Monday, December 24, 2007

Fisking Tim Worstall

Tim Worstall writes :

The value of any job in a market economy is set by supply and demand. We have a (relatively) fixed demand for MPs. Some 630 or so (roughly, isn’t it?).

According to Wikipedia, it's actually 646. For someone who spends a lot of time complaining (correctly) about the sloppy figures of Polly Toynbee, it's a pity Tim didn't spend thirty seconds looking the number up on Google.
At the last general election some 3,000 people stood for one of those seats. Some will say that some were markedly unqualified (from Monster Raving Loonies to Trots of various types) but this isn’t, in a democracy, a valid position to hold. Any and every one of us is qualified to be an MP: that’s what rule by the people means.
This is incorrect - yes anyone is eligible to apply to be an MP - that doesn't mean you're qualified to be an MP. To qualify, you have to convince the largest number of people on the "interview" panel to vote for you. Simply being qualified enough to apply for the job does not mean you're suitable.

So as we have 3,000 qualified applicants for some 600 jobs, clearly, we are overpaying those who do it. MPs pay should therefore be cut, radically.

Again, this is faulty logic - just because you get lots of applicants, doesn't mean you're over paying them. Looking at my own field, that of Information Technology, the higher paid positions are naturally going to have more applicants. What this means for the employers that pay above the market rate salaries is they get more chance to cherry pick the best people in the field, not that they are somehow overpaying them. I like the thought that we get a higher class of applicant to be an MP by paying more. I'm still not sure how that explains John Prescott though.

In fact, back in the day when being an MP attracted no salary at all (only Ministers were paid) we had no shortage of MPs. Thus we would have no shortage now if MPs were unpaid now (that is arguable, but do you think there would be a shortage if this were the case?).

Possibly not - but as has been pointed out on numerous occassions, the other side of that is that only the rich could then afford to become MPs. By running this policy, you'd effectively ensure that "every one of us is" no longer "qualified to be an MP". So you'd end up moving away from the main starting point of this discussion. Either that or MPs would have to take "consultancy fees" from vested interests, which I'm not convinced would be an improvement on the current situation.

Cut MPs pay and cut it now!

If the problem is that MPs are incompetent, then that is a decision for their constituents to deal with. The fact that you may not like someone's choice of MP is not a reason to reduce that MPs wages (again, a certain former deputy Prime Minister comes to mind). It's called democracy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Well he is Scottish.....

Football 365 have this report on their Mediawatch page (Sir being a reference to Sir Alex Ferguson):
"To manage a national team you need to be a certain age with plenty of experience and with a presence and a CV that is indisputable" - Sir on Don Fabio.

Could you not have said that 18 months ago, Sir?
Well he is Scottish. He's probably spent the last 18 months having a very good laugh. Mind you, he's in good company.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Prime Minister fails in his duty....

According to the Sun via
'Gordon Brown WILL stay away from England's crucial Euro 2008 qualifier - amid fears he is jinxed. The PM has been on hand to see our football and rugby teams crash to defeat in recent months. He also saw Scotland get knocked out 2-1 by Italy at Hampden Park on Saturday'
Surely that's failing in his duty as a Scot?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Racism and the political spectrum...

Dizzy correctly draws the comparison between the attitude of the Labour party and the Conservatives over race and the point about racism on the political spectrum.

I annoyed a couple of people last week by pointing out the BNP are not making their strongest gains from the Conservatives, but in traditionally Labour heartlands (such as Tower Hamlets or Barking and Dagenham).

The only thing he's missing is the letter by Norman Tebbit to the Telegraph last year in which he pointed that when you ignored the race issue, in many ways they are hardly right wing. (Note, for some reason I can't find the actual letter on the Telegraphs site - the relevant page for the date is not showing the letter, so I'm using Melanie Phillips' quote).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Telegraph ... oops

Perhaps not the best combination on the Telegraph's homepage:

Thursday, October 04, 2007

That idiot Celtic fan....

Rumour has it they've found him, identified him and banned him for life.

They should just send him into the home end at Ibrox wearing a celtic shirt at the next Old Firm game.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Pit bulls and border controls

Last weeks Panorama on illegal dog fighting was fascinating - partly because it demonstrated the flaw in the constant flag waving about a border police by various members of the cabinet, including the PM himself.

For those of you who didn't see, the BBC reporter easily smuggled a pit bull into the UK by the crafty means of flying the dog to Dublin, where it was the driven up to Northern Ireland and carried accross to the UK on a sailing from Larne to Stranraer. (Note to future BBC reporters doing this trick - it's quicker to take the dog to Liverpool on the fast ferry from Dublin port either direct to Liverpool or to Holyhead and driving through North Wales. You've about as much chance of being stopped as well - at least if our experience of driving through Holyhead is anything to go by).

And this is the fundmental flaw with the Border controls - the UK has a common travel area with the Irish Republic. Even if you police the ports into Britain, you still have this very long land border along which there are no effective controls.

To impose them would be to undermine much of the work that has been done in Ireland - the Irish Nationalists would regard it as a show of bad faith, and the Unionists would be annoyed at losing access to the cheaper petrol in the Republic. The only sensible solution is for the two governments to combine together to agree a common policy for the combined borders, and allow freedom of movement within the two islands.

So why is it the only reference for "immigration" on the British Irish Council Website is about immigration into the Isle of Man?

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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Caroline Hunt: Commitment Matters

Caroline Hunt
sums up my views on the rights for cohabiting couples very well.

Particularly good quotes are:

if a co-habiting couple wants the same rights as a married couple they should get married. There is no need to have a religious ceremony of any type.

Exactly what I was going to blog!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A majority of MPs....

I turned the radio on this morning and heard the second half of an interview involving Lord Winston and an anti animal testing campaigner whose name I didn't catch.

The anti animal testing campaigner lost all credibility with me straight away when she said that "a majority of MPs" and then went onto say something about 250 of them.

Given that Labour won 271 seats in 1992, that presumably means Lord Kinnock is now a former Prime Minister?

Monday, June 25, 2007

EU Constitution

The original treaty proposing an EU Constitution was negotiated by the Irish during their Presidency of the EU (the Irish media at the time even referred to it as the Dublin treaty, hoping it would lead to Dublin taking its place amongst the other European Cities with a treaty named after it, such as Amsterdam, Maastricht, Nice and Rome).

So it's interesting to see that according to the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, "“The substance of what was agreed in 2004 has been retained" and “Really what is gone is the term constitution."

So although the Telegraph is wrong that the implications of Ireland having a referendum implies anything for the UK situation (Ireland always has referendums on the EU - they'd have a referendum if there was a treaty mandating the sort of chocolate biscuits to be served at the Council of Europe meetings), it does seem that the Irish have backed their main point.

This is clearly a disgraceful attempt by the EU to ignore the democratically expressed will of the French and Dutch people on the treaty. More to the point, the wiggling by Brown and Blair about their election promises is basically saying "we don't need to vote on the duck any more, because we're now calling it a chicken".

Which is a pretty good analogy for the two PMs.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sexism and the Apprentice

The process for getting Brentwood's most popular job is under fire over the questions asked of the two female candidates. Specifically, Katie Hopkins and Kristina Grimes were both quizzed over their family commitments.

Liberal Democrat women's spokesperson Lorely Burt ... "This is a classic example of the kind of casual discrimination still faced by working women every day."

and from Brendan Barber from the TUC said:

"had last night been a genuine interview, Kristina and Katie could have had real grounds for complaint against Sir Alan".

Except for one minor problem. Kristina was put through to the final, and it was (according to the show) Katie who chose not to join her there. It's a bit difficult to claim the decision not to "hire" you was sexist, when you were in fact hired.

Now, it is certainly the case that we didn't see the male candidates being quizzed over their family commitments, but two of them didn't have families and the one that did lived in Loughton, which is practically next door to Brentwood anyway.

More to the point - it was Kristina who raised the subject of her family commitments - "my son has grown up, and now I have the freedom to do what I really want and to take the extra risks" is a fair paraphrase of one of the things she said during the interview.

So this leaves us with Katie - now, I could be wrong, but as a married man with a young child, I would expect that if I were to interview for a job in Manchester (or maybe even Devon) then the employer might well ask about the impact of such a move on my family. This is a relevant concern to the employer - if my wife and kids are not happy with the idea of moving to a different area, this could have a significant impact on the amount of time I'll spend working for them. The idea that this is not of concern to an employer is ridiculous - he or she should be allowed to ask questions about the impact of relocation on the candidate's family, regardless of the gender of the candidate. Katie was the only candidate with a family that would have had to relocate - the questions didn't seem particularly outrageous to me.

Remember also, that earlier in the series, a candidate was fired because his family commitments were preventing him working effectively.

As for the quotes - it does seem it's yet another case of politicans seeing a bandwagon and trying to jump on.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Talking of reality tv....

During last night's Apprentice, Katie Hopkins remarked she wasn't sure if she was ready to uproot her family to move from Devon to Brentwood.

There is a God.

MPs and bandwagons

So, a Big Brother contestant has been thrown out of the house for using the n word. From all accounts, Channel 4 acted relatively swiftly - program makers consulted station bosses, and she was removed from the house at 3:30 this morning.

Keith Vaz is an MP who disappeared from sight in the days when being caught out breaching codes of conduct was actually a bar from being in Tony Blair's cabinet, only to reemerge during the Shilpa Shetty controversy earlier this year. Naturally he was asked for a quote.

"After the Ofcom decision I thought Channel 4 had learnt all the lessons it was possible to learn.

"But I'm afraid they haven't and there's more to be looked at in this whole sorry episode," he added.

Um, what exactly were Channel 4 supposed to do? Drown the offending house mate in the Big Brother garden pond? Throw her into a vat of boiling oil? Make her move to the house next door with only Jade Goody and Jo O'Meara for company? (Actually, come to think of it......)

It seems to me they have learnt the lesson - the housemate offended, and the first anyone heard of the controversy was when she was booted off the show. Quite else they could have done is beyond me.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Funny is.....

when you get told off by the wife for describing the London Olympic logo in terms of Lisa Simpson doing something rude, and then Newsnight ask "is it Lisa Simpson doing something rude" in their intro.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Irish election reaction

Via Iain Dale, I came accross this rather interesting rant (warning - language alert) about the result of the Irish general election.

However, while the rant is not surprising, neither is the fact that large numbers of people voted for Fianna Fail (indeed, as a former member, it would have been the party I would have voted for, though I should also add that the two Fianna Fail TDs in my constitutency have never had their integrity questioned).

Michael Moore, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Bush administrations mis handling of the crisis, posted a long rant, aimed at those who had voted for him, asking how they could now justify that decision and if they would still do it. The answer in many cases has to be "John Kerry". In much the same way, the Irish electorate were faced with two choices - keep Fianna Fail and Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach, or replace them with a Fine Gael led Rainbow Coalition led by Enda Kenny (a man by the way who is insisting that he can still form a government, but that almost certainly means he's either very bad at maths or he's keeping open the possibility of inviting Sinn Fein into government, neither of which reflects well on him).

To express surprise at the fact that the Irish electorate didn't punish Fianna Fail for their "corrupt" behaviour is to affect a total ignorance of how Irish politics has worked for years - especially outside Dublin. The fact that Michael Lowry has been returned for three successive elections despite being expelled from Fine Gael for corruption, and that Beverly Cooper Flynn was returned in Mayo after being slung out of Fianna Fail when she lost a libel case against RTE means that even today Irish voters will accept corrupt politicans assuming they look after their constituents (in addition, both have been able to play the Dublin elite trying to put down the culchies card). This is nothing new - it is a fact that Charles Haughey used to be met by his constituents as they left Mass on Sunday morning with the comments "Charlie, you're a corrupt man, but we love you anyway".

With all that in mind - its then no surprise that Fianna Fail held up its vote and its number of seats. They've always been good at "managing" the vote (a concept foreign to the UK political system where we have the First past the vote system - parties don't try to split their vote between your three candidates to maximise the effect). More to the point, despite the many issues identified in the rant, they've presided over one of the best periods of economic growth in Irish history - when I did my Leaving Cert 15 years ago, Ireland was still exporting people to the UK and the US, and there was concern about the knock on effect to Ireland of German reunification, which had effectively closed off one popular destination for Irish emigrants. Now, it's immigration that is the issue - the streets of Dublin when I left three years ago were filled with Chinese, Filipinos and Nigerians, and in the three years since EU enlargement Ireland has become 5% Polish. The alternative to Fianna Fail was the Rainbow coalition, led by Fine Gael. Plenty of people had reservations about Enda Kenny as Taoiseach (though to be fair, not as many as had them about Michael Noonan who led FG to their worst result in decades in 2002), but those with long memories would also remember that one of the worst periods for the economy in recent Irish history coincided with the FG/Labour coalition of 1982-1987 - one of only two periods in the last 30 years that Fianna Fail have not been in government. FG would have been leading a coalition made up of the Labour party and possibly the Greens. Its possible that many people thought that a coalition including left wing parties could be more damaging to the economy than the existing government.

If the answer to why lots of people voted for George Bush in 2004 was "John Kerry", then equally, the answer to why lots of people voted for Fianna Fail last Thursday is almost certainly "Rainbow Coalition".

Monday, May 28, 2007

Race and schooling

I'm just back from a long weekend attending a friend's wedding in Poland - tips on how to survive to come later - and while browsing Conservative Home, I notice a report on the BBC saying that David Willetts is proposing a policy that will allow schools to choose their pupils on the basis of race. (The report adds that "Government figures in the Observer show some schools in England have a pupil majority from one ethnic group." - really and truly it's time the BBC got some decent editors - the statement taken literally is hardly a shock as England has a majority from one ethnic group - white English).

Comments about the BBC aside, I would strongly urge the party not to go down this line. My wife is Singaporean, which means that my son is of mixed race. I do not want him to be defined in terms of his race, but simply in terms of him being what he is - a British citizen, who I hope will grow up to be a credit to this country. I want him to be given the education he deserves - not because he's mixed race to suit some equality or integration, but because it's his birth right as an Englishman. The first step to ensuring that he feels different is to draw attention to his "difference". So please - lets not go down that road.

(Just to note - the boy actually started walking more than a step over the weekend - including a fairly good walk during the wedding party itself. Being a Polish wedding, he was actually walking better and falling over less than some of the adults at the end of evening!)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Korea, dogs and football songs

It was the one, incredibly predictable fact about last weeks cup final was that the Man United fans would sing a song on the subject of Jose Mourinhio and his dog. What was nearly as predictable was that references to Man United's Korean striker, Ji Sung Park, would be made in the song.

Like most Man United players, Park has his own song which can be regularly heard from the Stretford End at Old Trafford. The lyrics are (to the tune of Lord of the Dance):

Park, Park, where you may be,
you eat dogs in your home country,
but it could be worse, you could be Scouse,
eating rats in your council house.

The lyrics are aimed at United's old rivals from down the M62 - but the fact remains that part of the lyrics touch on a subject which is rather sensitive for the Koreans. I don't know if Park's English is up to understanding the song (it's not always possible to make out the lyrics to songs like this at football grounds) or if anyone has explained it, but he's probably also managed to work he's rather popular with the United fans.

For the cup final, predicatably there were a couple of songs - the one I heard quite regularly while queuing for the programs was another ditty to the tune of the Lord of the Dance:

Jose, where ever you may be,
Ji Sung ate your dog for tea,
Special One, your dog is dead,
maybe you should get a cat instead.

Jim White in his report on the FA Cup final also reported this variation on Winter Wonderland:

Mourinho are you listening
You know your dog went missing
Well we heard it bark
So we fed it to Park
Eaten in a stir-fry wonderland

The thing about all these chants is they, are by the standards of football chants, vaguely funny and pleasantly free from the sort of language and aggression that is often typical of the average football song. But, in all cases, they rely for their humour on a blatant stereotyping of Koreans - so it begs the question "why aren't these chants covered by the anti racist chanting rules that are now in place in football?"

Faith schools and marraige

The Telegraph reports today that some faith schools are using "intrusive methods" such as asking parents for copies of their marraige certificate. This apparently is a form of "social selection".

Actually, it isn't. Assuming that faith schools are in fact attempting to ensure that they are in fact taking kids whose parents are serious about raising them in the relevant faith, its actually quite a reasonable question to ask. If a child's parents are cohabiting rather than married to each other, the chances are they aren't particularly serious about the faith in the first place.

This leads to a wider point about faith schools - their whole purpose is recognising that education is about more than how many GCSEs and A levels a child gets, and recognising it's about a more holisitic approach, which covers such things as values and personal development. Faith schools do that development in the context of the faith they teach - this is true regardless of whether the school is Catholic, Church of England, Jewish or Muslim. That has to include the teaching of the relevant faith in the home. And an over subscribed faith school is being quite reasonable when it says it wants to choose kids who parents want them to attend because it's a faith school, rather than because it gets better A level results than the "bog standard" comprehensive down the road.

One other comment was "In Roman Catholic schools, more than 90 per cent of children were found to be Christian". Well there's a shock. Catholic schools have long had a selection criteria that said "Catholics first, then other church going Christians". In any case, the Telegraph report isn't clear, but given that the sentence is then followed with "in Jewish schools all pupils subscribed the faith." it must mean this is true for some schools rather than an assessment of all Catholic or Jewish schools. It's certainly not true that all Jewish schools are 100% Jewish - as David Cameron recently reminded us.

Monday, May 21, 2007

New Wembley

We had the good fortune to get tickets for the FA Cup Final - so it was a most impressive sight. Rather disappointing however that the loos were over flowing by the end - a couple of comments were over heard along the lines of "somethings at Wembley never change".

Getting away afterwards wasn't too bad - as Man United fans, we decided to leg it on the full time whistle as we didn't want to hang around feeling miserable and then get stuck in the middle of the Chelsea queuing for the tube. Quite impressed we were back at Shenfield by 7:30 considering we only left Wembley at 5:45.

One comment on the match - I was rather disgusted at the cynical behaviour of the Chelsea players for what was left of the game after Drogba's goal - three bookings inside six minutes means they also accrued enough bookings for an automatic disrepute charge.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Zimbabwe and the UN

So it's confirmed that Zimbabwe have been elected to chair the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

Isn't this the equivalent of asking Iain Huntley to chair a committee on Child Protection?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Whats a bad result?

I've just noticed that the local LibDems are claiming that they had a "successful night" in the recent local elections.

Considering they lost two seats, including their deputy leader getting beaten by a chap studying for his A levels, I wonder what they'd regard as a "bad" night.

West Ham, Southend, Tevez and injustice.

Here's an interesting point that was made by someone on the Southend United mailing list.

It has been suggested that the compromise made by the Premiership over the Tevez affair would be to allow Sheffield United and West Ham to stay in the Premiership, making a 21 team league affair next week.

If this happened, the knock on effect could be that Southend are "saved" from their relegation, in order to keep the Championship at 24.

It's probably wishful thinking, but given that Leeds deliberately went into administration before the end of this season so their ten point penalty didn't affect their League 1 campaign, it would be tempting for the League authorities to say to the Blues to stay up. With my Man United hat on - great news. With my Southend hat, better news.

Value for money

I saw Hazel Blears yesterday - briefly - on Sky News as she was discussing her campaign for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party. She was arguing her job should be about the party and campaigning, and not neccessarily a ministerial post.

She was then asked if that meant she'd refuse the Ministerial Jag and the perks of office. Obviously she didn't want to answer, so she started waffling on about the importance of the public seeing value for money.

While value for money has never been a strong point of the current Labour government (NHS, IT, the Dome, the Olympics) is this Blears admitting that maybe Labour made a mistake allowing John Prescott to cost the tax payer two million per annum for his non job?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Classic FM

Apparently, lots of under 15s are listening to Classic FM. And when I say lots, I mean half a million.

Probably won't make Simon Heffer very happy though.

Ruth Kelly and majorities.

Ruth Kelly was asked a question in Parliament earlier this week by Brentwood MP Eric Pickles, in which she was asked about the implementations of the Lyons recommendations.

Her response was a classic piece of New Labour denial, in which she claimed that Labour "increased our majority" in Bolton, and took seats from the Conservatives, and this was a sign that the Conservatives were failing to make progress.

Funny, that's not what the BBC report. I'm not familiar with the individual ward results in the Bolton area, but according to the BBC, the Conservatives made a net gain in Bolton (albeit one seat, but its important to allow for the fact that only one third of the seats were up for grabs to start with). Labour also gained two seats, but both parties gained at the expense of the LibDems.

But it does rather beg the question of what she means by a majority when her local Council is a No Overall Control council.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Interest rate increases.

It is hard not to feel a slight amount of smugness at our decision two years ago to get a fixed rate mortgage - as of today, we're now at a rate lower than the Bank of England's base rate.

Watching the 10 o'clock news, which has been mostly focussed on the (long overdue) departure of Tony Blair, they did only a short piece on the rate increases. But couldn't the BBC have found a slightly more sympathetic person amongst the millions of home owners for whom the increase is not good news. They interviewed a young woman, who owned what looked like a very nice house in Hertfordshire. She had borrowed five times her salary and the report said that she had an increase of 150 pounds per month over this time last year (there's been a full percentage increase since last August). A quick calculation based on this article indicates that her mortgage must be about 230,000 - or her annual salary is about 46,000. She's worried because shock horror, she might have to take in lodgers.

Funnily enough, I'm not really that sympathetic that she might have to take lodgers - I did it myself in my single days as a deliberate strategy to get a slightly bigger property. And frankly, as a single woman earning that sort of money she's hardly the typical first time buyer. Surely the BBC weren't so distracted by the non news story of Blair's resignation* to not be able to find a better human interest/sob story about the rate rises.

Having said all that, it's faintly ironic the Gazette was carrying a front page article this week about how Brentwood was the most expensive borough in Essex, and expressing concern about the ability of first time buyers to get onto the ladder in the area - and the fact that the lack of first time buyers could be bad news for those of us who already own houses in the area.

* It's not "news" when the papers have been saying all week he's going to resign today.

Young councillors....

Haven't had a chance to blog for a few days, but I should say congratulations to William Lloyd, who has become one of the country's youngest councillors. And extra brownie points for taking his seat off the LibDems.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


The BBC is reporting that the Attorney General has ordered a review of the sentences handed out to the mother, aunts and grandmother who encouraged a two year old and a three year old to hit and punch each other, while filming it and clearly enjoying it. They were each given suspended sentences of up to twelve months.

My darling wife bought a copy of the Sun last weekend to read in the car as we drove up to Manchester (honest, I much prefer the Telegraph) during which she started to read parts of the newspaper's report on the case. In the end, I had to ask her to stop as I was getting very irate at what was being reported - a mood not enhanced by my own little bundle of joy happily burbling away in the back seat at the time.

What really bothered me though was a few pages on there was a report on a guy who had been convicted of cruelty - he was also filming fights in his living room, and was sent to prison for four months. The difference - he was filming dog fights, not toddler fights.

Exactly what sort of a country is it where we send people to prison for cruelty and abuse of animals, but only give suspended sentences where children are involved?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Iain Dale's Diary: The Irish Should Not Be Able to Vote in UK General Elections

Iain Dale's made a bit of a booboo with his The Irish Should Not Be Able to Vote in UK General Elections - as he acknowledges, UK Nationals do have the right to vote in the Dail elections, though not in referenda or Presidential elections. My father, a UK National, tells the story that the day the referendum was held coincided with a European election, and he turned up to vote in that election. He was given a ballot paper for the referendum, and when he pointed out he was British, the teller said "ah sure, then you'll definitely want to vote". I also remember one local politican calling to the house during the 1982 elections and saying "ah, they've never actually fined the Brits for voting" (for some reason my parents were still getting polling cards for the Dail elections).

There is another point that needs to made that may be relevant to Iain's posting. Before 1984, the anamoly was that UK nationals couldn't vote in Ireland, but Irish nationals could vote in Britain. At that point, many Irish citizens were probably able to claim UK nationality anyway, but Mrs Thatcher felt it was unfair. It is suggested that she told the Taoiseach (presumably Garret Fitzgerald) that she felt the anamoly should be corrected, and it was up to Garret which way it went (ie, the Irish could either give the UK nationals vote, or she'd revoke their rights).

Recognising a courageous decision when he saw one, Garret took the safe option.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Some interesting history

I've not been posting much recently - a combination of sport, work and the boy serving to distract me from politics and having time to post. I'm rather looking forward to the long Easter weekend, when I can relax a little.

The Daily Telegraph has recently been carrying letters on the theme of the clergy and railways. Typically, most of the letters have been about Anglican clerics (the Anglican clergyman most famous for his love of trains is of course the Rev W Awdry). However, a few days ago they carried a letter from the archivist of the Diocese of Brentwood, in which he suggests that part of the reason for the siting of the Diocesan head quarters in Brentwood was it's proximity to Shenfield junction.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Air taxes

I was in Ireland for the weekend, and was rather stunned to read on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph a report suggesting the Tories were going to propose rather punitive taxes on "excessive" air travel. The suggestion is that we'd each be "allowed" one short haul flight a year.

There are a couple of issues with this proposal. My family are in Ireland, so I suppose I could take the boat over instead - of course, I'll spend the day driving to Holyhead to meet the ferry. But if I look around at the group of people I work with - in my own team alone - we have people with family in India, Ghana, Nigeria, Barbados, Australia and Germany. Four of us are predominately UK/Ireland based, but as I've noted before, my wife is from Singapore.

So what exactly are we supposed to do when we want to visit our families? And no, the standard "now you've an excuse not to visit the mother-in-law" joke doesn't work when I actually enjoy going!

Friday, February 09, 2007


I was away in France last week attending the Cisco Networkers conference in Cannes. No, it wasn't just a jolly on the Med in January, I actually learned something as well.

Coming back, I see David Davis has been warning that a future Conservative government will can ID cards and cancel any contracts for the rolling out of the ID card system. This provoked a cross letter from the head of Intellect complaining that it was unreasonable for the Conservatives to make such a public statement. David Davis has responded with a letter - the full text of which has been published by Conservative Home.

The summary is pretty straight forward - stripped of its political niceties, what Davis is actually saying is "don't threaten me you over paid, under performing, unable to deliver projects on time and on budget bunch of self interested incompetents".

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Newspapers and Business Coverage

Just thought I'd post a link to this review of the Business sections of the various daily papers (including the FT).

The author of the review works in the City, so it's an interesting take. He's offering to do the Sundays as well - I do hope so!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Eric Pickles on Local Government Reorganisation

Eric Pickles, who as well as being as MP for the area is also the Shadow Minister for Local Government has given an interview to the Waendal Journal about the government's proposal for Local Authority Reform.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Band wagon

Dizzy has a link to this press release by Ken Livingstone on the Big Brother controversy. Clearly Ken hasn't watched Big Brother, as Dizzy points. Also, Dizzy - who is a self confessed Big Brother fan - wasn't paying attention as the word used was etiquette.

However, it does prove the point that the most dangerous place on earth is between a leftie politician and a bandwagon on the race issue. Surely the more serious issue on Channel 4 was the Dispatches programme quoting radical Imans with their vicious anti Semitic and anti Western views. Jade Goody may be a bit of a thicky - but it is actually reasonable clear that despite her butchering of the English language, she is far less of a threat to good community relations than Imans who blame AIDS on the West and suggest that the West put AIDS into medicines.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ruth Kelly and Ofsted

Ruth Kelly has come under a lot of criticism over her decision to send her child to a private school - Croydonian amongst others pointing out that "one might note that Ofsted's last report on Bolton judged its special needs provision 'good' or 'highly satisfactory' (page 29) on all measures."

That's all very well, but while Ruth Kelly's constituency may be in Bolton, she clearly doesn't live there. Her wikipedia entry reports that her children attend a Catholic primary school in East London (in fact, the same Catholic primary school I can see out of my office window) which confirms the suggestions I've heard that she lives in a rather exclusive development on the river.

The school itself is reckoned to be one of the best schools in Tower Hamlets (note: a long way from Bolton) and Tower Hamlets have argued that ""We are proud of the quality of education we offer to all children. We have a strong record in helping children with a wide range of learning needs to succeed."

All well and good, but here's another thought. Tower Hamlets is also one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. If a well off parent decides to withdraw a child who has particular needs out of their schools and send them to a private school, then they are freeing up funds within a deprived area for dealing with kids who need it more.

One final point. Some years ago a family friend who lives in Tower Hamlets borough withdrew her children from a different Catholic school in the borough to homeschool them because she felt that the standard of education they were receiving was unacceptable. Although the family friend has an Oxford PhD, she suffered a huge amount of harassment from the Local Education Authority as a result of this decision - including the insinuation she was not fit to teach them. Some of their schools may be good, but they are not perfect.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Gordon Brown is arrogant.

At least, that's the only conclusion I can come to after the weekend. Brown is suggesting that the proposal for only English MPs voting on English only issues would be bad for Union, and could kill it.

Unfortunately, thats simply not true. John Hutton managed to spectacularly miss the point on the Politics show this morning when he commented that as England has over 500 MPs out of a total of 659 it wasn't as big an issue.

But it is - if the government was formed based on English votes, we'd have a hung parliament (and please note New Labour - you had less votes in England than the Conservatives).

This is total arrogance on behalf of Gordon Brown and his supporters. They endangered the Union in the first place when they rushed into devolution for Scotland and Wales in the first place without properly thinking through the West Lothian Question. The upsurge in demand for a equitable solution is coming from an England that realises it is about to have it's education and health policies decided by a government led by a man whose own constitutents won't be affected by the policies. It's coming from an England that believes it is subsidising things like tuition fees for Scottish students, while our own children have to graduate from university with large student loan debts. It's coming from an England that is fed up of the total contempt shown for its views by an arrogant and out of touch Labour government.

In short, it's coming from an England that's getting fed up.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The iPhone and trademarks.

You'd think they'd know better. Apple, who have recently been taking action against companies who dared use the word "pod" in their name, announced earlier this week they have launched a new mobile phone, called the iPhone. (One wonders exactly how long the marketing guys took to come up with that name).

Unfortunately, it appears some one else already had a trademark on the name as applied to phones. The suggestion is that their trademark goes back as far as 1996, when the iMac, the first of the "i" products, was merely a gleam in the eye of Steve Job's goldfish.[1]

This isn't some tiny little company either that's suing Apple. It's Cisco. A company bigger than Apple, and so far has rarely been in direct competition with them. The Register has more here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


The Witanagemot Club has recently had a debate about whether or not to admit a BNP blog to the Blog Roll and membership. In the end, the decision was taken to reject the blog in question, a decision I support.

This is not a free speech issue - no one is denying the BNP their right to express an opinion - its about whether not a private club choses to let them join.

Naturally some of the BNP blogs have gotten a little upset about it - and one member resigned from the Witanagemot Club over the decision arguing that "the only thing that mattered in deciding whether or not to admit him to Witangemot was whether or not he believed in an English parliament."

Actually it doesn't - Hitler was a anti hunting vegetarian but one suspects that the animal rights veggies wouldn't particularly want to be associated with him. And it ill becomes the BNP to complain about excluding people because of their other views when their own website states "Membership of the British National Party is open to those of British or kindred European ethnic descent. While we welcome contact and co-operation with nationalists and patriots of other races, and with the many non-whites who also oppose enforced multi-racialism, we ask them to respect our right to an organisation of our own, for our own, as we respect and applaud their measures to organise themselves in like fashion."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Average IQ in Ongar has gone up

Yes folks, it's official. The average IQ in Ongar has gone up by two points.

Jade Goody and her family are currently living in the Big Brother House.

Quite amusing.

An acquaintance I've shared an email list with for some years recently had a problem with an Iranian tech site deliberately embedding a picture hosted on her site in (presumably) his technical blog.

A couple of attempts have been made to resolve this - and have failed. As a result, she's changed the URL of her own image, and updated the image to one commerating the Holocaust.

You can see the updated version of the blog here. I do have a screen capture if this guy ever notices.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Happy New Year

It's been a very busy Christmas, what with the Darling Wife returning from Singapore with The Boy and just spending time together, installing furniture and generally trying to get the house in order.

The Christmas Concert went well, and now it's time to prepare for the next concert, namely the Messiah in Chelmsford Cathedral. I haven't sung it in a while, so it will be nice to do again (one of the complaints we had when I was at university was that we did the Messiah too much, but the last time I sang it was probably the year after I left when I kept attending rehearsals.

One rather useful thing I've discovered over the Christmas break is Google's Blog Reader, which makes keeping up with my favourite blogs very simple. Now, if only I could find a way to get Firefox not to hang everytime I open Tim Worstall's blog at work.