Friday, April 30, 2010

Caption Competition

Cameron edged it... just

Just a few thoughts on last night's debate before I pop off out for the day again. All three of them were better than they were in the last better at the beginning, they've clearly all got used to the format now. Clegg was, in my view, edging it at first, but then he kept on repeating things that are now getting annoying.

"Two old parties", "old politics" and, bizarrely as I guess many others will have pointed out, a reference to a Treasury type position of "Vice Chancellor" which I thought existed in Universities or the German Government, but not in the Parliament. He said it twice I think, and, had it been in the Commons he would have got slaughtered for it.

Oddly though, and perhaps because Brown and Cameron had been coached on avoiding deeply personal attacks on slips of the tongue it wasn't. That he said it twice though would have been to much for me and I would've had to point out that the one in the middle who kept saying "do something different" was so different he was making up positions.

Personally, what I didn't like was the way the whole thing was like a neuro-linguistic programming contest to see who could drip they're repetitive little catch phrases into our brains the most.

The general feeling was that Clegg got hammered on immigration by the other two, personally, I thought that whilst he did get hammered by them his argument was actually the most sophisticated because it essentially comes straight out of the drug decriminalisation playbook about how the criminal gangs rely on prohibition or illegal immigrants by operating in a black economy - starve the black economy, solve the problem.

Whilst I say it's the most sophisticated of the arguments, it doesn't really play well with most people, just as the decriminalisation of drugs argument doesn't play well either. The other two rightly hammered him on the assumed logical conclusions of an "amnesty" that you just send a message that if you come to Britain illegally then disappear for long enough you'll be allowed to stay eventually.

So that's it for the debates, finally over and a week to go until polling. The precedent has now been set for debates, but, I'm wondering now how the format, length, and timing will change next time. They seem to have dominated the agenda and created a three way race that means we'll probably have another election within the next year - something that will greatly please the politics junkies and make normal people groan.

Oh yes, I think Cameron won the debate in the end but was looking shaky at first. Brown just isn't suited to the format and I think he looks tired and deflated somewhat - understandable after the whole "bigot" thing. The next week should be very interesting now we're back into traditional campaign territory.

P.S. Best gaffe off the night was Brown at the end, who, thanks to a bit of a stutter and his accent, really did sound like he said Cameron was going to give tax cuts to the "richest cunts" in the country - I double-taked when it happened.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cameron Girls do what they said: The Cleggs

Saskia and Hayley live up to their promise.
Brown next?

Light blogging....

Off to Oxford cancer unit today and tomorrow with Mrs D for the last lot of tests so blogging will be light to none.

Debate tonight though, see you later

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Brown begs for forgiveness

I don't know, I turn Sky off and start watching the Sopranos and Gordon Brown is nice as pie to a lady on camera saying she has a "good family" and that it was "nice to meet her"; then, forgetting the microphone was still on his jacket, gets in a car and calls her a "bigot" and sounds very pissed off that he even had to speak to her.

Ironically, the conversation was along the lines that the news would run on the story because it was about immigration. Well, he was at least partly right, they are playing his video over and over again on the news, but not becuase of that conversation but because of his.

Gordon Brown is, as I type this, apologising personally (40 minutes or so) to the woman for his comments, and CNN and Fox in the USA are now running the story too.

Basically we have a really bad day for Brown and a bloody great day for this grandmother's purse thanks to Fleet Street.

What I find myself wondering though is what the response would be to the story if it was brought to us in the traditional form of an "unanmed source"? It would be denied of course and called a smear or "tittle tattle". This story actually gives strength to those sort of stories in a way, especially in relation to Brown.

Does anyone believe that he would be having an epiphany in private and apologising to this woman if he hadn't been caught saying it? Of course he wouldn't.

Thing is, the real story here should be what Peter mandelson has said in his spinning. Without a hint of irony, Mandelson said to Sky News that "sometimes you say something you simply do not mean" - surely that is the real story here? Mandelson admits he speaks with forked tongue!.. OK, maybe not.

UPDATE: Brown came out and says that he is "mortified" about what he said whilst smiling? WTF? He's just made it worse surely?

Brace yourself before clicking

It's perfectly safe for work, but if you have speakers be prepared for..... well.... God it's so very very wrong.

Ready? Are you sure you're ready?.... Good.... Now go and visit Greg Knight's Tory campaign website.

I'm telling you now, it shouldn't be allowed and there should be laws against it!

Hat Tip: Shane Greer

UPDATE: If the jingle is not working then it may be a browser plugin issue. You can download the jingle here instead.

Police quango hides millions on consultancy spending?

Don't Panic and Heyden Prowse have excelled themselves with this one. The police quango the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) in the spotlight.

Waste huh? Don't you just love it?

Mandelson forgets manifesto details?

Peter Mandelson has just told Gary Gibbon that there has never been a promise for electoral reform through a referendum before. Has he forgotten the 1997 Labour Manifesto he helped write?
We are committed to a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons. An independent commission on voting systems will be appointed early to recommend a proportional alternative to the first-past-the-post system.
Fib or memory loss?

Best Election Leaflet Ever?

Via @markpack on Twitter, the Movement for Active Democracy (M.A.D) has to be the greatest election leaflet ever? No?

Love the New World Order inference with the "pyramid of power"

The Thick Of It election?

A source has revealed that last night in Labour HQ someone was heard shouting,
"Fuck, fuck, fuck, the Tories got that fucking ex-Eastenders actress who's brother was stabbed to death in the street to support them. FIND ME AN ACID ATTACK VICTIM!"
Rumour has it that this morning, when the news that Katie Piper would be appearing with Labour, panic arose in CCHQ and the following was heard,

"Shit! Find me someone who's been crippled, buggered and has a face beaten beyond all recognition quick! NOW!"
Note: None of this may actually have happened - but if it did would anyone really be surprised?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Speakers wife calls heckling electorate "smack heads"

Poor old Sally Bercow, it only took her about 20 minutes to realise she may have used the wrong language when talking about some hecklers by calling them "smack heads".

One presumes she saw some track marks or burnt silver foil when she made the judgement that they were heroin addicts?

Sadly, deleting the tweet came too late as did deleting the apology!

UPDATE: Looks like I might have upset her. Funny thing is, I she might even have been right about the hecklers.

Prospective Prime Ministerial Ikea Kitchens

I do love the way all these businesses are jumping on the election bandwagon to try to make themselves a bit of cash. Ikea have certainly topped it with their rather amusing Ikea Domestic Policy kitchen designs, BrĂ¼n, Kamerun and Kleggi.

Now hopefully I can get a free kitchen for giving them some publicity! Wonder if any future MPs will get the designs on expenses though?

Has Gordon Prentice's leaflet breached copyright?

Anyone remember how Gillman and Soame, the holder of the copyright on the Cameron/Boris Bullingdon picture made it clear in 2007 that the image couldn't be used?

I wonder if Gordon Prentice missed that one? Have just spoken to his office and they did seem somewhat unaware of the copyright issue and said they'd get back to me.


Shoring up the cokehead vote?

Totally man!

Explanation in definition (3) for the socially naive here.

Pig pulls out of event hosted by trougher?

Apparently, Peppa Pig, a cartoon character, has pulled out of a Labour Party election event which would include Yvette Cooper - one half of the well-documented married couple expenses troughers.

Even the pigs won't support the piggies? What an endorsement!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Council snoopers snoop on themselves to take employees to court

What a marvellous and surreal world we live in huh? I've just received a copy of what can best be described as a triple-whammy on the piss poor record of Labour at a local level. Greenwich Council have recently been contacting their employees stating the following:

Brilliant! In just four paragraphs we have;
  1. An admission that they're absolutely crap at collecting council tax or rent for council properties.
  2. They don't trust their own employees
  3. They're going to start using their employees personal data to cross-reference and then take out court proceedings.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Six reasons.....

Six Reasons Against a Hung Parliament
  1. Policy will end up being a negotiated stitch-up by the political class in back rooms and corridors. Power will be the key at the expense of principle.
  2. There will inevitably be another election within 12 months. That means more debates, more spin, more media saturation. If you're already annoyed with the amount of politics in the papers and on TV a Hung Parliament will get you even more.
  3. As everything will have to be negotiated there will be time delays leading to uncertainty. The markets will not like it and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is lying or on crack.
  4. As there will be another election the politicians will try to do things for tactical electoral advantage. Party politics in search of power will be put before doing what is right.
  5. It's likely that full-scale change to the voting system will be on the agenda if the Lib Dems perform well in the popular vote. Get a Hung Parliament now and you may have them forever to come meaning complete loonies - that is more loony than the current crop - will start to get representatives in the Commons.
  6. If you think politicians bicker already, just imagine it amplified by an order of magnitude.
Six Reasons For a Hung Parliament

  1. The House of Commons will be more representative of the country as a whole.
  2. A more representative Commons will lead to better debate, better scrutiny and inevitably better laws.
  3. More debate and more argument will slow down the pace of Government and consequentially the scope of the state.
  4. House of Lords reform would be on the agenda which could lead to a more congressional-style Parliament with better legislative scrutiny.
  5. The Executive would be curtailed from rail-roading legislation into statute. Essenitally better checks and balances
  6. Ideological dogma would be replaced by a need to seek consensus.
The argument against are realistic, the arguments for are largely abstract. Ultimately it's down to us.

Mail continues its war on Clegg

I see this morning that the Daily Mail is continuing with its hatchet jobs on Nick Clegg. Much of what has been written is not particularly new, but I guess they're wanting to grab the attention of the people who only buy the paper on Saturday (which I believe is quite a large number).

The problem with the pieces though, is that whilst they're correct to point out that Clegg is not the plucky outsider he would like to portray, they're going about it in a rather over the top way which, as already noted by many others will probably back fire. If people think the paper is trying to unduly influence them they're more likely to say "sod you".

Hilariously today there's an implication of a possible link between Clegg and the Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi. The Mail is really playing with fire over Clegg.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Identity politics debate hypocrisy

Following on from the previous post, there were a couple of things in the debate last night that made me chuckle at the sheer hypocrisy of Brown and Clegg and I was screaming at the screen for Cameron to pull them up on it, but alas, he couldn't hear me!

For those who didn't watch, there was a moment when Clegg and Brown both turned on Cameron over the issue of the Tory withdrawal from the EPP and the group they belong to in the European Parliament. The smears are well known, but basically Clegg called the ruling party of Poland "nutters", "anti-Semites", "homophobes" and "climate change deniers" and Brown pretty much did an "I agree with Nick".

Now really, what Cameron should have done as Clegg ranted on, was point out that Clegg had refused to remove the whip from Baroness Tonge, who wanders around spouting untold numbers of Jewish conspiracy theories which have ranged from the control of global media to allegations that the Israeli Defence Force had been harvesting body parts from people killed in the Haiti earthquake.

Let us be blunt, the Lib Dems have their own "nutters" and "anti-Semites" too.

However, I'm digressing, the rather cute and amusing hypocrisy came when the next question, an absolute curve ball frankly, was about the Pope and whether he should be allowed to visit Britain even though he hates manlove, says contraception is wrong, and doesn't like abortion very much.

All three leaders said much the same thing, that they didn't agree with the Pope's views but that should not exclude him from coming to Britain as we're a terribly tolerant place and just because you don't agree with someones view it doesn't mean you shouldn't talk to them or work with them on other things.

Can you spot the hypocrisy yet kids?

Yes, that's right. The two men who had, moments before, chastised Cameron for working with homophobes were now saying how important it was to work with homophobes because whilst you might disagree on the question of man-on-man or girl-on-girl action, there are areas you will agree so you shouldn't just tell them to bugger off.,

Why the sudden about face? Well that's rather obvious really, there's an election on and you can't suddenly piss off all the Catholic voters right? Or in Clegg's case, guarantee yourself the sofa to sleep on when your wife gets annoyed with you because she's a Catholic.

This one single moment in the debate was a perfect illustration of the way identity politics is used and abused for little more than cheap point scoring.

Note: No more posts today. Typing takes to long.

The morning after - thoughts

Let's start off by saying that yes, my hand really does hurt a lot this morning. Last night, during the debate, the anaesthetic finally wore off and boy did I know it. Thankfully, the wonderful and beautiful Mrs Dizzy - who doesn't really 'do politics' wrote me some sporadic notes down at things that came up so I could put them in this post which will probably take me an hour to type!

So anyway, last night I thought the debate was a draw between Cameron and Clegg with Brown coming last, on reflection this morning though I'm changing that to a win for Clegg, and this is why. He simply didn't sound as scripted as the other two and that's why he appeals to people. That doesn't make him right, rather it just makes him the more natural looking of the three.

Brown, whether you like him or not, is someone in his element when reeling off statistics and irritating cliches of New Labour-speak. The result is a man who sounds like a politician speaking with a forked tongue. He may very well be all about substance over style as he said in his opening statement, but you need style in the debate arena and frankly he just hasn't got it.

In comparison, Cameron has a lot of style and does passion well when he's angry, as he did when dealing with the free eye tests issue and the Labour leaflets that have basically been making stuff up. When he goes "off script" he's brilliant, the problem last night is that he didn't go off script enough, and so sounded - and perhaps this is because I'm a politics junkie - a bit repetitive.

It was also obvious that he had taken every criticism of him from the last debate on board and was obviously trying to hard to resolve them. In his opening statement he talked about "your values" rather than "my values", and during the whole thing he kept switching from the audience to looking down the camera, but he did it at odd times so it didn't seem natural.

Clegg on the other hand, just looked relaxed in his own skin. He played the guy flanked by the "two old parties" (something he kept saying) very well, and he didn't talk in as many soundbites (that I recall at least) as Brown and Cameron did. This made him, whatever the quaintness of some his policies, look natural. His denouncement of the silliness of Europe sometimes was very good too. His USP seemed to be just one phrase "do something different" - which, banal as it may be, is actually going to be quite appealing.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not converting to the Lib Dem position - although I do support their income tax threshold changes - rather I just think that Clegg suits the format very well because the way he speaks means he doesn't "look" like a politician. The newspapers can write what they like really, as Clegg's appeal I think is targeted at the parts of the population that vote but probably don't read the papers very much.

I've not looked at any polls yet apart from the immediate one on Sky after the debate, but as I said last week, all the Lib Dems have to do is sustain their polling figure for a week at a time and then, when Clegg comes on screen, they get their boost again that keeps them going just a little bit longer.

If Cameron wants to stop the Clegg juggernaut he needs to give Clegg a killer blow, but I just don't see it happening because of how Clegg has positioned his party as the "alternative" to the "two old parties". Yes, of course it's bollocks to suggest that the Lib Dems are a fresh and new party, they're not at all really - but the electorate tend to think in terms of living memory and the Lib-Lab Pact of the 70s was so brief and fleeting, most people won't actually think about it.

After last night the election is definitely still wide-open, the people who should be most worried though are Labour, because if the Clegg bandwagon keeps running, it could yet become a two horse race between the Lib Dems and Tories, and Labour could be thrown into the historical dustbin for many years to come, and it will be "the debates wot done it".

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Off to hospital.....

It is unlikely that there will be any blogging today, and there will be very little for the next few days to be honest. Am off this morning to my local BMI hospital for surgery to resolve a rather shitty case of carpal tunnel syndrome on my right hand.

This means I will be down to just my left hand during the next few weeks so my typing is going to be slowed down by a stupid amount. All depends really on how much pain using the right hand causes.

Enjoy the politics of the next few days.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A message the Tories need to repeat?

Posters alone will not do it, but the latest offering from the Tories is a message that, if pushed enough in the media is simple and will resonate.

There have been a lot of things that David Cameron has said over the past year that have been effective messages that are popular. The decision to return to those now, in light of the Lib Dem surge makes sense.

I expect we'll see some more of these poster/soundbites over the next week as the Tories "fight back" as it were on the "isshews" and not the personality.

Hat Tip: Paul Waugh who also has details of Blair's former welfare advisor saying how Brown blocked the reforms that would tackle the problem the poster highlights.

What's a constituency?

More than once on this blog I've written that the vast majority of ordinary people don;t really give a crap about politics. OK, so the viewing figures for the first Leader Debate were, at their peak, 10 million, but let's not forget that number is an extrapolation based on a sample and the assumption that everyone else must be doing what the sample is doing.

I mention this because I've just been sent a link to the following video from Yahoo! which is done very much in the vein of "The Day Today" - there is of course a bit of me that wishes they were all stooges, but I fear not - there are more important things in life than politics... like living it perhaps?

Saint Johnson/Grayling/Huhne? - what's the smell?

Just a few moments ago, in the BBC2 debate of the three potential Home Secretaries, Andrew Neill asked a "yes/no" question of whether they had ever broken the law. Alan Johnson, Chris Grayling, and Chris Huhne all gave an emphatic "no".

Now let's be serious, does anyone think that the answer is credible? Are they seriously telling us they've never gone 31mph in a 30mph? Over 70mph on a motorway? Thrown a bit of litter on the ground? Kept quiet when someone gave the the wrong change in a shop? [insert other menial crime that people commit everyday and get away with here]

Sorry, but I don't believe it, and if one of them had said "Yes, I've definitely broken the speed limit but I didn't get caught", or, "I went fishing with a knife in my bag and carried it down the street" most people would probably like them more rather than the pathetic attempt to paint themselves as holier than thou Saints.

I won't call them liars because I can't prove they are, but I might call them all Billy Bullshitters.

UPDATE: I was making coffee when this question was asked and apparently Neill excluded motoring offences and must have missed it. Still don't believe them though.

Making Your Mind Up!

From Total Politcs comes a bit of election fun, starring Guido Fawkes and Torybear in skirts... oh yes, Buck Fizz, Alastair Campbell, Nadine Dorries, Iain Dale, Lynne Featherstone, Shane Greer and many others including a brief and rather fat looking me.

Now do vote, whoever it may be for.

The next big threat for the Tory/Labour campaigns?

Very soon, the quarterly figures for GDP are due. There are, of course, three possibilities - it could go down, it could go up, or it could stay the same. Currently there is a predicted expectation of it being about 0.4%, which would be, if I recall correctly, 0.3% above the last set of results.

I would imagine that Gordon Brown is praying that this is the case, because it will mean he can not only say that he's led the country into recovery - however tiny - but also push the line that the recovery is very fragile and so you shouldn't risk it by changing the party in power.

Of course, there is another possibility that the figure goes down or flatlines. The impact of the unexpected severe snow is yet unknown, and if it goes backwards, then it will skewer Brown's argument about Tory policies leading to a "double-dip" recession.

If the latter happens it would be another game changer in an election campaign that has had some roller coaster moments already. If the former occurs then it will bolster Labour's negative message about the Tories and the economy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tabloid imitates art

From the Mail on Sunday,
Captain Darling: I'm as British as Queen Victoria!
Captain Blackadder: So your father's German, you're half German, and you married a German!

From Blackadder Goes Forth,

His wife is Spanish, his mother Dutch, his father half-Russian and his spin doctor German. Is there ANYTHING British about LibDem leader
One of these is comedy; the other is deadly serious.

Sad ain't it?

Cameron Girls source suggests Brown & Clegg girls next?

The Cameron Girls have apparently been wetting themselves with laughter for the last 48 hours at the interest in their video and song. At the same time, CCHQ have been denying it's got anything to do with them.

I spoke to one of those involved just now - a lovely well-spoken lass - who assured me that they were not linked directly to any of the parties.

She also said that the whole thing was meant as a positive reaction to the "mayhem and aggression" they've seen on places like Twitter during the campaign so far.

I was also told, with a little bit of a cheeky giggle, that we may just be seeing Brown and Clegg Girls too.

We can but hope! Politics needs this sort of amusement.

Funny because it could so easily be true?

Ladbrokes have a viral out of a mysterious yet recognisable man having a punt on Cameron.
Love the bit at the end!

*sigh* some people would like the extra few days away

Excuse me for the mildly ranty tone, but can someone explain to me why it is necessary to send the Royal Navy to Spain to pick up some tourists? Oh wait, I know why, it's because there's an election on and Brown wants to play the "steady at the helm" look and save the day.

Jesus wept. It's a few extra days holiday for people who could just hire a car and drive through France anyway. Please excuse me now, I have to go and smash my head against the wall a few times.

How to tell you're in a tight marginal?

Yesterday I went for a drive, and it was rather easy to spot when I was within the boundary of the hyper-marginal seat of Hemel Hempstead - Tory majority of 499 votes. As we drove along the highlighted section of road (5.7 miles) Mrs Dizzy and I counted the Tory billboards telling people to "Vote for Change".

There were 33 altogether, which is, roughly 5.7 billboards every mile - desperately wanting to ensure a win methinks.

Incidentally, as soon as you reach Daganll, which is oddly part of Bercow's Buckingham constituency that to the weird boundary shape the billboards stopped.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

General Election - October 2010 or May 2011?

So now we have a second poll, this time from BPIX for the Mail on Sunday that puts the Lib Dems in the lead and Cleggmania is rolling.

This could soon become very interesting, because, if it's sustainable (still questionable). and the Lib Dems came first in the popular vote, they would probably still end up only the third largest party in the Commons. If that happened then PR will be inevitable, after all, none of the other parties could win the argument that the system produces an equitable outcome.

When the Lib Dems have polls below 20%, Labour and the Tories can get away with ignoring the argument. However, if the results of today's opinion polls were mirrored across the country it would be impossible to ignore it any more.

So, let;s play a game for a second, imagine the Lib Dems won the popular vote but were the third largest party. Would we perhaps see a very short Parliament that produced just one law change, the introduction of proper PR along the lines of the Single Transferable Vote, and then a quick dissolution and General Election under the new system?

Could a full term Parliament be maintained before going down the PR route or would it not have to the case that the system is changed, and another vote is held? I wonder what odds the bookies would give on another General Election under a new voting system within 12 months of May 6th?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

CUTS: Labour introduces means testing for child dentistry

Wondering where the cuts will come from? Not the "frontline" obviously. Wrong. How about children's dentistry? Means-testing has arrived.

"Protecting the frontline" huh?
So... good parents who make their kids brush their teeth are screwed. Bad parents who feed them lots of sugar and don't bother are not. Nice!"

Cameron and Brown dismiss Clegg at their peril

These are extraordinary times, and extraordinary times mean extraordinary things get said, and so it is. I agree with Alastair Campbell. With official voting intention poll for today Sun from YouGov in, Campbell is absolute right when he says that the Lib Dems rise makes the election much more exciting because anything can happen.

Now of course, there will be those that dismiss the poll as "rogue". Others will note that it's a flash in the pan as a result as Clegg's performance in the debate on Thursday. The real question is whether the apparent momentum with the Lib Dems can be sustained. Unlike in previous elections though, they won't have to try to hold it for three weeks. Thanks to the debates, they have five day blocks in which they need to maintain the direction of travel towards them - and then hope that their man can perform in each debate like he did on Thursday. This makes the coming week exciting because it is now Clegg's to lose, not Cameron's.

The Tories and Labour seem to be tackling this uncharted water in very different ways though and both approaches are dangerous. On the one hand the Tories are dismissing Clegg by trying to reinforce that only they or Labour can actually win it - Clegg is the underdog. The thing is, whilst this is realistic about the electoral mathematics, Britain can be hopelessly romantic when it comes to loving the underdog. Having a strategy that effectively reminds everyone who that underdog is when you must get a swing from them to you for victory coud turn out to be quite a dangerous thing to do.

Labour's approach to this seems even more insane though. Gordon Brown and the Labour Party are campaigning on a platform that calls for "fair votes" at Westminster thorugh some sort of electoral reform. Yet last night, the instant official reaction from Labour was to boast that with the YouGov they would come thrid in the popular vote but still win the most seats in Parliament. Now, losing the popular vote, coming second but still winning power, as in 2005, flew... just. However, boasting that even if you come third you'll still win most seats whilst campaigning on an electoral reform agenda?

Would the infamous "court of public opinion" stand for that?

Were I advising the Lib Dems I'd be telling them to hammer this point home for the next few days and do whatever it took to mention it in the next debate. Remind the public that yes, you're the underdog, because that is a positive, by pointing out that Tories are just dismissing you as an also-ran before the gates have opened, and then drive home that Labour are actually relishing the fact they might turn out to be the the third most popular party on polling day, yet still win a majority - albeit it not overall - in the Commons.

As for the Tories and Labour? What they should really be doing is going on the attack against the Lib Dems. I know there's this traditional idea that you should, in a campaign, ignore opponents sometimes in order to not give them publicity, but the publicity is with them and the parties have no choice but to engage and destroy them as best they can. Trying to pretend that they don't matter, whether it be through arbitrary dismissal because of obscure electoral maths, or worse because hey, you're quite happy you can come third and still "win", will only solidify their position as the lovable underdog and probably get them more votes.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cameron can't do maths and Brown doesn't know his own policies!

Last night in the debate there were a couple of gaffes, although most happened so fast spotting them was tough. Cameron, for example, said that he met a 40-year old black bloke who apparently said, "I came here when I was six, I’ve served in the Royal Navy for 30 years, I’m incredibly proud of my country".

This would obviously make the guy 10 when he took the Queens Shilling, clearly a mathematics failure. Not sure either why Cameron felt the need to mention his colour, other than it was on the question of immigration and he perhaps felt the need to stress that people who are not white are bothered about it too.

On the latter point, it's painstakingly obvious that being bothered by immigration is not an exclusively white thing. This is also true of racism as there's plenty of evidence of African vs Caribbean racism in some parts of London, although don't expect to see the "right on" types who love identity politics to acknowledge it too often.

Anyway, I digress, the left wing blog, Political Scrapbook reckons Cameron's cock-up is evidence that he just makes stuff up. The saner, less partisan, amongst you would be more inclined to put it down to a debating cock-up because of the speed with which things were happening and a mistake about how old the guy really was.

This is bit like Brown's glaring cock-up when he said that Labour was going to allow us all to take out injunctions against the Police - something which, if it were the case, would please a lot of criminals and drug dealers. Of course, what he actually meant was the promise to have the right to take out injunctions against repeat offenders of anti-social behaviour and have the Police pay the legal costs.

The fact is, in the environment that these three guys are debating in, they're inevitably going to make slips of the tongue. If they're quick, like Clegg was last night, they can correct themselves and you know it was slip. Saying this though, it's an election campaign, so the slip-ups they make will be taken literally by opponents for mischief.

So, back to the title of this post. Cameron probably can do maths, and Brown probably does know his own policies - but under the bright lights it all goes to pot (without an injunction from the dealer ;-) )

Crazy poll......

Generally speaking, I don't do polls and when I do it's a very occassional thing. This is one of those such times because an incredible poll from ComRes for ITV as been released, the headline figures being
Conservatives 36% Lib Dems 35% Labour 24%
Now, there has been inevitable excitement over this, but it's worth remembering that it's a poll of people that watched the debate, rather than a poll that has been balanced and weighted nationally etc.

However, whilst the people polled, and those watching the debate, are more likely to vote anyway, it remains an incredible twist in the saga of the debates and what their impact will/might be.

I imagine, even with the note of caution, there will be quite a few Lib Dems activists very happy and getting back outside in their constituencies to prepare for Government the balance of power.

Talk about bad timing?

There is, it seems, just one plan in the UK that is equipped to measure the volanic ash in the atmosphere and make judgements on flying safety etc. It's a BAe-146-301 large Atmospheric Research Aircraft belonging to Facility for Atmospheric Measurements.

Where is it? Up in the sky? Nope, it's grounded "with all instruments removed prior to a repaint, and it would take at-least a week to get it airborne and fit for a science flight". What timing!

BREAKING: Guardian readers don't like the Tories

Who'd have thought it huh? The readers of the Guardian don't like the Tories and scored Cameron down in the debate in their real-time tracker.

In other news, the Pope has confirmed today that he is indeed Catholic and a bear was seen taking some toilet paper into a local wood.

If the next two go like last night we could be in sea change territory

I do like being right - even if I was just one of many that was saying much the same thing - and so it comes to pass that Nick Clegg has, on the performance last night, just propelled the Liberals into probably their best position politically for a century.

True, there are two more debates to go and it could all fall apart, but, if the next two go like last night, then 2010 could very well be a sea change moment after all. Yesterday morning this election was simply about two main parties fighting over who could manage the crap we're in best. This morning it is starting to look like the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Until the horses ran in that race it was assumed to be, in the words of a Lib Dem leaflet, a two horse race between a previous winner Denham and last year's winner Kauto Star. There was a third horse in the betting though called Imperial Commander who ended up romping it.

Now, I'm not saying Clegg is Imperial Commander and will be walking into Number 10, rather I'm saying that last night has made the Lib Dems far more serious contenders than they've ever been and is now in a position to create not a Hung Parliament but a new Parliament that more accurately reflects the general political positioning of the country.

Let me put it like this, I genuinely believe that those who think the British public today leans towards the Left are mistaken. The reason Labour won in 1997 was because they weren't the Tories and they were the only "other choice" in a two party system. It wasn't because the public had become social democrats and lifted themselves of the false consciousness of the dreadful capitalist market system.

Basically, they voted for Labour because they were pissed off and it was the only choice. Right now, they're pissed off again. This time though, they're pissed off with Labour, and they've still got nagging feelings about the Tories because of the "drip drip" of Labour spinning. The thing is though, I don't think that drip of nagging doubts by Labour is actually benefiting them any more.

I bet, if you did a poll, you'd find that there is a feeling of "I agree with Labour about the worries of the Tories, but I think they're just as bad". There is a cliche that the election might produce a "plague on all your houses" response, maybe, actually, it will just be a "plague on both your houses" with a major swing in the direction of the Lib Dems instead?

Until now, the Lib Dems have been there, but have been the "also ran". Now they're centre-stage on equal footing with equal airtime. Last night I said that we're now in genuine Hung Parliament territory. If the next two debates go Clegg's way as well, we may actually be about to enter a new period of British politics where the two dominant parties no longer include Labour.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Back later.....

There will be no more blogging for the rest of the day as I have to take Mrs Dizzy to the hospital for some scans. Scans, incidentally, which no matter what Labour may be guaranteeing on cancer, have to occur over a three week period before results can be collated together.

Obituary: The Devils Kitchen

I've just read about my mate Chris Mounsey and the death of the Devil's Kitchen. Chris it seems went on the Daily Politics as a guest in his capacity as leader of the Libertarian Party, and found himself skewered over things he has written as the Devil, which has resulted in him pretty much taking down his entire blog and starting again.

That "The Devil" or "DK" said nasty things about people seems like common sense to me, he was the Devil for Christ sake! (I love getting biblical!). Yes Chris, when posting as his alter-ego called people "cunts" quite a lot, sometimes he went further and wished nasty ends on those in politics that he felt were ruining the country and the world.

In all his posts, if you read between the lines of his swearing and anger, there was always a sound and well thought out argument underpinning his posts. Climate Change Denier, or Climate Change Believer, his posts on the subject were lengthy, well written and compelling. As he says, the blog was a "cathartic" outlet for his anger at first, and it is real shame that he should be dragged over the coals for it.

I understand though where Chris is coming from. The blur between politics and professional life for bloggers who have proper jobs they love outside of politics is a tightrope.

The Devils Kitchen is dead. Long live DK.

So the time is almost upon us.....

Entirely cliched and utterly appropriate, but today is an historic day in the UK because, as most will know, it's time for the leaders to debate on live TV without the backdrop of their cheer leading hoards in the Commons. I'm not 100% sure of the format plans for the debate itself, but what is for sure is that no one will have a big bulky envelope full of briefing papers to help them.

I have little doubt that if someone utters a dodgy statistic it will be ripped apart online before the credits begin to roll. In fact, this is possibly the biggest problem Brown faces because, I think it's fair to say, he absolute loves reeling off numbers. The cynic would say he does this to bamboozle, but I don;t think he does, I just think he does it because he thinks it how we all think and talk.

The biggest winner tonight, like with the Chancellor debate though, is most likely to be the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg. Never before has the party gained so much exposure. It may be unfair to say it, but the advantage the Lib Dems have had for many years is being able to say things that might not be popular because they know, in their heart of hearts, that they're not going to win outright - that approach, just this once, might provide them with immense advantage.

I say "just this once" because, if we assume that tonight sets the precedent for all further General Elections, that gain the Lib Dems might get tonight might not be something they can tap into quite so much in the future if they find themselves in a more elevated position of power. You can be more "honest" (and I use that word very lightly) when you know you're not going to win overall, but if after the polls close they find themselves with a massively hiked contingent in the Commons, politics becomes that little bit more delicate.

The expectation management from Labour has already begun, with sources telling papers they don;t think they're man will do the best initially. Another danger from Brown will come, not in what he says, but what he does when others are talking. Like it or not, he has a tendency to fidget and do things with his hands that might appear out of place. His smile can look forced, and unlike in the Commons, he can't pretend to not be listening. He'll need to control his temper too which, rumours about flying Nokias aside, is apparent in the Commons on occasion.

One thing we can be sure of this, online, be it on blog or Twitter, each side will probably claim victory barring an absolute car crash by one of them.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lib dems rule out war...

Originally this week, I was going to go through the different manifestos from the three main parties and highlight lots of things they're saying, but I changed my mind and have just gone for snippets. This little snippet from the Lib Dems is priceless.
Support action by the international community to stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. We would follow a diplomatic route of active engagement, and are ready to back targeted sanctions, but we oppose military action against Iran and believe those calling for such action undermine the growing reform movement in Iran.
So what happens if the International Community agrees to military action? All very odd frankly, ruling out military action against a country in advance?

What happens if diplomacy fails and Iran bomb Israel?

Where did that death tax go again?

Labour has dropped the so-called "£20,000 death tax to pay for elderly care" on property owners right? Wrong. It may not be there as a specific flat fee anymore, but like a Gordon Brown budget you need to read between the lines. Chapter 6, Page 6 of the Labour manifesto states,
We also want to remove the fear that families will lose the family home in order to pay for care bills. So, from 2014, the National Care Service will cap the costs of residential care so that everyone’s homes and savings are protected from care charges after two years. We will pay for this through our decision to freeze Inheritance Tax Thresholds until 2014-15.
Please let me offer a translation for you.

We don't think it's right that the bastard capitalist marketeers that provide residential care should cost you your property because that means there is no slice for us left at the end. So we're going to "protect" your home for you which you're going to think is really nice, but what you don't realise is that we're going to sting you for Inheritance Tax instead. What? Your house is not worth enough to be liable for IHT? No little one, you may not think your house is covered by it now, but property prices are bound to go up over four years and we're freezing the thresholds.... remember? We'll get that £20,000 from you eventually, and we'll make you think we're doing you a favour in the meantime.
Here endeth the lesson for today.

Mandelson performs fastest U-turn in history!

14/04/2010 @ approx 08:30 "Don't compete with David Cameron on personal insults" - Peter Mandelson

14/04/2010 @ approx 08:45 David Cameron is "looking down his rather long toffee nose" - Peter Mandelson

Around 15 minutes... impressive!

A gaffe or a deliberate mea culpa?

So, it seems Gordon Brown has finally admitted that he cocked up and had a part to play in the great financial crisis of the "noughties". In an interview with ITV that is on tonight he says,
"[In 1997 the banks] all came to us and said, 'look, we don't want to be regulated, we want to be free of regulation'.

All the complaints I was getting from people was, 'look, you're regulating them too much'. The truth is that globally and nationally we should have been regulating them more.

So I've learnt from that. You don't listen to the industry when they say, 'this is good for us'. You've got to talk about the whole public interest."
Why the sudden departure and deviation from the earlier line though? Up until now he's blamed America, or, in his recent Today interview, said that he was criticised at the time for regulating them too much... what's changed?

Is this a gaffe or is it deliberate? Will it help or hinder Brown?

Could it be that someone has had a quiet word in his ear after perhaps some focus group testing and told him that a little more "mea culpa" may actually make him look like less of a arrogant arsehead? Or is it just the case that under pressure he forgets what he said before?

Brown also admits he cocked up on the 10p tax rate issue - for those that don't remember, that was when he taxed the poor in order to get a headline about cutting the basic rate of income tax by 2p - although I don't think he frames his admission of mistake in those terms.

It will be interesting to see if such admissions might have an impact - after all, rather than saying "vote for experience" he's now appealing to the voter with "I made the mess please let me fix it" - will it pay off?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quote of the Day

From the Digital bod at the BBC, Rory Cellan Jones, on the lessons to learn from the Bevaniteellie stories dominating the papers this morning.
"But I think the Conservatives will have learned something from Labour's launch. Don't expect to see Dizzy Thinks, Tory Bear or even Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome climbing onto the platform to big up David Cameron before he unveils his manifesto."
Damn straight you wouldn't. They couldn't afford me!

BBC says Labour will increase VAT?

Got to love it when they make mistakes like this one.

The cock-up is fixed now.

Hat Tip: An eagle-eyed blog reader.

And He looked at the light and saw that it was good!

Well we had retro Communist/Socialist imagery on the Labour Manifesto yesterday, so what did we get today from the Tories?

Coming soon to a hospital bed and hotel room near you?

The dialectic synthesis!

DNA rentention?

Just been reading through the text-heavy Tory manifesto. Under the section on DNA it says,
The indefinite retention of innocent people’s DNA is unacceptable, yet DNA data provides a useful tool for solving crimes.

We will legislate to make sure that our DNA database is used primarily to store information about those who are guilty of committing crimes rather than those who are innocent. We will collect the DNA of all existing prisoners, those under state supervision who have been convicted of an offence, and anyone convicted of a serious recordable offence.

We pushed the Government to end the permanent retention of innocent people’s DNA, and we will change the guidance to give people on the database who have been wrongly accused of a minor crime an automatic right to have their DNA withdrawn.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong on this, but that sounds essentially like permanent retention of data unless you ask for it to be removed; rather than the pro-active removal of innocent peoples' data..

Granted, the right to have your data removed if you're innocent, is sound, and completely different to the Labour approach which will keep it for six years whether you're guilty or not.

However, just because people will have the automatic right to have the data removed, it doesn't mean they'll exercise it, so won;t you have much the same situation as Labour without the sunset clause of six years?

Labour's VAT tactical failure

Has anyone noticed the really odd tactical failure Labour has made with its VAT argument? I mean, I can understand why they're arguing that the Tory figures don't add up unless they secretly plan to hike VAT (the Tory tax rise of choice historically), therefore leading to the conclusion that the Tories are going to hike VAT.

Putting aside the logical fallacies that always appear when politicians argue, I "get it". From a purely political point of view it's a simple, effective and potentially devastating line to take.

However, here comes the but, if you're going to go down the line of trying to drip the idea into the minds of the electorate that the Tories are going to increase VAT, why would you not be prepared, absolutely instinctively, without hesitation, to rule out rising VAT yourself when asked by the media?

For the past decade or so, Labour have, like it or not, been very effective tactically and strategically when it came to pushing the Tories into corners and maintaining their own position. Yet now they seem to have completely failed. Instead of ruling it out, we have strange responses such as "we've never raised VAT in the past".

Now, I know that strictly speaking they have raised VAT from 15% to 17.5%, having cut it briefly, but essentially they're in the same position as before, so they havn't really "raised it" as such. However, why rely on the same logical fallacy that what has happened in the past is evidence of what will happen in the future?

Did they really sit around a table and think that they could credibly hold a line that refused to rule out VAT increases whilst simultaneously arguing that the Tories planned to rise it even though the Tory position is actually identical to theirs?

As tactical failures go it's pretty epic isn't it? If Labour had just said "we will not raise VAT" then their attack on the Tories would hold and get repeated by the media quite willingly. By refusing to rule it out, they've basically ensured that the media will cut through the bullshit and not give their line the time of day (with the exception of the Mirror natch!)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Labour promises 16Meg Broadband for all!

I've been looking through the Labour manifesto and will be posting in some more detail later today or tomorrow, but one thing they have is their pledge on broadband.

They're guaranteeing
every household in the country a broadband service of at least two megabytes per second by 2012
Yes, that's right people, we're all going to get at least 16Meg broadband lines.

Not sure whether they've informed BT or anyone else of the work they'll need to increase the number of exchanges and relevant network infrastructure to achieve this of course.

Note: Labour have failed to understand the difference between "megabits" and "megabytes". 2 megabytes per second = 16 megabits per second. Fail.

Update: Great minds think and read alike it seems.

Fix the system not the speed to get into it!

This is going to be a quick and simple post. Let's take the pathetic politics out of the cancer debate and listen to what the experts like Macmillan say instead.

  1. Survivorship – The next Government must demonstrate a clear commitment to the cancer survivorship agenda over the next decade based on the principles of post-treatment care management and appropriate support to get people back to work.
  2. Equalities – The next Government must improve access to drug treatments for people with rarer cancers by reforming NICE.
  3. End of Life – The next Government should ensure that people with cancer nearing the end of their life have 24/7 access to community nursing.
It's time to fix the system, not introduce yet another target for entry into the broken system.

Further reading on Macmillan's campaign can be read here.

Lib Dems caught inflitrating Zac Goldsmith's campaign?

Anyone remember the loose-lipped Lib Dem activist Dan Falchikov who spouted off about a fake story he had created whilst sitting opposite Kevin Macguire on the train? Well it alleged he's been found out trying to infiltrate Zac Goldsmith's campaign.

Apparently, he volunteered to help in Zac Goldsmith's office and to deliver leaflets by using a false name of "John O’Grady". The problem came though after Conservative councillors who were copied in recognised the email address he was using. He then wrote back to the office claiming his offer of help had been "sent in error".


UKIP highlights multiple occupancy property problem?

Just a short post, but as I drive through Bedfordshire and buckinghamshire I keep seeing UKIP posters, unsually on the side of a house, and they have the slogan,
Every time I see it I just think "Blimey, it must be really cramped in there!" I never knew that we had such immense overcrowding in end of terraces and semi's.

Something must be done!

Where'd you go Chris?

I understand why Chris Grayling sort of disappeared off the campaign scene after his poorly chosen words about gay people staying at B&Bs, but isn't this taking the whole "disappearing act" a little far?

Note: The company InternetWorks list's Grayling as a client and used to be linked off the site - when it was up.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kicking the cancer football to an all time high/low?

This time last week I posted about cancer. For those who didn't read it the thrust was that cancer was being used as a political football by both parties as they tried to out-do each other and that it was totally unedifying and bordering on disgusting.

I wrote that because I have quite a strong relationship with cancer. My mother died in 1995 from breast cancer, my grandmother a few years later, my better-half has, during the last three months been having treatment for a rare form of cancer, and the surgery she had was exactly the same as the surgery her grandmother had six months previously.

For those with cancer, either living with it personally, or living with it through a loved one, it sucks. It's quite scary and very horrible. There are many things that can be done to improve the treatment and aftercare people have, but what is truly sickening is seeing politicians fall over themselves to see who can promise to save more lives.

Let me be blunt. It' s not politicians that will save the lives of people who have cancer, it's global medical research, doctors and surgeons. When politicians play the "we'll save more lives than the other lot" it's disgusting. Kicking about a disease like a football for political gain is mind boggling.

I was rather hopeful that the issue would be kicked into touch strategically because of its sensitive nature, but after reading this morning's Sunday Times my mind is boggling. It seems the Labour Party has been sending out mailshot postcards targeted specifically at those who are undergoing treatment for cancer and the cards say "Are the Tories a change you can afford?"

They even sent one of these postcards to a woman who has terminal cancer, who was, to say the least, shocked. It can't be particularly pleasant, whilst facing you're own mortality, to receive a postcard telling you that if you don't vote for Labour then you're going to die.

What is most astounding is that a Labour Party spokesman told the Sunday Times,
"These leaflets highlight the Conservative party’s actual policies on cancer treatment. Cancer is a terrible condition and sadly all too prevalent in our society, which is why some of the 250,000 people we sent this message to are likely to have suffered from it."
Firstly, they don't highlight anything about the Tory policy, because what they're highlighting is referral for initial treatment. People already suffering from cancer are already in the system, as I blogged last week, and the targets don't apply in the same way.

Second, and more importantly, is the fact that they're actually defending the decision to do this. It's bad enough that they're using cancer as a football in general, but to actually defend the decision to send cancer sufferers postcards with the subliminal message that a vote for the Tories is a vote for their own death? The mind boggle, it really does.

Note: I see Iain Dale has just blogged this too. You have to wonder how on earth this idea got through the dicussions about what to do in the campaign. Did no one stop and think? Where was John Heppell, the Labour whip who is standing down to look after his wife who is suffering from breast cancer?

Look, I understand that politicians will try to campaign on issues, it's bad enough they do it with cancer anyway, but to go to this depth? Where was the quality control? Dirty campaign? This isn't just dirty, it's rolling in shit and mud type stuff.

It's thouroughly depressing stuff and this is just week two. What else is coming?

Update II: People wondering how they managed to target these people, it was done by using anonymous data mashup from Experian to work out roughly where someone with cancer lives. They hold anonymous hospital data with postcodes and medical diagnosis. Think of it like a shotgun being targeted at a door but the pellets spread out and hit many targets in a specific area.

However, saying this, one of the people that received the mailshot did so whilst her 50 neighbours sharing the postcode did not. So perhaps from a data point of view there is slightly more to this than meets the eye.

Friday, April 09, 2010

I'm voting for the Hate Party... what about you?

In the interests of balance there is also the Love Party but only evil weirdos vote for them!

Poor Billy had no choice dammit!

KKK condemns Westboro Baptists?

Surreal one for Friday afternoon.

It seems the Ku Klux Klan (white supremacists) have a statement on their website where they're distancing themselves from the Westboro Baptist Church (infamous anti-homosexual loons) and "absolutely repudiate their activities".

The mind boggles it really does.

Non-partisan comment about coffin dodgers

So, Labour PPC Stuart MacLennan has been sacked for making offensive comments on Twitter before he was a PPC. These included a tongue-in-cheek comment about how fair trade bananas didn't taste very nice; some religious sectarian Rangers/Celtic football stuff; references to chavs and old people as "coffin dodgers", oh yes and he said cunt too.

There's been outrage all round of course. We're in an election campaign. Tories screaming about how horribly offensive it is all is, and Labour bloggers quick to say he must resign because it's horribly offensive and terribly damaging. This is the danger of Twitter of course and the sad thing about politics.

Honestly though, talk about a huge mountain out of a very small molehill.

Let's put a little perspective on this. How many PPCs, before becoming PPCs do you think have been in a pub and said offensive things? How many current MPs and potential Prime Ministers have had "ordinary University lives" before politics that may have included having a night out on the town with Charlie? Hmmmm?

Anyone who claims they haven't done something in the past that would look horrible on the front page of the Sun is liar.

Update: I think Orwell's word should be updated to, "If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.. unless there's an election on in which case you're fired"

So You Want to be A Politician?

Just in time for the election, there is a new book out called "So You Want to be A Politician?" which has been edited by "TV's Shane Greer". One of the chapter has been written by yours truly, and is all about how to deal with bloggers and not make a tit of yourself.

Ironically one of the golden rules is also how not to make a twat of yourself on Twitter, which I guess a certain Labour PCC called Stuart MacLennan would probably nod at profusely if he read it. Anyhow, here's the general blurb for the book,
This accessible, practical guide offers common sense advice for almost any scenario, covering the basics, such as personal presentation, how to dress and how to present yourself on television and radio, to fundraising, polling, making the best use of modern media and handling difficult situations (without making a fool of yourself).

Featuring contributions and advice from some of the leading names in contemporary British campaigning, How to Be A Politician is an essential resource that some of today's serving politicians could make good use of.
You can buy it on Amazon and make me a few pennies towards an Amazon voucher in the process... if you really want too (you know you do! <- subtle hint to family).

Sometimes you train to miss

Having read the story on the BBC about the "mosques" on a firing range, and the inevitable "outrage" that has occured from it I would like to play a little thought game. Imagine if the story went thus,
A Police force has agreed to take down tactical targets featuring women hostages at a firing range. A womens rights group had demanded the removal of the targets at the range and accused the Police of reinforcing negative perceptions of women as weak.

A Police spokesman added: "It was never our intention for these generic targets to offend. They were only used to provide scenarios similar to the environments in which trained officers will have to operate.
Now you might think I'm being facetious here but I think the point is rather clear. What I find most astounding with the original story though is that no one seems to have pointed out that things on firing ranges don't only exist to shoot at, but also exist to be missed.

How Labour are exploiting the ignorance of the MSM

For just over four years now I've been reading Hansard every day and trawling through the written questions submitted across Government. Last year I was rather humbled when the Labour MP Tom Harris noted of me that,
His tireless efforts to scan lists of EDMs and parliamentary written answers put many mainstream journalists to shame and he regularly comes up with some political nuggets. Wish he was on our side...
Now I bring up Tom's comment not to blow my own proverbial but rather to back up my credibility on the point I wish to make about the claim from Gordon Brown, Liam Byrne, Alistair Darling etc that the Tories "efficiency savings" have been drawn up on the "back of an envelope". The charge is, quite simply, bollocks.

During all the time that I've been reading through Hansard there's been a constant and recurring theme of questioning from Tory MPs such as Oliver Heald, Mark Hoban, Phillip Hammond and Francis Maude. These themes have included,

  • Departmental spending on consultants
  • Breakdown of pay grades to staff ratio in departments and executive agencies
  • Detailed spending costs on agency and contracted staff
  • Breakdown of different classes of travel by departments and executive agencies
  • Details of overnight hotel visits set against the number of night spent in hotels.
  • Spending on car and fuel costs by the Government Dispatch Service
  • Staff churn rates and vacant posts
  • Spending on empty buildings owned by departments, agencies and quangos
  • Operational costs of IT infrastructure
  • Delayed IT projects and ongoing costs
  • Operating and ongoing costs of negotiated contracts such as PFI, IT and back office service provision
  • Yearly spending on furniture in department and executive agencies
  • Breakdown in the cost of redecorating office with pretty new colours
  • Spending on artwork for Government buildings
  • Spending on hospitality and corporate event hosting across Whitehall and quangos
As the answers to these questions have been given - sometimes with the "it will cost too much to tell you" line - they've been followed up relentlessly with tweaks and rewordings clearly designed to gain a picture of what is happening in areas of Government spending that goes further than the headline budget figures of total operating costs.

In some cases the answers have produced eye-watering figures 10 digits long, in others they have produced what would be considered minuscule amounts when set against something like the deficit. The crucial thing is that they all add up however small or large.

Essentially what I'm saying is this. Yes, we're in an election campaign so we hear statement, then rebuttal, then a rebuttal of the rebuttal ad infinitum, but the attack that the Tories are working things on out on the "back of an envelope" is patently wrong and the public records of the daily happenings in Parliament proves it.

If the mainstream media put in the effort to read Hansard each day they'd realise that the savings being proposed are drawn from figures derived after at least four years of repeated questioning and research that's delved under the bonnet of the big headline budget numbers.

The "back of an envelope" line is nothing more than a sound bite designed to exploit the ignorance of a mainstream media that no longer reports the details of everyday Parliamentary business.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Stephen Timms - technology idiot

Stephen Timms, one of the men behind the Digital Economy Bill said the following in a letter.

Yes that's right, he thinks the IP in "IP Address" stands for "Intellectual Property". See the full letter here.

*face palm*

They really get teh Interweb huh?

Hat Tip: Comment in below post from Unixman, orginal source from meeb.

Brown's fantasy land online system

This morning, Gordon Brown, when interviewed on the Today programme started to gibber on about how, by removing call centres and taking services online it would save lots of money. He gave the example of sending a letter costing tens of pounds; to making a phone call costing pounds; to moving the service online costing pennies.

Brown is however, to paraphrase Peter Mandelson, "peddling a deception". You see, whilst you might save lots of money by moving services online eventually, you have to get them there first. Brown's efficiency savings in this case can't happen until massive capital spending on a massive IT project.

This is part of Brown's ludicrous proposal to give us all a personal webpage for accessing Government services within a year. Yes, that's right, within a year it's all going to be online.

It's not costed yet, but it's going to take a year and it's going to save us all billions.

Would that be billions from the £12.4bn a year we spend on IT projects? Is it really likely that it will be achieved in a year when two years ago it was revealed that 87% of all Government IT projects were in jeopardy of delay or overspend?

Can we realistic believe that all the services will move online when there remain IT projects that have run in pilot for 16 years at a cost of billions? Is it credible that money will be saved when so many projects have doubled in cost or in some cases been designed to save money and then not delivered?

Let me blunt. Brown is talking immense bollocks if he thinks it is credible that he will save money by magically creating an online Government gateway for each of us in a year. It is pie in the sky nonsense, and a look at the track record of Government tells you all you need to know.

NOTE: It's also worth remembering that Jack Straw has even admitted that the Government gets sucked in by computer conslutants promising the mooon on a stick.

Ladbrokes win "Stop Being Silly" Award

August is silly season right? Well so is the time when an election campaign is on. Ladbrokes have just put out a press release saying they're now offering 500/1 odds on Sir Michael Caine becoming the next leader of the Conservative Party after his appearance at a Tory press conference.

Labour MP uses guns for leaflet as violent crime soars

Just the other day I was telling my little boy that you should never point guns, even toy ones, at people. So I was surprised when I saw this Labour leaflet that Nick Raynsford MP has put out with the slogan "We're gunning for Woolwich".

Even more worrying is the fact that the wards of Woolwich have seen a rocketing in violent crime of between 18% and 40% in the month the leaflet has been put out.

Labour may be gunning for Woolwich, but Woolwich is doing pretty good at gunning for itself - one local Labour councillor even called Woolwich the "murder capital of Greenwich" recently. Not surprising seeing as even teenagers have been gunned down in the area.

Now that's political judgement!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Internet Conspiracy - the truth!

To help you get away from the election, learn the truth!

Lambrini Ladies - give me strength!

Yesterday, Paul Waugh wrote on his blog about the silly alliteration tricks that come up in election campaigns such as Worcester Woman, Mondeo Man and now Morrison's Mums. Well there is another, Lambrini Ladies (no joke).

Apparently it comes from a report called "Lambrini Lady – the Lost Political Generation" produced by Steven Fielding - Nottingham University’s Professor of Political History and Director of the Centre for British Politics, School of Politics and International Relations. They are,
Young, female and feisty, Lambrini Lady, represents the millions of 18-34-year-old British women who have views but don't vote.... But despite their reluctance to take to the polls, these women are far from ignorant about policy. Busy raising pre-school or school-aged children, their concerns centre on family, health, crime - especially sentencing - and education.
It does not say that they drink cheap shitty weak sparkling wine though.

Will Straw's epic silliness

Election campaigns really do bring out some of the funniest and sanctimonious nonsense don't they? Take Jack Straw's son Will from Left Foot Forward. He's just commented on Twitter saying,
What kind of an example is David Cameron setting by cycling without a helmet?
Now me, I think it sets the same sort of example as this,

OMFG he's only holding on with one hand too! Think of the children!