The Curmudgeon


Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Wonders of Technology

Of course you remember the ID cards - those ultra-sophisticated, biometrically-coded technological miracles that were going to prevent terrorism, solve crime, reduce immigration, destroy identity fraud, think of the children, facilitate shopping, increase employment and give innocent pleasure to legions of small cuddly animals. Well, here's a thing: as of last week, the Ministry of Snoopery has issued the first of them - to university terror suspects and to those who may cynically have used the sacred institution of marriage as a means to enter the country - but has failed to issue the scanners required to read them. A spokesbeing for the Ministry of Fitness for Purpose (Agent Smith was presumably out somewhere mending a puncture) said that there are as yet no plans to issue scanners to employers, the police, colleges or even hospitals which might collapse tomorrow under the weight of undetected health tourists. Instead, those concerned will have to rely on "visual checks on the card" (or "looking at it", as the procedure used to be known in Oldspeak) and, if suspicion is aroused, on calls to our famously efficient and civilised border agency.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Price of Justice

The free market has played a merry jape on the international tribunals in charge of bringing selected war criminals to justice over the fun and games in 1990s Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The tribunals were originally mandated to complete their business at some time in the next thirty-two days; although an extension has been granted until the end of next year, large numbers of specialist staff have not been told whether their contracts will be renewed. Up to forty per cent, including lawyers, investigators, translators and jailers, are expected to "abandon their jobs", as the Guardian puts it. Apparently even the principle of labour mobility can be carried too far.

Still, the general assembly has remained true to market forces and rejected measures to retain its workers; and Her Majesty's Government, which did so much to help both massacres along, has not dissented. "We need to strike a balance between fairness and cost-effectiveness," the Foreign Office said, without giving the exact proportions necessary to satisfy its scruples.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Not Overcrowded Enough

Occasionally a government will do something intelligent, more often than not for an idiotic reason. The Japanese labour ministry has decided to limit to six per day the working hours of people with children under three years old; the aim is "to allow working mothers and fathers to spend more time with their children and, it is hoped, find the time and energy to have more". The Japanese government is doing this because a survey has found that people are working such long hours that their sex lives are suffering, and politely imploring companies to exploit people more gently has not had the desired effect. Not that the Japanese government is worried about the health, happiness or pleasure of its citizens. The Japanese government is worried because the birth rate is falling and, with the world running out of resources, a few million less people in a densely populated and highly industrialised country would be considered a "demographic disaster".

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Division of Labour

Even a businessman may be in favour of cutting greenhouse emissions if someone else is doing the difficult bit, viz. actually cutting greenhouse emissions. The Climate Change Committee, which is sufficiently independent of big-polluter influence to be chaired by a former member of British Petroleum's strategic planning department, has courageously reassured the Government that it can increase emissions and reduce them, too. Lord Turner, whose career in banking and the Confabulation of Business Interests has no doubt done his environmental perspective a world of good, said that the metastasis of Heathrow can continue apace without getting in the way of an eighty per cent cut in emissions by Gordon Brown's hundredth birthday. "It's possible for the world to cut greenhouse gases while still not cutting aviation by anything like as much, even increase aviation emissions," he said. This may well be true, particularly if poor people can be persuaded to grow crops for holiday-airline biofuels instead of feeding themselves; but Lord Turner seems to have been regrettably reticent about where he thinks the compensating cuts ought to be made. Accordingly, Gordon's little Darling has decided not to tax high-pollution cars; and, in case the SUV crowd find that insufficiently comforting, also plans to spend some of the money he hasn't got on making the motorways wider. One does not, after all, help to save the planet by losing the fossil fuel vote.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


When unemployment's on the climb,
The great and good know 'tis the time
To find someone to blame.
To all who know the ropes it's clear,
A handy class of people's here
Which neatly fits the frame.

When you are staring at recession
And all about you is depression,
Be neither sad nor blue;
But cleanse the land - a super trick:
Lock someone up, and always pick
A poorer man than you.

When public adoration's weaker,
Grab hold of an asylum seeker
And act the carefree lout.
When your salvation's hard to see,
Mount dawn raids on a refugee
And kick the bugger out.

Will Phaloos

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

At Least He Doesn't Speak German

A man who raped his daughters repeatedly over a quarter of a century and had nine children by them (from nineteen pregnancies) has been sentenced to life imprisonment. Relatively few insights into the national character have thus far emerged from the case, although since the family resides north of Oxford and Cambridge there's always hope that Policy Exchange might have a few words to say upon the dire consequences of urban regeneration. Still, it is noted that at one point "the defendant offered his younger daughter £500 to have another child with him"; a tribute to centuries of fair play and entrepreneurial spirit.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Phishing Spree

Date: Mon Nov 24 2008 1:00pm Europe/London
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Yes Yuo Can!!!

Dear Consumermer

I am the above named person from Downinbg STreet in wrost Recesssion since Livign Memory DO NOT PANIC for i am darling Bolke. bloke. as you may be aware it is nov now nov emember nobe,mber so the Xmas Saeson is time of Great rejoicicing and Pubic Spending. this is despit spite risk of inflation deflation depression DO NOT PANIC for i am Darlinglboke you have onlyly to lok at me to see you are in a Safe Pair of Haddnds. there is almost NO NEEDD to panic.

WSith help of God and gordon and Lord Mandelbrot of Foly and Deripaska i have ALL NEW offer of Xmass char chair cheer so that YOU can spend spend spend whiole helpnig to stave offffff fincnancial cirisisisis stravation &&& selfdefenenenestration for milions of Bankers Sharcroppers shrotsellars Investstors and other desrevring Parties. For i say thatt in the medium term and i am asbolutley right to say this and i will do so again and again that we have to get our Pubic Fancies Piublic Finances on a sustainainababasis bable basis DO NOT PANIC.

thusly If you are Hradwroking family froget your Fod and Enregy costs!!!! Fod and Engery ar e for Pensononers and other Crisis. it is Xmas time spend spend DO NOT PANIC do not be nasty savethrifty scroogies butt spend spend spend and Hlep to SAVE Deserving Praties.

i am darling darlingbloke Bloke i am Darlingbloke do not panic yet.

may i wish you a Merry Xmas and a harpy and Preposrperpous New Yaer with lottts of NOT PANIC.

Yrs sin ceriously

dareling darlking Darlingbloke bloke

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Observer Shakes Its Head Sadly

"Deep gashes in the steep mountains around Gonaïves," writes the Observer's man in Haiti straight from the Manual of Journalese Poesy, "are the claw marks of the disasters that strike this north-western coastal city with deadly regularity. They are also Haiti's stigmata: the wounds of a nation caused by the near-complete deforestation of a land that was once a rich tropical habitat." The reasons for Haiti's decline are plain for the Observer's man to see: "The loss of Haiti's trees, coupled with a decline in agricultural self-sufficiency and loss of top soil, has made the politically unstable nation even more vulnerable to outside forces", not including US business interests. The trees, of course, are victims of "the insatiable demand for the charcoal used as cooking fuel", since the natives, against all common sense and environmental responsibility, refuse to eat their food raw. "The other component of Haiti's disaster scenario was also evident" in a further indictment of your Haitian's lack of greenliness and cleanliness: "floating islands of plastic bottles that block storm drains". All this irresponsibility, of course, has its roots in ancient history, namely "the black slave uprising against the French in 1804", which led to Haiti's nominal independence and the need for the United States and its business interests to provide a benevolent helping hand. The need, sadly, continues to this day: "Jane Wynne, a US-educated environmentalist ... has spent her life trying to get Haitians to change their lifestyles". Meanwhile, the Observer's man puzzles over the conundrum of saving the natives from themselves: is "reforestation - and a chance of returning to self-sufficiency" a luxury, or is it a necessity?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Hulks at Noontide

Beached, blemished, fallen out, run dead aground,
Their towers stranded black against the sky,
Thrown up to air, red-gobbeted they lie;
Where their last sailors burned, here they are drowned.
Rain, darker than the coldest fathom deep,
Picks at their sores. Their spreading scales of blood
Drip sandlike on the boiled and poisoned mud.
Less toxic than the cities, engines sleep.

The sun, whose hostile counterfeits they hurled,
Can barely tell the metal from the red,
Its radiations sunk in floating dust.
Extinct sharks of a lost, less silent world,
These fossils crumble, like the ashen dead.
Steel fish dissolve in continents of rust.

Sargon Purfleet

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mature Debate

The London Haystack apparently wishes to distance himself from New New Labour's policy on immigration, which is to say Conservative policy on immigration. He intends to "lead the debate" by launching a review into the possibility of granting an amnesty to four hundred thousand or so illegal immigrants living in London because, according to a spokesbeing, "people living here illegally are unable to be themselves or contribute to society or pay their taxes". It sounds unpleasantly similar to being under the Tory whip, which is to say under the New New Labour whip.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Dawn Raids and Deportations has announced his own intention to further mature debate on the subject by depriving asylum seekers of the right to appeal to high court judges. Appeals against decisions by the Border Agency are upheld in almost a quarter of cases, which is clearly a sign of the judiciary's inadequate grasp of the law.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Infotainment Prioritisation Solutions

A gold collar, dating from the Iron Age, has been discovered in a Nottinghamshire field by a tree surgeon with a metal detector. According to the head of the British Museum's Iron Age department, the discovery "opens up a whole new chapter of the history of this area". As one would expect, the country's leading liberal newspaper has nothing further to say about the archaeological significance of the find, let alone about what such objects can tell us about life in Britain two thousand years ago; however, the monetary value of the find is the first fact mentioned in the story and the first thing in the headline. Makes you proud.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Human Rights

The British National Party is showing its usual attachment to principle, somewhat after the fashion of Christian Voice some time ago. According to the party's Leader, Nick Griffin, the publication of a list of BNP members on the internet will be "water off a duck's back to the stout hearts of the British National party"; the morals of the British National Party being as staunch and straightforward as Nick Griffin's metaphors, the party is using the Human Rights Act, which it opposes, to make certain that the said publication turns out to be "one of the most foolish things [someone has] done in their life". Apparently the culprit is a former member of the party who left last year because "he didn't like the direction the party was going"; hence the breach of privacy is aimed less at the steel-hardened waterproof cardiac avian rear ends of the party proper than at "the thousands of [members of UKIP] who are thinking of joining", and who are used more to the mellifluous apoplexy of Robert Kilroy-Slurry than to the barking and dagenham of Richard Barnbrook.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fogged, Yet Healing

Asylum seekers, of course, are so welcome in our happy little islands that they are among the test animals for the ID card scheme, which bids fair to rival them in popularity. Hence, although the number of asylum claims has fallen by more than two-thirds since 2000, that gifted entertainer Phil Woolas, who is Minister for Dawn Raids and Deportations at the moment, is trying to heal the country by "allowing us to have a mature debate on immigration". It is in this judicious and sober spirit that he has accused lawyers of "undermining the legal system" and claimed that charities which work on behalf of asylum seekers "actually cause more harm than they do good".

As one would expect, the "primary purpose" of Woolastic immigration policy is a matter of public relations, not social engineering; namely "to reassure the public that the government [is] in control". Since the public is aware that "we don't know the exact numbers", it is self-evident to Woolas that "the system is played by migration lawyers and NGOs to the nth degree", and that most of the asylum seekers Woolas doesn't know about are fleeing the poverty fomented by our economic policy rather than the persecution encouraged by our foreign policy.

Woolas mentioned one asylum seeker who won the right to remain in the country after six appeals: "That person has no right to be in this country," fulminated Woolas, whose profound legal expertise derives from his years as a PR man for a trade union and a producer for BBC television. His explanation for the disgraceful adulteration of our Britishness: "I'm sure that there is an industry out there [with] a vested interest." In all fairness, it must be said that as conspiracy theories go, this one is mercifully lacking in detail.

Still, Woolas admitted that he can occasionally be swayed: "One lady showed me the scars on her thighs from where the soldiers had raped her, so I know." Nevertheless, Woolas "cannot take a decision on that lady's behalf if I am fogged by cases that are misusing the law". Presumably, the red mist of wrath which descends before Woolas' eyes at the thought of a non-ministerial resource misusing the law prevented his correctly diagnosing the lady's scars as self-inflicted.

Monday, November 17, 2008

No Child Left Behind, Provided the Price is Right

Forces of conservatism are questioning the Government's wisdom and mercy in saving taxpayers' money. In May the Ministry of Incarceration and Deportation raised the cost to local authorities of bringing court proceedings to take children into care from £100 to a mere £2,225, "thereby relieving pressure on the courts and social services, saving money, and keeping children within their families", not necessarily in order of priority. The increase was imposed "on the basis that the courts were under-funded, and that care cases were causing the judicial system to run at a massive loss". In order to make doubly sure that the taxpayer is not out of pocket, the Ministry claims that local councils were given forty million pounds this year to cover the fees which the Ministry had raised in order to save the money which the Ministry is giving the councils. Legalistic malcontents are claiming that local authorities might be disincentivised to take children into care, should leaving them to be abused amid the sanctity of the traditional family happen to prove the cheaper option.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

At the Forefront of Green Technology

The Ministry for War and the Colonies, which in the past has accommodated such hefty piles of recyclable rubbish as Geoff Hoon and Des Browne, has been requested to provide storage space for "thousands of tonnes of cars, tin cans, plastic bottles and glass" until market forces are obliging enough to find a use for them. Such is the joined-upness of the Government's green agenda that further mountains of paper, plastic and steel have also accumulated, and despite our officially limitless supplies of clean coal, sustainable uranium and space for uncontrolled population growth it appears that landfill sites are at a bit of a premium. "Britain's landfill capacity would last until 2012 if recycled goods were buried underground": a course of action that has a certain surreal charm about it. The year of the London Olympics would hardly be complete without at least one spectacular example of the great British sport of civic ineptitude.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Picasso Mystery

Henri-Georges Clouzot 1956

Having made his two most successful thrillers, The Wages of Fear (1953) and Les Diaboliques (1955), Henri-Georges Clouzot directed The Picasso Mystery. Not exactly a documentary, except in the very loosest sense of a "non-fiction film", it starts with a brief narration in which the construction of a painting is poetically compared to a blind man's use of his hands to bring forth shape and meaning from a void; and almost all of its running time is taken up with the emergence of Picasso's patterns, masks and matadors from a blank white sheet.

Like many of Clouzot's thrillers, The Picasso Mystery shows no particular interest in solving a puzzle. It makes no attempt to analyse Picasso, either by getting him or others to comment on his work or by exploring his biography. There are no interviews in the usual sense and, except at the start, there is no narration; a few brief, and presumably staged, dialogues between the artist and the director are scattered at intervals through the film. The first of these shows how Picasso's technique has been brought to life: the painter works from behind a translucent vertical screen, with the camera on the other side. After one elaborate piece is finished, Clouzot worries that the speeding-up of the film will lead viewers to believe that Picasso took only ten minutes to produce it. Picasso asks him how long it really took, and is informed that he has been at work for several hours. "Well, now they know," Picasso says.

Several of the paintings are "completed" several times over, the sinuous ink sketches at least as aesthetically pleasing as the full-colour finished works. An advantage of the medium, of course, is that the pictures' earlier stages are not destroyed by being subsumed into the final version; this comes in particularly useful in the case of a vast seaside panorama, which moves through a number of incarnations until Picasso finally decides it has "gone wrong". The artist destroyed all the paintings he created for the film, so that they now exist only in the luminous, continually evolving form captured by Clouzot's camera. The magnificent music to which they emerge is by Georges Auric, who also composed the score for Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast.

Friday, November 14, 2008

If Thy Kidney Offend Thee

A government-appointed "taskforce" (heaven forfend that the Glorious Successor should resort to anything so civilian as a committee) has decided that it is "too soon" to change the law on organ donation in favour of saving more lives. Since this is one of the Government's few sensible initiatives, the taskforce has declared that there should be "targets for increasing the number of organ donations", rather than measures for increasing the number of available organs. It appears that the soldiers of justice on the taskforce may have been "unduly swayed by representations from religious groups" who believe that a dead body created in the image of a non-material and omnipresent deity is more valuable than the well-being of someone whom that deity has seen fit to smite with organ failure. Never one to accept undue representations from religious groups, Gordon has accepted that he cannot override the findings of the taskforce and that he must "find consensus" between offending the superstitious and letting people die. I wonder what he will do.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Moderating Influence

The president-elect of the United States has been handed yet another little difficulty to cope with: he has been endorsed by Tony Blair. The recently-ascended Vicar of Downing Street has taken time off from his busy schedule as fairly-paid public speaker and saviour of the Middle East in order to have a bit of a chat with the country's leading liberal newspaper.

Tony's recommendation is that, at least to start with, Obama should say some things, specifically the sort of things Tony was saying around 1997: "I think he can say to Europe, look I'm going to champion a global deal on climate change, I'm going to take the Middle East peace process seriously, I'm going to make sure that poverty in Africa is right at the top of the agenda, I'm going to listen to your concerns and get a shared agenda with you." Later on, of course, Obama will have to do as Tony did and "create a unifying agenda" which "will encompass American interests and demands". Like Tony, Obama will face "tough choices all around", such as whether to throw money at rich people or at poor people.

As somebody or other's special envoy to the Middle East, Tony also believes that Obama should do something about the Middle East, where there is "a battle between those who want a modern and progressive future and those who are reactionary extreme"; the latter presumably being the kind of people who see see things in rigid black and white and whose response to an international problem is to kill large numbers of people with explosions and pious rhetoric. Tony diagnosed "the error in international policy, in a way", which is to pursue political deals without changing "the reality on the ground". Tony, of course, has never been one to make that sort of mistake, as witness his government's response during Israel's rampage in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, when Margaret Beckett joined Condoleezza Rice in preventing unwarranted political interference with the Righteous State's fun and games on the ground.

Tony mentioned Iraq once, as an example of the kind of thing that can happen when certain parties do not want a modern and progressive future. The country's leading liberal newspaper does not appear to have pursued the matter.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Think of the Children All Over Again

A survey by a children's charity shows that more than sixty per cent of people have no objection to gay couples or single people adopting children; naturally, the country's leading liberal newspaper reports this as "Survey reveals opposition to gay adoption". Among those who did object, large majorities ascribed their prejudices to the need for both male and female role models - clearly an impossibility in light of the quasi-monastic sexual segregation practised by gay couples, single women and single men - and to the good old "breakdown of the traditional family". There are four thousand children awaiting adoption in this broken society of sixty-something million; if every one of them were to be adopted by a gay couple, this would mean a cadre of 12,000 people, or one five-thousandth of the population, living in non-traditional families. If the four thousand were adopted by single men and women, it would mean a somewhat reduced peril of 8,000 people, or one seven-thousand-five-hundredth of the population, who would be contributing, by the dire and distasteful fact of their existence, to the breakdown of the traditional heterosexual nuclear hard-working patriarchal TV-and-fighting collective.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Who Devour Widows' Houses

The Glorious Successor, as some of you may have heard, is the son of a Christian minister. Doubtless the minister was staunch, as so many Christians are; not fanatical like a Muslim or militant like an atheist; and doubtless little Gordon derived much amusement from the incident of the widow's gift, whereby Christ makes clear that it is a Good Thing for poor people to pay taxes which they cannot afford.

The Glorious Successor is, as some of you may have heard, the son of a Christian minister. In noting the Glorious Successor's latest round of welfare cuts, instituted so as to "foster a greater sense of responsibility among customers (sic) for their financial affairs", a Liberal Democrat peer observed that "the left hand of government does not seem to know what the right hand is doing". Intentionally or otherwise, this is a reference to Christ's commandment at Matthew 6 iii, whereby Christians who distribute alms with their right hand are enjoined to preserve a modicum of sinistral deniability so that the pockets of less fortunate customers may be picked without undue strain on the conscience.

The Glorious Successor, as some of you may have heard, is the son of a Christian minister. The minister's middle name was Ebenezer. I merely mention it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gordon Goes Globular

The Glorious Successor's glorious idea of a "statement of British values" to define, once and for all, what distinguishes us from the lesser breeds appears to have run into inexplicable difficulties. Problems arose when the first regional focus group, set up to glorify the Glorious Successor's inspiration at a cost of just under thirty-seven thousand pounds, attracted a glorious total of ten members of the public. Daveybloke's cuddly spokesbeing for the Shadow of Incarceration, Deportation and Enforced Britishness was apparently more concerned about the fact that the plans are being quietly dropped than about the mentality revealed by the plans' very existence. "Ditching his plans before they've even seen the light of day is a serious embarrassment for the government," the spokesbeing said. I should have thought that the best time to ditch an idiotic project would be before too much time and effort has been wasted on it (compare and contrast identity cards, internment, Iraq, the Olympics, PFI etc.); but then, of course, I make no claim to be a Government in Waiting.

The Glorious Successor's new glorious idea is that our troubles need "global" solutions: American politics, Saudi business practices, Israeli policing, Albanian environmentalism and a Chinese energy policy. I suppose there is room for reassurance in the fact that the Glorious Successor still believes the world is round.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Two Little Flowers

Come, let us to our heroes' obelisk,
And bow our heads, as bow our heads we ought,
To contemplate, at fairly minor risk,
The peace and Britishness for which they fought.
Come, let us put aside our nation's doubts:
For good clean wars we've always had the knack.
Remember who twice trounced the evil Krauts
And helped with some of Mission Free Iraq.

Dear dead of Albion, enjoy your wake.
Hard-working, proud, obedient and fair -
Our memories will never lay you down.
Witness these flowers, black at heart and fake:
A poppy in the buttonhole of Blair,
A poppy in the buttonhole of Brown.

Crumleigh Gawphle

Saturday, November 08, 2008

One Who Volunteered

Britain's leading liberal newspaper reports on a "poignant exhibition" at the Remember Who Won museum in London. The exhibition commemorates "the impact of the war on the Post Office, when 75,000 young postmen, sorting office staff and clerks volunteered to join up: 15,000 never came home", perhaps because the Post Office had not yet been privatised; although on the bright side "the cost of the penny post went up by a ha'penny, the astonishing 10 deliveries a day in some parts of Britain were slashed, and neither ever returned to its prewar level". Among the exhibits is a four-page letter from the Official Number One Greatest Ever Briton Ever, Winston Churchill, which is on display along with the correspondence of various persons not worthy of mention. Churchill's letter consists of a few lines of melodramatic Victorian prose about love, death and the nobility of woman's heart, preceded by three pages about the beneficiaries of Churchill's perennial and primary concern, namely the finances and future reputation of Winston Churchill. The letter was written in 1915, before Churchill departed for his stint as an embedded politician on the Western Front (he became bored with it after four months and went back to Parliament) and, according to the newspaper where comment is free but facts are sacred, was "still among his papers when he died 40 years later". Churchill died in 1965.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Things Are Not Always What They Seem

Italian police have arrested a supposed gangster by disguising themselves as hospital cleaning staff, nurses and visitors to his room at a private liposuction clinic. The clinic is called La Madonnina, which means "Little Madonna"; the arrestee is called Domenico, which refers to the Christians' holy Sabbath; and the drug-trafficking mob to which he allegedly belongs is called the 'Ndrangheta, which has connotations of courage, loyalty and nobility.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Met With Difficulties

The Metropolitan Police's former head of international counter-terrorism, Steve Swain, has testified before the de Menezes inquest. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on America, when America was attacked by terrorists, Swain "travelled around the world, including to Israel, to gather information for Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism strategy". The armed police of the Righteous State, of course, have been doing a splendid job under difficult circumstances for quite some time; and the instant, utter and former head of the Metropolitan Police evidently took their advice to heart. Sir Ian Blair's recommendation, made on the day after de Menezes' execution, was that the Government should make it even less difficult for officers who kill the wrong people to remain where they can repeat their errors. "In due course I believe we need a document similar to the military rules of engagement," Blair wrote, presumably under the impression that an urban police force should be free to treat those who pay its wages in approximately the same way as an army of occupation treats those who live under its benevolent gaze.

Nevertheless, Swain said today that he does not know how the police in Britain can emulate those in the Righteous State and confine their protective detrimentations to the evil and terroristic. Since the de Menezes affair has thrown into sharp relief the difficulty the Metropolitan Police has in distinguishing between light jackets and bulky ones, between suspicious haste and a leisurely walk, between jumping a barrier and walking through a barrier, between between 21 July and 22 July, and between protecting the public and endangering the public, I imagine many of us will share his perplexity.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Going Under

The National Audit Office has reported that the Ministry for War and the Colonies has left "major areas of uncertainty in the budget" for the replacement of our glorious independent nuclear deterrent. No one who has followed those interminable comedy series, National Identity Database and Olympics 2012, will be surprised that there is "insufficient oversight" of the budget. Nor will those familiar with New New Labour's idea of efficiency through competition in the free market find it strange that the makers of the defensive submarines and their nuclear reactors are "monopoly suppliers". Indeed, the manufacturer of the submarines is BAE Systems, a company well known for its integrity, humanity and commitment to British-Saudi values.

Naturally, given that we are in the process of losing two wars, both of them taking place on land, there is a shortage of sailors with sufficient qualifications to run nuclear reactors or monitor nuclear missiles. Given New New Labour's planning abilities and the respect with which it treats the armed forces, the shortage is likely to get worse, particularly if nuclear experts are poached by civil participants in the Glorious Successor's plan to built a nuclear power station on every hectare of the country that isn't part of Heathrow Airport. The aforementioned planning abilities are gloriously showcased by the fact that the gloriously-named Astute-class submarine project is overdue by forty-one months and overspent by a thousand million pounds.

More British yet is the fact that our independent nuclear deterrent is built and maintained by the United States, which intends to make the missiles obsolete eighteen years after we buy them. British independence being what it is, the submarines will then have to be adapted to the new system or else, perhaps more likely, scrapped and replaced with something else. Perhaps by 2042 they'll have finished the Astute. Then again, perhaps not.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Not Debatable

As the lights grow dim all over Westminster, a few dozen Labour MPs have had a sudden attack of spinefulness over the missile defence system which will protect us from Iran's weapons of long-range nonexistence by pointing American weapons at Russia. Since the only reliable thing about the system is the likelihood that it will start a new arms race with the country where the gas is piped from, and since the system is American, the Government has already given our greatest ally permission to start deploying bits of it on, or possibly under, British soil. Preparations are also afoot in Poland and the Czech Republic; but the governments in those countries, unlike our own, have sufficient independence to argue the matter in parliament first.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Rhymes With Canker

Gordon's little Darling and two of his chums have been doing the accountability thing in front of the Treasury select committee. They admitted that there had been mistakes in regulating the banks (or, in Standard English, not regulating the banks) and said that lessons had to be learned. Gordon's little Darling is not expecting many bonuses to be paid next year; but then, Gordon's little Darling probably did not expect the economy to seize up this year, otherwise even he might have felt moved to take preventive measures. The governor of the Bank of England said that the money which has been thrown at the banks as a reward for their prudence and foresight is "an investment in the banking system that will eventually pay off" for somebody; and Gordon's little Darling said that the taxpayer would be first in line for any dividends paid on whatever earnings the banks can scrape together, minus whatever the Government chooses to spend on airports, identity cards and private companies specialising in data loss, and any unexpected City bonuses. The money, said the governor of the Bank of England, was "not to protect the banks but to protect the economy from the banks"; therefore taxpayers can sleep easy in the knowledge that their wealth has been used for the worthy aim of protecting an abstraction from an institution. Whether the population can be protected from the abstraction is clearly not a matter for concern.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Good Day to Bury Bad Data

The brilliant James Purnell has provided the latest instance of New New Labour's care and attention in dealing with matters which are confidential to mere voters. He was shuffling papers in his little red box while travelling by train from Macclesfield to London almost a month ago; and, perhaps because he couldn't get a seat, managed to lose correspondence from Gerald Kaufman about one of his constituents. The papers were returned after three days, and Purnell has waited the intervening twenty-six days before extruding an official apology. Doubtless he has spent the time making appropriate gestures of contrition and taking measures to ensure that such a thing cannot happen again. It would be uncharitable in the extreme to suggest that he was merely waiting for news to break of the Government's two hundred and seventy-eighth loss of sensitive data, which would make even a Purnellian faux pas look minor by comparison.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Peak Confidence

Now, here's a comforting thought: the Government which believes that the best answer to an economic crisis is to reward those who caused it; which believes that public health and public transport are best looked after by private profiteers; which believes that children are best raised when they are born in prison, given school exams as infants, coddled and advertised into puberty and spied on in adolescence; which believes that the healthiest political system is the one that can be sold at the highest price; which believes that the way to deal with poverty and unemployment is to use taxpayers' money to pay for advertising slogans like We're closing in; which believes that the demands of a responsible mass media are congruent with the demands of Rupert Murdoch; which believes that it can afford to send its soldiers to fight protracted colonial wars without proper equipment and without taking the slightest interest in the welfare of those soldiers' allies and helpers among the subject races; which believes that state-sponsored religious teaching of various incompatible doctrines is the best way to unite the kingdom; which believes that the London Olympics will cost the taxpayer something or other, but probably not too much; which believes in sustainable uranium and clean coal; which believed in Sir Ian Blair to such an extent that despite his manifold and highly obtrusive talent for disappointing his fans it took a putsch by the London Haystack to remove him; this Government which believes, for all I know, that the sun goes round the earth, that the moon is made of Cheddar cheese and that the Upper Miliband is the most cunning diplomat since Talleyrand, also believes that "global oil resources are adequate for the foreseeable future". So that's one thing less to worry about, at least.