It is true that we had ten years of record growth when I was prime minister. I have, unfortunately, come to the conclusion that it was luck.A damning indictment of his sucessor's constant tub-thumping bullshit without a doubt.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
- There will not be a general election. I caveat this by saying "events" may occur that change things. However on current trends I just can't see Brown risking it. He will hold out as long as he can.
- The Tories will suddenly realise the landscape has changed and voters are no longer buying the "tax cut equals no more hospitals" crap that the Labour Party have been pumping for the last decade. This will result in them offering a specific tax cut with a specific spending cut commitment where they actually detail what spending will be cut and won't just use made up figures. The key here will be the ongoing work of people like Philip Hammond MP that will identify very specific ongoing waste that can be slashed.
- Arsenal will not finish in the top four of the Premiership and Liverpool will not win it.
- Windows 7 will be delayed whilst Microsoft continue to convince people that Vista really doesn't suck.
- Another big high street name will collapse within six months and someone on the UK Rich List will suddenly become skint as a result.
- There will be a slight UKIP resurgence in advance of the June 2009 Euro Elections and they will hold most of their seats.
- Blogging about politics will continue to be popular but political parties will continue to fail to grasp the Internet because they'll carry on looking at America as a model.
- Barack Obama will make some foreign policy decisions that will see him labeled a neo-con in sheeps' clothing by many on the Left.
- Peter Mandelson will be on Strictly Come Dancing 2009 and the public will actually warm to him and like him.
"This is just another derogatory media campaign against us by one of the tabloids that shall remain nameless. We're all just innocent victims in this yet again."Yes, that's right, Gerrard and Liverpool fans are just the target of a media campaign by a "tabloid that shall remain nameless" that'll be the Sun then. The email then links to a Free Steven Gerrard campaign with some rather amusing comments for and against.
Some might say its just politics and actively trying to stop the most prominent female politician from taking the limelight was just electoral and nothing more. My question would have to be imagine if the tables were turned. Imagine if a Tory Government actively tried to stop a female leader of the Labour opposition from getting coverage in such a celebration.
There would be outrage and disgust I imagine, all the while conveniently forgetting that it was the Conservative Party who were in power when the 1928 Representations of the Peoples Act came along.. natch.
Monday, December 29, 2008
The Israelis have been warning you that this was coming if you continue your cross border rocket attacks. Egypt has been imploring you to stop firing rockets into Israel, but you ignored our words. We have been urging you to renew the cease-fire with Israel, but you refused. You have brought this upon yourselves. You are responsible for what is happening to the people of Gaza.Honest, to the point, and the reality that many just refuse to admit?
I do this for two reasons. Firstly to make the point that "Palestine" is not historically a "state" and has only ever been a name for a region of land that has, over the years, had many borders within it, such as Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and obviously Israel. The second reason is because I just know some rabid Jew-hating nutter will bite.
I shan't call them anti-semitic mind, because strictly speaking the Arab are Semites too, so clearly they're not anti-semitic, they just hate some Semites but not all. OH. if anyone was looking for an opinion on what happening down there then its in the clever and subtle subtext of this post.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I'm not sure how successful it will be but it could end being a source for diary and gossip columns if updates carry on in the same vein.
Tom Watson is on it for example, and what appears to be a response to a link to an online chocolate shop called Chocolate Buttons he said "I'm surprised one of my colleagues hasn't called for a ban ;-)". A joke, yes, but a hidden truth too perhaps!
Party political jabbing aside though, it will be inetresting to see how many MPs take it up, how seriously it is used, and also how many people start following them that are not party activists already.
The Labour Party will have a field day pointing out that those asking the people to make them the leaders of the country are so committed to that end that they have other jobs too. I wouldn't be bothered about it either because Labour would be right.
The result of the whole thing now is that (a) Cameron looks weak and (b) the Shadow Cabinet don't look like they ever want to be anything other than a Shadow. How on earth can it be considered a Government-in-waiting if some of them don't want to get their hands dirty on the governing part?
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Of course [the 26 bishops in the House of Lords] should not be there, when only 16% of people will grace the pews on Christmas Day.I highlight this line because the argument Polly appears to be making is that the presence of 26 Bishops in the House of Lords is disproportionate when compared to the percentage of people attending Church of England services.
However, as of July 2008 there were 746 peers in the House of Lords, which means that Bishops make up only 2.14% of the entire chamber. So how exactly does Polly's argument based on the proportion of representation stand up? Oh... silly me... it doesn't.
Now, putting aside the fact that a white tracksuit is a thoroughly gay thing and anyone wearing it deserved to be flogged in the street for their sheer chavvy gayness, Iain's decision to use the word "gay" in the popular and now commonplace usage as a synonym for "crap", has, shall we say upset some people.
Upset in fact to the point that Iain has been branded a homophobe. I'm sure his gay male civil partner - lovely chap incidentally - will be reminding him of that during their more intimate moments over the forthcoming Yuletide, and it will done so with much hilarity.
However, not only has this high-profile openly homosexual gayer been branded as someone who hates homosexuals, he's also been indirectly accused of probably causing the suicide of the tracksuited chav, and certainly helping to maintain a societal attitude that brings about suicide.
That word leads to real despair and often suicide in vulnerable youngsters who dont have others to whom to turn...not even loving parents who feel the family is stigmatised by gayness.**** Reality Check ****
Words and language morph and change over time. At some points they can have multiple meanings all of which can remain in common usage. They also have this little thing called context around their usage (something which I have posted about before).
The word "gay" is a great example of one of these words today. Originally a word that meant "happy" as is often pointed out, became a term appropriated by a particular identity politics group. Slowly that use became the more normal use, and the original, whilst still valid, faded.
Here's the important bit - and this goes back to the post I did on the word "nigga" - times have moved on significantly and that has resulted in the younger generations taking words and re-examinining them, not necessarily consciously, and changing their usage in a way that strips the negative identity perjorative.
Thus, the word "gay" can mean "homosexual", but if used contextually, can just mean "a bit pants". Interestingly enough, this language reality was perfectly illustrated by the Lib Dem Youth campaign called Homophobia is Gay. Absolutely! Being homophobic is a bad thing. A bad thing can be called "gay", ergo "Hating gays is gay".
It might sound silly, but it's not as if there are not hundreds of words that could not be used in similarly strange sounding sentences (go me with the alliteration!). There is of course an even wider issue with the mild outrage about Iain's use of the word "gay". That being a desire to prohibit its usage in some way.
Restrictions and prohibition on the usage of words when they have morphed alternate meanings. Or socially prohibiting words used by peer groups in different contextual ways, is gay. OK?
Note: Being gay is an abomination before God. That is why 9/11 happened, and "God hates Fags". I know this because Fred Phelps says so.
Well turkeys don't usually vote for Xmas. Its like asking someone would they mind paying more taxes. The question should never have been put to a referendum. The Council should just have gone ahead and done it. Same with Regional Government. Some questions should never go to the electorate to decide, because they will not make an informed judgment, but vote on prejudices.Might just as well have post "stupid bloody proles, don't they know what is good for them?". It would have been quicker.
Monday, December 22, 2008
That this House notes that the debate about a GB football team at the 2012 London Olympics has focussed only on the men's game, and there has been little or no discussion of a GB women's football team at the Olympics; further notes that football is now one of the most popular team sports for women and girls; regrets that women's football continues to be vastly under-funded and under-represented in the media compared with the men's gameThe reason for this is very simple. Women's football sucks. It may very well be that football is popular amongst girls, especially in the US, but if you take a moment to subject yourself to watching it, the quality is akin to watching the Conference.
Of course, on the plus-side there is the enjoyment of watching the likes of Rachel Unitt (pictured) getting sweaty. So it's not all bad.
As such I would hither too like to add my support to the need to watch rubbish football at the 2012 Olympics because, as one person said to me, "at least you get to enjoy their tits bouncing up and down".
NOTE: This post was brought to you by Postmodern Irony Productions - Taking the piss and being controversial since 1975
Sunday, December 21, 2008
The whole point about a crisis loan is that you when you are up against the wall you are able to get some cash flow back thanks to a loan from the state. This is exactly the principle behind welfare, to provide a safety net. It is a short term interest free loan of a few hundred pounds which is then paid weekly as you sort yourself out. A hand-up rather than a hand-out.
At a time when the base rate of interest from the Bank of England is 2% and likely to head even further downwards, how in the name of Jehovah, Allah, Buddha or whoever, can the Government be proposing to apply a rate of 26.8% APR on crisis loans for the most cash strapped of people in society? As one Labour MP said, "Not even the Tories would try to do this".
As the graph above shows, the rate at which crisis loans have been agreed has rocketed in the last two years, and as the recession deepens, the likelihood of that rate falling is at best minimal. It's bordering on the immoral to charge store card interest rates on a loan of around £400 for someone who's back is up against the wall surely?
I'm not in the least bit surprised that Ronnie Campbell, Labour MP for Blyth Valley, is "ashamed to be a member of the Labour Party". I don't agree with Chris Grayling's comment that Brown and Purnell are "re-inventing themselves as loan sharks" because that is party political hyperbole that doesn't stand up to the scrutiny of the interest rates loan sharks actually charge.
However, what Brown and Purnell are doing is re-inventing themselves as even more complete bastards than one may or may not have thought they were before. Brown is heading for one hell of a row over this one I think, and if past performance is anything to go by he won't back down at first and will dig his heels in for a while.
Murray's argument is certainly compelling because it points out that the being "non-ideological" is in itself an ideological standpoint. This is certainly correct I think, and it is a paradox that I've often wondered about myself. The person who claims to be non-ideological is often quite dogmatic about it.
One bit that leapt out at me though was when I read Sunny's argument that ideology was bad. He says,
But in reality neither ideology: left-wing government interventionism nor right-wing laissez-faire, works when taken to its extreme. In financial markets we need government intervention to ensure shareholders, consumers and employees get treated fairly, while having a hands-off approach that ensures the government doesn't run private business or tell them how to do their job.I've highlighted two words there because as I read it all I could think was "fairness is an ideological standpoint". Essentially Sunny is arguing that ideology is bad whilst simultaneously pushing a set of values that he believes ought to be adhered too.
What is interesting about the article as a whole is that Douglas Murray's point about those who favour "non-ideology" is actually proved when you read Sunny's argument. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying that Sunny is wrong to want "fairness" per se, just that by noting that it ought to be that way he is actually contradicting his argument against ideology.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
You can read the article by the CEO of ComRes titled "History says "Labour's history" here.
I suffer from Autosomal dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst (ACHOO) syndrome, also known as a photic sneeze reflex. Basically sudden exposure to bright light makes me sneeze. The sun is the worst especially when driving and you come out of say the Blackwall Tunnel and are faced with glaring sunlight.
When I was a kid I used to tell the doctor that I was "allergic" to bright light and that it made me sneeze and he thought I was nuts. This is because it is not commonly known about to people other than those who suffer from it.
Every optician I've ever seen has not heard of it either. I explain it to them and they give me a kind of "bless the loony" smile. Then they start shining bright lights in my eyes and I sneeze three or four time in repetition and they go off and look it up online.
In it Monbiot the Republicans against the bail-out, who he calls "neocon nutjobs" and argues that the car industry should be allowed to go to the wall to basically save the planet.
The best bit though is when he slates Bush for being in favour of the bailout, and then slates him for being a bastard to the workforce of the car industry.
Bush maintained that letting GM and Chrysler collapse "would deal an unacceptably painful blow to hardworking Americans", but as if to show he couldn't give a damn about such people, he insisted that the rescued manufacturers cut their workers' wages and benefits.That's pretty remarkable isn't it? To write a commentary piece which says "let Detroit die (and all subsequent jobs too)" whilst also writing "Bush is wrong to save Detroit and even though he has look what a git he's been to the poor working class people of Detroit that he is saving".
I believe this is one of those illustrative examples of ingrained irrational and automatic bias against George Bush that exists on the Left. Thus when he even does something inherently left wing, he's still a right wing bastard and it's all because of the evil oil lobby anyway.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Sadly they have avoided giving me the price list simply saying that "prices range from £0.40 for a card, to £49.44 for the No. 10 door model (why would you buy one of those?).
I presume everything else is priced in betwee. The full product list is just over there on the right.
Can you just imagine Sarah Brown in apron and oven gloves (for handling political hot potatoes?) - worse, imagine Gordon!
I wonder how much a Number 10 teddy bear costs? I wonder how much money they put in the wallet for you when you buy one of them?
Now, I just have to reply and ask them why they didn;t answer the questions about sales and the cost price of these little trinkets.
Imagine my surprise then when I saw this response from the current Secretary of State for Wales to a question from Grant Shapps MP about how much the Wales Office had spent on Christmas parties in the last five years.
Mr. Paul Murphy: The Wales Office does not contribute to departmental parties or staff entertainment.Can someone, anyone, explain to me how last year the Wales Office was able to say it was spending money on Christmas parties but this year they say they don't spend any at all? Was Peter Hain making the figures up? Or is Paul Murphy misleading the House in order to look frugal?
Questions, questions, questions!
Reality check time. We are not America and what works there won't work here because the political system and rules are so massively different. Take the last Presidential election as an example. It's an individual beauty show for a start, and this time it has lasted for almost two years. The UK political system cannot compare to that. True, we did have the "permanent campaign" strategy that appears under Messrs Campbell et al, but even that is now becoming weary and tired.
You know what the biggest problem they're missing is though? The vast majority of people couldn't give a rat's arse about politics. Try this little parlour game in a pub, go around and ask people if they care about politics and see how few say they do. I can recall sitting in St Stephen's Tavern once (that's the pub next door to Portcullis House and within spittig distant of Parliament if you didn't know). I was with Devil's Kitchen at one of the early embryonic gathering of the Libertarian Party.
DK decided to play the game himself and wandered off around the pub. If I recall correctly he asked 20 people if they cared about politics. Less than a quarter said they did, and this was in the nearest pub to Parliament, one frequented by SpAds, researchers etc. It wasn't late, it was about 6.30pm on a Friday. So you tell me this, how does Derek Draper or whoever think that they're going to have a sucessful online campaign exactly?
What will happen, and this I guarantee, is what is already evidenced today, particularly in the Labour online world. It will become an echo chamber. Activist talking to other activists and very few new people beocming involved. They could of course get themselves a "Left Wing Iain Dale" as we've all been hearing about, the problem is that unlike Iain they're going to start off from a base of "this blogger is manufactured" which will turn so many off.
The reason that the Right is successful - or is at least perceived to be because of sheer traffic figures - is because they are individualist sites for the most part which do not consider themselves bound to remaining "on message". At the same time they also don't just do politics. This idea from Labour that their needs to be a centralised strategy to counter it all misses that point.
The reason the Right has been successful is because it has grown organically and its members have been willing to write in a manner that made them distinct and accessible. This has resulted in inevitable snobbery and sneering at what are considered anti-intellectual tabloid blogs. The trick they all miss is that the majority of ordinary people are not intellectuals and guess what, they like reading tabloids.
The bottom line it seems to me is this. Until the Labour side start to realise (a) that America and Britain are not comparable, (b) that most people don't care about politics, and (c) that having a grand centralised strategy will not trump letting its activist base organically grow, they'll get nowhere. Of course the last assumes a desire to let individual freedom flourish, something which many of them instinctively cannot do.
Reference: Previous post on why America and Britain won't mix.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The best response I have thus far seen to that rather weak argument has come from fellow blogging buddy Dan Hannan on his Telegraph blog. Dan has summed it up in one little sentence.
Police chiefs are already political; they're just not elected.Nail. Head. Lid. Coffin.
I don't know why though, but whenever I see a Segway I just think of this.
I hate to say it but the Sinclair C5 was a flop but at least it looked cooler than a Segway.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
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Mr. Coaker: The Government are committed to delivering a visible and reassuring police presence. At the end of March 2008 64.9 per cent. of police officer time was spent on frontline duties. The fourth successive annual improvement since 2003-04.Perhaps there are clever semantics at play here in his answer, but "neighbourhood policing teams" include "police officers", so by that measure did they just admit they'd failed to meet they're own pledge?
Since April 2008 there has been a neighbourhood policing team in every area.The Policing Pledge includes a commitment for neighbourhood policing teams to spend at least 80 per cent. of their time visibly working on their patch.
Ann Coffey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent assessment she has made of progress towards delivering the policing pledge.
Mr. Coaker: The policing pledge is an essential part of the reform programme to increase public confidence in how crime is tackled and justice delivered. That is why I am delighted that all 43 chief constables have committed to deliver the pledge by the end of the year.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
"consider, for a number of Government assets, the potential for alternative business models, commercialisation, new market opportunities and, where appropriate, alternatives to public ownership."Included in this programme would be a review of the Met Office and "Budget 2009 will report on progress". So basically the Government is considering privatisation and reviewing its option.
It's surprising therefore that in response to a question in Parliament about what estimate the MoD has made on the market value of the Met Office that the answer was as follows,
The Net Book Value of the Meteorological Office's assets as set out in its 2007-08 Annual Report and Accounts is approximately £206 million. I am withholding information on the estimates of the market value of Meteorological Office, as its disclosure would prejudice commercial interests.Call me cynical if you must, but that last setnence suggests to me that far from the Government merely considering the "potential" of alternative business models, the decision has already been made and there might even be a bidding process going on already.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Not curel Bob, realistic. They were idiots for doing it and the sheer crappiness of British cars that were manufactured by Leyland is testament to what a stupid, costly and dumb idea it was.
However, it's not really that point that Bob was making. As the title of his post suggests it's all about farming, "Close down the farms, says dizzy" says the title with this comment,
I wonder if the Tories in the Shires will be arguing with equal enthusiasm for the closure of all those loss making farms, and demanding an end to the agricultural subsidies that prevent them from going the same way as our manufacturing industries?Well as a Tory from the farming Shires and one who lives in the farming Shires I hate to piss on your cleverly laid firetrap Bob but yes I will argue for the closure of farms with equal enthusiasm.
The Commmon Agricultural Policy is nothing more that a protectionist socialist racket that props up farmers. The French gets millions, and so do the British, and even worse people like Prince Charles take subsidies and, in the most bizarre cases, actually get paid to not produce things or even throw it away.
All the while that this little socialist nonsense is going on, the very same people that advocate it, similar to yourself Bob, tell us about how we should support fair trade for Africa and other developing countries farmers because hey, we nasty Westerner colonised them years ago and we owe it to them because of the excesses of imperialism and collective guilt.
Not once do those ever so pious self righteous Leftists realise that it is their policies on trade barriers and tariffs that are holding the developing countires back. What we should be doing Bob is scrapping, with entirety, the subsidies paid to farmers across Europe. Scrap the import tarrifs that are the real barrier to African and third world trade development, and start making our own farmers compete and adapt.
If our farmers go to the wall because they cannot compete with the prices of the developing countries then so be it. That's called freedom, its genuinely "fair" trade and it will do more to raise the standards of those developing countires than any bullshit "development fund" could ever dream. Farmers will have to retrain and get a new job. Tough.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The long and short of the story as far as I can see is that a posting appeared on Labour Home by one of its members. This posting made reference to said woman, Johanna Kaschke, along with references to events in Germany which allegedly put her name alongside certain unsavory groups. If you really want more info, see here.
The reason I'm mentioning this now, and so long after the fact, is because I've just been reading Johanna Kaschke's blog and she's posted a rather odd comment about Hilton and those who have supported him with particular reference to Iain Dale. She's said,
Now all these big blokes support each other and I am a single woman, only 5 foot 2 tall and all those big strong men have to gang up on me. It's interesting.Alex Hilton it seems has emailed her about this comment and she decided to post his email in the comments. His email noted,
Due to the references to size and sex, I drew from this the inference that I might be violent to women or that I might gang up with other men in order to be violent towards women.Pretty reasonable really and I think he has a far point in that respect. After all why mention gender, size, physical strength and marital status, i.e. you live alone, if not to make some inference that you are somehow in fear of possible violence?
This is both personally distressing and it is a publication of an untrue inference that would damage my personal reputation. I would be grateful if you would edit this line in a manner so that no such inference can be reasonably drawn.
It might just be a slip on her part I guess, but from a legal point of view, given that she is in the process of litigation against Hilton, isn't it unwise to write things about the person you're suing? Would writing something that contains potentially damaging inferences not undermine her own case because it could be seen as evidence that the writ is vexatious?
I'm no lawyer, but it's interesting to watch the whole thing develop.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
A small selection of unsubsidised gifts are available for staff to purchase on a not-for-profit basis.What is it they are trying to hide about the gift shop I wonder?
I must admit I'm getting completely sick of hearing about bail-outs for this sector and the next, with a complete disregard for the market reality of the companies. So the car manufacturing industry is in trouble, it doesn't take a genius to understand that the cause is no one wants to, or can afford to buy the cars.
So tell me, how does bailing the company out and propping it up help exactly? It doesn't. Of course it is unfashionable, and tantamount to being evil if you say you think the companies should be allowed to go to the wall. If you think that then you are uncaring about the people that lose their jobs.
This is a bogus argument when you consider what is proposed though. After all, all we're doing with each of these bail outs is pumping taxpayer money into non-viable operations in the blind hope that just maybe things will turn around. That requires you however to take the Government predictions about the recession on face value, and lets be fair, their economic projections over the past ten years have not exactly been on the money.
What we're actually witnessing right now is the gradual securing for the "workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service."*
Of course, it's not being done under that pretext though. It's all about "saving the world". It's all about "doing something" to "help hard working families". At the same time we have to be subjected to comments like "same old Tories" or "unreconstructed Thatcherites who would do nothing". Yet the elephant in the room is the fact that New Labour is truly dead.
Blair had his Clause IV moment. Brown has had his now. It has returned via the back door. It's unspoken of course, it exists in the code of "doing something" but it is there and is plain to see, yet few seem to comment on it.
Commentators, analysts, and undergraduates will tell you that Blair's scrapping of Clause IV was the turning point for Labour. Blair did it openly for everyone to see. Now we have Brown doing a svengali routine and bringing it back under a bogus pretext and many just sit back and don't spot it.
They will eventually of course. 2007-08 was Brown's own Clause IV moment. It was the moment that unreconstructed, 1970s style Labour returned and it will end in only one way, the decline of Britain into being the very sick man of Europe once more. What a wonderful prospect!
* Text of the "scrapped" Clause IV
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
For example, Mark Hoban, the MP for Fareham, has a tendency to ask what seem like obscure and sometimes quirky financial questions about spending in each department. What you learn to realise over time as you read though is how questions follow on from others and build up towards a revelation.
Think of it like this, if he asks how much the furniture spend is in the Wales Office it seems frivilous, but when you realise he's asking similar questions across Government you start to see the scale of what is being spent when you start to add it up, and then, you usually see a story in the papers about it.
You really do get the feeling that behind questions there is a driver and specifc reason for it being asked. Sometimes there are questions that seem so out of place, so curveball, that you find it difficult not to assume that the MP asking has some sort of specific intelligence on a subject.
This leads me neatly on to my favourite Lib Dem MP, Lynne Featherstone, who the other day wrote to Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, and asked,
how many children have been excluded from school for being HIV positive in each of the last five years for which figures are available.This is exactly one of those curveball questions that leapt out at me yesterday. It's such a strange question to ask unless you have heard, or perhaps know, of someone that it has happened too.
I could be wrong of course, it might just be that some researcher in Lynne's office suddenly thought the question up and it was submitted on the random off-chance of discovering something that would be pretty outrageous and frankly quite ignorant. However, my nose just can't help twitching a bit... such a strange question to randomly ask.... no?
Note: For anyone wondering the Government's response was: "Pupils can only be excluded in response to breaches of school behaviour policy. No pupils should be excluded for being HIV positive."
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Of the last of those an organisation maintains an asset register of all the little bits of equipment it has. From desktop PCs, to laptops, to removable media drives, to servers. Everything is on the asset register. When you get rid of something you remove it, when you buy something you add it.
Incredibly, the Department of Work and Pensions however doesn't have one of these. In fact, the DWP has, according to Jonathan Shaw MP, got no bloody idea what IT infrastructure it has because, well, it doesn't own the stuff you see, they contracted it all out, and,
Consequently, the Department does not maintain a register of those assets.Now some might say that the contractor maintains the register, and this may be true of course, but there is a little bit of me that just sees nothing more than slopey shoulders here.
There is of course a great plus side to this. If the DWP doesn't own any IT infrastructure then technically they can't lose any either. Everyone's a winner!
Monday, December 08, 2008
That this House believes that appointment to select committees of this House should be based on experience, knowledge and merit; further believes that the work of Government departments is improved by proper scrutiny by select committees; and further believes that the political patronage of party whips and the way hon. Members have voted on Government motions should not be used as a definitive criterion in the selection of membership of select committees.I guess there are two possible conclusion. Either (a) he thinks he's been passed over for a tidy little job on a Select Committee, or (b) someone else thinks they;ve been passed over and has been bitching.
In essence the report proposes some ideas which are very workable in terms of using technology. The underlying conclusion is that the use of collaborative tools has the potential to make politics more engaging with a larger and wider audience.
Personally speaking I think the potential is most certainly there for this. I am however slightly sceptical of about whether it will increase engagement or whether it will just give those of us already engaged better means to talk amongst ourselves.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Take for example the latest Home Office leak on Wikileaks which is a copy the NDA that the Home Office required those software businesses tendering for the National Identity Scheme gig had to sign. It has two clauses of interest that raise questions, for me at least, about enforceability. The first is in section 3.2 which states,
"[The company mus] consult with the Authority as to possible steps to avoid or limit disclosure and take those steps where they would not result in significant adverse consequences to the Authority"In this case the "Authority" is the Home Secretary, and in effect the company is being asked to avoid disclosure of information, discuss with the Home Secretary how to do it, and do it essentially to avoid the Home Secretary embarrassment, or negative consequence.
Now, I can think of a number of circumstances where such a clause is perfectly benign and, to be honest, quite sensible. The disclosure of source code for instance would not be a good thing for a system like the NIS. Whether one agrees with the system in principle or not, once it is up and running and being developed you want to protect it.
However, disclosure of problems with the system, budget, feasibility, and for that matter security concerns, given the nature of the NIS, are also a matter of public interest, and would, at least I think they are, be covered by such public interest considerations.
In addition, NIS development is very likely to use some sort of sample data set and it is possible that those data will have real information in them. In that case the DPA may come into play, in which case the company is being asked to find way to avoid or limit its obligation under such legislation. However, the more worrying issues is with Section 5 of the NDA.
This section confers on the Home Secretary the right, at his or her "sole discretion" to enter private and domestic property and seize any property which it consider pertains to the NIS project without any warrant or judicial oversight. The clause appears to not just cover the company itself but anyone or works for the company or any subcontractors.
This means, in effect, that a worker supplied with a laptop form the company and authorised to take the laptop home could, in effect, see Home Office officials enter their domestic property without a warrant. Can such an NDA legally override the requirements and protection of the law in these circumstances?
Does not the individual have to also agree to the NDA at the very minimum, and even if they did can one sign away their legal protection over the entry and seizure of property from domestic dwellings? This is a serious question. Is the law the sovereign over our rights or can we actually sign away our rights in a private contract with our employers? More so, can an employer sign away the legal rights of its employees without consulting them or asking them to sign the NDA as well?
Hat Tip: Whipped Senseless
Friday, December 05, 2008
This is because our antipodean brethren politicians have been caught doing all sorts of manner of silly things when bladdered, such as the Police minister who was demoted after allegedly doing a "dirty" dancing routine in his pants over the chest of a female colleague at a drunken post-budget office party*.
The whole politician in his underwear and an embarassing situation sounds familiar doesn't it? (see picture of Chris Bryant MP). Anyhow, one politician said,
"Honestly, if you are going to have breathalyzers for people driving cranes you should have breathalyzers for people writing laws"I'm sure the House of Lords, let alone the Commons, will be rolling in their warm fleecey blankets at the news and very idea of it. Still, if it had been a requirement here the alleged "conspiracy of silence" about Charles Kennedy being an alcoholic would not have been able to exist.
* I dread to think what a Darling hosted party might be like *shudders*
Thursday, December 04, 2008
I've just been corresponding by email with Jon Worth, the Labour blogger who looks after Harriet Harman's personal website and blog.
It would appear the site is offline and I was curious why. Jon has let me know, presumably so I wouldn't speculate it had something to do with the ongoing Speaker story.
Apparently the hosting company has gone bust which I found particularly ironic as it probably happened due to the recession caused by the Government to which Harmen is essentially deputy leader.
"The officers informed the Serjeant at Arms that the provisions of Section 8 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act required that they first seek consent of the person who occupies or controls the premises where they believe evidence may be found."However, the Speaker said yesterday that,
Letter: Assistant Commissioner Robert Quick QPM MBA to the Home Secretary, 3 December 2008, in House of Commons Library Deposited Papers.
the police did not explain, as they are required to do, that the Serjeant was not obliged to consent, or that a warrant could have been insisted upon."If you are required to SEEK consent, it necessarily follows that there is no OBLIGATION to give it. Does this not place the Speaker on flaky foundations?
UPDATE: The following letter from the Police to Harriet Harman argues that the law was followed in their view.
Document via Guido via Wikileaks.
Note: For Iain Dale, the tag is "Damien" and not "Damian" and I can't be arsed to change it. I'm illiterate and proud!
Nevermind of course that bankers are briefing that they've been bounced into something they didn't agree with, with one blaming Mandelson saying,
"You can tell Peter Mandelson’s back in town... The press are being briefed before we’ve even been properly consulted."What surprises me is that the reporting of this has missed the minor flaw which makes it brilliance just another great big sleight of hand con job.
The big fanfare is that eight banks - HBOS, Abbey, Nationwide, Lloyds TSB, Northern Rock, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC - have signed up to this, although as already mentioned, there are muttering that they've signed bugger all agreements as yet, so it may still fall apart.
What though I am finding astounding is how easily the words of Brown are taken on face value and no one spots the blatent elephant in the room, or alternatively the 'lie'. For example, according to Philip webster of the Times,
Eight big lenders, accounting for 70 per cent of the market, have signed up to the £1 billion plan.Meanwhile, the Daily Mail says,
It covers more than 90 per cent of all home loansThe Scotsman says,
Eight major lenders, responsible for 70 per cent of the UK's mortgage marketAnd the Guardian
eight lenders had so far signed up to the scheme, including HBOS, Nationwide, Abbey, Lloyds TSB, Northern Rock, Barclays and HSBC. Between them they represent around 70% of the mortgage market.So we have 70% to 90% of the market share of mortgages. Where did that figure come from? Well that would be the Prime Minister himself who said in the Commons,
The lenders include HBOS, Nationwide, Abbey, Lloyds TSB, Northern Rock, Barclays and HSBC — already 70 per cent. of the mortgages that are held in this country.The figure of 70% is a "lie". The banks, and by that I mean all banks, not just these eight, had, as of July 2008, £635,130 million of the £1,214,148 million worth of mortgages held in the UK.
That's 52.2% of mortgages that are from all the banks in the UK. The other 47.8% belong to Building Societies and specialist mortgage lenders such as building society subsidiaries and securitisations. The last time the banks (and again I mean all bank not just the eight mentioned) held close to that market share was 2002 when they held 69.3% of the market.
Since then the specialist mortgages lenders, which include building society subsidiaries and securitisations, has increased its share to 30.6% whilst the banks have dropped to the already mentioned 52.2%. Even if one is generous and accepts that all 52.2% of mortgages will be covered by Brown's latest plan, that still means just short of half the mortgage holders in the country are not included. Thus the Great Mortgage Insurance Swindle is complete.
Stand up in Parliament, propose a special package for the "middle classes" and throw out a figure that is simply not true. The result is a policy which is not really motivated by the need to protect people, it's about getting the "Brown helps out middle classes" narrative out there and pushing the Damien Green story off the top billing.
I'm not sure which is worse. The fact that Brown stood up and basically threw out a bogus figure about the market share in mortgages of eight banks, or the fact that the papers all seem to have reported it as gospel without checking the figure first. "Rescue deal for a million homeowners" my arse! At best it's probably half that and even then you have to be on interest only with one of eight banks.
UPDATE: Slight correction made. The number of mortgages has been changed to the outstanding value of mortgages in million pounds. Apologies, misread legend on table. Market shares remain correct.
UPDATE II: Noted in the comments that Nationwide is not a bank. Correct, missed it. However their market share was reported by them in Novemebr as falling to 5.6% from 6.2%. That means the overall share of the eight remains at highest 58.8% but more likely lower when other banks come into play. That still remains significantly less than the 70% that Brown claimed in Parliament.
Source: Building Societies Association and Bank of England - September 2008
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
UPDATE: Apparently the Government intends to "strengthen Parliament" which is kind of funny given the news fo the last week etc etc.
As El Reg notes, there are practical problems with trying to do this however much politicians might want to.
For starters, infecting the PC of a target of an investigation is hit and miss. Malware is not a precision weapon, and that raises the possibility that samples of the malware might fall into the hands of cybercrooks.Absolutely.
Even if a target does get infected there's a good chance any security software they've installed will detect the malware. Any security vendor who agreed to turn a blind eye to state-sanctioned Trojans would risk compromising their reputation, as amply illustrated by the Magic Lantern controversy in the US a few years back.
However, the video quality, especially the performance of the shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve was really hackneyed. The result being that the charge of "false outrage" and "political opportunism" becomes more salient. On that point though I should add that those who argue of "synthetic outrage" and "crocodile tears" on the grounds that such outrage didn't exist 25 years ago are doing themselves an intellectual disservice and taking their readers for idiots.
Anyone who argues that the words of a politician from political party A are inconsistent with the views expressed by political party A 25 years previously is at best disingenuous, and at worst a complete fool. It's the equivalent of blaming your parents for having you when you face misfortune. The conflation of an individual today with the views of their party 25 years previously is crap basically.
Clearly there is no doubt that Tory MPs, along with Lib Dems and some Labour are mightly pissed off at this. However, the Tories reaction to it, which was measured at first, has, thanks to the video, simply upped the ante to a point where they just look like moaning teenagers and worse still will allow those idiots arguing of false outrage argue it even more.
Having said this, there has to be a debate in the Commons about where the line should be drawn on Police action and the manner it should be carried out in the Palace of Westminster. The issue is a hot one that needs to be clarified, but as I say, thanks to the video release by the Tories it is in danger of backfiring horrifically.
Yes, there are questions that need to be answered about who knew what and when. Yes, if the Home Secretary didn't know then the question "why didn't she know" has to be answered too. And yes, perhaps there should be some sort of legislative actions to clarify the offence of "misconduct in public office" and its status in statute (which I beleive is also in question).
However, releasing a video where the shadow Home Secretary looks so wooden on the matter was a massive mistake in my view, especially when the so-called footage merely involves Andrew Mackay walking in and being asked to leave immediately. It's hardly action-packed ransacking of an office.
As I've already said, don't mistake this post for saying that the issue is not an important one that has opened a can of worms. Clearly the defintion - or atleast the understanding - of parliamentary privilege is now in question. The sanctity of the Palace of Westminister is also involved. And there is the wider question about Government in relation to leaks that, according to reports, are not covered by the Official Secrets Act.
The issue I have personally is that the video release actually belittles and undermines the importance of those questions and could actually blowback on the Tories atr a time when the questions they, and others, are raising are vitally important.
* I use "constitutionally questionable" with caution here. I have heard differing views from constitutional experts about whether parliamentary privilege can be extended to leaks and the like based on different precedents.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
For some reason I see the "TV" bit after her name and wonder whether it might be interpreted as something other than televsion. Such images and video would infect the mind and require bleach to clean out.
I wonder how many hits from Google she will get from people looking for a transvestite?
encourages the widespread use of multiple antivirus utilities so that virus programmers have more than one application to circumvent, thus making the whole virus writing process more difficult. Here are some available antivirus utilities.Have they done a special deal with some software providers or is that naughty people are getting wise about how to penetrate the Church of Jobs? The latter if far more likely than the former.
Note 1:Yes the link is to a trojan not a virus. Point stands.
Note 2: This post exists purely because I love Mac bashing as their zealots are worse than Linux ones :)
The winner for the most expensive website is not however the department's main website (which incidentally I think is the best and easiest to navigate of all the departments). That one is expected to cost £730,000 to maintain this year.
No, the most expensive website is Transport Direct. A rather ugly portal site that talks to lots of other sites and gets you information about traffic, bus timetables, rail timetables, airport landing times etc. How much is it expected to cost this year? £4,750,000.
One presumes that when you submit a request to it what really happen is that fires an email off to a large sweatshop of workers who either dial 118 and ask them for the answer or they look through bus timetables manually.
Below is a graph that shows the number of crisis loans processed for people of working age from Novmebr 1998 to October 2008. The figure were sourced in a document deposited in the House of Commons library in a response to a question by Chris Grayling last week.
That's an impressively steep incline from a pretty static trend there don't you think.?All of sudden there was a sharp increase in the number of people on the brink and in need of short term cash help. Now I'd say that steep incline represents a blatent warning sign that something bad was starting to happen.
Shame no one noticed earlier huh?
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many legal proceedings naming his Department as a defending party are ongoing or unresolved; and if he will make a statement.Not time to find the figure in the budget that relates directly to the previous two questions? I look forward to seeing the answer when Parliament reopens but I won't hold my breath.
Huw Irranca-Davies: The number of legal proceedings where the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been named as a defending party which are ongoing or unresolved is 81.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many legal proceedings naming his Department as a defending party are under appeal.
Huw Irranca-Davies: The number of legal proceedings under appeal in which the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been named as the defending party is three.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what provision his Department has made in its budget for 2008-09 for potential civil liabilities stemming from legal proceedings.
Huw Irranca-Davies: It has not proved possible to respond to the hon. Member in the time available before Prorogation.
Last week, DEFRA confirmed to Parliament however how much it cost just to administer the system over the past three years which ammounted to a grand total of £298.4 million. Crucially, and this is the bit that leapt out for me in Hansard were the words,
These costs exclude the investment in new systems and improvement projects.So, that figure is just the operating cost of making sure people receive their money, approximately £99 million a year. The "investment in new systems" that the figure does not include would be the £122 million spent on the, not-on-time, over-budget, computer system to manage the payments of the subsidies that are worth £1,515 million per year.
Clearly the "secure facility" is not that secure. Mind you it could be that the theives used a stolen or lost security pass in order to get in. Either way, an archive of 6.2 million personnel documents is now out there.
One hopes that it has been deleted and the theives had no ulterior motive. If a list like that fell into the hands of terrorists then that would be a wealth of useful information for what would be considered "legitimate targets".
I would've thought such a fresh and recent admission of not just a security breach in a "secure facility" but also the loss of exceptionally sensitive data would have got some coverage, although I guess it did come about on the same day the Damien Green mess kicked off.
Monday, December 01, 2008
I'm yet to see the absolue killer app in the Android Market where there are scores of freebie downloads, but I do think that Andorid may very well become a killer OS on phones. The key to that success is going to be the fact that it is open source so anyone, Sony, Nokia, LG, Samsung etc can use it on their own hardware.
I would be surprised if Symbian on the Nokia does not start going the way of the dinosaur in the next year or so as Android development continues. The battle of the phone units will then become OS related rather than hardware with one OS to beat, the iPhones.
The problem that Apple have with iPhone, as it stands at least, is that it is hardware restricted, just like the bad old days of Apple and its early systems when IBM and Microsoft turned up. Back then you only got Apple OS on a machine from Apple, there were no clones from other hardware vendors. Today the iPhone is in the same category.
The next few years in the mobile phone market are going to be interesting to say the least. Let's not forget of course that Windows Mobile is out there too (also shipping, like the G1, on HTC hardware). I do love having a qwerty keyboard back though!