Friday, December 31, 2004
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
More cuts requiredThe Conservatives proposal to cut the number of MPs at Westminster is excellent. I have argued before that this would be the single most effective way of increasing the prestige and power of individual MPs vis-a-vis the government, something the last 25 years have shown is sorely lacking in the British system.
The proposals do not go far enough. Congress gets by with about 535 members -- the UK Parliament has well over 1000, despite a population only 1/5th as large. The Conservatives should announce that they will cut the number of MPs to 300, and limit the size of the ministerial payroll to 60.
Monday, December 27, 2004
Is this sarcasm?
"I have nothing against the Duchess of York. I just have zero interest in what she has to say. "
Says Stephen Pollard, in a 160 word [correction: 398! words] post on what the Duchess of York has to say on snobbery.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
Peter Hitchens is angryThough my gym gives away the Daily Mail, and so I get to read it once a day, I only have the pleasure of its sibling the Mail on Sunday when I stay at my parents.
The pleasure of course is in reading Peter Hitchens. Hitchens, the author of the excellent 'Abolition of Britain', is not a happy camper. Though I disagree with much of what he says unlike most people on the Right he is at least consistent in his scorn (with one huge exception). Here are some of his targets from today's column:
Capitalists: Men of greed who see no reason why factories, call-centres, offices and supermarkets should not work seven days a week, 24 hours a day, loathe the limits the Church sets on work...dislike the married family which proper Christianity insists upon
The British: ...quit like anything. We quit Calais in 1558, the US in 1783, Spain 1809, Iraq in 1932, Indian in 1947 and Palestine in 1948.
Our role in Iraq: Pathetic, doomed role as America's deputy...disaster
Elections in Afghanistan and (potentially) Iraq: Yes there will be an 'election, yes there will be 'votes'. Similar pantomines took place in Iraq.
Donald Rumsfeld: I have always been faintly disgusted by Donald Rumsfeld...Those who have defended ths person must ask themselves what sort of company they are keeping.
Friday, December 24, 2004
HAPPY CHRISTMASHappy Christmas!
Here's yours truly in Heidelberg, dressed as Father Christmas to put you off your turkey.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Is there a heterosexual Mafia running Britain?Matthew Parris is a worried man.
But it has to be asked: should heterosexuals be permitted to occupy important or sensitive posts in our country? I’m as tolerant of diversity as the next man and would never condone the persecution of anyone solely on account of his or her sexuality, so this is not a moral judgment but a practical one.
Simple observation suggests — and the last couple of months of newspaper headlines demonstrate — that heterosexuals in public life do seem to find difficulty in maintaining lasting relationships with a single partner. This is a matter for sympathy rather than censure, but can instability at the very core of their lives, in their relationships, be without effect on the stability of their professional judgments?
Sunday, December 19, 2004
ADORE HIMCraig Brown's Way of the World column yesterday was generally funny, and I recomment you read it. This bit particularly made me laugh though, in "Thirteen Irritating Things People Do at Christmas":
3) Make a show of singing louder on the third "O come let us adore him".
A Christmas letterDear All,
So it's that time of year again. Looking back on 2004, what a 12 months it's been! Simon's been very busy at work - the Guardian job is the usual slog but it's his role as Spectator wine critic that has been the most trying. The endless lunches, lasting for hours on end mean I hardly ever get to see him. All that alcohol takes its toll too -- when he finally comes home he tends to be rather flushed and over-excited. Anyway jobs are always make more bearable by your colleagues, and he's told me that there's a very nice American woman in charge.
Did I mention the cat that can open the fridge?
Note: Simon Hoggart strenously denies the story , and as he gives the impression of being the nicest man in the world, I'm inclined to believe him.
[Actually it appears the story is true. I'm disappointed -- Rod Liddle, Boris Johnson, David Blunkett -- fair enough. But SImon Hoggart. Oh dear]
Ps. All links via Nick Barlow whose permalinks appear to have disappeared. [Again another mistake - the title of the story is the permalink]
And the BNP too!In response to my suggestion that the British people do wish to interact with foreigners, 'Dave', in the comments at Truth Unvarnished, says it's me who led the BNP to their stunning 0.8% at the last election. Feel the power of the blog.
Its guys like Matthew that are driving people into the arms of the BNP.
No matter how much we protest about immigration people like him in all 3 of the main political parties will always claim average/normal "Englishmen" dont really care about the issue. Leaving people forced to consider the BNP simply to get the message across.
Dave is not a racist.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
What have I done?The Times reports that the Tories have discovered two 'tribes' of voters who are going to win them the next election. One set are based in former mining and dock towns blah blah.
The other are the
twenty-something members of the cool urban elite that marketers call “Urban Intelligence” and nicknamed Ben and Chloe
Dr Fox is encouraged by the fact that Urban Intelligence have been the biggest growth group of those joining the party since Michael Howard took over, bringing the average age of new members down to 41. “They’re a very interesting group, economically conservative but socially liberal,” he said. “We know they’re more concerned about crime but less about Europe, and they worry about education rather than asylum and immigration.”
Now, I wouldn't, particularly in light of the fact that people who know me read this, like to describe myself as a member of the 'cool urban elite'. Let's stick to 'urban'. But what you and I know as a 'cool elite' clearly is not quite the same as what the Conservative Party does, and reading the description of these new Chloes and Bens:
Live: Inner areas of London
Who: No children, aged 25-34, lived in house for one yaer, graduate
Household income: £50,000 a year or more
Type of property: Privately rented
Holiday: Weekend mini-breaks booked on internet
It does rather describe yours truly. Which leads to the rather worrying conclusion that I might have ruined the Conservative Party's election strategy.
Now it's true I joined before Michael Howard took over. But my third membership card and welcome letter arrived after he took over.
So Liam, listen carefully. Don't be too encouraged! The Bens and Chloes were just a blog joke. As for the former coal-miners called Lee...I'd do some blogsearching. In the meantime stick to canvassing the fox hunters!
Friday, December 17, 2004
Defending Geoff HoonBackword Dave supports Annabelle Ewing's attack on the 'backstabbing coward' Geoff Hoon, over the plan to merge six Scottish regiments.
Now we all know it's great fun having a go at Geoff Hoon, and indeed he has one of those faces that makes it feel even more fun than normal. But his plans actually have a lot of merit. In any other nationalised industry having 15% of your staff based in Scotland would seem like ridiculous overmanning, particularly when you are finding it hard to recruit. There's a lot of misplaced sentimentality -- the Telegraph speaks of 'famous' regiments, of which I, and three people of varying ages I've asked, couldn't name a single one with the exception of the Black Watch, for obvious reasons.
Outside of Scotland the reforms appear designed to make a more efficient and effective Army. The Telegraph, in some excellent reporting, skewers many of the criticism, particularly on the impact of scrapping the 'arms plot' will have on recruitment (it is likely to improve it). Military bands are being cut from 30 to 24, which seems rather modest. Can't the private sector perform this function better?
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Mobiles MatrixVia PopBitch I find this amusing pyramid ...sorry matrix...scheme to get cheap mobile phones or Ipods...
Basically you buy something for at least £20 and you get placed on a list. Each time someone buys something you move up the list. When you get to the top you get sent a free mobile phone or Ipod (your choice).
According to the website, 'Once a certain amount of new users sign up (normally between 13-34) the person at the top of the list receives their mobile phone'. They argue it is not a pyramid scheme because you are under no obligation to refer other people.
This seems to be a legal nicety. The reason pyramid schemes are pyramid scheme is because at each stage you need a bigger and bigger number of entrants to keep the thing going, and entrants who believe they'll be a bigger and bigger number following them. This applies to this scheme. The company says it takes 'normally between 13-34' people to sign up to get a free phone/mp3 (it depends on the value of the product). Thus when one person was on the list, it only took 13 to 34 people to join for him/her to get his/her free product. The 14th person on the list required 14*13 or 182 people, or possibly 14*34 or nearly 500 people, that 500th person might require 15,000, and the 15,000th 500,000, and I wouldn't fancy my chances at this point.
Does it matter given you are entered for free? Well not, but... For £20 you get a CD of 'ringtones and images'; which is probably available elsewhere cheaper than $20. For £35, you get a 'bluetooth dongle. The first search for this in google returns one for £17.
So essentially you are paying £18 for the priviledge of entering the matrix. Is it worth it? That would depend on the probability of you getting your product. Clearly the first person to sign up has done well.
As an example let's take the ipod mini. Sixteen people joined on the 16/04/2004, and of those 14/15 have been sent their ipods (one is 'being dispatched'). So we know not enough people have signed up to send it to the 16th person.
304 people have signed up, so if we divide 304/15 we get 20 people needed to be signed up to get an Ipod mini (i.e. 320 would be needed for the 16th person to get his).
So if we joined now, at 305, we would need an additional 6100 people to join before we'd get our Ipod mini. A bit of a gamble, particularly because the (say) 5000th person would have to believe 100,000 people will sign up to get his, and for that the 100,000th person would have to believe 20m people, etc...
ps Of course rationally no-one should ever join a pyramid scheme. The 20 millionth person shouldn't join, because he'll never get his money back. The 2 millionth shouldn't join because the 20 millionth won't, and hence the 200,000th shouldn't join because the 2 millionth won't, etc, etc. It doesn't quite work like this.
ID cards now Blunkett has departedCharles Clarke, the new Home Secretary, has said there is no going back on ID cards despite David Blunkett's resignation. This is unsurprising given (much like the Tory party) the leader is in favour.
Nevertheless I have a suggestion of a way to improve the scheme whilst keeping British civil liberties intact.
Only criminals and terrorists should be made to carry them.
All of the proposed benefits in stopping terrorism and catching criminals would be preserved without any of the costs. Actually I forgot 'benefit cheats'. So let's revise that - Only criminals and terrorists and benefit cheats should be made to carry them.
Naturally the difficulty would be in spotting such people before they committed a crime, or terrorist attack, or cheated the system. The Metropolitan Police used to have a simple method of doing this, but it was found to be somewhat inaccurate and has fallen rather out of favour in recent years.
Another method would be to directly ask everyone. This may seem ludicrous, but it is after all the method used by the US immigration service, particularly with respect to Nazis.
Further suggestions welcome.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Janet Daley doesn't say much at allWednesday on this blog is Janet Daley day, and today's column is a rather lacklustre affair on ID cards and the Conservatives.
The headline, 'Howard has not sold birthright', gives you a flavour as does this sentence:
Well, sorry, but I'm not one of those stabbing the air, shouting "J'accuse".
In short her argument is that Britons are terribly lax on identity, not having (presumably she means until recently) photos on driving licences etc, and how in America everyone carries ID, so that's alright then. It's also popular with the public, and so that makes it doubly good.
As I said tame stuff for the Daleyster with nothing as absurd to match the democracy coming to an end in Europe, or Kensington and Chelsea turning into 1980s New York of recent memory.
UncertaintyDaniel Davies links to a good speech by Mervyn King about uncertainty, and the need to be more open about what is known and what is not known. It ends with this rather good quote:
As Bertrand Russell said, “The whole problem of the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts"
The speech mentions the case of the a woman who saw both her two children die. The Jury were told that the chance of this happening was 1 in 73 million, which essentially is 1 in 8 million and a bit squared, where 1 in 8 million is the chance of one cot death happening.
It is said this was taken to be mean that the chance of the woman being innocent (forget other possibilities other than murder) were 1 in 73 million.
There were two clear problems. First it assumed that the events were independent, which they probably weren't. But second, to quote King,
“it illustrates vividly that the interpretation of ex post outcomes depends critically on understanding the ex ante process which generated those outturns.”
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
The diet StandardPeople in London who happen to be out and about at lunchtime, and who pass a tube station (or use the tube) now have a new newspaper to entertain them, called Standard Lite.
Basically it appears to be the Evening Standard with most of the news removed, except for the front page which looks very much like the classic Standard/Daily Mail lead.
To be honest I don't really see the point. It doesn't have a letters page, which everybody knows is the main reason to purchase an Associated News newspaper.
ID cards on usSo over the issue of ID cards I was right - the Tories are go!
Foreign readers might find this confusing. Many British political discussion appears to give the impression the Conservatives are a libertarian party and I suppose Michael Howard has striven to look like this, talking of a 'bonfire of red tape' and (as Nick Barlow reminds us) his famous comment that a Man Cannot Give Birth to a Pebble...whoops wrong Tory....er that
I believe The People should be Big. That The State should be Small.
I can square this particular circle. Here is an average Conservative voter (I've have hidden his identity) stood next to an ID card. As you can see the People are Big, and the State (as represented by the ID card) is indeed small.
So generally there were two reasons for the Conservatives to oppose this measure. One is that it is profoundly anti-libertarian and the party does have some libertarian impulses. However Michael Howard does not, and he was never going to go down this route. Second was what David Davis was arguing the other week: that it is going to cost a lot of money and is unlikely to achive anything. Given many Tories still look fondly back to the Poll Tax this was never going to be a killer argument, but in any case by the time the Tories are back in office the introductory costs, which presumably will be the majority of the costs (at least in present value terms) will have been spent. Sunk. Etc.
Monday, December 13, 2004
Moments in history you wish you'd witnessedFrom the same book as the photograph below we learn of the Duke's tour of the Union of South Africa, and in particularly his momentous visit to Jagersfontein.
The Duke's tour of the Union was enlivened by many unrehearsed incidents. At Jagersfontein, for instance, the Duke, having received the town's address of welcome, instead of returning to his car made a detour by a side street, where he encountered a traffic barrier. As seen in this picture [to come], he vaulted this, followed by the crowd, who appreciated to the full the spontaneous and unaffected nature of the Duke's attitude.
Strangely the town's website fails to mark this historic occasion, though I suspect it remains the highlight of the lives of any of the folk who were lucky enough to have been there.
Informality Magdalen College styleFor those who can't read the caption it tells us how the Prince of Wales, or 'Pragger-Wagger' is seen in the picture (click here for v.large version (3MB):
at the college in the atmosphere of complete informality which marked his entire period as an undergraduate
So a word of warning. If Chris Brooke invites you to a party and says it's 'nothing formal' dig out your walking stick and suit.
Ps This is from book I bought on Saturday called 'The Duke of Windsor: His Life and Times', written in the 1950s (and Copyright S.952.R, Odhams) but of the 1920s. After 109 pages of slobbering servility it gets to the Abdication, where it tells us that Cosmo Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury, could be 'depended to approach the problem sincerely'. Of the Duke's meeting with Hitler it merely records that 'the Duke had always been interested in the improvement of relations between Britain and Germany, and with the Duchess made a short visit to Germany in the October of 1937. On the left he is seen holding an animated conversation in Berlin with Dr Goebbels, then Propaganda Minister. The picture below shows the first meeting between Adolf Hitler and the Duchess'.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Latest thinking of the pro-war leftWith little else to report on I thought I'd remind my readers where the Starters of the pro-war left are headed.
Here Stephen Pollard advocates the invasion of Spain byAmerican (and presumably British) troops merely because the government did not invite US troops to a parade.
Civil War UpdateRegular readers will remember the concern I expressed about plans by supporters of foxhunting to launch a civil war in Britain. It appears that there is to be a civil war, but luckily it's going to remain inside the Countryside Alliance.
Defending one's home IIThe Sunday Telegraph, which has adopted the Tony Martin law with gusto, has an editorial which is somewhat confused.
It complains that the current guidelines, which allow for 'reasonable force' are too subjective and indeed it is 'decided by a government bureaucrat considering at leisure and in the safety of his own office'.
This is true as far as the CPS go (and -- shock -- Melanie Phillips makes the good point that it is rather rum of the Police Chief to complain when it is his officers who often show the worse lapses of judgement) but it not of course true of any trial, in which a Jury makes the decisions (a point forgotten in the Tony Martin case).
Anyway so it's the ambiguity of the law that the Telegraph doesn't like. It doesn't even like the proposed new law, saying it prefers the law in Oklahoma, which allows:
"Any occupant of a dwelling is justified in using any degree of physical force against another person who has made an unlawful entry into that dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against the occupant of the dwelling."
The Telegraph says,
"The wording of that law dispels all ambiguity about what a home-owner is permitted to do when confronted by an illegal intruder."
But of course it doesn't. The law says 'when the occupant has a reasonable belief'. This, you may note, is the same word 'reasonable' as in the current law (though obviously in a different context).
So still ambiguity, coupled now with a law that could see any number of people shot dead who weren't planning on burglary. Does that happen in Oklahoma? I have no idea. But note this -- Oklahoma's population density is under 50 per square mile. England's is around 900.
Finally, Patrick Mercer says on the same pages that this will reduce the number of burglaries. Perhaps. But it's worth recalling that burglaries are down by about 50% from the peak in 1995, the same time period as concern has grown over 'political correctness gone mad'. So it doesn't seem to be much of a factor in burglars' actions. Furthermore where will it end. Allowing shopkeepers to shoot dead people who shoplift would almost certainly reduce shoplifting - but at what cost?
Update: I also worry that the Telegraph's campaign will put householders at risk. By spreading misinformation that it is illegal to defend yourself, they will a) make people less prepared to defend themselves, and b) make burglars believe there is less chance of being attacked. A double whammy.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
PensionsPhillip Coggan in the FT looks at how Britain can deal with its pensions problems (registration required).
It's typically gloomy stuff. The falling numbers of workers per retiree means that regardless of our pension arrangements (funded v non-funded, state v private) something has to give. One suggestion, that Britons can save abroad, and thus have a claim on the fast-growing incomes of the Chinese (or whowever) is given short-shrift. Not only has it been found difficult to convert fast growth into decent investment returns, but the allocation would have to be so large to make a difference that it's unlikely many people would be willing to do it.
The only solution seems to be to work longer.
Tony Martin LawsA Conservative party is again trying to change the law on what householders may or may not do to burglars.
Last time backbench MP Tony Gale drafted a law that would have allowed the householder to kill anyone he thought might be about to commit a crime -- with no repercussion. I pointed out here you could kill your own grandmother if you thought she was about to steal an apple from one of your trees.
Predictably that attempt failed. So they're back, this time the Shadow Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, has drafted a law that says you can use anything except 'grossly disproportionate' force -- in other words you can use disproportionate force.
The Economist points out the lunacy of these plans. The current law, which allows you to use 'reasonable force' has only seen two people imprisoned for attacks on burglars [in recent memory - see comments -- there are others]. One of course was wannabe Tory MP, Tony Martin, who repeatedly shot a burglar in the back as he was escaping. The second was Barry-Lee Hastings, who stabbed a man 12 times in the back, and kept stabbing as he had left the house. Householders have killed burglars and not been prosecuted.
In other words the law works, and works well. The Economist notes that Michael Howard is doing this for other reasons - his lack of success in the opinion polls. He described the current law as 'typical of the topsy-turvy, politically correct world in which we live'; something the Economist correctly calls the 'tut-tutting of a pub bore'.
Tories are meant to support laws that work, and change ones that don't. And leaders.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
How the internet will save the NHSJanet Daley argues in The Telegraph that the internet, and cheap flights to the US, have killed off the old criticism of 'Rip Off Britain', and that this means 'choice' could work wonders in the NHS.
It's a seductive argument. And to some extent true. But there are some problems.
First, the assumption that the internet has ended 'Rip Off Britain' is hard to sustain. Prices of certain goods have fallen sharply in the last ten years but often for reasons that have little to do with the internet. Computer prices were falling before the internet had left the laboratory. Clothes have fallen in price due to Chinese production, not internet shopping. Food prices are more to do with supermarket pricing power. Similarly with people flying to America.
Second, that there ever was a 'Rip Off Britain' is also not clear. Often newspapers appear unable to distinguish between short-term and unsustainable moves in exchange rates and shops ripping people off. Prices of many goods were always cheaper in Britain (look at PPP comparisons).
Indeed looking at measures of inflation, there seems no evidence that British prices have fallen relative to other countries (or the US). One could argue the statistics fail to measure technological change properly, but that's true of other countries'.
More importantly, third, even if it were true it's not clear what it has to do with the NHS. The reason, despite falls in goods prices, that inflation indices have continued to rise, is the rapidly rising costs of private services, such as lawyers, accountants, haircuts, hotels. These surely have more in common with, and impart more lessons for, the NHS than the price of a Dell PC? Much of these can't be provided (at least with current technology) on the internet, and those that can, such as hotel rooms, appear to be unaffected.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Conservative Party PolicyI realised the other day that on two issues that have been much in the press, ID cards and banning smoking in pubs, I have no idea what the Conservative Party's policy is, and perhaps more importantly given electoral realities whether or not they'll scrap the laws when they come to power.
Both issues raise libertarian concerns, though my assumption would be that the Conservative Party would be for the former, as Michael Howard once tried to introduce them himself (and what few libertarians -- of any sort -- there are in the Conservative Party would be outweighed by the hang 'em and flog 'em set), and against the latter, as there are some libertarians left, and they have always been on the side of the brewers.
Perusing the website it is hard to say on the former. David Davis says:
There may be an argument for an ID card, but it has to be done very carefully to deliver the outcome we want in a cost-effective manner
But he appears to accept Blunkett's arguments, just not his strategy for implementation:
If the Home Secretary carries on like this, we will end up with a scheme that is both fatally flawed and so far in the future as to be irrelevant to the problems of today. Benefit fraud is happening now, illegal immigration is happening now, and the terrorist threat is here today.
In other words they're hedging their bets, though with much (sensible) criticised much of the planning and likely implementation. Nevertheless it appears the issue is one of cost, and so presumably once it has been introduced, with much of the fixed costs incurred, they won't scrap them.
On smoking Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley had this to say:
Does he not realise that in the time taken to implement legislation, the industry could and would deliver a voluntary code, removing smoking from up to 80% of pub space? I am confident that we could additionally expect them to achieve a smoke-free environment wherever children have access.
Which again is certainly an arguable case, though I get the impression a smoking ban won't be reversed either.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Euro woesBack from Germany I am more convinced than ever that the UK should stay out of the euro - it has caused rampant inflation.
I was last in that part of the country in December 2001, just before the introduction of the notes and coins, when a weissbier cost about two pounds. This weekend the same beer was around two pounds fifty, an increase of 25% in only four years!. Friends reported that they found a similar increases in the sterling prices of other goods and services.
And this at time when the euro has fallen against the pound from 1.65 to 1.44!
Rule Britannia! Vote Ukip!
Friday, December 03, 2004
Off on holsI'm off on a short holiday to the land of fast cars, beer and sausages, so no posts until Wednesday.
IraqInteresting article in the NYRB about the American press and Iraq.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Our Royal FamilyI was reading a relatively interesting but rather out-of-date book on the Monarchy, "Tarnished Crown", by Anthony Holden.
In the chapter on the Abdication crisis he makes the interesting point that there are no hard and fast rules about the succession to the Throne, particularly when there is an Abdication requiring legislation. In that case it is up to Parliament to decide the new King.
It appears back in 1936 many in Parliament considered King's brother, Albert, not really up to the job, and his other brother, Henry, Duke of Gloucester, was said to be even worse. Much opinion therefore favoured George, Duke of Kent, who it appears (unbeknown at the time) was a cocaine addict, and much more besides.
British 20th century history would have been far more interesting, I think we can safely say.
Galloway wins libel caseMr Justice Eady said he was "obliged to compensate Mr Galloway in respect of the publications and the aggravated features of the defendants' subsequent conduct, and to make an award for the purposes of restoring his reputation".
The judge added, "I do not think those purposes would be achieved by any award less than £150,000."
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
More bizarre Janet DaleyThe terrible murder of a man in Chelsea yesterday has attracted more than it's fair share of uninformed press coverage.
Leading the pack, of course, is Janet Daley, who I was horrified to learn lives in the same part of London as myself. Daley's argument is that London, or more accurately Kensington and Chelsea, is the new New York, or 'Murderous London is like old New York' as the title of her article puts it.
She notes that in the 1980s in New York, "property values, even in this fabulously prosperous city, were in free-fall" then the usual blah-blah about 'broken windows' and zero-tolerance policing. She ends with the stirring, 'New York residents have been freed from fear...when is it our turn'
Is that the situation in Kensington and Chelsea today?
Well frankly, no. Quote the Halifax, "In the UK property is most expensive in Kensington and Chelsea, central London, where it averages 734,756 pounds".
In fact Daley is clearly knows nothing about the history of crime in Notting Hill. In 1987 it was classified by the Metropolitan Police as one of the three worse crime areas, with parts an (unofficial) 'no-go area'. All Saints Road was notorious for drug-dealing. It kind of reminds of you 1980s New York.
Subsquently things are rather different now. House prices have risen 27 times (times, not percent) since 1980. All Saints Road is full of poncy restaurants. Crime is markedly lower.
I'd sooner buy a used car off Arthur Daley than take seriously a column by Janet Daley.