Saturday, 30 May 2009

Britain's Got WHAT?

I promise you, I would not have watched had it not been for the idle girls being home for half term, but I'm afraid to say I did watch it, in all it's compelling awfulness.

I suppose that a small bit of me hoped that a show called Britain's Got Talent might just uncover our next Ronnie Barker, John Betjeman, Bryn Terfel, Ray Davies, Gerald Scarfe, David Gilmour or David Gower.

I was obviously misled by the title.
I'll tell you what Britain's got - what it deserves. But I hope the last act, a saxophonist with a soulful way of playing, gets the moolah. He held the last note for a good minute.
Update later for those without access to this circus of philistines.
UPDATE: Thousands of William Hill employees called in and averted what would have sunk the company, had Susan Boyle won. She's the one with the voice of a reasonable music hall understudy, and the body of a Trabant. A group of well-drilled modern dancers scooped the pot. As variety acts go, they at least provided variety. My Saxophonist made the podium. Ant (coulda been Dec) said that the evening was unforgettable. Try me tomorrow on that one.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Friday Climate Update

Just because I don't write about it very often, I don't want readers to get any ideas about me being an adherent to the new religion of Man Made Global Warming.

Nosiree. I am sceptic through and through, and I can spot a canard when it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and adds significantly to my taxes like a duck. (?)

The excellent Englishman runs a story today about a moonbat in Potsdam who, tired of arsing about with sea-level-rise warnings of only a couple of feet, has upped the ante to an impressive 80 metres. Yes, you heard that right, 80 metres. Better read the whole story to get the full dollop of gloom. Oh, and buy a snorkel and flippers while you're at it.

At times like this, a sharp pin is needed to puncture the pomposity and ridicule the high priests of this lunacy. Who better than Mark Steyn? It just so happens that the Request of the Week on his blog turns up an amusing column from 2006, when Al Gore was pushing Tom Hanks and Kate Gymslip aside as he stormed towards Oscar glory with that great movie of his:

Here's an inconvenient truth for "An Inconvenient Truth": Remember what they used to call "climate change"? "Global warming." And what did they call it before that? "Global cooling." That was the big worry in the '70s: the forthcoming ice age. Back then, Lowell Ponte had a huge best seller called The Cooling: Has the new ice age already begun? Can we survive?

The answer to the first question was: Yes, it had begun. From 1940 to 1970, there was very slight global cooling. That's why the doom-mongers decided the big bucks were in the new-ice-age blockbusters.

And yet, amazingly, we've survived. Why? Because in 1970 the planet stopped its very slight global cooling and began to undergo very slight global warming. So in the '80s, the doom-mongers cast off their thermal underwear, climbed into the leopardskin thongs, slathered themselves in sun cream and wired their publishers to change all references to "cooling" to "warming" for the paperback edition. That's why, if you notice, the global-warming crowd begin their scare statistics with "since 1970," an unlikely Year Zero which would not otherwise merit the significance the eco-crowd invest in it.

But then in 1998 the planet stopped its very slight global warming and began to resume very slight global cooling. And this time the doom-mongers said, "Look, do we really want to rewrite the bumper stickers every 30 years? Let's just call it 'climate change.' That pretty much covers it."

Why did the Earth cool between 1940 and 1970?
Beats me. Hitler? Hiroshima? Maybe we need to nuke someone every couple of decades.

I know, I know, Steyn's not a scientist, and neither am I. But it annoys the hell out of me when the Climate Ayatollahs and their acolytes pretend that there is no longer any serious challenge to the 'consensus view' and that Bjorn Lomborg isn't really a human being.

Beautiful day in Sussex today. Quite warm, too. Oops.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Nature Notes

This wasn't in the brochure.
There are limits to what a mahout can do to control his elephant.
That fat bird in pink appears to be getting much more thrill out of it all than the elephant below her.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Windy City

Either a very small man has escaped from the circus and found himself on the Renfrewshire moors near Glasgow, or these beasts are even bigger than I thought.

This is not photoshopped. Those chaps over at The First Post always do a kosher snap for Pic of the Day.

I agree that the Renfrewshire Moors are not exactly paradise, but they are on the doorstep of Glasgow, and I would have thought that the last thing you want to be encircled by is a turbine city of this magnitude.

Perhaps I'd think differently if the combined kilowattage of these erections could heat and light the city below them, but they can barely keep a dozen deep fat fryers going.

Thursday, 21 May 2009


You remember Vol I, I take it (right): if it wasn't ghost written, I'm Cicely Saunders (no, I hadn't a clue either).
McBust presides over an economy as desperate and as Donald Duck-ed as any since 1931; Winston spent less beating the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe. I simply don't believe he had the time or the inclination to write this drivel. He was put up to it by his sweaty coterie of Spads who seem to think that associating their man with 'courage' - indeed, claiming he is fascinated by it - will somehow make us think that he's not the big feartie we all really know he is.
But he has ploughed on regardless and given us Vol II (left). I think he found more in common with these brave types. Who do you think we'll find in Vol III?

On another subject - I am preparing a boxfull of rotting vegetables and useless old golfballs to throw at the telly tonight when Question Time is on (NB - early, at 9pm). Leading for the Government is that self-regarding diva, Ben Dover-Bradshaw; the calm, rich-by-his-own-devices Wm Hague represents the Blues. St Vincent of Cable represents the other chaps.
If you want 'courage' ("we do, Idle, we do!") the plucky and very splendid Marta Andreasen, she who refused to sign off on the Olympian troughing, eye-watering fraud, and general Kinnockisms of the EU Parliament, is there for UKIP (what a coup getting her - way to go, Farage).
But then ..... that utterly appalling, idiotic and ignorant self-publicist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Of all the laymen that they could have booked to represent the unaligned punter, and they pick her. I'll be needing a lot more rotting veg........

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

It's Coz He Is Black

Mark Steyn makes the point below that, notwithstanding Conrad Black's arrogant assumptions that his listed company should pay for the odd birthday party for his wife, and the odd private jet trip to Bora Bora, his wrongdoing pales into insignificance compared to the corporate malfeasance that has come to light in the banks.

Six and a half years for Black was ludicrous. I like him, despite his faults; give me a brave centre-right media baron with a passion for history any day over the scheming republican Dirty Digger or the politically ambivalent tax dodging Barclay Bros.

They should let him out immediately. They have ruined him, and his company, which was run into the ground after the suspension of his management. Given that he was brought to court for 'theft' from his shareholders, it is ironic that his removal resulted in the shareholders' almost total loss.

A long-shot appeal Mark Steyn

My old boss Conrad Black is currently serving a six-and-a-half year sentence in Coleman, Florida for a "crime" that looks like chump change next to almost anything you've read on the business pages since last September. Meanwhile, the price of the Justice Department's pursuit of Conrad has been the destruction of one of the few American corporations that knew how to run a newspaper.
During his trial, I came to the conclusion that the federal justice system was a kind of capricious steamroller and that, once it had determined to flatten him, he'd be better off saving his gazillions in legal fees and climbing under the tarp in the bed of my truck and letting me drive him over the border to Quebec and thence by fishing boat to a remote landing strip on Miquelon where a waiting plane could spirit him somewhere beyond the reach of the US Attorney. Stuff and nonsense, said Conrad. He was not a fugitive but an innocent man, and eventually he would be vindicated by this great republic.
Amazingly, he seems to have inched a smidgeonette closer to that today: '
US Supreme Court To Review Conrad Black's Conviction'.
Almost every "expert" thought this was a pathetic if expensive last roll of the dice that would come up empty, so congratulations are in order. As to the alternative options, in the Spectator, Taki provides this glimpse behind the curtain:
Brian Mulroney, the ex-prime minister of Canada, and Tony Blair both went to see W in order to plead Conrad Black’s case during the closing days of the Bush presidency. The two men went separately, and neither asked for a Black pardon. They were after a commutation of Lord Black’s outrageous and unfair sentence of six years in a tough prison. ‘I don’t pardon well-connected folk,’ was the answer, which sounds good, just like weapons of mass destruction did...
I'm not an ex-Prime Minister or especially well-connected, but I wrote to the White House on Conrad's behalf and I regret that President Bush chose to frame the issue in terms that having nothing to do either with the principles of justice or the merits of the case.

Monday, 18 May 2009

How to Spot if Anything Has Changed

Gorbals Mick will speak to the nation today, from the Speaker's chair in the Commons. He will read from a typed statement, and his delivery will be stumbling and unclear, for he reads less well than the idle daughters did at 10 years old.
But I'm not giving him a hard time because of his education; the hope (expectation?) was that, when voted Speaker, he would show that his knowledge of and deep respect for Parliament's traditions would make him a good Speaker nonetheless.
Well, we know differently now. He has been partisan, weak, bullying and wrong-headed. Furthermore, he is a coward, inviting his ludicrous purple-haired overpromoted typist of a Serjeant-at-Arms to take the flak for the Damien Green scandal, and now taking no responsibility for the stupidity and collusion of the Fees Office, which reports to him. Finally, given his wife's taxi bills and his family's use of his official airmiles, he is clearly not above the sorry mess of misuse of public funds himself.
He will propose, no doubt, that he leave his post at the next general election. And he will be offered ennoblement and a seat in the House of Lords. Why? Because all previous Speakers have. In other words, this becomes an entitlement, just like having Douglas Hogg's dovecote cleaned at public expense, or one's outside lavatory being double-glazed with mock leaded windows (that'll be you, Prescott).
And these 'entitlements' are exactly what Joe Public has rumbled as being completely unacceptable. Joe and his wife expect justification for expenses, pensions, and peerages.
What, exactly, might Michael Martin offer the Lords? Has he any knowledge, ability, or experience to impart? I suggest not. He never held ministerial office, he never introduced thoughtful or worthwhile legislation, he is not known to have shown individual talent at all. The only noteworthy thing about him is that he became Speaker of the House of Commons. He is deemed to be the worst Speaker of modern times, and the first for 300 years to face a vote of no confidence.
There is, in short, no possible justification for raising him to the peerage. To do so would be to treat the electorate with contempt. "Change" is the watchword now, and the Speaker will doubtless use the word several times in his statement today. But if he ends up ennobled, we'll know that nothing, really, has changed at all.
UPDATE 12 noon: The Prime Minister's spokesman: "The Prime Minister and the government will support the will of the House." Asked if the Prime Minister still thought the Speaker did a "good job", as he has previously stated, the spokesman said: "I have set out the Prime Minister's position on the Speaker." CURTAINS
UPDATE 2 1645: An awful statement and an embarrassing twenty minutes in the Commons. Read Nick Drew's parody of the Laughing Policeman in the comments thread.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Dan Dan the Media Man

Chapter 4 - in which our hero, overcoming the fawning attention of a Fox interviewer, talks more sense.

Perhaps Dan can take the safe seat shortly to be vacated by Andrew MacKay. His work in Brussels is done.

Hat tip: Alice Cook

Friday, 15 May 2009

Bonnie & Clyde

May they meet the same fate.

Doubtless this will be the topic du jour on the 'sphere, but idle has matters of the turf to attend to.

And matters of Grand Vin to attend to as well. Proper idle behaviour.

Anyway, this is a caption competition. What is the lovely Yvette saying to the svelte Ed?

Usual prizes.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Not As Clever As We Think

Idle spent his afternoon in the great city yesterday, being entertained by one of the world's largest fund managers.

They started us off with an amusing talk by a fellow called Montier who is a behavioural scientist and makes a living in the city by forecasting index movements according to his knowledge of herd activity, overconfidence etc.

Some of his examples were interesting. Here are some easy questions; see how you do when the answers come up later. DON'T READ THE COMMENTS UNTIL YOU HAVE ANSWERED THEM.

1. Linda is 31, single, outspoken and very bright.
She read philosophy at university.
As a student she was deeply concerned with issues surrounding equality and discrimination.
Is it more likely that Linda:
a) Works in a bank
b) Works in a bank and is active in the feminist movement

2. A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

3. If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?

4. In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half the lake?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Monday, 11 May 2009

Earning One's Stipend

There was a time when the poet laureate was paid a stipend of a pipe of port (48 cases) and required to bash out a stanza for royal hatches, matches and dispatches; also for military victories and matters of great public interest.

Nowadays, poets laureate are not donnish port-drinkers, but modern, happening, right-on types. Probably drink Mexican beer with a piece of lime stuffed in the neck of the bottle. Or at least that's what I imagined Andrew Motion doing, despite being an Oxford chap. So they get bunged £5750 instead. Motion was a pretty hopeless poet laureate, though I did think his "Regime Change" read quite well, notwithstanding the lefty angle.

Now we have Carol Ann Duffy, who I fear would have added lemon to the splendid Taylor or Fonseca port that came with the job. Not the shy or retiring type, Carol Ann. She described her appointment as "a historic day for women". Charles Moore reports that "she says she wants 300 years of female poet laureates to balance the past three centuries of males".

Oh dear. I think she may be missing the point. Good poetry is what we want, not affirmative action. Moore continues:

She has lots of ideas about ‘the vocation of poetry’, and wants to use the laureateship to get her fellow poets into schools, preach about how homosexuality (she is a lesbian) is ‘a lovely, ordinary thing’ etc. I fear that the post may suffer from what economists call ‘producer capture’. Miss Duffy says that in her conversations with ministers and with Buckingham Palace, ‘I was told there was no expectation that I would write royal poetry.’

I would have thought that our Parliament sinking to its nadir of dishonour would be a good time for the old wordsmith to rustle up a cheery sonnet. Betjeman would have known what to do.

Luckily, we have our own Betjeman of the Blog, a modern Wikipling, if you like: Nick Drew, you cheer us up! for his latest offering. He'd get a bottle of Taylor 83 opened for him in this house were he ever to visit it. And not a sniff of lemon.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Idle's Sunday Sermon

Let He Who is Without Sin Cast the First Stone (John, ch 8 v 7)

Brown hasn't fired the cheating cow who claimed the dry rot treatment on her holiday home, 110 miles from both Westminster AND her constituency.

But we were hardly expecting him to, were we? After all Jacqui Smith remains not just a government minister, but Home Secretary. Brown doesn't believe in sacking people, as he thinks it weakens him. (No, you great greasy numpty, not sacking them makes you look weak!)

And Cameron has not, so far, removed the whip from James Gray, who gets all of us to pay for his Remembrance Day wreaths, while he gets the kudos of placing them in front of his local dignitaries. Worse still he whined that he had "got away with it in the past" when the fees office refused to pay the last claim. Where does this leave Cameron? I notice Liam Fox was warning folk not to overreact about this expenses thing on the telly this morning.

Truly, we appear to be in a situation where no one will cast a stone because they are all, to a man, up to their oxters in it.

I fear that, because they are ALL at it, to some extent if not to the limit, that no-one will hang for this. Safety in numbers and all that; if there was only one of them, HE'D have a problem, but because there are 650 of the cheating swine, plus selected noble lords, WE'VE got a problem.


Friday, 8 May 2009

The Expenses Row Made Easy

1. 1992-97 John Major's government obtains a reputation for 'sleaze'. This largely rests on Aitken's perjury (proven), Hamilton's cash-for-questions (unproven) and David Mellor's sexual shenanigans.

2. May 1997 Blair: "We must be whiter than white"

3. October 1997: Blair meets Bernie Ecclestone. All pretence at honesty and integrity ends.

4. 2001: Blair is uneasy about having his MPs scrutinised. Sacks Elizabeth Filkin, Commons Satandards Commissioner.

5. 2001-2009: Most MPs abuse the system big time. Most MPs play the property market for personal gain with taxpayer assistance.

6. Today. Harriet Harman: “I know it looks bad, I know people are angry about it”.....

...... “ but in our system we do not have the level of corruption that remains in many other systems"

PHEW. That's alright then.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Play Up, Play Up!

There's a breathless hush in the Close tonight -
Ten to make and the match to win -
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.

Sir Henry Newbolt Vitaï Lampada (extract)
It's a bit bloody early in the season to be heading off to Lord's - I've not even taken delivery of the rosé yet, but needs must when the devil rides.
The reason for this early start is that the Twenty20 World Cup has to be fitted in next month. Twenty20 is a vulgar and idiotic form of the game invented by greedy Indian businessmen and television executives. The Indian Premier League, in its second year, has had to be transferred to South Africa because of the behaviour of murderous gangsters and lunatics in Bombay and Lahore last winter. It is making cricketers very rich, but peversely less good at cricket. A better name for them is the Dumbslog Millionaires. When they have finished playing this form of baseball, they all move to England for the World Cup; if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, reckoned the international cricket honchos. Even Lord's is hosting some games. Terrible, terrible. The only reason I'll be attending them is to entertain my godsons, you understand.
Anyway, that's why we are starting a proper test match today with the Windies, who unaccountably beat us this winter in the Caribbean. Look out for me on the telly. I might be sinking a glass with Farqs and Alceste of this manor. I promise not to run onto the pitch; only people who have never read Sir Henry Newbolt do that sort of thing.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Heroic Woman

I hope you know about Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Idle has been a big fan for ages and swooned when meeting her last autumn. This brave and thoughtful woman has so many fatwas against her, she can barely breathe. She talks more sense about Islam within Western Europe than anyone. She's one of very few who know what they are talking about and can do so without be branded a racist.

In 2006, I had a debate with Tariq Ramadan, the author of Western Muslims and the future of Islam. In the hypothetical event of a war between Egypt and Switzerland, for which community would he be prepared to die, I asked him.
Mr Ramadan has dual citizenship. He's an Egyptian by birth and a Swiss by naturalisation. His response was one of rage on different levels. Above all I think he was outraged that one should ask such a question. He refused to answer.
Mr Ramadan, like many other Muslims, may have two or more citizenships. From all that he expresses both in person and on paper, it is clear that his loyalty, above all, is to Islam. I do not doubt that he would die for Islam, like most Muslims, and that's his prerogative. But what European countries have done is give citizenship to individuals who feel no obligation to share in their societies for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer and in the event of a catastrophe, sacrifice themselves.

Full article at The First Post.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Today Midhurst, Tomorrow the World!

I often thought that Iain Dale followed leads from the idle blog, and now I know.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Thirty Years On

Mrs Thatcher privatised British Telecom, British Airways, British Leyland. But we still have a nationalised British political culture - the reflexive gripe that, if something's wrong with your local hospital or your local school, it ought to be fixed by some secretary of state in a Whitehall department. It never will be. But the way to get some dynamism and creativity into the system is to denationalise the problems, and make them local issues to be solved locally, in a thousand different ways. That's even more important in the present circumstances. As Mrs Thatcher recognised, the British are an inventive people. Unfortunately, though she freed them to apply that inventiveness to their economic endeavors, they are increasingly prevented from applying it to any other aspect of life. And which of today's leaders would ever trust them as Thatcher did?

Mark Steyn, The Unfinished Revolution