Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Labour Conference 2011 Caption Competition

A picture from today's Torygraph:

or alternatively: "Ed Miliband greets his old friend The Invisible Man".

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Dear TUC

According to the Torygraph, Britain's trades unions are planning to ballot their members on strikes in response to the government's desire to make public servants pay a bit more for their pensions. Apparently, two million of the six million public sector workers are to be consulted on "industrial action".

Firstly, I don't know why it's called "industrial action". None of these desk jockeys has ever worked in an industry and they are planning a day of inaction, not action.

Then, they have the temerity to suggest that they have a right to strike. No they don't. They are a minority of workers within the civil service (one third). They have the obligation to provide the education, health and social services that my tax pays for. If they have a gripe with their employment terms, take it up with your boss or get a new job.

My tax pays for their salaries and pensions. It even pays for some union officials to strut around government offices looking for excuses to disrupt the public. It's not asking much for some of MY money to be used by THEM to save for their retirement. They have had it too easy for too long.

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Great Edinburgh Tram Robbery

Forty-eight years after the original Great Train Robbery, Edinburgh City Council are mugging the residents of Scotland’s capital for about £1bn to pay for the most expensive train set any child could ever wish for.

The Edinburgh Trams project started construction in 2008 and after many contractual and political delays is now scheduled for completion in 2014. What was originally costed at under £400m is now going to cost three times as much and deliver less than a third of what was originally promised in terms of route and capacity.

Hopefully a public enquiry, which itself is about 18 months overdue, will name and shame the culprits within local and central government as well as the contractors who are probably less than golden.

But what really irks me about the whole scheme is that it shouldn’t be built at all. Why does Edinburgh need yet another service for carrying commuters from the West of the city to the centre? There are already several buses that operate from the airport and its environs that work perfectly well. Adding trams to the mix is an expensive and unjustified option.

One of the Scottish Nationalist Party’s many mistakes was the cancelling of a rail link from Edinburgh airport to the centre. Although they were correct to cancel the particular Edinburgh Airport Rail Link with its expensive tunnels and additional trains, they were wrong to discount train travel entirely. Indeed the main reason for canning the Rail Link was that it duplicated existing bus routes… which is exactly what the tram link is also doing. But for some reason it is alright to spend £1bn on trams because it’s green.

But there is a better, faster and cheaper alternative: don’t spend £1bn on any trams and invest in the existing transport infrastructure.

The main line carrying trains in and out of Edinburgh from the north of Scotland, connecting to the central hubs at Haymarket and Waverley, passes 300m from the end of the runway at Edinburgh airport and about 1000m from the main terminal building. Compared to spending £1bn on trams or £650m on a dedicated link, it would cost low tens of millions to build a new station at the end of the runway and connect it to the terminal via a shuttle bus. There is already a road infrastructure in the vicinity and existing trains could carry passengers to/from the station. It should also appease the carbon counters, since this service will be quicker than road travel and would encourage less people to use cars and buses to get to the airport.

Which begs the obvious question: why has no-one suggested this to the councillors in Edinburgh? Are the residents of City Chambers so blindly devoted to their shiny trams that they are willing to throw £1bn of our money at a project that at best will duplicate an existing bus service. Of the £560m still to be spent on the trams project, a new station, signalling and associated services will leave about £500m to be spent on more worthy projects for the capital, or better still not spent at all.

Thankyou, Darling

Alistair Darling's memoirs were unleashed on an unsuspecting and uncaring nation last week. At least the 'best' bits were. Well, I say 'best'. Most likely to cause a minor ripple of embarrassment, more like.

What did we learn from Old Caterpillar Eyebrows’ diaries? Gordon Brown had a bit of a temper and Ed Balls (by name and nature) ran his own shadow treasury department. Neither of these facts are startlingly new or surprising. Brown’s penchant for flinging Nokias almost earned him a place in Scotland’s cricket team. The fact that Balls spent yours and my tax on his own pet projects means that he has even less right to comment on the nation’s finances. Let’s not forget that he thinks the answer to the UK’s economic woes is to bloat the civil service still further rather than slim it down as the Coalition are trying to do.

Whilst Chancellor, Darling always insisted how well he got on with Brown and his cabinet chums. But once there was the opportunity to earn a few quid from the true story, he has been more than happy to re-write history.

Which tells us nothing we don’t already know: politicians lie, Brown was a nightmare to work with and Ed Balls should never be allowed near a calculator.