Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Just Plain Wrong

Just how stupid, sad and sick do you have to be to go to a demonstration with a poster like the one being held by the imbecilic man above?

Readers of this blog know only too well that I have an extremely low overall opinion of Cameron, but I do concede that he has his good points. One of them is that he empathises with the disabled in a way that no previous Tory leader (or any Prime Minister, probably ever) has done. His behaviour, and that of his family, over the life and death of his disabled son was exemplary. He cares, and is thoughtful. Though wrong-headed, his ring-fencing of the NHS budget in real terms for the term of this Parliament is a profound statement.

And if anyone thinks that Cameron is motivated by his OWN tax rate, they would be mistaken. The Tories are traditionally a lower-tax party than the alternatives, but that is the product of a Jeffersonian belief that good government is synonymous with an economy that is dominated by the private sector rather than the state. Cameron has, I believe, caved in to the illogical and spiteful left by reducing the top rate of tax by only 5p in the pound, when of course he should have dismantled the Brown time-bomb on Day 1, telling the country in no uncertain terms that it was bad for job creation, bad for tax revenues, and bad for free enterprise (and while he was about it, raising the tax threshold to £10,000 and taking millions of people out of tax altogether). The porridge-brained idiot with his placard could reflect on this, were he capable of lucid thought.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Typical of the Breed

I am assured this is for real. Courtesy of those competent fund managers at Artemis:

“Last year was a big one for me. I had my gastric band fitted, and took the opportunity to reassess my life. I read works by the great thinkers – Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, Lenin, Malcolm X, Bono, Will Hutton, Hitler – and revised fundamentally my whole philosophy. This year I will be voting LibDem in the local elections.”
– A member of the ‘online community’, 23 January 2013.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Of Little Importance

Is it just me, or might this have justified 30 seconds on the national news over the weekend? I can quite understand that the telly news was more interested in Adam Afriyie or Andy Murray or Harry's todger or the baby with its dummy gaffer-taped into its gob, but even the Today programme this morning at sparrows had nothing to say about it. I'm gobsmacked.

Torygraph Blog, this afternoon:

Is Iran's mystery nuclear explosion too good to be true?

Fordow Nuclear site, Iran
Fordow Nuclear site, Iran

What are we to make about reports from Israel that Iran's top secret Fordow nuclear facility has been hit by a massive underground explosion that has caused severe damage to the uranium enrichment programme and trapped 240 workers inside?
Claims that the explosion happened last Monday - just as Israelis were digesting the results of the general election – appeared on the Right-wing news website WND last Friday. But three days later the normally garrulous Israelis have gone strangely quiet, while there has likewise been no official comment from Iran.
The Fordow facility is, of course, a vital part of Iran's nuclear weapons programme. Constructed some 300 feet under a mountain, the complex is immune from attack by even the most sophisticated bunker buster bombs. And it is here that Iran is undertaking some of its most sensitive nuclear research, where an estimated 2,700 centrifuges are enriching uranium to 20 percent – just short of the level required to build a nuclear warhead.
It could be that the Iranians have deliberately leaked news of the explosion to prevent officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency from making one of their routine inspections. On the other hand the Israelis, who have never officially admitted responsibility for assassinating a number of Iranian nuclear scientists, may think it prudent to keep quiet about any involvement they might have had in the explosion for fear of provoking retaliation from Tehran.
Either way, for those of us who would prefer the global crisis over Iran's nuclear programme to be resolved without recourse to military action, the prospect of the Fordow complex being rendered inoperable just sounds too good to be true.

Con Coughlin

Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's Defence Editor and a world-renowned expert on global security and terrorism issues. He is the author of several critically acclaimed books. His new book, Khomeini's Ghost, is published by Macmillan. He appears regularly on radio and television in Britain and America.

Let Them Dig Ditches

 HS2 train
Oh dear. I had been so confident back in June when I blogged that support for the Great Whitle Elephant Line was draining from the Treasury and the Cabinet. The Spectator is certainly the best weekly newspaper (NEVER to be called a 'magazine') in the English language, as its devotees know (and if you are not a subscriber or reader, you really ought to be). Its Political Editor, James Forsyth, is extraordinarily well-informed, as well as being of sound judgement. It normally gets these things bang on.

So it is a surprise as well as a disappointment to discover that the White Elephant fanciers have won the day, and the bottomless pit will be dug, from here to Brum and onward to Leeds and Manchester. As infrastructure projects go, it is a big'un. Bigger than the new airport we obviously need, which would be of so much more benefit than a superfast railway line taking over from a merely fast one.

There are plenty in the Cabinet who are wedded to the idea that public spending is a good in itself. They are wrong, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t hold sway. I accept the Keynesian principle that government can, and should, pick up the reins of the economy during a recession, in order to soften the impact. The problem here is that the project is not so much a painkiller prescribed for a single recession (or even a three- or four-year depression), but a huge weight chained to the ankle of the taxpayer for at least TWENTY YEARS.

Idle has run some numbers, so you don’t have to. The total cost is the equivalent of Exchequer income from £136bn (in today’s money) of corporate profitability, taxed at 25%. This has to be corporate activity which would not otherwise have taken place in this country, had it not been for HS2. Or, looked at from the employment perspective, it is the equivalent of 283,000 people digging ditches and building bridges instead of drawing their jobseekers’ allowance of £112 a week, for twenty years.

Remember, the viability of the line depends upon punters paying £80 for a one-way ticket to get to Birmingham (again, today’s money). This is for people on expenses, in other words, mostly service sector professionals and government employees (will there be a special BBC carriage for all those middle-managers whizzing between Broadcasting House and Salford Quays?)

I am all in favour of addressing the geographic imbalance of the economy, but I can think of a dozen things that would do more good than this. I think the Cabinet has gone ahead on the basis of jobs. But we can all see the flaw in this; who will work for less – Ron from Aylesbury, or Dimitar from Plovdiv? Kev from Doncaster, or Gheorghe from Bucharest? Given the state of the emerald isle, perhaps they will all be trumped by the O’Reilly clan from Wicklow.

This is a ditchdiggers charter. It has little or nothing to do with a credible business plan.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Expect a Big Improvement in Dave

Lynton Crosby is in London working for Dave now, and was saying his g’days to the political hacks last night. He hasn’t arrived a moment too soon. This bit of Ben Brogan’s piece struck me as being exactly right (my bold):

He argued in favour of applying strict tests to any issue that a party leader might want to raise with the voters: is it genuinely salient? Europe is, gay marriage not so much. Is it personally relevant to the voters? Tax is, Lords reform isn't. Is it capable of political differentiation with your opponent? After yesterday, Europe certainly is. We can expect that rigour to be applied to the choices Mr Cameron makes between now and polling day. But his central point was on what David Cameron's strategy should be. After reminding us that strategy is something you do but don't talk about, he gave us a hint – with a list: deficit cut by a quarter, 850,000 private sector jobs created, interest rates at record lows, cap on benefits, immigration controls, free schools, fuel duty cut, state pension increased, income tax cuts for low paid. His point was that it will be the Government's record that will make the most compelling case with the voters. As for the press – "friend and foe" – and the BBC – "socially biased, run by a socially progressive, out of touch, narrow elite" – there was no point raging, he said. Effort will instead focus on promoting and preaching the record.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Oh Happy Day

If one accepts (and I’m afraid one has to) that Cameron, having buggered up the last election, couldn’t hold a referendum during this 5-year Coalition Government, his speech today and its commitment to a manifesto pledge for an In/Out vote in 2017 is as good as one could possibly have hoped for, for all sorts of reasons.
First, he now has the priceless First Mover Status on a referendum. This will help the Conservatives enormously in the next general election.
Secondly, it marginalises the LibDems, who deserve no other fate, being unutterable charlatans and rank opportunists.
Third, it should eradicate the UKIP vote in Labour/Tory marginals. There can be no justification for them handing Labour a seat that would otherwise be Conservative.
Fourth, an Out vote is favourite in 2017. The behaviour of Rumpy Pumpy, Barroso, and Eurotrash politicians too numerous to mention shows no flicker of friendliness, humour, or tolerance towards Britain (and certainly no thanks for this nation’s sacrifices for a Free Europe over the past 100 years). The British people know this, and the majority feel repulsed by it. They know that the World is big, and mostly not European. Our grandchildren will trade with more Chinese, Vietnamese, Brazilians and Mexicans than with the EU.
Fifth, if I am wrong and the British vote to stay In in 2017, it will be because Cameron has convinced them that his negotiations have borne fruit. This will not be achieved by the cancellation of a few pettifogging regulations to do with fruit, or child carseats, or the correct colour for roadsigns. By 2017, we will be somewhat reluctant hosts to about half a million Romanians and Bulgarians, and there will be heightened national resentment that a virtually bankrupt government is pouring billions into our creaking hospitals, schools and social housing for an ethnic minority that has absolutely no links of empire or alliance with Britain, and has contributed almost nothing in tax to justify our largesse. If Cameron can’t get control back of our borders, he will fail in his quest to keep us In. We are not in the mood to sell our country for a few shiny beads and a relaxation in the Working Time Directive.
Sixth, if Dave wins the election, but loses the referendum, he will have to resign as PM. Now is not the time to be horrid to the poor fellow, having delivered us the promise we wanted, but it must be said that he is a wet blanket and needs to be replaced by a proper Tory. Our country will remain close to crisis for many years ahead and it needs, by God it needs, a bit of sound, no-nonsense management.
Of course, this may not win him the election, and we all know that crypto-Marxists like Miliband and Balls like nothing better than the comradeship and approbation of like-minded socialists in Europe. Things will get a whole heap worse under them.
So, expect a proper bounce for Dave and the Tories. Any improvement in the economy in the next eighteen months, and we get our vote. Oh happy day.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Al Jeers

I don't think we can complain that we were not warned by the Algerians about the operation to release the hostages in their desert gas plant. If they felt that they either didn't want, or couldn't wait for, an SAS team, so be it. We would not, of course, have consulted them (nor asked for their crack team of special forces) if, say, a few dozen Algerians were being held hostage in Cleethorpes, or Londonderry, or Port Isaac.

The risk of working hundreds of miles from habitation in the Sahara is self-evident, even before factoring in the pissed-off and bloodthirsty Islamist. I hope the pay reflects this, for the current emergency will surely not be the last.

UPDATE: Elby refers us to Raedwald for a good burst of invective.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Dish of the Day

My Lidl pony

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

That's That, Then

Leaders 'set aside' collective responsibility

Leaders 'set aside' collective responsibility
David Cameron and Nick Clegg have formally agreed to "set aside" Cabinet collective responsiblity over boundary changes, Downing Street has revealed.
No.10 said the decision to suspend ministerial responsibility, agreed before a Lords vote yesterday, was "the first time it has happened under this Coalition".

Given that the Conservatives, by common consent, need at least a 7 or 8% lead in the headline polls to gain a majority in the Commons of even 1 seat, the collapse of the boundary review plans are more than a mere setback. Barring an economic rebound that affects all parts of the UK, Cameron and Osborne are sunk.

Cameron should have taken a horse whip to Clegg, of course, and humiliated him for his treachery and double-dealing with the Labour Party in the Lords. How long the government could have lasted is anyone’s guess, but it would have guaranteed the Libs being wiped out at a subsequent election, making it a two-horse race (I speculate that Dave would have seen the light on Europe and welcomed back a million UKIP votes).

But Cameron is as wet as a scrubber and a hand-wringing social-democrat himself, so there is no surprise here.

What, my friends, are the circumstances that might yet win the election for the Conservatives? I think it’s the economy, only. Tell me in the Comments.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Man the Barricades

I like Eric Pickles; he's one of the less embarrassing Cabinet Tories. I'm sure his bluff Yorkshire straight talking appeals across the political spectrum. So it's a bit surprising when he starts waffling and obfuscating as badly as he did with Andrew Neil over the weekend:

Idle posted on this issue last month, but makes no apology for raising it again. Cameron, on the radio this morning, ruled out an In/Out referendum (disingenuously referring to it as a 'false choice' - ie, uncomfortable for a confirmed Euro fan like Dave). His much-awaited speech, which has been so long in the making and the hinting and the leaking, threatens to backfire on him. And with good reason - here we have, within a couple of days of one another, a Cabinet member making clear that another wave of (let's face it) undesirables are headed our way, almost certainly in the hundreds of thousands, yet the Prime Minister won't consult his electorate on the issue.

I often think that Dave is interested only in power, such is his rootlessness in conservative intincts and traditions. Yet on the subject of providing houses, schooling, health provision, rubbish collection, benefits and motability cars to Romanians and Bulgarians, he seems all for it, despite its great electoral unpopularity. Given that the current working class (black or white, recent immigrant or not) doesn't want to let them in any more than the middle class of potential Conservative voters, this seems to be either utter stupidity, or a blinkered devotion to the European cause, come what may. I suppose it is the latter, but there is still time for him to prove me wrong.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Dan on Form

Hannan, a thespian to his fingertips, addresses the Oxford Union on the great myth, namely that capitalism has buggered us up these last five years. Of course, he's right. Capitalism would have put tens of thousands of bankers on the dole, the best of which could apply for jobs available in the surviving healthy banks, had capitalism been allowed to work its natural cycle. Instead, we saved the big banks, the big bankers and the huge market share they enjoy - so big, they coudn't be allowed to fail - and STILL can't be allowed to fail. We guaranteed the status quo! Idiocy.

Idle has worked for one of these leviathans since the dust settled after the disaster of 2008. I'd happily see it a quarter of its current size, run by enterprising businessmen rather than the current coalition of government and opportunists, wound up in the straitjacket of regulation and share price fixation. Banking is easy, after all; pay a reasonably competitive interest rate to depositors and lend at slightly higher rates to borrowers. Where possible, know your depositors and borrowers very well, in order to understand their needs right across the financial services spectrum, and thereby to maximise your return from them, through competent provision of product and service. Fractional reserve banking means that you will lend a multiple of what you take as deposits, so don't overdo it; a good executive board and a few wise old non-execs will keep you the right side of this.

The sooner Hannan gets to Westminster, the better.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

O Level Art Failure

It is true that a portrait need not look exactly like its subject to be a superb portrait. Some highly individualistic painters manage to make all their subjects look as though they belong to the same family, yet still catch the vital character of the individual.
This is not one of those portraits. It is shockingly bad. The eyes, whilst reasonably close representations of Kate's, look slightly stoned. The nose, instead of being coquettish, has become slab-like. And the mouth! What was he thinking? This is a smug smirk, as if to say: "See? I told them I'd get him. Now I'm going to be Queen, so there!"
And, as a final insult to aesthetics, he appears to have put a vaseline glaze over the whole horror show, like a Penthouse Pet of the 1970s.
This is bad. Really bad.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


The Prince's Trust is clearly a force for good in Britain and I have always been impressed by the quiet way it improves lives and communities and helps establish hundreds of youngsters in start-up enterprises. Compared with, say, the Joseph Rowntree charity, which does a lot of bleating about 'poverty', it seems to value deeds over words.

So I don't quite know what to make of 'The Prince's Trust Youth Index', which has some fairly alarming statistics from its most recent survey.

27% of the youths surveyed believe their prospects have been 'permanently damaged' by the economic downturn.

19% said they 'had no future'. This figure goes up to 36% for those who are NEETs.

My first impression was to get quite angry that one in five of our youth believed they had no future. Get a grip, I thought, there's a world of opportunity out there for anyone prepared to graft and use their imagination. Has Britain come to this? I could give cash in hand work to a couple of people most weekends if any were to knock on the door. Pull your socks up! The world owes no one a living! Join the Forces! Go West, young man! etc.

Then I reflected that the survey had probably taken place in inner cities (though it claims it is weighted and representative of all UK young people aged 16-25), in which case we should be cheering that 81% of them DID believe they had a future (and, we must hope, are motivated enough to go out and grab it by the bollocks rather than wait for it to arrive, gift-wrapped, at their door).

Then I reflected further and remembered that youth unemployment in much of the Garlic Belt averages 42% and is as high as 58% in Greece and Spain. And that includes graduates, the highly skilled, the whole shebang.

Perhaps we ought to be thankful and accept that 20% of our yoof is a small percentage, some of them will end up in the black economy, etc etc.


We need, urgently, to improve their prospects. And the way to do that is to put a stop to the sort of immigration which soaks up all the unskilled jobs and leaves our chaps on the dole and a life of benefits or crime, which thanks to the tireless IDS is going to be less feasible an option.

The bottom end of any society needs education, a welfare safety net and programmes to help the unemployed become productive, self-sufficient and to live life without indignity. The Labour Party has been a disaster for this section of our society. To give it it's due, it is in these areas that this government is making some progress. Gove's education crusade is bold and crucial, IDS's welfare reforms rather more timid, but when climbing a mountain thousands of small steps is the only way.

But the greatest difference we can make to those at the bottom of the heap is to protect the jobs we expect them to do from being hoovered up by economic migrants. This is not about race or creed or religion or culture, it's about basic economics. Halt unskilled and low-skilled immigration immediately - there is, on balance, great economic harm in it.