February 28, 2011
Everyone is a bit puzzled as to why former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith chose to tell us about her ignorance of the porn industry. One would have thought that she would try and avoid headlines which included her name and the word “porn”, given that her disgrace was based in part on the fact that she claimed her husband’s X-rated videos on expenses.
Most of the comment, in fact, has been about the photograph with which the Times illustrated its article, showing Smith in a rather louche leather coat standing in a Soho Street, like a Madame on her way to inspect a new batch of recruits for her brothel. What caught my eye was the headline in the iPad version of the article. Where the print version was headed “I never knew the Internet was so full of porn, admits Jacqui Smith” the iPad version read “I never realised how much porn was on the Internet, admits Jacqui Smith”. The ambiguity in this subtly different version brings with it a clear reminder of that previous occasion when the cost of porn escaped her notice. Was the sub-editor having a laugh at her expense, I wonder.
For myself, I do not particularly blame Smith for not noticing that entry on her domestic Internet bill. She was a busy woman and, as with Baroness Scotland’s unfortunate oversight in respect of her illegal immigrant cleaner, it is something easily done. They share a collective responsibility in that they were members of a government which was particularly unforgiving of our daily oversights, burdening businesses and individuals with a mass of petty compliance obligations and hordes of petty little runts-in-office to catch us out and punish us. Indeed, one of the best results of the Parliamentary expenses scandal in which Smith was the star turn has been that MPs now know what it feels like to be caught out for every trivial infringement of the rules. Read the rest of this entry »
January 17, 2009
We are going to need a strong judiciary in these dying years of New Labour. Four events reported today remind us how contemptuous Government has become of those who elect it.
The Government announced plans to exempt MPs from a requirement to detail their expenses. The Treasury announced that it would not be hurrying to compensate those who lost their pensions in Equitable Life. The Government said that Heathrow Airport is to be extended without Parliamentary debate. And John Mortimer, fierce fighter for individual liberty, died. I do not suppose there was in fact a connection between this last event and the other three, but it is easy to see one. Read the rest of this entry »
September 15, 2008
A new study shows that government claims about lives saved by speed cameras are overstated. This is ammunition against the free-spending little people who run our local authority highways departments. As recession closes in, councillors and others who have been rubber-stamping big budgets are going to have to start questioning what the money is for and why it is necessary to spend it.
Researchers at Liverpool University have knocked Government claims that 100 lives a year are saved by speed cameras. Whilst speed cameras do reduce accidents, the numbers are exaggerated. The research shows a fall in accidents of 19% compared with the claimed 50%.
Does this matter very much, you might ask. After all, this Government belches out false statistics daily and has, indeed, devoted more energy to rigging the apparent outcomes of initiatives than it has on the initiatives themselves. It does matter, and for reasons which go beyond the actual facts behind this research and beyond motoring. Money is wasted in vast quantities on things which make little difference; things which really do matter are neglected in favour of those which yield apparently good outcomes; the police, who need all the friends they can get at the moment, are tarred with the fall-out of policies to which they do not necessarily subscribe; and any little surviving regard for government (as opposed merely to this Government) takes another pasting. Read the rest of this entry »
September 13, 2008
The tail end of Summer has seen a spate of stories about minor officials with an acute grasp of the regulations and no brain. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency would rather see a girl drown in compliance with the rules than save her by breaching them. Chichester Council declined to pick up rubbish in a four inch deep stream because they had no-one qualified to wear Wellington boots. And a Canterbury council official threatened a 13 year old boy with an ASBO and an £80 fine for putting up notices about his lost cat.
When Gordon Brown looks back over New Labour’s failures he will find that much of the hatred which he and Labour have inspired will derive from the uncontrolled zeal of stupid officials like this. Labour has created the context – an avalanche of petty regulation and armies of petty pen-pushers to enforce them. There is an economic cost to add to all the other economic costs – compliance amounts to an additional tax and all these dim little people have to be paid for – but the cost in popular support is greater. Read the rest of this entry »
August 15, 2008
We have a dislikeable man with no interpersonal skills in a coastal town in Suffolk. Although thought by some to be skilled at his business, his biggest achievement was thrown away when the climate turned against him. He is particularly unpleasant to junior staff. Everything he touches turns bad and his attempts to describe his vision for the future turn into repetitious rants which no-one listens to or believes. He is hated by almost everyone as much for his character and demeanour as for his inability to handle events. After his latest disaster, even his few friends advise him to push off and sink out of sight. His departure is barely noticed save that the sun comes out as soon as he is gone.
So much for Gordon Brown. This is also, of course, the plot of Peter Grimes, and it is a happy chance which took me to see Peter Grimes whilst Gordon Brown was sulking in Southwold, a few miles along the coast from the Borough (Aldborough) where Grimes is set. Read the rest of this entry »
July 30, 2008
A self-employed van driver in Wales has been fined for smoking in his own van. What is it about the local authority mindset, why is it even worse in Wales, and do the local police have nothing better to do?
In my post Smoking Snoopers of 25 February 2007, I commented on the fact that the government had handed £29.5 million to local authorities to help them enforce the smoking ban. It coincided with the news that the police no longer bothered – as a matter of policy – to attend at the scene of a burglary. I did not know it at the time, but the sum so allocated was exactly twice the amount which the Treasury (Gordon Brown Prop.) had shaved off the budget for flood relief.
My focus was on the sort of people who would become smoking snoopers, getting their thrills from lurking to catch people enjoying themselves. They would include, I said:
The sludge which collects at the bottom of every local authority pond who get moved from department to department because they are really unemployable even in that undemanding environment, but who cannot be dismissed through political correctness or union strength.
Imagine being all that and Welsh with it! Read the rest of this entry »
July 11, 2008
Hypocrisy is New Labour’s prime characteristic, and Gordon “Heathcliff” Brown’s injunction to us all not to waste anything is a fine example of Labour – and specifically Brownite – hypocrisy
We are, apparently, throwing away £1bn of food each year. That is indeed something to be corrected, with implications well beyond the £420 per family which a Whitehall study has alleged. It deprives others, it generates waste and it inflates the profits of the supermarkets. It is nothing, however, to what Gordon Brown has wasted. Read the rest of this entry »