Friday, February 27, 2004

How modern Tories speak

"Perhaps I can just put the full facts to you. At a private dinner party I repeated something which has been doing the rounds, throughout the UK, in the context of the circulation of information in modern communications, such as e-mails. "

The Economist on gay marriage

I think today's Economist leader (at least in the UK edition) on gay marriage and the constitutional amendment is surprisingly good. Also worth reading is Oliver Kamm's take on the issue, for this:

" I am not a conservative but a liberal, and would go further. To be able to marry the person one loves and is loved by seems to me so essential to what it is to live a worthwhile life, that I regard it as a defining issue of liberal principle to press for that right."

and for the comments, where you get the whole gamut of loopyness.

Why doesn't he say?

Why doesn't Tony Blair just say 'As far as I am aware nobody in the UK security services bugged the UN' or something similar? How could that compromise security? It would certainly end the row.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Den Beste wakes up and smells the coffee

"I find myself looking at the keyboard and having no ideas at all worth telling to others"

The Katharine Gun Affair

Interesting bit on Crooked Timber on how it was fear or losing the case that made the prosecution drop their case. Unsurprisingly, pro-hunting Euro-sceptic site Samizdata doesn't seem to think that it raises any questions about the relationship between liberty and national security worth mentioning, instead peddling this kind of insight, "[the] enduring genius of our very own Joan of Arc, political saviour, and English heroine, Margaret Hilda, the Baroness Thatcher?...Baroness Thatcher. We truly are not worthy.".

Not me

Given his reponsibility over the 'dodgy dossier', does our Prime Minister realise how stupid he sounds?

"People who put them [the security services] in the firing line like this, I really do not have a great deal of respect for," he said.

The Clare Short revelations

How important are the Clare Short relevations? Is it a resigning issue for Tony Blair? I mean, of course everyone assumed we were spying on the UN. But for it to be confirmed, and if, as seems likely it is illegal, surely it is a political scandal of the gravest kind?

The Power of the Blog II

Sometimes the power of this blog scares me. After my call for an Inquiry into Inquiries, it has taken just a few weeksfor Parliament to take heed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Cuthbertson joins the BNP

This brings to 18 the number of councillors the BNP now has in Britain. Let's hope Barry sees the error of his ways soon.

So true, so true

"If divorce is allowed, in Italy it will be possible to have marriages between homosexuals and perhaps your wife will run off with a pretty young girl"

Amintore Fanfani, Leader of Itlaian Christian Democrats, 1974

"[Homosexuality is] a bigger threat to family life than even the bombers and guns of Adolf Hitler"

Tottenham Conservative Association, 1980s

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

A madman

Nick draws my attention to this strange man on the N. American Right:

"Are Homosexuals Unpatriotic?
Take a look around at the number of gays (or extremely pro-gay individuals) who are willing to support the Party of Treason (in wartime, no less) simply over gay issues. Homosexuality is obviously truly an all-consuming fetish. Like a foot fetishist, willing to place themselves in extreme danger to satisfy their bizarre desires, the homosexual is a sunshine patriot, placing their "right" to use the state to legitimacy their so-called "lifestyle" above the infinitely more important issue of the defense of the American Republic.

UPDATE: One fellow on Andrew Sullivan's blog is threatening to leave the country if the amendment is enacted. Where's he going to go, France? Something tells me that leaders of the future Islamic Republic of France won't take too kindly to his... alternative lifestyle. "

Literally no reason...

Does the President of the United States read Oliver Kamm's blog? Does he have a grudge against Oliver? I'm sure Oliver would be the first to say that was unlikely, the latter perhaps more than the former, but ever since Oliver made this pronouncement:

"there is literally no reason any longer that a consistent liberal would wish to see President Bush defeated next year."

...it sometimes seems like Bush's only guiding principle to policy-making is to make him look silly for saying that. Today a case in point.

Objectively pro-Al Queda

This is tricky. If you are pro-French schoolgirls being allowed to wear Islamic headscarves, are you objectively pro-Al Queda?

New ICM poll

We have a new ICM poll which puts Labour 2% ahead on 36%, with their support down 3% on last month. The Tories were unchanged.

We're rich

Over at Fistful I note that the recent rise in the euro, pound and krona have made Europeans rich again, at least when measured in US$.

More pertinent for this site perhaps is the exchange rates at which European gdp per capitas overtake those in the Great Republic. For the Europeans it's around euro 1 = $1.46, i.e. they are unlikely to get there anytime soon given we're currently at $1.26. But for us Brits we only need 1 = $2.02 (currently $1.88)! And the Swedish only have to get to 7.1 krona to the dollar (currently 7.3).

Asylum

News that ayslum APPLICATIONS fell by 41% in 2003, to just over 60,000 will probably do little to appease the usual suspects, but .for most, decent, British people it will probably confirm their suspcisions this was a crisis whipped up by the tabloid press.

Of course opinion polls show that the British public tend to overestimate the number of first generation immigrants in this country (including asylum seekers) by about four times, thinking they constitute 23% of the population rather than about 6%. It would be nice to see the answer to an opinion poll question 'and would you consider immigration/asylum an issue if the numbers were 25% lower, 50% lower, or 75% lower?'.

Clearly however this represents an opportunity for the government to set the record straight.

Gas fitting or academia

The news (if you can call it such) that an academic has quit his job and is to become a gas fitter sets the scene for all kinds of terrible British snobbery. The most normal manifestation of this is when you hear comments such as, 'Don't plumbers in London earn a lot of money' and 'I might quit my job and become a plumber'.

Two things stand out. First, those saying the former usually earn more money than plumbers, in far nicer conditions and with much less effort. Second, those saying the latter never seem to quit their jobs and become plumbers, despite urging from people like me. Hence the Doctor deserves our praise.

The reasons for both the above are pretty obvious -- plumbing isn't as easy or as nice or as well-paid as you think it is. You never hear people say, 'gosh aren't those lawyers well paid' (well you do, but not in the same way). That is because people think lawyers deserve to be well paid because it is difficult and they couldn't, or wouldn't, want to do it themselves. There is some truth to this, but what is true for lawyers is more true for plumbers. And gas fitters, I expect.

Truth Unvarnished's 'Reasons for not legalising gay marriage'

A new series in which I want people to suggest new reasons for Truth Unvarnished to oppose the legalisation of gay marriage.

For example, from Truth Unvarnished we've had:

'Gay marriage shouldn't be legalised because...

a man cannot be father to a pebble

otherwise dead people would want to get married

if it was predatory old men would prey on children

It would be like attaching all four wheels to one side of car.

But even he might run out at some point - so we need some new ones.

For example, 'Gay marriage shouldn't be legalised because it might increase the level of rainfall in Perth, Australia'.

I'm sure you can think of better ones. In keeping with the stature of the contest I feel I need to award a prize, and to show its importance it needs to be a good one. Hence the most innovative reason will win -- 'Status Quo's Greatest Hits' (on cassette).

Monday, February 23, 2004

Quick, we must post one anti-Lib Dem piece a week...

James Graham on the confusing priorities of certain bloggers...

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Evening by candlelight

Harry recommends this evening of anti-war readings in London in March.

I'm not an expert on these things, but there's some good names so I'm happy to pass the recommendation on.

When pre-emption is wrong

Have you noticed how among Republicans (and British Republicans..whoops 'neo-conservatives') pre-emptive action is always correct, except when it comes to global warming? I don't see much difference in the scenario -- something terrible might happen, we're not sure exactly what and whether it will, but the risks are too great to do nothing, and history won't forgive us if it does and we did nothing.

Oh dear

As you may have seen in the comments I have been defending Howard and Letwin's spending review against fairweather Tories, who have been contemplating voting Labour because of the proposed cuts in defence spending.

Sadly today I see it is a common view in our party - that defence spending must be ringfenced. Indeeed, The S.Telegraph reports, "[Howard] has been told by several senior colleagues that they are particularly angry at proposed defence cuts of 1.5bn".

I was also right about Nicholas Soames, with the paper reporting "Mr Soames has been frozen out of Mr Howard's inner circle".

I guess now we're set either for a) an embarassing climbdown from Letwin/Howard, b) Mr Soames' resignation, c) less money for health and educationa, or d) a fudge, in which more 'efficiency' savings are found.

I would be surprised by (b) given what I know of the man. (a) is too awful to contemplate, as electorally would (c). So expect (d) and another notch down in the credibility stakes.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Tories' defence policy

Little has been heard of Nicholas Soames, the Tories' defence spokesman, since Oliver Letwin revealed his common sense plan to cut the defence budget by 5% over the first two years' of a Conservative government.

In many ways I'm not surprised. Soames must be at war with Letwin and Howard*. Only a month ago, in a speech titled 'Defence Budged in new crisis' he argued, "We aren't putting enough money into defence and we are going to have to find ways of getting more in."

Luckily Letwin is the future of the party, Soames the past.

* Perhaps Soames could return to his previous role as the-fat-man-who-goes-on-TV-to-defend-his-friend-of-the-Prince-of-Wales, if today's Daily Mail revelations are true.

What does Damian Green mean?

The Tories' first transport policy inititiative is

"These include giving genuine choice on the mode of transport travellers can use. "Forcing people to choose between walking, cycling, driving or using public transport is an unnecessary interference," he said."

Can anyone explains what he means? Are drivers not allowed to walk? Cyclists not allowed to drive?

Those Labour Party statistics

The estimable James Grahams directs us to this rather embarassing cockup by a government minister.


A thousand reasons not to vote Labour.

The House of Lords

I used to, a few years ago, rate Stephen Pollard and think his political articles represented an interesting mix of radical reforms. Now I realise he is just another right-wing conservative (and presumably soon Conservative) hack, with comments such as:

"For all its oddities, the Lords was not broken: it was a fine revising chamber. So, because it wasn't broken, the government started fixing it. As a result of those changes, it is now broken, with a membership which is widely derided. And, because it is now broken, it is being left alone."

It was not a fine revising chamber. It was our only revising chamber, and so it was better than nothing. Hundreds of examples of well intended but poorly thought out bills show that. For example, on the poll tax, after an inconclusive debate over whether the Lords had any role at all (it can't debate money bills, the Local Government Finance Bill however was not a money bill) the House voted on an amendment to relate the poll tax to 'ability to pay' (which might have saved it, and Mrs Thatcher). Lord Denman, the Chief Whip in the Lords, 'moved heaven and earth' (to quote David Butler in 'Failure of British government, the politics of the poll tax') and obtained one of the largest divisions in history, 317 votes against the amendment, with the highest turnout (at least then) in living memory of Tory backswoodsmen. The rebels, led by the scarcely believable Sir Tufton Beamish were routed.

To quote Butler's conclusion:

"Whereas in most federal constitutions, and some others, the second chamber has a special role to play in reforms with constitutional implications... the House of Lords is incapacitated from playing any meaningful role...for the purposes of most constitutional reforms Britain has a unicameral chamber"

"..in all these respects [voting on revisions] the Lods was acting true to form. Despite the claims of some academics and journalists, the Lords is not an independent minded assembly. For most purposes, the Conservative party has an assured majority and cross-party voting is no more pronounced than in the Commons"

"Donald Shell's comprehensive study of the Lords at work in 1985-6 concluded most of the Lord's work was "minor, technical and mostly drafting amendments to bills'; it is 'reasonably diligent and generally dull, with a whiff of expertise but no real boldness, with conscience but not too much credibility, with a little public profile but no actual power".

Friday, February 20, 2004

Hitchens on George W Bush

I've never really looked into what Christopher Hitchens thinks of George W Bush, but luckily Max Sawicky has, and so here are some of the highlights :

"Bush's addiction to the death cult..." which, Hitchens claimed, "touches every important aspect of what could be described as his 'politics'..."

"To use 'vile' for 'viable' might look like misfortune, but to employ 'inebriating' for 'enthralling' looks like carelessness, especially in someone with his booze and cocaine record."

"Seeking to explain away his wastrel life and his obnoxious manner--nagging problems that persisted until his mid-40s--Bush invites us to believe that he mutated into finer personhood after having a personal encounter with God."


Land tax

Martin Wolf in the FT (subscription) calls for a land-tax, and begins by quoting Churchill:

"Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains - and all the while the landlord sits still . . . To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist, as a land monopolist, contribute . . . He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived."

Someone tell Truth Unvarnished!

Mrs Thatcher's speeches to be released on CD.

ps The article also reminds you of Mrs Thatcher's honourable role in publicising global warming, something most of her cheerleaders seem to have forgotten.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Immigration

Stephen Pollard in today's Daily Mail says some silly things.

On jailed Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal he says, "He is far from alone in expousing such evil, and while those who share his beliefs are able to carry on peddling their foul views -- often while living on benefits at the taxpayer's expense -- it is mainstream, law-abding Muslims who suffer, because they are contaminated by association"

Only in your head Stephen, only in your head.

Anyway he has a solution to our 'problems with unfettered immigration' which is that 'we must be explicit that productive immigrants are good, and unproductive immigrants are bad'. To do this we must structure the benefits system so 'for their first seven years in the country immigrants should receive no state benefits of any kind, other than schooling for their children and emergency health care'.

So there you have it. Presumably no child benefit or pensions or fuel allowances, or non-emergency healthcare. And as non-emergency healthcare is not a cash benefit but a benefit-in-kind, it seems the logical next step is immigrants won't be allowed to use the roads, or call the police. But they will have to pay taxes, one presumes.

Of course it's ridiculous, and even more so when you realise that immigrants are not a huge drain on the social security budget and almost all want to get jobs anyway.

The Things Daily Mail Readers Say

This one beggars belief.

"The cockle pickers at Morecambe could learn something from those at Leigh-on-Sea. Here, boats are equipped with pumps that act like vacuum cleaners, sucking up cockles from the sea-bed and filitering out the silt. Why, tragically, did they do it the hard way"

Jim Brown, Essex

And why didn't they use spy satellites to spot cockles from space?

New poll

Mori have a new poll with Labour on 36%, the Tories on 35% and the Libs on 21%. Labour are down 1%, so didn't get a boost from the Hutton Report.

On the unadjusted figures it's Labour 39%, the Tories 32%, and the Libs 20%. Those certain to vote represent just 52% of the electorate, so presumably if the turnover is higher than that Labour will do better than the headline poll suggests.

Howard remains with more postive than negative ratings (2%), though much smaller than Charles Kennedy's (16%). Blair is on minus 29%.

Only 3% of people think taxation is the most important issue facing Britain today, and only 13% believe it is an important issue.

A new Private Eye feature?

Congestionchargebollocks

Basically anywhere where a person or organisation has blamed the congestion charge when clearly it has nothing to do with their problems.

""We have had to extend our opening hours to offset the negative effect of the scheme on our business -- and we are not even in the zone," Joseph Wan, chief executive officer of the prestige department store Harvey Nichols told Reuters."

So let's get this right, Harvey Nichols has suffered because of the congestion charge? It's not even in the zone. Most of its customers -- certainly the ones who can afford to spend the daytime shopping rather than going to work -- almost certainly don't even have to cross the zone. And if they they did, would the charge really put people off going to a shop where you can't get a pair of jeans for less than 100? Near neighbours Harrod's sales were up 7%.

Humanitarian Intervention Index

A post on Crooked Timber enquiring into exactly how many people Saddam had killed and when reminded me of the necessity of my Humanitarian Intervention Index, which calculates both the desirability of military intervention and the liklihood of it being easy on the military. In other words it is a handy check sheet for the pro-war left, as they like to call themselves. So here it is again.

Now, remembering this is based on 2000 human rights' data from The Observer, you can see the results in an Excel file (if it asks for a password just press cancel).

For those without Excel, the top 5 with their HII rating are:
Gambia (5,000)
Sierra Leone (2144)
Guinea Bissau (1964)
Liberia (1282)
Somalia (906)


Now since the Observer data was published things have happened in Sierra Leone and Liberia. So, on the basis of this, the most sensible candidates if you believe in humanitarian military intervention are Gambia, Guinea Bissa and Somalia (followed by Tanzania and Burundi). These have appalling human rights' records and they don't have much military to speak of. Iraq incidentally is 54th, with an HII rating of 13, between Peru and Croatia. China is 79th with an HII of just 0.3.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Comments

Blogs everywhere seem to be banning, or limiting comments. Even this site, a beacon of free speech to millions around the world, has had to introduce a comments policy. The saddest however was over on Harry's place, where Harry has had to limit some messages' comments because they kept going over 100, and got unwieldly. This reminds me of a comment Tim from Bloggerheads made at that parliamentary blog-fest in the summer, after some goon had said blogging was going to change the world and democracy with interaction between voters etc etc, which is that it ain't, because as soon as you get more than about 200 readers a day the comments system breaks down.

I'm alive!

Well the post-Brits (second class) party was quite fun. Saw Blue, Kelly B, some kids called Blazin' Squad (possibly the funniest thing i've ever seen - about 12 and couldn't stop moving, or is that movin'?), some DJ on Radio One, Norman Cook, some other people, and about 1000 tall blonde woman with large breasts. Indeed on the strength of it I came up with a theory, which is that brunettes are on average more attractive. Its simple really -- assuming an equal mix of attrative and less attractive women amongs blonds and brunettes, a certain proportion of the latter who aren't attrative die their hair blonde in an atttempt to be (particularly the type who go to post-Brits parties). Thus the proportions change*.

The biggest shock of the night was we had to pay for most of our drinks. In a competition! What if we'd come down from Glasgow for the night? Indeed I spoke at length to a man from a band called 'antihero' (who assured me they were on their way to being the next big thing -- you heard it here first!) that the promise of free booze was the only reason they went too. Anyway it was quite upsetting, and seeing the rich and talentless having to shell out upwards of 100 pounds for a bottle of Bolly made me realise that we really have to cut the rate of higher rate tax on the poor things.

* My (blonde) girlfriend forbid me to mention this theory, but given her hair colour I doubt she can read, so I'll risk it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

ConservativePartyFlagwaver

Have you noticed how the ludicrous LibDemWatch is turning into ConservativePartyFlagwaver? Not only were they supporting the candidacy of the law-breaking Conservative I referred to a few days' ago, but today they've started defending the party's spending plans against its critics.

As I noted yesterday there is a lot to commend in Letwin's plans. He is planning to spend more than the current Labour government is spending, both in real terms and as a % of GDP, and he intends to rebalance spending away from things like defence and the police, and towards health and education. But LibDemWatch should come clean about their party affiliation(s).

The hunt for Aaranovitch's apology

As we all know David Aaranovitch said this back in spring last year

""If nothing is eventually found, I - as a supporter of the war - will never believe another thing I am told by our government or that of the US, ever again. And more to the point, neither will anyone else. Those weapons had better be there somewhere."

and today, head on, he tackles that thorny issue of whether is going to suddenly become a David Icke, rambling on about the lies of this and the US government.

Well he's not. And you know why? Because the Hutton Report showed him the government didn't lie.

So unless anyone can find another apology, or a statement of why he was so sure then and not sure now, I'm never going to believe another thing I am told by Aaranovitch ever again. And when I say that, unlike him, I mean it.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Tories to cut defence and police budgets?

Oliver Letwin's big moment was rather good, even if his speech was rather dense in parts. It was shame almost all of his money initially for tax cuts is going to come from efficiency gains, which should only be used like he notes the (correctly) the benefits (if they exist) of a 'laffer' curve for taxation should be used, i.e only when they happen. After than he has promised to keep spening on health and education, but to cut everything else, in order to reduce the share of GDP taken by public spending in 2011 to what it is now, but about 3-4% lower than it would be under Labour.

The other remarkable thing is that he intends to cut both the defence and law & order budget in real terms by around 2% to 3% a year for the first two years of a Conservative government, and then given them no real resources thereafter. Or in other words the Conservatives are pledging to reduce Labour's increases in both areas. Isn't politics strange?

Local government taxation

When reading the excellent 'Politics of the Poll Tax' (one of the best books on the British political system I know) I realised just how difficult sensible reform of local government taxation is. It wasn't because Mrs Thatcher and the ministers involved were stupid evil idiots that we got the poll tax. Well ok, it wasn't just because Mrs Thatcher and the minsters involved were stupid evil idiots that we got the poll tax. It actually is quite difficult to come up with a fair, but locally accountable reform (assuming that's what you want -- Major and Heseltine almost scrapped the entire system of local government in 1991).

I was reminded of this in reading James Graham's suggestion for reform of the council tax, which is:

"Better yet, a simple percentage on property values and more regular assessment would be more easy to understand. If person A owns a house that is worth ten times the house of person B, then they should pay ten times as much tax. The fact that they currently don't is a disgrace. "

This clearly would be an improvement, but I think particularly in London there is a major problem, which basically is that it leaves your council tax exposure up to the vagaries of the housing market. For example, in individual council areas property prices can diverge massively. It may be unfair than someone in street X sees their house rise by 20% compared to someone in street Y, but it's not very clear why they should pay more council tax, unless you can make the case that council provision has led to the increase. Or even more so, you don't need to be a late 1980s Kenneth Baker desperately running around the country trying to find an old woman in a mansion who had no income in order to justify the poll tax to realise that pensioners might get screwed.

In some areas of London houses that were worth very little in 1990 are now worth an enormous amount, particularly in 'gentrified' areas such as Hoxton, or Borough. Is it fair that a pensioner who has lived their for 20 years should suddendly see their bills double? Should they have to sell? One way around this would be to let pensioners defer paying council tax bills until they were dead, but this could create legal nightmares. Perhaps a better way would be it mortgage providers allowed people to swap some equity in their house for cash to pay the bills.

Either way it seems like given most people's wealth is in their houses, it's a wealth tax, which I'm in favour of, but it would be best to be upfront about it.

* Also what would happen to renters? At present one pays based on the value of your house, but if it was updated more frequently and accurately it would create the rather unpleasant reality of paying more tax merely because your landlord was getting richer.

Mixing with the rich and famous

I've won a competition to attend the Brit awards after-party which kindly says, 'note not the main one' but has promised luminaries such as Blu Cantrall, Blue, Andy Scott Lee, Kelly Brook and Liberty X. I'll keep you all informed.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

In today's Telegraph...

Some interesting-ish stuff in today's Telegraph - the links won't work unless you have registered.

Kevin Myers takes on those who have objected to Maxine Carr's release and takes on The Sun (somewhat over the top it must be said):

"Maxine Carr has been denied common justice. Instead she has been tried at the bar of Madame Lafarge, and before that spitting jury of dark-rooted blondes, whose expression of motherhood is to gather outside courthouses, their children in buggies beside them, and screech bloodthirsty profanities at prison vans. Such Sun-reading, saliva-flecked detritus will always be with us: but when prison service officials and home secretaries start dancing to the tune of harpies and fishwives, then is the time to worry."

Matthew d'Ancona notes some of the positive steps Michael Howard is taking to try to bring the Tories back into the mainstream of politics and diffuse Labour's attacks, however the better image you get of Howard is slightly ruined by this:

"On Monday, he rejected "the tired mantra of the free market", promised that the Tories would pay greater attention to "work-life balance", and declared that he would vote for the Government's Civil Partnerships Bill which will give a range of new rights to same-sex couples. I am told that the Tory leader instinctively baulked at supporting this Bill, but was persuaded that it was the right thing to do - not least because it undermines the tired Labour charge that all Tories are rampaging "queerbashers". "

which suggests Howard doesn't believe in the policy but is doing it because his advisors believe it is electorally popular -- a route that led his predecessors into all kinds of trouble.

Finally, the paper reports that President Bush is considering snubbing the 60th anniversary of D-Day because he is still annoyed with the French. I guess this comes as no surprise to most of us but his dwindling band of supporters must find this further proof that all his stunts on aircraft carriers this is a president who thinks nothing of war veterans and is prepared to miss the last major anniversary of D-Day with many veterens just out of petty spite. If true, disgraceful.

Comments policy

As this site rapidly descends into being a comments site for sites that have a no comments, or a policy of censoring comments, I've thinking of instituting a far-reaching and wide-ranging comments policy.

All comments are allowed, except:

1. Those in which the language used would be not be acceptable in front of your mother (or aunt, depending on which is more prudish).
2. Those which make comments that would be potentially libellous if they appeared on the front page of the News of the World.
3. Those which are are longer than 500 words.
4. Those Which Just Prattle on about Zionist conspiracies or racial differences in IQ, or anything similar.
5. Those written in verse.
6. Those written in foreign languages.
7. Those which remain too on topic.
8. Those written by self-styled 'libertarians' (i.e. the huntin' and shootin' type).
9. Those which make me feel stupid, i.e. anything too clever.
9. Anything else I find objectionable.

I fully expect not to have to use it.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Law & Order

It's well established that most Conservatives are not very interested in observing the law, even to the point where a murderer is a folk hero to them and the police the enemy. However someone has to make a stand in favour of common decency and law and order, and seeing this picture on James Graham's site of a Conservative flagrantly breaking the law I have contacted the Metropolitan Police and asked them to look into the matter.

Cuthbertson outlines his political philosophy

(Apologies to my readers for this lapse into worse taste than normal) but Truth Unvarnished has got overexcited again, and I thought it my duty to share the consequences with you:

Keep Saint George in my Heart, Keep me English
Keep Saint George in my Heart, I pray
Keep Saint George in my Heart, Keep me English
Keep me English to my dying day
No Surrender ...
No Surrender ...
No Surrender to the IRA!
SCUM!
No Surrender ...
No Surrender ...
No Surrender to the IRA!

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Er?

Following on from this, I guess next week Andrew Ian Dodge reports shocked on a story he's just read in an American newspaper..

I've won

No-one in the blogosphere is talking about the Guardian political blogs award...that's so last week. Instead they're all now obsessed with its Hutton Inquiry competition, and that fact that I won! Well I was one of the winners, and now I have a nice book about the Hutton Inquiry that will shortly be available from Amazon.com's secondhand section.

A quick roundup

A few things worth noting.

First, back in January I tried to come up with an estimate of the number of readers British political blogs have. I decided that, based on the number of comments, that it was probably between 2,500 and 5,000 a day, with an upper boundary of 10,000. The news that Peter Cuthbertson came second in the Guardian's weblog competion with 89 votes and that only around 500 votes were counted in all (congratulations to him) strengthens this view. Also congrats to The Guardian for getting Truth Unvarnished to take that ridiculous strapline off.

Second, most opinion polls now show the Tories in the lead, and Anthony (link on the left) has suggested that given the latest ICM poll in the News of the World showed them neck-and-neck, and ICM are usually more in Labour's favour, this lead should widen over the coming weeks. How then has this changed the spread offered by IG Index?

Not as much as you might think. Currently the mid-points in seats are Labour 341, the Tories 238 and the Lib Dems 53 - a Labour majority of 22 or 36 depending on whether the boundary changes have happened. Back in December it was 341/223/65, so essentially the Conservatives have gained at the Libs' expense. Back in June it was 352, 203, 73. Should have bought Tory (although given the spread each way is 10 you still wouldn't have made much money)

The Quiet Man Will Not be Silenced

No, Sir.

Stalinism

I recently linked to LibDemWatch, the site that puports to expose the truth behind the Lib Dems. I foresaw it would lead to more strange blog posts and I've already found one.

Jackie D writes,

"I'm quite enjoying the new site that tracks the misdeeds and deceit of the Liberal Democrats, Lib Dem Watch -- if it's possible to enjoy reading how frivolously one senior Lib Dem (Peter Black, AM) regards the victims of Stalinist regimes. Some of these Liberal Democrats really do beggar belief."

Now putting aside the complex question of what is the 'right' or 'non-frivolous' way of regarding the victims of Stalin and similar regimes, and whether it is worth getting into a 'I feel their pain more than you do' contest, it is a pretty serious charge that a senior Lib Dem regards the victims of Stalin frivolously.

Now this is not to blame Jackie unfairly. She is only repeating what the site itself says,

"But then, we have the luxury of laughing at this silly man. Those whose lives have been affected by Stalinism, and whose families and loved ones were slaughtered in its name, may not find it quite so easy to laugh at this politician's likening of an innocuous political website to a murderous regime that massacred millions."

Once again we have the 'I feel more pain than you do' contest, and a bizarre ability on the part of LibDemWatch to know what the familes and loved ones of Stalin's victims would think. I might think that the families and loved ones of Stalin's victims would find their being dragged on stage to form an attack on a politician a little bizarre and perhaps even untoward, but I can't really state that as I have no idea what they would think.

So what did Peter Black actually say? Well what he said was,

"I don't care two hoots about Stalin's victims, and actually am glad most of them were killed. Good old Uncle Joe"

Actually he didn't say that. He said when referring to a post of theirs;

"says more about the Stalinists who run Libdemwatch"

Now is that showing frivolous regard for the victims of Stalin? Well I guess it depends on whether they are Stalinists, and if they aren't how serious you believe that accusation is. But if it is, then it would be nice if someone would tell Truth Unvarnished and Samizdata, who both like to compare the EU to Stalin.




Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Perhaps it's Truth Unvarnished who is insane?

"No sane person can any more deny the existence of Saddam's vile and dangerous armoury. "

T.U, January 2003

The Stupidest Blogger Alive

I was wondering why, terrible as it was, the BBC was leading for a second day with yesterday's atrocity in Iraq. Then I realised it was a different one.

New chairman of the BBC

In a typically modest move Oliver Kamm (who in his post 'Why I was right' or something like that clearly has never read a work Dick Cheney has spoken/written, or he might see Al Gore's point) has announced he wishes to be considered for the role of Chairman of the BBC:

"...the ideal Chairman of the Governors ...would be a complete outsider, entirely independent of the BBC and its culture of contentment, untainted by the experience of making or delivering broadcasts, but committed to fulfilling the ideals of public-service broadcasting. It ought in fact to be someone just like me. "

The idea of Oliver, despite his blind spot for the Bush Administration, as chairman of the BBC brings much delight, and I would hate apathy or the pressures of work to prevent his applying. Thus I am in the process of applying on his behalf. All I need is an address -- I wonder if email will do?

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

WMD

If it's hard to prove Tony Blair lied about WMD, because of doubts about what he knew and didn't know, and was told, and wasn't told, there doesn't seem much doubt that Dick Cheney is a liar*.

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us" - August 27th, 2002.

* And the Pope is a catholic, did you know?

Essays

I haven't read them yet, but I expect these three essays to be quite good in this week's NYRB

Volume 51, Number 3 February 26, 2004

The Wars of the Texas Succession
By Paul R. Krugman

Now They Tell Us
By Michael Massing


December 4, 2003: The Vanishing Case for War by Thomas Powers
Israel: The Threat from Within
By Henry Siegman

Those LibDemWatchComments

Today a new feature! It combines such sites as Sullywatch with Oliver Kamm's useful feature, 'Those Liberal Democrat predictions'. In short, it's 'Those LibDemWatchComments'.

Today's LibDemWatchComment is 'Lib Dems putting taxes? Nothing new here'.

So what do the geniuses behind LibDemWatch tell us? First, they say 'Residents of Bath aren't too chuffed with the city's charter trustees', despite giving no evidence (the story has one resident of Bath in favour (a Conservative), and one against (a Lib Dem)). They're not too chuffed (or not as the case may be) because those charter trustees have '[raised] its share of the council tax by 27 per cent'. This is correct, but perhaps confusing. It's that share of the council tax allocated to the trustees that has gone up by 27%, not its share of the council tax. In brackets its added, 'And yes, this is the same party that wants to abolish council tax. You really could not make it up.' This is an interesting new idea in politics, that if your national party policy is to replace a tax with a different tax you are not allowed to increase that tax. Someone should have told Labour councils that during the poll tax, or Conservative councils that with the council tax. You could make it up, but there would be very little point.

Well that's it. No, I spoke to soon. There's more. LibDemWatch go onto say, 'Lib Dem Watch can't help but wonder what huge sacrifices the taxpayers of Bath will have to make in order to finance this astronomical hike in the mayor's allowance - and their council tax. ' Luckily the article gives a clue -- it will be about 1.16 per council tax payer per year. In percentage terms it will depend on the final council tax, but a quick search suggests it will be about a 0.1-0.2% increase -- perhaps not astronomical.

Oh and the reason for the increase is basically an increase in the rent they pay to the council -- which is in no overall control, ran by a joint Lib Dem and Conservative group.


In its pointlessness, hysteria and general lack of accuracy is LibDemWatch the new BiasedBBC?

Monday, February 09, 2004

Bombs

I know little about the political situation* (so I don't want to debate it) but the bomb in the underground in Moscow got scandalously little press attention (the BBC to it's credit led with the story on Friday). This is the sort of thing of nightmares in London.

* Which obviously couldn't excuse it if I did.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

MP Martin

Truth Unvarnished hopes that farmer Tony Martin stands for Parliament, and believes the Conservative Party should try to strike a deal with him.

Naturally as someone who believes in law & order I disagree with this, and think that Martin, like Jonathan Aitken, should perhaps be a little less vocal. But I have a question -- will Martin be allowed to stand for parliament? I read an article (which I can't find) about Aitken which said the law says anyone who has served more than 12 months in prison cannot become an MP. Trying to check this, I don't think this is the case -- it seems it is only while they are serving the sentence. But even if that is the case won't these new measures mean it won't be possible, or do they refer only to the Lords?

Loons

The pretend libertarians (where 'liberty' appears to be only the right to inherit houses in London free of taxes and to shoot small animals) at Samizdata take time off from their wacky parties to make an hysterical attack on Crooked Timber. Read it all, as they say, but make sure you do so in private -- laughing out aloud at work makes you look silly.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Tories lead on non-internet poll

NOP's first poll since September shows the Tories ahead by 1%, the first time in a non-internet poll since the fuel crisis and a 9% turnaround from September. If Gordon Brown was leader Labour would be 1%. On this poll the Lib Dems are on 24%, suggesting perhaps that their anti-war message has hardened their core support?

Friday, February 06, 2004

Never believe another word...

Polly Toynbee comes up with a good David Aaranovitch quote from last April:

"If nothing is eventually found, I - as a supporter of the war - will never believe another thing I am told by our government or that of the US, ever again. And, more to the point, neither will anyone else. Those weapons had better be there somewhere."

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Jaine, Steve, Nick

Go away.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Fox's view of the BBC

This is quite funny (note it's a video and it's not real).

An Inquiry into Inquiries

As Harry announces an Inquiry into the anti-war movement ('why didn't they agree with us?'), hot on the heels (and in part because) of the PM's Inquiry Into Why I Got It So Wrong this website feels left out.

At first I thought of having an Inquiry into Harry's Place, then -- as that would be unfair -- an Inquiry into Blog Coverage of the War. Yet that still won't end the rush to Inquire, so instead I'm going to launch the first Inquiry into Inquiries. It will Inquire about other Inquiries, whether they are fair, balanced, informative and useful.

Update: Oh...it's not the first Inquiry into Inquiries at all. Well bugger that then.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Campbell is De Gaulle

Robert Harris, the best political journalist in Britain, in a good article on the Hutton Report aftermath has a wonderful description of Alistair Campbell's performance last week:

"Alastair Campbell has hogged the airwaves over the past few days, revelling in his triumph, delivering statements and interviews in various grand presidential settings like a cut-price General de Gaulle. His self-obsession is almost comic, and anyone in need of a good laugh in these depressing days should be sure to catch his sports column in The Times. "

Read it all, as they say.

No Doubt

In a press conference in May, our PM said, amongst other ludicrous things (he bangs on about the two Vans-O-Doom)

"I have absolutely no doubt at all, when we present the full evidence after we have investigated all the sites, after we have interviewed all the experts and scientists, and this will take place as I say over the coming weeks and months, that evidence will be found [of WMD] .And I have absolutely no doubt it exists... "

Now no-one believes any more that Blair didn't sincerely believe the intelligence put before him. But when Blair was told by intelligence that a war in Iraq might increase the risk of terrorism , a spokesman said,

""These are obviously subjective judgments. ...[the JIC] produce assessments and it's for politicians to make decisions."

Isn't it now clear that the PM judgement, with respect to WMD, was very, very faulty?

Sunday, February 01, 2004

The Letwin Defence

Truth Unvarnished accused me of inventing what he called the Hutton Defence (odd as it wasn't a defence) of the BBC. Anyway, whatever he was blathering on about I'm pleased to see that Oliver Letwin, the Conservative Shadow Chancellor, has already taken it up.

"The Shadow Chancellor, Oliver Letwin, won himself a loud round of applause on Question Time when he remarked: 'The BBC has reported on itself with an astonishing degree of impartiality. I don't think there's any other broadcasting organisation that would have done that.'"

Truth Unvarnished would like to see Oliver Letwin as Conservative leader.