Showing posts from August, 2015

Principle and Politics - a military parallel

In a debate on social media yesterday one of my friends from University days, Mark, Solomon suggested that what all the people Tony Blair identified as "parallel universe" politicians - Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn , the SNP, Syriza in Greece and Marine Le Pen - have in common is that although he strongly disagrees with many of their opinions, they all have principles. He suggested that a percieved lack of principles and consistency in politicians is one of the main things which is destroying trust and engagement among the electorate and that he would prefer people with principles he disagreed with to those with none. Leaving aside for the moment that I don't actually agree that all the people on Tony Blair's "parallel universe" list have principles - in my opinion some of them are even worse than Blair is - that does raise an interesting point, one to which there is no simple answer. Of course, we would all prefer to see people in power w

Quote of the day 31st August 2015

 "If I have done anything noble, that is a sufficient memorial; if I have not, all the statues in the world will not preserve my memory." ( King Agesilaus II of Sparta, when asked if he wanted a statue erected in his memory)

Sunday music spot: Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (First Movement)

And don't forget (details of public consultation coming shortly) we still need consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and FGH in Barrow: #SupportOption1

Blair transforms from Napoleon to Cassandra

Thoughts on Tony Blair's article today, " Corbyn's politics are fantasy: just like Alice in Wonderland ." The article begins by painting Jeremy Corbyn's support as part of a pattern of absolutist politics of  different political colours on both sides of the Atlantic. Blair suggests that supporters of Corbyn, Donald Trump , his Democrat equivalent Bernie Sanders, the SNP, Syriza, and Marine Le Pen are all part of "a politics of parallel reality going on, in which reason is an irritation, evidence a distraction, emotional impact is king and the only thing that counts is feeling good about it all." He has just enough self-knowledge to ask himself what the effect is when  "people like me" try to argue against Corbyn, and answer thus: "Anyone listening? Nope. In fact, the opposite. It actually makes them more likely to support him." His response to someone who had said to him, “If you’re writing something again, don’t blah

"Free to choose" debate continued

From "Free to Choose" - another extract from a 1980 debate in which Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell squared off against Peter Jay and Frances Fox Piven. During this clip (white left-winger) Frances Fox Piven starts lecturing (black free-marketer) Thomas Sowell about how badly off black people in the US are and what they want. I don't think she gets the best of the argument.

A Debate on Equality: Jay & Piven vs. Friedman & Sowell

From "Free to Choose" - extracts from a 1980 debate in which Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell squared off against Peter Jay (an economist whose father-in-law, Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan had recently made him British Ambassador to the USA) and American socialist Frances Fox Piven

Quote of the day 30th August 2015

"There is no use for bravery unless justice is present, and no need for bravery if all men are just." ( King Agesilaus II  of Sparta, when asked whether bravery or justice was a more important virtue)

Margaret Thatcher: There is no such thing as public money

Maggie makes a vital point that anyone who stands for public office should never, ever forget ...

The Falklands: UN has confirmed Britain is not in breach of resolutions

As Argentine president Cristina Kirchner remains in deep domestic trouble, you can expect more silly attempts to distract attention from the utter failure of her administration, accusations of corruption, and the suspicious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman four days after he accused her of complicity in a cover-up of Iranian responsibility for the country's worst ever terrorist attack and the day before he was due to present the evidence for that allegation to Argentina's congress. Nisman's death initially appeared to be a locked room mystery like something out of Jonathan Creek, possibly as the result of an attempt to make assassination look like suicide; the investigation continues and of course if it was murder there are a number of possible suspects who are entitled to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. Kirchner's woes also include a reference to Shylock from "The Merchant of Venice" giving rise to accusations of anti-Semitism so she has

Andy Burnham wins "Spartan 'IF' of the year award"

Andy Burnham has said in an interview in the Daily Telegraph that "if he becomes leader he will demand the Prime Minister sets out its in detail the Government’s legal case and evidence for Britain to start bombing Islamic State targets in Syria." The first word of that quote is the best example of a Spartan 'If' of 2015 to date ... (For the benefit of anyone who does not recognise the expression,  Philip II of Macedon invaded Greece and received the submission of many city states, and attempted to bully Sparta into similar submission by sending the message "If I invade Laconia you will be destroyed, never to rise again." The Spartans replied with a single word: "If." Neither Philip nor even his son  Alexander the Great ever attempted to capture Sparta.)

Other spoof articles I've read in the past week

The funniest spoof articles usually have way, way too much truth in them. That certainly applies to this spoof article about passwords: If you can remember your password then it's hopelessly inadequate warn researchers . Given the number of important passwords which I have to use, am required to change at least four times a year, get prompted to make complex so they are hard for hackers to guess and then am discouraged from writing down , I think NewsThump must have based that article on certain IT departments I have to deal with ... Mind you, I wish there were more truth in another of their spoofs which suggested that 98% of Americans think the internet is not as believable as the bible . Actually a bit more scepticism about material on the internet would be a thoroughly good thing in both America and Britain. If I converted to atheism tomorrow I'd still have to admit that I've read more provably false, ridiculous and dangerous nonsense on the internet than i

The Funniest spoof article of the year to date

NewsThump have just published a spoof article which had me almost splitting my sides with laughter called " Stop making personal attacks on those other ***** says Corbyn ." It has lines like "Corbyn’s fans, who have impressed external observers with the monomaniacal vehemence of their loathing of anyone who isn’t Jeremy Corbyn, have been asked to rein it in a bit for fear of making themselves look bad." and concludes with "The Conservative party declined to comment, as they didn’t want to draw attention away from their old foes fighting like rats in a sack on the six o’clock news every night."

Quote of the day 29th August 2015

"This is the political equivalent of KFC basing it's business model on vegetarians" ( Tom Flynn @tom4camberwell on Twitter, responding to this Labour List article  about the principle that Labour should concentrate efforts to win the next election on persuading non-voters to turn out and vote for them.)

Second quarter growth figures

More details are now available about the British Gross Domestic Product figures for the second quarter of 2015 which were confirmed today by ONS at 0.7%, fuelled by a surge in exports. Exports rose 3.9%, up from 0.4%, while imports were up 0.6%, leaving the UK with positive net trade. Year-on-year, GDP growth was 2.6%, unrevised from the first estimate. The ONS data, published in July, also showed that the production and service sectors lifted the UK economy to pre-crisis levels. The production sector saw a 1% jump in output in the second quarter, the biggest rise since 2010, when it grew by 0.7%. Agriculture was down 0.7%, compared to a fall of 2.3% in the first quarter, and construction output saw no change. Samuel Tombs, senior economist at Capital Economics, said: "Investment rose by 0.9%, reflecting a hefty 2.9% increase in business investment, putting paid to the idea that uncertainty about the general election would weigh on capital expenditure."

The Sad Death of Irony

Show me someone who has never offended anyone and I'll show you someone who has never said anything amusing or important. Human beings are not robots and occasionally we will get it wrong and say things which will be misunderstood. The people who do this least are generally the ones who have least in common with most members of the human race. But the frightening thing about the age we are living is that one badly tasteless joke can completely wreck the life of the person responsible. As Jon Ronson, author of " So you've been publicly shamed " pointed out, when a mob forms on social media to condemn something, there is a “disconnect between the severity of the crime and the gleeful savagery of the punishment.” He gives an example: two men were talking quietly at a tech conference and one made a silly and offensive joke. A woman who was sitting in front of them took offence, took a photo of them and tweeted it with a critical reference to the joke.. There was

Breaking news - UK economic growth for Q2 confirmed at 0.7%

No details yet but the BBC says that a few minutes ago the second estimate of Britain's growth for last quarter was confirmed at 0.7%. Full details expected later today

The case for House of Lords reform

The furore in the press and social media over yesterday's peerages rather misses the point. This is as good as it gets under the present system. Lists like yesterday's are the inevitable consequence of Blair's botched and half-complete "Reform" of the Lords and of the fact that an unholy alliance of Ed Miliband and Tory backwoodsmen prevented the coalition government from finishing the job. Whatever the media thinks, the names put forward by all three party leaders are people who can be expected to turn up and work at the job and most if not all of them have highly relevant experience. No potential PM, not Jeremy Corbyn, not any of the three dwarves, none of Dave's potential Conservative successors will do anything better under present rules. If you were to say that is an excellent argument for replacing the House of Lords by a largely or wholly elected second chamber I entirely agree with you, as I did when the coalition tried to do precisely that.

Quote of the day 28th August 2015

"Current flows of people across Europe are on a scale we haven't seen since the end of World War Two. This is not sustainable and risks the future economic development of other EU member states." ( James Brokenshire , immigration minister, on the high levels of net migration announced yesterday.) He added that the Government had slashed student fraud, struck off nearly 900 bogus colleges and toughened access to welfare and housing. "But with nearly 100,000 non-EU students remaining in the UK at the end of their courses and British business still overly reliant on foreign workers in a number of sectors, there is much more to do," the minister said. "That's why our new Immigration Bill will further address illegal working, the pull factors that draw migrants to Britain and the availability of public services which help them to remain here unlawfully."

BBC issues half-hearted apology to Grant Shapps over wikipedia allegations

During the General Election campaign the Guardian alleged that the then Chairman of the Conservative party, Grant Shapps, had been anonymously editing his own Wikipedia entry to make it more sympathetic to him and that the account he had used to do this had been suspended. This allegation turned out to come from a Lib/Dem activist, Richard Symons. Shapps responded that he had openly corrected his entry under his own name in the past to remove false information such as the suggestion that he was a Jehovah's Witness - which is entirely permissible under Wikipedia rules - but strongly denied the Guardian story. The BBC made much of the allegations, repeating them forty-two times in a 24 hour period. Wikipedia duly investigated Symonds allegations. The investigating panel found "no evidence" that Grant Shapps had acted in the way alleged by Symonds, and censured Symonds,  whom it said had given the appearance that Wikipedia's monitoring tools were being used to

Quote of the Day 27th August 2015

"For non-Labour supporters, this leadership election is the gift that keeps on giving which has somehow managed to make the Florida 2000 Presidential election mess look like the epitome of competent electoral practice." ( TSE/The Screaming Eagles on Political Betting here .)

Dan Hannan on why "Trickle-down economics" is a Left-wing fantasy

I've previously linked to articles by Dan Hannan MEP debunking the caricature of so called " trickle down economics " which is what some people on the left think people on the right believe. We don't. But he has to keep coming back to it because as he rightly says, it's a "zombie idea" in that no matter how often you kill it, this straw man which is supposed to be what free-marketeers believe keeps coming back. Search on the internet for "trickle down economics" and you'll find many articles  debunking or disproving it, some by authorities as senior as the International Monetary Fund, but you'll have enormous difficulty finding anyone at all who will claim to believe in it. Economist Thomas Sowell  made the case ] that no economist has ever advocated a "trickle-down" theory of economics, and that it is rather a misnomer attributed to certain economic ideas by political critics who either willfully distort or misunderstand

"Notes from North Britain" on EVEL

Professor Adam Tonkins, who teaches constitutional law at Glasgow University, and publishes the outstanding "Notes from North Britain" blog has posted an excellent article there this week on English Votes for English Laws . There are too many good points in the article for a summary to do it justice but I recommend this article to anyone with a serious interest in the subject. You can read it here .

Quote of the day 26th August

'In 2010 the voters gave the Labour party a warning. “We don’t like or trust the Tories, but after the financial crash we can no longer trust you. We’re not going to give the other lot a majority, but sort yourselves out”. The Labour Party’s response was to elect Ed Miliband, and shift incrementally to the left. So the voters gave Labour a second warning. “You didn’t listen to us did you?”, they said. “We still don’t really like that other lot, but I’m afraid you’re treating us like we’re fools. So we’re going to have teach you another lesson. This time we are going to give them a majority, a small one. We’re being serious now. Get your act together”. And Labour’s response is going to be to elect Jeremy Corbyn.  I could be wrong. I pray to God I’m wrong. But I’m not sure Labour is going to get a third warning .' ( Dan Hodges, writing in the Daily Telegraph   here .)

All England Stone-skimming results

One of the happy memories of my childhood is my father teaching me to bounce flat stones off the surface of a lake or the sea. In turn I taught the same skill to my own children when they were small. I never realised it was a competitive sport, but apparently it is, and the All England championships were held in Cumbria at Fell Foot Park a few days ago. The winner, Kevin Waltham, set a new record by bouncing a stone for 86 metres along the surface of Windermere. Wow!

Correction to Opinion Poll post

Latest opinion poll result, from COMRES for the Daily Mail, should have read as follows. Conservatives 42% Labour 28% UKIP 9% Lib/Dems 8% Conservative lead 14% Earlier today there were versions of this poll result floating around giving Labour a lower share which I quoted in good faith. I then noted that other people were quoting different numbers. If you look at the  COMRES's website at it gives the correct figures as above. Apologies for any inconvenience.

On the subject of inclusivity ...

Following on from Andy Burnham's gaffe about how Labour will elect a woman leader "when the time is right" here is a little reminder Britain's first Jewish Prime Minister - Benjamin Disraeli (Conservative) Britain's first woman MP - Nancy Astor (Conservative) The Countess de Markievicz (Sinn Fein) was the first woman elected to parliament but she never sat as an MP. Lady Astor was the first woman to actually take her seat in the House of Commons. First woman leader of the House of Lords - Janet Young (Conservative) Britain's first Asian cabinet minister - Sayeeda Warsi (Conservative) First woman of Indian ancestry to serve in a British cabinet - Priti Patel (Conservative) And here, courtesy of Guido Fawkes is a pie chart even the Westmorland Gazette or Lib/Dems couldn't get wrong ...

Pie chart problems

The Lib/Dems used to be notorious for putting misleading charts into their literature. Hat tip to Sands Media Services for pointing out here the pie chart below in the new Lib/Dem leader's local newspaper, the Westmorland Gazette. It did make me wonder if the paper were using a former Tim Farron staffer to do their number-crunching for them. You'll never see six to one look so much like 50:50 as here ... Or did someone just type the wrong data into a spreadsheet? Oops!

Britain's stock market reacts to China's problems

£74 billion was wiped off the market value of Britain's 100 largest companies yesterday as shares in London fell in response to a similar fall in China. Shares in Shanghai closed down 8.5 per cent overnight as investors grow increasingly concerned about the world’s second largest economy. The knock-on effect in London saw share prices fall 4.6% to the lowest level since 2009. Chancellor George Osborne said the plunge was a timely reminder that Britain is “not immune” from what happens in the world and that this illustrates why we need to get our house in order. “You don’t know where the next crisis is coming from, you don’t know where the next shock is going to come from in the world," he said. “Britain is a very open economy, we’re probably the most open of the world’s largest economies. And so we are affected by what happens; whether it’s problems in the eurozone, problems in Asian financial markets.”

COMRES Opinion poll puts the Conservatives 14% ahead

Latest opinion poll result, from COMRES. Conservatives 42% Labour 28% UKIP 9% Lib/Dems 8% Conservative lead 14% OK, I know we've just been given good reason not to put too much faith in the polls at the moment, but I think the size of that drop in Labour support compared with the May 2015 election result and even allowing for methodology change is telling us something. Specifically, it looks like I'm not the only person looking at the current shambles in the Labour party and thinking, if they can't even manage their own leadership election with anything remotely resembling competence or fairness, how on earth can anyone imagine they could run the country? UPDATE Earlier today there were versions of this poll result floating around giving Labour a 25% share and a Conservative lead of 17%, and this post was originally published quoting those figures. I then noted that other people were quoting 28% for the Labour voting intention share and a 3% lower lead. I c

Quote of the day 25th August 2015


Productivity and Growth: CBI upgrades forecasts

The good news is that the CBI has upgraded UK growth forecasts: the really good news is that one of the main reasons for the upgrade is that, at long last, they see signs of improving productivity. The CBI now predicts growth of 2.6% this year and 2.8% next year, up from its June forecast of 2.4% and 2.5% respectively. Increased household spending and "robust" investment growth will drive the improved growth, the CBI believes. They are assuming that interest rates will rise in the first quarter of next year, having previously assumed that rates would begin rising from their historic low of 0.5% from the start of April next year. But it now says the improved growth picture alongside "more hawkish" comments from the Bank of England's rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee had prompted it to bring its prediction forward. "We now expect interest rates to rise to 0.75% in the first quarter of 2016, and then rise at a slow pace thereafter," the

Nothing lasts forever

There is no natural law that says that the Conservative Party, or the Labour party, or the Liberal Democrats, have to be an important part of Britain's power structure (as the third of those parties has just found out the hard way for the second time in a century) No rule is more true in politics that the three words which began the third "House of Cards" TV series (the UK version): "Nothing Lasts Forever." Since the first decline and fall of the Liberals, people have been writing books and articles with titles like "The strange death of Liberal England." and inserting the name of various parties in place of "Liberal." Sometimes these articles look a bit silly a few years later, because as parties and movements can apparently be knocked down to insignificance, they can also sometimes come back - but this is not as inevitable as the people in those parties might want to hope. Peter Franklin has a great article today on Conservative Home

Quote of the day 24th August 2015

"I don't think my offence was sufficient to justify 4,000 people marching on the BBC's headquarters, so that young men and women who are new to journalism have, like they do in Putin's Russia, to fight their way through crowds of protesters, frightened as to how they do their jobs. "That ... is not how politics should operate either in the UK or in a future independent Scotland, if there is to be such a thing. We should not live with journalists who are intimidated, or bullied, or fearful in any way. "The idea that before Scotland becomes independent, if she is ever to become independent, that only certain journalists can cover it, who live in certain places and come from certain locations is again dangerous." (BBC Political editor Nick Robinson on the reaction of the SNP to the row between himself and Alec Salmond during the Independence referendum.)

Occasional Sunday music slot: Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater"


Britain's debt passes £1.5 trillion

The UK National debt excluding bank bailouts recently passed £1.5 TRILLION pounds. As I wrote on a previous post, even with interest rates at rock bottom levels, the amount of interest the taxpayer has to fork out for this national debt is expected to be over £46 billion this year. The interest bill is expected to stay over £50 billion p.a. from next year and for at least the rest of the decade as you can read in a parliamentary report at In other words, we taxpayers will have to fork out £50 billion next year to pay the interest on the debt accumulated for past spending before there is a penny available to spend on hospitals, schools, policing or defence. That's after five years of what the left call "austerity" but which, in terms of getting the country back onto an even financial keel, is only now nearing the point where we can start reducing the debt. Having said that, there are sig

Labour's slow-motion car crash - and a lesson for the Tories

The point is often well made that people involved in politics should concentrate on getting it right and doing constructive things themselves and not spend all their time insulting their opponents. I started following Labour's attempt to sort themselves out following their defeat in the hope that it would reveal things which all parties including the Conservatives could learn from, and continued out of a horrified morbid fascination. The main lessons which Labour appears determined to learn the hard way are two which the Conservatives should have already learned the hard way in 1992-97 and even more so in 2001: 1) Don't form a circular firing squad, and 2) Don't pick leaders with massive appeal to your base of support but who at best look odd to the people you would need to win over to win and at worst have weaknesses your opponents can use to tear you to shreds. All sides in Labour's leadership election have been firing a degree of venom at one another which

The travails of forecasters

My academic degrees are both in economics and the largest part of my career in BT since leaving University thirty years ago this year has involved using the skills I acquired at university to forecast various numbers of interest to particular parts of the company, such as how many faults we are likely to get, how many orders for new products, how many calls about those faults and orders, how many people we need manning the phones to take those calls and how many engineers we need to have available to fix the faults or install the new kit. I have a cousin who used to be a senior forecaster at the Met Office. So it is a family joke that my profession as an economic forecaster gives his profession as a weather forecaster something to look down on.     Yesterday the Met Office said that this weekend would see a combination of very hot weather and horrendous storms, and that's certainly what we've had in West Cumbria with a massive thunderstorm last night but a very hot da

Quote of the day 23rd August 2015

"Just because someone’s right it doesn’t mean they’re not also terribly annoying"   (Quote on the " Evening Harold " website)

What goes around comes around

Yesterday on Facebook I saw a shared link to a web-post, " I've been purged from the labour party leadership election " by a gentleman called Bernard Goyder who had been a member of the Labour party and actively campaigned for them in the 2015 election. Mr Goyder says that he discovered when checking his eligibility to vote in the leadership election that he had inadvertently allowed his membership to lapse and reapplied. He then received an email which told him, in what reads to me like a standard form or words, "We have reason to believe that you do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party or you are a supporter of an organisation opposed to the Labour Party and therefore we are rejecting your application". My first reaction to this was that Labour's attempt to verify who really supports them and should be allowed to vote for their leader has descended into complete farce, making snap judgements on thousands of people without much in the

DC: How we'll create 3m more apprenticeships

The Prime Minister on how the government will ensure that those companies which invest in training their workforce will be given help to do so.

Quote of the day 22nd August 2015

"His election as leader would be the most extraordinary act of self-harm ever committed by a major British party, and will scar British politics for decades." ( John Rentoul on Jeremy Corbyn, in an article called The Corbyn Calamity ) Mind you, I think the election of IDS by the Conservatives - in many ways a mirror-image decision - would run it pretty close for very similar reasons. And look how well that worked out for us ...)

David Cameron: The first 100 days of this One Nation government

The Prime Minister speaks on what has been achieved in the first 100 days of the Conservative government.

Hell has officially frozen over again ...

We usually associate Guido Fawkes with publishing the naughty secrets of the powerful. Who would have thought that a politician wrongly accused of doing something dubious could be  cleared by Guido Fawkes' blog? Well, it seems to have happened today  here ...

By-election results from around the country

Congratulations to John Herd who gained the Camborne Pendarves division of Cornwall Council in a by-election yesterday (20 August 2015) following the resignation of UKIP Cllr Harry Blakeley due to ill health. Councillor Herd narrowly pipped the Lib/Dem candidate Nathan Billings to take the seat with Labour third and UKIP in fourth place. Full result here . Congratulations also to Carol Reynolds who regained the Witney North ward of West Oxfordshire District Council for the Conservatives in yesterday's second by-election following the resignation of a councillor who had been elected as a Conservative, gone Independent, and then resigned from the council: full result here . The MP for Witney has been writing a lot of letters of congratulations to successful Conservative council candidates this year, so I suspect there may well be two more letters from Number 10 Downing Street on their way to Councillors Herd and Reynolds in the near future and that David Cameron will not be d

Quote of the day 23th August 2015

“The consequences of me failing to secure a seat for myself in the Commons would be significant for both myself and the party. It is frankly just not credible for me to continue to lead the party without a Westminster seat. What credibility would UKIP have in the Commons if others had to enunciate party policy in Parliament and the party leader was only allowed in as a guest? Was I supposed to brief UKIP policy from the Westminster Arms? No – if I fail to win South Thanet, it is curtains for me. I will have to step down.” ( Nigel Farage , before failing to win South Thanet, on the ridiculous situation he would be in if he tried to remain leader without a seat in the Commons. Of course, he is now in an even more ridiculous position having stepped down on the above grounds and then reversed the decision ...)

Quote of the day 21st August 2015


UK and France reach agreement on Calais policing enhancements

The UK and France have signed an agreement on new measures, including a "control and command centre," to help alleviate the migrant crisis in Calais.   The centre will be jointly run by British and French police and will "relentlessly pursue" people-smuggling gangs, Home Secretary Theresa May said after signing the agreement with French  Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. She added that she was "well aware" of the risk that Calais security would push illegal migrants elsewhere.

Quote of the day 20th August 2015


Notes from North Britain

Hat tip to Ruth Davidson and Spencer Pitfield who drew my attention to " Notes from North Britain ," a superb blog by Professor Adam Tomkins. Professor Tomkins has taught constitutional law at the University of Glasgow since 2003. He campaigned for a No vote in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and was one of the Scottish Conservatives on the Smith Commission, an all-party commission which agreed a package of enhanced devolution for Scotland in 2014. He has a particularly good blog post today, One year on (nearly) which reflects on the Scottish political position and particularly support for Independence as it has moved from a month before the Indyref when there was a real possibility that Scots would vote to leave, to where it stands now. I think this is one of the best argued analyses of the strengths and weaknesses of the SNP position that I have ever read.

You know it's the "Silly season" when ... (Continued)

And now top this one. Apparently Hamas have captured a dolphin and claim it was spying for Israel ...

"If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken ..."

It never ceases to amaze me how far some people can twist whatever a Conservative proposes, or anyone else to the right of Jeremy Corbyn for that matter, into a vicious attack on women and children. An egregious article in the New Statesman by Laurie Penny, The Tory rape exception for tax credits is worse than you thought is an extreme example. Not quite sure whether this lady has ever heard of birth control, but she argues that  those people who are in favour of some restriction on abortion but make an exception for rape, and the government's changes to child support and tax credits in the budget, are motivated mainly by a wish to punish women for having sex. The remarkable thing about this article is that exceptions to the rules which have the specific effect of preventing families from losing money appear to Ms Penny as "nasty" because she finds ways of putting a cruel and vicious interpretation on them. There is a significant error in the way the budget chan

Watch out for delays on the M6 Northbound from J36 today ...

    POSTSCRIPT Highways agency now say Junction 36 Northbound on M6 expected to reopen at about 4.15pm Until then all Northbound traffic has to leave the M6 at Junction 36 and re-join further North.

You know it's the silly season when ...

The BBC thinks that David Cameron eating pringles on an Easyjet flight is worth reporting .. Satirical website explanations for non-appearance of the Chilcott report like the dog ate it are more plausible than Chilcott's actual explanations ... Newspapers run headlines like Police seek stuffed arctic wolf taken from London flat  ... and Man rescued after three hours stuck in washing machine  ... Gordon Brown warns Labour not to choose an unelectable leader (Adams cartoon from the Telegraph website here ) And the clincher, there does indeed appear to be a possibility that Jeremy Corbyn may become leader of the Labour party .

Are the Trolls killing online comments?

Interesting piece here  on the BBC website about how a number of sites have closed their online comments sections. Personally I find the comments section far and away the most interesting part of some sites, such as, for instance, . The trolls are a nuisance, and I can understand why it takes a lot of effort on some websites to remove offensive or those which might expose the site concerned to legal action. I suspect that the trolls may end up forcing ISPs and sites to find ways to limit anonymity - people are much less likely to write something offensive, racist, or libellous if they know they can be traced. But it would be a shame if those who go over the top forced all websites to remove comment facilities and my bet is that it will not happen.

Quote of the day 19th August 2015


How the press reports nuclear power

In 2011 one of the four largest earthquakes ever recorded caused a massive tsunami - also one of the largest ever recorded - to hit Japan with devastating conseqences. The number of confirmed deaths caused by the tsunami is 15,891 as of April 10, 2015. Yet, after the first couple of days of the tragedy, the aspect of this natural disaster which received far and away the largest part of the media's attention has been the fact that it caused a radioactive leak at the Fukushima nuclear plant - a radiation leak which to date has not caused a single confirmed death. (Three people died from the Tsunami at Fukushima, but two of them were drowned and one caught in a crane,) Worse, a constant stream of hyped and overdramatized reporting of Fukushima caused governments around the world to rein back on nuclear power plans, thereby shifting energy generation to other forms which do more damage to the environment. A few years back there was a rail crash disaster in Britain which killed

In the news ...

* An Afghan who worked as an interpreter for the British Army has been executed by the Taliban . We owe it to people in countries like this who have worked for the British to be sympathetic if they apply to come to Britain. *  The authorities in Japan have warned that people in the vicinity of the volcano Sakurajima, near the citu of Kagoshima which has a population of more than 600,000 people, that they may have to prepare to evacuate because it possible that the volcano may be about to become active . See next post for a discussion on whether it is reasonable that the some of the media have given less prominence to the fact that this volcano is 12 kilometres from a city of more than half a million people to the fact that it is 50 kilometres from a nuclear power station. * more coverage on whether drones could be used to stop herring gull eggs from hatching .    See also BBC report here . (Unfortunately some newspaper headlines, not necessarily the articles, are misleading

Cartoon of the Month

From the Telegraph:

The truth of Newton's apple

A comment on this morning's Quote of the Day from Isaac Newton prompted me to do a search for any evidence on the truth of what I had understood to be an unconfirmed legend, that Newton was prompted to develop the concept of gravity when an apple fell on his head. It appears that there really was an apple, but Newton is more likely to have seen it fall perpendicularly to the ground, thus noting that it was moving towards the centre of the earth, than to have been struck on the head by it. The previous classical viewpoint was that the apple and everything else would seeking it's proper locations. The proper location of the apple was on the surface of the Earth and the proper location of the Moon would be its' sphere, a set distance above the Earth. If removed from their proper locations, they would seek to return. Newton wondered why an apple's proper location would be in a tree while it was growing but then on the surface of the earth, and from this thought modern

Quote of the day 18th August 2015


Here writes a brave man ...

Atul Hatwal predicts here that Jeremy Corbyn will lose the election for leader of the Labour party. It's an interesting and well argued piece: but here writes a brave man. He might be right, heaven only knows the polls were significantly out at the General Election and polling party members is notoriously difficult. They'd have to be much further out that in May for him to lose though. If he's right his reputation will be greatly enhanced. If he's wrong people will be laughing at him for years in the same way they are still laughing at Sion Simon for his " We cannot be killed " article in the New Statesman in 2007 in which he predicted that "Shortly there will be an election in which Labour will increase it's majority." Mind you, Atul's article is merely brave, while Sion Simon's was mad - in fact, he admitted it was mad in the first sentence and would have been wiser to stop there. Indeed, the Sion Simon article actually looks e