Friday, December 05, 2008

That's how to do it....

Kirklees District Council have announced they are to have an "independent review" ... "into the way social services dealt with Shannon Matthews's family before the schoolgirl was kidnapped by her mother."

The Council Leader, Robert Light, said they had ordered the review "because any responsible local authority would want to be constantly reviewing its processes and working practices".

Good man!

There's no way that social services can 100% guarantee the safety of any child in a dangerous and abusive position. The law designed to protect the rights of parents and children can get in the way, and busy overworked social workers can make mistakes (and indeed, even social workers with a managable workload could be deceived and this isn't a black or white issue - they are dealing with various shades of grey).

It is possible - maybe even probable - that Social Services in the area followed procedures and genuinely felt there was no need for Shannon and her siblings to be on the "at risk" register. This doesn't need to be a witchhunt (for a start, despite everything, thankfully nobody died) - what it needs to be is an opportunity for a local organisation to look at itself, see if there are lessons to be learnt and then learn them.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thoughts on the interest rate cut

Last time interest rates were at 2% was 1951.

When Labour lost an election and didn't return to power for years.

We can but hope!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You know you're getting old...

When you're watching Father of the Bride on the Sky Plus box, and you're looking at the wedding from the father's point of view.

Might have had something to do with the gorgeous eight month old baby on my knee at the time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

You know you're settling into Brentwood....

It's been the end of an exhausting fortnight - I went over to Ireland for my brother's wedding, returned home last Monday only to have to go straight back to Ireland for my grandmother's funeral (I actually got the call as the boat was pulling out of Dublin Bay). Home again for a couple of days, before heading up to my grandmother's house for a night.

And the realisation I was finally, finally settling into the area as we pulled off the M25 onto the A12... I was thinking "finally, we're home".

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I was a bit puzzled by the stupidity displayed by Caroline Flint in her Newsnight video:

But according to her Wikipedia page she has a "BA (Hons) in American Literature and History combined with Film Studies from the University of East Anglia."

I'm not puzzled any more.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

UKIP and 42 days

The recent UKIP policy document on Criminal Justice Policy says

We regard detention without trial as in improper state of affair
That would explain Bob Spink, UKIP's only MP support for the government in last night's vote to extend the period for locking up terrorist suspects for 42 days without trial.

Watching Prime Minister's questions last night - I couldn't believe that Gordon Brown had the cheek to lecture the Conservatives on the risks of terrorism. It was clear which side won the argument - sadly, they lost the vote because the Prime Minister saw fit to maintain the old Irish tradition of bribing MPs (or TDs) to vote with the government in exchange for supplying their constituencies with cash.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


So, I'm spending a few minutes glancing through Hansard from the early days of the online archives, and I found this gem from Defence questions:

Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he has any plans to strengthen the security of sensitive defence computer systems.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : Yes. For security reasons I am not prepared to disclose details.

Mr. Darling : Can the Minister tell us whether British defence computer systems have been interfered with? Can Britain's defence computer system be infiltrated as happened in the United States when computer hackers spread a virus in the system and so compromised defence? The Minister sounds a little complacent, as if he is seeking to hide behind a shroud of secrecy. Will he answer my question and give the House the assurances it needs?

Isn't it somehow ironic that years later, Mr Darling was the Chancellor when HMRC managed to lose the details of 26 million people?

Monday, May 12, 2008

But who chose them in the first place.....

Tim Worstall points out (rightly) that the MEP Tom Wise, who was the subject of a rather damning report in the News of the World about MEPs "riding the gravy train" hasn't been a member of UKIP for some time. Ashley Mote, the MEP who was sentenced to nine months in jail for benefits fraud and attempted to avoid prosecution by claiming immunity as an MEP, had the whip removed by UKIP within weeks of his election. As for Robert Kilroy Silk, I'm sure that UKIP would feel the less said, the better. In 2004, UKIP had 12 MEPs elected. In other words, they've lost 25% of their elected representatives, mostly under a cloud (and Godfrey Bloom isn't exactly a walking advertisment for a modern political party either).

This does rather beg the question though - what does it say about the party that thought the three of them were fit to nominated in the first place?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

It's called democracy, dammit.

Two recent political stories make me wonder about how democracy in this country is going to shake out over the next few years.

While the likes of Iain Dale are correct in pointing out that whatever else it is, Boris Johnson's election is not a bad day for democracy, there are a couple of other stories that indicate other things might be.

Take for instance the news that Stuart Wheeler has successfully obtained a judicial review of the government's decision not to hold a referendum on the European Constitutional/Review Treaty. While it would be rather entertaining seeing Gordon Brown getting slapped down by the courts - and why not, everyone else is giving him a good kicking at the moment so it's only fair the judges should have a turn - I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that a court can presume it might even have the power to strike down parliamentary legislation on the basis of an election promise. (Side note to the likes of the Devil's Kitchen complaining about Boris banning booze on the Tube - it was in his manifesto. You don't get to cheer when Gordon gets a shoeing over failure to keep his election promises, and simultaneously complain when Boris keeps his - at least be consistent).

The other issue that concerns me even more is the report in last night's the London Paper about the anti BNP protest at City Hall yesterday - with the paper reporting one protestor as saying their aim was to "force" Richard Barnbrook "out of office". I loathe the BNP - and I have little time for any party that would refuse to have my son or daughter as a member simply because of the colour of their skin. However, I am equally uncomfortable with the idea that in a democracy we should seek to "force" someone who was democratically elected out of their office simply because we find their politics odious. Apart from the fact it will simply harden the hearts of those who voted for the BNP as a protest vote (the whole "anti political establishment" mentality can only be reinforced by this kind of thing), the democratic solution is to wait four years and then campaign hard to get rid of him (either that or change the system so that minority parties find it harder to gain Assembly seats - just like Westminster! I some how think the Greens might not like that though!) I also suspect that the people protesting this would be the same people who defended Ken's association with Sheikh Qaradawi on the grounds he was a moderate next to those who were so disenfranchised they took to blowing up the Tube. Hows that for double standards - why is associating with those who would behead homosexuals better than associating with unpleasant racists who advocate the voluntary "repatriation" of any one with dark skin?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

10% tax rates

Haven't been blogging for a while due to the recent birth of my daughter.

I meant to blog last week about the evilness of the CBeebies controller in taking "In the Night Garden" out of the bedtime (and in the week when the clocks went forward as well - moron!)

However, the bigger bunch of morons are the Labour backbenchers. Have cheered and cheered when Gordon Brown announced the rate cut from 22% to 20% - they are now, a year later complaining about the fact he's partly funding it by abolishing the 10% band. So it was okay when it got good headlines last year, but now it's actually going to hurt people, they are complaining. Typical!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The West Wing and Obama

A lot of bloggers have been pointing out that the similarities between Barack Obama and Matthew Santos, and how the story looks so familiar (brokered convention, Republican candidate mistrusted by his own base, up against a party insider in the primaries etc). A number of reports even comment on how the "Obama candidate" won.

Just a piece of advice to whoever Obama might chose as his potential running mate - make sure you're in good health. Sadly, John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry who Matt Santos chose as his running mater, died while filming the final season of the West Wing - just before he would have been due to start filming the climax of the election campaign. West Wing executive producer Lawrence O'Donnell has suggested the original plan was for the Republican to win it, but the death of John Spencer forced a rewrite.

Though am I being too nasty in suggesting that maybe that could be the best reason for picking Hillary?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Beer and water

They are at it again. This morning I caught an interview with some idiot on the Today programme on the subject of binge drinking and young people - I think said idiot was Kevin Barron MP, but I'm not 100% sure. Said idiot was however advocating increasing the taxes on booze and complaining that water in the supermarkets is more expensive than lager.

I call the guy an idiot for a number of reasons:
  1. It is simply idiotic to suggest that the reason kids are getting drunk is because water is more expensive, which is what is being implied by this comparison.
  2. It is also untrue. The last time I bought Sainsbury's basic water, both still and sparkling 1.5 litre bottles cost 18p. The Sainsbury's basic lager was 22p for what (I think) was a 0.5 litre can. So in fact it would appear that you can by buy three times as much water for 4p less.
  3. Why should I pay more taxes on something because the government is incapable of enforcing its own legislation.
I am getting fed up of the lie - for that's what it is, a lie - that supermarkets are charging more for water than for beer, and that being used as a justification for increasing taxes. Politicans should maybe go and do some research before repeating it (after all, it should take a reasonably bright young researcher on 22k a year about five minutes in Sainsburys to realise it's not true).

Of course expensive waters like Perrier cost more than cheap lager, but expensive beer may cost more than cheap wine.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Manchester United and programmes....

I don't think I've explicitly stated this before, but I have the good fortune to have season tickets for Manchester United (*).

Yesterday therefore I had the great fortune to attend the Manchester Derby, which for those of you who have been living in a cave with no connections to football news, was also of course the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster. Credit must go to the fans and supporters of both sides, who paid a proper and respectful tribute - particularly moving was the chorus of "Frank Swift - there's only one Frank Swift" from the away end, which was met with huge applause from the Stretford End.

Infuriatingly, despite queuing for 15 minutes, I was unable to get a programme. I was so annoyed at the fact that they are now appearing on Ebay at starting prices of up to £20 - with one seller claiming he had bought 36 of the things - I wrote an irritated email to the Manchester United membership services - politely suggesting that in future they should ration the programmes on big occassions, or stick to selling them inside the ticket gates to stop people without tickets buying large quantities of programmes.

To my surprise, despite sending the mail at 4:30 this afternoon, I got two replies sent after seven pm. The first one seemed to be a bit of a thank you for your mail response, the second one however was much better (and stronger):

Secondly I would like to apologise and also
express my disgust that people have been buying multiple programmes and
are now selling these programmes on eBay. Here at Man United we are
completely shocked at those doing this and are making money from such a
terrible disaster.

That's pretty much my reaction. We have two beautiful scarves from the match, which I am going to treasure.

I was however keen enough to get a copy of the program on the day that I held my nose and placed a reasonable bid for a copy of the programme on Ebay (four pounds, as opposed to a normal price of three). I have however just received this email:

Please be aware that the following auction-style listing:

230221962474 - Man United v Man City. Munich Remembered programme

has been removed by eBay for breaching of one or more of our policies. Any offers or bids placed on this are now null and void. We advise you not to finalise this transaction with the seller. As stated in the eBay User Agreement, neither seller nor buyer should engage in transactions that breach the law or eBay policy.
Looks like there might even be pressure on Ebay to drop the listings - a quick search shows that a lot of the listings that were there earlier have now been dropped - most of the Munich related programmes relate to programmes printed in the 1950s.

more nonsense

Anne Cryer MP is quoted in todays Telegraph:

The issue of birth-defects and cousin marriage was first raised in parliament two years ago by Ann Cryer, the Labour MP for Keighley in West Yorkshire. She said marriage between cousins was a "to do with a medieval culture where you keep wealth within the family".

She said: "If you go into a paediatric ward in Bradford or Keighley you will find more than half of the kids there are from the Asian community. Since Asians only represent 20-30 per cent of the population, you can see that they are over-represented."

I hope, I just hope, that she's been misquoted by the Telegraph.

Otherwise, she's a moron. The second paragraph has nothing to do with the first.

Birth rates are not connected to whether or not there is a "close" genetic relationship between the parents. We already know that the birth rates amongst Pakistani born mothers is much, much higher than that of the population at large. So it's not surprising that in an area which is 30% asian, that over 50% of the children born are Asian.

It has nothing - repeat nothing - to do with whether or not the parents are cousins or not. It has everything to do with the wider cultural values that are held by that community. To prove otherwise, you'd have to show that Pakistani couples who are related have a significantly higher birth rate than those who don't. Odds are they don't.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Abolishing PMQs?

From, an entry suggesting that Gordon Brown might try to abolish PMQs:

Another Wednesday and another PMQs for Gordon Brown to have to endure. He clearly doesn’t like them and being open every seven days to the fierce blasts that Cameron is able to master cannot be very pleasant.

You mean at a time when the government is (mis)handling Northern Rock, talking about reforming the education system and has just lost a minister over inability to apply their own rules on campaign funding, the opposition scrutiny is intense and question? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you to discover that the parliamentary system is working as it should be. If you can't stand the heat, maybe you should reconsider whether or not you should even be in the kitchen.

Ever since a piece appeared in the Indy a couple of weeks ago about Brown’s views of the weekly ritual I’ve been pondering over whether we are being softened up for a proposal to change the structure.

You mean the fact that Labour can't spin this one is embarrassing, so they are just hoping to make it go away.

    Maybe they could find a way of blaming Cameron for the need for change because of the way the Tory leader handles the event
That appalling man - he has this odd idea that Prime Minister's Questions is about, well, asking the Prime Minister questions. Perhaps they should remember this is a democracy, not a dictatorship where you can sweep awkward questions under the carpet. Clearly Cameron forgets his place, that it is not his role to question the way those who have been raised to high office conduct their affairs.

The Indy suggested Gordon Brown is telling friends that the public is being increasingly repelled by the event and that the Commons exchanges are now of little use in discussing the issues of the day.

Indeed. It's damn difficult to discuss the issues of the day at PMQs when the PM tries to turn it into Leader of the Opposition questions.

For example, Sky reported that yesterday the Prime Minister was asked a straight question three times by David Cameron (about the PM's views on A Levels). The PM three times ignored the question, and asked Cameron a question. The exchange with Nick Clegg was even more bizarre - Clegg (correctly) raised concerns about the way this country is turning into a surveillence state, only for the PM to start raising questions about the LibDem policy on CCTV.

A lot has been made out of the Prime Minister's father being a minister in the Church of Scotland - perhaps, when it comes to looking at the reasons why the public might be put off by Prime Minister's questions, he should look up and reflect on Matthew 7:3.

Clearly there would have to be something in it place but, no doubt, something could be devised that sounded fair and reasonable but took away the Opposition Leader’s six questions.

It wouldn't matter if the entire half hour was Opposition Leader's questions, the chances of the Prime Minister actually answering a question are slightly slimmer than that of Iain Dale attending a Champions League semi final using his West Ham season ticket.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Not actually burning our money

According to Wat Tyler, the cost of NHS treatment for foreign born mothers is currently run at 350 million a year. This is apparently 25% of the overall cost of maternity services.

My response is, so what? This figure is completely meaningless with out a bit of context (for instance - what constitutes foreign born? In my parish church, there at least three kids under two who were born to foreign born parents - one Irish, one Malaysian and of course the darling wife who is from Singapore). Two of those children however "rejoice" in British born fathers.

More to the point, all three were born to working parents who pay their taxes (indeed, being in this area of the country the chances are those parents are paying a lot more into the exchequer than the value of the services they take out).

AS Dr Crippen points out - if this is health tourism, it does need to be stopped. If it's legal, tax paying immigrants , then so what?

One other thing. Wat Tyler makes the point that:
The average native British woman has 1.6 children. The average immigrant woman has 2.2. And the average Pakistani woman in Britain has 4.7 children.
So what? To maintain the population as is, we apparently need 2.2 children per woman. In the future, we'll need those young people to man and support our healthcare and pay for our pensions - there's no point even in private pensions if there's no one working to earn the money to pay into the funds. If British born women - for whatever reason - aren't having enough children, then it's not reasonable to complain that the immigrants are making up the numbers for them.

Monday, January 28, 2008

New Man United purchase.

Sir Alex Ferguson today announced a key new purchase ahead of next week's derby game against Man City.

He's off to Toys R Us to buy some balloons.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

BBC, the Pope and Galileo

The BBC are reporting that

Lecturers and students at a prestigious university in Rome want a planned visit by the Pope to be cancelled as they object to his position on Galileo.
The protest is because

Pope Benedict was in charge of Roman Catholic doctrine in 1990 when, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he commented on the 17th-Century Galileo trial. He has been quoted as saying the trial was "reasonable and just".

Except he wasn't. As this posting by John Allen on the National Catholic Reporter's site makes clear, he was quoting another philosopher, Feyerabend. The article appears to be a review of the views of several philosophers about the Galileo case and an attempt to draw a conclusion from that - not about Galileo, but about 20th century views of science and truth.

This was easily discovered in about five minutes with google - it's rather disappointing that the BBC journalists couldn't be bothered finding out if the claim was true, but then perhaps it's not surprising given the ignorance bias shown in the last line of the report:

Fifteen years ago Pope John Paul II officially conceded that in fact the Earth was not stationary.

This almost has echoes of Regensberg.