Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Monthly Archives: July 2009

Vote Often, If Not Early

blogsvote-1

It won’t be early, because the votes have to be in by midnight tonight.

Even so, while the blogging (including this blatant appeal for support) has been intermittent of late (work, combined with the demands of a three-month old’s daily schedule), I hope some of you will do me the honour of including me in your top ten this year.

Anyway, back to the cricket …

Shock News: Gordon Brown Insulted … And Someone Notices

Much gnashing of teeth at the Grauniad over off air comments by – you guessed it – Jeremy Clarkson:

Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson is facing new controversy after making more offensive comments about the prime minister, Gordon Brown, two weeks running in front of the hit BBC2 show’s studio audience.

Clarkson … is understood to have described Brown as a “c*nt” in not-for-broadcast comments to the studio audience during the recording of this week’s Top Gear programme on Wednesday night.

At the filming of the previous week’s Top Gear … Clarkson also called Brown a “c*nt” as part of a joke he made in front of the studio audience …. This remark was not included in the transmitted version of the show….

Granted, the language is unbecoming, but it was off-air and is certainly no less offensive than a lot of the so-called “comedy” that issues forth – and gets aired – from BBC favourites like Frankie Boyle. (At least Jeremy’s last name isn’t “Thatcher”, then he’d be done for.)

Of course, what Clarkson forgets is that the BBC is seeking “to foster peculiarity, idiosyncrasy, stubborn-mindedness, left-of-centre thinking.”

Clearly 3 out of 4 isn’t quite good enough, JC.

Bitten by Reality, Labour Still Fail To Take Hint

Guess what?

Top professions such as medicine and law are increasingly being closed off to all but the most affluent families, a report into social mobility has said.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Milburn called for “a second great wave of social mobility” like that of the 1950s and 1960s to match a projected growth in the number of managerial jobs.

As Iain Dale points out, this has something of bears, woods and (ahem) about it.

Well, really, what did they expect?

What did they expect when they abolished the assisted places scheme, a scheme which gave poor children a chance to attend an independent school?

What did they expect from continuing the long running vendetta against grammar schools, schools which gave poor children a chance to be taught to their academic strengths. (This, of course, was easier than actually making the non-grammar schools better.)

What did they expect when, thanks to the arbitrary target of 50% of school leavers going to university, the value of a degree became diluted. If the paper qualifications can’t help differentiate the candidates for a position, then “other factors” inevitably come into play.

This is what happens when one pursues social justice and mobility by policies of social score-settling and an unnerving belief that the state can solve problems that are natural by-products of human society.

What will ensure that the real lesson isn’t learnt, is that the wrong lesson has been taught in the report. As is usual among the Left, the conclusion is that it’s all about money. It’s not. Wealth is a by-product of ambition and a desire to better the lot of yourself and those close to you. You’d have thought that twelve years of throwing (our) money at social problems with little or no effect might have led to them taking the hint.

Blunkett Innoculated Against a Democratic Plague

There are many who would say that if someone like former Home Secretary David Blunkett says that something is very wrong, then that’s the way to go.

Mr Blunkett said that directed elected police commissioners should be avoided “like the plague” following his review of police accountability.

He said that not only would it politicise the police force but could also lead to far right groups “able to play to particular issues at particular times getting elected and being in control of our police services.”

Welcome to planet Blunkett, where the police no doubt patrol the quiet streets of Britain, probably with round red-cheeked faces, saying a jovial “mind how you go” to little old ladies. Oh, and on this planet the police are not politicised.

This, from a former home secretary in a Labour government that has done more than any other to turn the police into a politically correct, hamstrung by not only bureaucracy but an agenda driven from a left-liberal political establishment which has little to do with protecting the public and nicking bad people. Of course,the Left would say that started under the evil Thatch, but whatever, we arrive at much the same place now.

As is fashionable these days, Blunkett has called up the spectre of a favourite bogeyman (when it’s not terrorists or paedophiles), the (misnamed) “Far Right”. He seems oblivious that one development that has given the Far Right Left traction is the fact that the police, increasingly, are seen as being directed by a politically correct agenda that bears little relation to the priorities of those the officers are meant to be serving.

The fact is that with directly elected police chiefs, which is Conservative party policy now, it is unlikely that a candidate of the Far Left, who actually enjoy the support of only a small minority of voters, will either get elected or even see support increasing once a truly locally accountable person is at the helm of the local police force.

As long as Commissioners and Chief Constables have to answer to unelected ministers they are in a political environment. In particular, when the Home Office falsely uses national security grounds to encourage the Met Police to arrest an opposition politician, then the police are politicised. When officers arrest a heckler at a party conference who was simply expressing a viewpoint, the police are politicised.

As I have noted before, one man’s politicisation is another’s democratic accountability.

Labour May Be Dying, But the Class War Continues

Yes, the scorch marks in the earth are multiplying:

Hundreds of independent schools could lose their charitable status unless they increase fees for middle-class parents to fund more bursaries, a landmark ruling indicates today.

The two schools that did not pass the charitable test are relatively small prep schools. Both failed because they did not offer enough bursaries, even though they were praised for running initiatives which helped local children and organisations.
One, Highfield Priory School in Fulwood, Lancashire, does not provide bursaries because it keeps fees as low as possible, and does not accrue a surplus.

This is not just unfair, it is wicked and vindictive. The recession is already forcing some private schools to close – Baston School in my own ward is one (and I wonder how many of the brains behind this these changes are on final salary pensions and automatically index linked pay?)

The parents of children in private education should not be ashamed – after all, they already pay twice for education – or, to put it another way, subsidise other children through their taxes and create state school places by removing their children from the state system.

The moves by the Charity Commission do not add up by any reasonable definition of “public benefit” or indeed “social justice”.

Interestingly, there are many other “charitable bodies” which the Commission seems unconcerned about.

To Rest or Not To Rest?

So the people of Eire are to be asked again if they’ll accept the EU constitution Lisbon Treaty and the date has now been set for the 2nd October.

Which, from David Cameron’s point of view, makes for somewhat interesting timing, as it will be just days before the party conference starting on the 5th.

The Irish people might swallow the official line that although nothing’s changed since the last referendum, everything’s changed ‘cos those sweet people in Brussels have promised to be nice to Ireland this time. That will put the spotlight back on our policy of “not letting it rest there”. Hmm.

Or our Gaelic cousins might once again see sense and chuck it out yet again. A sense of relief will surely waft over central Manchester.

Privatisation? What Privatisation?

The East Coast rail service is to return to public ownership. Is it a sign that rail privatisation hasn’t worked?

So asks the BBC’s “Have Your Say”, following the news that National Express have handed back / been stripped of (delete according to political bias) the franchise to run one of their rail routes.

I wonder if anyone asked if the losses being sustained by Royal Mail are a sign that nationalisation hadn’t worked? (Of course, in a way, they have, but then the timid plans to correct this situation have effectively now been shelved.)

Yet that rather misses the main point. The question assumes that the railways have been privatised. No they haven’t. The railways haven’t been truly private since the First World War, when the government, following a temporary wartime nationalisation, forced grouping on the private railway companies shortly afterwards in 1923. What happened in the 1990’s was the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering – yet on arguably far more restricted terms than the CCT that has (for example) delivered more efficient refuse collections.

What the National Express episode shows is that a franchise was let by the government on restrictive terms set by the government, to a private company who found after a while that the government was unwilling to remove some of those restrictions, and so have given it back.

Even so, many might welcome the return of some railways to state ownership (‘cos British Rail worked so well, didn’t it?)

How short memories are. Since the mid-19th century the history of railways in the UK – the birthplace of the train – are punctuated by government interventions which usually only made things worse. We start in 1844, when the Railway Act forced railways to offer cheap tickets to passengers (a measure which today would not doubt be spun as “tackling transport poverty”) which would have been either subsidised by the more viable freight and higher class passenger business, or reduced the funds available for investment – either way surely harming the viability of many lines, which then provided the excuse for grouping and ultimately full nationalisation.

Then there was Beeching – who was, to be fair, on the right track (sorry) – whose attempt to mimic the outcomes of a free market was inevitably very hit-and-miss. Then we had “privatisation” which, again, tried to stimulate free market behaviour, but in such a heavily controlled environment that we may have been better off not doing it at all. It is a case of either privatise fully and properly, or don’t bother.

Had National Express had ownership of the track and had the government not been presiding over a system that allows a franchisee to walk away from the contact (thus diluting the profit maximisation/loss elimination incentive on which the success of privatisation relies), then perhaps NE would have had not only to get on with the job, but would have been in an much stronger position to do so.