Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Princess Diana

Alex Massie has an excellent posting as we approach the 10th anniversary of Princess Diana's life. My own memory of the event is still quite clear - the weekend before Princess Diana's death, I had been in Paris at the World Youth Day celebrations - the previous Sunday had seen a fair amount of world attention directed at Paris because of the million plus people who turned out for Pope John Paul's final Mass. The following Sunday I arrived at church to find the curate who had been in Paris the previous week preaching. He kept mentioning the "tragic event in Paris this morning" without elaborating, and it wasn't until we got home and put the radio on that we realised what had happened. That didn't stop me heading off to the U2 concert at Lansdowne Road that afternoon. By the time of her funeral the following weekend, I had got so fed up of the mawkish emotionalism that was dominating the Irish radio and news papers that I frankly couldn't wait for the whole thing to be over (it must have been hellish for those in England who wanted to watch television and didn't like the sentimentality of the thing) and jumped at the chance to spend the Saturday doing an extra shift of tech support for the ISP I worked for at the time. The effective canonisation of the Princess in the week when a real saint, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, died just annoyed me more.

One thing I would take issue with Alex over is this:
" wonders how long it would have been before the public began to see her as, not to put too fine a point on it, a tart. Hypocritical perhaps, but there are different rules for Princes than there are for Princesses."
Indeed there are - as I was in college for most of the 90s as the marraige of the Waleses fell apart, and the typical offerings in the GMB at Trinity College Dublin were the Irish Times, the Irish Independent, the Times, the Guardian and occassionally the Telegraph and the (London) Independent, I had the good fortune to miss most of the tabloid nonsense that accompanied the breakup. I was quite surprised therefore to realise that in fact I could easily count four "former lovers of Diana, Princess of Wales" - namely James Hewitt, Will Carling, Dodi al Fayed and that heart surgeon whose name escapes me. Prince Charles, rather than having a "string of love affairs" with women "of questionable suitability" had one long standing affair.

It's always struck me as odd that Charles has been villified for his single affair with one woman, while Diana was effectively canonised despite having had a string of them. It does indeed seem that even these days "there are different rules for Princes than there are for Princesses."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Living in England....

Iain Dale's post and the comments thread left me somewhat bemused at the long discussion of why people are leaving the UK. It's worth noting for a start that net immigration is still positive, and that nearly half of those leaving the country are foreigners returning home.

But it got me thinking - a number of the commenters were commenting on leaving England for Ireland. There were a number of reasons I did the opposite move, partly due to the Darling Wife, but also due to the fact that there were more opportunities and better money in the field I work - I'm a CCIE in case you're curious which (supposedly) means I'm very good with those network things. Having been born in England to British parents, I'd always felt an affinity to England and had wanted to work over here for some time before finally making the move. Despite all that, when I did move over, I had moved with thoughts about moving back to Ireland after a few years. Those plans have been put on hold for the foreseeable future.

The reasons though run deeper - for all the complaints about the reliability and the punctuality of the train service from Ingatestone to London, it's no worse than commuting on the DART was in Dublin. Yes its more expensive, but I get paid a lot more over here, so I can live with that. Property prices in Dublin are as bad as most of London. The Republic's electoral system gives you essentially a choice between Fianna Fail and the "Not Fianna Fail" coalition[1] - at least in Britain there are two main parties, even if it is getting harder to tell them apart. The overall tax burden isn't much different. The weather is a lot worse (there are actually vineyards near Chelmsford - there isn't enough sun or heat in Ireland to grow grapes).

Dublin itself is also getting over crowded - the city has been badly planned - there are major issues with layouts, and the M50 is apparently driven in first gear all the way from Bray to Dublin airport if you're travelling during the morning rush hour - presumably because some loon thought two lanes on the main motorway around Dublin was enough. The planning process for new roads is a nightmare - in that plans are made, approved, go through a public enquiry, and then just as the builders turn up to make the road, somebody discovers a medieval rubbish dump and insist the road be rerouted or delayed for two years while it's excavated. And all this under a system where the government spent a lot of money hiring a consultant from Madrid to tell them if they could avoid the three year planning process and worked 24 hours a day on building infrastructure as opposed to working 8 hour days they'd get stuff done within a year instead of taking five years.

In addition, the huge influx of Polish immigration is putting additional stress on, well, everything. Housing, transport, education - one calculation is that 5% of the Irish population is now Polish. [2]

Last year, my sister and I did our first driving tests within a couple of weeks of each other. We both failed. I failed several more attempts before finally passing earlier this year. My sister is still waiting for her second attempt.

And while we're on the subject of public services, the NHS, with all its faults, is a huge improvement on the Irish Health Service. I had to pay €40 for the privilege of visiting a doctor the last time I went to one before moving over - not paying my NHS doctor was a mighty relief and the removal of a source of stress.

There is an old saying, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. It may look like the grass is greener on the other side of the Irish Sea - but in Dublin at least, it's definitely not much an improvement on London and the South East.

[1] This is the reason Fianna Fail have ended up in government after every election since 1987. It was only a falling out with their coalition partners and the fact the numbers just worked that led to the only two and a half years they've not been in power in the last 20 years.

[2] It should be pointed out I don't think that Polish immigration is a bad thing - I just think that Dublin wasn't coping very well when I left three years ago, and I can't imagine a huge increase in the population since I left is doing the place any favours in terms of infrastructure.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

logic, what you can see and conclusions.

The long and frankly rather tedious debate between Dizzy and Tim Ireland over at Dizzy's blog reminds me of the old joke about the Engineer, the Physicist and the Mathematician on a train in Scotland. It's their first trip.

They see a black sheep on the side of a mountain. "Look!" says the engineer, "all the sheep in Scotland are black". "No, no" says the physicist, "some of the sheep in Scotland are black". The mathematican intones "In Scotland, there is a sheep, at least one side of which is black".

My training is in Maths by the way!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"Right wing" mayors....

Chuka Umunna(via Comment is Free) informs us that
"If those of us who hanker for a fairer, more equal and democratic world fail to draw attention to Johnson's views and re-mobilise London's progressive consensus, we could end up with the most right-wing Mayor of London in living memory."
Any mayor who is less left wing than Ken Livingstone will qualify as the "most right-wing Mayor of London in living memory." The office was only established in 2000.

Monday, August 20, 2007

More Labour dishonesty

The BBC is quoting Public health minister Dawn Primarolo as saying "It's misleading or dishonest to, on Friday, for the Tory party to support £21bn worth of cuts from public services in supporting the Redwood commission proposals and then come back and say suddenly not only are they not going to do that...."

Nearly as misleading and dishonest as trying to suggest a policy proposal is the same thing as a defined party policy. Not that Labour would ever be guilty of such deceit and spin of course.

Incidentally, perhaps the £21 bn of cuts could come from cutting some of the quangos that have expanded under the current government.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Labour spinning figures.

Andy Burnham is the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and was on Newsnight tonight, blathering nonsense. In particular, he made the claim "we've had 60 consecutive quarters of growth under this government".

I find it rather worrying that the number 2 minister in the Treasury isn't aware there's only been 41 quarters since May 1997. More to the point, if he can't even get that piece of simple arithmetic right, how are we supposed to trust any other figures that he comes out with?

Update: immediately after posting this I found this on Iain Dale's blog where he accuses the Tories of "threating Britain's economic instability". The word I'm now looking for can be found here. But I won't use it on this blog as my wife reads it.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Telegraph and sports comment

Rather disturbingly, the Telegraph's sports columnists seem to have had a rather bad weekend of getting things right.

Sue Mott started off on Saturday by blaming the alleged corruption around a recent tennis match on the practice of allowing "betting on losers in any sport" - which rather ignores the fact that tennis is one of those sports where by betting on one player to win the match, you are effectively betting on the other player to lose the match (as opposed to, say, football where you have the option of a draw). There maybe issues around the fact that Betfair effectively allow you to bet on a horse to lose, but this doesn't have anything to do with the tennis issue.

Patrick Barclay
manages the impressive feat of making two factual errors in two successive paragraphs. Firstly he repeats, with approval, Neil Warnock's comment that "Carlos Tevez, football's equivalent of a murderer out on bail, scored the goal that kept West Ham up and sent us down. So much for the integrity of the Premier League.'' If Warnock is referring to the goal Tevez scored at Old Trafford, he's talking rubbish. West Ham went into that game knowing that a point was enough to save them. If you're going to blame the result at Old Trafford, rather than the fact you lost at home to Wigan, then the anger should be directed at Manchester United's forwards for failing to score. Even if Tevez hadn't scored, West Ham would still have stayed up. (Incidentally, United were attacking the Stretford for the second half, and as they kicked off, the Stretford end chanted with one voice "Send them down!")

Barclay then follows that with the statement that all of the clubs in foreign ownership - but Fulham - have been taken over since the Glazers acquired Manchester United. This might come as a shock to Claudio Ranieri, who was sacked by Roman Abramovich a year before.

To be fair, he then makes an excellent point about the row over Thaksin Shinawatra's record, comparing it with the treatment Roman Abramovich received.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Telegraph on Ali Miraj

George Jones gives a brief overview of the political career of Ali Miraj, who has deservedly been booted off the list of approved candidates for the Conservative Party. He fails though to mention the irony in the whole row over the Witham selection process - at the end of it all, Priti Patel was elected.

If you're going to play the race card when complaining about not being selected, try and make sure the candidate fits the "white, middle class male" stereotype before making a fool of yourself in the national media.