The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Greasing the Wheels

The Glorious Successor has done his green credentials a power of good by informing the oil companies that they should keep pumping oil. "We do need the oil coming out of the North Sea, we do need to encourage the new exploration," he said. "That is more expensive to do. That is why I hope that these profits are going to be invested in getting more oil out of the North Sea", rather than on executive bonuses as is traditional, or on research into sustainable energy as is unthinkable. Shell and BP have made seven thousand million pounds in profits during the first quarter of the year, despite Shell's financial director being unable to "understand the oil price at this stage" and observing that "the fundamentals do not justify the oil price at this level". Apparently it's all the fault of financial speculators, who have done penance by increasing the value of shares in both Shell and BP.

Monday, April 28, 2008

All Cuffed Up

Further solutions to the prisons crisis are apparent in this Widdecombesque episode, in which a private security firm had a seven-months-pregnant woman who was suffering "serious complications" shackled to a guard twenty-four hours a day in case she used her crutches to overpower the staff and tunnel her way to freedom. The security firm, as one would expect of an organisation "which has been fined in the past for having prisoners escape on its watch", is called Reliance. "We did have a case in March where a pregnant female prisoner was mistakenly handcuffed (sic) when a risk assessment showed that was unnecessary," a spokesbeing said. "The cuffs were removed, and an apology was made." It is not clear whether the apology was made to the prisoner or to the Scottish Prison Service, which pays Reliance's fees. A spokesbeing for the Scottish Prison Service was "unable to say" how long the woman had been chained up; as is traditional when the private sector is brought in to make public utilities more efficient, all the important bits are somebody else's problem.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Return of the Civil Dead

With the prison population at an all-time high of over eighty-two thousand, the Ministry of Incarceration and Deportation has instructed its malefactor management human resources to ignore safety regulations so that the crisis of overcrowding in our prisons can be relieved by putting more people in prison. The Government "had been hoping the prison population would fall over the recent school holidays, when fewer courts were sitting", the courts' inconvenient habit of implementing the Government's less incomprehensible laws being one of the major causes of our present difficulties. Unfortunately, the school holidays provided no relief, and the head of the National Malefactor Management Service has declared a "clear operational emergency" at two prisons. A "clear operational emergency", it appears, is something that enables the Government to order prisons to accept more inmates even though they are full. As one would expect, health and safety regulations have been "revised", or "circumvented" in Oldspeak, in order to put off the inevitable tabloid headlines for one more day.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Don't Run, We Are Your Friends

Well, perhaps Tony's advice made some impression after all. Tony, as we know, took special care to avoid offending people with the idea that New Labour had anything to do with helping poor people, or that the NHS should be a service for looking after the health of the nation, or that removing liberties laid down since Magna Carta might change the way of life of hard-working families, or that deliberately saying things that aren't true might be in any way compatible with telling fibs. Tony, to put it mildly, knew the importance of emollient words in blurring the outlines of despicable actions; and with less than a year left in office, the Bush administration has decided it can afford to take an interest in the language it uses to describe the evil terrorists whose terrorist evil has resulted in so much evil and terror. "We are communicating with, not confronting, our audiences," federal officials are told, in a radical policy shift by the Bush administration. "Don't insult or confuse (sic) them with pejorative terms such as Islamo-fascism, which are considered offensive by many Muslims". Officials have received a non-binding request "not to use the terms jihadists and mujahideen, describe al-Qaida as a movement, or refer to Islamo-fascism", because such usages "may actually boost support for extremists among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or causing offence to moderates". Jihad, for example, is understood by non-Muslim Americans, though not by Guardian reporters, to mean holy war, though in fact it refers to religious struggle in a broader sense. Hence, says the Department of Homeland Security, "even if it is accurate to reference the term, it may not be strategic because it glamorises terrorism, imbues terrorists with religious authority they do not have and damages relations with Muslims around the world" in a way all those gunships, cluster bombs and support for Israeli massacres could never do.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

No Pauper's Grave for Ministry of Justice

A force of conservatism has decreed that the consent of parliament is necessary before the Government can freeze the assets of people it doesn't want to put on trial. In pursuit of the onerous duty in the Generational War of Civilisations which has been imposed upon it by the wishy-washy non-interventionists at the United Nations, the Government has regretfully taken upon itself the power to "freeze bank accounts, stop benefit payments and control the spending of people it has designated terror suspects". About seventy people have been so designated, and bank accounts to the value of half a million pounds have been frozen until some way can be found of designating them guilty without putting them on trial or producing any evidence.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

E Pluribus Unum

The smugness, outdatedness and general futility of New New Labour's contortions over Britishness serve to make the problem an ideal one for debate by the Christian church - that thriving moral centre of British society which has responded to our present ethical morass by having an argument with itself about what consenting adults do in private. Dr Ian Bradley, a Church of Scotland minister and academic, has proposed a mediaeval bishop, St Aidan, as a "spiritual figurehead to unite the domains of St George of England, St Andrew of Scotland, St David of Wales and St Patrick of Ireland". The twenty-six counties which constitute the less important part of Ireland are apparently to be considered British as a gesture of Christian inclusiveness.

Aidan was an Irishman who died only slightly more than a thousand years before the Act of Union called the United Kingdom arbitrarily into being. This is certainly promising. Among his other qualifications, he "makes a good patron saint of Britain because of his character. He was particularly humble and believed in talking directly to people". According to his supporters, he succeeded "in marrying three emerging national identities (Ireland, Scotland and England) into what would become the sense of inclusiveness and diverse belief that define a key strand of Britishness". He seems to have achieved this largely thanks to a special relationship with Oswald of Northumbria, one of the most powerful kings in the country, who doubtless gained that position by loving his enemies and turning the other cheek. Also, Aidan was not a native speaker of the English language: a trait he shares with many contemporary Britons, particularly those who are not immigrants.

To his credit, Dr Bradley underlines the fatuity of the enterprise by observing that "a medieval saint cannot represent the full diversity of modern Britain. Our spiritual identity consists of many overlapping strands that goes beyond white Christianity into the black and Asian communities"; even though St George came from Anatolia, perhaps Gandhi or Martin Luther King might make still more satisfactory receptacles for those who hunger and thirst for British values. On the other hand, "it would be a more accurate reflection of English history to have one for the north, say St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, and one for the south, such as St Augustine of Canterbury". Then again, perhaps what the south needs is a patron saint each for Kent, Mercia, Wessex, East Anglia, Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset and the Isle of Wight.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Deserving Poverty

We cannot afford to keep people out of fuel poverty; we cannot afford to pay public sector workers in line with inflation; but we are always happy to help the banks with their gambling debts. A darling little somebody has given the Bank of England fifty thousand million pounds to throw at high street banks which are "hoarding cash and refusing to lend to each other". After all, if there's one thing that will bring a cash-hoarder to his knees, it's the prospect of more cash to hoard. The governor of the Bank of England has also cheerfully admitted that he is prepared to throw even more money at the problem: "There is no arbitrary limit on it," he said; "it may well go higher", or in Standard English, the only limit on it will be the one arbitrarily set by the banks.

The governor dismissed the idea that the banks are being bailed out: "The purpose is to protect the rest of the economy from the banks, not to protect banks from their previous decisions," he said, though he seems to have been somewhat reticent about just what penalties await the banks concerning the decisions which led us to our present unfortunate pass. As one would expect of a scheme designed to protect the economy from the banks rather than the banks from their blunders, it has been welcomed by the banks, who are doubtless the most impartial judges in such matters. Among the causes of their rejoicing is the fact that the public sector will suffer losses "only in the very unlikely event that a participating bank defaulted and the value of the assets it had placed as security later proved inadequate to cover the value of the Treasury bills"; in other words, if either a bank or the Treasury either gets its sums wrong or decides to be economical with the truth. I feel safer already.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Law's Delay, the Insolence of Office

It appears that the Pinochet dictatorship may have killed at least one real person in addition to "members of left-wing groups". Father Michael Woodward, a British priest, had been suspended from the Catholic church, so it is safe to assume that he wasn't a paedophile. Chile "has pushed in recent years to prosecute human rights violations from the dictatorship of Pinochet, who died in 2006 at the age of 91", having benefited from the protection of Margaret Thatcher and Jack Straw. Hence, five retired naval officers have been accused of subjecting Woodward to extraordinary rendition, enhanced interrogation and induced bio-termination after the military coup in 1973, which was not sponsored by any superpower the Independent finds worth mentioning.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Helping the Poor

The Glorious Successor is apparently "frustrated" that his plans to subject a few million poor people to enhanced incentivisation measures are not being seen in the appropriate perspective. He claims (or "believes", as the journalistic telepath at the Guardian hath it) that "most people will either be better off or no worse off" and that the number of people who will suffer is "relatively small". A senior Government spokesbeing said that the abolition of the 10p starting rate of tax meant that "the basic rate of tax has been cut from 22p to 20p", and the Glorious Successor has "stressed his overall commitment to helping the poor", which is no doubt just as overall as his commitments to acting within the law, restoring civil liberties, keeping British troops safe, protecting those who need shelter from war or persecution, and not being just another bad imitation of Tony Blair. Another spokesbeing has said that people's concerns will be met "in the fullness of time", whenever that may be, but that "we cannot afford a quick fix on this, partly because of the complexity of it, and partly because of lack of money". That must be why the basic rate of tax has been cut from 22p to 20p.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Barking With Barnbrook

I am in receipt of a missive from Richard Barnbrook, the Barking BNP councillor for Dagenham, husband-to-be of Simone Clarke and would-be British National Party mayor of London. The missive, a folded A3 page saturated in red, white and blue, is a good deal slicker than Andrew Mennear's bumph for the general election three years ago, which ranged from lacklustre through incoherent to inane, and could have done with the attentions of Richard Barnbrook's proofreader - and this in a marginal constituency.

Barnbrook's bumph presents itself as a newsletter (The Londoner - Putting London First!) and, in its Mosleyan patriotic fervour and paranoid squealing about immigration, resembles nothing so much as a Daily Mail colour supplement. Richard Barnbrook himself appears on the inside, in a babyshit-brown suit and a pensive expression. He advocates "scrapping the congestion charge" and "removing speed cameras", thereby "improving traffic flow". He also intends improving public transport, reducing the council tax, improving hospitals, stopping health tourists, campaigning for more council houses and working for a stop to all further immigration. He will also "free the police from the handcuffs of political correctness" which got so many of them sacked a while ago over a couple of shot foreigners; and wishes to "make sure that local people are housed first and that overseas spongers don't just jump the queue". The reasoning behind all this appears to be "because it's not racist to oppose mass immigration and political correctness - it's commonsense!"

Also on the inside are ten "People Like You Voting British National Party", few of whom appear to be much like me. Builder Ken Seager votes BNP "because I'm proud of my country and its heritage. We should celebrate things like St George's Day and other British festivals like St Andrew's Day instead of Ramadan and Eid." I have no idea who is forcing Ken Seager to celebrate Ramadan and Eid; indeed, since Ramadan involves a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, I am not sure many Muslims would regard it as a "celebration", either. Carer Tracey Lansdown supports the BNP because she is "appalled at the lack of cleanliness in our hospitals, leading to MRSA and other deadly diseases. There are many doctors and nurses employed who can't even speak English!" If there's one thing that causes lack of cleanliness, it's a lot of dirty foreigners. That's not racist - it's commonsense.

There are, of course, other Daily Mail issues besides immigration. Lawyer Tony Young supports the BNP because of the poor persecuted motorists. The BNP are "the only party who want to abolish the congestion charge as it has been a disaster for businesses" whose employees cannot walk or use public transport. Housewife Lorraine Henry supports the BNP because "Knife and gun crimes are out of control and paedophiles are released back into the community". Businessman Chris Forster supports the BNP because "they are the only party that wants to get us out of Europe", which will come as a surprise to all the foaming Atlanticists in the two Thatcherite parties. Designer Simone Clarke supports the BNP because "they're the only party who have the guts to speak out on the issues that count", such as immigration. "There are over one million illegal immigrants in London already, and many more flood in each year", thanks to New New Labour's political correctness. Councillor Pat Richardson is a BNP member because "no one else speaks out against the Islamification of our country" which has so traumatised the builder Ken Seager. Councillor Pat Richardson is Jewish, which "only adds to my concern about this aggressive creed [Islam, that is, not British nationalist non-racist commonsense] that also threatens our secular values and Christian traditions". Apparently our secular values and Christian traditions do not threaten each other; or if they do, the BNP has yet to indicate which side it considers the less aggressive creed and which would get its face walked over. According to student Samantha White, the BNP are also "the only party that cares about the Irish", whose "jobs are under threat from economic migrants". The BNP "value the Irish community and will defend our interests", much as the BNP values the business community, the working community and the Jewish community - everyone who isn't black or Muslim. That's not racist - it's commonsense.

The front cover presents two photographs showing "The Changing Face of London". The first is a monochrome depiction of some street celebration with Union Jacks flying overhead. All the people in it are women and children, evidently gathered together in plucky British defiance of rabid Islamic rules about sexual segregation. Everyone in the picture is white. Judging from the hairstyles and the skirt length, it could be VE Day - or perhaps VJ Day, since it is no doubt less racist to celebrate defeating the yellowbellies than it is to celebrate defeating fellow Aryans. This is "the way London used to be. At ease with itself, friendly, happy and secure. A capital city with a sense of community values and social inclusiveness", except when it came to including the wrong sort of people, of course. The second photograph is a colour picture of three people with dark skins and covered faces. One of them has two fingers up at the camera. This is the price we pay for immigration. Inside, above the caption "We need to clamp down on gangs and make our streets safe again", is a picture of five black boys and one who is either a traitor to his kind or a product of miscegenation. On the back, next to yet another "NO" to immigration, is a picture of a demonstration with placards reading "Slay those who insult Islam" and "Butcher those who mock Islam". Perhaps they're the ones who have been bullying poor Ken Seager. Kicking such people out is commonsense, not racist.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Terminal Incompetence

Following the outbreak of enhanced operational Britishness at Heathrow's new terminal, involving five hundred cancellations and thirty thousand items of wandering luggage, the chief executive of British Airways has accepted responsibility by kicking out two of his colleagues. As one would expect for such a display of incompetence, the scapegoats "have been placed on gardening leave immediately while terms are thrashed out". Five hundred cancellations; thirty thousand items of stray luggage; and the terms of departure for the directors of operations and customer services are, it seems, negotiable. Should the Britishness fail to be reined in, the chief executive himself "will be in the firing line" for a golden handshake of his own, no doubt to be thrashed out with appropriate input from himself. There'll be a dashed good bit of sock elevation in the BA boardrooms tomorrow.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Situation Normal: All Firmly Upright

The Glorious Successor has informed us, in his customary excuse for English, that he is "aware of the insecurities that people have felt" as a result of his failure to prepare for the global downturn, and has given assurances that the Government is doing what it can to help those who merit help. "All my efforts are to make sure that we can help homeowners trying to buy homes, to help those people with mortgages who need the support of government at this time, to help businesses get the funding for investment and to help people get new jobs or maintain the jobs that they have," he said. People who own houses; hard-working families with mortgages; British workers with British jobs; and, of course, entrepreneurs like Northern Rock, BAE and Rupert Murdoch: provided such people are not feeling their insecurities, who could be so churlish as to worry about the undeserving? The Minister for Socially Acceptable Negritude, while noting that the present economic difficulties are "an international issue" whereas the preceding economic boom was all Gordon's own work, conceded that it is "entirely understandable that people are concerned about their own finances, they are certainly concerned about homes, utility bills, cost of living. That is the reality of it." Fortunately, the defences of New New Labour against reality are as formidable as ever: "actually the test for any government is when you are in difficult times, how do you perform - do you stand firm?" Actually, the test for any government is when you are in difficult times, how do you make them less difficult? A Viagraphiliac insistence on "standing firm" when you might be battening down a few hatches could lead to something important being snapped off in the storm.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Risk, What Risk?

The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, part of a service delivery group within the Ministry of Deportation and Incarceration, has brought our involvement in Iraq to a new level of fragrancy with a ruling that "Neither civilians in Iraq generally, nor civilians even in provinces and cities worst affected by the armed conflict, can show they face a 'serious and individual threat' to their 'life or person'... merely by virtue of being civilians", and that therefore the Government can deport asylum seekers to war zones. Since the Government had previously allowed itself only to deport those who were at risk of starvation, torture, death from cancer, etc., this will provide a welcome degree of increased flexibility in the workings of the Home Office. If any deportees get killed, it will show merely that they should have worked harder at proving the true degree of their future peril when the British Government so generously gave them the chance.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Coalition Phish

From: "daveybloke"
Date: Sat Apr 12 2008 1:00pm Europe/London
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: big S U P P O R T 4U prikcxs

dear Primem minsiter

i anm Daveybloke i am Laeder of Her HM Magestys Loyal oposition i am loyal Bloke. I am wirting to infrom you of me my and my peoeoples Loyal support for yoru in bolocking Serous Frad Instgations due to Natanal Securitity. i am Loyal Bloke praty of Law adn Orderbloke Bloke. despite our difereferences omn war privatisaton business freindlinessness etc. we msust regocnice need to rise abovbe Pnuch and Jury Plolictics i feel myslef coming over all Bipratisan!!!!! i am bipratisan Bloke butt Donot be tooo infelxible or i shall be cross.

Yorus's inciserely

(Her Majstys royal Opopsition bloke Bloke)


Friday, April 11, 2008

Open Government

A force of conservatism has criticised the Government's policy of openness concerning the expenses of Members of Parliament. Michael Martin, a Member of Parliament, is conducting a review of the expenses of Members of Parliament which could almost certainly be described as independent provided one were the kind of person who believes that - to take a random example - the Prime Minister should be allowed to appoint the Attorney General. Nevertheless, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Christopher Kelly, has described as "unfortunate" an appeal by the House of Commons to prevent the expenses of its members from becoming public knowledge. As a matter of fact, since the appeal will be conducted at the taxpayers' expense, it is difficult to see what there is for parliamentarians to find unfortunate about it. "Asking a group of parliamentarians to review their own system of pay and allowances without any independent input is a very difficult thing to do," Kelly said, revealing the deplorable lack of ambition which so often afflicts those who stand in the way of the Government's principled actions.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shared Values

The hotbed of leftist subversion that is the British high court has conspired with the anti-ministerial forces of Corner House and the anti-peacekeeping Campaign Against the Arms Trade and ruled that Tony and his chums showed excessive regard for shared values when they leaned on the Serious Fraud Office to drop its investigation into the al-Yamamah arms deal between BAE Systems and the House of Saud. As Kim Howells has pointed out, Tony and his chums share many values with the nice men in Riyadh. Tony has no problem with torture, and neither does the House of Saud. Tony likes big guns and jet planes, and so does the House of Saud. Tony likes big money, and the House of Saud more than likely believes that he is not wrong there. Tony has an invisible friend in the sky who judges his every action and finds most if not all of them to be the actions of a pretty straight sort of guy; it seems not impossible that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and his servant Prince Bandar are parties to a similarly convenient covenant. Accordingly, when Prince Bandar displayed his respect for British fortitude by threatening to withhold information about potential terrorist attacks, Tony and his chums were all of a tizzy. "If this caused another 7/7," squealed the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, "how could we say our investigation is more important?" As one would expect, therefore, Tony and his chums caved in. Tony's lawyer chum, Peter "the Rock" Goldsmith, had a bit of a chat with the hapless Robert Swardlewardle, who agreed to damage the reputation of his own department because the matter was "an exceptional case in exceptional circumstances", which self-evidently justified the British government's pandering to the wants of some Islamic fundamentalists. The Serious Fraud Office is now "carefully considering the implications of the judgment and the way forward" while the Government considers rushing through a law to make "national security" a more legally watertight excuse for illegality than it seems to be at the moment.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Persistent Offenders

A lawyer for the Chagossians, who were swindled out of their homeland by the British government in return for a discount on some weapons of mass destruction, has called their treatment "a crime against humanity". Well, really. Launching a blueprint for the Chagossians' return, Richard Gifford speculated that "if Gordon Brown seems slow to criticise the Chinese leadership for their human rights abuses in Tibet, perhaps he is worried by the mote in his own eye". This seems a little optimistic given the standard degree of New New Labour sensitivity to such motes, which generally approximates the sensitivity of a sexually excited rhinocerous to the charms of a nocturne by Chopin. It is much more likely that Gordon Brown seems slow to criticise Chinese human rights abuses because Gordon Brown hopes one day to hold a fistful of lucrative directorships in companies whose continuing profitability will depend largely on the Chinese government.

In any case, the blueprint provides for the repatriation, at somewhat less than the cost of the National Identity Database, of a thousand people who would "sustain themselves through eco-tourism and fish exports". Efforts would be made "to train the Chagossians in conservation, to eradicate rodents and alien plants and crack down on poaching", while a "development trust" would "coordinate public and private investment", doubtless ensuring the profit of the latter at the expense of the former. Nevertheless, the Government now claims that resettling the islanders could lead to "substantial, open-ended" liabilities for the British taxpayer, and to environmenal damage; in other words, it would be quite unlike taking part in the opening of a free-for-all slaughterhouse for Muslims or subsidising nuclear power stations in the name of clean energy.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

News 2012

The only cheap thing about the London Olympics

Flaring passions spark damp squib as anti-Britishness flares
The Olympic Flame was extinguished almost less than eleven times on its journey to the Olympic stadium in Pudding Lane in the Olympic British city of London, organisers revealed today.

The Flame is traditionally carried by a torch held in an athlete.

Protestors and other asbogenic elements infiltrated the crowds lining the streets and succeeded in dousing the flame on several occasions during its journey to the stadium.

Police and Titan™ malefactor disincentivisation contractors intervened several times to prevent disruption, with minimal civilian casualties.

Most of the protestors who could still talk claimed to be protesting about homelessness, high taxes, the food crisis, the energy crisis, the continued "occupation" of Iraq by British troops and the recent collapse of sixteen per cent of southern London into its own sewer system.

The Prime Minister condemned the protests, saying that although there are now more British troops in Iraq than during the fighting, in real terms more troops had been pulled out than ever before.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, blamed the disruption on insufficient police privatisation and "residual public transport fanatics".

The tradition of carrying the Olympic Flame was instigated by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and immortalised on film by Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl in a film. After the Nazi defeat, the tradition was retained in order to remind the world of the British rescue of Israelis from the Nazi death camps.

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Gift From God

The God who disapproves of abortion and stem cell research has given us another example of his celestial sense of humour with this little jest. An Indian girl has been born with two skulls joined together in her head, resulting in two pairs of eyes, two noses and two sets of lips. In a society with modern pre-natal care, presumably such a defect would have been detected early, the parents informed that media freak shows are generally too short-lived to be a viable proposition, and the pregnancy aborted, to the pious horror of Christendom. Thirty-five miles from Delhi, visitors are queueing at the door to venerate the girl as a "gift from God", which is doubtless the Third World equivalent of the paparazzi camping outside while editors compose screaming headlines about the dangers of teenage motherhood and Christendom mumbles about the need for other people to bear their crosses with fortitude. "She feeds through one mouth and sucks her thumb with the other," said the father. "She's just a baby"; which may be why the family is constructing a temple to her.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


The Institute for Public Policy Research reports that the education system is finally taking on board the good example provided by the Government in preventing waste and ensuring the efficient utilisation of human resources. It is estimated by that well-known voice, the Journalistic Passive Omniscient, that ten per cent of teachers are failing to make their quotas of pupil grades, classroom embloatment, military propaganda or whatever the Government is using to assess standards this month; these slackers are "potentially eligible for the system of 'capability reviews' instituted to identify weak staff, assess their failings and, where possible, help them improve", but the IPPR claims that "a significant number of teachers placed under review had escaped retraining by resigning and getting jobs elsewhere", just like Geoff Hoon, Ruth Kelly, Jack Straw, Patsy Hackitt the Nurses' Friend, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.

The IPPR says that this is "likely to lead to clusters of bad teachers in the most difficult schools since they can least afford to be fussy about recruiting, meaning the neediest pupils may end up with disproportionately poor teaching", much as complex ministries like the Home Office may end up with the sort of crooks, twits and thugs of which Agent Smith is merely the latest example.

The IPPR also notes that "the current pay system does not encourage teachers to improve because they can get more money without having to demonstrate new skills". Imagine that.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Black Watch

As Len Deighton somewhere points out (I don't recall whether he was quoting), when Britain stood alone in 1940 it stood on the shoulders of several hundred million Asians. At the time, this doing of a British job by non-British workers raised few patriotic concerns; partly because there were more immediate problems at hand, and partly because the Greatest Ever Number One Briton Ever, Winston Churchill, was busily mortgaging the country to the Americans. However, now that we are engaged in a generational conflict of civilisations, the Ministry for War and the Colonies Including Scotland is expressing some concern about the number of wogs in the armed forces. Some senior officers are apparently worried that the army "could be seen as employing too many 'mercenaries'", there being no distinction in the military mind between a civilian contractor and a recruit of a certain shade. They are also apparently keen to ensure that the army should reflect British "norms and values". The number of soldiers from Commonwealth countries has increased from less than half of one per cent in 1998 to 6.7 per cent last year; and if present trends continue, the proportion of pure-bred Britishness in the army could be as little as ninety per cent by the time they are needed to impose martial law on whatever chaos ensues from the 2012 Olympics.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Tony to the Rescue

The man who claimed to be making the world a safer place by following George W Bush into Iraq, and who used the Labour party to institute Thatcherite policies while reclaiming British democracy from Parliament, has given a sermon in Westminster Cathedral where, in better days, he used to attend mass while still a member of the Church of England. Tony's sermon, about how extremism and intolerance in religion (though, as one would expect, apparently not dishonesty) are perhaps rather Bad Things, is one of a series which has been organised by that paragon of tolerance and moderation, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor.

Tony observed that "For religion to be a force for good, it must be rescued ... from extremism, faith as a means of exclusion", though it is regrettably unclear how he imagines this rescue might be accomplished as long as the various religions disagree with each other. Just because Tony himself found no difficulty in attending Catholic services while belonging to a rival church, this hardly guarantees that others will practise their own faith in the same flexible fashion. Tony also observed that religion must be rescued "from irrelevance, an interesting part of our history but not of our future". The convert from the faith which is tearing itself apart over what consenting adults do in private to the faith of transubstantiation and papal infallibility complained that "faith is reduced to a system of strange convictions and actions that, to some, can appear far removed from the necessities and anxieties of ordinary life". It is this unfortunate misconception, rather than any question of whether the convictions are true or the actions justified, that "gives militant secularism an easy target".

There are apparently a number of reasons why politicians with less moral courage than Tony tend to sidestep questions of faith. One is that "You may be considered weird. Normal people aren't supposed to 'do God'"; a rather bizarre assertion, given that so many cardinals, archbishops and other clerics are not merely normal but positively mediocre. Secondly, "There is an assumption that before you take a decision you engage in some slightly cultish interaction with your religion"; obviously, given the complete and utter relevance of religion to the necessities and anxieties of ordinary life, no such interaction really happens. Thirdly, there is an assumption among militant secularists that the faithful "want to impose [their] religion on others", despite the exhortations to tolerance and moderation that fill so many religious texts and the pronouncements of people like Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor. Fourth, people assume that the faithful, despite their humble claims to eternal truth and moral absolutism, "are pretending to be better than the next person"; this is clearly outrageous. Finally, people assume "that you are somehow messianically trying to co-opt God to bestow a divine legitimacy on your politics", rather than co-opting something more tasteful, such as freedom, democracy or the hand of history. It really is too bad of us.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Corrupt Tree Bringeth Forth Evil Fruitcakes

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor has been doing his bit for the furtherance of a secular state with a timely reminder of what the alternative might be. He repudiated the Archbishop of Canterbury's maundering anglico-sharia fudge with a warning about the dangers of placing "faith people ... in that lobby, and non-faith people in that lobby ... I think that's too simplistic". The reality, of course, is that there are, in descending order of humanity: the Catholic lobby; the Christian lobby; the Judaeo-Christian lobby; the sky-daddy-in-general lobby; the faith lobby including Buddhism, sun-worship, voodoo, Scientology and the Order of the Jedi; and the damned. The cardinal, who once compared abortion with Nazi eugenics, is "not in favour of an intemperate battle" between these various interests, and observed with his usual brand of meekness that "there is no other heritage than the Judaeo-Christian heritage in this country". The Guardian refers to this kind of thing as "defend[ing] the church's right to speak out", as though the frothings of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor or the foamings of Cardinal Keith O'Brien were in the slightest danger of being suppressed. On the contrary. Why anyone wishing to see the continuing decline of religion in this country should object to all this good clean fun, I cannot begin to imagine.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Under Fire

The fact that Iraq is now safe enough for the poor in Britishness has induced the Minister for War and the Colonies Including Scotland to postpone any cuts in troop numbers, at least until the next general election is unavoidably close. It is, according to the Minister, "absolutely right that military commanders review plans when conditions on the ground change", unless the reviewed plans have the bad manners to appear politically inexpedient. Contrary to New New Labour policy in the ministries of justice, education, health, the environment and, naturally, transport, there is a "clear direction of travel" at the Ministry of War, which is to reduce the British commitment except when the British commitment is not to be reduced. The Conservative spokesman for manly pursuits, Liam Fox, criticised the Government for expecting troops to "mop up" after the natives rather than the Americans while having no say in what operations were being planned, and urged us all to "spare a thought" for the families of those whose lives are at risk because of certain policies which Her Majesty's Opposition failed to oppose. His leader, Daveybloke, showed almost equal courage and compassion, blathering to Sky News that this particular broken promise would be "a matter of regret", but that, all things considered, "it wouldn't be right for me to rush to judgement".