Archive for April, 2010

Brown ‘mortified’ by bigot slur against Gillian Duffy

So booms the headline on the BBC News homepage.  Let’s be clear about something, Gordon Brown is not mortified that he had the arrogance and contempt to describe Gillian Duffy as a ‘bigoted woman’.  He is mortified because his public persona has been exposed as the sham we always knew it to be and his true nature and unpleasant personality has been exposed in such unambiguous fashion.

That is now being compounded by his pathetic and deceitful attempts to suggest he hadn’t understood Gillian Duffy’s comments properly, thus trying to excuse his slur against a woman who raised a perfectly reasonable point about immigration and the state of the economy.  His rambling and conditional apology is entirely self serving and frankly an insult to our intelligence.

Maybe the most appropriate response Mrs Duffy could make to Brown would be to turn his own alleged words to Tony Blair back on him and say:

“There is nothing that you could say to me now that I could ever believe.”

How deliciously apt that would be.

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UKIP disintegration could mean turmoil for centre-right

One of the most extraordinary stories of this General Election campaign doesn’t concern the three main parties or their leaders – and it could have more far reaching implications as this post will explain.  It has to be the implosion of UKIP and its leader, Lord Pearson of Rannoch.

In recent interviews on TV and radio, Lord Pearson has demonstrated that he doesn’t have a basic grasp of his party’s manifesto, is unwilling to talk about issues such as education and health, and has sought to excuse his distinctly substandard media performances by saying he isn’t a slick, professional politician.  This has come on top of UKIP’s dalliance with identity politics, playing the BNP’s game and singling out the burqa as attire to be banned in public buildings.

It seems Lord Pearson’s communication deficiencies extend to internal party matters too.  It has emerged that the UKIP candidate in Taunton Deane, Tony McIntyre, learned from the BBC that he was supposed to step aside and end his campaign in the hope of assisting the Conservative candidate there, after Lord Pearson announced the decision in an open letter to the Mid Somerset News and Media.  Lord Pearson appears to be a decent and honorable man.  But the evidence is that he is completely ill-equipped to lead a political party that received the second highest number of votes in last year’s European Parliament elections.  His recent media appearances will have done nothing to convince floating voters that in lending their support to UKIP they would be voting for a competent party.

The UKIP three ring circus hasn’t faired any better in the local media either.  The weekend bore witness to a tragic performance of UKIP’s apparently kindly and well meaning candidate for Peterborough, Frances Fox.  Speaking on the Politics Show in the East, Mrs Fox was so nervous she spoke of the 100 million jobs that have been lost in the country and struggled to give coherent answers to questions as she struggled to refer to her notes.  It was not car crash TV, it was far worse than that.  Again it reinforced the reason why so many people with centre-right views do not take UKIP seriously and cannot bring themselves to support it.

Politics should not be about trivialites such as slick presentation or how one looks on camera and sounds on audio.  It should be about ideas, vision and positive plans for the way this country is governed.  But what UKIP is showing is that its leader and some of its candidates are unable or unwilling to address those core requirements.  In doing so it is unwittingly paving the way for what could be a truly seismic shift in British politics.

The result of UKIP’s downward slide would mean not only a weakened party with shrinking appeal that will not be taken seriously by voters, but also the possible creation of a political vacuum on the centre-right of British politics – where no party speaks up for a substantial proportion of the electorate and the issues that are important to people who want smaller government and personal freedom from the state.  That would be worrying and uncharted territory at a time when the paternalist, overbearing, centre ground consensus has little enough genuine opposition to overcome.

But of course the media circus so fixated with stage managed debates and faux disagreements about the extent of fiscal intervention, it has failed to notice what could prove to be a truly defining moment in politics in this country.  Perhaps we are rapidly approaching the point at which a new, moderate, realist centre-right political force commited to national political sovereignty and truly democratic politics, can emerge to provide the much needed alternative to the mainstream party consensus that is serving the interests of this country so badly.  We can but hope we do not sink deeper into what the Chinese would describe as ‘interesting times’.

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Gillian Duffy’s ‘offence’ was not being bigoted

No, the problem in Rochdale earlier today was Mrs Gillian Duffy not knowing her place.

The offence was daring to penetrate the carefully controlled blanket wrapped around Gordon Brown, to ask him questions for which he had not been pre-prepared to deliver a bland, partisan, carefully phrased and repeatedly rehearsed response.

Her offence was not being arranged by ‘Sue’,  not being a patsy arranged by Labour aides to pose scripted questions that would ensure Brown could dodge the real issues that matter to people, the issues that have been buried in a deep hole on ground marked ‘off limits to voters’.

In dismissing the valid concerns of an ordinary voter with such blatant contempt, Gordon Brown has demonstrated today how empty and bogus his pledge to listen to people really is.  Brown thinks he knows best what is good for us.  He believes we need to know our place and leave everything to him.  What this incident does is expose and reinforce, for all to see, the veil of ignorance that shrouds the political class from ordinary people.  Unless the scene has been sanitised and is carefully stage managed, the mask will slip and the cat will be let out of the bag.  Feel free to add any other appropriate cliches.

People listening to Gordon Brown’s comments about Gillian Duffy will understand now why Peter Mandelson has gone to such extraordinary lengths to keep Brown away from ordinary people.  He is a liability, a nasty inidivudal who is completely unsuitable to be Prime Minister.  He is not just a hypocritical machine politician, he is, as Mandelson once famously spun to the media, psychologically flawed.  This son of the manse is incapable of relating to ordinary people and after leaving them with platitudes he is disparaging about them behind closed doors.

Brown’s subsequent apology was not genuine, it was an attempt at damage limitation.  The British people should take a leaf out of Brown’s book and engage in some damage limitation of their own by ensuring he is not Prime Minister come 7th May.

When it comes to Brown and his Labour stooges, any dissenter must be smeared or their views treated with contempt.  No doubt people in Labour HQ are, as I type this, trying to find whatever dirt they can on Gillian Duffy to leak to the media in the hope of undermining her and invalidating the concerns she raised that are shared by millions of British people.  Brown’s comments about Mrs Duffy do not insult just her, but all those ordinary people outside of the political bubble who suffer from Labour’s spiteful and damaging governance.

Update: If there is one thing that really sickens people about so many politicians, it is their blatant hypocrisy, spin and outright lies.  Here, Gordon Brown excels.  Directed by his public relations team and his aides, he has gone back to Rochdale to visit Gillian Duffy at her home to make a full apology – and then make the most of the opportunity, presenting himself to the media outside her home, complete with forced grin and repellant fake ‘charm’.  Then the lies just dripped from his lips as reported at 3.54pm in his typical pathetic and deceitful way…

“I’ve just been talking to Gillian. I’m mortified by what’s happened. I’ve given her my sincere apologies. I misunderstood what she said, and she has accepted there was a misunderstanding and has accepted my apology. If you like, I’m a repentant sinner. Sometimes you say things you don’t mean to say, sometimes you say things by mistake and sometimes you say things you want to correct very quickly.

“So I wanted to come here and say that I made a mistake but to also to say I understood the concerns she was bringing to me and I simply misunderstood some of the words she used. I made my apology.

“I’ve come here – it’s been a chance to talk to Gillian about her family, her relatives and her own history and what she has done, but most of all it’s been a chance to apologise and say sorry, and to say sometimes you do make mistakes and you use the wrong words and once you’ve used the wrong word and made a mistake you should withdraw it and say profound apologies and that’s what I’ve done.”

Brown understood all too well what Mrs Duffy was saying.  He didn’t make a mistake, he was being vindictive, as his recorded comments made all too clear.  He was not in control of the situation and forced to address issues in front of the media he has sought to avoid throughout the campaign.  The original spiteful comments were bad enough, but this attempt to spin his way out of trouble is even more disgraceful because of its calculated and deceitful nature.

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Back shortly

I’ve been taking a much needed break from non essential things, which is why blogging has been off my radar over the last few days. However blogging will resume tonight or tomorrow. Hope you will return then. Best wishes – AM.

The media’s disproportionate influence in politics

Some journalists are becoming defensive about their week-long, Kool Aid-drinking antics in relation to Clegg. One hack, protesting way too much, says ‘Cleggmania is not just media hype… Clegg is the public’s favourite too’.

There’s more where that came from too.  Another outstanding and incisive piece from ‘Spiked’ editor, Brendan O’Neill, that is well worth reading.

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Economic illiteracy and distortion infests the BBC

BBC Director General Mark Thompson was so acutely aware of the institutional bias in the corporation’s political reporting he felt minded, when the General Election was called, to state that the BBC would be reporting impartially on the campaign, saying it was:

‘…vital that the BBC is able to provide a strong and independent place where the big debates can take place – free from political or commercial influence’.

They were fine words that should have been unnecessary.  However they reflected the reality of the situation.  Tonight that reality was once again brought into stark relief on Newsnight, courtesy of Paul Mason, the programme’s economics editor.  Mason, a supporter and previous member of the hard left Workers Power, a Trotskyist group which is the British section of the League for the Fifth International, has adopted lock, stock and barrel, Labour’s economically illiterate rhetoric about ‘removing £6 billion from the economy’.

When a BBC journalist repeats the unfounded campaign mantra of one of the political parties as a given truth, how is that free of political influence?  It is nothing but bias.

The concept that a decision not to impose additional taxation has the effect of taking money out of the economy  is complete and utter rubbish. It is a distortion.  A lie.  Labour’s and Mason’s view is clear, if our money isn’t in government coffers it isn’t part of the economy.  Well, if the money in my bank account and my pension plan isn’t part of the economy, what the hell is it exactly, and is the government doing taxing it?

This economic illiteracy is what passed for balanced assessment on the BBC’s flagship news and politics programme, just before Labour’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne, was rolled out to talk about the economy’s anaemic growth of just 0.2%.  Why not be done with it and put a huge ‘Vote Labour’ backdrop behind Jeremy Paxman?  Perhaps Mason should have stuck to being a music teacher where his capacity for distortion and economic fallacy might have been contained.

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Sharon Shoesmith was properly dismissed

Common sense has prevailed at the High Court today as the former director of children’s services at Haringey Council, Sharon Shoesmith, lost her legal fight against dismissal by the local authority following the death of Baby P, Peter Connelly.

Sharon Shoesmith had claimed that her dismissal at the request of Children’s Secretary Ed Balls was ‘procedurally flawed, unfair and unlawful’, and that she had been the victim of a witch-hunt.  The fact is Shoesmith’s department had a track record of failures and at some point the person with responsibility for the performance of the children’s services team had to be held to account.  For too long in this country, too many people who have management responsibility seek to evade the consequences for unacceptable performance.  Shoesmith is one of those people.

Despite her defeat in the High Court, Sharon Shoesmith will now resume her Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination.  It is reported she stands to receive hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation if her claim is upheld.  Shoesmith’s dismissal was for incompetence after her department’s performance had been found to be inadequate. 

Shoesmith’s sacking had nothing to do with her gender and as Mr Justice Foskett has said today, the Secretary of State had been within his rights to sack her from her £130,000 a year job.  It would be a travesty if the Employement Tribunal finds in her favour and rewards her financially for her failures.  Employers should be able to dismiss staff who fail to do their job to the required standard.

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1GW of UK offshore wind? Think again

From today’s virtuous and progressively thinking  Guardian we are informed that:

The UK cemented its position as the leading player in the global offshore wind energy market today with the announcement that it has attained one gigawatt (1gw) of installed offshore wind capacity.

Trade association RenewableUK said that the completion of Dong Energy’s Gunfleet Sands offshore wind farm and E.ON’s Robin Rigg development means that the UK now boasts 11 working offshore wind farms, featuring 336 wind turbines capable of generating power for up to 700,000 homes.

The problem with this propaganda piece is that although the turbines at Robin Rigg and Gunfleet Sands might be capable of generating that much power, they almost certainly never will.  Most turbines, when they are actually operational, rarely produce over 25% of their capacity – and even when they do, it cannot be guaranteed it will be at times when demand calls for it.  The article continues:

“The UK offshore wind industry has come of age,” said Maria McCaffery, chief executive of RenewableUK. “In the last 10 years we have built a brand new world-leading industry sector that will create long-term value for this country. ”

She added that the UK wind energy industry now had the foundations in place to build a “position of global leadership” and establish a flourishing supply chain that will create jobs and provide a major boost to the country’s emerging marine energy industry.

While this might be great news for RenewableUK’s finances, the primary motive of installing wind turbines is to satisfy the demands of our government in Brussels and to supposedly produce electricity at affordable prices.  But it seems industrial subsidy and quasi-state job creation is what matters here. 

Given that wind turbines have proved incredibly inefficient at generating power when it’s needed, requires massive taxpayer subsidy and also results in a double whammy by causing the cost of electricity to consumers to spiral upwards, isn’t it about time fawning biased media organs such as the Guardian started to report the facts to their readership, rather than regurgitate press releases and pass them off as factual news pieces?

It is rather apt that unreliable reporting occasions the landmark moment of reaching 1gw of installed capacity of an unreliable and expensive energy source.  But the joke is on us as we continue to be ripped off for the sake of a nonsensical arbitrary diktat on renewable power.

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A thought for St George’s Day

A very Happy St George’s Day to all English folk!  Today is a good day to spare a thought for England.

England suffers from the worst democratic deficit in Europe because it is the only country without its own legislative body.  England is a country many of whose laws are enacted in part by people from other countries, to whom those laws will not apply.  England is a country whose identity is being eroded, as bureaucrats attempt to turn it into a collection of regions.  Even the identity of the English Channel stands to be changed in an effort to suit the interests of the EU.

But a poll released today shows that English people are becoming increasingly conscious of these inequalities.  As devolution has handed a degree of autonomy to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the people of their larger poor relation are starting to call for equal treatment within the United Kingdom.

The only fair outcome is the creation of an English Parliament and proper democratic accountability on matters that apply solely to England.  If you believe in democracy and equality please support the Campaign for an English Parliament this St George’s Day.  And if you have your own blog, why not show your support for England by joining the English Free Press too?

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Review of the second Leaders’ Debate

Having decided to watch the Leaders’ Debate out of morbid curiosity a couple of things stood out…

Let’s start with the Lib Dems.  Nick Clegg doesn’t represent change, he’s a charlatan.  The measure of his hypocrisy was exposed by the discussion about his Trident policy when compared with the discussion about an immigration cap proposed by the Conservatives.

Clegg wants to scrap Trident but is incapable of saying what cheaper alternative he would deploy and how much it would cost, because a review would be needed to determine the appropriate system.  Yet he tried to score points off David Cameron for taking an identical approach about an immigration cap as Cameron would not provide an arbitrary cap figure, because a wide ranging review with a variety of services and bodies would need to be conducted each year.

So Clegg is saying that Lib Dem plans for reviews then decisions are a sound approach, but Conservative plans for reviews then decisions make a policy unworkable.  How is this new politics or any different from the ‘old’ two parties?  While on the subject of the ‘old’ two parties, it’s about time Clegg was reminded that the Liberal Party existed long before Labour and a few name changes have not made it a different party entity.  History and fact checking are clearly not his strong point.

Clegg spent so much time telling the audience about EU failings and mismanagement, it defies belief that he wants Britain to be more entwined in it.  He tries to make the EU sound like a well meaning club of kindly amateurs, stumbling along as best they can and making a few chuckle raising howlers as they go along.  It ain’t so.  The EU is an anti democratic, managerialist machine and its failures stem from its determination to eradicate national sovereignty and draw all power to itself.  Clegg was trained by the EU and nurtured in its ways and his claim that the EU can be reformed is a naked deception.

On to Labour.  Gordon Brown is an economic illiterate.  It is a terrifying thought that this man spent a decade as Chancellor. No wonder the economy is in the state it’s in today. This man has wrecked our nation’s finances.

Reducing the tax burden on businesses and individuals does not take money out of the economy.  By definition, if the money remains in our pockets and business bank accounts, it is still in the economy.  It doesn’t disappear into a hole never to be seen again – which it would if it was sequestrated by the Treasury.

As for Gordon Brown’s inability to tell the truth, being exposed as a bare faced liar in such a devastating manner just moments after the debate ended can only reduce his stock still further.  It was the moment of the night seeing Wee Alex Salmond – after Brown denied he has sanctions Labour leaflets carrying false claims about Conservative policy – holding up Brown’s personal election literature as distributed in Kirkcaldy.  It was a leaflet Brown had to have personally endorsed and it carried the claim Brown states he did not sanction that the Conservatives would get rid of the winter fuel allowances, free bus passes, free eye tests, etc.

Brown is also incapable of understanding the concept of net migration – or is deliberately deceiving the public.  Having one million Britons living in other EU states and one million EU member state citizens living in Britain does absolutely nothing to alter the horrendous net immigration figure.  A net inward migration figure of 200,000 is the figure over and above the number of people who have left the UK in the same time period.  If 150,000 people have left that means 350,000 migrants have come in.  Not only does this mean huge extra burden on services and infrastructure, it also means a massive change in the social fabric of this country.

Lastly, the Conservatives.  We know David Cameron is supposed to be a polished performer.  But he fails to inject spark into his speaking. With these debates he is on a hiding to nothing.

The more Cameron strives to emphasise difference between the three parties, the more it becomes clear they are trivialities rather than matters of great substance.

Europe (more precisely the EU) will remain a thorn in Cameron’s side because while he is happy to reel off a list of reasons for us to cooperate with our neighbours on the continent, not one example of a supposed benefit he, or Clegg or Brown provides to justify EU membership, requires a nation to sacrifice its political sovereignty.

Why will no one pin these main three parties down – and particularly the Conservatives who trade on a platform of supposed EU scepticism – with a simple question that exposes the weakness of their position on the EU?  Namely, ‘what benefit or advantage of EU membership and cooperation would be lost if we in the UK had complete political sovereignty, made all our own laws and ensured our own courts were the judicial venues of last resort?

Going beyond that, when will someone pin the Conservatives down, and the other two parties for that matter, by asking why they keep talking about the EU as a free trade area when it is nothing more than a customs union?  The EU is a hindrance to the UK being able to trade freely with countries around the world, so how can it be a benefit?  The debate is devoid of honesty and candour. It is characterised by subterfuge and fear and it shouldn’t be.

So, the final analysis.  Nothing any of the party leaders has been reported to have said in the first Leaders’  Debate, and nothing I saw them say in this Leaders’ Debate, has changed my view of the parties.  I have not been moved one inch towards voting for any of them.  The discussion about immigration was dumbed down to such an extent a five year old would have felt patronised.  There is a consensus stitch up where these three main parties will not tread onto ground the public needs them to.

From Clegg’s approach of giving up and granting a ludicrous amnesty that rewards people who have broken the law of this land to live here, to Brown’s tough talk and promises of action to contain immigration – despite documentary evidence that open door migration was deliberately implemented for political ideological purposes – to Cameron’s cap on non-EU immigration which will have no effect in reducing the number of unskilled EU migrants arriving here, the required action is not on offer.  And of course no alternative to EU membership and the loss of national sovereignty is on offer.

This means the debates remain an exercise in obfuscation and deception, satisfying only the media’s insatiable appetite for something to report, spin and hype.  How does that serve the interests of the nation and its people?  The new politics that was promised has not been delivered.  What is required is a genuine conservative alternative to the centre ground mish mash that dominates the discourse of the political class and its cowardice in tackling major issues.  Only when a sensible conservative alternative exists will mainstream politics be worthy of our engagement.

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Those media attacks on Nick Clegg

I’m all for Nick Clegg getting a metaphoric bloody nose and people campaigning strongly to prevent him gaining any sort of power, be it in a hung parliament or as, God forbid, Prime Minister.  But the concerted assault on Clegg today in some parts of the media are distasteful and some of them downright dishonest.  This is not mere robust scrutiny, it is a hatchet job.

Several days ago I published three posts on the Nick Clegg / Lib Dem approaches to the Euro, Energy and Immigration.  If you want to undermine a politician who has not broken the law, then you attack their policies and beliefs, as I did.  But some in the media have gone too far and is playing the man, not the ball – which is rich when you consider the lies, distortion and inaccuracies of which many media outlets are guilty.

Sure, the media is bored rigid by politicians who have taken the major issues of the table and are stitching up the future of this country in a fundamentally anti democratic way.  But instead of attacking that and pushing the policies to the fore in every edition, the media is going after personalities.

The politicians are largely to blame for bringing about this state of affairs, and a number of them have likely initiated this assault for their own ends, but it doesn’t make the media’s behaviour acceptable.

The people of this country deserve honest politics of real substance, grounded in a genuinely democratic framework.  We deserve proper scrutiny, not tabloid titlation and inneundo.  We are not served by lying politicians or a deceitful and vicious media.  And when both behave in this way neither go about their grubby business in my name.  If this is the new politics we keep hearing about, they can all shove it.

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SpeedSpike GPS speed cameras won’t improve safety

So speed cameras are about to become even more sophisticated.  The PIPS Technology ‘SpeedSpike’ system uses a satellite positioning system and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology to track vehicles and it has now been tested in England.  It begs the question, just how much taxpayers’ money has been spent on developing and deploying the various forms of speed cameras that have raked in over £1billion in fines since Labour came to office?

The problem is speed is a factor in only a minority of accidents.  In 2006 figures showed that excessive speed was reported as a factor in just 15% of all road accidents and in 26% of crashes where there were fatalities.  So while hundreds of millions of pounds are spent on systems that can generate revenue, where is the investment in reducing the 85% of all road accidents where speed is not a factor?  Perhaps the attraction of SpeedSpike is its reliance on many more ANPR cameras, which enables the police to store images of vehicles and drivers for up to two years and could be used in any future effort to conduct real time tracking of individual vehicles or people.

What is being done about the defective vehicles being driven on our roads? What about the increasing prevalence of drug-driving? What about banned or unqualified drivers who still get behind the wheel? What about the need for more road safety education for children? What about the extent of dangerous driving, where among other things we see all too often drivers tailgating, not paying attention to the road, manoeuvering without looking properly, undertaking and going through traffic lights that have turned red?

The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the government is more interested in fining motorists and imposing penalties that can raise money for often minor speed transgressions in otherwise safe conditions, rather than addressing flaws in road design, road conditions, making driving tests more rigorous and improving the overall standard of driving.  Having more traffic police on patrol would deal with the problems that speed cameras self evidently cannot.  The financially motivated, one dimensional approach to road safety where technology is set to record and fine drivers who exceed limits that are often set unrealistically low for modern vehicles and conditions, has to come to an end.

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Clegg’s EU puppetmasters excited by his rise

Labour and the Cameron Conservatives are bad enough when it comes to selling out to the EU.  But Nick Clegg would be by far the biggest EUphile toadying politico we have ever seen in Britain.  How long will it be before the ordinary British people who want power repatriated from Brussels but are leaning towards Nick Clegg realise he stands for the complete opposite of their wishes?  The EU loving is lapping it up:

‘Still, as Clegg rides high in the polls, Europe has a big beaming smile on its face – but it is doing its best to hide it, for fear that British voters spot it and punish Clegg accordingly.’

– Tony Barber, Financial Times’ Brusselsblog

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Met Office volcano computer models criticised

This blog is no stranger to criticising the UK Met Office.  Generally the criticism has been aimed at the Met Office’s biased and intransigent determination to push a global warming agenda based on computer modelling and flawed temperature records and data sets, irrespective of evidence and observation.  Clearly this failing is not confined to climate change and global warming.

Following the eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano the Met Office has been projecting the spread and impact of volcanic ash – based on computer models that rely on assumptions, exactly the same as Met Office claims regarding climate change.  This approach is now reaping a whirlwind of criticism and anger as test flights have shown the ash cloud does not pose the risk to aviation that the Met Office said it would.

Therefore it is being said that the Met Office’s approach and reliance on modelling derived probability rather than observed findings has resulted in the unnecessary closure of British and European airspace.  This isn’t the opinion of ill informed bloggers, but that of Matthias Ruete, the European Commission’s director general of transport, who has said air traffic authorities should not have imposed a widespread flight ban:

‘The science behind the model we are running at the moment is based on certain assumptions where we do not have scientific evidence. It is a black box in certain areas.

‘We don’t even know what density the cloud should be in order to affect jet engines. We have a model that runs on mathematical predictions.

‘It is probability rather than actual things happening,’

While the Met Office rushes to defend itself and pass the buck by saying it is the responsibility of aviation authorities to decide if it is safe to fly, it still remains their projections that have led to the suspension of aviation activity.  They may claim that they detected six layers of ash up to 20,000ft, but that does not mean the particles were harmful or any risk to aircraft.

The only way of knowing whether it is safe to fly is to follow the American methodology and take precise measurements of ash concentration and make up, which will enable authorities to make an informed decision about the likelihood of engine damage and windscreen damage.  Whether it is global warming or the spread of thin cloud of volcanic ash, this reliance on computer models and assumptions is no substitute for evidence and observation.  Both are resulting in huge sums of money being lost and major inconvenience caused to people.  It’s time to dispense with the virtual and get real.

Update: Richard North at EU Referendum explains why he feels this take on the story is ‘crap’ and misses the point completely, feeling as he does that:

…the fault lies is in developing a contingency plan which uses the forecast model to define the exclusion zone, without a requirement for refining a limited projection with real world data acquired from other sources, including and especially sampling from suitably equipped aircraft.

As always he makes some excellent and accurate points and you should read his whole piece.  The angle I came at this from is a more blunt dissatisfaction with the way models are held up and given truths and shape decision making, because projections are not always accurate.  My argument is that no model will ever be a substitute for real world observation and collection of evidence, while Richard takes a less black and white view, saying the models need to be augmented with sampling.

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David Cameron’s ‘Matt Santos’ moment

Anyone who has watched Series 6 and Series 7 of the West Wing will know who ‘Matt Santos’ is.  Played by actor Jimmy Smits, he was the latino Democrat Party candidate in the fictional Presidential election campaign to replace Jed Bartlet in the White House.  The Santos character was apparently modelled on a young black Senator from Illinois by the name of Barack Obama.

In the West Wing, the Matt Santos’ campaign to become the Democrat Party nominee was flagging.  His advisers were pressing him to attack his Democrat opponents, which was something he was reluctant to do.  Instead he turned his campaign around by scrapping the attack ad and racing to a studio to use his one minute of broadcast time to deliver a live monologue to camera.  The result was a huge swing in support towards him and a flood of small donations. 

So what’s this got to do with David Cameron?  Well, tonight life will come close to imitating art as Cameron delivers a rapidly written and recorded monologue to camera in the alloted Conservative Party broadcast – having scrapped the planned advertisement after the shock rise in the polls of Nick ‘Calamity’ Clegg.  Cameron is clearly staking all on the perceived strength of his personality in an attempt to portray himself, rather than Clegg, as the anti-politics, change candidate of the election.

Apparently Cameron ‘just couldn’t get into’ the West Wing.  I’m not so sure, having taken this leaf out of the show’s book and also having hired President Obama’s ex real life ‘Toby Ziegler’, former Communications Director Anita Dunn, to help craft his Big Society/Community Organiser idea and prepare him for the Leaders’ Debates.  All he needs now is Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe to provide some cameo appearances to complete his rip off of the TV series.

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French bureaucrats scupper ‘rescue’ from Calais

This story says it all about officialdom and petty bureaucracy.  Britons are struggling to get home thanks to the shutdown of airspace over the UK and parts of Europe.  So a few people use their initiative to use small boats to collect citizens wishing to return home.  A website had even been set up to register people’s details in advance to meet the requirements of border controls in France and the UK.

Over the years we have had thousands of illegal migrants from all over Africa and Asia successfully making the journey across the English Channel in the absence of effective French efforts to prevent them smuggling themselves into Britain.  But suddenly a number of French border guards are on hand to prevent a handful of British citizens from leaving France, deeming their actions ‘unauthorised’.

To add insult to the absence of common sense, an immigration ministry source in Paris is reported to have said:

‘There is no possibility of boats simply arriving in Calais and inviting strangers to return to Britain on them.  ‘Everything coming in and out of this border is strictly monitored at all times.’

Despite the self evident bullshit in that comment no doubt they kept a straight face as they said it.  Some of the stranded Britons were allowed to leave Calais, but only after stricter checks than they would have faced on a ferry journey or a flight – and only then on condition the boats did not return. No doubt when there is a need to stop illegal migrants crossing these uniformed goons will be nowhere to be seen, they will probably be out on strike complaining against some perceived injustice.

Thanks to these French idiots, instead of being helped to get home to resume their lives, many of those the boat crews had intended to bring home have been forced to stay in France against their will at personal cost and a cost to insurers.

Why is it the EU’s vaunted freedom of movement only seems to apply to criminals and illegal migrants?  It seems that bureaucrats and big state officialdom is only there confound common sense and to cause law abiding people as much inconvenience and discomfort as possible.  When it comes to the French, this manages to plumb previously unimagined depths of idiocy.  And this is a country our politicians propose we forge a closer military alliance with? Do me a favour.

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The Nick Clegg / Lib Dem approach to the Euro

With The Times reporting that Nick Clegg is now the most popular party leader since Winston Churchill – no, really – perhaps it’s a good time to focus on some of Clegg’s Liberal Democrat thinking, on issues that voters say is of importance to them.

Right from the very outset, the idea of Britain joining the Euro currency has been said by financial experts to be something that would pose a ‘special risk’ to the British economy.  It is the one-size-fits-all monetary policy that would be a disadvantage and pose a special risk to economic stability and control of money supply and inflation.

Nevertheless, Nick Clegg, the strongly pro federal EU fan and former MEP, is an enthusiastic cheerleader of Britain joining the Euro.  Despite very real weaknesses in the Euro and the loss to Britain of its ability to manage the economy in Britain’s interests if we scrapped the Pound, Clegg has said that ‘Joining the euro would “anchor” the UK economy and protect it from “dangerous” currency flows’.

When will Clegg and his political wife, Vince Cable, be straight with voters?  Clegg’s  ‘plague on both your houses’ attack on Labour and the Conservatives has proved popular.  But who can tell where Clegg stands with so many flip flops?  Firstly Clegg and Cable were completely in favour of joining the Euro (their real position).  Then in 2008 they saw the public didn’t like the idea and so declared the Euro was off their radar screen.

But since then Clegg has again been arguing that we should consider joining the Euro.  The Euro remains on their radar screen as their manifesto declares their belief that it is in Britain’s long-term interests to join the euro, but only after a referendum.  That might sound like a safe offer.  But as we’ve seen in the past, referendum offers aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

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The Nick Clegg / Lib Dem approach to energy

With The Times reporting that Nick Clegg is now the most popular party leader since Winston Churchill – no, really – perhaps it’s a good time to focus on some of Clegg’s Liberal Democrat thinking, on issues that voters say is of importance to them.

The people who produce the energy used in this country know how much energy is demanded by homes, businesses and transport and what state the nation’s generation capacity is in. In 2008 E.ON Chief Executive, Dr Paul Golby, while imploring politicians to ‘come clean’ on the cost of renewables, explained that the UK currently has 76 gigawatts of generating capacity, with about 25gw of this coming to the end of its life – but by 2020 Britain will need 120gw of capacity.

He recognises therefore that it is essential for coal and nuclear to be part of our energy mix. But one man who refuses to accept this is Nick Clegg.  Just weeks after Golby’s comment Clegg said (my emphasis):

“The Government has spooked everyone into thinking that we need nuclear by saying there’s going to be a terrible energy gap – the lights are going to go out in the middle of the next decade,” Mr Clegg said.

There’s actually no evidence that’s the case at all. They’ve raised the wrong problem in order to push the wrong solution.

“The real problem is that our energy mix is not green enough and we’re over-dependent on oil and gas from parts of the world that aren’t very reliable.”

Just over a month later, National Grid revealed that it was forced to call for more power from electricity generators after a series of unexpected breakdowns left the company with an insufficient safety cushion.  Alistair Buchanan, chief executive of Ofgem, the UK’s energy regulator went public on concerns about sufficient capacity and the need for new nuclear, which Clegg claims is a scare story.

In August last year official figures revealed that demand for power from homes and businesses will exceed supply from the national grid within eight years, bringing about black outs for the first time since the 1970s.  The government’s half baked, EU-driven Low Carbon Transition Plan regardless of its flaws, exposed the fragility of our energy supply and necessity of coal and nuclear power.

But Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems think they know better and can build enough wind turbines to see off the crisis.  Only, when it is cold and power is most needed, the wind frequently fails to blow and the turbines generate no power.  They are sticking to their dangerous approach despite evidence showing that carefully selected onshore windy areas where turbines have been put up, barely achieve 20% of the generation capacity they were built to deliver.

Now I get it that energy is not a sexy election issue.  But when the lights start going off because something like Nick Clegg’s energy policy has been followed – despite evidence showing it is a timebomb waiting to go off – and found to be a shambolic failure, you can bet that energy will become a major issue.  But by then it will be too late and voters will be regretting buying Nick Clegg’s dangerous nonsense that the energy gap warnings were just an attempt to ‘spook everyone’ into thinking we need nuclear power and coal.

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The Nick Clegg / Lib Dem approach to immigration

With The Times reporting that Nick Clegg is now the most popular party leader since Winston Churchill – no, really – perhaps it’s a good time to focus on some of Clegg’s Liberal Democrat thinking, on issues that voters say is of importance to them.

MigrationWatchUK is generally accepted as the most authoratative and independent organisation focusing on matters of immigration as it impacts the UK. Here is the MigrationWatchUK assessment of the Liberal Democract manifesto commitments regarding immigration:

‘This is immigration with no limits whatsoever but spiced up with two unworkable proposals – a regional immigration policy that would be impossible to enforce and an amnesty that is certain to encourage still further illegal immigration. The LibDems are treating the public as if they were fools.’

Given the opinion poll results since the Leaders’ Debate, perhaps it would be fair to argue a lot of the public are indeed fools to fall for media hype and that the Lib Dems are justified in treating them as such with completely idiotic policy proposals.

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Media polls pushing The Clegg Supremacy

For those of us who recognise this election campaign for what it is and how little its outcome will change things, the news that a BPIX poll for the Mail on Sunday puts the Liberal Democrats in the lead is absolutely hilarious.  On the strength of 90 minutes of well rehearsed television, the carefully chosen questions and meticulously structured answers have seen the opinion polls sent into a frenzy of wild responses.

The media is at the heart of this as it talks up style over substance and goes through its three step coverage model that, as this blog suggested yesterday, mirrors th Bourne trilogy of films.  We are now deep into part two, The Clegg Supremacy.  Such is the desperation of many voters to get rid of Gordon Brown, and many other voters to avoid the volte face shenanigans of David Cameron, the ‘great ignored’ of the electorate are now seemingly throwing their support behind the ‘great ignored’ of the political bubble, Nick Clegg.

Despite only a fraction of those entitled to vote actually watching the Leaders’ Debate, all pollsters are seemingly finding Liberal Democrat support surging ahead.  It is often said that a country gets the government it deserves.  Well, Britain is looking likely to get just that, because so many voters are so disconnected from the political process they are telling opinion polls they would vote Lib Dem despite having no idea what exactly they would be voting for.  Consider this…

  • Polls repeatedly show most Britons say we have too much EU and they want less.  The Nick Clegg/Lib Dem policy is deeper integration into the EU with more powers handed to Brussels.
  • Polls repeatedly show most Britons want illegal immigrants prevented from entering the country and deported when discovered. The Nick Clegg/Lib Dem policy is an amnesty allowing over 1 million illegals to remain.
  • Polls repeatedly show most Britons want to keep the Pound and reject the Euro.  The Nick Clegg/Lib Dem policy is to scrap the Pound as soon as possible and make the Euro our currency.
  • Polls repeatedly show most Britons want less taxation.  The Nick Clegg/Lib Dem policy is to reduce income tax a little and increase indirect taxation by a lot, so we all pay more to the Exchequer.

Despite these examples, voters appear to be flocking to the Lib Dems because a small sample audience and the massed media corps tell them that Nick Clegg won the Leaders’ Debate and is oh-so-different from Brown and Cameron.  You couldn’t write a sit com this funny.  If voters knew what the Lib Dems stood for, Clegg poll ratings would be sliding rather than increasing.

The crucial point this makes is that the media desperation to fill space results in the political class being able to dumb down politics, to such an extent that people can be encouraged to support parties on the basis of style and presentation instead of substance.  That’s why voters are getting behind the Lib Dems despite their small collection of policy variants being the most unpopular on offer and their tactics being the nastiest of the lot.  But as long as the media gets to fill space and has something new to write, these inconvenient facts will be airbrushed from the coverage.

Update: His Grace, Archbishop Cranmer, makes a similar point on his blog.

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