Tuesday, 22 December 2009


An increasingly desperate Prime Minister is now using the politics of fear to attempt to win points from the Tories. He has announced that a Conservative victory at the next General Election would be a danger to the economic prospects of the UK. Whilst glossing over the not insignificant matter of how Labour would turn around the country’s finances, he is trying to portray David Cameron’s party as the potential creators of “an industrial wasteland” that would decimate public services.

Brown has shown many times over the last couple of years how massively out of touch he is with the nation. How he can stand up and announce that another party would be worse for the economy than his, displays the delusional nature of the man.

This is the man who "abolished boom and bust": time will tell - he inherited a boom and created the bust. There is no sign of a fresh boom.

This is the man who cosied up to the bankers and hedge fund managers, a bunch of people with an eye only on their next Porsche or holiday home, and not the best interests of the UK.

This is the man who has sanctioned the spending of nearly £200bn of our tax revenue to prop up banks, banks that have then used that money to pay themselves bonuses and not to finance the rebuilding of the UK economy.

This is the man who has permitted the civil service to expand to the point of torpor and allowed them to amass a £900bn pension deficit that is conveniently kept off the balance sheet.

This is the man who manages to find billions to spend on grandstanding projects such as the Olympics, climate change, ID cards and Trident, but can't finance equipment for the brave soldiers who fight in the two unwanted wars that his predecessor dragged us into.

Given that little lot, I can't see how anyone else could be a bigger danger to the economy than Gordon Brown and the Labour party.

To paraphrase Neil Kinnock’s rallying call from the 1983 election: don’t be ordinary, young, old or ill, otherwise the Conservatives will leave you by the wayside.

Or in Gordon’s words: “If Labour wins in May 2010, rejoice all ye who are scroungers, dole cheats, civil servants, bankers and hedge fund managers. The rest of you can get your cheque books out (although only until 2018 - credit cards accepted too)".

But of course Kinnock lost, too.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Mandy for Mayor

According to the Daily Red Rag, Lord Mandelson wants to stand as a candidate in the next London mayoral election. If true, this is the best news that Boris Johnson has had for ages.

If the Inebriated Newt, Ken Livingstone, decided to run again, there are just enough deluded souls to the North and East of London to hand him a victory; but apart from a few of the Notting Hill set, I can't see anyone in London voting for Lord Mandy of Pandy.

Then again, if I was Bojo, I would be happy to hand back the shambles that will be the 2012 Olympics to the administration that so wanted it in the first place.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Christmas is bad for your wealth

At least it is if you are one of the poor saps who contribute tax to the funding of the NHS. One of the administrative departments of the NHS, based in Southwark, has spent £2,500 on a Christmas tree to decorate its office.

This is wrong in so many ways that it is difficult to know where to start, but I will. Firstly, why is a manager given the authority to sign-off such a large purchase on what is basically a frivolity? Is the NHS so efficient and awash with resources that this sum of money can be afforded in preference to front-line services for patients? I think we know the answer to that one.

Next, how do you go about procuring a Christmas tree that costs £2,500? Allowing for the fact that Southwark is in London and therefore prices are higher than elsewhere in the UK, a decent-sized tree should not cost more than £100, and even that is outrageous. The tree is reported as “dressed”, so it must come with tinsel, baubles and lights, but even the most ardent spendaholic would struggle to waste more than a few hundred quid on decorations. So that leaves a balance of about £2,000 to deliver and set up the tree, which means someone is trousering a nice little earner.

But if this is a symptom of the spending patterns within the NHS, where Christmas decorations are bought for a minimum of 5-times their actual value, what does it say about the rest of the spending within the NHS? At a time when companies and households are trying to spend less, and when even the presiding party has woken up to the fact that the civil service might be a tad corpulent, it’s time for a full audit of the procurement process within the health department.

The NHS spends about £8bn per year on drugs: maybe that should be nearer £2bn? What about all the medical equipment? Then there are the IT systems, of which at least £12bn has been wasted on a national system for patient records. The total NHS budget is about £100bn, or should it be £20bn?

The Tory party has said that it will “ring fence” the NHS budget if it wins next year’s election. This cannot be justified in an economy where there is a £200bn budget deficit. If the NHS is wasting thousands on Christmas trees, how much is it wasting on core services? And how much are the other departments wasting? There is plenty of scope for reducing the deficit quickly, as long as there is political will to do so and cooperation from the civil service.

The next government needs to move on from Labour’s “think the unthinkable" and actually “do the undoable” – reduce the size and cost of government, whilst delivering better services.

Boilers, Broadband and Bingo

Alistair Darling’s pre-budget report did little for relations between himself and Gordon Brown, but I’m sure his eyebrows will lose no sleep over that. Brown wasn’t exactly friendly with his former boss. Tensions between Prime Ministers and Chancellors are nothing new. Although in this case, when is someone going to point out that there is a common denominator: Blair and Brown don’t get on and run the country into the ground; Brown and Darling don’t get on and just keep on digging us deeper.

But Darling’s PBR did wonders for the Conservatives’ chances of being elected in 2010. Not only did the Chancellor fail to tackle public debt, but he also saddled most taxpayers with tax rises in the form of additional National Insurance payments. Darling should do the honourable thing and cross the floor of the Commons and sit with his natural party, the Tories. Not only has he helped them win the election, but his public school background will sit well with their breeding. At least that is probably what Gordon Brown is thinking, a man who was disabled at his local school, but thinks this is preferable to having your policies tainted by a private school upbringing.

And the winners out of last week’s mini budget are those wanting to scrap their old boiler, rural communities without broadband and those with a disposition towards fat ladies and little ducks.

Introducing boiler scrappage is a curious ploy, but he can dress it up as a green initiative whilst actually targeting the low-paid and pensioners; the reduction in bingo duty is obviously aimed at the Jeremy Kyle-watching layabouts who cannot get enough of this government’s handouts. And broadband is touted by Lord Mandy of Pandy as an essential utility, akin to water and electricity. It has also been described as a “human right”.

So it’s a human right to watch monkeys pull peanuts out of their bums? Or to announce on Twitter that it is cold/sunny/wet or what you had for breakfast? And the last time I looked, provision of broadband in this country was the responsibility of private companies. I resent having £6 taken out of my pocket each year to help BT and other companies to improve the nation’s broadband infrastructure. Darling appears to have forgotten that BT is no longer part of the civil service.

I commend this budget to the workshy, infirm and impressionable males wanting free porn. And please vote for me.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

War, what is it good for?

If the government is to be believed, they and us are currently waging many wars: there is the war on terror, which is physically costing lives in Iraq and Afghanistan; there is a war on benefits cheats, which is failing, as the number of people watching Jeremy Kyle increases every year; there is a war on drugs, which is obviously doing really well, too, judging by the number of people who go to the NHS with heroin addiction and end up with methadone dependence instead.

And the latest war that Gordon “Superman” Brown is fighting is against climate change. You would have thought that with his previous form with starting wars he can’t finish or win, he would know better than to take on nature. But the PM does not let little things such as impossibility, implausibility or lack of ability get in his way. Or the issue that the “science” behind climate change is not exactly rock solid.

The publication of emails from the University of East Anglia suggested that “scientists” were prepared to interpret their results in a manner that strengthened their argument for man-made climate change. There was a piece on the BBC news last night where a very large bar graph was shown, indicating the rise in global temperatures, but if you looked at the scale of the graph, the actual rises over the past two decades were about 0.1 degrees every 10 years. There are articles in the press every day about climate change that are littered with words such as “if”, “would”, “could” and “may”. I like to call them “green passive conditionals” – GPCs.

I doubt very much that there is a global conspiracy to propel climate change into the limelight and blame it all on overpopulation, meat eaters, flying, Land Rovers and cows. But it does seem that way sometimes. And I wouldn’t mind – quite so much – if there was any credible science behind the claims of the proponents of climate change. And by credible, I mean the empirically measurable, cause and effect kind of science that keeps buildings upright, aircraft in the air and that ensures 1+1 will always equal 2.

And talking of aircraft, the government yesterday gave the “green” light (forgive the unintended pun) on the third runway at Heathrow. Even though having more aircraft over London will generate more CO2, this will not matter as long as those aircraft are cleaner and there is a high-speed rail infrastructure to take passengers to destinations that normally require short-haul flights. So that’s great, the project is good for the planet.

Er… hang on, rewind. Notice how a couple of those green passive conditionals slipped into the government’s report? “As long as the aircraft are cleaner” – that stipulation will require all of the airlines using London’s airports to completely re-engineer their fleets to use less fuel. This is not cheap: a basic Airbus A319 costs about £36m; the current model Boeing 747 is about £150m. And that’s before they are redesigned to run greener, a project that will not happen overnight. And before all the airlines agree to swap their existing fleets, or at least the engines, for greener models, which the government has next-to-no power to force the airlines to do. It also overlooks the not insignificant matter that most airlines are running at a loss these days: the last thing they need is to replace their planes to satisfy the conscience of the green lobby (40,000 of whom are quite happy to use aircraft to jolly it over to Copenhagen…)

There was also a second throwaway GPC in the government’s statement: “a network of high-speed rail lines connecting the UK’s major cities”. Not only do we have a gratuitous misuse of statistics to justify an airport runway, but we also have the repeated announcement of Lord Adonis’ #1 Christmas present: a high speed train set. This is at least the 3rd time it has been announced this year. But not 1 inch of track has been laid. There has also been no planning as to where the track will go and which cities it will connect. It is a pure vanity project on behalf of Lord A, fuelled by vapour and propelled by steam. As I am oft to quote, it took eleven years to lay the 67 miles of railway between London and Dover for the Channel Tunnel High Speed Link. At that rate, it will take about 22 years to connect London to Birmingham, another 13 or so to get to Manchester and the same amount again – thirty-plus years – to get to Edinburgh. And that’s before they think about linking North-East to Newcastle or West to Bristol and Cardiff. The government thinks that by talking about something, it will magically happen. This is government by Harry Potter spells.

But not wishing to duck the issue of climate change completely, are there solutions that are less onerous than forcing us to kill Daisy the cow, exterminate every second-born child or give up our foreign holidays and cars?

Yes, and it’s called geoengineering. This is the appliance of science (remember that?) to combat a perceived threat from the climate, regardless of its cause. There are simple measures, such as planting trees and reflecting heat from roofs. There are also some Star Wars-y ideas that involve pumping sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere to cool the planet, or building machines capable of generating clouds from sea water, which again cool the air. These schemes are not cheap, but they do represent a return on the investment that the government is asking us to make in the name of green taxes. What would you rather see from your fuel duty? A waste of our money that is used to bail out banks, create quangos and provide civil servants with cushy pensions? Or, a machine that is capable of taking the waste products from mining and pump them into the air to cool the planet?
Geoengineering in itself is not the cure for climate change. But to use a GPC: what if climate change is not man made and cutting down on burgers, holidays and journeys to work does not cool the planet? Shouldn’t there be a Plan B? By all means let the climate change scientists beaver away at their models and predictions, but at the same time, let’s get some smart people like CERN and Intellectual Ventures to use some of those tax pounds, euros and dollars to investigate alternatives to disrupting the economic, social and labour fabric of society.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Westminster Shuffle

According to The Times, Gordon Brown has been approached by Lord Mandy of Pandy, pressing him to reshuffle the government so that Mandelson can get an early Christmas present of a new ministry. If it goes ahead, less than 3 months after the last rearrangement of the Titanic's deckchairs, then it is time for us to take to the streets and demand an end to this government.

There will be no benefit to the electorate in allowing this washed-up bunch of fraudsters a last chance to play at being Foreign Secretary, Deputy PM or Assistant to the Privy Seal.

In case the Prime Minister hadn't noticed, this country is on its knees: £200bn of debt; £900bn of unfinanced civil service pensions; rising youth unemployment; rising inflation; unwinnable wars causing daily death tolls.

This is not the time to be indulging in vanity to permit a few politicians the chance to run the "department of their dreams". If any one of the geniuses currently in charge of a government department would have done a better job elsewhere, the PM should have had the foresight and intelligence to have appointed them a long time ago.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The election is over, can we please just get on and vote?

Yesterday’s parade of ermine and tiaras at Westminster (and that was just Peter Mandelson), highlighted that we have a dead government walking. Or lumbering towards an inevitable defeat. Most of the announcements were re-wordings of previous policies that still haven’t been implemented, despite 12 years of Labour promises and guarantees.

There was no mention of cleaning up the expenses system and parliament in general, at least not until the government was forced into a U-turn this morning by saying that this will now become a priority. There was no mention of how to pay for the new flagship elderly care bill – maybe OAPs will be shipped en masse to Spain to retire? There was no mention of how to reduce a £200bn budget deficit or how to finance an estimated £900bn of civil service pensions.

Six months is a long time in politics. But precious little will get done in SW1. If reports are to be believed there are between 33 and 71 actual days of debating between now and the end of May. That is next to no time to tackle major problems such as elderly care, the NHS or education. But it is plenty of time to implement a new expenses system and prosecute those who tried to buy duck houses and free porn from our hard-earned tax. And that would give us a clean system going into the election.

I would wager that most people intending to vote next May have made up their mind. There is little Labour can do to convince any sane person to give them another chance. The next six months are going to be wasted in Westminster because the government is tirelessly hanging on to their right to govern for the maximum 5 years. It’s a shame Her Maj (the real one, not Peter Mandelson) didn’t deviate from the script yesterday and announce that in the interests of her people, she was dissolving parliament forthwith and we could all have a new government for Christmas.

There are going to be six month’s of sniping, back-biting and murky revelations (and that’s just about Peter Mandelson). Can we please just draw a line under the tawdry mess and get the voting over with? It will save time and money that could be put to better use in sorting out the ruinous state that the country is in.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Stop the expenses scandal, I want to get off!

How many reports on expenses does it take to change the attitudes of MPs? We (the taxpayers) have paid KPMG millions to produce one report; Sir Christopher Kelly is now spending a few million more to digest that and produce another one.

One of the recommendations from Kelly’s report will be the setting up of a quango to oversee MPs expense claims – the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. (You see what’s happening there? Not content with being caught with their hands in the till – or pants around their ankles in Mr Jacqui Smith’s case – they are creating yet more jobs for civil servants and cronies). But it won’t be independent, as the people working there will be appointed by the MPs themselves and you can bet that they will be ‘influenced’ to water down the proposals from KPMG and Kelly. The quango will also not start its work until after May 2010 and most of Kelly’s proposals will not take effect for 5 years, in order to give MPs time to adjust.

Time to adjust?! When any normal company implements a new policy, it usually happens within a few months and the employees get little say in the matter. MPs and unionised firms appear to be the exception, where toys are ejected from prams and the public is inconvenienced whilst ‘workers’ and employers decide who is going to back down first.

When are MPs going to accept that they are no more special than the thousands of people who travel for business every week and give up their plasma tellies and subsidised housing?

- Hotel or rented flats reimbursed at cost (less than £100 per night)
- Meals reimbursed at cost, limited to £50 per day
- No claims for those living within 50 miles of Westminster
- Travel to be via cheapest option from constituency, not a phantom home
- Porn and bath plugs not allowable

There, that didn't take £6m to work out, did it?

Monday, 2 November 2009

Santa Claus is coming to town

…in the shape of Alistair Darling and the town is the City of London.

Alistair Darling is going to give the banks an early Christmas present to the tune of £30bn of additional funding to see them through this difficult time of year. Bankers not knowing where their next magnum of Krug, holiday to the Maldives or deposit on a bolt hole in Cornwall will come from, can sleep restfully in the knowledge that the 28m other tax payers will be providing for them this yuletide.

It is obvious that Darling and Brown are clutching at straws and are desperate not to be the last major economy to be mired in recession, especially as we are now 6 months from deciding which UK party will have the right to implement Brussels' edicts for the next 5 years.
The Chancellor would be better off writing a cheque for £1000 for every taxpayer, which equates to roughly £30bn. That way we would either spend the money, in which case retailers benefit through increased sales, as does the government through VAT income; or we would save the money, in which case the banks get the money anyway.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Real C-word

On hearing the news that The Sun is supporting the Tories in the can’t-be-called-soon-enough General Election, Lord Mandy of Pandy, Peter Mandelson is alleged to have referred to the newspaper as “c*nts”.

All I can say is: it takes one to know one.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Return of the Newt

The Daily Red Rag has published yet another article by the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone (why is the Inebriated Newt still given the oxygen of publicity?)

He uses this diatribe to broadcast his tired, mixed-up views of congestion charging and emissions control. In a predictable response to yesterday’s announcement from the present Mayor that the Western extension to the London Congestion Charge may not be scrapped any time soon, Livingstone argues that the zone should be expanded to include punitive charges for large vehicles. What he doesn’t argue of course, is for the zone to be extended North or East into the heartlands of his core voters.

The CC is all about reducing traffic levels; if it reduces emissions too, then that may be a good thing, but since London gets as much pollution from Rotterdam, Paris and Manchester, we needn't worry too much about a few Tonka toys dropping off Tamsin and Tarquin.

And unfortunately, the CC has completely failed to reduce traffic levels. Traffic levels are up and jams are worse than ever. I walk from Fleet St to Charing X every evening, and can get there quicker than any car or bus. However, this is not caused by volume of traffic, but poor management of the traffic that is there. Livingstone failed to introduce any legislation to prevent multiple holes being dug up in the same area. Livingstone ordered the installation of traffic lights every 100 yards on main roads to help pedestrians cross streets at any opportunity, and to frustrate motorists out of their cars (and for cyclists to ignore completely).

Unfortunately, like the Treasury’s addiction to using road tax and fuel duty to bail out every other government department, TfL is now dependent on whatever income it can get from road pricing. This means the CC is being used primarily as a revenue source for a quango, rather than as a means of alleviating traffic. TfL is short of cash because less people are working in London. Therefore fewer commuters are using the antiquated, unreliable tubes and buses, so TfL need to steal some money from elsewhere.

If we take a reductionist view of the Congestion Charge and it achieves it stated (original) aim, then less traffic will drive into London and therefore less money will flow into TfL’s coffers. This means that TfL needs to look for another source of revenue. Their current thinking is to maintain the Western Extension, which Ken famously instated against public will purely to upset the residents of Kensington and Chelsea. The fact that he killed off numerous businesses at the same time was less important than sticking two fingers up to the toffs in West London. In which case, let’s extend the CC across the whole of London and make it equally unfair for all. That will raise even more money, which can be invested in CrossRail and keeping the existing transport infrastructure going.

Or how about reducing the extortionate prices charged to travel on the tube? That would encourage people out of their cars, who reason that spending £8 a day to travel into London is only a bit more than £5.80 for a return ticket on a cramped, hot, unreliable train. Air-conditioning and listening to Radio 4 in private, versus cattle-transportation conditions and being forced to listen to someone’s Nokia playing the latest atonal catawauling from the Top 40? No contest.

And as for Livingstone: you lost – get over it and leave us alone.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The Lib-Dems are the new Monster Raving Loonies

The Lib-Dems seem to have adopted a new tactic in their campaign to not get elected or become the official opposition in 2010: announce radical, vote-losing policies that no-one in their right mind would support.

At yesterday’s conference session, their leader, Nick Doodah – can never remember his name – declared that anyone with a property costing more than £1m would be taxed annually at 0.5% of the value. This is so that the “low paid” can be removed from the income tax system completely, although in reality the money will go to those on benefits and other forms of income support. Wonderful – so someone who has paid attention at school and worked hard to buy their dream house, now has to subsidise the workshy. All very socialist; all very certain to consign the Lib-Dems to another period in the wilderness.

At the same conference, Treasury spokesman, Vince Cable, announced that the much-needed and even much more delayed CrossRail project would get the axe if the Lib-Dems get into power. This is the Vince Cable who is held up as an economic guru, for his ability to voice the most loudly what most of us knew about the New Labour boom – it was a sham built on unrealistic house prices and over extension of debt. Cable was supposedly a “chief economist” for Shell, which probably translates to Assistant Clerk to Head of Logistics Supplies (Paper Clips) London (West).

What this country desperately needs after nearly 13 years of public sector growth in personnel and salaries is for spending on core infrastructure projects. It does not need backward-thinking 3rd rate politicians to spout on about re-distributing non-existent wealth or threaten to cancel upgrades to the creaking transport system.

However, none of this is likely, unless by some freak of politics Labour win a fourth term in government and steal the Lib-Dem’s ideas, as they tend to do with anything that is short-term and populist. What Cable and his boss appear to have forgotten is that they have as much chance of being in No’s 11 and 10 Downing Street as Laurel and Hardy. Although at least the latter pair were entertaining.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The C-word

Like the S-word before it (“sorry”), the soon-to-be-replaced-one-way-or-another incumbent of No. 10 is now having trouble with another alphabetic conundrum. How to present the withdrawal of funds to government departments as anything but a cutback, or “cut” for short.

Brown and his cronies have spent their way through nearly 13 years’ worth of tax receipts and have little to show for it, unless you consider 1.2m additional civil servants and more than 630 new quangos to be good things. Where is the new rail infrastructure promised by John Prescott in 1997? Where is the world class education (education, education) system? Where are the clean, queue-free hospitals? Where is the healthy economy, complete with built in lack of boom and bust?

What we do have is an army of civil servants – 6m at the last count, 6 times larger than the Chinese military – most of whom have good salaries and final salary pensions. All of this costs a lot of money (your tax) and when combined with the £175bn lobbed at the banks to stop them from going belly up, there is not a lot of money left for the important things in life, such as trains, schools and hospitals.

The electorate has also woken up to the unfettered lavishing of money on government departments for little return and is now expecting the next administration to take a red Bic to all the non-jobs, quangos and unelected peers (watch your back, Mandy). All of which has provoked Gordon Brown to reverse his nonsensical talk of “Tory cuts vs. Labour investment”. Today he will announce that “Labour will cut costs, cut inefficiencies, cut unnecessary programmes and cut low-priority budgets”. Wow, four uses of the c-word in one sentence. There is no greater joy in heaven than a sinner who repents.

There is no mention of course as to where this application of the c-word will come. I would put money on Labour’s interpretation of cutting costs as involving consultants, feasibility studies lasting 12 or more months, a large bill and the ultimate decision that in fact the department involved actually needs more staff, not less. All very “Yes, Minister” as anyone who has seen the episode The Economy Drive will attest.

There was an interesting article in The Times last week, where the newly elected, independent mayor of Doncaster remarked that he “wants to remove PC jobs but doesn’t know where they are in his council”. And that sums up the dilemma that will face the next government: where to find the waste? Well, here are a few ideas…

Firstly, remove all of the unelected peers with ministerial responsibility that have been appointed in the last 12 years by New Labour. If someone has to run a department, they should be an elected MP who is accountable to a constituency, not a sometime TV presenter or favoured crony. Next, rationalise the number of government departments and ministers reporting into No. 10. Why do we need a Treasury and a Secretary to the Treasury, both as separate departments? Why are there such large departments for devolved parliaments in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland?

The culling of departments should also be accompanied by a culling of quangos. There are now 1,100 of them costing £60bn annually. And no-one knows that they are doing. There is no supervision or accountability (as evidenced by the “quasi autonomous” and “non-governmental” nature of the moniker). However, they are not autonomous as they influence policy and taxation, and they are governmental as they are funded centrally by the government. What, for example, do the Zoos Forum and the British Potato Council contribute? It is also typical for the head of a quango to be a favoured acolyte of the PM or a close friend of a senior minister, thus providing yet more jobs for the boys and girls.

The last axe should fall on anyone not directly contributing to a public service. Doctors, nurses, teachers, soldiers, sailors etc should be spared (although they should all contribute more to their pensions). Staff directly supporting these professions (IT and HR) should be audited for waste, especially those spending £12bn on unused systems (step forward the NHS). But departments that are tangential to public service and provide no direct benefit to the public should be closed down. This would include the Highways Agency, "a:gender" (look at their website), the Charity Commission and Efficiency in Government (surely they should be prosecuted under the Trades Descriptions Act?), to name a few. There was even a Millennium Commission that was not wound up until the end of 2006, six years after the millennium dome fiasco.

And to think that all this talk of cuts was initiated by a slip of the tongue by Tory MP Andrew Lansley back in June. Back then he was vilified by Labour and given a fairly frosty reception by his own leader for daring to suggest that the civil service party might be over. Now it seems that his 10% cuts are the talk of the town. I also ranted about it at the time, suggesting that 10% should be a minimum target for cuts.

Although when I think of the c-word and Gordon Brown, it is a different word, and it includes the n-letter.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Gravy train comes off the tracks

One of my earliest Blog posts was on the subject of MPs expenses. Way back in April 2008, when John Lewis lists were just coming to light but before the full Telegraph exposé of free porn, duck houses and “flipping”, I posited the idea that MPs should not receive £23,000 a year in tax free income. Since there are many thousands, if not millions, of workers who regularly work away from home and incur travel and living expenses, then maybe MPs could adopt a similar scheme for themselves?

However, that would have been far too sensible and, if implemented quickly i.e. last April, would have denied the residents of SW1 another year of trough-dwelling at our expense. It would have also denied the government the opportunity to appoint one of its favoured management consultancies and auditors to commission a report on how best to overhaul the expenses system.

In a “confidential report” from “financial experts KPMG” – not so confidential that the Daily Mail have seen a copy, and the dubbing of the producers of the report as experts is similarly the Mail’s reckoning, not mine – only those MPs whose constituencies are beyond a 90-minute commute will be able to claim, and only then for rent or hotel bills.

Well, dress me in a tutu and call me Samantha if that isn’t what anyone with a shred of common sense has been baying for since the profiteering abuse of the expense system was first exposed. Why did it require a report to be written, doubtless at a cost of several million pounds, to state the blinking obvious? The MPs system of expenses should reimburse only money paid out and should not be open to the kind of exploitation that allowed certain politicians to make almost £200,000 from selling a taxpayer-funded second home.

Anyroadup, hopefully now that someone who is respected by the government have rubber-stamped the kind of expense policy that is in place at most private companies in the UK, if not the world, then we can finally see some closure on this whole sordid topic. But it will deny me a rich source of material to comment on.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Uplifting Experience

It was reported yesterday that the council in Rochdale pays some of its workers a “lift allowance” to compensate for them having to spend so much time waiting for the antiquated lifts to take them to the 10th and 11th floors. Since they spend so much time waiting for lifts, they waste precious time that could be more wisely spent in inventing new ways to consume council tax, or so the story goes. They are therefore rewarded for this lost time to the tune of two-and-a-half extra days of pay.

Leaving aside the fact that anyone could have dreamed up such a daft compensation scheme and also leaving aside the fact that anyone in a position of responsibility actually signed it off, here’s a radical idea for the lard-arsed top floor workers in Rochdale council: use the stairs! Not only will you get to work on time and save the council a bit of money, but you will also get fit.

Friday, 28 August 2009

The funny side of climate change v2

I published this commentary about Greens and their inability to grasp the basic facts of life earlier in the week. But here it is again on my new blog home, but with the additional note that Greenpeace admitted yesterday that they do have a tendency to exaggerate their press releases, so as to get attention. Quelle surprise!

The supercomputer used by the UK Met Office to “predict” climate change allegedly consumes enough energy to power a town. Leaving aside the fact that the Met Office cannot even predict what day it will be tomorrow, how does it think that spending £30m on a computer will help to predict possible, potential weather that will affect us (maybe) in 25 years.

What is even more hilarious is that F(r)iends of the Earth have commented on the colossal use of power, stating that it is “ironic that a computer designed to stave off climate change is responsible for such high levels of pollution”. Oh dear. Computers do not stave off anything, let alone mythical meteorological patterns. Computers can tell humans as much useful information as they are programmed to. But computers do not change the weather. And given the Met Office’s track record this year, they can’t forecast it either.

Welcome to my new blog

Ok, I'm fed up with the pants editor and general "what do you expect, it's free" attitude of blog.com, so I've relocated to blogger/blogspot.

What's Eating Me Today is henceforth What's Eating Me Now, because someone liked my blog name so much, they've already colonised here at blogger/blogspot.

It'll still be the same rants, rambles and general unloading of my soul. Sit back, put your stewardess into an upright position and enjoy the ride.