Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year 2006

Well to all my loyal readers, Happy New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2005


I've spent the last month reading the Guardian's Society Section and adding up all the salaries of all the jobs in it. It comes to £38,000, much more than the private sector average. That this comparision is silly, because the private sector mean average for jobs that are advertised in national newspapers is not going to be the same as the private sector average, I can ignore, as it's only for that famed body of statistical excellence, the Taxpayer's Alliance.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Holiday pictures

Salcombe Bay

Batson village

Simon Heffer

In the Telegraph, Simon Heffer shows his outstanding knowledge of British history by saying:

Big mistake, Ollie. We would, I am sure, and not just at this time of goodwill to all persons, like to see the gap narrowed between rich and poor.

Yet there is more than one way of doing this. In the prosperous, liberal society that we should aspire to be, the rich get richer and the poor get richer, too, as the wealth of the most successful trickles down through society.

This is rather what happened in the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher transformed our country from a banana republic to an economic powerhouse.

So Heffer, a) wants to see the gap between rich and poor narrowed, and b) believes that this happened in the 1980s. How ill-informed is he?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Christmas Quiz

I am off to Salcombe for a few days, so this is my last post for a bit. All of these questions came from old newspapers my parents have.

In the castle's history, who is the only Monarch to never have slept at Windsor?

Whom or what did the Daily Express take to task for giving 'too somber a tone' over the death of King George V? And whom or what did the Catholic Bishop of Leeds say 'wrapped the nation in organised gloom' over the death of King George VI?

How many people worked in the boot trade in Leicester in 1911 out of a total population of about 200,000? And what was their annual average wage?

"Liberal Opinion", printed to promote Liberal candidates in 1911, noted that "If you have ever seen common Italian bread, you don't want to see anymore. No British working man would permit it within ___________ feet of his mouth". Fill in the blank.

The same journal also noted that Lord Nelson, the famous Admiral's brother's, nephew's, son, had received how much a year as a pension for the past 67 years?

A 1935 advert noted that "A healthy child should look like this [with picture of healthy child] yet thousands of children are 'nervy and ________ all though the lack of Quaker Oats. Fill in the blank.

What was Victor Raikes, Tory MP for Garston's, 1952 claim about why British Miners objected to Italian workers, causing the Mines president to criticise his 'moral decadence of the intellectual'?

Answers in comments

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Northern Ireland

Good post by Brownie on Harry's Place about the Northern Ireland fiasco, and that no-one seems to care.

Update: Jonathan Freedland has some more thoughts.


I've run out of interesting things to say, perhaps I did a long time ago. But anyway I've decided to do a list. Here are cars I have driven (excluding hire cars) or owned (with an asterisk), with their bhp:

Fiat Uno 55 45 bhp
Rover 216i 120 bhp
Renault Laguna 100 bhp
Renault Megane coupe 100 bhp
Honda CRV 160 bhp
Vauxhall Cavalier 1.6i 102 bhp
Ford Ka 1.3 Collection* 60 bhp
Mazda Bongo Friendee* 160 bhp

That's a bit boring. How about computers I have owned (or had to use, ie my dad owned them and there's quite few as he worked in computers for schools) in rough chronological order, and an estimated speed (and no comments that mhz is not a good measure)

Commodore Pet 1mhz
Mattel Intellivision ?
BBC Micro B 2mhz
Spectrum 48k 3.5 mhz
Nimbus something or other ?
Commodore 64 1-2 mhz
Commodore Amiga 8 mhz
Acorn Archimedes 8 mhz
Apple Macintosh Plus 7 mhz
Apple Macintosh II 16 mhz
Apple Macintosh IIci 25 mhz
Apple Powerbook 130i 25 mhz
Apple Macintosh Quadra 660AV 25 mhz
Sony Playstation 34 mhz
Sega Dreamcast 200 mhz
Sony Playstation II 300 mhz
Sony Vaio 600 mhz
Evesham Micros 2400XP 2400 mhz
Dell 5000 3000 mhz

From that I conclude the pace of technological improvement in cars is slower than computers. And no-one also comment about the bloody fake Microsoft press release about if cars were like computers. If you want boring recycled stories go and read Nick Cohen.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Northern Ireland

I haven't a clue what's going on here. I read a lot here too, and still don't know.

Telegraph salaries

Bill Deedes tells us that in 1945, aged 32, when he returned from the war to work for the Daily Telegraph, was being paid £72 a month.

Making comparisions with today is fraught with difficulties, but it works out at around £24,000 a year in terms of purchasing power. The country was much poorer in those days though. If his pay had kept pace with the growth in average earnings it would now be just under £65,000 a year, perhaps a better guide to his relative economic position.

A depressing start to Friday

It looks possible that I could be in my late 40s and Sir Mingy Campbell will still be trying to become Lib Dem leader at the age of 79:

"Like the rest of us, Mr Kennedy is not immortal," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"The fact that he is leader of the Liberal Democrats today doesn't mean to say he is going to be leader of the Liberal Democrats in 10 years or 15 years.

"I have never made any secret that if a vacancy were to arise, I would most certainly consider whether or not to put myself forward.

Gordon Brown

It seems to have disappeared, but Oliver Kamm had a post up pointing out that the targets of the Plain English Campaign are often speaking plain English. He adds though that a reader says Gordon Brown's famous 1994 declaration that he was a supporter of:

post-neoclassical endogenous growth theory

was a self-mocking reference (I think those are the words, as I say the post appears to have vanished). This surprised me, I remember Michael Heseltine's conference jibe that it was "Balls, not Browns", which implies that it wasn't seen as a joke by him, though that is hardly conclusive. An internet search, as for most things before 1999, doesn't help much, though it does turn up (in NS, April 2005):

Even Brown said that, if he hadn't had a heavy cold, he probably would have edited the phrase out of the speech, written by his aide Ed Balls.)

and another site, again which I can't vouch for the accuracy (though he gets the date wrong, which is not reassuring), saying that the quote was followed by:

and a symbiotic relationship between investment in people and infrastructure

which could make it more mocking or less. Nevertheless I have no reason to believe Oliver's reader does not know what he is talking about, so can anyone provide the context of the quote?

Update: Typepad is back, and so is the post. My memory was slightly faulty - the "self mocking" is Oliver's phrase, and refers I think to Gordon Brown's love of soundbites (or New Labour's), which Brown said in the speech the above phrase clearly wasn't. So it was the soundbites not the phrase itself that was being mocked. This has no bearings on whether it is sensible to use the phrase though, however it was a speech to a conference on economics "New Policies for the Global Economy" (26th September 1994).

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Iraqi elections

Are taking place, and the BBC has good coverage. Hopefully this will mark a new stage in the country's fortunes. Certainly the bravery of some of the electorate in getting to the vote is remarkable.

Charles on his way out

Not paying very close attention to the Liberal Democrats internal politics I am at a loss to explain what is happening over Charles Kennedy, but it looks like he is on his way out*. Is it really fear of losing seats to the Conservatives due to Kennedy's perceived failings of leadership? Or is it,as this Times article insinuates, to do with more personal questions about him (which as everyone knows is taken to read he drinks too much (which is always denied))?

James Graham has more, and is more informed, but he seems similarly at a loss to explain it. He notes the Times is much more hostile than the other papers.

* On the other hand who would replace him?

Boris Johnson

Today writes a polemic on the problems of Charles Kennedy, at which the end the Telegraph declares he is the Editor of the Spectator and the MP for Henley. Has he been sacked already as Conservative spokesman on Higher Education? Or does he not begin that job until he resigns from the Spectator. And when is he doing that?

BBC Bias

Today Oliver Kamm (link to the right) lays into the BBC:

I am frequently a defender of the BBC against allegations – which I think are mistaken and miss the real criticism of its approach – of political bias. This programme does strike me as inflammatory and unprofessional, however.

The fact that a defender of the BBC is moved to complain clearly adds weight to the complaint. Indeed in the past he has said:

The problem is not that the BBC is politically biased – a charge I have never made and do not believe.

Strangely however in his second blog post of all time he declared:

The BBC's incomprehension of the requirement for political impartiality is as predictable as its inability to frame its tendentious and self-important polemics in grammatical English

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What happened?

Mr Cameron declared: "Six hundred and ninety Wednesdays ago, my Party lost its reputation for economic competence. I was there that day, working in the Treasury. The events leading up to that day were bad for our economy, disastrous for our Party, but most important of all, they made life really difficult for the millions of families who faced high interest rates, negative equity, and repossessions."

I think he might have got his sums wrong. I make 690 Wednesdays ago the 23rd September 1992, presuming one Wednesday ago was last Wednesday (the 7th December). Can anyone confirm?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Call The Batman

The Evening Standard's billboard says:

Poison cloud to hit London tonight

Quick, call Commissioner Gordon and get the BatSignal ready.

More Laurence Auster

A few weeks ago I linked to a piece by Laurence Auster, a Frontpage columnist, on his blog that advocated the removal of muslims from France, using measures that "what once seemed inconceivable to them [the French/Europeans] will slowly become conceivable".

Today he is discussing the riots in Sydney.

It didn’t have to happen this way. The nations of the West could have chosen, by the normal political operations of free peoples, not to open their borders to millions of unassimilable aliens. But the West rejected the non-violent path to safety—and the streets of blood, to paraphrase Enoch Powell, became inevitable. So it’s better for this to start now, while our side is still the overwhelming majority, rather than later, when we will be much weaker... If at any point in this miserable process f self-undoing we had exercised our rights as a people and stood up and said, loud and clear, “We don’t want you here,” the immigrants would not have come. Though the white rioters in Sydney are only young rowdy men, they are the first significantly sized Western group to have done that.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Cameron's first week

Aside from the mixed quality of his Shadow ministers, which given the talent he has to work with is understandable, I think it has been impressive. He has managed to annoy those who should be annoyed with his focus on the environment, and not said anything ridiculous. One issue which he will surely drop is his decision -- said to appese the headbangers when he was less sure of victory -- to leave the EPP grouping.

The other thing that struck me was a great proportion of the 30% or so rump of Tories that have stuck with the party since John Major like to rail against is the 'metropolitan elite'. And now they have a leader who almost perfectly epitomises what they believe to be that grouping -- posh, lives in Notting Hill, likes dinner parties, used to work in media, cycles to work. Tough times.

Iraq survey

An opinion poll of Iraqis shows reasonable optimism about the future, concern about the security situation and a wish for stronger government. THere's lots of interesting details.

Update: But 50.3% think the invasion was wrong. Thanks to Norman Geras for this information.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Google Earth

Google Earth now has much higher resolution images for London, most of the big cities and decent resolution (you can see the colour of cars for instance) for small towns (such as my parents, St.Ives, in Cambridgeshire). The London images are a bit older than they were so if you live in a new house you may get a shock.


There's a piece on some politics show on TV at the moment (called the Politics Show I see) about the failure to register to vote. One Tim Nice But Dim, aside from entirely missing the point (it's not illegal not to vote mate, it's illegal not to register), has just complained that it is "too difficult". I can't remember exactly the details of how you register, but I thought it was just writing down one's name on a form sent by the council. Can any of my readers give us some concrete examples of ways in which they have found the form difficult to fill in, so we can understand this chap's problems?

Hard life being a journalist

The Telegraph reports on its poll:

The figure of 40 per cent is the "magic" number that election experts say opposition parties must hit consistently if they are to have a realistic chance of winning power. The last time the Tories were on 40 per cent in an ICM poll was in August 1992, the month before the sterling crisis of Black Wednesday which destroyed their reputation for economic competence.

The Sunday Times reports on the Telegraph's poll:

The figure of 40% is the “magic number” that opposition parties should aim to hit consistently if they are to have a realistic chance of winning power. The Tories have not hit 40% in an ICM poll since just before Black Wednesday in September 1992, when sterling was forced out of the European exchange-rate mechanism, battering their reputation for economic competence.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Donald Luskin

It's difficult to know what mathematical errors Donald Luskin hasn't made, and here is another classic. Tim Blair's is pretty good too.

Friday, December 09, 2005

It must be a joke!

Well you can't say Cameron hasn't got a sense of humour:

LATEST: Boris Johnson named as new shadow minister for higher education.

Update: Johnson has been a strong supporter of 'free' higher eduction. It will be interesting if this policy -- IDS's policy -- remains party policy.

Here's Johnson's ridiculous taxation column in which he misreads the figures and doens't bother to check them, and yet bases his entire argument on them.

No more Tory annual conferences?

Says the BBC.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The first blog takeover bid

Clicking on my link to Peter Cuthbertson's Conservative Commentary, as I do from time to time, is an increasingly depressing experience. The formerly leading site of Conservative thought in the British blogosphere has had no posts since September, and is now kept alive only in the comments by a few blog-addicts who have not realised there is more than one out of there.

It still has a good brand name though, even theguardian mentioned it in its blog survey a few weeks ago, keeping the company of august sites such as Oliver Kamm's. Furthermore (perhaps showing the limitations of such statistics) it still has more readers a day that this site does, despite having no posts.

Thus I see value that can be exploited,and perhaps a way out of death by tediousness that appears this blog's fate. Hence I am launching what I believe is the first takeover bid of another blog. Clearly it cannot be hostile, as the only shareholder is also the management, but hopefully both sides can come to an agreement. I am starting the bidding at one copy of Simply Red's "Stars", and a pound coin.

Boris Johnson

Has he got any Shadow Cabinet role? I hope not, for he is truly awful. Today's piece in the Telegraph is simply too stupid to take seriously.

For instance:

Most social and economic historians would agree that the Thatcherian revolution of the 1980s was a liberating event for millions of people in the old working classes, who not only bought their own houses but also shares, and a stake in Britain's economic growth.

Thatcherian? Anyway this an an absurdly narrow and over simplified view of the decade, and certainly not one I believe most social and economic historians would agree on. Was class mobility higher in the 1980s than the 1970s? Johnson's been reading too much of his own party's propaganda again.

Part of Johnson's problem is he still believes his own mistakes. This passage in particular:

Above all, they [Labour] tax them [the working-class] an exorbitant proportion of their incomes

Now it is probably true that the poorest people in this country pay too much tax. But Johnson is basing his view on this on his own 'research', which was hopelessly wrong .

The Shadow Cabinet

There's some good people, Quentin Wilson, David Davis, Cameron himself possibly, but Fox needs no comment, Osborne I think is pretty hopeless (Ooh Estonia growing fast, let's have a flat tax!) and worst of all, Billy Hague returns as shadow foreign secretary. The advantage of this is presumably that he doesn't get to interfere in domestic matters. It now tends to be said that no leader had a chance in the 1997 parliament and he was thus unlucky. It is forgotten just what a terrible leader of the opposition he was -- in his choice of colleagues (look at his shadow chancellors), in his command over the party (ditto), but also in his policies. It is arguable that the 2001 election result was worse than the 1997 one given the almost total lack of movement in four years. There are reports that he will try to mend fences with the Bush Administration, a strange decision given its unpopularity in Britain and when even Republican Congressmen are heading the other direction, and he will go on the attack in Europe. This will enhance his post-politics career, for sure, but will hardly do much for his poor reputation in Britain. So what's left? That he is a good after-dinner speaker, but then again so is Tony Adams. Much like that other favourite of Tory constituencies, Michael Heseltine, he'd be better off sticking to that role.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

New defections from Melanie Phillips' camp

If you read her latest witterings (here and elsewhere) the latest people to defect from her camp of "conservative values" are the Metropolitan Police, the Conservative Party, and the Daily Telegraph. Her only ally appears to be Carol Gould, the woman who believes what she experiences at friends' dinner parties in London means she knows how Jews in 1930s Germany felt.

Francis Wilson

A good chap, who signed the Maastricht Treaty, and who has been reappointed as Party Chairman by Charlie Cameron. However on Sky News just now he rather eerily resembled slimy TV car salesman, Quentin Wilson. The picture doesn't do the similarity justice.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

It's Cameron

By 134,446 to 64,398, or 67.6% to 32.4% of the vote, on a turnout of 78.4% or 198,844.

This is a bit less than IDS got in numbers (155,983) but turnout then was higher than the total electorate now, IDS's % was only 60%.

Update: If you take the number of days Thatcher, Major, Hague, IDS and Howard were in office (up to when they said they were standing down or stood down) you get a very nice fit on a curve, which suggests that Cameron will last 329 days. Thus he will be standing down on the 31st October 2006, presumably after a bad party conference. If he doesn't then he is a breaking a law of nature, and clearly should resign.

Stay out of tall buildings when Tories elect new leader

A plane has crashed into a tall building in Tehran, killing more than 100 people. David Cameron is elected leader of the Conservative Party.

Spooky echoes of September 11th, when IDS was elected leader* (IIRC, the result was delayed until the 12th)

The Curse of the Tory leadership election, eh? At least its getting better.

* Oh dear. Don't rely on your memory. It appears it was meant to be the 12th, and actually was the 13th. Never mind, it only strengthens my argument. The Curse of the Tory Leadership election is apparently so strong it can affect things a day either side of it, and it can be either an accident or murder, etc.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The North

I went to three restaurants whilst I was in the North, of varying recommendability:

Betty's Tea Room, Harrogate: This was for touristy reasons only, and it is dreadfully overpriced. However the food and tea are undeniably nice, and I would pop in if I was there.

Little Tokyo, Leeds: In the town centre, this Japanese restaurants makes a welcome break from shopping. Bento boxes are huge and good value (at about 11 pounds).

Dough, Leeds; You'll never find it without a map and a car (or taxi),and you need to book a sitting at weekends, but this bistro near Headingley is fantastic. We had the £25 Christmas menu, but you bring your own wine so costs are reasonable.

In today's papers

In Leeds, so rather shortened version, but two stories stand out. First, the Charles de Menezes shooting. Nothing particularly new, but it appears leaked reports from the investigation that basically everything we thought we knew on the first day turned out not to be the case, are true. This has certainly been an eye-opener for many of us.

Second, the most important thing we thought we knew about the Iraq insurgency, namely that they were foreigners, is not true either. Indeed the Telegraph reports that
Of 1,300 suspected insurgents arrested over the past five months in and around Ramadi, none has been a foreigner

The Telegraph also reports that George Best's funeral only saw about 35,000 people turn up, though given the terrible weather this was not a bad figure, and the mood was much more as you would expct than the mawkish and Diana-like image the media was so desperate to portray.