Vir Cantium

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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Not In My Name

Mob rule advances ever onward:

Married Labour MPs Ann and Alan Keen have come under fire for claiming thousands of pounds on a second home near Parliament, while their designated main home is only 10 miles away.
Now a group of people has taken direct action by squatting in the main home they say has been left unoccupied.

The story was covered today by Jeremy Vine on Radio 2.

Yet again, I was depressed by the number of callers who think that the law is negotiable. The ancient right to own property, which they would be quick to cite if it was their house being seized (say, by the council), is cast aside when it comes to a couple of people who they don’t like.

These squatters are not cuddly guardians of our interests as taxpayers. They are not standing up for the rights of the ordinary citizen. They are criminals, using a tenuous pseudo-legal argument to justify their latest spate of anarchistic left-wing vandalism. When one of the wasters was interviewed it didn’t take long for them to descend into a tired rant about the Keens’ voting for the Iraq War.

The Keens have not been convicted of anything. As far as I’m aware, they’ve not even been charged. Sure, you can protest against the rules that allow them to claim for a second home when their constituency is only 10 miles from Westminster, even stand outside the house with your banners, but you should have no right to unilaterally confiscate someone’s property.

It’s not “direct action”, it’s breaking the law.

Anyway, if these squatters are “reclaiming my taxes”, when can I expect my cheque?

Guido Going Soft on the Beeb?

So last weekend was a great one for the Beeb, and another chapter in the continuing story of the many ways the BBC finds to waste its ill-gotten gains. Last weekend saw 407 BBC staff sent to Glastonbury – almost as many as attended the Olympics in Bejing last year. There is a rumour that some of them actually did some work, apparently.

Guido was interviewed by Nick Ferrari on LBC earlier today on the subject, and he rightly condemned the waste, but said that the licence fee should be frozen. Frozen? C’mon Guido – a state-sponsored extortion racket and they should simply not increase the amount they wring from us?

The licence fee is not just a “unique* way of funding the BBC”, it is an archaic and immoral hypothicated tax, supported, in too many cases, by those who think that the viewing public aren’t worthy to decide what constitutes “quality”, that the nature of public service broadcasting should be determined by anyone but the public.

Let me ask the same old question: if the BBC is so good, why does it need to force people to pay for it?

* No, actually, it’s not even unique.

Are Labour Looking to Pension Off the Ken Dinosaur?

With Boris apparently seeking a second term as Mayor of London (possibly), and Ken Livingstone looking to crawl back into the top office, one does wonder who would be so interested in commissioning a YouGov survey, running today, on how voters would react to either Ken, (current) Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell or Sir Alan Sugar running against BoJo.

It does rather have the fingerprints of someone at the London Labour bunker on it. Perhaps there’s a school of thought there that Ken has had his day?

(Being the loyal Tory, I naturally answered that I wouldn’t have any of them.*)

Any other theories out there?

*Any of the Labour choices, that is. Ahem.

First Time at the Oval

Having been to Lords twice, I had never yet been to the Oval, which as someone from very south of the Thames was just wrong. So last night, I attended Surrey vs Kent at what Lord’s loyalists refer to as “that working men’s club south of the river”. (Whatever.)

Twenty20 cricket has sparked a less-than-quiet revolution for the game, with the shorter matches being accessible not only in terms of length, but also the timing of the matches themselves. Starting at 5:30, the game last night was clearly attracting spectators, still in suits, leaving work early.

The match – Surrey v Kent – was also a first class showcase for the format. The game swung from Kent to Surrey to finish with the two neck and neck. With less than an over left, and only one wicket in hand, Surrey were 14 runs short of the winning line. A few balls later they were just 3 runs behind – and not because of any airborne boundary shot. Twenty20 has a special timekeeping rule, to keep the games short: the 20 overs must be bowled in 75 minutes, otherwise the batting side gets awarded six runs.

So from Kent looking like they should keep the lid on the home side, Surrey then only needed 3 runs off 3 balls. Another ball and run later, 2 runs off 2 balls – surely it was all over? And it was, as the final Surrey wicket fell – a run out – leaving Kent the victors by one run. So justice was served after all.

The 75 minute rule does have its flaws. Though well intentioned, it could, in a close match, be open to a certain degree of subtle gamesmanship, with new batsmen taking the longest possible time (without falling foul of the subjective judgement of the umpire) to get to the crease. Even with the new victim sprinting to the middle, it inevitably penalises the more successful bowling side, as was the case last night, when Kent took more wickets than Surrey managed. Even if the innings had gone the extra couple of balls to the full 20 overs, we were only minutes over the time limit. Rather than keep the game short and exciting, it very nearly killed the game stone dead – a few minutes later and Surrey could conceivably have won the match the instant the penalty was announced.

So I think a modification is called for. How about a 70 minute time limit applying to, say, 17 overs? After that, if it’s the sort of tight finish that makes for a memorable game, the crowd aren’t really going to be bothered whether the innings finishes inside 75 or 82 minutes.

A final note to Surrey from a 20/20 relative newbie: get a decent name, chaps. Surrey Browncaps? Sounds like it should be rhyming slang for something.

Kent Spitfires: now that’s a name.

Keep Calm and Carry On

keepcalmcarryon

I’d seen the “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters around here and there, but had never actually got around to looking into the background. I guessed they were a wartime effort, and the stoical, understated tone is one that suits almost any situation. Stiff upper lip, keeping your head when all about are losing theirs and all that. It’s like the attitude of the British Troops in the Gulf in 1991 who, on learning that Operation Desert Storm had commenced, decided that the appropriate response to the news was to put the kettle on.

So I Googled and found this site, which traces some of the history. It seems the poster was the third in a series, reserved for distribution in the event of an invasion by the despotic tyrant Hitler. The immediately preceding effort ran “Freedom Is In Peril”, and of course you just know that “peril” would have been pronounced with a rolling “r” and to rhyme with “hill”, not the modern, lazy “perul”.

Anyway, I soon came upon this article from the Grauniad last March, which expands on the history of the poster, and inevitably gets some sociologists to pretend to be useful by offering their insights into the poster’s modern popularity.

Dr Lesley Prince, who lectures in social psychology at Birmingham University, is blunter still. “It is a quiet, calm, authoritative, no-bullshit voice of reason,” he says. “It’s not about British stiff upper lip, really.

Oh dear, he couldn’t get past the second sentence without sneering at the “stiff upper lip” which, even if it wasn’t necessarily a reality among the general population, is surely a noble aspiration? And then of course, the good doctor launches into the trendy delusional lefty meme of “capitalism is dead”:

The point is that people have been sold a lie since the 1970s. They were promised the earth and now they’re worried about everything – their jobs, their homes, their bank, their money, their pension. This is saying, look, somebody out there knows what’s going on, and it’ll be all right”.

Outside the cosy publicly funded academic bubble, however, it seems that, far from being a reaction to the financial Armageddon, the poster has been selling steadily since, errr, 2001 when the proprietors of Barter Books in Northumberland, having found an old copy, started to sell reprints of it.

It seems some in the media are still getting worked up into a panic over the current recession. Perhaps those reporting on the poster’s success should heed its message.

Time for Some Courage, Gordon

So it seems a Summer of Discontent awaits us:

Wildcat strikes spread across Britain today as another 500 contractors walked out in a show of sympathy for workers sacked at the Total oil refinery in Lincolnshire.

An estimated 2,000 workers from refineries, gas plants and nuclear sites failed to turn up for work today in unofficial industrial action after the French oil giant dismissed 650 contractors last week.

Will Gordon try to pull back a few points by dealing firmly with such unofficial – nay illegal – action by trade unions? Fat chance. Firstly, a Labour Party on the brink of financial collapse needs every penny it can get from the unions. Secondly, courage, to Gordon Brown, is just the title of a book he “wrote” once. Thirdly, as Iain Dale has pointed out, standing up for what is right isn’t exactly Brown’s thing, is it?

Time to move into jerry cans, methinks.

Taking Auntie’s Shilling

Auntie Beeb herself reports:

The BBC could be made to share part of the television licence fee with commercial rivals under government plans to be announced later.

No no no. The problem with the licence fee is not that it doesn’t benefit commercial broadcasters, it’s that it is an anachronistic, unnecessary, anti-competitive dinosaur designed from the days when there was only one broadcaster, transmitting for a few hours in the evening, with continuity announcers dressed in full dinner jacket – even on the radio wireless.

That fact is that today there is no good reason for any broadcaster being publicly subsidised. The basic question remains unanswered: if the BBC is so good, why do they need to force viewers to pay for it?

Instead of exposing the BBC to the real world of commercial pressures, without the protection of their extortion unique method of funding, Labour want to expand the licence fee’s benefit to the commercial broadcasters. In what is yet another state bail-out by another name, it may also have the effect of expending the licence fee payroll vote. Whatever the public pronouncements from Broadcasting House, licence fee proponents are probably quite pleased that their constituency will be so expanded.

And yes, I’m quite aware that the Conservatives were proposing something strangely similar over a year ago (though more recently we’ve simply tried to freeze the fee). Frankly, it’s one policy of ours I’d rather Labour didn’t nick.

It’s Registration Time

And so we have chapter one in the textbook of how to create your own overbearing authoritarian state:

A review of home education in England is expected to recommend a national registration scheme for home educators.

It is also expected to say local authorities should have the right to visit any child taught at home.

The government commissioned a review to find out whether local councils were monitoring home educated children, or offering parents enough support.

But the government has also been concerned that home education could be a cover for abuse.

After all, we’ve got all the classic boxes ticked:

You have your bogeyman: in this case, paedophiles (“the government has also been concerned that home education could be a cover for abuse”). Well, I suppose “terrorism” or “climate change” wouldn’t really scan.

You also have the modern approach to the tired old principle of innocent until proven guilty, in that parents are apparently guilty of child abuse unless a state inspector has proved otherwise (or more likely, in practice, ticked a box to say so.)

Then there’s the special brand of newspeak: “The government … wants local authorities to provide better support to home educating parents.” Yep, because home-schooling parents were so enamoured of local authority support that they, errr, opted out of the local education authority’s service.

Blaming The System

Apparently:

Gordon Brown is to announce plans to look at a new system of electing MPs, as he seeks to regain the political initiative after a week of turmoil.

He wants a debate on whether the vote system should change but will pledge a referendum on any move to do so.

Ministers are thought to have discussed an alternative vote system to replace the current first-past-the-post method.

Gordon Brown, as usual, despite any talk of principle on his part, has pulled this issue out of the blue as a diversionary tactic. A bolt-on to the issue of MP expenses which, is typically ham-fisted.

However, let’s not denigrate his Mandelson’s political acumen too much – this is a careful positioning with a view to post-election hung parliament negotiations. Although an Alternative Vote system (being touted as the preferred, ahem, alternative) is not a true PR system, even that change would not doubt be attractive to the LibDems. Brown, remember, waited ten long years for power. Events of the last two years have shown that he will do anything to hang on. Bear in mind also, that he is blind to the downright contempt that the general public now have for him and Labour (and, to be fair, politics in general). Down in the bunker, he probably still thinks that he can pull it off.

Even so, whatever the circumstances, it is time to start making the case for First Past The Post. Daniel Kawczynski made a rallying call on ConHome last week. If a referendum is to be held on the subject, supporters of FPTP will have a number of decades of quiet campaigning by the likes of the Electoral Reform Society to counter.

To some, proportionality and fairness go hand in hand. The question of why a parliament that exactly represents the proportion of votes across the country is therefore of a “fair” make-up is never even thought of.

Then there is the major downfall of PR systems: coalition. There, again, is a concept that some would never even consider to be a downside. However, coalitions are not always the fluffy love-ins that the politically uninitiated may regard them as. Coalition governments are inherently unstable (so is a dictatorship, you may say – don’t be silly, I say). In any case, coalitions are usually made up of a main party and one or two minor partners – that is, parties with, very small proportions of the vote decide who is in government and which of their policies will be put into practice. What is worse: a party with, say, 40-odd percent of the vote putting together a government, or one with only 10% doing so?

Yet there is a more fundamental objection to coalition government: rarely do coalitions appear on the ballot paper (even if you count the SDP/Liberal Alliance). So you end up with a government that nobody voted for. What was that about “fairness”?

European Election Results in London

At the time of linking to the Euro results in London, the final totals were still to be confirmed, but the change in vote shares is interesting, particularly for UKIP:

Conservative 27.36% … up by 0.83% from 2004. Fine.

Labour 21.28% … down by 3.23%. Predictable.

Lib Dems 13.72% … down by 1.45%. The decline continues.

Greens 10.88% … up by 2.53%, the largest % increase. They’ll be happy.

UKIP 10.76% … DOWN by 1.46%. No doubt it’s all down to dodgy origami.

BNP 4.94% … up by 0.94%.

Not to be ignored, given the focus on the minor parties, is the absence of Respect this time – they took 4.79% last time.