battered reputation to turn Paris into a competitive financial centre. 'It is clear today that the City is in great difficulty and that is an opportunity for France to reinforce its financial attractiveness," Patrick Devedjian, the minister in charge of La Défense expansion, said last month. His ambition was to turn La Défense into a "great financial centre, rival to the City of London.
French politicians and financiers have long supported regulatory harmonisation inside the European Union as a way of levelling the playing field with London. With the crisis sweeping aside political resistance, especially in the UK, they are closer than ever to getting their way.
French bankers are counting on EU rules on bank capital requirements to end what they see as the advantages afforded to British banks under existing UK definitions. France is also clamouring for an EU clampdown on hedge funds, which many in the industry in London regard as a protectionist onslaught against funds based offshore or in the US.
We just hope the Treasury have read their pink pages today.
More at Open Europe
There's another interesting article here: Euro-Med and if you want to know what I've been saying (well, you never know) try clicking on 'Frankfurt' for some relevant links.