The Curmudgeon


Friday, December 31, 2010


Good riddance, Old Year. You were not an
Attractive thing - no, you were rotten;
Though it's easier, true,
To get rid of you
Than all of the worms you've begotten.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bankers Expose Yet More Flaws in University System

Those perennial victims, the banking sector, have again fallen prey to gratuitous malice; this time from the Government's old enemies in the education industry. The UK Cards Association, which protects the public from discomfiture about inadequate security, has ordered Cambridge University to remove a student's thesis from its website because it describes a flaw in the chip-and-PIN system. The UK Cards Association complains that this "places in the public domain a blueprint for building a device which purports to exploit a loophole in the security of chip and PIN". If the bankers have decided that a loophole shall remain open, then open it shall remain; it is the duty of the education industry to ensure that the public stay sufficiently unaware for the problem to be profitably ignored.

Unfortunately, the professor of security engineering at Cambridge's computer laboratory displayed a wholly unconstructive attitude and showed a dangerous naïvety about the purposes of education and research in a big society: "You seem to think we might censor a student's thesis, which is lawful and already in the public domain, simply because a powerful interest finds it inconvenient," he wrote, while maliciously making the thesis even easier to find. He also expressed surprise that the chair of the UK Cards Association, Melanie Johnson, should have ordered the censorship: "as a former MP she must be aware of the Human Rights Act", he told the Guardian, tactfully omitting to state that as a former New Labour minister she must be violently opposed to the Human Rights Act in everything but name.

Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition has, of course, done much to bring university culture in line with the emotional needs of the banking sector; but it is not as yet clear whether it will be considering legislation to minimise excess thesis promulgation.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Absorption Not Amputation

One of the most important factors in the demolition (reform, in Modern English) of the National Health Service is, of course, the appropriate representation of patients' views. Unless patients are seen to favour the right things, the impression might be given that the adjustment of the NHS into something that suits the kind of people who make Turkey Twizzlers was some sort of ideologically motivated attack, rather than the model of fairness and social responsibility that has been just about to emerge for the past thirty years. Accordingly, in the interests of public accountability Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition is going to abolish Links, the bodies which represent patients' views; and in the interests of proving that money isn't everything Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition is going to abolish Links in spite of evidence that the Links are saving four times more than they cost. In the interests of independence and little-person empowerment, the Links will be replaced by local organisations called HealthWatch. Naturally for organisations whose name comprises two capitalised words with no space between them, the HealthWatch groups will be part of the Government's own regulator, the Care Quality Commission. Despite the expensive bureaucratic mayhem involved in making these little adjustments, no doubt we may safely assume that the feedback from patients will at last reach a thoroughly appropriate level.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Deserving of Charity

As we little people worry about those little problems that affect our petty little lives, such as whether we'll have a job next year and if so, whether it will be paid, let us spare a sympathetic thought for the Lower (formerly Upper) Miliband, who is doing his best to cope with a brutal California winter while agonising about his next career move. It has been suggested that, given his attitude to kidnapping and torture as carried out by the United States, the Lower (formerly Upper) Miliband would make a good US ambassador, although the Lower (formerly Upper) Miliband is apparently wary of the idea, "partly because he is not clear it is a job with real power, rather than a message carrier from the British government to the US". Little people, spare him a thought as you make your own difficult choices between telemarketing and burger-flipping.

The Lower (formerly Upper) Miliband is a "passionate supporter of engaged internationalism", which may possibly mean something, and he did have a chance at being the chief foreign policy representative for the EU; but, international responsibility being more important than partisan politics, he refused the job in order to concentrate on "making Labour electable", in the hope that a new Brown administration would lead inevitably to a Downing Street coup that even a Miliband couldn't cock up and the enthronement of himself as Prime Minister. Unemployed little people, spare him a thought as you make your own difficult choices between heating and eating.

"Another option," suggests Britain's leading liberal newspaper cruelly, "is working in academia, following his father", primogeniture now being the thing for a university post; "but possibly in the US", where the transition of academia from educational enterprise to business plan is presumably more advanced than it is here. Teenage rioters, spare him a thought.

As he agrees with the Government on most things, the Lower (formerly Upper) Miliband has more or less given up on Parliament since the Labour part of it failed to ratify his entitlement to the leadership, although he makes occasional appearances in the Commons over departmental matters and has also condescended to give evidence to the foreign affairs select committee. His constituents in South Shields evidently know better than to bother him. Little people, as you make ready for a life of bliss seeking employment while running your own public services, spare him a thought.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Social Medicine

Government re-discovers benefits of science as research fails to conflict with doctrine or business interests

Those who feel they need the Big Society like they need a hole in the head may soon get their wish, thanks to a new Government initiative to encourage self-reliance in brain control.

The initiative follows new research which suggests that social activity is related to the size of the amygdala, an almond-shaped clump of nerves that is not a junior minister.

As part of its economising measures to reform (or, in the language of the Common People, "destroy") the NHS, the Department of Fitness for Work has announced plans to close 85% of social care services and sell the rest to Hoon & Murdstone Re-Education Services, PLC.

Consequently, the Government is preparing to incentivise the British public towards a more do-it-yourself approach to mental health. From next spring, those with social difficulties will be placed on a special "mong list" which will entitle them to appropriate equipment.

"All officially designated mongs, spazzes, twats, creepazoids, furglers, goves and gobboes will receive a very nearly painless perforation at the base of the brain," said a spokesbeing.

"The operation will be free at the point of use and the costs will be paid for out of the customer's earnings following de-mongization. The purpose of the incision will be to allow self-administered socialisation procedures to proceed without hindrance from unnecessary facial and cranial matter."

Once the incision has been made permanent with a small plastic tube leading into the amygdala, beneficiaries will receive Government loans to enable them to rent bicycle pumps from their local sports shop and inflate their social standing.

Although at least a dozen Liberal Democrats are known to have instantly signed up for the operation, the Tory right have voiced objections to the measure, claiming that it confers undue benefits on left-leaning voters.

"Any measure that presupposes the existence of a brain is an assault on everything the Conservative Party stands for," said Wicksteed Wadgett, Tory member for Portman Flats. "The Government should remember that this research is only science and says nothing at all against drug use or sexual immorality."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

News 2012

US denies responsibility for late Christmas

The Commander-in-Chief elect of the American Homeland, Sarah Palin, has denied US involvement in the alleged delay to Christmas this year.

Mrs Palin was responding to claims that this year's plague of empty stockings and minimal breakages was due to "aggressive" action by the forces of freedom.

Early this morning the Pentagon confirmed that "a single-seater aircraft of unconventional design was intercepted and destroyed in Alaska by means of a high-powered rifle".

Apart from denying American responsibility for the ebb in this year's Yuletide, Mrs Palin said only that she was in Alaska for relaxation and family purposes.

The smiling Commander-in-Chief elect did confirm that she had "shot half a dozen good moose", including one with a remarkably distinctive nose, however.

No information has been released about the craft's occupant, who is believed to be of Middle Eastern origin.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bring Me My Chariot of Fizzle

The Archbishop of Canterbury has retaliated to the Enemy's blather on Thought for the Day with his usual heady mix of triteness and tripe. He hinted that the material consequences of the economic crisis should be "fairly shared", which is exactly what Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition says will happen; he observed that there is "a lasting sense the most prosperous have yet to shoulder their load", which has resulted in a lack of confidence that can be mended by working together and thinking carefully and imaginatively about the forthcoming royal wedding. According to Britain's leading liberal newspaper, this "might make uncomfortable reading for the coalition"; well, perhaps it might, if half a pint of lukewarm sugar-water on top of one's Christmas dinner had the power of causing indigestion.

The Archbishop then went on to rhapsodise about the wonders of Christian marriage, which would be cause for celebration even among lesser mortals, but which are particularly wonderful in the case of a royal wedding, because "any and every Christian marriage is a sign of hope, since it is a sign and sacrament of God's own committed love". It is not entirely obvious from previous such sacraments, involving the likes of Charles, Diana, Andrew, Sarah and Camilla, which partner plays God and which the world; but perhaps the matter can be clarified by less humble theologians than myself. There were marriages "where something extraordinary has happened because of the persistence of one of the parties, or where faithfulness has survived the tests of severe illness or disability or trauma". Thus the Archbishop extolled the virtues of stalking and implied that serious physical and psychological problems were benign experiments designed to bring couples closer together.

Undoubtedly the virtues of persistence, courage and fidelity are unique to those marriages which have been mumbled over in a big creepy building rather than barbarously signed up to in a registry office; an example or two might have been salutary, but regrettably the Archbishop does not seem to have named names. He did, as a faithful supporter of the Reverend Tony's little crusades, confess to finding himself "deeply moved" by the sense of solidarity between hired killers and their relatives, although the good family men who persecute Christians in places like Zimbabwe and Iraq ought very likely to be ashamed of themselves.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Joined-Up Thingy

The harmful effects of decades of Socialist interventionism have been horribly laid bare in a poll which shows that almost eighty per cent of people claim to have donated to a charity in the past year, while only a quarter feel they should be "encouraged to give up some of their time to help support public services". Assuming that the charitable donations were not the thrifty sort made by the corporate community (tax dodges, in Standard English), this shows a Common People horribly mired in the sort of thinking that leads to high taxes, British Rail, the NHS, taxpayer-maintained trees and other errors. The cause of this lamentable indolence is, presumably, the fact that the said Common People still have too much money and too little time on their hands. Happily, this is all going to change.

Despite the convenient dovetailing which has spurred conspiracy theorists into a frenzy of self-nonsufficient uncharity, Daveybloke the Cuddly Conservative has "rejected the suggestion that his mission is a cover for spending cuts". Daveybloke has pointed out that his Big Society thingy was a thingy before the general election, and that his programme to kick half a million people out of work was a thingy after the general election, though obviously he would have mentioned it during the campaign had he been able.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Crosses Bravely Borne

A new campaign by British Christians, Appalled Not Ashamed, is gaining momentum from complaints by Egypt's Coptic church of state discrimination.

There are eight million Copts in Egypt, but the government bureaucracy makes it so difficult to get planning permission that they only have 2000 churches, as against 93,000 mosques for the terrorist population.

In recent months members of the chuch have also suffered sectarian violence and electoral disadvantage.

"It is disgraceful that these people are allowed to call themselves Christians," said Hypatia Quacksalve, an unashamed long-standing member of the Church of England and appalled opponent of women priests.

"The Bible teaches that a sparrow cannot fall without God's consent and that Jesus' church is wherever three people gather together in His name," she said. "Instead of whining about the way they are being treated, why don't they just welcome His heavenly chastisement and enjoy the sunshine?"

Toby Swilling, who was sacked from the staff of an orphanage for recommending self-castration to gay adolescents, compared the joys of martyrdom to the "embarrassment" of being religious in an increasingly secular British society.

"It's one thing to be shot at or have your house burned down, but it's quite another to wear a crucifix and an I'm A Christian - Appalled Not Ashamed badge and an iStig™ crown of thorns that bleeps in the presence of sin and have to wonder all the time if people think you're a nutter," he said.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Racey of Blathering-in-the-Dotage, said that the Copts' experience contrasts sharply with the experience of Christians in Britain.

"The Christian life is never without its problems," he said. "In this country we have to contend with a free pass to the upper house of Parliament and government plans to pay us to indoctrinate children."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Fit and Proper Person

The Cabinet Secretary, Gussie O'Donnell, has decreed that the Minister for Cultchah, Jeremy C Hunt, is a "fit and proper person" to rubber-stamp Rupert Murdoch's take-over of another chunk of Britain's communications media. Among Jeremy C Hunt's qualifications is an interview he gave last July, in which he gave as unprejudiced an assessment of Murdoch's contribution to British cultchah as one might expect, burbling that "what we should recognise is that he has probably done more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person" and that "We would be the poorer and wouldn't be saying that British TV is the envy of the world if it hadn't been for him being prepared to take that commercial risk". Well, I never. Britain's pride in the notoriously leftist BBC is misplaced; the reputation of British television was Rupert's doing all along! So much so, indeed, that following Jeremy C Hunt's whine about bias the Director General, Mark Thompson, made haste to secure his own future by putting his own point of view which, as one might expect, was very nearly as objective as that of the Murdoch family and Jeremy C Hunt.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Prioritising Literacy

The Government has given an eloquent demonstration of the value it places on literacy, even beyond the announcement that the Minister for Cultchah, Jeremy C Hunt, will be replacing Vincent Cable in charge of helping Rupert Murdoch ram yet more choice and variety down the gullets of Shakespeare's descendants. Booktrust is an independent charity set up to encourage reading, though unfortunately not of the Sun or things with paywalls attached. Instead, it gives free books to juvenile resources at three stages of their development, thus causing a possible hindrance to their indoctrination as the soldiers and stockbrokers of tomorrow. Booktrust's aim is to promote pleasure in the written word, as opposed to economic utilisability through appropriate marketing trends; and to promote it regardless of income. As we all know from the child benefit cuts, disregarding income is definitely not something Daveybloke and his Big Society thingy wish to encourage. Hence, Booktrust's government funding - a vast black hole of thirteen million pounds a year, from which the charity managed to generate more than fifty million from other sponsors - will not be cut; nor will it be trimmed, shaved, chopped, slashed or given away in bonuses. Booktrust's government funding will be abolished. That will teach them.

Monday, December 20, 2010

We Must Ask Ourselves What Was Wrong, And Answer: The 1970s

The sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak has called upon his flock to ask "what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred" when certain people including a certain Joseph Ratzinger did everything in their considerable power to cover up sexual abuse in the church. "We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life," the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak proclaimed. What was wrong is that, as happens so often these days, the times were out of step with the church: "We cannot remain silent about the context of these times in which these events have come to light," the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak said; the context of the institution in which the events occurred being a mere mote in comparison with the fact of their being found out.

With his usual inspiring mix of good sense and moral force, the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak compared the present state of the church to a thirteenth-century hallucination of a beautiful but bedraggled woman and said that "in the 1970s, paedophilia was seen as a natural thing for men and children". He does not appear to have cited his sources for this latter gem, which he seems to have intended as an example of the moral relativism that tempted all those believers in moral absolutism to commit child abuse, although I have heard hints that in Jesus' own time one could be sold into marriage at the age of twelve. Anyway, as an example of the forlorn state of his realm and his own Christian humility, the sixteenth Daddy Goodspeak made mention of his recent speech at Westminster Hall, given in front of a number of thieves and hypocrites as well as a handful of war criminals, who no doubt bear the scars of his stinging rebukes on their conscience to this day.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chaos Reigns

Despite several years - or is it decades? - of rebranding, the Conservative Party still has a few small image problems - George the Progressively Regressive's Bullingdon sneer, Eric Pickles as priest of austerity, Andrew Lansley handing over the NHS to the men from Mars, Liam Fox in charge of the gun cabinet, and Michael Gove in charge of anything at all, to name only a handful. As when New Labour was torn between the grinning psychopath and the scowling abject, Daveybloke's Cuddlies are having a hard time deciding between British Conservatism's two traditional faces, the Nasty Party (Osborne, Pickles, Lansley, Gove) and the Stupid Party (Osborne, Pickles, Gove, Fox). The latter faction has received a considerable boost in the form of one Nicholas Boles, who has been caught on film, right in the middle of his party's flurry of declarations of war on public services, claiming in so many words that (a) planning doesn't work and cannot work, (b) clever people shouldn't plan things, or at least shouldn't sit in rooms while they do so, and (c) chaos is where restaurants spring up. Boles is the author of a book, aptly titled Which Way's Up?, on the back of which he is apparently described as "one of David Cameron's most influential advisers before the election"; which may perhaps help Daveybloke to explain, if not mitigate, the fact that he failed to win.

Meanwhile the Lower (formerly Upper) Miliband, whose record speaks for itself, has issued a moral proclamation. "Hypocrisy is the worst sin in politics. It's the worst sin in life actually," he said, and I suppose he ought to know.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Not Claiming Benefits

Well, isn't this cosy. Ann Taylor, who was minister for throwing money at arms dealers for a year and minister for treaty circumvention and foreigner detrimentation between 2008 and the general election, has got a nice new job with a firm of arms dealers called Thales. Taylor dealt with Thales on a regular basis during her time at the Ministry for War and the Colonies, and has evidently managed to maintain an amicable working relationship despite the firm being responsible for two aircraft carriers which are one and a half thousand million pounds over budget. No doubt Taylor did her best to argue against the penalty clauses which prevent the present Government cancelling one of the carriers; no doubt it is a tribute to her competence and her concern for Britain's security that her relationship with Thales nevertheless retained its amicability.

Taylor, a former tenant of the Reverend Tony, is the latest of several former War Office personnel to find a happy home in the arms industry, despite all the forthright effort they put in to making certain that profit does not come before the interests of the British people and the safety of British troops. Thales UK alone has a cross-party cabal of three former apparatchiki on its advisory board, and is chaired by a former Conservative Minister for New Toys, Roger Freeman. In order to avoid any whiff of corruption, Taylor has been told that she cannot personally lobby ministers or civil servants for the next seventeen months, under a code of conduct which Freeman proposed and Taylor introduced.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Increased Consumption

Our gradual but inexorable return to the Victorian values of charity for the deserving poor (viz. the rich) and punishment for the shirkers (viz. everyone else) has brought some old friends back to our shores. Tuberculosis, which has been on the decline in the more decadent and socialistic realms of Europe, has been thriving here on the mainland, though fortunately the increase has so far been largely confined to people who were not born in the UK - illegal immigrants, in Modern English. An article in the notoriously pro-Saddam journal, The Lancet, blames the "poor housing, inadequate ventilation and overcrowding" which illegal immigrants generally bring upon themselves; and recommends, of all things, "immediate and long-term political and financial commitment from the government", rather than just kicking more people out of the country. This is, of course, the sort of Stalinist bias which explains why Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition has felt it necessary to follow New Labour's example of muscular Christianity when dealing with mere science; but the Health Secretary, along with his chums in the health food industry, will no doubt be giving the problem his most scrupulous consideration.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Brains, Brains Everywhere

Liam Fox, Minister for War and the Colonies, who is second only to most people in the brains department, is off to Sri Lanka, at the invitation of the Sri Lankan foreign minister's widow, whose husband was killed by Sri Lankan rebels, to give a speech which has "nothing to do with anything that's going on in Sri Lanka". Daveybloke's foreign minister and special envoy to Belize, Willem den Haag, is rather annoyed about this because "Britain wants to maintain pressure on Colombo in light of questions about its assault on the Tamil Tigers" in which, according to human rights groups, slightly fewer civilians were killed than have been detrimented during those little adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan to which Willem den Haag's party gave the big rah-rah some little time ago.

Fox, who accepted £3000 for attending the Sri Lanka Freedom Party national convention in November 2009, has extruded a spokesbeing to say that he will be paying for his flight and accommodation himself; though it is not clear whether this means that Fox will be paying for his flight and accommodation himself, or whether Fox's flight and accommodation will be covered by whatever fee he is receiving for sharing his wisdom about matters which have nothing to do with anything that's going on in Sri Lanka, or even, perish the thought, whether Fox's flight and accommodation will be funded by that ever-reliable mug, the British taxpayer. Anyway, Daveybloke's special envoy to Belize is aware of the visit, which is certainly encouraging given his annoyance about it; and another spokesbeing has said that Daveybloke himself may have to bring the full force of his character to bear upon the situation, or get Nick Clegg to take a message or something.

Labour have done their best to stir things, although like many Labour enterprises it hasn't come off too well. Jim Murphy noted Sri Lanka's "troubled recent history" and proclaimed that "Britain can have an important role there"; presumably because of Britain's arms sales to India and Pakistan and its important role in troubling the recent history of one or two other countries. Yvette Cooper, who was working in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in 2003 and was so principled an opponent of the Iraq war that she became a minister of state two years later, has asked whether Fox will impress upon the Sri Lankans "the importance of a credible investigation into alleged war crimes" with "an international element to the investigation".

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ban Rioting, Police Beg

Police are to request the Government to outlaw further demonstrations against tuition fee rises in the hope of avoiding further violence, it was revealed today.

Students wielding wheelchairs and truncheon-busting cranial appendages have caused almost as much damage to the Metropolitan Police as the malicious heart attack by Ian Tomlinson at the G20 riots.

Controversial measures such as kettling, brought in to ensure that demonstrators stand properly still while being charged by mounted police, have failed to prevent rapid and purposeful motion on the part of many demonstrators, resulting in psychological damage to police and horses.

Officers have also complained of being traumatised when hard objects bounce off their riot shields, and of being treated in the same hospitals as anarchist mobs.

"With the present state of the NHS, you cannot be too careful in terms of separating the deserving from the undeserving," a police spokesbeing said.

"Many brave and dedicated officers are terrified of what might happen to them and their unborn children if a mistake should result in their receiving a transfusion of rioter blood."

Recent demonstrations have also seen the use of psychological warfare by the culprits, who have attempted to avoid arrest by shouting "I'm Andy Coulson!" in tones that police describe as "unduly political".

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Worthy Successors

There is a certain rough justice - ugly, retributive Michael Howard justice, New Labour justice, the kind of justice that tends to skin its knuckles either on paving stones or on other people's teeth - about the British National Party's leading adipose resource, Nick Griffin, contesting the seat from which the New Labour cockroach Phil Woolas was ejected for lying about his opponent. It was, after all, the British National Party towards which New Labour and its successor, New New Labour, consistently triangulated in their increasingly bizarre and brutal efforts to hold the centre ground; or, in Standard English, outflank the Daily Mail from the right. Woolas, as Minister for Blaming Immigration for Just About Everything, was a particularly enthusiastic exponent of the wogs-out policy, which was known among the cognoscenti as "wooing the white working class" or, even more hilariously, as "mature debate".

Another fun-filled aspect of the Oldham East by-election is that the Liberal Democrats will be fighting their coalition partners. No doubt the Liberal Democrat candidate, Elwyn Watkins - having scraped off his shoe whatever was left of Phil Woolas after Joanna Lumley walked over him - is looking forward to taking advantage of the political capital which his colleagues at Westminster have built up over the past few months, and promising once more a new and more honest politics.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Taxpayers Want

Daveybloke's Big Society thingy got its first real motivational aid today as the communities secretary announced the first round of cuts in community services. Eric Pickles, who is noted for having charged the taxpayer for a second home so he could avoid a thirty-mile commute to work, decreed that "taxpayers are no longer prepared to write a blank cheque for the public sector", particularly with all those bankers going hungry. All three main parties agreed on this during the general election; which of course is one of the reasons why all three main parties gained such thumping popular mandates.

What the public do want, voice of the people Pickles continued, is "less interference in their local communities from Whitehall government". Pickles' idea of non-interference amounts to inflicting cuts of almost nine per cent on some bits of northern England, while protecting such deprived and downtrodden boroughs as Windsor and Maidenhead, Wokingham and Buckinghamshire. "The discrepancy in funding," explains Britain's leading liberal newspaper, "arises from the fact that poorest areas are the most dependent on central government funding"; as always, those who are most dependent are by definition least deserving, and hence most in need of the responsibility and self-reliance which Daveybloke's Big Society thingy will inevitably confer upon them.

The Government has also announced, rather bizarrely, that the police budget for the Reverend Tony's Commemorative Games in 2012 has been cut from £600 million to £475 million, but that "the £600 million which had been made available will remain available if necessary". It appears that the police can be trusted not to efficientise their operations to fit the larger budget, just as they can apparently be trusted to wear their identification numbers on duty and not to inflict brain injuries on people unless absolutely necessary.

There will be some transitional funding to keep the cuts on the disastrous side of apocalyptic; though as to whether this is a climb-down in the face of a public outcry, or a "compromise" in the Reverend Tony tradition of aiming for sociopathic insanity in the hope of achieving vindictive stupidity, or whether it is simply the result of a failure by Nick Clegg to persuade his new chums that harsher measures are needed, your guess is as good as mine.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hunt Opens Up on BBC

The Minister for Cultchah, Jeremy C Hunt, has explained the Conservatives' BBC policy in an interview with the Observer.

Mr C Hunt said that the BBC made fantastic programmes and provided unparalleled news coverage, but was riddled with Labour and Liberal Democrat voters.

He also said that BBC journalists put fair reporting above "political affiliations", noting that the BBC's inability to get behind the Prime Minister in ignoring corruption at FIFA might have lost England the chance of hosting the 2018 World Cup.

"I think if you were to discover how people vote at the BBC there are probably more who vote Labour or for the Liberal Democrats than the Conservatives, Mr C Hunt said.

He accused the corporation of "leftwing bias" on issues such as Europe, immigration and Northern Ireland, but praised director general Mark Thompson for recognising the issue by cutting pensions and sacking lots of people.

"On the other hand, if you were to discover how rich people vote, there are probably more who vote Conservative," Mr C Hunt went on. "That's why we're cutting the licence fee and throwing money at big business. I mean, duh."

Speculation that a similar logic might be behind Government cuts to education and closure of libraries was dismissed as "speculation" by a spokesbeing.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Strength Through Geometry

Nick Clegg has been busy at that characteristic Blairite occupation, the drawing of lines under things he doesn't wish to talk about any more. Clegg predicted that the Liberal Democrats would "move forward without rancour and in a united way", which - aside from acknowledging the fact that nobody actually murdered him - presumably means that he anticipates a relatively calm ride for the bankers' levy of 0.075% and for Andrew Lansley's programme to turkeytwizzlerise the NHS; or "the liberal, fair things we want for Britain as a whole", as Clegg tactfully referred to them. He noted once again that the vote to increase students' debts by 300% had been a difficult issue for Nick Clegg and some other people, and Vince Cable duly chimed in with the point that adversity breeds valour, particularly when one is a man of the calibre necessary to participate in Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition. So that was all right.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Future of Law Enforcement

Citizens Advice, which no doubt will soon go the way of all those other unnecessary quangos which have sought to dilute the market's cleansing rampancy, reports that high street stores are using private security firms to extort large sums of money from petty offenders. The largest such firm, Retail Loss Prevention Limited, also likes to tell shoplifters, often teenagers, that they have been put on an electronic blacklist which is available to employers. Some people are coerced into giving their contact details and are subsequently treated to threatening letters and telephone calls.

These delightful practices, known by the vintage Blairspeak term "civil recovery", have come in for a bit of criticism from the woolly liberals at Citizens Advice. The chief executive claimed cynically that "It would appear that the principal beneficiaries, in cases of low-value alleged theft, are the agents. They collectively profit by millions of pounds but have no obvious interest in a reduction of retail crime".

A spokesbeing for Tesco's responded robustly that "The only people that lose out are the people who have stolen; if people don't steal they won't have a problem". The director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium claimed that "Retail crime costs £1.1bn a year", or just under a third of the profits made by Tesco's alone in twelve months, and that "ultimately much of that is reflected in shop prices". Therefore, the reasoning goes, hired vigilantes are a vital protection for innocent consumers at a time when the police are so under-manned that they can't even protect two of Daveybloke's elderly relatives from nearly being lynched by student sans-culottes.

Assuming for charity's sake that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear from the likes of RLP, the question is still open whether it is legal for a high street shop to demand, without the intervention of a court, three-figure fines for items which in most cases were worth less than £20 and which in four-fifths of the cases were recovered and put back on sale. Even granting the currently fashionable assumption that offenders have, or ought to have, no legal rights at all, in these straitened times such practices may tend to leave a certain vague but lingering impression of bad public relations.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Fury at Bank Tax Terror Burial Horror

True to its leaders' New Labour instincts, the Government has used today's parliamentary referendum on lying to the electorate as a means of burying some rather bad news.

The draft Finance Bill for next year includes plans to tax British bankers at a staggering five hundredths of one per cent, rising to a horrifying seventy-five thousandths of one per cent after the first year.

This constitutes an increase on the original proposals of a wallet-watering one-hundredth of one per cent in the first year, and a bonus-buggering five-thousandths of one per cent in subsequent years.

A spokesbeing for the Treasury said the new levy would ensure that banks "make a fair contribution in respect of the potential risks they pose to the UK financial system and wider economy", just like students, nurses, teachers, the chronically unwell, people in the north and other wastrels.

The "final scheme design", or Act of Parliament as it would have been known in former days, would also "encourage" the banks to give up gambling, the spokesbeing continued.

Although no bankers marched on Parliament or defamed innocent policemen with malicious heart attacks, the British Bankers' Association expressed concern.

"We believe that urgent steps are required to prevent the multiple charging of bank levies on multinational banks," a spokesspiv said. Failure to act swiftly, he said, would do even more damage to Britain's reputation as a global financial centre than the bankers had done on their own.

The Government defended the levy by pointing out that the poorest lenders (those with a balance of £20 billion or less) will be exempt.

Meanwhile, regarding bonuses, the Chancellor sent a message of almost Anglican firmness and resolve via the journalists at a Westminster lunch.

"My message is very simple," the Chancellor said: "reflect upon the economic situation that this country is in; reflect upon the fact that many different parts of our country are having to accept some difficult decisions; look around you and the world you live in before you make your decisions on bonuses."

Britain's chief banking executives are thought to be so concerned about Britain's reputation as a global financial centre that they plan to award themselves an extra £15 million. How far this is the product of sober reflection about difficult choices for lesser mortals has not been reliably gauged.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Peter, George and Tony

One of the Chilcot inquiry's less reliable witnesses is to be called back for a bit of another chat, certain discrepancies having emerged between what was said at the last bit of a chat and the boorish insistence of mere facts. The Reverend Tony will be given another chance to push his book, and incidentally to explain away the judgement of his old school chum and sometime attorney general, Peter Goldsmith.

On the eve of a meeting with George W Bush, wherein his reverence promised to hand over the British armed forces for whatever use Bush and Halliburton might find convenient, Goldsmith passed his chum a secret message which for some reason implied that Tony might perhaps have some sort of interest in the desiccated fustian of mere human legality. The note said that the last UN resolution on Iraq did not authorise the use of force; his reverence, secure in his master's favour, dismissed Goldsmith's qualms with "I just don't understand this" and flew, as planned, to his tryst with the presidential crevice. Bush, or whoever was operating him that day, told his reverence that the turkey shoot would go ahead in March 2003 regardless of what the UN might say or do. On 7 March Goldsmith himself went to Washington for a bit of a chat with lawyers from the Bush administration. It is not clear how many of them there were, or what degree of respect they had been told to demonstrate towards the poodle's poodle; but doubtless it was a most civilised and fraternal affair. After a ten-day interval, which he presumably spent mainly in the company of some soap and water and a very strong mouthwash, Goldsmith delivered another note stating that the massacre would be legal after all.

His reverence told the Chilcot inquiry, during the last bit of a chat, that the legality of the assault was "always a very, very difficult, balanced judgment", although he also told the then head of the armed forces that his views on the matter were "unequivocal". Hence the Chilcot inquiry would like another bit of a chat with his reverence so that this nuance can be straightened out.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Radical Therapies Reviewed

The mighty Michael Greenwell, whose guide to Nepal I recommended some little time ago, has posted a review of my story collection Radical Therapies. He accuses me of quick wit, occasional sublimity, hospital drama and vague similarity to Alasdair Gray's Lanark and to George Lucas' one and only interesting piece of science fiction, and hopes I will not hate him. Well, I'll have to think about it.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Not Too Many Brainy Chaps, It Just Gets Confusing

I am sure we all remember the scrupulous and compassionate way in which Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition fulfilled its pledge to end child imprisonment and close the notorious Yarl's Wood detention centre, by deporting people faster and building a new and thus less notorious detention centre somewhere else. Much the same principle has now been applied to the matter of mere scientists who set themselves up against the Holy Writ of political expediency and government by press release; for which we have to thank the last Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, who fired the chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for making the outrageous allegations that politicians distorted research evidence and that some illegal drugs were less harmful than some of Kenneth Clarke's sources of income. Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition has decided to formalise this policy by permitting ministers to dispense altogether with scientific advice rather than soliciting and then disregarding it. Doubtless things work out cheaper that way.

One thing of which this Government can never be accused is going too slowly. Most administrations wait at least a year or two for their mid-term troubles, and sometimes as much as a parliament and a half before their leaders turn blatantly and irremediably barking. One might have hoped for more than a few months' grace before actual psychosis set in, even for the bloke who appointed Liam Fox, Michael Gove and Eric Pickles to cabinet posts. Alas, it now appears that all we can do is wonder what Daveybloke plans to use instead of scientific advice: tabloid psephology, voices from Belize (Mystic Mike?) or readings from the Lib Dem chickens' giblets.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Get On Your Weekend Bike And Look For Another Job

Research commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation indicates that, amazingly enough, the last five years of New New Labour and Daveybloke's Cuddly Coalition have resulted in record levels of poverty among the employed work-shy. Three-fifths of the indicators used, including child poverty, inequality and Daveybloke's own favourite of the moment, well-being, have either stood still or gone backwards. A fifth of the population is living on less than sixty per cent of the median income despite at least one member of the household being waged; ignorant and backsliding persons are of course already blaming this on a denial of the rights of the work-shy rather than insufficient rights for the likes of Sir Philip Green. The chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group missed the point by the margin one would expect of an agitator for yesterday's cause when she said: "We cannot hope to end child poverty when more and more children whose parents are in work find their lives damaged by poverty regardless". As Daveybloke himself has intimated, it is time for charities and others in the idleness reform industries to drop their attitude of doctrinaire materialism and realise that there is more to life than money; that child poverty is both a challenge and an opportunity, not least for the lean, tough, virtually Tebbitesque human resources with which it may grace future decades; and that the right thing to do with challenges and opportunities is not to end them, but simply to ensure that the right people have them.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Healthy Democracy

The Health Secretary, whose qualifications for his post include a directorship in a marketing company which sold junk food, has been busily assuring the multinationals that they will not be excluded from the Big Society's efforts to nudge Britain into a healthier lifestyle.

The first meeting of the Public Health Responsibility Deal three months ago was attended by sales personnel for chocolate, Turkey Twizzlers, alcoholic beverages, non-Cabinet industrial fats and the British Hospitality Association.

Since none of these are poor people, the Government is thought to favour a voluntary approach to regulation.

"It is an absurdly paranoid conspiracy theory to believe that international corporations have no interest in the health of the British public," said a spokesbeing.

"Indeed, it is only the Stalinist nanny state interposed under the previous socialist regime which has prevented many companies from emphasising the natural, genetically enhanced healthiness of their products."

Politicians of all parties agree on the importance of tackling Britain's poor record on public health. The Government believes this is best done by cutting the NHS and implementing the recommendations of the tobacco lobby.

The Public Health Responsibility Deal meeting was also attended by nutrition researchers and health campaigners, but these are not considered likely to be major party donors.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Giving the Little Woman Something to Do

Sniggers of glee were echoing up and down Whitehall today as the Government delegated a female Liberal Democrat minister to explain why the Liberal Democrats are abandoning a rather weak manifesto pledge on equal pay. The degree of importance which Daveybloke's Cuddlies assign to equality in the workplace is indicated more or less blatantly by the fact that they have appointed a Liberal Democrat as the relevant minister; but the message has now been shoved home with the usual Bullingdonian rampancy as the Government announced its intention to absorb her ministry into the Home Office. "I'm hoping that it's an upgrading, in that it's being brought into the heart of government," said Lynne Featherstone, who is just utterly thrilled to bits at being promoted from minister of state to sub-departmental something-or-other: "It will be mainstream, not added on to departments. It has to work integrally." Working integrally in this coalition, as we now know, is largely definable as caving in to the cuddlies. Two years ago Featherstone said, "A voluntary audit system for private industry is hardly worth the paper it's printed on"; and today Featherstone defended a voluntary audit system for private industry: "It was a different world two years ago". It was before the election two years ago; some people promised to oppose tuition fees two years ago; Nick Clegg wasn't deputy Prime Minister two years ago. We're through the looking glass now, people, and you'd be a fool and a Stalinist to claim otherwise.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Look, Our Manifesto's in Hardback

Discounting those constituencies which were bought and paid for by Lord Ashcroft, Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives spent twice as much as New New Labour and three times as much as the Liberal Democrats during the general election campaign. Daveybloke's cuddly campaign included some rather effective posters of a grinning Gordon Brown, with captions such as I caused record youth unemployment - let me do it again and I increased the gap between rich and poor - let me do it again, thus subtly implying that Daveybloke and George the Progressively Regressive, of all people, had some thought of doing otherwise. There was also I doubled the national debt - let me do it again, although with hindsight there was remarkably little about war, torture, corruption or New New Labour's assiduous triangulations towards the British National Party - all the sorts of issues which might have persuaded a thrusting young Lib Dem leader that Daveybloke's Cuddlies were cuddly enough to jump into bed with.

There is comfort - small, to be sure, but one must take what one can get - in the fact that Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives paid Saatchi almost forty thousand pounds to propagandise about the horrors of a hung parliament, and ten and a half thousand to have a retoucher on call for two weeks so that Daveybloke's face could be smoothed into a depiction approaching Steve Bell's inflated condom. There is slightly greater comfort in the fact that, having spent more than half the total expenditure by all the forty-three parties in the campaign, and having faced a worn-out and discredited government full of barrel-scrapings and Ed Balls, Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives still didn't win.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Winterval Whinges

Lord Carey has been foaming at the headlines again. It appears that, on the planet Lord Carey now inhabits, Christians are being airbrushed from public life, as when the Pope visits or the Synod gathers for yet another chat about women and sex, only to be greeted by total silence from the media. Accordingly, Lord Carey has lent the prestige of his name, and his standing as a man appointed by a politician to wear funny clothes and talk at the Deity, to the catchily-titled Christian Concern Not Ashamed Day. The campaign aims to highlight the cases of Christians who have been dismissed from employment for their saintly attachment to trinkets and baubles. Among Lord Carey's chums is Gary McFarlane, a Christian marriage guidance counsellor who lost his job on the insanely bigoted atheistic grounds that he was refusing to do his job. McFarlane is so intimidated by the prospect of discussing his faith in public that he told the Press Association all about it, while Lord Carey recycled some tabloid headlines by way of Eric Pickles: "The cards that used to carry Christmas wishes now bear 'Season's greetings'. The local council switches on 'winter lights' in place of Christmas decorations. Even Christmas has become something of which some are ashamed." Lord Carey urged Christians to emulate the Pharisee in the temple and "wear their faith with pride", as the Saviour in his humility commanded.