Tuesday, January 31, 2006


In the office it seems people either love it or hate it, but I love it, and wasn't aware of it until last week so perhaps some of you won't be either. In Windows Xp go to Control Panel/Display/Appearances/Effects (I made a slight error here which is now corrected, hopefully), and it makes all your text nice and smooth. Or blurred, say some people. Probably slows down your computer too.

Monday, January 30, 2006

It's the end of the world, but I'm in bed

"For the Sake of Britain, let's ALL stay in Tune", shrieks Melanie Phillips, tearing into the decision of the BBC to scrap its 'UK Theme', the 'medley of music which Radio 4 greets the day'.

Apparently Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer said that it had 'served its purpose'. Mel is not happy.

Served its purpose? This was tantamount to saying that Britishness itself had served its purpose.

The tunes now threatened by the BBC form part of our national memory. That memory must be protected, not removed. Otherwise, instead of a society that binds us to each other, we will find ourselves helplessly picking through its fragments.

First though, before this rant, she has a confession.

I have never heard the UK Theme.

Update (courtesy of TBG): The Times reports:

RADIO 4’S UK Theme is to be rerecorded by a one-hit wonder from the Nineties in the hope that chart glory may save the medley from being axed. Mike Flowers, formerly of The Mike Flowers Pops...will join the composer Gavin Sutherland and the Royal Ballet Symphony Orchestra to lay down the track. The B side will be the shipping forecast theme, Sailing By. The music download service iTunes has expressed interest.

However it also notes:

Only 188,000 people listen to the UK Theme folk medley, according to the first published figures for the music.

The average households spends £182 a month on domestic help

so screams the Daily Mail and the Edinburgh Evening News and the Daily Mirror, all based on a campaign by Direct Line. In fact in total £4.5bn is spent per year. Which of course is £182 per year per household, which seems far more reasonable.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

In the Sunday Papers

Apparently Special Branch officers positively identified Jean Charles de Menezes as suicide bomber Hussein Osman, and then 10 hours afterwards changed the log:

"In particular the words AND and NOT were inserted about the Osman ID, so it read 'and it was not Osman' rather than 'it was Osman'

MI5 have no idea about the July 7th bombings, even to the extent whether they were Al Qaeda related.

The Sunday Times reports that Charlie Cameron is to launch an 'A-list' parliamentary candidates who reflect what he wants the party to be like. Anne Widdecombe is not amused.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Is David Cameron a fascist? Or worse, a Heathite?

David Cameron (via Tim Worstall) the Telegraph reports, has said:
School leavers should be forced to do three or four months of community service
Tim Worstall is not happy at this, saying:
He is seriously suggesting that all people should work, unpaid, for the State. This is Fascism folks, a foul and vile idea that the interests of the State trump those of the individual.

Andrew Ian Dodge has worse (in right-wing circles) insults:
Yes, more clues he is a paternalistic patronising patriachal Heathite Tory.

I can't say I think it is a good idea. It is obviously a Cameron gimmick. But the claims of fascism and the opposition of AID do make me think maybe there is something in it. After all it seems to me that after 11 years of compulsory schooling, a quarter of a year further compulsion, while perhaps silly, is not enough to make me think it's 1930s Italy or Germany.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ex-Met Police Boss Lord 'The Chief'' Stevens

Writes in the News of the World about the forthcoming report into the police shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes (no link, I'm afraid). After admitting it was a 'tragedy' and 'awful' he argues that:

But in any other circumstances I have no doubt that the officers who did it would deserve a medal for gallantry

indeed he continues:

Forget the hysterical ranting of the leftie-led De menezes campaigners, or the pious bleatings of fence-sitting politicans. Let's examine what really happened.

So what really happened? This is what really happened:
On July 22 undercover police and soldiers were asked to physically tackle a man they honestly believed was planning to become a suicide bomber aboard a busy London Tube or train. They took on that job well aware that on 7/7 a fortnight earlier men just like this one boarded Tubes and a bus in the capital and blew to bits 52 innocents and maimed countless more...get to his side without him noticing...Israel...bullet to the head...awesome courage...sheer guts...justice must be seen to be done...but justice delayed is justice denied...and if ever anyone needed justice done to them it's the Heroes of the Stockwell Tube.

This is an interesting piece. Clearly it's the case for the defence, though it does rather leave open many questions, such as how certain were the officers that he was a suicide bomber, how did they get that certain, is there no way in which their own judgement plays a role, is it a good idea for the police to have such powers with such limited information, etc. Certainly it puts Sir Ian Blair in a new light.

Osborne's Speech

The Conservatives have sent me what he plans to say, which is nice of them. The man appears obsessed with 'competing' with other nations, for instance:

He has increased taxes at a time when our competitors are reducing theirs.
He has dramatically increased spending as a share of national income at a time when our competitors are controlling their spending.


It is making Britain less competitive, hitting family tax bills and jeopardising jobs.


Under our approach we share the proceeds of economic growth between public services and lower taxes. It is the sustainable path to lower taxes. It will make Britain more competitive and protect jobs.


competitiveness to safeguard your job


Under Labour, the underlying drivers of prosperity are in decline. Britain’s competitiveness is sliding


All this means that since 1997, Britain has fallen from 4th to 13th in the World Economic Forum ranking of international competitiveness.

The last is a particularly uninteresting example, especially where future growth is concerned. In 1994 the IDB's competitiveness index had Japan top and Germany third. These countries had a terrible growth record in the decade after that. The index had no predictive power.

Other than that it's very difficult to find anything of substance, and particularly little in the way of policy programmes. Growth will be shared between public services and tax cuts, which we knew, but tax cuts will be second fiddle to sorting out the public finances (which if they are in as bad a mess as Osborne claims means there will be no tax cuts in the first term of a Cameron government).

Mark Oaten a Tory MP?

Though I believe Mark Oaten is pretty right-wing, I don't believe he is a Tory MP, unlike the News of the World (top-left).

Update: It appears to say 'Top'. Either they have done a 'stealth-edit' or I am a fool. All evidence points to the latter.

Is it flat tax time?

George Osborne went on a trip to Eastern Europe and came back all excited about 'flat taxes', but it was generally considered his older and wiser leader pointed out that though he was determined to change the party, he wasn't planning on its flagship policy being one that would destroy the middle class just yet. Anyway today he is going to make a policy speech, so we will see.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Victorian London

There's some interesting stuff at this website about Victorian London.

Council tax and pensions

In the Telegraph, Channel Four economics correspondent Liam Halligan (in a rather overexcited piece) tells us that 26% of council tax goes to funding public-sector pensions. The calculation comes from Douglas Anderson, a pensions expert.

There seems to me at least one problem with the calculation, and that is that council tax raises only 26% of local government funding. So in other words we are saying that local government pensions cost 26% of 26%, which is about 6.5%, of total local government spending. This seems much more modest.

Harry's Place upsets its commenters

Ami is right,
this is a truly ugly thing to do, DAVID;
get your act together asap, as in now.

Or is this a deliberate smear campaign against Kamm, where you can claim to be innocent ?


Posted by scarf at January 22, 2006 07:24 AM

You might be surprised that Harry's Place would launch a deliberate smear campaign against Oliver Kamm, and you would be right.

The Lib Dems

The newsagent at Notting Hill tube station was selling the News of the World at 10:15pm. Surprisingly, Mark Oaten's rent-boy scandal is not the front-page news, instead we have more Sven 'revelations'. Maybe that's the correct news priority. But assuming the Oaten story is true, and it seems for now that it at least has the 'ring of truth', it is pretty good, we have Mellor-style football strips, things that are 'unmentionable' (which presumably is what popbitch was hinting at), etc etc. So Oaten joins a long line of right-wing politicians whose private behaviour apparently failed to match their public image - Parkinson, Mellor, Redwood -- just to name a few.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Restaurant stuff

For my birthday dinner I went to Galvin, a newish restaurant on Baker Street, not known as a great area for restaurants. It is very good too - for my main course i had a pave of beef which was so tasty it rather recovered my faith in the meat. It's not badly priced as these things go, at about 35 pounds a head for two courses and half of bottle of wine, though the £15 three-course set lunch seems to be an absolute bargain.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Make a 3d model of yourself try on Gap clothes! Well it's more fun than it sounds. Click here.

Ming Campbell

Is he too old? He denies it, instead stressing his considerable experience.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It doesn't compute

The Guardian brings us news of what must be for the Decents their equivalent of a 1950s sci-fi computer tring to dividing by zero. Their moral leader is suing their political leader.

Other things I thought interesting in the Guardian today was a rather touching feature about what it's like to be 100 (with the remarkable news (which is correct, I checked) that Japan expects to have 1m 100yr olds in 2050, which seems to me to be about 1% of the population) and Simon Jenkins makes the case for more, not less, engagement with Iran.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Where do your relatives live?

This new website showing you the geographical distribution of adults with a certain surname in 1998 and 1881 (and how many there were) is interesting (it's overloaded, so keep pressing refresh or clicking search and it'll work).

Turner is unfortunately a common surname and we're all over the place (over 300,000 in 1998. So I will show you my mother's maiden name, Upchurch, of which there were only 425 in 1998.

ps This post will look terrible if you are using Firefox. Apologies, will try to sort it out sometime soon.

Today's YouGov poll

Was all about international trade, and Britain's role as a world power. Maybe the Henry Jackson society commissioned it? It was quite difficult to answer, as most of the time I wanted to say 'I disagree with the premise behind the question', for instance the one that began:

"In international trade, there are often winners and losers: as one country moves into a market, another loses its share of that market."

Monday, January 16, 2006

Government waste

The Sunday Times in a report on government waste says:

If the RAF’s top brass were taken aback when Senior Aircraftwoman Stephanie Hulme announced her desire to retrain as a pole dancer, their handlebar moustaches hardly betrayed a quiver. She was flown from her base in Northern Ireland and put up in a London hotel so she could learn the sinuous arts of stripping on a £2,100 course.
“It hadn’t occurred to me that they might pay, but I just filled in the paperwork and sent it in. I was very surprised when it was approved,” said Hulme, now successfully re-employed as an exotic dancer in a Mayfair club where she earns up to £2,000 a night.

How ludicrous. But wait. The course cost £2,100 to the taxpayer. Let's take the Times' estimate of her earnings at face value, and presume she gets £2,000 on one night and £1,000 on another a week, so £150,000 a year. This is £1,003 a week in tax.

Now obviously she probably wouldn't have been unemployed outside the service (though if she was it would enhance this calculation), but even a very good middle class salary of £40,000 a year pays only £158 a week in tax. So the taxpayer is up £845 pounds a week. This pays off the course in just 18 days.

The only question mark then is whether this course was instrumental in getting her this job. The tone of the article seems to imply it was. This is not government waste, this is a fantastic example of state-funded training paying dividends.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Same old stale arguments, but a new look for the blog, and a new strapline at the top.

New argument for Iraq war

Apparently it was vindicated by a devastating, nuclear, world war that happens next year.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Things Daily Mail readers say!

A New Year, and a New Year's resolution to go to the gym more. And they've started giving away the Daily Mail again, so I intend to reintroduce this section of the blog. Unfortunately the paper's readers haven't yet got into their stride, with mostly sensible letters (though there was one putting the case for the prosecution against Jean Charles de Menezes, which is that he was using his skills as an electrician to make the bombs which exploded on July 7th, and was shopped in by a Mr Big to protect others' identities). They are rabidly against the war in Iraq, getting it in to almost every letter, with only the most tenous connections (Mr Blair calls for respect, well what respect did he show when he lied to take us into an illegal war, is the kind of thing). The paper in general just appears to have settled down into a comfortable fixation with showing scantily clad pictures of Kate Moss, five times in the last eight days. I have no idea what this is doing for their sales but it's doing wonders for my level of fitness.

Update: Jennifer Cordwell does us proud today with "How sparing the rod has spoilt many young lives", a letter that could have been written by a Daily Mail Reader computer programme, ending "If the bleeding hearts in our Government don't care about the decent majority..."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Quick rants

Probably no time for considered thoughts today, so here are some unconsidered ones:

Ruth Kelly should resign (or be sacked). But then again she should never have been appointed, so that's an easy one.

Ming Campbell is worse than useless. If Ken Clarke was too old, and he must have been, as I said he was, Ming certainly is.

Sky's new film download service. 550mb per feature film. I'm not sure I can be bothered to wait, though I guess it's good if you have a laptop and a train journey.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Oh make it stop

From the paper that told you the average inhabitant of New Orleans was richer than that of inner London we now have the idea that:

"Dubai has the answer to Brown’s nightmare Britain"*

So he's suggesting that Britain becomes a tiny city state bathed in permanent sunshine situated in an area lacking other economic centres in between Europe and Asia led by a relatively enlightened Monarch with a 20yr plan? It seems impractical.

Ah no, what's he saying is it'll all be ok if we just lower taxes and let business free. The article rather comically though just lists areas where Dubai's economy is far from "free" - a fixed exchange rate, free-trade "areas" (ie the rest isn't), foreigners can now buy property, almost, the Royal Family own large amounts of the corporate sector, state planning, etc.

* Incidentally have views on Britain's future ever been so polarised? The Sunday Business believes we're in an economic nightmare, the Henry Jackson Society (through their executive secretary and media secretary) believe we are unquestionably the second most important power in the world.

Face recognition

MyHeritage's new face recognition software is quite fun, as they try to match you with celebrities. Sometimes you can see what it's getting at, though it does seem to fixate on certain issues, for example the angle of the face in the picture, or whether it's wearing glasses. It does at least recognise which bit of the picture is the face (it can do multiple faces in the same picture too).

Some examples I tried (Chosen because their photos were easily available).

Me - I look like Natalie Portman, Hans Frank (a Nazi) or Elton John. Oh dear.
Oliver Kamm - Eric Bana (who?) or Tom Cruise
Tim Worstall - Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) or Gwyneth Paltrow
Scott Burgess - Ozzy Osbourne
Cuthie - Slyvia Plath, or Jean Cocteau

So as you can see, perfect accuracy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Poll shows Lib Dems down 3%

Anthony Wells has the details. I think this makes sense, though as it's by Populus, who I think are the worst of the polling companies, I would wait until another one verifies it before we launch a 'Save the Lib Dems' site.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Why the long face Dave?

You should be happy. Another day, another successful policy review. Although I had some reservations about the introduction of higher education fees, the legislation was successfully improved by Labour rebels, and Dave seems happy to keep it. The removal of the 50% limit will go down badly with many Tory supporters, who apparently saw that as a brilliant policy, but it's clearly a logical step. I also think the policy of introducing no new grammar schools is a welcome return to reality for the Conservative party.

Incidentally former Tory advisor Bob Balchin says that the average spending per pupil in Britain is £5,500, of which only 50% reaches the school. Given this site's policy is to take the Right at their word, this means that average spending per pupil in the UK is £2,750. Compare this to the average private school expenditure of over £9,000 per pupil (less administration costs, but given the belief that removing a school from LEA control will lower admin costs they must be a lot lower), and you might think this potentially three-fold disparity in funding should be the starting point of any argument on relative standards.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Economics absurdity

This is a particularly weak Steven Landesberg piece.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Review of 2005

More to remind me than anything, but here is a 'best of' for this site in 2005 (up to September, as I suspect we can all remember the drivel that has occurred since then)


4th January - I bring out the big waggy finger of blame at world dictators.

6th January - This little blog takes on the might of Tesco, all over their poor choice of design. I'm pleased to announce the GPS branch has now changed queueing policy.

16th January - Guy Pelling's mother tells us that her son dressing up as the Queen is no more disrespectful than a white man blacking up.

16th January - We learn that the problem with Prince Harry's education was that it was too PC, and that it was only that the fancy-dress shop was out of stock that saved us from no.2 and no.3 in line to the throne attending a party on the Empire dressed as an "SS officer" and an "Afican savage".

25th January - The National Review bases an entire story on a figure for payroll taxes that is about 7 times too high.


4th February - I make a modest proposal for the UN to regulation claims of 'world fame'.

8th February - Melanie Phillips argues that those who say'to jaw-jaw is better than to war-war' are parroting the "all too familiar weasel words of appeasement".

9th February - I have to comment for the second time on Michael J Totten 's meeting of Christopher Hitchens: the most cringe-worthy blog post ever.


8th March - I take on "Backing Blair", by comparing them to Richard Littlejohn.

13th March - Aaro tries to get out of That Prediction.

15th March - I take on a position at Tech Central Station.

19th March - Joseph Lieberman shows he can't be trusted with numbers.

23rd March - Martin Wolf shows us that government spending doesn't appear to affect growth.

30th March - I find a mock-up of a new Observer feature on Dave Aaro.

31st March - I ask again why the BBC continue to employ a man who thinks he is his children's hamster.

31st March - Times deputy editor Patience Wheatcroft misreads an IFS's report and decides to add on more council tax [which she admitted was wrong in an email but said she didn't think it needed correcting].


1st April - I do an hilarious (though Harry didn't like it) April Fool's Day joke.

7th April - Melanie Phillip's husband appears to any many things in common with her.

11th April - Lord Bragg goes for Michael Totten's most-embarassing-post title, but falls slightly short.

15th April - I show off my new pride and joy - the Mazda Bongo.


2nd May - The wisdom of crowds appears to be in a muddle over George Galloway.

10th May - I look at what parliament the Independent really wanted...

11th May - I do millions of charts showing how the election unfolded. And more. And more.

26th May - I show that productivity in the US health-care sector has fallen 25% in 20 years


21st June - My YouGOv account reaches £30!


8th July - A Fox News anchor after the London bombing:

17th July - Nick Cohen makes allegations that aren't true and has to apologise.

27th July - Loopy right-wing conspiracy theoriesin the Samizdata comments

27th July - I remind people that Nick Cohen's not always been the fearless fighter or left-wing idiocy..."[Blair] there's no point being prissy about this - pinned a large target sign on this country".

July 24th - Mark Holland shows us what a gent he is.

World one moron lighter


August 18th - If you took your A-levels in the past I produce a helpful ready-reckoner to calculate what you would get now they have been debased [added 11/01/2006]

August 31st - I find a website whose author is less of a gent than Mark Holland.


September 16th - Is New Orleans richer than London as the Sunday Business claims? No, they've mistaken household for individual income.

September 17th - A snazzy graph showing world economic strength in 1500. Was Britain unquestionably the Second Most Powerful Nation in The World then too?

September 18th - Here I point out, with the aid of another snazzy graph, that competitiveness indices have no predictive power.

Show me the money

In an excellent post, Jamie points out that the Henry Jackson Society is rather short on specifics. For instance, as he says, do they want huge increases in military spending?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Ignore China

This is just to note that it is the view of the Henry Jackson society's Executive Secretary that Britain is unquestionably the second most powerful nation in the world.

This truly is a remarkable government.

*In fact the whole project appears infused with a terribly parochial smugness. Another editorial decides that all Europe needs to adopt the UK's social and economic system.

Update: Their second statement of principles is "2. Supports a ‘forward strategy’ to assist those countries that are not yet liberal and democratic to become so. This would involve the full spectrum of our ‘carrot’ capacities, be they diplomatic, economic, cultural or political, but also, when necessary, those ‘sticks’ of the military domain." Do you think the latter is what leading HJS luminary Stephen Pollard was getting at when he advocated the invasion of Spain for not inviting US troops to parade with them?

The Liberal Democrats

It appears to me that at the moment Charles Kennedy is going to stand as leader in an election, all the main candidates have said they won't stand, leaving only Simon Hughes.

This clearly would be such a disaster it obviously won't happen. So I suppose one of three things will. Most likely is Kennedy will be impressed upon to change his mind about remaining leader much like Mrs-Thatcher was in 1990, thus releasing Ming, Oaten etc from their pledges. Two, Ming, Oaten etc will just not keep to their pledges anyway - 'after overwhelming representations over the last few days and our negative showing in the opinion polls thus for the good of the party', or three, there'll be some compromise or rule-change.

Or I'm completely wrong. The only real conclusion is that not all publicity is good publicity, and now we have the grotesque spectacle of a leader battling with the booze, having lied to his party and his public, owning up after being threatened with outing by his own senior party members to ITV news (this last bit is a real Lib Dem moment - who in the world would out a major story to ITV news?) because same members were too scared to mount a leadership challenge.

No outcome is anything other than disastrous. Kennedy obviously can't stay leader, not for a second. Electorally we now now have a Scottish, ginger, recovering alcoholic who can't be trusted (I can perfectly understand why he lied about it, but this doesn't make it a good idea). Ths is unlikely to appeal in marginals. Both Ming and Oaten appear to be as decisive as Prince Charles choosing his ties. Hughes is Hughes. There are some others but it appears unlikely they will come through. We might as well write them off and get on with discussing how their 20% vote share will split between Labour and Conservative.

Finally I should note that alcoholism is a serious illness and not a joking matter, whatever dear George's funeral coverage implied.

Update: James Graham has some good thoughts, particularly that Cameron's lurch to the left (which seems pretty real at the moment) has meant the Lib Dems can't lurch to the right. I really wonder though to what extent they'll be a Lib Dems to do the lurching.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Support for return of capital punishment ebbing away

Still a plurality in favour but not a majority - now only by 49% to 43%, according to the latest YouGov poll.

Mark Steyn's genius

I won't link to it, as it's utterly dreadful. But here is his latest insight:

Spain['s fertility rate is] 1.1, about half replacement rate. That's
to say, Spain's population is halving every generation

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Famous dieters

Over at AaronovitchWatch it is suggested that Aaro without his weird facial hair looks like Nigel Lawson. I think Lawson's haircut is better.

.......Nigel Lawson....................David Aaronovitch

Sporting News

Who is the Daily Mail referring to?

It was frightening stuff. [X]'s record here is incredible...few British sportsmen have such a record of consistency on a global stage

Yes, obviously Phil 'The Power' Taylor, the world's best darts player, and probably the greatest ever, after winning his 13th darts world championship.

Darts is now of course Officially a sport, which strikes me as a jolly good thing. I was also supportive of the Olympic bid, though clearly Andy Fordham did it no favours by being too unfit to finish his world championship showdown with Taylor.

It was surely a mistake though to try for Beijing in 2008. Far more sensible would be to introduce darts at our own games in 2012. Indeed the main theatres of darts dreams are easily within 40 mins of the Olympic Village, or whatever the IOC's stipulation is. Do we dare dream of an east London Olympics started off by Phil Taylor firing a burning dart to ignite the Olympic flame?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Taxpayer's Alliance

In the top right-hand corner of its webpage the "Taxpayer's Alliance" has what are presumably real-life stories of Britons who are mad about higher taxes (if you refresh the page you'll get a different one).

As an aside, "Bob" from Liverpool looks remarkably like Alex Singleton.

Anyway it's not Bob that I was interested in, but "Matt", from Newcastle. He tells us that:

This seems terrible. Band D Council Tax in Newcastle is £89 a month. So "Matt"'s disposable income after rent and tax is less than £178 a month. What must his rent be?

If he is earning £10k a year then he is paying at least £530 a month in rent, if he is earning £15k a year he is paying £810 a month in rent, on £20k a year he would be paying £1090 a month on rent, and if he is earning £30k a year he would have to be paying a whopping £1650 a month in rent.

Looking at a Newcastle property website you don't find many properties at the upper end of this scale. So I think we must assume he is earning about £10,000 a year, and living somewhere like this:

Gosforth - Lanesborough Court - the Penthouse:

Located within a prestigious development, within walking distance to all amenities & approx. 5 minutes into the centre of Newcastle - fabulous 2-bedroom/2-bathroom penthouse apartment with all the trappings of 21st century living. The visual impact is stunning with high vaulted ceilings to amazing hardwood flooring throughout. Décor and quality of fixtures is very high. Comprises Upstairs Lounge, downstairs open plan lounge & cinema area with 50 inch plasma screen, dining area, beck deck with bathroom, dressing room, 2nd bedroom with en-suite, fully fitted kitchen, study, security system. Garage. £1350 pcm. Contact 0191 258 7340 or e-mail (updated 6 December)

Now admittedly he is paying about £124 a month in tax, if he wasn't taxed on his income at all he would have that much more spending money. But there are other things to consider, he would most likely have to pay for private healthcare, he wouldn't get any benefits which someone on £10k a year is probably entitled to, so I can't really believe the income tax/benefits system is making him worse off.

I would, if I was him, look at his spending. He is spending at least 60% of his pre-tax income on rent. This is far more than is wise. It's not -- as far as I can see -- even necessary. There are many far cheaper flats in Newcastle, most of which sound perfectly pleasant.

Things I liked at Christmas

I liked Salcombe & the Devon Coast - See posts below

I liked the The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, London, W11 - This museum has 10-15,000 diffent items of consumer products since the 1850s, arranged chronologically by decade and also separately it traces the evolution of some of the best-known packaging (such as Cadbury's chocolate, Oxo, Fairy Liquid, etc). Fascinating stuff if you like that sort of thing, which I do.

Whilst on the subject of olden-days, when looking through some old newspapers recently I was struck by how much modern and prosperous the mid-1930s ones looked than the early 1950s one, both in their design and what was in their advertising. Wars, eh? [Update: Thinking some more, I think there are two factors here. One is paper rationing, which I think remained in force for a long time, and two, the readership of the Daily Express (for that was the paper I was looking at) was doing very well by 1936, with the first consumer boom (when people in the late 1940s looked back at the 1930s it appears 'shopping' was one of the main things they remembered most fondly), and weren't doing so well in 1952. Indeed although British GDP never suffered a major fall fro WWII unlike continental European countries, I wonder when personal consumption reached its late 1930s level again?)

I liked the X-Box 360: Ok, it's not a great evolution, with the best games looking like a very high-end PC with a bit more oomph. But a very high-end PC with a bit more oomph costs about £1500, and the X-Box doesn't. Also most people don't have it connected up to a 48 inch TV, and my friend did. So highly enjoyable, though I'm not sure what it does for your electricity bills as the thing is very loud.

I think I liked Billecart-Salmon champagne: A man who should know assures me that the Brut version (top in the link) is by far the best standard price champagne you can buy, and I agree it was rather nice. Alas I had drunk about four pints of boxed cider beforehand, so I can't be sure.

I really liked Kodak Photo Printers - Wow, these things are amazing. Put your camera on top (or plug the cable in if it's not the same make), press one button, and a proper photo comes out after about 40 seconds. It's really remarkable. It does four passes, how does it keep each colour aligned? How's it so shiny? etc

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Bye bye policies

Charlie Cameron appears hell-bent on scrapping almost every policy the Tories fought the last election on. I almost -- obviously I don't -- feel sorry for Michael Howard, as his election campaign is written out of history. Most talked-about is the patient's passport policy, which allowed a person to seek private treatment and the government would have paid half of the NHS cost. The Telegraph reports this as if it is a surprise, though I don't think it is, the policy was never very popular on the left of the party and I believe was almost scrapped before the last election.

I find it rather surprising that the leader can just ditch policies (or make policies) so easily. What formal policy-making mechanisms does the Conservative Party have?