Thursday, July 31, 2003

Centre for poor statistics II

So to recap of the £6,000 Gordon Brown has cost the average househld as noted by the CPS, £1,900 is due to the fact that Gordon Brown has not managed to do what no other chancellor since 1970 (and probably since WWII) has managed to do -- make the UK economy grow as fast as the world economy.

What of the other £4,100? This comes from the fact that taxation averaged £250bn (or thereabouts) in 1993-1997, and £350bn in 1998-2002.

Now this is true. But let's note a few things. First, a large chunk of this comes from inflation. Indeed uprating £250 in line with inflation would bring us to about £280-£290bn. So £30-£40bn of the increase is merely inflation. It would be a sensible to say people in Argentine are 1000 times richer than they were five years' ago, merely because there peso incomes are that much higher.

Second, much of the tax increases were to stem Tory deficits. In the five years of Tory government the average annual deficit was £37bn. Under Labour that has become a surplus of £5bn. So there goes another £40bn.

As for the rest, it's simply a reflection of the growing economy. In fact aside from plugging the Tory deficit, Labour actually ran lower taxes than the Conservatives. One could argue that tax and spending shouldn't rise with the economy, but if they are to do that they should note that by the end of her reign Mrs Thatcher was costing the average taxpayer £6,000 or thereabouts (in today's money) per year more than the Callaghan government. The CPS rarely says that.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Centre for Poor Statistics

Reading more of the Daily Mail (which is getting ever more pro-criminal, now it even supports murderers) I found the statement that Gordon Brown has 'cost the average British household £6,000' since he took office. I thought I would see how this figure, taken from this CPS report was arrived at.

It should be noted that the CPS takes Gordon Brown's chancellorshp as beginning in 1998 for reasons which are reasonable enough.

The first chunk of this £6,000 cost, £1900 the CPS finds through noting that the UK economy grew 2.4% per annum in this period, compared with 3.2% over the last five years of the Conservatives. This the CPS argues is Gordon Brown's fault, because the world economy slowed by just 0.3% from 3.6% to 3.3% in this period.

It's hard to know where to begin with this argument. First, let's remember that in 1993 the economy was coming out of one of the steepest recessions of the 20th century caused by 15% interest rates required because of Lawson/Thatcher's failure to keep inflation under control. Economies always grow faster when first coming out of recession because there is much spare capacity to be used up. Thus comparing 1992-98 with 1998-2002 is pretty silly.

Second, the CPS argues that 'If Britain had just kept pace with the world’s GDP growth rate since 1997, national income per household would now be nearly £1,900 higher'. The beauty here is the word 'just'. I thought I would see in how many five year periods since 1970 the UK economy has grown 'just' as fast as the world economy. Using the same source (the IMF's world economic survey) as the CPS, the answer is, well you've guessed it, none.

So let's recap. £1,900 of this £6,000 Gordon Brown has 'cost' us is because the British economy has not done what it has not done in 33 years; grown as fast as the world economy. This might have something to do with China, and other developing countries, but clearly that's beyond the CPS.

I'll get onto the other £4,000 or so later.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003


But in combination with the Middle East road map for peace, it also shows that whatever influence Tony Blair can have over the US he uses only to make her foreign policy more soft and more European, blunting the Anglo-American sword of international justice even as he holds it aloft as proudly as President Bush. And though he might have problems with the means, this is an objective even the most green-blooded, yellow-bellied Frenchman could endorse.

* Ok....this one's actually a real post from Conservative Commentary. But it's such a classic I felt it required repeating here. It's basically what happens when the blinkered world view of Cuthbertson (e.g. Sweden and the Netherlands are 'degenerate hellholes') has been reading too much of the extrapolative lunacy ((c) DSquared) of Den Beste ("What would happen because of the formation of a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic of France? Or a nuclear-armed People's Republic of Socialist France?", "France and Germany are actually adversaries, perhaps even enemies").

Come with me Mrs Hussein

I remember one of those pointless blogosphere debates a few months' back when I asked a proponent of using torture whether in theory he would -- on utilitarian or other grounds -- support the use of torture on the innocent wife of suspected terrorist, in order to coerce the suspected terrorist. Of course not was the reply.

It's not quite torture (one hopes) but targeting wives and daughters* is no longer a theoretical concern**...

BAGHDAD -- Over the past six weeks a small but intense war has been conducted in the mud-hut villages and lush palm groves along the Tigris River valley, fought with far different methods than those used in the campaign that toppled president Saddam Hussein.

As Iraqi fighters launched guerrilla strikes, the U.S. Army adopted a more nimble approach against unseen adversaries and found new ways to gather intelligence about them, according to dozens of soldiers and officers interviewed over the last week.

Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi
lieutenant general. They left a note: "If you want your family released, turn yourself in." Such tactics are justified, he said, because, "It's an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info." They would have been released in due course, he added later.

The tactic worked. On Friday, Hogg said, the lieutenant general appeared at the front gate of the U.S. base and surrendered.

* It's possible the wife and daughter were not innocent though there is nothing to suggest otherwise.
** Assuming the US troops did not torture the wife and daughter; certainly one assumes they intended to give the lieutentant that idea.

Monday, July 28, 2003


Everyone's doing their favourite books list, so I thought I'd join in. For now, political books.


I'll omit the obvious (e..g Animal Farm, the Ragged Trousered Philanphropist)

Classes and Cultures: England, 1918-1951 by Oxford poliical tutor Ross McKibben is by far and away the best book I have read on British politics. It is a tremendous work of scholarship, examining class relationships in Britain not just through the the labour market, but also housing, religion, sport, literature, music, television, film, food etc. Much of what happens in British politics before and subsequent to his period becomes far clearer after reading this book. For more information see the London Review of Book's review.

History in Fragments, A: Europe in the Twentieth Century by Richard Vinen is an excellent survey of twentieth-century British poltics. Vinen's survey is -- like McKibben's -- much more social & cultural-based study than many, but it's reval value is in the non-British view he shows you of many of Europe's poltical and cultural changes. For example he notes that in apart from a localised air war between Britain and Germany, in fact Europe was at peace - for the first time in years -- in August 1940. Similarly Vinen suggests that the 1980s ushered in a new era of consensus government across Europe (particularly in Spain and Portugal), the opposite view one might take if one looks at events from a purely British perspective. Or in a different area, he points out that the view that societies have got more 'liberal' continuously since 1900 is not always correct, for instance views on homosexuality hardened in the post-war era (at first) compared with the 1930s as the focus became on the family. As an example, convictions for homosexuality were far higher in post-war Germany than Nazi Germany.

Friday, July 25, 2003

The socialistic US

John Plender has a good article in the FT in which he points out that in many ways the stereotype beloved of the right (and left) that the US is raw free market capitalist and Europe socialist is pretty inaccurate.

He concludes:

"Old" Europe may be flagging, as it staggers under the fiscal burden of the stability and growth pact. It may be painfully slow in tackling structural problems. Yet the ballooning risk in the US experiment is such that stereotypical views of the US and Europe may soon need to be revised. The theory of US imperial overstretch is also due for a comeback.

This is surely right. One of the things that most surprises on a trip to the Land of the Free is the sheer weight of government and other regulation. Even more impressive is the amount that exists but is hidden, for example in the supply of prescription medicines.

There may be a case for doing it this way, rather than through explicit government interevention. But at least the latter -- common in Europe - has a veneer of democratic accountability.

Tories clear election favourites?

The Tories are 3% ahead of Labour according to the latest YouGov poll.

Voters still think Blair would be the best PM, but those preferring him to IDS now down to 'only' +10%. The government's negative approval rating is now 37% (26 to 63%). The parties are level pegging (from a Tory lead of 2%) on economic competency.

I am still not sure about YouGov's polling techniques. It's not that online polling has inherent errors, it's more that they ask the same people the questions quite often (I don't know how often -- I presume they have a reasonably large pool from which to pick, and don't use all the answers each time). I wonder whether this rather tarnishes the representativeness of their sample.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The Daily Mail, the BBC and the Right-Wing

One of the delights of being a member of Fitness First gyms is that you get a free copy of the Daily Mail each time you go. I have therefore on more than three occasions this year had the pleasure of reading it. Until now I've generally agreed with Ross Mckibben, who noted in the LRB, the best advice with the Daily Mail is to act like Stanley Baldwin, "never take any notice of the Daily Mail and, when stuck, publicly abuse its owner".

Reading it on a regular basis for the first time (at least since I was a child) has been a revelation (though I still agree with Ross McKibben).

First it appears pro-criminal. It is currently serialising some ludicrous diaries by an ex-prisoner (sample - Has there ever been a person in British history to be convicted before even seeing a policemen, let alone a court, sample II - I said call me Jeffrey or Lord Archer, never Jeff) who breaks all the rules, doesn't admit his guilt and yet thinks he's victim of some terrible miscarriage of justice.

Second, it is definitely pro-BBC, often slavishly. This extends not just to Stephen Glover, its media correspondent, but also to the leader column, which decribed the BBC as a 'great national institution', with a reputation for 'objectivity'. Yesterday it even uses a phrase something like public-spirited broadcasting at its finest.

This of brings us onto the BBC. I have (in general) been a defender of the BBC's reputation for honesty, objectivity and political neutrality. But even I am finding it hard to stick to this view in light of the current situation. First, the Daily Mail's fulsome support. Second, the attack on the corporation from David Blunkett -- yes that David Blunkett -- for being too right-wing when it comes to immigration.

Is it too much to ask that the public broadcaster attempts to curb its rightist tendencies and works harder not to find itself the best friend of the David Mail and where it is to the right of Daily Blunkett (or whatever)?

Swinging in different ways

Anthony has a good go (using not-very-helpful data) at calculating what the latest poll results would mean in a general election. Usually the analysis is based on an uniform swing which yields a Labour majority of something like 100, whereas Anthony suggests due to the Tories doing relatively better in the South Labour would actually only get a majority of 35.

ps It should be noted that even here Labour, on a seat share of only 1.5% higher than the Conservatives, have 120 seats more.

More data

Yesterday's ICM poll's detailed data is here.

A few specific facts (remember the headline figures were 36% Lab, 34% Con, 23% Libs). The Guardian cautions that these figures about to be given are before 'adjustment for don't knows'

Of the 539 people expressing an intention to vote, 186 said they would vote Labour, 186 Conservative (I think that's a typo and should read 185), 118 Lib Dems, and 50 others. This split 94/92 male/female for labour, 93/92 m/f for Conservatives, and 55/63 for the Lib Dems.

Ok...this is a small sample of a small sample, but I wonder whether other ICM polls have shown the Lib Dems to have a female bias? It would fit in with the anti-war stance.

Of the 18-24yr olds the split is 40%, 29%, 30%, while for the over 65s it is 27%, 47%, 23%. Labour lead markedly in the other age groups. Social class AB1 goes 27%, 39%, 23% while DE is 43%, 30%, 21%.

Now my eyes are glazing over so I think that's enough.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Ali Campbell needs to be reunited with his UB40.

Robert Harris is probably the best political writer in Britain, and this article in yesterday's Telegraph on Alistair Campbell is another brilliant piece. Basically Campbell treats Blair like an idiot puppet, for example,

""How can he stop him [writing a tell-all diary]?" The tone of helplessness says it all. Mr Campbell exercises an extraordinary psychological dominance over the Prime Minister. It seems he can get away with anything. He has called him "a prat" in front of one witness, has told him to "get a f------ move on" when he believes a meeting has gone on too long, and instructed him to drop what he is doing and concentrate on something else "because it can't f------ wait"."

I didn't want to put this (though I believe it), as it always sounds a bit ridiculous, but I wanted to use the above title -- so here goes. I think he should resign.

ps it's been pointed out to me, correctly I think, that's among the sycophants it's not a bad thing for a British PM to have someone around who treats them as an idiot. Thatcher for one would have benefitted enormously from it.

Tory deficit slashed to 2%!

Labour lead slashed to 2% says the Guardian's new poll, with the parties on 36%, 34% and 22%. On a uniform swing this would give Labour a majority of 101 (the same, if I recall correctly, as Mrs Thatcher's 3rd term majority).

Annoying the usual background polling detail doesn't seem to be available yet, but one thing puzzled me. The Guardian says,

"But the ICM survey also shows that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, Mr Blair is still seen as overwhelmingly popular among Labour voters, with 75% saying they are satisfied with the job he is doing. Indeed 86% of Labour voters say they see Blair as competent; 70% say he is trustworthy; 63% say he is in touch with ordinary people and only 33% say he lacks clear ideas".

This seems to me to be intuitive. As a party's support falls from 42% to 36% those who still support the party are bound to be those who were more in favour of the PM to start with. Those who have shifted (and the largest shift seems to be to the Lib Dems) will be those who never much liked Blair in the first place. Of course it's all more dynamic than this, and such analysis could be proved wrong in a few hours when The Guardian publishes the full data....

Bad news for or good news for IDS? Well it's pretty simple really. It's good news for him that Labour are imploding. It's bad news for him that he cleary is unable to capitalise on it. However one can't be too harsh -- doing nothing except offering free education is clearly better than Hague was doing at this stage of the last parliament, which basically was running around Kent trying to stoke up anti-ayslum seeker opinion.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Are we in an unrealistic and badly acted episode of The Twilight Zone?

It's the only possible explanation. The man who wasn't the BBC's source over the WMD dossier claims has been found dead. Tony Blair has -- without any signs of sarcasm -- said to the Congress 'Thank you Mr President, for your leadership'. Andrew Sullivan says the burden of proof in the War on Terror must be on those who argue against military-intervention .

Fair trial?

Concern by hand-wringing liberals that the UK (and other nationality) suspects currently held at Guantanamo may not get a fair trial have been dispelled by no less a figure than the President of the United States.

"President Bush promised to "work with the British government" on the matter but said: "The only thing we know for certain is that these are bad people.""

Let us hope Tony Blair uses us some of that 'influence' he is so proud of.

ps Has Tone done achieved it? Probably not, but it much reduce the pressure a little.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Detroying our ancient traditions and liberties

Depressing article in the Guardian on how military Britain is now just a client state of the US.

Blogger just ate my post so I'll keep it short. The authors say

1. We can't fire cruse missiles without US say-so.
2. We can't operate our nuclear weapson.
3. We can't expel the US from its bases on UK territory.
4. GCHQ relies on US intelligence.
5. We can't fight wards without the US's permission.
6. We can't get our citizens out of US military justice.
7. We sign treaties which require us to do things but not them (extradition a recent example)

Now you can overstate some of these, which in reality are just 'the US is a superpower and the UK is not' Most of them apply to most countries of Western Europe. Even where they don't, e..g France's nuclear deterrent, it is almost inconceivable that France will ever fire nuclear weapons without at least tacit US approval (the threatening of Paris by armies or nukes seems the only real scenario).

The problem is not so much the actualite -- that is a reflection of the US's overwhelming power. It is that so many British politicans and citizens believe that it is a partnership of equals based of common goals. It is neither of these.

Back for one day only...


Nothing illustrates better the record rise in criminality under this Labour government than today’s news that murders in 2002 reached an all-time record of 1,048. On its own that would normally ensure the Home Secretary’s resignation, but taken with other signs that our country is becoming a criminal’s paradise – the rise in rapes, robbery, burglary etc – maybe this time the Prime Minister should follow.

Liberals and no doubt The Guardian will point to the British Crime Survey, which shows falling crime, but no-one decent will see that as anything other than the typical tactics of this despicable government – exaggerate or make up your evidence, lie about its importance, act without consulting others, never apologise when you’ve been caught. Six wasted years in office have shown the voters this is the way Labour behaves, with the honourable exception only of the liberation of Iraq,

The causes of the rise in criminality are plain enough. An underclass of unemployed layabouts, able but unwilling to work, living like a king on the handouts the State provides to them. The decline of religion and its replacement by a culture of instant gratification, promoted in our schools and universities by a liberal elite immune to the consequences of their actions; a ‘shagging around' mentality, where love and fidelity are swept away on a tide of abortions or uncared for babies; the homosexual lobby and their demands for gay ‘marriage’, explicitly on the grounds of equality, implicitly to destroy the family. And of course the State Pension, which rewards gambling and drinking, and penalises thrift and abstinence.

What has been the government’s response? The exact opposite of what you would expect. A police force neutered by the demands of political correctness, too worried about meeting ethnic quotas to care for the needs of the defenceless, frightened, victim. A judicial system that lets you off burglary, taps you on the knuckles for rape, and gives you a month inside with a TV for murder.

If the causes are plain, so are the solutions. First, such youths must me made to get a job. If an 18-yr old sits around for a year with nothing to do it fosters a mentality in which only the individual and his/her views matter, with predictably dreadful consequences. If they won’t work, they should be made to work. Second, going to church. Those who go to church add a spiritual dimension to their lives, which also replaces the ‘me-first’ attitude of most youths today. We must reclaim the Church. And of course the State Pension should be abolished.

Of course there will remain feckless, sociopathic, scum. For them the policing and legal systems must be reformed. There must be more 250,000 more bobbies on the beat, who must be given powers to lock up first-time offenders and throw away the key. For repeat offenders we should bring back the noose, whatever the Eurocrats say.
And Her Majesty’s subjects should be allowed to carry automatic weapons to defend themselves where necessary.

Only one Home Secretary can give the British public the security it needs and it’s not David Blunkett. It’s Oliver Letwin. And thus today’s crime figures have one silver lining – they hasten a Conservative government.

* Peter Cuthbertson Replacement Service (for a 'mission statement' click on PCRS above and scroll down the sdreen)

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Bloggers relax!

I went along to the VoxPolitics blogging discussion at Parliament yesterday, 'Can blogs change politics?'. First one must congratulate the VoxPolitics team for an excellent turnout and diverse range of speakers, including Britain's first blogging MP, Tom Watson (who helped to organise the event).

Whether the meeting actually answered the above question is less clear-cut. Certainly there seemed many who were afflicted by a new, virulent form of dot-com mania, except instead of it being the end of big business/bookshops/petshops etc as we know it, it was the end of politics. From now on everything will take place on blogs.

By far the most sensible comment on this came near the end, when it was pointed out that the moment blogs get popular they basically lose their interaction between blogger and readers. Some popular American sites which have comments often have over 150 within a few minutes - this makes it utterly unreadable, and yet 150 is not really that many in societies of millions of people.

All in all there was far too much taking blogs seriously. Clearly people who are prepared to turn up to the House of Commons to discuss political blogging on an incredibly hot July evening are not representative of the population at large, or even the blog community, and shouldn't be seen as such. Most people do them because they are fun, not because they are going to change the world (David Carr made this point).

A few random observations.

Why do people come to a meeting and then connect their laptops to a wifi connection and start surfing the internet/talking on ICQ etc? It just seems rude.

Blogs -- almost all -- are free of charge to consume. It's therefore difficult to make meaningful observations about their popularity compared with other media.

There is far too much attributing of the causes of political events to blogging. Howell Raines would have resigned if there were no blogs, ditto Trent Lott.

Nick Barlow exists, seems very pleasant and doesn't take blogging too seriously. However he does work very strange hours, and AFTER he's sat in a hot committee room for two hours. The man is destined to go far.

Monday, July 14, 2003

US opinion polls

I can even do US ones. This newsweek poll shows President Bush's approval rating slipping to 55% in June, from 61% in May.

Funnily only 28% of people have heard of the controversy over Bush misleading the country over uranium from Niger.

The most interesting line was this (though I'm not really sure whether it means a great deal).

"The registered voters surveyed were split on whether they wanted Bush to serve another term, with 47 percent saying they would like to see Bush re-elected and 46 percent saying they would not, while 7 percent were undecided."

Mirror image problems

If you can wade through the cheap comments and snide remarks, about the only public service this site offers is an occasional review of opinion polls. Today the Mirror has one (conducted by ICM but not -- as of Monday morning -- on their website).

Here are the more interesting bits:

"...only 29 per cent of voters say Mr Blair did not mislead the country over war on Iraq. Twenty seven per cent believe he knowingly gave them false information. The rest - 39 per cent - think he did not mean to lie to them, but did."

"Despite the huge level of criticism about Mr Blair's role in ordering British troops into Iraq, almost half of voters say he was justified in going to war. And fewer than one in four, 24 per cent, believe Saddam did not have WMD before the conflict started. Thirty per cent say he destroyed them when war began. Thirty six per cent back Mr Blair's insistence that WMD still exist in Iraq, despite no sign of them since Saddam was kicked out of power three months ago."

"There is also comfort for Mr Blair from the high level of support he continues to receive from Labour voters. Only 18 per cent say war was unjustified while 72 per cent say it was right. Almost half are convinced WMD will still be found. A tiny eight per cent say the Premier knowingly misled the nation, with 58 per cent insisting he told the truth.

Mr Blair's biggest critics over war on Iraq are those aged over 65. Young people aged 18-24 are most supportive with 54 per cent agreeing the attack was justified."

The kids are most in favour of the war! Whatever next?!

Friday, July 11, 2003

We wanna be free, to do what we wanna do

Excellent post by D^2 on new pointy-head blog, Crooked Timber on the ridiculousness of the various measures of how 'free' countries are.

I won't repeat the whole post, but essentially D^2 points out that two of their measures are what commonly are described as 'positive liberty', ie the type libertarians don't like, which he says;

"Including the two positive liberties in their index of economic freedom is equivalent to the admission that economic freedom is not really worth anything unless you have the ability to make use of it'.

Well indeed. I've never really understood how libertarians seem happy to say, the second you propose any postive-liberty role for the government, 'I'm a libertarian and you're not', and yet almost all libertarians believe the government has a major role in enforcing contracts. This is a pretty big intervention, and -- as D^2 says -- a positive liberty one at that.

Yet once you start allowing for measures to increase positive liberty, it's hard to stop, as D^2 points out;

"This is, if I remember, what Isaiah Berlin ended up concluding; that once you let in any sort of positive liberty, it is powerfully difficult to avoid ending up with a concept of liberty that includes all and any of the compenents of what people need to live a good life".

The only other thing to note about these indices, and similar ones, is people always go 'look how high the United States is'. And it is usually top or at the least top 5. But that's because the indices are constructed with the US as the ideal example of liberty, so almost by definition it will be at the top.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Good week for the BBC

So it appears the BBC was right again. The truth behind Saving of Private Jessica was much nearer the BBC's version than it was the 'official' version.

Out of control?

From the FT:

"Tony Blair, the British prime minister, may allow the US military trials of two UK detainees in Guantanamo Bay to proceed because he fears it will be almost impossible to mount a successful prosecution in the UK, the Financial Times has learnt...The evidence that will be used in the US military tribunals would not be permitted under English law because of the way it has been obtained. Mr Abbasi, for example, was refused access to a lawyer during his interrogations, according to Louise Christian, his English legal adviser."

Oh...well that's ok then.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

BBC and Campbell

It's been a funny few weeks watching the Daily Mail, Norman Tebbit and the rest of them standing up for the BBC's reputation for honesty and integrity. In a way of course such behaviour is not surprising -- they hate the BBC, but boy do they hate the government and Alistair Campbell more.

That in itself is the best reason for supporting the government -- rarely is it that either the best moral or practical position is not the opposite of that of the Daily Mail and Norman Tebbit. But this case goes to prove the old adage 'you can't be wrong all of the time'.

Let us remind ourselves simply of the issue here. The war on Iraq was a new type of war in that it was not in response to a clear and present danger. Even its supporters (well most of them) acknowledge that, and indeed many of them welcomed it -- the phrase used back in those heady pre-war days was 'pre-emptive'.

Pre-emptive wars are based more than any other type of war on the accuracy of millitary intelligence. Thus if there are claims -- subsequenly largely proven -- that the government attemped to spin such intelligence, then clearly that is a major public interest story. And thus the BBC was right to publish its story.

Blair and Campbell?

I'm certainly not Alistair Campbell and Tony Blair's biggest fan, but even I was a little shocked to see the Mail's lead feature today;

"One was a depraved bisexual dwarf, the other a mass rapist"

Ps It appears I made a mistake. This time they were talking about two of Stalin's henchmen, but hey it's difficult to tell...

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Shorter Matthew Turner

Post will be shorter from now on, so can comments be too?

Longer Matthew Turner

Looking at my blog comments I have noted that some of them are too long. Some blogger (Peter?) pointed out recently that if people have long comments then they should really go and write their own blog, and I have to agree.

However looking at my recent posts I realise that there is a slight risk of hypocrisy here. Thus I am going to limit all my own posts to 500 words. That should at the very least save time.

ps Sun am. This post also shows the folly in blogging after a day spent drinking at Wimbledon. I've hardly ever written a post 500 words long, so limiting myself to that is a bit like saying to Tony Blair 'can you just try and be a little less truthful'. New limit is 350 words.

pps Is there a word for the great sense of happiness one gets when about to embark on a long train journey late Saturday night and you find the station is already selling Sunday's newspapers? And is there a word for how you feel when you fall asleep reading the Observer on said train and wake up three stops too late?

Friday, July 04, 2003


With Peter Cuthbertson's hard drive temporarily broken, and Conservative Commentary being updated less frequently, I have become slightly concerned about where the right-wing fringe can get its daily kicks. This is no mere theoretical concern, as left to their own devices they often do strange things, like invading countries or introducing poll taxes. Thus to keep them occupied I am starting a (very) occasional service free to all my readers.

Peter Cuthbertson Replacement Service (PCRS)

That two of the evil terrorists to stand trial for the murders of 3,000 innocent people on September 11th are British is a sad reflection on the me-first instant gratification culture forced upon us by the left-wing media. That these enemies of liberty feel that there is nothing wrong with getting their kicks out of flying aeroplanes into skyscrapers is symptomatic of the wider malaise in society resulting from Lord Jenkins’s permissive legislation of the 1960s and the existence of the state pension. Whence they are found guilty we must be thankful that they have been tried in America, out of the reach of the do-gooding Belgians at the European Court of Human ‘Rights’. In that great Republic, the sanctity of human life remains more than a theoretical concept and they will meet the punishment they deserve. To the gas chambers, and good riddance!

Clear blue water?

A YouGov poll for The Economist (subscription only) finds that a Tory policy of leaving the EU would gain them 8% (well the phrase is 'more likely to vote Conservative') support, enought to deny Labour a majority.

Obviously there are reasons to be sceptical. Saying it would make you more likely to vote Conservative to a YouGov poll is not the same as actually voting Conservative in a general election where an united Labour and Lib Dems will have been banging on about that policy, and many of the Shadow Cabinet will have been expressing reservations. But sill -- as The Economst says, will IDS take the plunge?

The poll also asked about the European Constitution. 18% were in favour, 44% against and 33% don't know enough yet. If the governmetn campaigned for it would make 15% more likely to vote yet, and 21% less likely. The only piece of good news for pro-Europeans is that a net 11% believe 'associate membership' of the EU would weaken Britain.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Vile Tories

A good fun essay on why he still (or still-ish) supports Tony Blair by John Lancaster in the LRB. As Lancaster notes, there are three reasons for the left to continue to support Blair even if they don't support him.

1. You've forgotten how vile the Tories were.
2. The success of many of his policies.
3. It's better to be in government than out of it.

Point 3 may seem obvious, but I'd imagine there are few left-wing bloggers who haven't yearned for the simplicity of their righist colleagues who can denounce everything and say it would be better if only we were in charge. Point 2 needs a longer post than this, but basically is true, particularly when you remember what a mess of the country, socially and economically, the Tories left it in.

But point 1 is the most true. Lancaster puts it well,

"I've been amazed by how quick to forget people seem to be: specifically, how quick to forget the human and political ghastliness of the Party which ruled us for 18 years. I don't just mean Thatcher and the joke monsters like Hamilton, but the day-in, day-out ignominy of being ruled by men like Kenneth Baker and Norman Fowler, John Wakeham and Michael Howard; of turning on your TV to see Michael Heseltine in a combat jacket, or Ann Widdecombe waving a pair of handcuffs, or Michael Portillo talking about 'three letters which send a chill down the spine of the enemy: SAS', or John Selwyn Gummer over-energetically feeding his daughter a beefburger."

I'm sure everyone can remember all of those incidents, though it's perhaps worth adding that Portillo wasn't speaking to our enemies, but to our fellow EU members. It's hard now to recall how back in 1995 Portillo was the right-wing's wet dream of a leader, a fact that makes it all the more ironic that it was his revelations of a brief homosexual act that made them all turn on him.