Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dire Straights

The Coalition government has appointed Simon Hughes to be its "Advocate for Access to Higher Education". This entails selling the recent tuition fees reforms to young people in order to encourage them to attend university.

Simon Hughes is, of course, a man who couldn't even persuade himself that these reforms are worthwhile enough to vote for them. He abstained.

This is surely the coalition's single most ridiculous appointment yet. Next they'll be inviting Ed Balls to be their Spending Cuts Advocate.

Norfolk Blogger has a similarly critical Lib Dem perspective on this here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

EMA protests kick off

Good grief. Educational Maintenance Allowance was only introduced a couple of years ago. And now it's seemingly introduced teenagers to welfare dependency. These protesters need to get a grip. Bribing these youngsters won't educate them, if they had any interest in further study they would just go anyway. Anyone who's attending college purely to receive EMA is just having their time wasted by the state when they could be entering employment or training.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


It's been fascinating to watch the news all day. We saw people smashing up windows and the reception area to the 30 Millbank building (or was it Millbank Tower, the journalists couldn't quite make their minds up) - all in the name of protesting against increased student fees (although oddly I don't recall anyone doing anything like this when Labour introduced them in the first place, nor when they hiked them by a factor of three in 2005).

Strangest of all has been the reaction of the NUS (whose staff, wearing reflective jackets, were prominently on the scene when those windows were being smashed in). It is currently saying on its web site:

NUS has condemned the violent actions of "rogue protestors" who have undermined an otherwise peaceful protest with NUS President Aaron Porter calling the scenes "despicable".

Strange then that this afternoon, clicking on the "WE WILL MARCH" banner produced the following, at

With "DEMO-LITION" emblazoned all over it (as well on the NUS' official placards and t-shirts), it seems to me not so much a condemnation of violence as an incitement to it.

Of course during the course of the afternoon all trace of this site has mysteriously disappeared and the URL currently links straight through to Funny that. There's still a couple of "DEMO-LITION" badges tucked away on its front page though.

Pity the media hasn't made a point of this, they don't seem to like reporting on union hypocrisy very much for some reason...

On a related note, credit to the BBC who managed to find the perfect candidate to interview for the Six O'Clock News (long before the watershed): a man with "FUCK" scrawled all over his face. Very prominent on the analogue set I watched it on...

Update: they just showed him again on the News at Ten.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Do you want comics? Here be comics.

I have 525 comics I want to sell. But I can't be arsed with eBay, as it won't let me do what I want it to, and charges me for the privilege. If you want the lot, you can have it for three hundred quid. If you want a particular comic, or some of them, make me an offer and I'll consider it (and probably take you up on it). Contact me in the comments, which are completely open, or on Twitter. They're all in good nick, I'd call most of them NM but I haven't got a clue about those classifications really, what the comics are good for is reading. The full list appears after the jump (if people stake individual bits I'll update accordingly):

Friday, July 30, 2010

BBC's balanced welfare coverage

Looking at how the BBC has reported reaction to Iain Duncan Smith's welfare initiative:

We're given reactions (both positive and negative) from only the following:
  • Will Hutton (left-wing)
  • Yvette Cooper (left-wing), speaking on behalf of Labour (left-wing)
  • SNP (left-wing)
  • Plaid Cymru (left-wing)
  • Brendan Barber (left-wing) speaking for the TUC (left-wing)
  • And a spokeswoman for the IPPR, which the BBC itself describes as "left-leaning".

Well if that's not what I call balance across the whole of the left-wing spectrum, I don't know what is! However, if we are to believe the BBC, nobody from the centre or the right of British politics has an opinion on this.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Facebook recommends...

Facebook has been making this recommendation for a week or two now, which suggests to me that at this point any real distinction between the two main parties in British politics has become utterly superficial:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Why does Andy Burnham's appearance on "This Week" have all the hallmarks of a car crash?

Burnham's turn on "This Week" last night was an absolute disaster from start to finish. He completely misjudged the pace of the show in such a way that suggests he'd never watched the programme before. Right from the outset (not seen in the above video), when Andrew Neil asked him for his "moment of the week" and he read out three carefully prepared lines of anti-Tory rhetoric - lines designed to scare people, lines that everyone's heard before (from Harriet Harman and the other candidates), lines that impress no one - it was obvious he was in over his head. Even Portillo managed to eviscerate him.

The only glimmer of light was when he attacked the Tory policy of ringfencing health spending - a sensible position to take if only this wasn't the Shadow Health Secretary of a party that is trying to convince everyone that the government can afford to increase spending on every department. One is confused by the notion of a Labour politician calling for health spending to be cut (and one might further wonder what exactly Burnham achieved during his tenure as Health Secretary).

After Diane Abbott's mauling last week you've got to wonder why the other contenders are putting themselves through this. I suppose in the long run it might steel them up a bit as politicians, though in the age of Youtube (where your worst on-screen moments are recorded for eternal posterity) I somewhat doubt it. I can't wait to see what Neil and Portillo do to the brothers Miliband.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nick Clegg Part 2

(In response to this riposte.)

Why am I disturbed by Nick Clegg's spurious popularity - because of his plans to obliterate our democratic system and lock us into a ghastly alternative that protects, above all else, the vested interests - which at that point would include the Lib Dems.

Which "accusation" against Clegg is untrue? That government contractors paid money directly into his personal account? (The Lib Dems have confirmed this.) That he claimed three kitchens, cake tins, paper napkins and a rose for his wall garden on expenses? (Published in his expense accounts, confirmed by Clegg.) That his party received £2.4m from a convicted fraudster and never returned the money? (A matter of public record.)

Ashcroft has not lied to or cheated anyone - he never told anyone he was moving to the UK for tax purposes, he was never required to do that (everything he did was agreed with the government and they have confirmed that he acted above board the entire time) - and the fact is he's the only person in history who has been given a conditional peerage - Labour's Lord Paul, for example, hasn't been subject to similar standards (even though his situation, with stiffed employees and expenses claims added into the mix, is a decidedly dodgy one) - nor has he been subject to the kind of press scrutiny Ashcroft has despite being the Prime Minister's personal bankroller.

(By the way, Ashcroft does pay UK taxes on his UK earnings. He is taxed in each country his earnings are made, at the appropriate rate - why on earth should he pay another whack of tax on them again in the UK - surely that would come to 90% or something?)

Can you legitimately justify the weeks of coverage that story garnered? The story didn't even go anywhere, and was hardly relevant to the general populace - an obscure individual who hadn't broken any law. Nick Clegg is asking us to vote for him - so surely it is fair to ask him why he charged the taxpayer for business class flights when he flew economy class?

(Fortunately it looks like the supposed "Lib Dem surge" has subsided... polls have snapped back to what they were in March.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

When is a smear a smear?

I find it bizarre that lefty news organisations such as the Independent, the Guardian and the BBC came out yesterday against the "attacks" of "right-wing press" (I wasn't aware the Telegraph was right-wing any more, but never mind) against Nick Clegg. In fact pretty much all the reports were keen to present these attacks as "smears".

Firstly, this must be seen in the context of what the media also describes as "smears", specifically those seen in "Smeargate" wherein we learned that one of the Prime Minister's closest aides spent his time under Gordon Brown's employment making up nasty stories about Conservative MPs and circulating them to lefty hacks. These slanderous stories, which were self-evidently fictitious, were defined by the press as "smears" - fair enough.

However, in that context, it gives the impression that the stories about Nick Clegg's expenses (claiming to have his kitchen renovated three times - like any good Lib Dem he was obviously sitting on the fence about what it should look like), his views (expressing why Britain shouldn't proud of its role in WWII might be a noble discussion to articulate, but it is not becoming of someone who is asking to be our Prime Minister - or whatever it is he is asking us to do to him) and his financial arrangements (having donations made by government contractors into his private account might be above board, but it's an incredibly dodgy arrangement) are also of that nature - when in fact every single piece of it is from publicly documented evidence. And while Fleet Street hacks might be completely useless at a great number of things, they don't have a reputation for making stuff up.

And yet the likes of the BBC report these accusations as "smears" by the nasty right-wing press, the "Tory-supporting newspapers", as though these attacks have been co-ordinated by George Osborne himself. Ben Brogan says these aren't smears, this is scrutiny - and if the Liberal Democrats want to be taken seriously as a political party then they ought to expect rather a lot of that, because it's what David Cameron and Gordon Brown get the rest of the time (not least from them!!!).

But of course then the whole thing takes a rather deeper turn, with the Guardian and the Independent (not the BBC this time, this would be an editorialisation too far) out-and-out attacking their fellow newspapers (and Rupert Murdoch in particular) for going to such lengths to make 'their guy' look bad, as though they have never editorialised, as though they have never had an agenda to destroy an individual or a political force.

And yet you only need look six weeks into the past to see what complete and utter hypocrites they really are.

Over a decade ago, some bloke you've never heard of joined the House of Lords under a unique conditional arrangement that required him to take up permanent residence in the United Kingdom, and then, without telling anyone other than the government he was accountable to, took up a non-domiciled tax status. Everything he did was fully within the law (and indeed there are several other peers on all sides of the House who behave identically, although weirdly none of them have ever been given conditional peerages). However, the reason you're supposed to care about this? He took the Tory whip and donated shedloads to the party, and six weeks ago his tax status was forced into the public domain.

What's whiffy about the story is unclear but the fact that he'd kept his private tax information secret for all these years gave the left-wing press the opportunity to write as many nasty articles about Lord Ashcroft and the Conservative Party as they could think of. To the extent that even when there wasn't any more new information about Lord Ashcroft or the situation they still published a seemingly endless stream of highly-prominent articles at a fast pace, all of them claiming that Ashcroft had done something horribly wrong and many of them declaring that he should be sacked immediately.

Now, will the likes of the Indy admit the prominence and the frequency of those Ashcroft articles were a concerted effort designed to smear Ashcroft and damage the Conservative party in the run-up to a general election, hence making them complete hypocrites on this particular issue, or are they going to talk down to us as if we're all complete and utter morons? (and judging by the reaction to their attacks on Murdoch etc, it's entirely possible that for the most part they're right?)