The Curmudgeon


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Statesbloke or Salesbloke?

The Free Tibet campaign group, which appears to have spent the last three years in Shangri-La, has recommended that Britain's Head Boy behave "like a statesman, not a salesman" when he confronts the Heathen Chinee. Daveybloke, it may be remembered, showed his statesmanlike credentials in the 2010 election debate by bracketing China with Iran as an eminently nukable threat to Britain's safety. A bit later he did some posturing with the Dalai Lama which, it now turns out, was a gesture of principle on much the same lines as the husky-hugging exploits of his Cuddly Conservative phase. That phase, as we know, has now been formally consigned to the dustbin of expediency and the oblivion of the web; and Daveybloke is much more interested in selling off chunks of our energy industry to Beijing than in pretending to be concerned over human rights. As it turns out, Daveybloke will be visiting himself upon the Heathen Chinee at the same time as the American vice-president; so we must hope for the sake of world peace that all non-members of the Bullingdon Club remember who won the war.

Friday, November 29, 2013

It is Not for Employment Commissioners to Comment on Employment

Though he undoubtedly considers himself a natural-born leader, Britain's Head Boy is in fact a public employee, and the British taxpayer subsidises his salary as well as his political errors. Britain's Head Boy has a gaggle of chums, all paid by the British taxpayer, who spend much time and energy squealing like anally-penetrated piggies about the feckless poor, the idle unemployed, the food-bank holidaymakers, the flooding immigrants, the skiving proles, the callous nurses, the qualified teachers, the benefit tourists, the crouchers behind the blinds and the thankless business of being a multi-millionaire tax dodger. Recently, Britain's Head Boy himself had a bit of a bluster in the Financial Times about protecting hard-working families from the migrant hordes, prompting the EU employment commissioner to warn that such yap might lead to the whole country being tarred with the Thatcherite nasty-brush. Well, no member of the Bullingdon Club takes kindly to criticism from a Eurocrat with a funny name; so, as befits a statesman and a gentleman, Daveybloke has gone whining to the president of the European Commission. Apparently Daveybloke considers himself an elected European leader, although all three terms are questionable and the last two are outright fantasy; he claims that the Government's lynch-mob posturing on immigration constitutes raising real and substantive concerns; and, sanest of all, he implies that any disagreement or note of disapproval is the same as dismissing the said concerns "without any discussion". It is not for those who are paid for by British and other, merely European, taxpayers to pass remarks about those who are paid for exclusively by real people.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Nature Boy

Since venture capitalists have done so much for the economy, the Government has decided to give one of them a crack at the environment. Andrew Sells, the new chair of the statutory wildlife and nature watchdog, is the candidate favoured by the badger-busting environment secretary, Owen Paterson, who believes that climate change is rather jolly and wants to let developers build wherever they please provided they plant a tree or two somewhere else. According to the Government, Sells lives on a small farm in north Wiltshire, where he apparently spends all his time planting trees and conjuring acres of wildlife habitat out of the cold, sullen earth. As one would expect given a lifestyle so worthy of St Francis of Assisi, Sells donated almost £80,000 to the Conservative Party before the last general election, and gave a further £31,500 to the campaign against the alternative vote. By a further benign coincidence, Sells has also been chair of a housing development company, so his expertise in protecting natural resources will come in handy for the Osborne election bubble.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Water Pressure

Representatives of the profitable moisture industry and the shale-fracking racket have signed a memorandum of understanding in which they agree to co-operate on increasing the number of fracking sites in the country. Aside from pumping methane into the water that is already underground, fracking uses large quantities of water from the surface; so that in the United States, where the frackers have had their way for some little time, various expendable communities have been turned into dust-bowls. The British memorandum acknowledges that frackers may use the public water supply and, when that gives out, turn directly to draining those streams and rivers which do not flow into any prominent Conservatives' private moats. Water may also be transported in from moister areas, provided the inconvenience to local residents does not unduly disturb the fracker conscience. England, of course, is the country in which two weeks of hot weather generally leads to dry reservoirs and quantities of foaming indignation about the likelihood of a hosepipe ban; this is no doubt the reason why most fracking so far has taken place in the north, where precipitation is more plentiful and sensibilities less delicate.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On Safari

In order to try and counteract the effect of his recent "green crap" policy statement, Britain's Head Boy has decided to have a bit of a burble about the illegal wildlife trade. Daveybloke has invited fifty heads of state to a summit in February so that he can highlight links between wildlife poaching and the magic words, terrorism and threats to national security. Clearly Britain's Head Boy objects rather strongly to the poaching of endangered species; although equally clearly he has no particular objection to letting corporate big-gamers burn up their living space. There is a growing demand for bits of rare animals among the Asian middle classes, and Britain's Head Boy sees no particular reason why affluent Asians should be permitted to behave as irresponsibly as affluent Europeans have behaved for a couple of centuries or more. The summit will be chaired by the Minister for Wogs, Frogs and Huns, Willem den Haag; and the secretary for the environment, Owen Paterson, has visited Kenya and seen some dead elephants; which shows exactly how seriously the Bullingdon Club is taking the issue. It is to be hoped, at least, that someone got through to Paterson the likelihood that the elephants were not killed by badgers.

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's A Rocky Road to Freedom

Religion, like NATO, is a force for good in the world; we know this because we have been informed of it by philosophers of the calibre of the Reverend Blair. Doubtless this explains why, after twelve years of war for peace and civilised values, the Afghan government is contemplating the reintroduction of execution by public stoning, in accordance with the best bits of Deuteronomy. For the moment, the punishment will be reserved for married adulterers, however much certain members of the Coalition of the Willing might prefer to see it extended to potential asylum seekers and other work-shy types. Presumably, as the country grows ever more civilised and audience reactions more easy to gauge, the democratic government in Kabul will be able to judge the popularity of the executions and act with due regard for profit rather than mere ideology.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Solving the Shropshire Housing Crisis

There was a time, not too far outside living memory, when the Conservatives were the party of countryside and heritage. Along with Labour's affiliation with labour, the Liberal Democrats' flirtation with liberal democracy, and Daveybloke's election promises, these unprofitable tendencies have now been consigned to the memory hole, and very few people would accuse the modern-day Conservative Party of wanting to conserve anything much aside from its donors' tax loopholes. Unfortunately for Old Oswestry, it is merely an Iron Age hill fort; so the local council plans to build 188 luxury homes on its doorstep in case anything of historical value should be hiding under there. The housing will be for the deserving poor: "affluent commuters, rich retirees, country retreat investors and holiday cottage landlords"; and the project is a symptom of the Government's new planning policy, which consists largely in the absence of a planning policy. The locals have raised their concerns with their MP; unfortunately their MP is the badger-busting environment secretary, Owen Paterson, who probably thinks the Iron Age is a historical period that started with milk-snatching and ended with John Major.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Rugged Individualism

Nick Boles, the leader of the unofficial National Liberal Party, has been laying out a bit more of his manifesto. Aside from re-naming a chunk of the Conservative Party and then governing in coalition with the rest of the Conservative Party, Nick Boles also wishes to help Britain's young people to help themselves, apparently because Britain's young people do not want help. Clearly, Nick Boles is eminently sane.

Rather than doing anything nasty to landlords, or perverting market forces into lowering property values, Nick Boles thinks Britain's first-time buyers should be given plots of public land and left to get on with it. The Government has already set aside a dozen such plots but Boles, evidently eager to prove his Cabinet-worthiness, thinks the scheme should be radically expanded without undergoing the inconvenience of a pilot project. It certainly seems a handy way to get rid of all those public forests which the Government was so desperate to offload some time ago; presumably we can look forward to a National Liberal administration handing out chainsaws and ordering people to embrace their new-found freedom in a self-constructed log cabin.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Soft Power, Hard Cash

A committee of MPs has been looking into Britain's relationship with the Reverend Blair's favourite Islamic fundamentalists and has concluded, predictably enough, that there are a few public-relations difficulties. Saudi Arabia, on whose orders Blair told the Serious Fraud Office to drop an investigation into BAE Systems, is by happy coincidence Britain's biggest market in the Middle East and one of our most enthusiastic weapons purchasers. Just like the Reverend Tony before him, Britain's Head Boy insists that in order to help improve human rights in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, we must continue profiteering exactly as we are. The Government has asserted that "nothing is off the table", although presumably Daveybloke and his chums would balk at urging Riyadh to sign up to anything so tainted with Euro-communism as the Declaration of Human Rights. The foreign affairs committee noted with particular concern that, even after the Reverend Tony, "some witnesses not only disagreed with UK policy but appeared to disbelieve the government's account of its private conversations with Saudi Arabia on reform" and concluded, in the best message-movie style, that there was fault on both sides despite apparently universal good intentions.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

But We Never Really Meant It For Vulnerable Claimants Anyway

The Duncan Smith brilliance of the Universal Credit system ("the beleaguered Universal Credit system", as its full designation appears to be) has received yet another boost thanks to research commissioned by the great man's own Department for Workfare and Privation. Three London councils used DWP data and a methodology which Whitehall agreed was doctrinally sound, and discovered that they would need to spend about six million pounds each in order to train vulnerable claimants who might otherwise be unable to afford an extra jumper to wear in winter. Even Duncan Smith's pet think-tank, the humorously-named Centre for Social Justice, has already warned about the possibility of unmanageable levels of debt, despite three years of kicking people out of work, lowering wages and slashing social security. This is doubtless old news to the Government, which has never really believed that vulnerable benefits claimants need do anything except starve, stack shelves or move out of London; and at the very least it will provide a handy excuse to throw more taxpayers' money at the likes of G4S and Serco in return for some fake figures about helping the mumbling idiots get online.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Logical Development

Ed Davey (not to be confused with Ed or Davey), the Deputy Conservative doormat at the Department of Profiteering, Prole-Freezing and Planet-Cooking, has announced that the British taxpayer will no longer be required to fund coal-fired power stations in developing countries, except in "rare circumstances" and to the highest technological standards. Naturally, companies with a profitable interest in fossil fuels will do nothing at all to make the circumstances less rare; and in any case, the money will be required to keep up all the coal-fired power stations in the United Kingdom, which the Government has no intention of decommissioning. "It is completely illogical for countries such as the UK and the US to be decarbonising our energy sectors while paying for coal-fired power plants to be built in other countries," Davey proclaimed, just in case we hadn't noticed the greenest government ever, its radical reductions in carbon emissions during every year of its tenure in office, its constant battles with the Davey-disappointing Big Six and, of course, the dynamic, uncompromising firebrand for badger-busting, bee-bothering and executive urging.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Vision Thing

Since the basis of Christianity is a corpse that wouldn't lie down, it is perhaps a little unfair to criticise the remains of the Church of England for their continuing zombie stumble towards oblivion. Nevertheless, the Archbishop of York - he who had nothing to say in order to justify God's little prank on Haiti three years ago - has been rousing the rabble at the General Synod over the eternal, universal question of how a laughing-stock might avoid turning into a dead laughing-stock. "Evangelise or fossilise," was Sentamu's cry; although when an institution cannot agree on whether a substantial chunk of the human race is qualified for its more exalted ranks ("arguing over words and phrases" as Sentamu put it tactfully), it is just possible that worrying over fossilisation may be a bit post-mature.

Another bishop worried that "what is on the label of the church tin is still not what is in the tin". The solution to this, aside from ghoulishly haunting hospitals in search of bereaved persons to recruit, is apparently for the church to meddle even more with children's minds than it already does. Religious education is compulsory in England, but there is no mandatory curriculum, so some schools are getting away with teaching actual religion instead of Anglicanism. If the Synod can agree to evangelise rather than fossilise, the Church will be promoting some exciting new project materials which may or may not enhance the enablement of our juvenile resources towards a more or less coherent appreciation of the transcendent possibility of something or other. That'll help.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Boffins Not Snoopers

Britain's Head Boy has been having a bit of a burble about the latest excuse for not letting the surveillance state become too lean. "There's been a lot in the news recently about the techniques, ability and brilliance of the people involved in the intelligence community," Daveybloke burbled, apparently in reference to such upstanding moral characters as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Daveybloke burbled about the Second World War and the Enigma code-breakers, partly because mention of the Second World War is naturally orgasmogenic to the Conservative mind, and partly because the Second World War is the last time most of us can remember the British intelligence community doing something right. Daveybloke had a bit of a burble about using technology to do technological thingummies with the "dark internet", which is a place Daveybloke does know something about because that is where his pre-election promises have just been consigned. It's all in aid of preventing child abuse, of course; partly because the internet is being used by paedophiles, but mostly because few know better than the father of Little Ivan that children make handy propaganda tools.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Better Together

Never let it be said that our great and tolerant country deports people indiscriminately. As if in direct response to any disapproving voices which may be raised over mere asylum seekers, the Home Office has withdrawn its threat to deport another man from an almost equally despised demographic. A head-teacher who worked in Scotland for nearly ten years had applied for indefinite leave to remain, only to be told that he was being sent back home. He was also informed, in case he failed to realise how great and tolerant Britain really was, that his four-year marriage was a sham. As it happens, Scotland has a shortage of head-teachers and a few politicians capable of persuading even the minions of May that the world's sixth-largest economy can accommodate one more without sinking beneath the sea. The fact that the immigrant in question is employed, American and white, rather than unemployed, African and terrorist-coloured, presumably never entered the discussion.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Don't Like it Here? Go Ahead and Die

There are, it appears, certain circumstances in which evoking the threat of Islamist terrorism will not get you a free pass and all the toys you could want. One such circumstance is being an asylum seeker instead of a policeman. A Nigerian with both physical and mental health problems, who claims that his life is in danger from a fundamentalist group, overstayed his visa and somehow managed to remain unmoved even by the Powellite Pantechnicon Programme. He was imprisoned this year and went on hunger strike, and is now medically unfit to be kept in detention. The Home Office, as one might expect, has responded by keeping him in detention and issuing staff with an "end of life plan". As taxpayers, we can only hope that the arrangements for bodily disposal will be as economic as possible.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Criminal Negligence

Thanks to the assault on legal aid by Chris Graybeing, Minister for Justice and Heterosexual Hostelry, the first of many trials has run into a few tribulations. There are eight defendants, and ordinarily there would be two barristers for each of them; but Graybeing's cuts have provoked a bit of a strike among the lawyers. A spokesbeing proclaimed that even under the new rules the barristers would be "paid generously", which obviously ought to settle the matter; nevertheless, seventeen chamber sets have already refused the cases, despite a mere 45,000 pages of evidence and the golden opportunity to build a reputation with Serco before the whole system is privatised. On the bright side, the charge is only fraud, and therefore hardly a matter of concern to the party of Michael Green, Iain Duncan Smith and the Deputy Conservatives.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bounty Snoopers

The Government has been throwing taxpayers' money at a promotions agency called Bounty, whose salesbeings are distributing child benefit forms to new parents and taking their personal details to sell at a profit. Doubtless the assumption was that nobody would care very much what became of personal data from persons who are, after all, benefits claimants; but even a few dozen MPs have caught on to the fact that child benefit claimants are usually breeders, and thus more likely to gain public sympathy. Lest we forget, Daveybloke himself exploited this fact during his now censored years as leader of the opposition, when he waved his dead child around in order to lend credence to his simpering over the National Health Service and all those nurses he wanted to fire. Anyway, a spokesbeing from Bounty claimed that allowing the company to pester parents cost only 8p per form, whereas postage would cost more than 33p per form; doubtless the privatisation of Royal Mail, and the resulting exponential increase in cost-effective service improvement, will rectify this matter post-haste.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Orwellian Holes

The Conservative Party, which includes the brilliant IT expert Iain Duncan Smith; the Conservative Party, which put an end to chaotic, top-down meddling with the NHS; the Conservative Party, enthusiasts of transparency and localism; the Conservative Party, which cleared up the mess left by Labour in a single parliament; the Conservative Party, which has enabled voters to recall incompetent MPs; the Conservative Party, which uses the internet to make politicians more accountable rather than to spy on law-abiding citizens; the Conservative Party, they of the Big Society thingy and all its re-launches, re-boots and extra-special simpers; the Conservative Party, which keeps its promises along with Nick Clegg; the Conservative Party and greenest government ever has deleted its archive of the speeches made by Britain's Head Boy and his chums when they were still pretending to be nice. I wonder why the Conservative Party would want to do a thing like that.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Racial Awareness

Even real life gets things right occasionally. A white supremacist named Craig Cobb, who has been buying up chunks of a North Dakota town in order to found an enclave of racial purity, was trusting enough to undergo a DNA test for a television show, and was duly found to have a fourteen per cent sub-Saharan African genetic heritage. The black news was broken to him live on television, by an ethnically dubious female, in front of a sadistically happy studio audience. Of course, to those gullible enough to believe mere science and its hypothetical theory nonsense, we all have a bit of Africa in us because that is where the species first emerged; but Cobb professes to follow a "Creator" religion favouring racial awareness, i.e. presumably the Hebrew-supremacist doctrine genocidally expounded in the Old Testament and messianically endorsed in the New. The Bible's only prominent multiculturalist is Solomon, whose policy of tolerance brought down the wrath of God on his descendants, in accordance with the merciful Jehovan policy of punishing children for the sins of their fathers. Accordingly Cobb, as a concerned breeder, dismissed his DNA result with superb orotundity as a statistical anomaly, cooked up for the persecution of honest neo-Nazis by "craven and debased executives, whose goal is to shock".

Monday, November 11, 2013

Divine Presents

As this year's Christmas season enters its final, frenzied seven weeks, the palace-dwelling Archbishop of Canterbury has launched the traditional denunciation of secular materialism. He pointed out helpfully that people who lack money shouldn't spend it, because "it puts pressure on relationships"; so despite the clear indication at Luke 14 xxvi, it appears that a normal family Christmas, with all its whining, yelling, sulking and petty hatreds, is not something an Anglican should aim for. Nor should one attempt to buy love; rather, one should emulate one's Father in Heaven, who loves everyone equally and repays disobedience with famously paternal fervour. On the more general Yuletide habit of trying to buy peace and quiet, the Archbishop appears to have been silent. Nevertheless, he did go so far as to admit that "giving at Christmas reflects the generosity of God", which has been on such conspicuous display in the Philippines this week.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

We Also Serve

Remembering upon this special day,
We pay due homage, with this proud display,
To those who died for nations, queens and kings,
Democracy, and all those other things.

Their families' and country's joy and pride,
Brave hirelings for state-sponsored homicide,
They lived in mud and fought with rats and lice,
And foreigners; so that was rather nice.

Despite all cost, they saw their duty out;
Which is what statesmanship is all about.
They did their service, and we have done ours:
They gave their lives; we've posed with paper flowers.

Jingo Quacker

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Tony Helps Out

The Ascended Incarnation of the Reverend Blair, ex-salesman-in-chief of English law, liberator of Kosovo, saviour of Sierra Leone, civiliser of Afghanistan, Great White Hope of Iraq, envoy of tranquility to the Middle East and implacable opponent of almost all unnecessary surveillance, kidnapping and torture, has been telling Kazakhstan a thing or two about good governance. The state of Kazakhstan gave him a two-year contract worth several million pounds, and he clearly hasn't pulled any punches. Two months after his reverence began shining his guiding light, police fired on protestors and killed fifteen. Of course the opposition was to blame; and insurgent ringleaders were duly imprisoned, the feral beasts of the media duly tamed, and the president duly re-elected in a near-Blairite landslide with ninety-five and a half per cent of the vote. A spokesbeing for his reverence proclaimed that significant progress has been made in expanding the economy and sending troops to Afghanistan, which certainly matches Tony's conception of genuine human rights; and Kazakhstan has also given up nuclear weapons, which is certainly more than his reverence was ever prepared to do. That was in 1991, but Tony's office tried to claim credit for it anyway, rather than taint the achievement by leaving it to the Russians. Astoundingly enough, given his uncompromising attitude, Tony's contract may yet be renewed.

Friday, November 08, 2013

A Dusty Answer

Ofwat, Britain's eminently misreadable regulator for water profiteering, has demonstrated why closer regulation of the energy cartel would be a Bad Thing. Thames Water has put in for an eight per cent increase on its victims' bills: partly because it wants help in building a "super-sewer" to match our titan prisons and giant profits; but also because of those perennial villains, the scroungers who don't pay their bills and the Environment Agency charges which cannot be dodged by fleeing to the Cayman Islands. The regulator has politely invited Thames Water to go back to its desk and do the sums again. Of course, if anyone tried this sort of thing with Centrica and its carefree chums, we would all be squatting in the dark living on cold baked beans; and Thames Water has duly threatened to "review the decision carefully" before deciding whether there is any alternative to turning London into a dust-bowl. Meanwhile the badger-busting environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has taken the present administration's usual form of statesmanlike action, and has written to company executives with a bit of an urge.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Honourable Lady is Extremely Frustrated

In a government run by the Bullingdon Club and headed by a Regency throwback with a fourteen-year-old sense of humour, there can be few more depressing jobs than that of the little Ministerette for Fillies and Frillies. Fortunately for herself if for nobody else, the present incumbent is Maria Miller, a comfortable combination of coarseness and inanity whose policy as culture secretary is "show us your price tag", and whose peril from excessive sensitivity is most likely minimal. Miller has marked Equal Pay Day with a schoolmistressy harangue to companies which have failed to sign up to a voluntary thingy: "I don't believe government intervention will work," intervened Miller, who is nominally a member of the government. "Legislation alone is simply not enough," Miller lectured, at a Downing Street finger-wag for which there were apparently not enough chairs. Under the present government, in fact, legislation alone is simply not worth bothering with; when improving the behaviour of our corporate fellow-citizens, a voluntary thingy is so much more cozy. There was a section of the Equal Pay Act which would have obliged all companies to report their gender pay gaps, but the coalition did not consider this sufficiently rigorous; instead, Maria Miller's voluntary thingy encourages participating fat cats to publish whatever gender equality data they think fit, which is obviously a much better incentive. Miller has also written to all her Cabinet colleagues ordering them to lead by example; which will doubtless make all the difference.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Michael is an Honourable Man

Westminster stood redolent with sunlit cleanliness today as it emerged that Grant Shapps, alias Michael Green, has wound up his almost painfully legitimate little get-rich-quick racket. Shapps, a self-styled "multimillion-dollar web marketer" was appointed chair of the Conservative Party on the grounds that his intellectual and moral standing rivalled that of Sayeeda Warsi, along with his added advantages of being white and male. Appropriately enough, his company sold a software package for "spinning and scraping" to generate instant cashflow, and its doings were so far above board that he transferred ownership to his wife in a thoroughly above-board manner, which was not in the least reminiscent of the famous Huhne-Pryce automotive manoeuvre. The Labour Party called for the firm to be investigated for alleged fraud and copyright violations; but the police have decided not to pursue the matter, possibly because the unhinged squeaks of Plebgate have deprived them of all hope of being believed. Labour sneered today that the company's demise seemed "more than coincidental", but Shapps, alias Michael Green, straightforwardly extruded a spokesbeing to put a stop to any malicious or improper comment. The closure of the firm a full two weeks after the police investigation is at least as innocently coincidental as the lobby hobby of Lynton Crosby, and is patently the act of a man whose wife has nothing to hide.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

King and Parliament Blown Up

The Sovereign and the Houses of Parliament were blown up today, causing intense concern among MPs as to whether their expenses claims would be honoured.

Suspicion fell almost immediately on the Papist community, although the environment minister said that the involvement of highly radicalised badgers could not immediately be discounted.

As liberal pundits rushed to define "true Catholicism" against the kind that favours killing off non-Papists, the Pope himself expressed "sincere regret" and appealed for a more constructive attitude on all sides.

Survivors of the blast included the education minister, the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister, who is in Rome helping some friends sell gunpowder.

The Home Secretary was in the Commons when the explosion took place, and ascribes her survival to low immigration and her little tinfoil hat.

While she praised the murdered king for his enthusiasm for witch-hunting, the education secretary paid tribute to the monarch's "generous co-operation" in compiling and publishing the bestselling Gove Bible a few years ago.

The blast also caused extensive reformation of the House of Lords.

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Innocent Have Practically Nothing to Fear

Those nice, efficient people at Serco and G4S are under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. An external audit exposed some small irregularities in the billing process; notably charges for tracking the movements of several thousand electronically tagged criminals who were no longer electronically tagged. In some cases they had moved abroad (being criminals, they were doubtless migrants rather than expats); in other cases they had moved back into prison. Some had been legitimately relieved of their tags; some, perhaps most economically of all, had died.

After UKBA and the Olympics, of course, it is nearly as difficult to distinguish incompetence from fraud in the cases of Serco and G4S as it is in the case of Iain Duncan Smith. Graybeing asked both companies nicely whether anything dishonest had occurred, and both companies duly spoke up and said that if anything dishonest had occurred, the companies' entrepreneurs, wealth creators and bonus claimants were certainly not aware of it. Graybeing called in the Serious Fraud Office when G4S refused to co-operate with an internal audit by the ministry; Serco did co-operate, but Graybeing has set the dogs on them anyway, possibly because he knows exactly how efficient a ministerial audit can be. The Cabinet Office is also reviewing the Government's other contracts with the two companies which, reassuringly enough, include the management of the nuclear weapons facility at Aldermaston. Squeaking for Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition on behalf of the great British public, the shadow justice minister made pious noises and called for minor adjustments.

Nevertheless, there is a silver lining. Whoever wins the next election, or at least feels the love-sick chill of the Liberal Democrats climbing into bed with them, the Serious Fraud Office will almost certainly be privatised along with the rest of the criminal investigation and justice system. If anything can put a stop to all this inconvenience, that ought to do it.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Political Bonds

Daveybloke's mad old cat lady has been induced to drop plans to extort £3000 apiece from applicants for six-month visas. Of course, the charge would not have applied to all applicants, only to those whom the Home Office considered high-risk; namely those from Commonwealth states with a suspicious preponderance of brown people. Fiendishly, some countries threatened to retaliate by demanding money from British tourists. The Deputy Conservatives were all in favour at first, perhaps because someone actually bothered to tell them about it; but Wee Nicky and his little orange chums have apparently been persuaded that echt-UKIP stunts, while they may be more popular than pandering to energy profiteers or stiffing the taxpayer over Royal Mail, are not quite the way to go. Not this week, anyway.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

See the World and Learn a Trade

Some fine, brave chaps with poppies in their lapels are going to reconsider Britain's policy of recruiting child soldiers. The use of under-eighteens in combat is prohibited in order to prevent early addiction to video games, and they are only allowed to join the armed forces after due respect has been shown for family values. This means that they cost more to train; which is why the Ministry for Trident and Jolly Big Boats is having one or two qualms. A recent investigation found that younger recruits are more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress, alcoholism, depression and suicide; but this is unlikely to trouble the fine, brave chaps with poppies in their lapels. After all, many such recruits are from disadvantaged backgrounds, and national service is a favourite method of prole control among those Conservatives whose minds have somehow fought their way as far as the middle of the last century.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Not All Crime Should Pay

Chris Graybeing, the Minister for Justice and Heterosexual Hostelry, who apparently wants to privatise the probation service just to see what will happen, has taken the trouble to launch a consultation about his planned attack on legal aid. Given the meaning of "consultation" in this context, namely a taxpayer-funded method of ignoring professional advice, it will surprise nobody that the objections of mere lawyers have been blithely brushed aside. The London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association has warned that the Government's undermining ("reform", in Modern English) of legal aid will result in financial incentives for lawyers to induce their clients to plead guilty; pleas of not guilty could result in lawyers losing up to three-quarters of their fees in legal aid cases. "The only conclusion to draw from these figures is the sad truth that the new fee structure is ideological," blasphemed one solicitor, who has clearly failed to internalise the happy truth that the poor are always culpable. Fortunately, the Ministry of Justice has dismissed the whole problem with the wave of a spokesbeing: the Ministry does not believe that a professional lawyer would refuse to put in a client's not-guilty plea just because the lawyer couldn't afford it. However odd this may sound from a government obsessed with the financial bottom line, it is the word of Chris Graybeing, the Minister for Justice and Heterosexual Hostelry; so I suppose that settles that.