Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Opinion Poll weightings.

From Political Betting Feb 26th
Guest slot from flockers on yougov

What is it about their weightings?

For good reason, all polling firms apply weightings to their raw data in order to derive the final figures. There is little value in seeking to predict the responses of the electorate from the responses of a sample if that sample is not representative of the electorate as a whole; a poll taken in the Birkenhead working men’s club would have very little predictive value.

Looking at the YouGov data, I was immediately struck (see table above) by the resilience of the unweighted Conservative vote share and of the unweighted Conservative lead over Labour.
Read the whole item at Political Betting.

Mike Smithson is ...
... on holiday ... at the moment and this guest slot submitted by Flockers echoes quite a lot of comments that we are getting whenever YouGov polls are published - which is now five times a week. When I return next week I’m hoping that the firm’s Peter Kellner will take part in an online Q&A session - no doubt this will form part of the conversation. I should emphasise that these are the personal views of Flockers - Mike Smithson
The Q & A will be interesting to read.

The (carbon) science of Whales.

Via NotaSheep and from BBC
"A century of whaling may have released more than 100 million tonnes - or a large forest's worth - of carbon into the atmosphere, scientists say.

Whales store carbon within their huge bodies and when they are killed, much of this carbon can be released."
Presumably, according to the scientists quoted by the BBC, whales would live for ever if they weren't hunted, otherwise they would never die naturally and "release the body-trapped carbon into the atmosphere"?

Nope, they've got that one covered too
"If they die where it's deep enough, it will be [stored] out of the atmosphere perhaps for hundreds of years."
Maybe they didn't notice events like this.

Mr Eugenides has something to say about "saving the whale" but, you see, that might not be the point because they always wrap up their objectives in pretty ideas. This scientist let the cat out of his metaphorical bag and ...
... suggested that a similar system of carbon credits could be applied to whales 
"The idea would be to do a full accounting of how much carbon you could store in a fully populated stock of fish or whales, and allow countries to sell their fish quota as carbon credits," he explained.
They are soooooo determined to keep carbon trading alive, there must be a lot of money tied up in it, fortunes to be made and lost, especially at a time when some national currencies are a bit dodgy.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Yougov and The Stone Club.

Taking a stroll round the internet Mrs Rigby spotted this job advert
Posted: 09 February 10
working for YouGov Plc
Salary £225 a week three month contract
YouGovStone (a subsidiary of YouGov), the online opinion leader research company, is looking for someone to provide additional back-up to Carole Stone in keeping her legendary database up to date and helping to organise the detailed arrangements for events and debates for both YouGovStone and TheStoneClub. This joint role as an administrator and events organiser is an opportunity for someone who wants to be involved in current issues, politics and the media.
closes 31 March 2010. We may appoint before the closing date.
contact Send a CV and covering letter to saqi.sheikh @
Now that advert didn't seem quite right, because it was asking for somebody to work for one organisation (YouGovStone) whilst linking the advert to another one (YouGov). Wouldn't it be a bit like Kraft advertising a job at "Kraft" itself, when the small print tells you it's really at one of the subsidiaries - Cadbury's or Heinz. Or would it?

Mrs R had never heard of YouGovStone / The Stone Club, so she looked it up and found this site
YouGovStone is a joint venture between leading online market research agency YouGov and business consultant Carole Stone.
We deliver in-depth insight by asking people of influence their views on subjects that matter to us all.
Here's more about Carole Stone, who was once producer of BBC Radio 4’s discussion programme "Any Questions?"   
Working with chairmen and chief executives of large companies and charities Carole brings together politicians, journalists and business people – today’s opinion formers – to discuss issues of mutual interest. She also holds regular ‘salons’ at her home in London’s Covent Garden both to introduce people to each other and to focus on particular topics.
Now, as Managing Director of YouGovStone, Carole has developed these activities inviting opinion formers to consider and provide feedback on the most important issues facing the country today.
The Stone Club
TheStoneClub is a private members' club. We have two tiers of membership.
Silver (£500 pa +VAT)
Membership is for those who want a regular monthly 'salon' - wine and conversation sparked off by a controversial topical speaker We call it: In Conversation With ... Silver members are invited to two debates a year, backed by YouGovStone research, on major issues that affect us all. And there are Summer drinks and a Christmas party for all TheStoneClub members.
Gold (£1,000 pa +VAT)
Members have all the benefits of Silver but membership is more business focused. There is a monthly Breakfast when TheStoneClub members are briefed by experts from the worlds of business, politics and the media. We will be' taking the temperature' on topical issues of concern to us all.
Okay, so Mrs Rigby has admitted to not being particularly smart about some things, and as far as businesses like this go she really hasn't got a clue. But she does think that sort of membership fee is quite a lot. She couldn't be a member, her pocket money isn't anything like enough so this club seems quite exclusive, or maybe open to people who can perhaps put their membership fees against their business expenses. Maybe?

It's far too late on a Saturday night, not really the best time to try to think sensibly, which is probably why Mrs R can't work out how the two things (organisations) can go together and allow the one to impartially measure opinion, whilst the other seems to be taking money to form opinion based on who is invited to speak at the various functions.

YouGov is meant to be carrying out very regular pre-election opinion surveys, which are intended to measure public opinion.

Can anybody help her out with an explanation please, how a private club, an apparently opinion-forming club, can be linked with a group that's supposed to be completely impartial.



Don't be a stranger.

Imagine this happening in your town.

You go for a day  out with a friend, on the way home you decide to get some fish and chips. You spot 'something happening' and more Police than you've seen in years. It's all quite exciting, so you decide to take some pictures with your nice new camera so you can show the folks at home.

You are challenged by a Police Officer as follows:
“You are a stranger in *insert-town-name** and you are . . . . .”

“I am not a stranger in *
insert-town-name* I have been here two years.”

“Then tell me who you are I’ve never seen you before.”
This actually happened to Stephen Russell, in Kidlington, near Oxford. He recorded events until :-
the officer manhandled me and switched off my camera,
He had his pockets searched, was taken to the police station. You can read the whole story on Stephen Russell's own blog.

Stephen also explains, in a later post, how easy it was for him to be confused with a terrorist.

There is a report about this incident on Amateur Photographer, along with a discussion within their forum. The Oxford Times also carries a report and goes on to explain the why the Police were there in the first place :-
Police spokesman Daniel Donovan said officers were called to the High Street at about 4.15pm after a gang hurled a bottle at a woman passer-by. 
And what happened to the bottle throwers?
Officers arrived and the louts were told to move on.
Good job none of them had a camera!

Power2010 update.

Power2010 is being updated. The site says
Sorry, we are currently changing our site.
For good.
Here's the latest email, dated 24th February.
After 4,500 submissions and more than 100,000 votes, I'm pleased to announce the POWER Pledge:

1) Introduce a proportional voting system.

2) Scrap ID cards and roll back the database state.

3) Replace the House of Lords with an elected chamber.

4) Allow only English MPs to vote on English laws.

5) Draw up a written constitution.

To sign the POWER Pledge you don't have to agree with all five reforms. You need only be in favour of a majority of the ideas - and a reforming Parliament that will act on them.

This is your manifesto for a better Britain - thank you so much for your help and support.

Now we need to let the politicians know we're serious - click here to sign the POWER Pledge and add your name to our call for change.

We couldn't have come this far without your support - and we'll continue to need it - but POWER2010 is growing.

If you haven't already, you'll soon hear from one of our regional organisers. They'll be taking the POWER Pledge out to the whole country.

We're fully staffed and will be launching a huge campaign - this is your moment to change politics. For good.

Thank you, and best wishes,

Pam Giddy
According to Man in a Toque though, this email might not be quite true, because Toque noticed this post by Dave Rickard referring to the topic that came fourth :-
So ‘English Votes on English Laws’ (EVoEL) duly made it into the list of the top-five proposals for political reform that were to form the basis of the ‘Power 2010 Pledge’, which all candidates at the election were going to be asked to support. Thanks to everyone who supported it. Except that this Pledge now appears to have been unexpectedly transformed into a commitment to back only a majority (at least three) of the reforms. As EVoEL finished fourth in the poll, this has understandably led some to conclude that Power 2010 has tried to ‘fix’ the result in such a way as to sideline EVoEL, just as – some allege – its political allies tried to fix the vote itself to try to bump EVoEL out of the top five. Rather unfortunate, in this context, that Power 2010 has now adopted the phrase ‘let’s fix it, not fiddle it’ as its tag line, with the ambiguity of the word ‘fix’ that will surely provoke mockery. .....
Please read both blogs to learn more, these folks are for more erudite than Mrs R - who, if this is true, is a little disappointed to be honest.

She sent people over to Power2010 hoping their voices would be heard, and can guess that others did the same because, well, because.

There's the thing about changing the voting system, which Labour suddenly thought was a good idea when they got worried about a FPTP result, and wanted to cosy up to other parties in case of a hung parliament, and suddenly thousands of other people agreed with them -  and oddly, benefit from a FPTP ballot!

The site's bound to be back up again soon, and we'll see what they have to say.
David Rickard @ Open Democracy

Convenient criminals

"Convenient criminals" were, according to this site created to dispel the myth of rising crime, and
Labour thought it would be a good idea to judge police performance solely on Targets. Set targets to Police Forces (sorry 'Services') to achieve a certain clear-up rate of crime and that would focus them.
Good idea at the time perhaps, but like Topsy the idea 'just growed'.

You aren't going to read the rest of the blog piece here, you'll have to visit this site to do that. Go on, it's worth it.

Maybe you'll be able to help them out too,
Do you know of someone who was, or were you the victim, and yet ended up with a fixed penalty ticket?

If so these are the criteria we need to meet:
1. Was the person a genuine victim of crime ?;
2. Was the victim (or bystander) issued with a Fixed Penalty Ticket by police and the criminal unapprehended?
3. Are there independent witnesses prepared to set out what happened?
4. Was the penalty paid rather than go to court?
5. Are they / you prepared to be interviewed on camera as part of a non-professional documentary for You Tube and elsewhere ?

If so please post an outline in the comments and we will find a way to get in touch.
Here's an example :
1. 26 year old male, (College sports coach) having a quiet drink with friends is hit in the face by a glass thrown during a fight which erupted at the other end of the pub. Bleeding heavily he is taken outside as police and ambulance are called. Those involved in the fight leave - they know the police are coming. Victim sits on the pavement waiting for ambulance.

Police arrive but the fight is over and nobody to arrest, that's bad news for the officers as with no criminal apprehended they fail the targets set by the Government. They walk out to the victim and this is where he became a Convenient Criminal.

In shock from his wounds and the heavy bleeding he loudly asks the police 'Where's the f***ing ambulance got to?'. Suddenly the police can, and do, issue a Fixed Penalty for a Section 5 Public Order Offence for his swearing and bingo their targets are met. Crime reported, officers attend and a fixed penalty ticket issued. Ticks all the boxes they need for Labour's police targets.
And, in case you missed it here's the link again.

h/t EUReferendum & Muffled Vociferation

Worse than they thought? - In pictures.


ONS got the numbers wrong?

Edmund Conway, Economics Editor of the Telegraph writes
it wasn’t merely the latest quarter worth of data that the ONS revised today – it also went back through a whole range of its statistics, and discovered that the recession was in fact significantly deeper than it previously thought.

So although in Q4 Britain ended up producing more or less the same amount of cash (actually £133m less, as I’ve pointed out), it produced even less than was previously thought in the preceding quarters. So, in comparison, the jump between Q3 and Q4 works out at 0.3pc rather than 0.1pc.
Read the whole article and see the original graph here


And separately, these charts and graphs are courtesy of a Coffee House piece discussing an interview with Mr Brown. It's probably silly to show them on their own, but they do make a point.

t really is worth reading the whole piece, as well as the comments beneath it.

This first chart is alongside an excuse that "... Every country has had a build up of debt as result of the recession"

This next one, explained by the title, alongside one of Mr Brown's 'I'll ask myself a question and then answer it ...' moments - "... did we run too high a level of debt prior to the crisis? The answer is that we ran one of the lowest debt levels of any of the G7 countries."

And a statement that " ... there are two and a half million more people in work than in 1997."
Pity that so few of them are British born.

One of the comments below the article points out that
"A more powerful way of representing the data in Fraser's table would be to show the percentage increase in the debt figure over 4 years:

Ireland 250%
UK 102%
Spain 85%
France 42%
Portugal 39%
Euro Area 36%
Greece 33%
Germany 27%
Italy 17%

This is when the UK figures begin to look SCARY!!!"

Friday, 26 February 2010

A fool's guess?

Everybody else is doing it, so Mrs Rigby has decided to prove, once and for all, that she has little experience of things political so will make a fool's guess or two.

British people are getting tired of politics, they are getting tired of reading about badly behaved MPs, they're tired of obfuscation and dithering, and they're tired of being treated like fools. They're also getting tired of complaining and not being heard.

Long before the opinion polls started turning, the media began carrying predictions of a hung parliament. The polls are, naturally, now confirming this. (Look up self-fulfilling prophecy.) Some people like the idea of a hung parliament, because they don't want, in their lifetime, to see a single political group have such a clear majority that it lets them do whatsoever they wish. Some of these people assume the group with the most votes will get to lead a coalition.

Because of all this tedium and the oh so frequently-predicted outcome, some people are planning their own strategies. Some have decided not to bother voting, others have decided to mess up their ballot papers to make a point and some are planning to vote Labour, reckoning that because this government made the mess, it's their job to clean it up - with the expectation that that's what they'd do, because it's the right thing to do, what decent people would do.

Others, though, point out that if Labour were to win a coming election it would be seen as a mandate to continue, and expand, existing policies. It isn't worth trying to list them all, frankly it's too depressing for Mrs R to contemplate.

So, with all this running through her head and never having actually learned anything much about either politics or political processes, Mrs Rigby's instinct tells her when the election is likely to be. To support this gut feeling she's hastily scrabbled around for a few supporting bits and pieces.

People throughout the country, and of every political colour except red, have been politely requesting an election ever since Mr Brown became PM, and almost every request ends with the word, "Please,". But, of course, our 'caring, 'kind', 'fatherly', PM refuses - because he and he alone knows what's best for both the country and its population, he also knows what's best for the rest of the world.

Throughout this government April 1st has been the day much favoured for the commencement of new legislation, opening the doors of new 'agencies', the day new taxes are levied etc., it is also the beginning of the new tax year.

This year April 1st is a Thursday. It is the day before Good Friday and marks the beginning of the long Easter weekend, it is the day when many people, irrespective of their green credentials, will be either starting out on journeys or preparing to travel to an overseas holiday destination - to catch a bit of early sunshine to recover from a long, cold, winter.

If Britons mimic their New Zealand counterparts then around 33% will have already planned to be away from home over Easter this year, although not necessarily outside the country and may, therefore, not wish to be distracted by things political.

Not many people realise you can register at any time throughout the year because the register is updated every month, as set out in the provisions of the Representation of the People Act 2000.

Not many people realise that postal votes can be requested on demand, and unlike a proxy vote, once you have applied for a postal vote you are not allowed to vote in person unless you re-register - which can be done at any time.

April 1st may also be "All Fools' Day", a day for pranks and jokes, but Mrs R guesses that this date will be chosen for the 2010 general election.

There must be at least 17 working days between when an election is called and election day itself. In practice that means at least 20/21 days warning, including weekends, and would mean that there could be an announcement around 10th/11th March.

The results?

Whether on that day or any other, Mrs R predicts that most people who are happy with their existing MP will continue to vote for that particular party, even if their current MP has decided to resign. She thinks that, in some parts of the country, Labour will lose votes, perhaps even a seat or two, to the BNP and the Tories will lose votes to UKIP, whilst the Lib Dems and Greens will bumble  along, keeping about the same number of seats as usual, although it's more likely the Lib Dems will gain votes from the Greens because a lot of 'thinking' people are a bit annoyed with environmentalists just now.

From reading what people think, and also talking to family and friends dotted around the country, Mrs R thinks the media is calling the tune and the results will be close, possibly leaving no party with a clear, overall majority - as predicted by the polls - although she has some reservations about these polls because, for example, she is registered with YouGov but has not been asked a single political question since last autumn.

Under constitutional convention, the Prime Minister can stay in Number 10 if his rivals do not win a majority, even if Labour loses the election.
Mr Brown seems to display a certain stubbornness of character, he has made it clear both in Parliament and in the media that he does not believe any other  political party is fit to run the country, so it's likely he will do his best to stay, demanding that all other parties do his bidding in a coalition under his control.

Okay, so Mrs R realises she's probably made a complete and utter fool of herself, so if anybody has a handy dunce's cap she'll happily wear it until the election - whenever it may be.

Taking the 'Pis'.

Thanks to David Charter and Graham Keeley in the Times and Mary Ellen Synon in the Mail maybe we now know why the Belgians, with their world-famous Manneken Pis statue, don't think much of the British.

A Libre Belgique reader believes
"The English are cretins, whose arrogance is only equalled by their mediocrity of spirit."
How much of this current bad-mouthing is down to Mr Farage's outburst against Von Rompuy and how much is to do with the esteemed Baroness Ashton has to be open to debate.

The Baroness, you may recall, was chosen to be the first ever EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. She is also the First-Vice-President of the European Commission. She has, therefore, significantly greater powers and greater authority than any elected representative, so you'd think she would take her job very seriously, and make sure she always does the right thing for the EU, such as going to Haiti after the terrible earthquake, or even attending important meetings related to her role.

Err, no. Fail on both counts.

She hasn't turned up to important defence meetings, her most recent excuse being that she had a prior engagement, to attend
... the inauguration of the new Ukrainian president
Perhaps the EU choosers were having a little joke, taking the 'Pis' when they chose somebody previously strongly affiliated to CND and, possibly also with the Soviets, when she was selected for her job of Defence Minister?
Daniel Korski, a defence analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said: “She has not really shown herself to be particularly interested in the defence portfolio.”
So, why is she still in the job?

44,000 new voters in the last 3 months.

Hmm, makes you think.
More than 44,000 British passports were handed out to foreigners in just three months as the number of applications for citizenship soared 30 per cent.

Latest Home Office figures reveal that 51,315 applications were made for citizenship in the final quarter of last year - a massive rise from the 39,325 requests made for the same period in 2008.

The number of immigrants granted UK passports rose 15 per cent from 38,955 to 44,870. It is much higher than the previous record average of 41,000 passports handed out each quarter in 2007.
To be able to vote you have to be British, and, as the Border Agency's "LifeintheUK site says
Settlement and citizenship

Becoming settled in the UK by getting indefinite leave to remain means you will have the opportunity to play an even more active role in your community and wider society. You no longer have to renew your permission to stay in the UK and you are free to come and go with the minimum of fuss, provided you do not remain outside the UK for more than two years.

If you are applying to become a British citizen, this will give you:

* the right to a British passport
* the right to vote in national elections
Not entirely sure what the, "provided you do not remain outside the UK for more than two years" means, unless it meant that if Mrs R chooses to wander off abroad somewhere or other and is away for more than two years she loses her Britishness ... but no matter.

There's a practice 'citizenship' test - it's written in English. Try it here and compare it with the one from 2005, shown on the BBC

You can register to vote if
you are:
* 16 or over (but you cannot vote until you are 18)

* A UK, Republic of Ireland or qualifying Commonwealth citizen. Qualifying Commonwealth citizens are those who have leave to enter or remain in the UK, or do not require such leave.

* A citizen of a European Union country living in the UK
A citizen of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or a British Overseas Territory living in the UK

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Chancellor's "Red Box"

Mrs Rigby remembers Mr Brown leaving Downing Street carrying a brand new 'red box' , which is the traditional 'briefcase' of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and indeed the traditional briefcase of all ministers of the crown since 1860. They're meant to be bomb proof and acid proof, with a nifty design feature that makes the user lock the box before picking it up by the handle.

Mrs R thought she'd imagined seeing the new one because she's seen loads of pictures showing Mr Darling using an old, very battered red box, but it seems not.

Wikipedia sometimes get things wrong, so it was wise to check directgov which says
In July 1997, Gordon Brown became the second Chancellor [the other was Mr Callaghan] to use a new box for the Budget. Made by industrial trainees at Babcock Rosyth Defence Ltd ship and submarine dockyard in Fife, the new box is made of yellow pine, with a brass handle and lock, covered in scarlet leather and embossed with the Royal initials and crest and the Chancellor's title.
Here he is with his lovely new box. (Picture from BBC)

Wikipedia points out that
In March 2008, Alistair Darling reverted to using the original budget briefcase.
But it's a Wikipedia error, there are pictures showing Mr Darling with the lovely new red box - here's one from the Guardian, dated 12th March 2008.

A year later here he is with the battered old one. Picture from the Telegraph, 12th February 2009.

According to an old article in the BBC, the one linked to the picture of Mr Brown, these boxes are quite expensive, and this government has managed to get through quite a few, the information (from only some departments) being made public as a result of an FOI request, way back in 2007.
The total amount spent on the boxes between May 2002 and May 2007 was £57,260.05, according to a collection of answers to questions and Freedom of Information requests submitted by Mr Hemming. **
This is the breakdown
Transport - £8,853
DWP - £6,588
Defra - £1,500
DCLG - £7,420
Scotland - £1,620
DCMS - £1,598
DTI - £13,337.50
Innovation - none
Foreign Office - £6,990
Wales - none
Treasury - £1,899
Defence - £6,108
International Dev - £1,346.55
So it looks as if the Treasury spent £1,899 on Mr Brown's nice new red box - which has now vanished.

Does he get to keep it as a souvenier?

** John Hemming who made the FOI request is, incidentally, MP for Birmingham, Yardley. He has a blog too, but Mrs R hasn't drilled back through it to see if he wrote anything about these red boxes.

Advanced Science.

In a statement about Science and Maths A-level exams, Sylvia McNamara, from the QCDA, the body responsible for the development of the curriculum and qualifications in England, said
"This summer A-level students will sit the new style exams, which demand a more broader understanding ...
Sylvia McNamara is a very important person, in a high powered job. She is Executive Director for Policy Implementation at Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA), her background :-
... having worked at Birmingham City Council as Director of Education and prior to that as a lecturer in special educational needs at the universities of Nottingham Trent and Leicester.
She's obviously the best person the implement policy decisions across the whole curriculum, including those for bright, able, gifted and talented young people - because they too have been recognised as having special educational needs.
If your child is gifted or talented, talk to their teacher, the school's Leading Teacher for Gifted and Talented Education or the headteacher about the support available. You may also find it helpful to talk to your local authority's Gifted and Talented lead ...
Good for you Sylvia for remembering this, well done for making sure clever kids are catered for.

Let's look at the "more broader" Science Diploma Sylvia is so proud of. It should be good, because 
Schools Minister Jim Knight [...] asked the science community, employers and higher education experts to come together to ensure the new Advanced level Science diploma is of the highest possible quality.
These experts must have had lots of meetings, because they managed to produce all these documents
* Initial Scope 09-08
* Draft Themes 10-08
* Draft Themes Annex
* Draft Themes Summary
* Secondary Research Report - January 2009
* Market View Report - January 2009
* Market View Annex - February 2009
* Student Voice Report - March 2009
* Consultation Findings - March 2009
* Criteria Consultation Interim Report - May 2009
* Criteria Consultation Report - June 2009
* Employer Voice Report
* Advanced Level LoL*** - Final Draft for Consultation - February 2010
This diploma will
... be phased in over two years with the Foundation and Higher level being introduced in September 2011, and the Advanced Science diploma now being introduced in September 2012.
It's going to be so difficult that at age 16
* the Foundation level is equivalent to 5 GCSEs at grades D to G
* the Higher level is equivalent to 7 GCSEs at grades A* to C
Crikey, that sounds tough. Imagine the rigour. Imagine the challenges students will have to face to be able to complete assignments and pass tests in only one subject that is equal to all those GCSE passes - and to be able to do all that whilst also studying at least English and Maths and two other subjects to ensure 'breadth' of study. Anybody studying this syllabus must be incredibly bright, and so incredibly focused on learning that they won't mind having their noses glued to books for the two years needed to get through this syllabus.

Imagine how proudly superior these students will feel when they realise they've got a longer list of qualifications than those of their peers who have studied Biology, Chemistry and Physics as single subjects, and who are only awarded one GCSE pass for each. Imagine, too, what this amazing qualification will do to the league tables - every school will be eager to take it up.

It gets even better, because in the sixth form
* the Advanced level is equivalent to 3.5 A levels
Fantastic! It's amazing! Only the most able, the brightest will be able to stand the pace, after all, very few these days manage to do more than 3 subjects at A-level, not even Oxbridge expects that much. The students following this course will be scientific world leaders, so let's hope loads of teenagers sign up to study this diploma.

Ah, you're thinking, it isn't often Mrs Rigby is thrilled by innovative learning opportunities, so why does she sound so pleased?

Well, she's delighted to think the government, via QCDA, has at long last realised that academic rigour is, errm, de rigueur - that it's fashionable, it's common sense, it's the 'in thing' to do.

Mrs R knows that, by the time they reach (now compulsory) 6th form, every single student will have been through 12 years of full-time education and, in the state sector, every scrap of learning will have been dictated and micro-managed by the government and its agencies.

Mrs R knows that every single state school (in England) will have complied with the ruling that makes Science a key subject, a compulsory subject - so no individual student will have been able to avoid either lessons or (in England) assessment at the end of each 'Key Stage', and their results will have been written down on a list.

So it's interesting that the "Diploma in Science" site needs to ask this challenging question
"What is science?"

Oh, by the way, LoL in this context is not the internet acronym, it refers to "Level of Learning"

He did it again!

*shakes head*
Sri Lanka summoned the acting British High Commissioner in Colombo yesterday to protest over an address by David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, to a meeting of ethnic Tamil activists in the Houses of Parliament.

Waste of money.

No comment needed :-
BLUNDERING bureaucrats have spent £200million earmarked for hospital buildings on doses of the swine flu jab that will never be used.

Up to 132 million doses of the vaccine were ordered at the height of the panic over the H1N1 virus in 2009.

But earlier this month it emerged that only 13 million doses had been delivered and more than four million were used on patients – three per cent of the total.

Now it is feared the millions of doses still on order cannot be stopped because officials forgot to add a cancel clause to the contract.
Read the rest of the article here in the Express.

h/t talking clock

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Accidents happen.

During the first 11 days of his four year sentence, spent within the confines of a high security prison, newly incarcerated prisoner Al Giddy demonstrated sufficiently good character to be moved to a lower category gaol.

Only two days after his arrival, still somewhat disorientated and still learning the routines of the semi-open, Category C, prison, Mr Giddy had the misfortune to collide with another inmate whilst carrying out routine cleaning.

The unlucky bucket-carrier, arms flailing whilst trying to regain his footing on the suddenly slippery floor, accidentally connected his fist with newcomer Mr Giddy's head, before falling backwards into the spreading mess of ordure.

It is unfortunate that there were no witnesses to this accident. Not one of the other inmates-of-good-character was looking in the right direction and nor were the mind-of-their-own security cameras, currently on temporary loan from the metropolis.

Acknowledging that during his previous working life 44-year old, thrice married, not-British-born, father of three Mr Giddy found it difficult to understand many English colloquialisms, including the phrase 'sh1t happens' - which means either 'accidents happen', or 'things don't always go the way you want' - this accident has been both an education and a revelation, although this sudden awareness, along with the realisation that all found-guilty offenders really are treated equally, has done little to calm his new-to-prison nerves.

Although Mr Giddy may have been a little disappointed to learn of Mr Brown's decision to end the 'early release scheme' he is, however, fortunate that the kind-hearted prison authorities have secured him a luxuriously appointed single cell, which will ensure privacy and allow Mr Giddy plenty of 'quality' thinking time during which he can prepare and fine tune the powerpoint presentation for his upcoming appeal against conviction.

Source here

Damian Green arrest investigation.

Nothing to add, just a 'heads up' from Jon Craig @ Boulton and Co and to suggest you read the rest, and then keep an eye out for updates
Regular readers of Boulton and Co will recall that I have twice before (November 24 and January 21) written about evidence given by Martin and the Clerk of the House, Malcolm Jack, to a committee of MPs investigating the arrest of Tory MP Damian Green and the police raid on his Commons office.

Both told the committee, chaired by Sir Menzies Campbell, that they learned of the raid from Sky News "that afternoon", Jack claiming it was at 2.20pm. In fact, it was not until about 7.30pm that I revealed the arrest on Sky News, as Damian Green told the committee in a letter to Sir Menzies.
[the committee has] summoned Malcolm Jack to appear before [them] for a second time, on Wednesday 24 February, at 4.35pm in the Thatcher Room in Portcullis House.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

A state of bullying.

Earlier today Mrs R saw a link on somebody else's blog to the Unite site and a list of things bullies do, and what the individual is supposed to do if they think they're being bullied. Unfortunately the window containing the original blog got closed, so there's no backlink, which is a touch embarrassing.

Bullying is a bit of a hot topic of the moment, but there are few people whose lives have been untouched by a bully. If you manage to get through childhood unscathed and become a parent then there's bound to be at least one occasion when your child comes home from school with a tale of woe, and you have to decide what to do. That was, actually, what I'd planned to write about, but it got a bit rambling and incoherent because it all touched a nerve.

One of the reasons Mrs Rigby started this blog (the site) was to get a voice of some sort, because nobody really listens to her very much these days - at least not outside the family, and they were beginning to get mighty fed up with hearing the same old, same old, things - so now the blogosphere gets earache instead.

You see, there are some little words that have become identifiers of one huge section of the population that can be pushed to one side. One word is "married", another is one of either "husband", "wife" or "partner".

Mrs R has recently discovered that she can no longer discuss utility bills, can't question credit card bills, can't ask something of the local council - and all because her name isn't at the front of any of the accounts. She's told the information is confidential, even though her name is also on the bills it's the second name, or the name on a second card - so no longer counts. It also means that the person on the other end of the phone can disconnect the call without warning - they have power you see, power over another individual they've never met, and are never likely to meet.

When Mrs R's job vanished she trotted into the local JobCentre to get a bit of help because applying for new ones seemed to have changed, only to be turned away because her husband works for more than so-many-hours-a-week, and earns more than £-so-many. All the rules are set out in a little book of instructions. The staff weren't even allowed to explain the scary-looking job-search machines - nothing, go away, we aren't allowed to help you. So, suddenly, Mrs R became invisible, a nothing. Men don't get a better deal, as we discovered when one male member of the Rigby family suddenly lost his job - he was treated the same, and his family suddenly found themselves relying on a single, very much reduced, income and he was expected to deal with it, get on with it, because there was a wage coming into that address.

All that's probably irrelevant, but it's background information and does sort of link to the bullying thing and what it says on the Unite site
Am I being bullied?

Because workplace bullying is badly understood it is helpful to have a working definition. Below is how we define workplace bullying:

Persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress.

As with harassment, bullying is defined largely by the impact of the behaviour on the recipient, not its intention. Bullying at work can take many forms. The following are just some of the most common ways:

  • Bullies may use terror tactics, open aggression, threats, shouting, abuse, and obscenities towards their target
  • Bullies may subject their target to constant humiliation or ridicule, belittling their efforts, often in front of others
  • Bullies may subject their target to excessive supervision, monitoring everything they do and being excessively critical about minor things
  • Bullies may take the credit for other people's work but never take the blame when things go wrong
  • Bullies may constantly override the person's authority
  • Bullies may remove whole areas of work responsibility from the person, reducing their job to routine tasks that are well below their skills and capabilities
  • Bullies may set the person what they know to be impossible objectives, or constantly change the work remit without telling the person, and then criticise or reprimand the person for not meeting their demands
  • Bullies may ostracise and marginalise their target, dealing with the person only through a third party, excluding the person from discussions, decisions etc
  • Bullies may spread malicious rumours about the individual
  • Bullies may refuse reasonable requests for leave, training etc, or block a person's promotion.
Looking at that list it's worth considering what members of the public are supposed to do if they think they're being bullied by those more powerful than themselves, and whose wages are paid out of the public purse - effectively an employer being bullied by an employee.

One fairly recent example is the AGW stuff, when opponents of the idea have been subjected to ridicule and have been belittled in front of others - in speeches and articles in the media - they have been called 'deniers', and our Prime Minister insultingly referred to us as 'flat earthers'.

There are sections of the population who think they are being subjected to excessive criticism, monitoring - especially about trivial things - like those who have been given instant fines for sneezing in the car, or throwing bread for ducks. Photographers are being arrested for taking photographs - which, according to the Guardian, is now called antisocial behaviour rather than terrorism.

There are impossible objectives - government tells councils to reduce the number of bin collections in order to reduce waste, but households get the same size bin, have the same size family, the same amount of shopping, the same amount of things consumed - and will also get financial penalties for breaking brand new, impossible, rules and no opportunity for legal challenge because that's what the new laws say.

The country is broke, struggling to come out of recession, but none of this was the government's fault, nor was the Chancellor of the Exchequer ever culpable, it was easy to pass the blame elsewhere - the whole thing started in America, it was the bankers, it was the lenders, it was the borrowers, it was Iceland, it was the middle classes, it was the toffs, it was the private sector - anybody but the government.

Bullies overrule others - yes, we've seen that happen, with the salt shortage. Local authorities had their salt stocks taken away by government, which meant that residents of careful, forward thinking, forward planning, authorities were left without. It's impossible to forget the residents of Cow Ark who were told to use "community spirit" when their village was snowed in for days on end.

And so it goes on, and on, and on. Instance after instance of how this government has bullied it's way through the last thirteen years, with things seemingly accelerating recently. As we reach the time for a general election we hear, whispered very quietly, that the centre of Manchester was under Police control last Saturday night, with everybody being forced to pass through metal detector arches or face arrest - unheard of in Britain, but the media remains remarkably quiet, so it goes unchallenged.

It is, frankly, too depressing to wade through the whole of Unite's checklist, there's just too much. The government has done all this because it can, because it has a majority large enough to over-rule any opposition so have been effectively autonomous, oligarchical. We know their pre-election promises were meaningless, yet now they want us to vote for them again - to look at what they have to offer and, bizarrely, around 30% of the population say that is what they will do, it's beyond belief.

This country has changed, almost beyond recognition, in the past 13 years. It's hard to remember what it was like when people were automatically treated with respect, when opinions were listened to, when government governed instead of interfering in the minutiae of everyday lives - and when allegations of bullying were taken seriously.

The reaction in the media first to Rawnsleys' book and later the revelation that people from Downing Street had contacted a very small anti-bullying charity has been quite extraordinary. It's been the same within the blogosphere. There are those who say, bluntly, that there's no place for bullies, whilst others tell the bullied they should lick their wounds and "move on". Others have turned their faces away and tried to ignore what's been happening.

There have been articles in the press, items in the news, with supporters voicing their opinions - almost without exception saying that the person accused of bullying is nice, decent, has a family, or "it's the way he is", "it's a stressful job" and "he's upset" at being called a bully. Whilst the lady who rather foolishly went public has been demonised, her tiny charity has been removed from a government website, she has been called a liar, a fraud and, by Phil Woolas, a government minister - "a prat" - which is really quite rude.

Since when was that a decent thing to call anybody? Would we expect Nick Clegg to say that, what about Cameron - could he get away with it? How about Alex Salmond, or even Nick Griffin? No - they would be outed, ostracised, hounded out of office. What would happen if a 'boss' in industry called an employee a prat? It would be good to think the Unions would step in, not necessarily to seek compensation, but to seek an apology and a chance of behaviour, but all this has happened because the most important man in our government has been accused of being a bully.

It's really hard to take it all in, so we'll leave the last words on the matter from Mr Prescott, who was on Newsnight last night. **

This is a senior politician, a representative of the British people, the man who was once Acting Prime Minister. He was interviewed by Mr Paxman who himself had to give a public apology, because he quoted a rude word from a book written by somebody else.

** An extract can be seen here on Tory Bear too.

Drug users USA, tobacco and cars.

Found via TheoSpark is the information that "San Francisco has the highest percentage (12.7%) of illicit drug users in the US."

San Francisco is the place that provides 'havens' so users can inject themselves with 'hard drugs', such as heroin - which might in itself be the reason why there are more 'illicit users' there than elsewhere in USA - but it also has laws prohibiting tobacco users lighting up their smelly weed on the beach or in a park.

It's an odd sort of law really, especially as San Franciso is known for smogs (picture here) which are a stinking  mix of fog and pollutants, and you can see the number of vehicles on the roads - 7 lanes each way - packed full of cars and lorries, with each vehicle churning out all sorts of smelly stuff that, once upon a time, was dangerous to health.

They don't seem to talk about the dangers of vehicle emissions any more - or at least it doesn't seem to hit the media very much, not even if research is fairly recent and claims that Vehicle fumes stunt lung growth. Hmm, they haven't tried that claim for nth hand tobacco fumes yet, maybe they haven't had enough time to do the research.

Oh, by the way, that traffic camera was chosen at random from this list I haven't a clue where that particular camera is, never been to San Francisco.

HIGNFY & Brian Blessed

Time for a chuckle - with  Brian Blessed on HIGNFY


From other bloggers.

A few, some quite lengthy, things for you to read, because Mrs Rigby has been filing up her draft folder rather than actually managing to post anything.

13th Spitfire is concerned about the future of Parliament and democracy - he's been accused of ranting too much, too often, which rings a bell in the Rigby household.

Corrugated Soundbite links 'Learned Helplessness' with socialism and loss of choices.

Witterings from Witney discusses the Trouble with Politicians & Government.

Dick Puddlecote explains how over-regulation is killing off businesses - don't forget to read the comments.

Patently asks who you should believe.

UK Libertarian talks about Decriminalization of Marijuana in Amsterdam.

Mummylonglegs will make you chuckle, even though you think you shouldn't.

See Cold Steel Rain's amazing picture of the Moon - don't forget to click on the picture to see if full size, it's worth it.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Power 2010 - passing on the message.

An email received earlier.
Britain is crying out for a change.

There's no questioning it - you and others across the length and breadth of the country have cast over 80,000 votes. The POWER Pledge is soon to take its final shape.

You've voted. You've had an undeniable effect on this campaign and, with your continued support, this campaign will have just as strong an effect on government and politics.

There are fewer than 12 hours left before we close the polls - click here to see which five ideas for reform are in the lead.
*** All active links to that site have been removed from this blog ***

Our work is far from finished, but we have achieved a lot - and we couldn't have done it without you.

Before the clock strikes midnight tonight, take one last look at our voting page. If you disagree with any of the ideas in the top five, there's still time to throw your support behind the others:


Thank you, and best wishes,

Pam Giddy
If you haven't already voted there is only a short time left. If you have voted, but only for one idea, then take another look below the leaderboard because there are other proposals to consider.

You can use either the link within this blog post or the one in the sidebar.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Of lesser importance.

It can be quite interesting to read comments left beneath articles in the Mail. Today the paper has headlined a BBC decision to downgrade the newsworthiness of certain members of the Royal Family to "Category 2" - which means that on their death no programme will be interrupted, not even Eastenders.

Some commenters think there has already been a downgrading of newsworthy items, and an upgrading off celebrity, because "William J" points out that  :-
"On the 6 o'clock news yesterday they devoted 12 minutes to Tiger Woods and 2 minutes to the deaths of British soldiers in Afghanistan.
Make what you will of that."
"R, CBD" tends to agree and predicts that :-
"... the BBC now, it would probably give bigger coverage if Cheryl Cole kicked the bucket than it would if Her Majesty the Queen passed away."
And, actually, with the current cult of the celebrity, Mrs R wonders if this would be the case - although possibly not, because they'd want the viewing figures - wouldn't they, otherwise we'd all do as "Vaj" suggests, which is :-
"... we will all tune into Sky News, CNN etc !!!"
"Alex", however turns attention to the decision-makers, namely, "... a group of senior BBC executives, including deputy director general Mark Byford ...", and says :-
"Perhaps I,m being cynical, but did the meeting to decide this change of policy, take place over a weekend at a five star hotel? After all, that,s the way the B.B.C usually spends "our" money, isn,t it? Or will we never find out, because it,s covered by "confidentiality". ..."
Hmm, is there a teeny hint there that, maybe, the BBC has lost it's sparkle, is no longer the  world-class, well-respected organisation it thinks it is, at least not here in Britain? Surely ordinary folk can't have as low opinion of the BBC high ups as they have of some MPs, or have these same influential, opinion-forming, individuals truly forgotten that we in Britain are not isolated from rest of the world, that most of us acknowledge that there are other countries and there are other important people. As "Dot" says :-
If the Prime Minister or the President of the US, whoever they are, should be assassinated, surely that would merit breaking into programmes immediately?
Well, maybe the BBC wouldn't tell us straight away because, according to the Mail, there are lower categories than "2" - presumably 'Category 3' - which includes :-
 "... ‘other notables’, including Muhammad Ali, Lech Walesa, Bob Dylan ... Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair, Nick Clegg, Sir John Major and Mikhail Gorbachev."
That's just fine say some, those lot aren't in the least bit important, especially not that Thatcher woman - but they don't seem to have spotted  what "Dot" is referring to, which is the names of those individuals who have also been  "demoted" to "lower than category 2", namely (my bold) :-
"... Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Leader of the Opposition David Cameron and the President of the United States Barack Obama...."
Oh dear, that's another newspaper crashing to the floor.

All the fun of the fair?

It looks a really jolly place to visit, if this picture or even this one are anything to go by.

(Pictures copyright MarkNelson, hosted on Flickr)

Today in history.

According to the sidebar links, today marks the anniversary of the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1848.

There are many, many, other things listed here and here that happened on earlier 21st Februarys. (No, spellcheck, it isn't wrong because there's no apostrophe in a non-possessive plural!)

In amongst them is 21st February 1916, which saw the commencement of the Battle of Verdun, and 1924, when Robert Mugabe was born.

'On this day', in 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick proudly announced the structure of DNA to the world of science, whilst 'this day' in 1997 saw the première of the film "The Empire Strikes Back".

Which of these events shall we celebrate?

How the Tax System works.

Stolen from NotaSheep :-
How the Tax System works.

"Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to £100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay £1
The sixth would pay £3
The seventh would pay £7
The eighth would pay £12
The ninth would pay £18
The tenth man (the richest) would pay £59

So, that's what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. 'Since you are all such good customers,' he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by £20.'

Drinks for the ten now cost just £80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the £20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'

They realized that £20 divided by six is £3.33. But if they subtracted that from everyone's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so: -

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid £2 instead of £3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay £5 instead of £7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid £9 instead of £12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid £14 instead of £18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid £49 instead of £59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

'I only got a pound out of the £20,' declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, 'but he got £10!'

'Yes, that's right,' exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a pound, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I did'

'That's true!!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get £10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks'

'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor'

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works.

The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up any more. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier and weather is nicer. "

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Dress Codes.

It would seem that Mrs R might be more than a little old fashioned, because all the other comments she's read regarding this matter have referred to the words that might or might not have been said - it's the words that have been the focus of the media too.

The thing is, Mrs R doesn't actually think it matters too much if a person has been called a "C**onservative", this is because so many bad names and bad words are used by some politicians these days that one more - it doesn't matter who says it - can just be shrugged off, and if I'm honest, there's been so much in the media about bad tempers and poor behaviour that yet another 'thing' about Mr Brown doesn't even raise the eyebrows. The media doesn't ever seem to censure him either, possibly because of the job he does.

And that's the point. After the Queen, it's the Prime Minister who is meant to, and who is seen to, represent Britain and all British people, which is something he seems to forget. He also seems to forget that there have been Prime Ministers before him and there will be Prime Ministers after him, unless he manages to change the rules without anybody noticing.

He is the one the rest of the world sees in the media, it's his picture that's flashed around the world, and stories about him and his actions that are representative of things 'typically British'.

But he isn't you know, he really isn't, because 'typically British people' don't go around using swear words, especially not in a business situation. They don't try to bully opponents into silence by calling them rude names - and if they did they would be taken quietly to one side and told their behaviour isn't appropriate, but who would dare tell the Prime Minister that their actions are inappropriate?

Picture, if you can, a typical British street on an ordinary day. What will you see, and what will you hear?

You'll see, in the most part, ordinary people going about their everyday business, they'll be doing it quietly and without a fuss. Any nonsense is likely to be coming from the teenagers, who'll be doing their best to get attention - they'll wear unusual clothes, use unsuitable language and do it loudly. With no reaction they might do it again, and again, until somebody takes notice - even a turn of the head is enough, because they're watching closely, and then they'll be off sniggering with their mates.

It's the same almost anywhere - the vast majority of British people are decent, and tolerant too. We get hurt when our Prime Minister and other politicians and policy makers are rude about what we think - because we've been brought up to listen to other people's opinions quietly and respectfully, we've been brought up not to have big arguments and call people names - at least not in public, not when anybody else is listening. No matter how many times we British are told we're racist or misogynists we know at heart we aren't, and are comfortable with that, because we're certain that when others take the time to get to know us properly they'll discover the truth.

This 'rule' applies right through the social levels - in general people do respect others, and are in turn are respected - even school kids, because there are far more decent kids than rotten ones, but they never hit the news unless they get beaten up by thugs.

Continually using bad language, wearing odd clothes or behaving inappropriately is almost attention-seeking of the worst sort, like a pubescent teenager seeing what they can get away with whilst their parents are watching, and who is disappointed when they don't react - so they try again, and again, to get a reaction which they can then react to ... and so it goes on, until one day the hormones calm down and they realise they're a grown up, and start behaving sensibly and responsibly - and tidy their bedroom, help with the washing up, clean the car and mow the lawn.

In the world of work there might be a time when a discussion gets a bit heated and the wrong words are used, but generally we're a fairly laid back lot and open to other, sometimes new, points of view because it's the way we are - we listen, think, negotiate and then either accommodate or ignore what we don't like. It's solved loads of problems in the past, and might have been a neat way of avoiding conflicts too - to walk away rather than react to bad words and irritations, and it's the boss's job to set the standard. If the boss can't behave decently then they're setting an example for the rest of the workforce, from the assistant boss right down to the chap who cleans the toilets.

One thing you 'don't do' in the normal world is go to Tesco wearing your pyjamas, the other thing you 'don't do' is pretend you're in a working environment and forget to put on half your clothes - even children in role play will get dressed up when going to work in their imaginary office, they do it because it's what they see the grown-ups do, whether at home or on the television.

This is why Mrs R finds it more than a little disconcerting that the current "boss" of UK plc - the Prime Minister - a man who expects others to treat him with deference, who expects others to treat him with respect - can be so utterly disrespectful of his own job, of his own role, and also of who and what he is supposed to represent. He has allowed himself to become so full of his own importance that he can't even be bothered to get dressed before having a work-related meeting, perhaps because he thinks it doesn't matter, that 'anything goes'.

Maybe it's novel, and as yet unwritten, policy that "All Day Pyjama Syndrome" is set to become the official office and parliamentary dress code of the future - with 'deniers' being called rude names for not going along with the new fashion, so much so that we'll soon see half-dressed politicians greeting foreign dignitaries both on the doorsteps of Downing Street and outside Parliament.

It's almost worth wondering if embroidered teddy bears or appliqué penguins be the design chosen for the next meeting with Obama ...

Friday, 19 February 2010

Thinking of chocolate biscuits?

It seems that our Prime Minister, whose studied for degrees in History, managed to confuse two Royal Houses, replacing the Hapsburgs with the Bourbons.

The Hapsburgs are, in the Rigby household at least, remembered for their prominent lower jaw and the "Hapsburg Lip", whilst the Bourbons managed to get a chocolate biscuit named after them.

Freudian slip anyone? - Perhaps Mr Brown was recalling his Mumsnet interview, or maybe replacing Kit Kats with bananas doesn't quite hit the right spot?

And the quotes?
Mr Brown told a conference in London: “It was said of the Hapsburgs that they would never learn by their mistakes.
When he should have known that ...
Most historians attribute the remark about learning nothing to Tallyrand, the French diplomat who served as Napoleon’s foreign minister.
According to several biographers, Tallyrand made the comment in criticism of the Bourbons some time after their restoration to the French throne following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815.
“They have forgotten nothing and they have learned nothing,” he is recorded as saying of the Bourbons.


Via Dizzy Mrs Rigby discovered that Ben Bradshaw supports First past the post/majority votes
 The economists supporting Labour's approach are more numerous.
Mrs R thinks he means that because more individuals have signed a letter supporting Labour than have signed a letter supporting the Tories then Labour wins the popularity contest that nobody knew about.

Help for Unions.

Want to know how to organise a rail strike?

Special instructions are over at Mr Eugenides' place

Focus Groups and Power2010

Do you want a sponsored 'Focus Group' to make your decisions?


Then go and read what the Devil has to say

When you've done that please make sure you vote for English Votes on English Laws *** over at Power2010.

*** active link removed by blog owner ***
(see post dated 31 March 2010)


Old Families

February half term comes at a doldrums time of year - Christmas is over and Easter is yet to come. Shrove Tuesday manages to make a bit of a culinary impact, but isn't often a much-planned-for 'event and social gathering'. The days are lengthening but there's rarely enough daylight to feel guilty about leaving the garden to slumber for another week or so, and for many people Spring cleaning either doesn't happen any more because either they don't have dirty open fires, it isn't necessary because their place is always immaculate, Spring  hasn't  started yet, or they can't see well enough to notice the dust.

The break from school comes at a time when no exams are imminent, so younger members of the family can be coaxed away from their computers and out of their rooms long enough to be told how much they've grown 'since last time' - which is always excruciatingly embarrassing, but dealing with it politely is an essential part of growing up.

Yes, that's right, we Rigbys have been doing the rounds of the far-flung parts of Britain catching up on all the family gossip - at a time when there aren't easy reasons to avoid being sociable. It's good to meet new arrivals and see little ones growing into adults and run a quick check of who's got what 'family trait', but it's also sad to see older relatives becoming increasingly frail at a rather alarming speed.

All of these people 'did their bit' during WW2, either on the battlefield, at sea, in the air or, even if they were still yet-to-be-invented teenagers, were 'keeping the home fires burning' - which is something few of them can afford to do any more.

Each of the grand or great-Rigbys (and/or their spouses) is fiercely independent, they all live in their own homes, of varying size and quality, refusing to either move in with their immediate family or into a more formal residential setting. Not one of them wants to even consider claiming what 'benefits' might be 'theirs by right', and not only because of the myriad of complicatedly intrusive forms they think they would have to fill in - it's because they don't think 'claiming benefit' is something they should do. It's pride.

Their generation, they say, don't take from the state unless the situation is dire, and none of them would admit to feeling desperate, none are willing to put their hands out for help and risk the humiliation of being turned away because once they were foolish enough to have carefully saved up enough money to put down a deposit on their, now deteriorating, home and make sure there was enough money to pay a mortgage for 25+ years - and the taxes, and the insurances, and the local taxes/rates.

These people recall snow drifts as high as a man and Jack Frost's patterns inside bedroom windows. They remember power cuts and petrol rationing, they have read and seen reports of the dire state of our electricity generating system caused solely by this government's refusal to acknowledge the need for forward planning.

They remember the time before the Berlin Wall was built, and some have pieces of that wall on their mantelpieces.

Quite a few older Rigbys were staunch Labour supporters, but not now, and it's quite odd to know why - it's because they've learned we get gas from Russia - the old Communist  and Cold War enemy that will, to quote one individual, "... do anything to get a toe hold in Europe" and "... will cut off the gas if they want to invade". Their fear is almost palpable, and disconcerting too, because they almost speak in whispers to say what they need to say and then, very quickly, change the subject.

They don't understand what's happened in the last few years because they as children they were raised to, "Be seen and not heard" and were taught to "respect their elders". They're unhappy with the way they can be pushed to the back of the queue and ignored at a time when they're most in need, and the men don't understand why all of their sex is branded a potential child molester when nothing would be further from their mind.

These people had to leave school whilst still in short trousers or because, well, because their school wasn't there any more because a bomb landed on it, and by the time it was rebuilt they were too old to go back. They remember food rationing, and how their parents did without to make food go further and they know very well that it's the elderly who suffer most when it's cold - because they remember what happened to their own grandparents - so they're more than a little scared for their future, although won't openly admit it, not in so many words.

Even though there was a welcoming cake or plate of biscuits and the necessary cup of tea in a cup with a saucer, almost each one of the senior Rigbys has, this winter, been forced to make the economic decision to either keep their home at a comfortable temperature or maintain a decent diet of cooked meals. There's no happy medium because they're all on small incomes, and have increasingly high bills to pay, and what little savings they managed to put by during their working life are vanishing rapidly because interest rates are so low and they themselves are incapable of keeping pace with new, better, accounts the banks and building societies might decide to  organise. When they try to discuss their difficulties at the premises of either building societies or banks they are either given leaflets written so small they're impossible to read, are told to go online, or are advised to pick up a telephone and navigate a lengthy user-unfriendly press-button process. Nobody wants to help them face to face, especially not the elderly men.

It's sad to realise that many of those in either power or authority have forgotten the older generation in the rush to modernise or change, and now these older people  have even more worries because they have learned of plans meaning that, if they leave assets of more than £23k, their 'estate' will be taxed to pay for their 'elderly care' - when they already have to pay proper wage rates for any home support they might need.

I wonder what they do in Scotland?

The current elderly generation have been sold short. They've lived through terrible times and have worked and been taxed all their lives. They are frightened to think that, in order to reduce a luxurious 'estate' to less than £23k, it's necessary to dispose of your home and any valuables at least 7 years before death.

Few have the advantage of knowing their death date in advance, which is why such a disgusting tax will hurt young and old alike, and more especially the old who only want to make sure there's a bit of cash and a few trinkets to pass onto the next generation - their final gift to their family.

So much for 'Labour' being the political party of the working (wo)man!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

RIP Dick Francis 1920-2010

Dick Francis has died today, aged 89, "of old age" according to a spokesman.
Others can tell his life story far better than Mrs R, so I'll leave them to it.
Telegraph - Dick Francis 
Times - Dick Francis 
and more related to his racing career in Sporting Life 
We Rigbys enjoyed his novels, they showed a spark of humour as well as a love of the racing world.

A* rejections.

In an article that details how some high achieving applicants are, this year, being rejected by all five of their choices it is claimed that this may be because they attend Private Schools :
In some cases, pupils predicted to get three A*s at A-level – along with a string of perfect GCSE results – are being turned down from all five of their choices.
In response ...
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, denied that private school pupils faced discrimination.
“Although admissions are rightly a matter for individual institutions, the Government is committed to ensuring that entry to university is determined by aptitude, potential and merit, not where a student was educated,” ...
Maybe they hadn't read this
Universities have been given the green light to vary the A-level grades expected from applicants depending on the schools they attend.

Valentine's Day television.

Valentine's Day 2010 on the television (quoting Radio Times) -
10:15pm - 11:15pm
"Tony Blair was interviewed by Fern Britton, erstwhile giggling matron of This Morning, and that turned out to be explosive. So perhaps we can expect similar fireworks here as Prime Minister Gordon Brown gives his first big election-on-the-way interview to chortling Piers Morgan, a man more noted for asking pneumatic celebs about their boob jobs. What will they talk about, considering Brown has never had breast implants? The Chilcot Inquiry? What he thinks about Katie and Peter's marriage split? It's quite a coup for Morgan, someone who has never knowingly picked up a name without dropping it. (His diaries are packed with gleeful details of his cosy relationship with the Blairs: 22 lunches, six dinners, six interviews, 24 one-to-ones over tea and biscuits.) He says, "I have known Gordon Brown for 15 years... I have been trying to secure a Life Stories interview with [him] since the series was first devised, because he is an absolutely perfect subject for the show."

Radio Times reviewer - Alison Graham 
There have been so many 'leaks' about the content of this programme that many people won't bother because they think they've already seen, and read about, the 'juicy bits'.

It's doubtful that this programme, and indeed others in the same series, will have been unrehearsed. The questions will have been carefully chosen, the responses carefully worded for maximum impact on both the studio audience and television viewers - with the cameras helping out too, to prove and demonstrate empathy.

All television interviews are designed to do something - that 'something' will have been decided in advance, so if this is indeed an "election-on-the-way interview" then everybody involved will have been tasked with showing the interviewee in the best possible light - both visually and emotionally.

They will, no doubt, have been asked to help portray Mr Brown as a nice man, the message might  be, "Vote for me because I'm a nice person who has had tough times, and I'm much nicer than any of the others".

Then there will be the advertising breaks, perhaps these too will be 'on task', in the same way as teachers are advised to intersperse their "talk" with practical activities or diversions that reinforce "the message" of a particular lesson. Perhaps some of those government-sponsored , taxpayer-funded, global warming 'adverts', or something about drinking too much, or even something by a children's charity would help a bit.

All that effort, and all that planning, to make a programme that will be aired on the evening of St. Valentine's Day, when those not engaged in typical 'Valentine' activity might prefer something more to do with relationships - Jeremy Kyle for instance.

Ooh, now there's a thought!