The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Inconstancy, Thy Name Is...

With amendments to the abortion laws soon to be voted upon in the Commons, the Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff has dispatched the usual apocalyptic warnings to his subordinates. As a member of a church which opposes the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS, the Most Reverend Peter Smith now worries about "permitting abortion on demand without any health-related justification". This concern for people's health - even women's - is an encouraging sign, and is certainly an improvement on the charmingly off-planet propaganda which the Vatican has used in the past to help its message penetrate. Even more delightfully, as a member of a church which has argued consistently and often hysterically against raising the legal time limit, the Most Reverend Peter Smith now worries about "women having less time to think before abortion". Intellectual honesty and moral rigour of the Williams-Sentamu brand is, we rejoice to observe, by no means confined to the Church of England.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Wonderful Journey

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, is doing his greeny thing this week, announcing to the party which privatised the railways that, under the forthcoming Daveybloke administration, New New Labour's plans for a third runway at Heathrow would be scrapped in favour of a high-speed rail link between London and a few places Boris Johnson may vaguely have heard about. The line will cost fifteen thousand, six hundred million pounds of taxpayers' money and, assuming it gets finished at all, will presumably be run at the usual swingeing profits by the usual highly competent contractors, with journey times being slashed at least some of the time during off-peak hours except when difficulties arise due to unanticipated conditions such as unauthorised autumnal foliage gravitation. Then again, given the squeals of horror from the efficient folk at British Airways, perhaps it is more likely that the new terminal will turn out to be a beneficiary of "altered circumstances since the pledge was made".

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sacred Flames

Some of God's more impetuous servants have apparently petrol-bombed the offices of the London publishing company, Gibson Square, which plans to bring out a historical romance called The Jewel of Medina, about one of Muhammad's wives. The wrath of Allah, mediated through his instruments, succeeded in causing "a small fire inside the property".

The book was due to be published last month in the United States by Random House; hoping for a blurb, they sent an advance copy to a professor of Middle Eastern Studies, who responded as one might expect. Among the sillier aspects of the almost entirely inane Guardian film section is the way in which they will occasionally ask a physicist for some words of wisdom on a science fiction B-movie like Sunshine, or an Actual Professional Bugger for an opinion on a subdued, subtitled foreign drama like The Lives of Others. Predictably, neither had anything remotely interesting to say on the quality of the films as films; and the response to The Jewel of Medina by Professor Denise Spellberg, of the University of Texas, was predictably similar. "I don't have a problem with historical fiction," she wrote; "I do have a problem with the deliberate misinterpretation of history"; from which it may be judged how well acquainted Professor Spellberg is with ninety-nine per cent of historical fiction. She also said, "You can't play with a sacred history and turn it into softcore pornography"; well, outside a religious despotism I'm afraid you can. However, Spellberg's email was leaked to the press and Spellberg herself apparently denounced the book to "an editor of a popular Muslim website"; and as a result Random House, poor defenceless little things that they are, got cold feet and cancelled the publication.

Gibson Square, which also published Melanie Phillips' sober and carefully-researched Londonistan: They're Coming To Get You, bought the British rights to the book because the proprietor, Martin Rynja, was "struck by the careful research" of the author, and "completely bowled over by the novel and the moving love story it portrays". Assuming the culprits really are Islamic fanatics and not plain ordinary vandals or members of the Scientologist wing of the Metropolitan Police, we must hope Rynja's delicate sensibilities are not upset by the free publicity.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

And Lazarus in his Bosom

The Church of England's moral compass has been doing the rounds again. The Worshipful Company of International Bankers, having given Mammon his due and offered a place at their annual dinner to the Archbishop of York, were treated to a sermon about the importance of "stable financial institutions" and the immorality of "bank robbers and asset strippers". The Archbishop, who lives in a palace where copies of Luke 18 xxii are apparently in short supply, also noted that the financial crisis "makes action on poverty look utterly achievable. It would cost five billion US dollars to save six million children's lives". By the grace of God, the Church of England has about five billion pounds (five thousand million, in Standard English) invested in the financial system which, according to the Archbishop, "seems to have taken its rules of trade from Alice in Wonderland". Five thousand million pounds sterling being worth rather more than five thousand million US dollars, it appears that the saving of rather more than six million children's lives is utterly achievable for the Church of England, with the added benefit that the money thus used would be safe from the March hares and mad hatters of the market. The Archbishop of York has claimed in the past that "the safeguarding of a God-reference" is necessary for human rights to be maintained; while the Archbishop of Canterbury has stated in an interview that "people ought to look to the church for moral guidance" and, in the next breath, that "it is also important about the way we use our money, especially us in the West, about how much we give, about how we care for the poor".

The Son of God, as is well known, was a talented maker of metaphors. Being the kind of man who could exhort his disciples to love their enemies, and then abuse his own enemies as fools, vipers, blind guides, whited sepulchres and (most entertainingly) hypocrites, he had a rather good one about preaching to others while behaving badly oneself. Something about boats and memes, I think - no, it's gone. Oh, well. Probably not relevant anyhow.

Friday, September 26, 2008

International Brotherhood

Despite the Glorious Successor's pro-market policy of throwing public money at venture capitalists, thus single-mouthedly saving the country from the worst recession since the 1930s until the City's next brainstorm, it seems the credit has not yet stopped crunching. The chair of the glamorously-titled Olympic Delivery Authority is complaining of difficulty in inducing private sector funders to invest in chunks of white elephant. This is not to say that money is not available, "but, if it is available, it is available on harsh terms". Does this mean we won't get our five temporary swimming pools? Surely the God of Tony could never be so cruel. "Discussions and negotiations are going on with banks and we will reach a conclusion," said the chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority. "In reaching that conclusion there will be an element of contingency funding required"; well, the people who matter most don't really need that many affordable homes, and after this week's minor economic miracle I'm sure Gordon can find a bit more taxpayers' money that's just lying around doing nothing. Fortunately, there is no risk of the project going over budget, as the Government has had the foresight not to bother calculating what the whole miserable business is going to cost in any case.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Your Feedback Is Important To Us

The latest principled stance by the Liberal Democrats appears to have tripped over its foot. Now that the Blairite bandwagon is sputtering sufficiently for them to be able to clamber onto it, the Lib Dems have demonstrated their improved salesmanship by cold-calling a quarter of a million voters in fifty marginal constituencies with a pre-recorded message from their thrusting young CEO, Nick "Who?" Clegg. Since the Lib Dems complained about a similar and possibly equally dull idea by the Scottish National Party three years ago, the SNP was understandably annoyed and complained to the information commissioner. The information commissioner ruled that the calls constituted a marketing campaign which, since little Nicky is not Agent Smith, would have required the prior approval of the victims.

Little Nicky said last week that he "rather hoped" that junk telephone calls in the evening without even the courtesy of a human being (or, arguably, a recording of a human being) on the other end of the line would not disturb. If people disliked the time at which the call was made, they could always refrain from picking up the phone, since of course the ringing of telephones does not disturb anyone until the receiver is taken off the hook. It says something for the quality of little Nicky's sense of principle and social responsibility that he can be accused of "utter hypocrisy" by Daveybloke's Cuddly Conservatives.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ruthless People

Airport executives and motorists' organisations are blackening the skies with their emissions of praise for Ruth Kelly, who has decided to leave the Cabinet for "family reasons", now that her children are all old enough to be shunted off to school. Apparently the brilliant Kelly, whose various stints as Sectarian of State for Muslim control, gayness control, transport clinics, airport expansion and education have exercised your correspondent on one or two occasions before, can no longer cope with the strain of being viviparous and fatuous at one and the same time.

Amid the gushing tributes, the executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport found it "odd that her espousal of low-carbon transport has been combined with such a gung-ho attitude towards building more runways"; which suggests that the executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport has not yet caught up with the difference between rhetoric and reality - a rather important distinction to make when dealing with politicians, and an essential one when attempting to sort the tough but tender bubble-gum of New Labour rhetoric from the rancid pork-barrel of their policies.

Monday, September 22, 2008

In Loco Parentis

The charity Barnardo's reports that Britain is putting more children in prison than any European country apart from those famous paragons, Russia and Ukraine. Over the past decade of toughness on crime and fairness being the watchword, there has been a five-fold increase in custodial sentences for ten to fourteen-year-olds. There has been no corresponding increase in serious crime by children, presumably thanks to the deterrent effect on those who plan on getting caught. Nearly eighty per cent of the children who are being imprisoned re-offend within a year of release, and the Youth Justice Board is investing all of five per cent of its expenditure in crime prevention. According to Barnardo's, the annual cost of imprisoning a child is equal to the cost of a six-year education at Eton; although given the sort of thing Eton turns out, imprisonment may well turn out to have a smaller social cost.

If the Ministry of Incarceration and Deportation, or its shadows in the one and a bit opposition parties, have anything to say about the matter, the country's leading liberal newspaper does not appear to have noticed.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Robber Barons Flee as Brown Piles On Pressure

With his usual blend of courage and forthrightness, the Glorious Successor has let crawl what the Guardian is pleased to term an attack on naughtiness in the City. Besides such profundities as "It's a testing time and it's a time for being tested", Gordon was quick to proclaim that, unlike so many little problems under New Labour, this one "could be difficult to deal with ... through legislation"; which presumably explains why his main response to the City's gambling difficulties has been to throw taxpayers' money at them. "I think there's an element of the bonus system that is unacceptable," he said. Just one element? Well, I wonder what that could that be. "When you have got a bonus on your salary based on short-term deals that has no relationship to long-term profits, you have got to look again at what that system is doing." Certain bonuses are unacceptable because they bear no relation to the long-term profits of the companies that award them. Whether the said profits are earned by failing to run the trains on time, or wasting water, or losing confidential information, is evidently not a significant consideration for the Glorious Successor, who is now on record as saying that he is not complacent, wants to do better, and will still be leader at Christmas. Well, there's a comfort.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dirty Dealing

Fiendish proposals by the Eurocracy to force governments to interfere in the free market are being pluckily resisted by our plucky little ministers here on the mainland. Rather than cutting carbon emissions by the implausible, cumbersome and ineffectual method of emitting less carbon, the Clean Coal and Sustainable Uranium Party believes that we should offset more of our emissions against possible savings in the Third World. This would enable hard-working families - and, incidentally, big fat corporations - to continue doing just what they're doing now, and emit an extra thousand million tons of carbon dioxide between 2013 and 2020, without causing bother to anybody.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Scottish Play

Mechanical Tragedy in Five Indecisive Acts

Dusk. A hard-working British road. Enter RABBIT, stage right. A ten-year wait and then he speaketh.

Coming from ordinary families as we do and have done, we know what it is like when people go to the supermarket and find that the price of milk, and the price of bread, and the price of eggs have gone up dramatically in recent months. We will see in housing and in gas and electricity bills and in energy, us doing more to help the hard-working families of this country.

CAR (off)

The same. Gathering darkness.

We know that our role when facing global economic challenges is to be on the side of hard-working families, on the side of the people of Britain. We are determined to continuously take appropriate actions, individually and collectively, to ensure growth and stability in our economies and globally.

CAR (off)
Vroom vroom!

The same. Full dark, rain and distant thunder.

Of course, helping relatives is a challenge that most families rise to – however difficult it becomes. But that doesn't make it any easier. Nor does it remove family worries about providing physical care that is needed – or take away people's concerns that, at some point in the future, they may have to sell a treasured home to pay for their own care.

CAR (off)
Vroom vroom vroom!

The same. Full dark, rain, thunder and lightning. Alarums.

Not short-term gimmicks, or giveaways, but firm steps towards making every home in Britain more energy efficient, thus reducing bills not just temporarily, but permanently. You cannot address a long-term problem - the supply and demand for oil - with a short-term gimmick.

CAR (off)
Vroom vroom! Vroom vroom!

The same. Full dark, rain, thunder and lightning. Hail and carcinogenic ultra-violet rays. Alarums, church bells, air-raid sirens and emergency klaxons at the local nuclear facility.

We will ensure that no one who is prepared to work hard and adapt to change will lose out as a result of global forces.

Enter CAR with headlights blazing.

CAR (crescendo)
Vroom vroom! Vroooooooooooooo-


CAR (diminuendo)


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ecological with the Truth

As with clean coal and sustainable uranium, the Government has somewhat overestimated the ecological benefits of a planned development in Staffordshire. The Department for Non-Westminster Affairs claimed in an advertisement that the development would develop on what had been an airfield, but it has emerged that the blight will in fact metastasise mostly across a chunk of open country. Since the factual error was made in a self-confessed advertisement, rather than in a consultation document, the Advertising Standards Authority has been able to uphold a complaint about it. The difference between advertising and consultation being mainly the size of the audience, the Government claimed that "an error had been made in preparing the consultation document, which was repeated in the subsequent ad". The proposed development is called Curborough. I wonder what sly dog thought that one up.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Killer Tips

The respected and informative Daily Sport has been censured by the Press Complaints Commission for publishing a list of the ten sites in Britain most favoured by suicides. The Commission ruled that the article "treated a serious subject in a light-hearted manner and may have glamorised suicide in the eyes of some readers". Suicide, as we all know, is a gratuitous and inexcusable waste of valuable human resources, and can lead to delays on the London Underground. Now, if we could only get the media to stop glamorising war, politicians, cars, television and royalty, perhaps we might begin to progress.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Christian Integrity

As the Anglican church continues to wrestle with such eternal questions as whether a woman or a homosexual has the same rights as a celibate middle-class male, the faith's public-relations director has turned out an article, "Good religion needs good science", in which he claims that "nothing in scientific method contradicts Christian teaching", and that therefore, while the Church may have been "mistaken" in its initial reaction to the theory of evolution, the danger now lies in "those who falsely claim" Darwin's name "in support of their own interests".

In support of his claim that scientific method is compatible with Christianity, the Reverend Dr Malcolm Brown (for it is he) cites Matthew 6 xxv-xxxiii, stating that in this passage Jesus "invited people to observe the world around them and to reason from what they saw to an understanding of the nature of God". The nature of the world, according to Jesus, implies that one should not take thought for the morrow, should not plan one's next meal and should not bother about clothes. The reasoning behind this appears to be that human beings can live like birds or lilies. Pace the Reverend Brown, I fear that scientific method, which hypothesises that human beings may not be in quite the same category as either of these organisms, might find itself diverging slightly here.

The Reverend Brown also trots out the idea that Christians don't really believe anything particularly unreasonable: "they do not claim that [the Bible] is a compendium of all knowledge". Perhaps not, although the notorious atheist Jerry Falwell did claim that it is "absolutely infallible, without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etc." (Listen, America!, 1980). According to the Reverend Brown, what Christians believe is that "the Bible contains all that we need to know to be saved from our sins". Whatever that may mean, it is clearly not enough to enable some of us to judge whether a woman or a homosexual has the same rights as a celibate middle-class male. Nevertheless, "it is worth remembering that scientific theories can be overtaken in their turn even as old ideas", such as misogyny, homophobia, thoughtcrime and the like, "prove to have an enduring quality." Well, if the truth of a belief system is to be judged by its shelf life, then Isis and Osiris are more real than the Resurrection.

The Reverend Brown does not blame Darwin for the sort of Social Darwinist ideas, practised by Christians such as Tony Blair, George W Bush and Gordon Brown, "in which the strong flourish and losers go to the wall". Not only is this sort of thing "the complete converse of what Darwin himself believed about human relationships": it is also "the very opposite of the Christian vision" in Luke I xlvi-lv. These verses, known as the Magnificat, note that God is merciful to those who fear him; that God favours some and sends others empty away; and that he speaks "to Abraham and to his seed for ever". There is, of course, nothing in this that contradicts Social Darwinism. Those who are strong in the Lord (namely, the seed of Abraham - a master race, who are born to the privilege) will flourish; the losers, like those dogs the Canaanites, get the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Still, the Reverend Brown regards Social Darwinism as a Bad Thing because "it is vital that Darwin’s theories are rescued from political and ideological agendas that are more about controlling human imagination and unpredictability than about good science". Since the Reverend Brown has himself pointed out that Social Darwinism is not Darwin's theory, this assertion makes less for good science or good religion than for good rhetoric.

The moral of it all, apparently, is that "for the sake of human integrity - and thus for the sake of good Christian living - some rapprochement between Darwin and Christian faith is essential". It seems good Christian living has something to do with human integrity, rather than with following the divine will, no matter where it listeth; how is the Almighty fallen. "Good religion needs to work constructively with good science" - good religion being, apparently, those controls over human imagination and unpredictability that the Anglican church finds it expedient to practise at the moment - and the Reverend Brown dares to suggest that "the opposite may be true as well". I am not sure what counts as "good science" in the Reverend Brown's view; but I do seem to recall reading somewhere - Richard Dawkins? Reader's Digest? - that there is none good but one.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dogging Democracy

A research project at the London School of Economics has discovered that "people are getting more cynical with the messages we get from government, from businesses, from the media", and that this cynicism is "infecting the very fabric of our society". Fifty-one per cent of fellows of the Royal Society of Arts - evidently a representative sample of our social fabric - were cynical about politics; thirty per cent were cynical about business; and thirty-seven per cent about the media. The LSE cynicism team is worried that this may not be good for democracy, and I am inclined to agree. Any society which has forty-nine per cent trust in its policitians, seventy per cent trust in its kleptocracy and sixty-three per cent trust in the likes of Rupert Murdoch can hardly call itself a healthy democracy.

The LSE cynicism team are worried about "people disengaging from politics, turning away from major media, or boycotting products" or, worst of all, becoming sufficiently cynical about their disengagement to join pressure groups or resort to direct action. The solution, according to the LSE cynicism team, is to create a "cynicism index" which "would measure the emotional responses of cynics according to their age, race, religion, gender and socio-economic backgrounds", thus enabling "all communicators to ... be more credible with the public", without being forced to do anything so rash as changing their ways. In order to minimise cynicism about the cynicism index, the LSE cynicism team have given it a catchy name - the Cyndex, which makes it sound like a brand of female sex doll - and are planning to develop it commercially, in case anyone thought they were acting purely out of concern for our democratic well-being.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fair Trade

The Glorious Successor's environmental policy has belched forth further glorious success with the Government's handling of the European carbon trading scheme. Thanks no doubt to extensive lobbying by such environmentally responsible corporations as Ford, Vauxhall and good old Thames Water, the Department of Environmental Fudgery, Recalcitrance and Attrition has allocated vast excesses of carbon permits to multinational firms. Those permits which are not needed can be sold on, which will presumably mean considerable atmospheric improvement in boardrooms across the significant universe. New New Labour priorities are also admirably reflected in the fact that a few companies, such as the Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, have been given fewer permits than they require and will have to buy extra ones from car manufacturers and Heathrow Airport. The electricity supply industry has also been allocated fewer permits than it needs, but the Government has shown its concern for pensioners and hard-working families by advising the industry to make its customers pay the cost of buying more.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Where There Is Despair, May We Bring Hope

The Glorious Successor has again invited New Labour's grandmother over for tea and handbags. Unlike his brother in impotence and close friend of Edwina Currie, whose name has slipped my mind for the moment, it seems that Gordon cannot get enough of the lady's good advice. They are "expected to discuss the global downturn", since Thatcher "dealt with some of Britain's toughest postwar conditions" by ensuring that those worst affected by them got as little help as possible: a policy emulated by Tony and Gordon, though in their case it has failed to bring forth the adoration which is their due. Ever the man of principle, Gordon is also expected to "play down the political significance" of the meeting. The old bag has had dementia for seven years, in addition to the psychopathic megalomania which distinguished her in office, and certain uncharitable voices might consider it hypocritical for Gordon to fall at her feet rather than treating her like any other mentally disturbed person and throwing her in jail.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Yoke is Easy, And My Burden is Light

The Catholic Church in Ireland has introduced psychological vetting for its acolytes, with slightly unfortunate effects. "There is no point in people coming to us expecting a sheltered life," said one Father Kenneth Brady; "the walls have come down a long time ago. They are going to meet the same kind of humanity as everywhere else, and they have to be ready for it." The author of a book called Empty Pulpits claims that "leading members of religious orders in Ireland admitted they now preferred quality to quantity in the priesthood", if not among the converts. The weeding-out of those who are not ready for an unsheltered life, and those who might inconvenience Mother Church and the Irish taxpayer by exploiting vulnerable women or buggering altar-boys, has resulted - quite unpredictably - in a clerical crunch: a hundred and sixty Irish priests and two hundred and twenty-eight Irish nuns died last year, but only nine former men and two former women were found fit to replace them. Imagine that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Property Damage

Others besides the London Haystack have noticed that climate change may mean slightly worse than a bracing bit of weather for the folk in Wonga Wonga Land. A jury has acquitted the Kingsnorth steeplejacks, who climbed up the rampant smokestack of a coal-fired power station and daubed upon it a name now virtually synonymous with floppy impotence. They defended themselves with the "lawful excuse" that they were "trying to prevent climate change causing greater damage to property around the world". Zac Goldsmith, who gives environmental advice to Daveybloke when Daveybloke is doing his environmentalist thing, told the court that "By building a coal-power plant in this country, it makes it very much harder in exerting pressure on countries like China and India to reduce their burgeoning use of the fossil fuel"; and the verdict is "expected to embarrass the government", at least by those who still believe the Government can be embarrassed as opposed to merely annoyed. Now that we know it works, the "lawful excuse" defence will presumably be abolished at some point; if not before the next election, then as soon as the Daveybloke administration is forced to balance the needs of helpless, downtrodden corporations with the interests of the folk in Wonga Wonga Land and a few hundred species of no proven market value.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Rivers of Bile

The wonders of private sector efficiency and consumer choice are again on display from Britain's moisture provision companies. Some have seen a fall in the level of complaints; but there has been an eleven per cent increase overall, thanks to entrepreneurial paragons like Anglian Water, South East Water, South West Water and our fine, honest friends Southern Water, whose new billing system brought them an increase of a hundred and fifty-five per cent. Any negative impact on shareholder dividends and executive bonuses has yet to be calculated, but is likely to range between the negligible and the infinitesimal.

The chair of the Consumer Council for Water, which produced the figures, said it was "disappointing that for the third year in a row, the rise in complaints has been heavily influenced by individual water companies introducing new billing systems that have gone wrong"; evidently, in today's competitive environment, the companies are rushing to correct their mistakes. Perhaps the number of complaints will begin to fall when consumers realise how seriously the water companies take them. The chair of the Consumer Council for Water sought to remind the companies that they "need to keep in mind that the changes they make do have an impact on consumers", assuming optimistically that the impact on consumers is not quite the least of the companies' worries. "Just because they cannot choose their water supplier, customers should not have to put up with sub-standard service," added the chair of the Consumer Council for Water, showing a remarkable degree of naïvety about the reasons for introducing private sector efficiency and consumer choice into the moisture provision industry in the first place.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Funny Peculiar

The up-and-coming comedian and health service privatisation minister Ivan Lewis has been exposed by our moral guardians, the Maul on Sunday and the Nugatories of the World, as an alleged harasser of females. A civil servant working in Lewis' private office apparently complained to her managers last year and was moved to another post before leaving to join the doubtless more inspiring and spiritually fulfilling world of accountancy. According to the Department of Health, the situation "was handled professionally and sensitively"; the lady was not, after all, a nurse, much less a patient. Anonymous departmental sources have hastened to assure an anxious nation that Lewis has the "full confidence" of the Secretary of State, despite occasional gaffes such as suggesting that a Labour government might tax the rich in order to help the poor. Nevertheless, now that the tabloids have expressed their ethical disapprobation, "the incident is unlikely to enhance his prospects of preferment in the next government reshuffle".

Sunday, September 07, 2008

For Your Safety and Security

Private sector efficiency has struck again with the loss of a computer disk drive containing the personal details of five thousand prison officers. The disk drive was last seen about fourteen months ago, and its loss was reported to the prison service only a year after that. The prison service has taken until lunchtime today to inform the Ministry of Incarceration and Deportation, at least according to the empty suit that runs it. Unlike prisoners and benefit claimants, prison officers are very nearly real human beings; so the empty suit is taking the matter "extremely seriously" and has ordered another full and urgent whitewash.

The chair of the Prison Officers' Association claimed optimistically that the security breach "could ultimately cost the taxpayer millions and millions of pounds, because, if the information lost is personal and sensitive, it may well mean staff having to move prisons, move homes and relocate their families. This obviously will have a significant cost to the taxpayer", unless the Government decides that prison officers might be more efficiently occupied doing the relocation at their own expense.

The records were lost by the computing firm EDS, whose share dividends and executive bonuses are unlikely to be affected. EDS also provides IT services for the Department of Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Defence. Now there's a comforting thought.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Inadequate Organs

Some foreigner has warned that assuming consent for organ donation, as favoured by the chief medical officer here on the mainland and endorsed by Britain's most urgent brain transplant customer, would not save lives. Apparently there are still some health services which are so outdated as to consider saving lives a priority. Presumed consent, according to a professorial quisling from King's College school of medicine, cannot be considered informed consent and thus would be "of no value whatsoever", except possibly to New New Labour ministers who believe that the organs of poor people should be harvested by a privatised health service for the benefit of those who can afford to pay.

Dr Rafael Matesanz is the director of the National Transplant Organisation in Spain, which has the highest transplant success rate in the world. He actually has the nerve to imply that the New Labour strategy of simply changing the law until the universe complies with Gordon's wishes will not help: "There is no country in the world where there has been sustained improvement after changing the law," he said. The success of Matesanz' own organisation is, he says, "not a result of legal change, but of a dedicated and comprehensive transplant programme"; which seems to settle the matter. The idea of a dedicated and comprehensive programme that is British and concerned with public health has all the plausibility of a triangle with two right angles or a Government minister with two balls to rub together.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Is Colombia Too Soft on Suspects?

A suspected drug smuggler has complained of his treatment at the hands of brave boys doing a difficult job under difficult circumstances.

The sub-Johnsonian Conservative, Michael Fabricant, claimed that he was forced to eat "several mouthfuls" of Coffee-Mate™ at gunpoint while on what he described as a "trekking holiday" in Colombia.

Fabricant had entered the country despite the fact that, on his own admission, he does not "speak more than two or three words in Spanish", possibly gleaned from watching repeats of Fawlty Towers.

Fabricant, who is MP for Lichfield and Burntwood and is not foreign, claimed with considerable newsworthiness that the experience made him feel "as sick as a dog".

Colombia is a major recipient of American aid due to its position at the forefront of the vanguard of the Coalition of the Allied on the war on drugs.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Only Idlers and Stick-in-the-Muds Can Lose, Brown Assures

The Glorious Successor's fingernails could be heard scrabbling desperately at the vestiges of government today as he sought to reassure New New Labour's core vote about the state of the economy. In the face of global problems which his chancellorship either did or did not foresee, Britain cannot be immunised against financial crisis. On the other hand, Britain has been immunised against financial crisis: "our economy is better placed to weather any global economic storm than it was the 70s, 80s or early 90s". Therefore, speaking to the Scottish Confabulation of Business Interests, Gordon assured them that nothing would be done to help poor people at the expense of rich corporations: "We will ensure that no one who is prepared to work hard and adapt to change will lose out as a result of global forces"; the sufferings of those who are already losing out must have resulted from something else. Sunspots, perhaps. Anyway, the CBI director general has said that a windfall tax would be the worst way to assist the fuel-poor; or, in Oldspeak, that a windfall tax would not be desirable for the CBI. The Local Government Association says that the six major electricity producers have increased shareholder dividends by a mere two hundred and fifty-seven million pounds; which only goes to show the extent of their difficulties. Gordon hopes that the energy companies will accept a three-year obligation to install "home-based energy efficiency measures" for all those cripples, pensioners and poor people who have been pumping carbon into the atmosphere; unfortunately, despite what Gordon calls the "most robust independent competition regime anywhere in the world", negotiations with the robustly competitive energy firms are incomplete.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Cuddly Conservatism, Scapular Sociability

Daveybloke, the Cuddly Conservative, is doing his statesman thing once more, continuing his effort to be a Tony for the 2010s by extruding one of the Vicar of Downing Street's more vacuous clichés: "We are in this together, as equal partners, two sovereign countries working shoulder to shoulder to deal with a problem that affects us both," he said. Given that Tony was talking about the United States and Daveybloke was talking about Pakistan, it is arguable that Daveybloke at least has some idea of Britain's actual status in the world. Unfortunately, he also appears to imagine that Operation Iraqi Liberation had something to do with "trying to impose democracy on foreign countries"; more unfortunately still, the senior political correspondent of Britain's leading liberal newspaper appears to agree with him.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Patter of Tiny Press Releases

There was a time when politicians in love-me-for-I-am-human-also mode were content to be seen kissing other people's babies; these days they seem to feel an unhealthy obligation to spawn and parade their own. The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick "Who?" Clegg, appears to be nearly as principled an environmentalist as he is an atheist. He and his wife "are lucky to have two wonderful little boys"; but for some people two of anything just isn't enough, and Nicky and his wife "always hoped to have a third child". Clearly, the problems of planetary overcrowding and exhaustion of resources take a poor second place to the spread of the Clegg-Gonzalez genome. Fortuitously, the announcement of the imminent new consumer (classed as "News: Politics" by the country's leading liberal newspaper) comes a week before Clegg's first Liberal Democrat conference as leader, where all those present will doubtless be invited to be thrilled to bits with Nicky before they go back to their constituencies and prepare for government by somebody else.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Failure of Britishness

The Guardian has utilised the Freedom of Information Act to expose yet another grisly scandal from our past. It appears that, in 1957, a historian friend of the Conservative MP for Arundel and Shoreham discovered that the following year would be 1958, the four hundredth anniversary of the accession of Elizabeth I. His thoughts "set on fire" by the historian's excitement, the MP wrote unctuously to the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, suggesting that, "even though I am very conscious of seeming to carry wisdom to Athens", the country and the Commonwealth might profit from being subjected to an "Elizabethan festival, in the reign of Elizabeth 2nd". Duly reminded of the identity of the reigning monarch, Macmillan told the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to look into the idea; but the verdict was negative: "Some Scottish opinion would resent any national festival connected with the accession of a sovereign who did not reign in Scotland." There was also the small matter of Mary Queen of Scots, whose execution meant that "the Catholic church has little reason to celebrate the reign of Elizabeth I". It is possible also that, even during the nineteen-fifties, one or two Indians, Australians, Canadians and other persons of excusable foreignness might have wondered what relevance the anniversary held for them; but Scotland was closer and hence, no doubt, considered a greater threat. The chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster concluded that "this is not an occasion suitable for a big splash at government expense", and the file on the matter was kept closed for fifty years until the Guardian brought this dangerous knowledge heroically to light.