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)

Monday, 31 May 2010

Rules and restrictions.

Nothing new really, except the reasons given, because Rigby Town's Park has 'no ball games' signs almost everywhere, always has had. It's because the place was intended for families and/or grown-ups to take a healthy stroll along tarmacked paths whilst admiring the carefully manicured floral displays rather than doing strenuous physical activity. There's a sports place next to the secondary school where people can run round a track or kick footballs, but can't play golf - which, actually, seems quite sensible. And, of course, Rigby Town's pretty Park isn't labelled "Playing Fields" by the council.

Walsall is a bit different from Rigby Town because Walsall has some 'Playing Fields' (yes, those places you take the kiddies to play) with a lovely 'no ball games' sign. The sign is ...
... for health and safety reasons as part of the park in on a landfill site
It isn't a new sign, and it isn't a brand new regulation either. According to Nigel Ilsley, Walsall Council Parks Manager ...
'A sign saying no ball games was put up a few years ago on Broadway West playing fields after land contamination was discovered at the site.
Crikey! That sounds nasty. There must be lots of fences and great big "Keep out!" and "Contaminated Land!" signs too - to protect people from the dangerous errm, stuff, they found there.

But no, seems not ...
'The playing fields remain popular and a number of events are hosted there but unfortunately we have had to stop ball games taking place on the site for health and safety reasons.

Actually Nigel, that is an absolutely lousy excuse and you know it.

Think it through, will you, just for a moment. Do you understand what "contaminated" means?

It means
impure by exposure to or addition of a poisonous or polluting substance
So, what are you (and Walsall Council) going to do about it? Really going to do about it?
'Walsall Council in conjunction with Walsall Star Sports Club is continuing to explore funding opportunities which would allow us to carry out the necessary work to bring the site back into use.'
Still not good enough Nigel. If the land really is 'contaminated' it should be sealed off, otherwise some clever clogs will work out they can claim damages. If it isn't, and you just want some money to upgrade facilities, then be open about it - and ask properly.

And with that Mrs R will move on to another ban.

In case you haven't noticed, John Ward in Medway has flagged up a Facebook petition to Save the Budgieman. It seems that
... the local council (Southwark) has banned the long-established Budgieman (with a history of more than thirty years, for goodness' sake!) from continuing to perform on the South Bank in London.
Mrs R has no idea why Southwark has made this decision, and she thinks it's a bit mean. So, as she isn't on Facebook so can't join the protest group, she hopes this little bit of publicity will help his cause.
(Picture from the Budgieman's website)

Sunday, 30 May 2010

World War One - pictures of soldiers.

A treasure trove of First World War photographs was discovered recently in France.
So says the Independent.

If you've got a bit of spare time and feel like taking a wander through history why not take a look at the pictures. You never know, you might recognise somebody.

The story, and link to the first set of pictures, is here.

More about the pictures, and zip files for all 400 images here (John Lichfield)

Discussion is here (Independent Minds - Jack Riley).

Saturday, 29 May 2010

A new supermarket, FJF and the taxpayer.

Lauded by those who created it, this scheme was met with scepticism by some, including Faiza Shaheen in the Guardian who said
Without a clear focus, the £1bn fund will remove young people from the claimant count for 6 months only to see them return, more demoralised than ever.
The decision to close the scheme to new bids has been met with some opposition, including Richard Exell over at Liberal Conspiracy, who wrote
The Future Jobs Fund has shown what a Job Guarantee for all unemployed people could be like – it pays the minimum wage (and in some cases a bit more) for work that has to be of benefit to the community to get funding. FJF jobs are real jobs: they may only be temporary, but workers have the same employment rights – and duties – as any other workers.
So, let's look back at what FJF was supposed to do
The Future Jobs Fund is a fund of around £1 billion to support the creation of jobs for long term unemployed young people and others who face significant disadvantage in the labour market.

These will be aimed primarily at 18-24 year olds who have been out of work for a year.

If your organisation creates a new job, we will cover the cost of that post, at national minimum wage levels, for 25 hours a week over six months.
It does sound good, doesn't it. But ... there's always a 'but' somewhere or other and the Telegraph found it in July 2009
The list of new vacancies - most of which will be filled by 18-24 year olds - will include sports coaches, classroom assistants and social carers, department sources said last night.

However, in a move that attracted claims that public money is being wasted on "soft jobs", others include positions for forestry workers, loft laggers and child carers.

Jobs based around refurbishing council houses and in local recycling projects are also to be created.

"Soft jobs like these would be indulgent even in good economic times let alone in the current climate."
young adults who have been unemployed for a year will be forced to take one of the new jobs - or a place on another government training scheme - or have their benefits cut.
It sounds to Mrs R as if it was a bit like an extension of the work experience schools ensure their students do, but for a bit longer and with the benefit of a wage of some sort. Not a bad idea, on the whole, as long as those being pushed into work have some say over what they do. It wouldn't be very fair, for example, if they were made to do a job just because the job was there and it was something they had no interest in. And it wouldn't be right if they felt they were being used by an employer.

The scheme, on the surface at least, seemed to be offering a genuine opportunity to experience going to work, and all it entails, for a period of at least six months - and for it to be something useful to the individual as well as the local community. But, no point discussing it really, because it's in the past isn't it?

And that's why you're probably wondering what this post is about. You're probably wondering why Mrs Rigby has bothered to write about a scheme that's being dismantled. We know the coalition government has decided that no further bids will be accepted, although existing commitments will be honoured?

Well, it's because Mrs R read this in today's Telegraph. It's about a brand new, soon to be opened, 'co-operative supermarket' in London, which is to be the subject of a television documentary.

The article explains how this new supermarket is to be staffed entirely by volunteers who, in return for paying £25 to join the club and working hard, will be allowed to claim a 10% discount on anything they buy and benefit from member's only 'artificially low prices', such as "£1.85 to ordinary shoppers: £1 to members, loaf of bread".

Anyhow, the owner of the new shop needed 500 people to join, pay their £25 subscriptions, and commit to working one four-hour shift each month. So far there are only 110 names on his list, which isn't enough.

He isn't, however, in the least worried about trying to run a commercial business that relies on non-existent volunteers or volunteers who might forget to turn up, because
He is allowing for a 30 per cent no-show from volunteers, and intends to plug the gap with 18-24 year olds on the Future Jobs Fund.
Errrm ...?

And that, you see, is what left Mrs Rigby scratching her head, because it seems to her that this is either against the principle of the FJF concept or it's against the principle of the volunteer-run co-operative supermarket.

You see, Mrs R can't get her head round the business plan. She can understand how the idea of the supermarket is praised because, except for management, it's to be staffed by volunteers and run as a volunteers' co-operative. Members of the co-operative will choose what goes onto the shelves, although if their choices are too whacky (or uncommercial) they can be overruled by management. Then, if there aren't enough volunteers the owner of the co-operative plans (planned?) to plug the gaps by 'employing' young people who were to be paid by the taxpayer, via FJF. Either that or he's expecting these young people to do the same as all the rest, and be volunteers.

The owner goes on to explain why he hasn't managed to recruit enough volunteers.
"People keep on saying 'I can't spare the time' and 'What's in it for me?'," he says. "The minute they ask 'What's in it for me,' you know there is no point explaining the point."
So, Mrs R wondered what might be "in it" for anybody, anybody at all - including herself and the rest of the Rigby family. Selfish, isn't she?

According to the figures quoted in the article (and, initially, blithely ignoring that pesky 30% quoted - because there aren't enough volunteers) let's look at the figures. The business owner needs 500 volunteers, each working 4 hours a month. This makes 24,000 hours worth of volunteer staff over a year (12(500x4)=24,000) - which ends up at about 16.5 hours a day over 363 days - but up to the time the article was written has only 4,800 hours worth of volunteers ( (100 volunteers x 4 hours)x12 ). The shortfall is around 19,200 hours, significantly more than the 30% quoted, which could to be staffed, and funded, by the taxpayer via FJF.

Minimum wage for 18-21 yrs = £4.83 per hour.
It would cost £92,736 to employ FJF-funded staff aged 18-21 for 19,200 hours

Minimum wage for workers aged 22 years and older = £5.80 per hour
It would cost £111,360 to employ staff age 22 years or older for 19,200 hours.

But that's being silly and alarmist, so let's go back to the 30% shortfall that was mentioned earlier. 30% of the total 24,000 hours is 7,200 hours. Wages for FJF at an average of £5.31 = £38,268 - which is a whole lot less scary.

It could be how much the taxpayer would be paying to staff the nice new co-operative supermarket with 18-24 year olds, and it could be money the owner of the business never planned to spend on staff wages, because they planned for all their staff to be volunteers who would each pay £25 each to join the club and then work four hours a month and get cheaper food. The paid employees would be state funded via FJF.

So Mrs R wonders if this 'co-operative' was actually going to be 'state run', or not? You see, to her unbusinesslike eye (and she knows she's repeating herself) it would seem that, apart from management, the plan was that any 'temporary permanent' staff (i.e. not volunteers who only work 4 hours a month) were to be sourced from the pool of unemployed young people targetted by FJF, and whose minimum wage wages are paid by the taxpayer. And, you know, somehow that doesn't seem altogether right, so Mrs R is sure she's got the wrong idea - unless, of course, as a taxpayer she could turn up, fill a basket with food and demand a discount.

The idea of FJF was that long term unemployed young people and others who face significant disadvantage in the labour market would be employed, possibly even compulsorily employed for at least six months. There isn't anything, at least not at first glance, that says these 18-24 year-olds could be forced to be unpaid volunteers instead of earning money, and there isn't a suggestion that they should be used to provide temporary but full time, semi-permanent, staff for a permanent business, which would then be funded by the public purse.

Or was that bit hidden somewhere amongst the pages and pages of small print rules and regulations?

And maybe that is one of the reasons why FJF had to go.

A change of climate at the Royal Society.

Bishop Hill points out in several recent posts that the Royal Society is to fully rewrite its statement about climate change.

This seems to have happened because 43 Fellows of the Royal Society
... complained that it had oversimplified its messages.

They said the communications did not properly distinguish between what was widely agreed on climate science and what is not fully understood.
One Fellow who said he was not absolutely convinced of the dangers of CO2 told me: "This [RS pamphlet 'Climate Change Controversies'] appears to suggest that anyone who questions climate science is malicious. But in science everything is there to be questioned - that should be the very essence of the Royal Society. Some of us were very upset about that.

"I can understand why this has happened - there is so much politically and economically riding on climate science that the society would find it very hard to say 'well, we are still fairly sure that greenhouse gases are changing the climate' but the politicians simply wouldn't accept that level of honest doubt."
The result is a carefully worded statement from the Royal Society "New guide to science of climate change", with this as the closing paragraph:
There is a wide variety of views across the Fellowship on any active area of science, not just climate science, and this diversity is an essential component of the testing that scientific knowledge must always undergo. Any public perception that science is somehow fully settled is wholly incorrect – there is always room for new observations, theories, measurements, etc. However, the existence of some uncertainty does not mean that scientific results have no significance or consequences, or should not be acted upon. The enormous beneficial impact of science over the last 350 years is testament to the success of this balancing of uncertainty with action in the application of science.
The Times suggests that Rebel scientists force Royal Society to accept climate change scepticism and the Telegraph says Royal Society to publish guide on climate change to counter claims of 'exaggeration'.

In the light of the Royal Society's decision to acknowledge that different scientists (of equal calibre) can and do interpret results differently, and are capable of having informed differences of opinion and debate, can anybody truly say, "The science is settled", and call those of a different opinion 'deniers' and 'flat-earthers'?

It will be interesting to see what happens next, and how world governments will react.

Gordon's Gift to the House of Lords

The previous Prime Minister (the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP) undertook a process to recommend to the Queen new party-political life peerages. This consisted of working peers from each party and, as is customary at the end of a Parliament, a dissolution list for former MPs.

Mrs Rigby has chosen to show pictures of three of our soon-to-be Peers, chosen for three very different reasons.

Mr John Leslie Prescott. (picture Telegraph) Reported to have said that he would reject the offer of a peerage, but his wife Pauline changed his mind.

Mrs Rigby found this picture of soon-to-be-a-Peer Ian Paisley in the Guardian. Depending on your point of view he either rightly stood his ground or blocked progress, but in the end negotiated with long term enemy, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness. His son, also Ian, is now MP for North Antrim.

Sir Ian Blair. Ex-Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. The BBC says His attempt to cling to office was ultimately futile; confidence drained away, friends beyond government were hard to find. Picture BBC

The Labour Party claimed it would modernise the House of Lords.

Each of the people named in Mr Brown's list of new Peers will have their say in how Britain is governed, and will be paid a daily allowance to attend the House of Lords. They will have this right for the rest of their lives.

For ease, here is a quick view of the full list of new peerages. (Mail)

Oh, and Michael Howard, who is listed as "former Home Secretary, and held other senior posts in government and opposition" was also leader of the Conservative Party between 2003 and 2005 and was, therefore, Leader of the Opposition. Maybe that's what whoever drew up the list means by 'other senior posts'.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Labour leadership #1

Mr David Miliband

Born 15th July 1965, brother to Edward Miliband.
Studied PPE at Corpus Christi, Oxford, with further studies in Political Science at MIT.
Worked at the Institute of Policy Studies Institute for Public Policy Research*.
Became Mr Blair's Head of Policy in 1994.
First elected to Parliament in 2001.
Promoted to Schools Minister in 2002, swiftly followed by posts as Cabinet Office Minister, then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
In 2007 he was appointed Foreign Secretary and took his charms overseas.

He managed to annoy :-

Russia - in September 2008, when he was
subjected to 'F-word' tirade from Russian foreign minister Mr Lavrov [who] objected to being lectured by the British.
It would seem that Mr Lavrov also
asked Mr Miliband in equally blunt terms whether he knew anything of Russia's history
It is not the first time Mr Miliband and his Russian counterpart have clashed. Last year, Mr Lavrov retaliated to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from London by closing British Council offices in Russia.
You'd think, maybe, Mr Miliband would have been a bit more careful after that, but no.

India, January 2009
the Foreign Secretary's visit to India last week was labelled a "disaster" by the country's leading politicians.

He was accused of being "aggressive in tone and manner" in a meeting with the Indian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and dismissed as a "young man" by senior officials.
So Mandelson tried the rescue the situation. But ...
It left the impression of the Cabinet veteran being forced to clean up after the mess left by his "novice" younger colleague in India, a country which places huge emphasis on respect for elders.

The shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said yesterday: "It is becoming clear that David Miliband's India tour was a serious diplomatic disaster. To have to be rescued by Lord Mandelson adds political humiliation on top of that."

Not satisfied with having irritated both Russia and India, Mr Miliband managed to get Sri Lankans to burn his effigy. This was in May 2009.

We learn (from NotaSheep) that Mr David Miliband has sufficient sponsors for his bid to become leader of the Labour Party to go ahead. It would seem that 54 of his fellow MPs believe he is the best person to lead the Labour Party and, if they were to win a general election, would be pleased to see him become Prime Minister.

It's quite a chilling thought really, but surely by then he would be older, and wiser and may have gained a little more life experience and humility.

See comments


It'll never happen, but Mrs Rigby imagined how she would feel if she was invited to take part in a televised discussion and, for whatever reason, declined. Because that's always the option, isn't it - there's "Yes" and "No" in response to an invitation.

If she said, "No," would her potential host mind? Would they worry about losing such a useful contribution to their debate? Would they try to persuade her, sweet talk her and offer gifts? Would they bemoan their loss, and prop her photo on an empty seat?

Would they say, "Okay then, we'll get somebody else," and get on with making their programme? Or would they do what the BBC did yesterday, when ex-journalist and never-been-an-MP Alastair Campbell appeared on Question Time to 'represent' the Labour Party, and the Coalition government decided not to field a high powered government minister to balance his opinions?

The programme went ahead, as planned. The BBC wouldn't, obviously, cancel a long-running show solely because they couldn't persuade somebody very important to turn up and sit on one of their seats. The other panellists, by the way, were ex-politician Susan Kramer (defeated ex-MP), Piers Morgan (TV presenter, journalist), Sir Max Hastings (journalist) and John Redwood (MP for Wokingham)

The BBC has allowed this one programme, and one 'rejection' to take on a life of its' own, and to become more important than it really is. The BBC has made a fuss, and has allowed Mr Campbell to make a fuss too.

In short the BBC has allowed itself to become the news, instead of merely reporting the news.

It seems that the BBC, and Mr Campbell, were unhappy to have such an experienced serving politician as John Redwood on their panel because they had wanted somebody much more important - and they have been petulant, and Mr Campbell has been petulant too, even though it wasn't his show, they weren't his invitations.

Alistair Campbell - who has his own blog, just the same sort of self-opinionated thing as Mrs R and loads of other non-MPs, knows he's very important because his partner is Fiona Miller, who was Cherie Blair's advisor, and because he was as the BBC says "the most famous press secretary the UK has ever seen" - ended the show by holding up a picture of the politician he had wanted to confront. So was it his show, or was it the BBC's show?

So, after all this, would Mrs Rigby ever hope to be invited to appear on that, or indeed any other show produced by that particular broadcaster?

No, she wouldn't. Not ever, because she's wonder why she had been invited. She'd wonder what the agenda was.

You see, the BBC is meant to be the British Broadcasting Corporation and it isn't meant to be self-serving. It is funded by compulsory license fees and also receives state funding, from taxation. The BBC is meant to be politically neutral, and it is meant to be balanced in its output, and its' political shows are meant to help keep the public abreast of developments and controversies.

The BBC justifies its actions in a news article, which says
David Dimbleby said he would have "expected" to have had a government minister on the panel in the week that it unveiled its legislative agenda for the year ahead in the Queen's Speech.

And, you know, so would Mrs Rigby. And Mrs Rigby would also have "expected" to see other politicians on the panel alongside that government minister.

But the BBC, in it's wisdom, and to balance the words of that now vilified cabinet minister, put together a panel that did not include an opposition MP, not even a junior one, did not include a Scottish or Welsh MP. Did they ask Mr Salmond to be on their show? They don't say - and that silence says quite a lot.

The BBC put together a panel of journalists and ex-journalists, and they did it because they could.
[David Dimbleby] said it was up to "us on Question Time to decide who should be on the programme ..."

And the BBC did decide, and sent out invitations, and at least one of their invitations was refused.

What were their contingency plans? Did they want the programme to be a serious political discussion, or did they merely want a government minister to be dissected by journalists?

A good host is a gracious host and learns to accept rejection.

When somebody is cornered, when they know they have made the wrong decision there are two things they can do. One is to concede gracefully and admit there was a mistake, the other is to turn on the offensive and make it appear to be somebody else's fault.

Mrs Rigby thinks the BBC was wrong, very wrong, to put together such a panel in such an important week. The BBC's choice of panellists belittled the importance of the new government, belittled the importance of their policies and opinions - because the BBC only thought it was worth getting journalists and ex-MPs to discuss matters of crucial interest to Britain and Britain's future.

The BBC should be asking itself why it hadn't invited either of the Milibands, either of the Balls/Cooper family. The BBC should question why Harriet Harman wasn't on the panel, or Mr Straw, or Mr Prescott, or Mr Blunkett - or even the Mr Brown, ex-Prime Minister.

The BBC should also consider whether they truly believe a journalist, any journalist, is of equal value and importance as any democratically elected politician.

It it time, Mrs Rigby thinks, for the BBC to take a long hard look at itself and for some of its highly paid journalists to investigate their own egos.

Thirsk and Malton

Voters at Thirsk and Malton (in Yorkshire) elected Conservative Anne McIntosh to take the final seat in the new parliament.

Votes cast were as follows:
* Conservative - 20,167 (52.87%)
* Liberal Democrat - 8,886 (23.30%)
* Labour - 5,169 (13.55%)
* UKIP - 2,502 (6.56%)
* Liberal - 1,418 (3.72%)
Turnout was 50.3%, with 38,142 votes cast.

According to the BBC the 'notional results' of the 2005 election would have been
Conservative - 51.9%
Labour - 23.4%
Liberal Democrat - 18.8%
Others - 5.9%
Based on those figures, and according to BBC, Labour should have pulled in 11,585 votes, so didn't do at all well. The Conservatives increased their percentage vote, the Lib Dems must be delighted with the result and the 'other parties' polled more than anticipated - so it looks as if previously Labour voters have switched their allegiance and been brave enough to support what were minotiry parties.

Whichever member of which Labour family ends up leading the party, they need to take a careful look at this result, and work out what went so badly wrong. Perhaps they will also need to understand that a 'coalition' may have, at long last, freed the country from the rotating two party system.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Linking Dunkirk and Afghanistan

Mrs Rigby read this comment in the Mail.
Your photograph shows MTB 102. My great friend Commander Christopher Dreyer RN commanded her at Dunkirk as a Lieutenant aged 21. Talking about Dunkirk, he would not mention the dangers, but simply the practical difficulties of steering a course through the minefields.

A few years ago I would have said that they don't make them like that any more, but Iraq and Afghanistan have proved me wrong - and Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe, killed in Afghanistan last year, was Christopher Dreyer's grandson.
No comment needed, except to offer a link to Commander Christopher Dreyer's obituary and that of and Lieutenant-Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, both in the Telegraph.


Here's the Dreyer / Thorneloe genealogy

Read about MTB 102 here and here


Dunkirk 70 years on

Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Dunkirk, which began on May 27th 1940 has been marked by a flotilla of little ships that left Ramsgate this morning to make the crossing, taking with them some who will take part in ceremonies and services in France.

Pictures from the Mail.

And a timely reminder, also from the Mail, that the 338,000 troops might not have been able to get back to Britain had not some stayed behind to deter the advancing German Army.

Read about them here

The aftermath of the Le Paradis massacre, which saw 97 British prisoners killed after surrendering to SS troops on May 27, 1940.

Which is why, even today, the survivors shed a tear - for their friends who didn't make if off the beaches, and those whose lives were sacrificed so others could get home.

Nobody, anywhere, has the right to tell men like these to 'forget' and 'move on'.

They are the ones who had the courage to go back, on or close to D-Day, and face what had previously beaten them.

And they did. And they won.

The men pictured are in their early nineties now. They were not always old, they would have been a little more than twenty at the time of their escape from the beaches of Dunkirk.


Not many people seem to mention the other two major evacuations of 1940.

Operation Cycle, which saw 11,000 British and Allied forces evacuated from 10th June onwards, and Operation Ariel which between 14th and 25th June managed to get 215,000 Allied soldiers out of France through Cherbourg and St Malo.

Evacuations ended with the signing of the French armistice on 25th June.

More about Operation Dynamo here

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Nowhere for the grown-ups.

First of all Labour freed up the licensing trade, and said pubs etc. could be open for 24 hours a day if they wanted.

That was nice, everybody said, no need to apply for late licenses and so on, it'll make it easier for clubs and pubs and late-night venues. People will be able to go for a drink, and won't try to rush drinking several pints as quickly as possible before the closing time bell rings. It'll make people more responsible, more careful.

So, people took advantage of being able to drink for 24 hours a day, they could choose when to go and have a drink because there was no need for the pub to close at 11:00 pm if the landlord didn't want to.

Somewhere along the line came the dire warnings - drink is evil, drinking too much will kill you. They even managed to reduce the amount for what was 'too much' - which kept the statistics at the right level.

Of course the smoking ban arrived too, even though they'd promised it wouldn't happen. People could still go to a pub/bar/club any time they wanted to but couldn't smoke indoors, they had to go outside. Not many people really want to stand outside in the rain, not even the most hardened smoker and certainly not those who have never before smoked a cigarette outside, on the street.

So, after having a meal at home, going out for a quick drink and a natter with other 'locals' stopped being a nice thing to do - and local pubs started paying the penalty, and closed. Places that had been local 'watering holes' for hundreds of years - closed, possibly for ever.

But the 24 hour licensing remained - an illusion of freedom.

Remember Mr Brown's article, written when he was a mere 11 years of age?

It does make Mrs Rigby wonder if the initial illusion of freedom was nothing more than a sleight of hand concealing the long term plan to destroy the traditional pub trade, and only because a certain abstemious Presbyterian preferred to see all drinking stopped, all easy socialising stopped and along with it a 'British' tradition - because the pub is/was quintessentially British.

Have you noticed that, apart from the trendy establishments catering solely for the youth market, many of the remaining pubs tend to be 'family friendly', with kiddie menus offering burgers and bangers and, of course, a 'vegetarian option' along with healthy fruit drinks?

The pub now seems to be the place to take a family for a meal, it is no longer a retreat for adults - who now have nowhere to go for a couple of hours in the evening, after all the cafés and coffee shops have closed.

Have you tried visiting your still open 'local' recently - for a quiet drink with some friends? What's the betting that if you do you'll find a large room set out as a restaurant, not a comfy chair in sight, and nowhere for the casual drinker to sit and chat, and outside meal times it will be empty.

Quite a social revolution isn't it, and it only took a few years.


In pictures, from BBC

And, according to the Telegraph
The global credit system is flashing the most serious warning signals in almost a year on triple fears of a Spanish banking crisis, escalating political risk in Asia, and a second leg to the US housing slump.
So maybe UK journalists have stopped being distracted by the new government, and the period of apparent calm between the election and yesterday's Queen's Speech. At least they're now catching up with the blogosphere and are writing about the financial situation that will affect us all.

But it might not, eventually, be all gloom and doom, as Simon Heffer says
... we may indeed be about to see an economic debacle of unprecedented proportions in the recent history of the developed world. We shall just have to steel ourselves for it. It may, though, have the legacy of ending the neo-sovietisation of our continent, and allowing a resurgence of democracy in Europe and among European peoples; which would prove, at last, that every cloud does indeed have a silver lining.

Schools and 'Academies'

Mrs Rigby is finding it hard to understand why there is opposition to the proposals to allow schools to become 'Academies' - when the last government thought they were a wonderful idea.

According to the BBC former schools secretary Ed Balls
warned it would produce a two-tier system
Odd that he didn't notice this 'two tier system' when he was schools secretary.

And the Unions?
The NASUWT teachers' union claims the policy will "disenfranchise democratically-elected local councils".
Haven't either of these people noticed that the private sector, which is largely free of local council 'enfranchisement' are quite successful and get good results?

Not, of course, that any possible turnaround would happen overnight, because there's still a little problem of people like these, who are, Mrs Rigby thinks, the ones who need less power and more control and need to be able to follow rules so they become decent adults.

Maybe what's already happened at one school in Grimsby should be used as an example of what can happen, and quite quickly too. And it happened, by the way, under Labour - so Mr Balls should do his homework.
At Havelock Academy attendance has improved from 89.8 per cent to 94.8 per cent in the two years that it has been open and GCSE results of A* to C, including English and maths, have increased from 23 per cent to 41 per cent.

Children's money

The media tried hard to whip up a storm of indignation about the demise of "Child Trust Funds", former Home Secretary David Blunkett even said that scrapping the funds was 'an act of betrayal' - although he didn't say who was being betrayed.

The storm didn't really happen. Let's see why.

The payments started in 2002 and a nice website in nine languages made sure everybody knew their entitlement. All ...
Eligible children born on or after 6 April 2005 will receive their £250 voucher shortly after Child Benefit has been claimed and starts being paid.

As well as the Child Trust Fund (CTF) voucher, children in families with lower incomes will get an additional payment from the Government.
Those on lower incomes (and receiving benefits) were eligible for an additional £250.

Then, at age 7
Your child will get a £250 Age 7 payment. And if you were receiving the maximum amount of child tax credits, (or its equivalent, if you claimed Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance) when your child had their 7th birthday, your child will get an additional £250.
So, if the parents were receiving state benefits their child would get £500 at age 7, but those whose parents were paying income tax would only get £250 - seemed a bit unbalanced really.

The theory behind it was, of course, a noble one - give a child a nest egg and parents will be encouraged to add to it, but back in 2005 Barry Collins described opening an account with the voucher as a paperwork nightmare.

We Rigbys always thought it was a bit mean that babies were being given money for being born whilst at the same time older 'children' were being forced to pay whopping amounts of money to go to university and pensioners were having their pensions payments taxed.

So, they've gone. And good riddance? It would seem so, according to Tony Hazell
I never saw why I should effectively be asked to write a cheque for £250 to someone else's child.

On a professional level, CTFs are a jaw- dropping waste of public money, poorly targeted and not even popular among those they are aimed at.

How else can you explain that almost a quarter of people - 23 pc - couldn't be bothered to cash their voucher and had the money invested by the Government on their child's behalf?

Then there is the prospect of a generation of 18-year-olds being handed a cheque to do with as they will - a great deal for used car dealers and publicans, but a crying shame for the rest of us.

Sections of the investment industry were doing well out of them, charging 1.5 pc a year for basic tracker funds.

CTFs were saddling future generations with £320 million-ayear of debt - plus interest on the cost of borrowing the money.

In effect, Labour was handing out gifts of borrowed money to children then leaving them to foot the bill.
So, good riddance then, to another bad scheme.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010


If Brown had not sold much of Britain's gold, British taxpayers would be nearly £6 billion better off. Not to mention having an important monetary asset that might help protect the British pound as its sovereign debt faces a possible credit rating downgrade and fiscal deficits and red ink as far as the eye can see.

Having that £6 billion worth of gold reserves would mean that the pain that we all feel as taxpayers in footing the bill for the follies of the government and the banking system would be significantly less. And it would protect sterling from falling in value in international markets leading to inflation.
Quoting Nick Leeson in an interview with Mark O’Byrne at The Market Oracle

Read the rest, it's interesting.

h/t Demetrius in a comment at Anna Raccoon

At the seaside.

A day at the seaside sounds good, and it is good for some children because it can be somewhere to relax and have a bit of old-fashioned fun. Building sandcastles with turrets and moats, and trying to beat the incoming tide. Working out how to skim stones, and being best at it. Figuring out a way to pull that huge crab out of the water and get it into a bucket.

Paddling along the water's edge should be fun too - hopping over the waves, standing still and seeing how long it takes for your toes to be buried by sand. It should be safe too, because all parents know the perils of water and the erratic power of waves.

Not so one family who took their daughter to Porthcawl.
The floating body of Samayh Ali was spotted by a passer-by who dragged her from the water onto the beach.

The anonymous life saver the gave the toddler mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and CPR until she spluttered and started breathing again.
Good job the little girl wasn't spotted by this chap.

'Just sitting' by the sea can be good too, there's something mesmerising about moving water, there's always something to see and, of course, we all know to protect ourselves from the hot sun and make sure our children's delicate skin is not damaged by those nasty rays.

But, all the preaching, all the posters, all the TV ads - just what's the point? They've been at it for donkey's years but it seems that at least one 29 year old mother has never noticed any health warnings.

At Brighton
‘An ambulance was called for the five-month-old baby who was visiting Brighton from London with his 29-year-old mother.

Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) intervened after they saw the boy on Brighton seafront on Sunday afternoon as temperatures reached 25c.

‘Paramedics who attended the scene believed the boy was suffering from 20 per cent burns to his body.
So, maybe some PCSOs are useful after all.

Oh, and afterwards?

The little girl was ...
"taken to hospital by ambulance for check-ups but was well enough to be allowed home"
The baby?
Sussex Police have passed information regarding the un-named mother, from Plumstead, south London, to the Metropolitan Police.
but ...
A spokesman for the Met Police could not confirm whether an investigation would be conducted.

Crop circles

Maybe they're made by aliens, maybe they're made by a gang of night-working, crop-wrecking vandals. Mrs R isn't too bothered because she actually thinks they're rather good, although she's never seen one for herself.

According to the Mail the latest one to appear, in Wiltshire, has been decoded by mathematicians as has the earlier one near Old Sarum.

Mathematicians reckon it could represent Euler's Theorem e^(i)pi+1=0

Here's the 'handy' explanation.

There was this one from Barbury Castle.

Apparently astrophysicist Mike Reed
"realised it represented the first 10 digits of pi (3.141592654)"

Mrs R is pleased to admit she could reel off all those numbers, although she hasn't needed to use pi for some time. She has to admit she's a tad sceptical about these 'handy' explanations - because these graphics would be brilliant for kids to colour in.

All pictures are all from the Mail, but there are are some more at ukcropcircles

So, full circle back to the beginning of this post. Mrs R hasn't a clue how these things are made, but she's always thought it a bit odd that if people are responsible they choose the time of year with the shortest nights in which to carry out their artwork - which always covers several acres of land, and would require huge amounts of preplanning, probably lots of practice and teamwork - all done silently so as not to alert landowners, because they always seem to be made without anybody noticing.

Do you believe this story?
“A car drew out and she managed to pull into the empty space and got out and joined the crowd of other people who were also watching what was happening. "There was an apparition, an isolated mist over it and as the circle was getting bigger the mist was rising above the circle. As the mist rose it got bigger and corn circle got bigger."

“There was a mist was about 2-3 feet off the ground and it was sort of spinning around and on the ground a circular shape was appearing which seemed to get bigger and bigger as simultaneously the mist get bigger and bigger and swirled faster."

"It was gradual and you are standing there and you are thinking what is going on and everyone is discussing it and more and more traffic is building up and everything and you just think that all the time you don't really realise what is happening and then you think then that's it and the thing is getting bigger and you are thinking of the beginning and end. But you don't realise what you are looking at. I didn’t understand what was happening."

"The mist wasn't anything from the ground as there was a clear space between the ground and the mist. There was no wind and no dust (she is an asthmatic). It was strangest thing I have ever seen. It was a calm summer’s day.”

Who does make them. Is it aliens, is it vandals ... or is it a bunch of mathematicians?

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Messrs. Ed have something to say.

So both Messrs Ed have tried to enhance their chances of being elected as the new leader of the Labour Party by saying they "condemn Iraq invasion"

At least that's what it says in the Mail. It says the same in other newspapers too, so it must be right.

If the invasion of Iraq was so wrong Mr Edward Miliband should explain why he voted "strongly against an inquiry". He voted so strongly that each time the matter was raised in Parliament - he said, "No!"

And Mr Edward Balls? Well, he wasn't an MP at the time but according to John Rentoul he still managed to play a part.
Though not yet elected as an MP, Mr Balls – as Mr Brown’s adviser – was party to top level discussions after attempts to get a second UN Security Council resolution failed.

“I was in the room when a decision was taken that we would say it was that dastardly Frenchman, Jacques Chirac, who had scuppered it. It wasn’t really true, you know. I said to Gordon: 'I know why you’re doing this, but you’ll regret it’. France is a very important relationship for us.”

Good job M. Chirac didn't ever get to hear about it, could have soured relationships between Britain and France.

Ah! Oops!

Even though he is no longer President of France, M. Chirac is still very important, and probably keeps an eye out for what people in other countries are saying about him and his country. Clever of Mr Ed Balls to put something like that in the newspapers.

But, we've heard this buck-passing somewhere before, because the ahem, "Credit Crunch" was America's fault. What's the betting it was a useful thing to do, handy get-out clause sort of thing.

But okay chaps. You've had your little joke. It's time to be serious. We know from Mr Blair that there were no 'weapons of mass desctruction' and we know Mr Brown told at least one lot of lies to both Chilcot and to Parliament. It doesn't stretch the imagination to think there might have been others that haven't yet come to light.

So, what do we know?

In Britain we're never really told the whole story about military casualties, so let's see what CNN has to say about Iraq
There have been 4,718 coalition deaths --
4,402 Americans,
2 Australians,
1 Azerbaijani,
179 Britons,
13 Bulgarians,
1 Czech,
7 Danes,
2 Dutch,
2 Estonians,
1 Fijian,
5 Georgians,
1 Hungarian,
33 Italians,
1 Kazakh,
3 Latvians,
22 Poles,
3 Romanians,
5 Salvadoran,
4 Slovaks,
1 South Korean,
11 Spaniards,
2 Thai
18 Ukrainians
-- in the Iraq war as of May 14, 2010, according to a CNN count.

The list below is the names of the soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and Coast Guardsmen whose deaths have been reported by their country's governments. The list also includes 14 U.S. Defense Department civilian employees.

At least 31,810 U.S. troops have been wounded in action, according to the Pentagon.
The BBC only tells us that there were 179 British military fatalities. Guessing, by using similar proportions to the US military death:casualties then perhaps 1,293 British troops were seriously injured.

The Iraq Body Count Project (IBC) estimates there have been 95,888 – 104,595 violent civilian deaths as a result of the conflict. Other sources tell a different story, with ORB estimating over a million violent deaths as a result of the conflict.

There were many demonstrations against the Iraq War, with millions of people taking to the streets all round the world

All those people involved in a war. All those lives lost, all those injuries.

And Messrs Balls and Miliband reckon it was all a bit of a mistake.

Could they say the same in front of David Kelly's family?

So, maybe it'll be post-meritocratic and not a 'white [man] in their 40s' Diane Abbot for leader.

That'll be fun.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Is Katla waking up?

EU Referendum suggests it might be, and points towards this chart - which doesn't tell Mrs Rigby very much, so she went to see if there was anything else.

Katla is, by the way, a volcano next to that unpronounceable one that's been rumbling away and spitting out dust and ash for quite some time. Katla is very much larger than Eyjafjallajökul and
The three times in recorded history when Eyjafjallajökull has erupted, its neighbor, the much larger Katla, has followed suit.
And there's more, from ScienceRay.
Locals believe Katla will erupt in seven days ... because ... Activity at Katla has risen 200% in the last two days.
They should know, they live there.

Here's what's been happening today, 21st May 2010.
Katla has had 4 earthquakes in the last 12 hours! 5 total quakes in the last 24 hours if you count the one that occurred in the very short distance between the west side of Katla and east side of Eyja. This is the most earthquakes I recall seeing at Katla since the March eruptions started at Eyjafjallajokull.

These earthquakes are our built in warning system for an eruption and if this keeps up, we will see action soon. Also, not out of the ordinary for an active volcano, but worth mentioning…quake activity at Eyja has increased greatly over the time period of the new Katla quakes. Keep in mind these are baby sized quakes, but when they are swarming under an active, or soon to be active volcano, it is very serious.
Not far from this pair of volcanoes, and on the same fault line, is another one - called Laki.

Laki erupted in 1783 - destroying crops and killing livestock and people, it's estimated that 23,000 people died in Britain alone. Read about it here, it's interesting if slightly disconcerting.

Oh, and there's Hekla/Hecla too - the one that's lent the name to several Royal Navy vessels.

Hmm, Mrs R certainly isn't clairvoyant, but her 'prediction for 2010' (a family thing on New Year's Day) was that there will be huge volcanic eruptions and maybe even more earthquakes - it was meant as a bit of a joke, she'd have been happy to be wrong. So, can they stop now.


Insp Gadget is cross.

On 19th May 2010, a Police Officer was stabbed twice in the stomach during a robbery at a bookmakers in Berkshire.

A man was arrested and later charged.

Inspector Gadget isn't impressed, and neither are members of Thames Valley or Surrey Police.

Here's why ...
In 2006, Kes Nattriss was sentenced to seven years and nine months in prison for a spree of attacks on off-licences in Woking and Bracknell.

Nattriss robbed 10 shops over a period of 12 days after jumping bail for a racist attack in March in Guildford during which he threatened a man and kicked and spat at his car in front of the victim’s terrified teenage son.

This means that he should have been in prison until 2014. But it’s 2010 isn’t it?

Why, yet again, just like Andrew Lee Fenn, is Nattris out of prison, free to rob and stab again?

Here are the Natriss charges from the 2005 jobs:

North West Surrey Division:

1. Charged with robbery violence following a robbery at Threshers Off Licence, Coldharbour Lane, Woking on Thursday 18 May

2. Charged with robbery violence following a robbery at Threshers Off Licence, Kingfield Road, Woking on Thursday 18 May

3. Charged with robbery violence following a robbery at Threshers Off Licence in Addlestone on Monday 22 May

Thames Valley Area:

1. Charged with robbery violence following a robbery at Threshers Off Licence, Broad Street, Wokingham on Tuesday 9 May

2. Charged with robbery violence following a robbery at The Local in Bracknell on Saturday 13 May

3. Charged with attempted robbery following an incident at Co-Op Stores, Crown Wood, Bracknell on Tuesday 16 May

4. Charged with robbery violence following a robbery at The Local, Bracknell on Tuesday 16 May

5. Charged with robbery violence following a robbery at Threshers Off Licence, Binfield, Bracknell on Sunday 21 May

6. Charged with criminal attempt following an attempt to steal money, a car and briefcase from another person in Bracknell on Tuesday 9 May

7. Charged with criminal attempt following an attempt to commit a burglary in Crowthorne Road, Bracknell between Thursday 4 May – Sunday 7 May

8. Charged with burglary non dwelling with intent to steal following an incident in London Road, Binfield, Bracknell between 4 – 5 May
By the way Mrs R doesn't mind you leaving comments about this here, but your opinions would probably be very welcome over at Insp. Gadget's place

For Ellie

A picture, especially for BevaniteEllie, who you may recall hopes Mr Balls' will win the competition and become leader of the Labour Party.

Here he is, in all his glory - courtesy of the Daily Mail

The picture is, incidentally, captioned "Ed Balls shows off more than a six-pack in skimpy sportswear". The newspaper article correctly refers to him as "Labour heavyweight"

And to think that this man has had the audacity to lecture people about their 'unhealthy' lifestyles.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Ellie has a short memory.

Ellie Gerrard that is, yes, this one. Mrs R found her thanks to reading about her on various blogs including Uncle Marvo's place, but she's writing because of this piece by CF which prompted a little stroll through some online archives.

As CF points out, Bevanite Ellie seems to change her mind quite a bit. First there's this piece about that Labour Leadership Contest that never was and the fallout from the Glasgow East by-election in 27 July 2008 ...
Here's my ideal scenario for the coming months. Brown accepts that too much damage has been done and while I feel sorry for someone who has waited so long for a job which he has done averagely and been slaughtered for, I care more for our party and supporters. Alan Johnson takes the reigns. If we rely on another Blairite, wet behind the ears and a propagator of policies and a Labour party that has failed then we will die, and will deserve to. Johnson is politicallly astute, personable and above all passionate. He is committed to socialism and a staunch trade unionist thus would hopefully unite our party which needs to be stronger than ever today. A general election would come sooner rather than later with change of leadership and we would fight in on tough policies, left wing ideas and real issues. not pandering to any conservative measure or media giant. The Labour party in it's purest form, for when our party is distilled it is deadly. Win or lose such an election we will know where we stand and will be in a stronger, and prouder position to reignite the flame of which mere embers remain today.

In short, Brown (although I had high hopes and don't burden you with total responsibility) get your coat, time's up. Our party is worth fighting for, and I know as long as there's breath in my body I will fight for us.
Only a year later on 27th July 2009, and on her old blog, Ellie was discussing MPs favourite viewing. She noted that
Alastair Darling - Yes Minister never fails to make me laugh. Although it's less comedy, more documentary. oh, and black humour - it's kept us going over the last two years at the treasury (bless)

Margaret Beckett - The Last of the Summer Wine
(Jesus wept) makes me laugh a lot. Have I Got News for You is also quite funny. But I don't like it when it gets too cruel. (Paul, Ian, I do hope you're listening, Margaret would like you to tone it down)

Alan Johnson - Blackadder, Fawlty Towers ... make the Johnson's laugh.
(AJ, I expected a few more 'hip' choices considering your cutting edge taste in all things musical).
Ellie wasn't impressed and said so
I do hope you're thinking the same as me. Did these people stop watching TV in 1975? A little mention for 'In the Loop' would have gone far in this selection. People say MPs are out of touch, for God sake peeps, don't fuel it.
So, maybe that made Ellie think Alan Johnson was too old fashioned and too out of touch with her generation to lead her Labour Party?

Oh, and Ellie doesn't like Shami Chakrabarti either. Ellie thinks she's a
... blusherless faced, crop haired, Tory sympathiser

Well, with that we'll move forward another year to when lucky Ellie found herself launching Labour's election campaign (18 April 2010) and, naturally, she changed her mind - again ...
I don’t have to make the case for Gordon Brown on here, he’s done that himself. All I’d say is that this is a man of substance that we not only want, but need, leading us into the challenging, but potentially exciting, future which awaits us.

Less than a month later, on 17th May, Ellie got herself all in a tizz about the impact of Dear Gordon resigning stepping down as leader. Here's why ...
one thing worries me, the calls for a snap leadership election. I think those calling for a quick transition are, perhaps inadvertently, suggesting Gordon was the reason we lost, that the electorate’s issues with the Labour Government didn’t go deeper. He wasn’t and they do. It was not an awkward smile, or stiffness on camera which made the semi-skilled workers of this country desert our party, as potential leadership candidates are now writing daily, it was that they felt ignored. That we were no longer on their side. That hard reality is crucifying to those of us who joined this party to protect the exact voters who abandoned us
And now, today, 20th May 2010, Mr Balls has got the lovely Ellie has got a spot on CiF, where she writes:
I am well aware that Ed Balls is not the most popular candidate for Labour leader. Vilification by the rightwing press has led to an image of Balls which many who know him personally, many of whom I've spoken to, do not recognise. This will be an opportunity for the public to see the real Ed. Quite simply, it will be a cold day in hell when Labour party members choose our leader based on his popularity in the sections of the media we rightly loathe. Ed has the hunger, the drive and the fire in the belly to lead our party back into Downing Street. It is perhaps just that which the rightwing media fear.
So, it looks as if Ellie loves Alan, Gordon, Ed - and she knows he's a nice person because she's spoken to 'many' of his friends!!

Mrs R will say one thing for Ellie - she really doesn't mind changing her mind, and she'll back anythingbody she thinks will win.

Trouble is that people who keep doing it, and maintain their own record as proof, tend to come a cropper - especially if they're in the Labour Party. McBride and co make a living from eating people like Ellie for breakfast, Mrs R thinks she'll go a very long way in the Labour Party - but maybe not as far as she hopes. Labour likes loyalty to the Party, and Ellie has that in spades, but she's shown she changes her mind and leaves online records of changing her mind, and that's something they don't like.

So, Ellie, wearing your heart on your sleeve whilst you're strolling round Paris bemoaning the lack of a French 'welfare state' (- maybe Ellie hasn't heard of the time when France got rid of its nobility and became a truly egalitarian country) might be fun but, errm, the party you adore and give your wholehearted support for likes you now - but they'll discard you if you haven't backed the winner, so don't start counting on your MP's expenses just yet.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The fang-toothed Clown has an idea.

It's here.

Hmm, but no, Mrs R couldn't bring herself to go along with this scheme, but you might want to. You won't know if you don't take a look.

And no, don't worry, it isn't rude and there isn't a single swear word.


Read all about it.

"They still don't get it. Maybe they never will."

Thus James Purnell:
The coalition will want to say that this new politics shows that it is a progressive Government. [...]
What does “progressive” mean?

It means whatever the speaker says it means. To a Socialist, it means socialism and everything its equality-obsessed totalitarian world-view brings with it. It means taking power and then meddling in everything because only your divine insight can improve people's lives and anyone who disputes that is actually evil and must be fought by all possible means. Killed, preferably. No wonder Labour couldn't make a coalition.

To a Conservative, 'progressive' means helping people to make progress - towards something better, without destroying the good they and others have already achieved. It means building on what is, rather than tearing it all down in the name of a Brave New World of your own making. It means going with the grain of human nature, not fantasising that Men can be transformed into Supermen. It means learning from experience rather than from a textbook. ...
Read the rest of this excellent piece here

Monday, 17 May 2010

The state of education.

Mrs Rigby somehow found herself reading the Wartime Housewife, here is an extract.
... the process of doing papers in English Comprehension, Verbal Reasoning and Mathematics has revealed the vast gaps in his knowledge, of which I had no idea because he never gets any bloody homework. I was astonished to discover that Boy the Elder, who will be 13 in September, could not do long multiplication, long division, percentages or areas and didn’t know his tables.
And earlier Wartime Housewife had been told that 'Boy the Elder'
was doing extremely well, not quite so well in Maths (apparently still at national average though)
Excuse me!

Mrs Rigby recalls multiplying fractions and decimals when she was ten. She might not have known why she was doing them, but she could, and still can - and sometimes it's useful.

If this young man is 'average' for what is now year 8(?) - and has therefore had nine years of full time education - what is it that he and his peers have learned in their daily Maths lessons?

h/t Mr Eugenides

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Ostrich syndrome?

The other day Mrs Rigby found herself talking at length to somebody who said they were a proactive Liberal Democrat. In amongst all the ordinary conversational stuff Mrs R had asked what they thought about the new government - because it's something people are talking about 'these days'. Any other time Mrs R would have been more careful, and wouldn't have touched politics with a barge pole, especially with somebody she had only just met. Anyhow, this other person said they were quite happy with the coalition because it's given the Lib Dems power, and their policies will be in the government timetable.

They then said their main political concerns were about climate change and reducing CO2 emissions. They thought this government's priority should be to build lots of green, renewable, electricity generators (wind turbines) then get rid of the fossil fuel power stations and decommission the nuclear power stations. They thought there should be cash set aside to research alternative energy sources, including heat sinks and solar power.

They weren't worried about things like money, they said it would be found somewhere because the government is rich.

It's quite hard to be too serious about a person's political views when combatting AGW is the sum total of a person's political aspiration. It's hard to be too serious about an individual's political opinion when they only had a Lib Dem campaign board outside their house because there wasn't a 'Green' candidate - which might help explain stuff like this.

Anyhow, to keep the conversation ticking over we became typically British and turned to the weather - in particular the long, freezing, winter followed by an unusually cold spring with frosts and snow in May, leafless oak trees and, of course, the impact of that volcano nobody can pronounce. All those things are, apparently, our fault - because there are too many people breathing out CO2 and because cows are putting too much methane into the atmosphere. Heavy machinery is causing earthquakes and aircraft are destroying what's left of the atmosphere after the cows have done their worst.

Mrs R is eternally grateful that this article was published today, not last weekend!
The leadership of Climate Camp – which is opposed to flying and airport expansion – have been accused of hypocrisy after they sent two members on a £12,000 mile round-trip to Bolivia.
In retaliation Ben Hart, one of the activists who flew to Bolivia, wrote on Facebook
‘Get over it, if you wanna play this liberal self-denial game...I’ve been vegan for 17 years of my life and gone many years without a car.

‘If I died tomorrow and didn’t take my return flight or any others in the future, the planet would still be being ruined.’
Lovely to see a purist in action, Ben. Fantastic to see somebody prepared to take a stand and make personal sacrifices for what they truly believe in and, of course, for the good of the planet.

Mrs Rigby thinks you're a wonderful example to all the kiddies who've been told their puppies and bunnies will drown because of all the selfish grown-ups!

Oh, and thanks to CF and American television, we know that Bolivia is in South Africa! No, it's true, it must be because it was on the television and CF has a screenshot.

Bolivia is in South America. CF's screenshot shows South America, it has been wrongly labelled, which is why it's funny.
South Africa looks like this.


Money pits and poison pills.

It was the Times that broke the story, in their 'Politics' section with the headline "Labour hid ‘scorched earth’ debts worth billions".
Billions of pounds in public money was committed in the run-up to the election campaign in a deliberate strategy to boost Labour’s chances at the ballot box and sabotage the next government.

One former Labour minister told The Sunday Times: “There was collusion between ministers and civil servants to get as many contracts signed off as possible before the election was called.”

One former adviser to the schools department said there was a deliberate policy of “scorched earth”. “The atmosphere was ‘pull up all the railways, burn the grain stores, leave nothing for the Tories’,” he added.
Nothing, so far, in the Telegraph, the Sun, Express, Mail, Mirror, Guardian/Observer, Star, Independent, but today NoTW carries "What a mess they’ve left behind" and the issue has been vaguely covered by the BBC report on Mr Cameron's 'Andrew Marr' interview

Okay, so what's the point in Mrs R saying anything at all about this when there are others with both more financial acumen and better political knowledge who can do better? Well, there are lots of things Mrs Rigby isn't, and she hopes that one of those things isn't nasty. She hopes she's seen by some as being 'concerned' by some of the cheap political tricks that might now be being uncovered - cheap tricks that aren't even new and that have, in the past, been akin to sleight of hand or even gerrymandering. Tricks that hurt ordinary people, people who deserve so much more.

Rigby Town is fairly close to a 'Big City' whose seats were quite narrowly won by Labour, and last week she had cause to go to a fairly deprived part of that Big City. Whilst she was there she met some local people who were absolutely delighted that, at long last, some of their community buildings will be upgraded - including demolition of leaky-roofed old ones. These, they said, are to be replaced with state of the art, brand new buildings - that will be built 'on that bit of waste ground, over there'.

At the time Mrs R's heart sank, because she was fairly sure she'd seen, read, and heard about this sort of thing before. But she didn't say anything, it was neither the right time nor the right place.

Mrs R was shown the plans and the artist's impression - which looked fantastic, a truly wonderful thing for this area, where people have to live with the bird-scarers, several stories up in their tower blocks. She was told the "money has been guaranteed" - they were sure of that.

Then Mrs R was told it was a bit of a last-minute decision that happened not long before the election, even though it was something local groups have been campaigning for for years and years. They've been campaigning because the existing buildings were falling apart, with some sections cordoned off as being unusable and unsafe.

So, let's backtrack a bit, because Mrs R recalls, a year or so ago, how some colleges found themselves in a bit of a muddle. These places had been 'given' money to expand, had demolished old buildings and had barely started construction when they were told they weren't going to get any money after all, even though the building programmes had been approved and all the right forms had been signed - including the PFI loans.

They were told they'd been silly to build, or start building, on a promise, rather than waiting until they had their cash in their hands. It was, Mrs R thinks, Mr Balls who told them off - so she's looked it up. Here's the BBC report, 16 July 2009.
MPs have condemned the "catastrophic mismanagement" of a college building scheme in England which could cost hundreds of millions of pounds.

The Learning and Skills Council, which ran the scheme, and the government are criticised in a report by the committee which deals with further education.

The LSC encouraged colleges to bid for funds and approved projects it did not have money for, their report says.
All this was, it seems, allowed to happen because LSC was to vanish. Maybe they thought the loans/debts would also vanish?
The MPs said that at the time building projects were being approved, the body had been preparing to be disbanded and "wanted to go out with a bang", and had encouraged colleges to "big up" their plans.

But there was no process for prioritising bids and by last November, when the alarm was finally raised, 144 colleges had together invested tens of millions of pounds in preparing bids and getting approval from the LSC.

Recently, it was announced only 13 of those projects would go ahead this year.

Committee chairman Phil Willis, a Liberal Democrat MP, said: "It really beggars belief that such an excellent programme which had showed real success in transforming the further education experience for students was mismanaged into virtual extinction.

"Warning signs were missed and even worse, ignored. LSC didn't notice as the total value of the projects it was considering began to overshoot the budget and a review which could have prompted action was shunted around committees and policy groups."
It would seem that this gung-ho approach to finance might have continued right to the end of Labour's time in office. Get people/schools/businesses/local groups to spend their money putting together the right sort of funding claim, which put money into consultants pockets and, in these instances, took it away from education - where it was most needed.

Money was there 'for the bidding', and promises were made, but nobody seems to have taken the time to sit down and add all the numbers together - but it didn't matter too much, because somebody else's name would soon be on the office door, somebody else could deal with the mess. And nobody had thought it might have been wiser to spend some of the consultation money on renovation and extension - because they were told things had to be new.

That, to Mrs Rigby, epitomises what Labour has done to Britain. It promised, and failed to deliver. It raised hopes, then secretly withdrew promises. It told people they were silly when they were upset, that it was their own stupid fault when things went wrong.

Nobody in government ever put up their hand and admitted they were wrong, nobody ever admitted a scheme or policy was flawed - the most that happened was that 'flagships' were quietly disappeared, and replaced by a distractingly shiny new one, in the hope that nobody would notice.

The Labour government spent millions on putting together plans that were never brought to fruition, they spent millions on rebranding departments and creating pretty logos that, ultimately, only led to public confusion over who had responsibility for what 'thing' - because they even changed the names of the 'things' so we didn't know what they were talking about.

And in the meantime the coffers were running on empty and, because they were all scurrying around thinking up new ideas, neither Government nor Unions seemed too bothered, not really, that Cadbury's was being sold, nobody seemed too bothered that Corus was bought by some Asian chaps, nobody seemed too worried about the demise of Jaguar - none of it mattered because the redundant and unemployed would be able to claim benefits.

There was never a consideration that every single penny of the money to pay those benefits originated within the private sector, which was rapidly disappearing, and no consideration that some people prefer to go to work, and not be dependent on state handouts.

And, nobody seems to have cared much about the community in 'Big City', who have patiently waited, for almost the whole term of the last government, for their building to be either renovated or replaced - because they believed their MP. This community's high hopes may be dashed because his last minute promises of funding for their sparkling new building are likely to have been empty promises, that would have vanished even had Labour been returned to office - because that's the way they were, building castles in the air. People didn't count, just politically expedient promises to ensure personal advancement and a seat in Westminster.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Frankly good!

Mr Field, a long-time champion of welfare reform, has been asked to lead a major review into levels of poverty across Britain. He is also expected to study how poverty should be measured in the future.

The appointment, which could be officially confirmed in the next few days, comes as the Prime Minister seeks to boost his coalition between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats with a number of outside figures in key roles.
From the Telegraph

Let's hope this goes ahead.
Government sources said Mr Field was expected to "work alongside" Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader who was made Work and Pensions Secretary last week.
Mr Field had a raw deal from his own party
A former director of the Child Poverty Action Group, he has spoken out against means-tested benefits.

He was appointed minister for welfare reform by Tony Blair after Labour came to power in 1997, with a brief to "think the unthinkable", but quit less than a year later following a series of rows both with Mr Brown and Harriet Harman, then the social security secretary.