March 28, 2010

Political gadfly flits again

From the Tories to UKIP, Stuart Wheeler has now moved on to found the Trust Party, according to a teaser in the Mail. Launch is tomorrow.

Leaving aside the (so far) implicit criticism of Farage and UKIP in Wheeler's action, it seems planning is at an early stage, with only one other candidate in place and one more possible.

Apart from financial honesty in politics and condign punishment for those who break the rules, the party seems so far to have too few policies.
He will also campaign to expose experts who claim climate change is inevitable, grab back powers handed over to Brussels, promote marriage, improve treatment for injured British soldiers and prevent the use of torture against terror suspects.
If this is all there is, the Trust Party is a sideshow, a policy-lite shell with apparently nothing to say about the economy, education, law and order, or the NHS.

An interesting opening shot and maybe one to watch - if only for a few days. Let's hope there's more to come, though.

Janet Daley bigs up Tory wimps

Janet Daley says the Conservative Party has these interesting, caring policies but is too shy to set them out in the face of Labour attacks.

Excuse me? If they are frightened off by opponents' propaganda, what chance of bravery if they come to put these ideas into effect? What of the many interest groups who will oppose them? Wimp wimp.

These are the people who have already wimped out of opposing the Lisbon Treaty. This is a party which swallows the global warming AGW scam.

No bravery, no brains.

March 24, 2010

The brutish arrogance of big government

Dr Max Pemberton writes in The Telegraph that some NHS officials are prohibiting flowers by the hospital bed in the interests of infection control. What has a greater influence on control of infection in hospitals is the level of bed occupancy. And the government knows this:
A leaked government internal review dating back to 2004 and supported by subsequent research shows that when bed occupancy is higher than 90 per cent, infection rates are more than 40 per cent higher that when just 85 per cent of beds are occupied. Many hospitals are already running at or near 100 per cent. Yet this has been ignored by the Department of Health and NHS officials because it is in conflict with current policies for reducing bed numbers.
And so we are forbidden flowers instead - a policy forced on us by unaccountable and invisible NHS officials. Not only are we denied a voice in these autocratic decisions, but inconvenient truths established in reports which we as taxpayers paid for are suppressed.

Labour sees people as clients of the state.

Big brother wants to watch you. Gordon Brown wants everyone to have their own webpage under state control which will itemise all the state's dealings with them. Never mind that it will probably cost a bomb, never mind that it is bound to be insecure. Would I be able to opt out of it? More easily than I can opt out of the expensively misguided centralised NHS records? There, if you recall, we were sent a form allowing us to request a copy of the explanatory leaflet in Urdu (using a reply paid envelope), but no form enabling us to opt out.

No, to do that, we had to get a form from our GP, or download it from the internet and deposit it at our GP's practice. Inertia selling is illegal for the private sector, but apparently not for the big state.

Objectionable as it is on security and civil liberties grounds, Brown's proposal for a personal webpage becomes positively risible in the light of his government's failure to stitch together even the various state benefits databases. The state still relies on welfare recipients to go from one paying agency to another to bring them the news that - to take a few examples - they are now employed, or are receiving working tax credits, or a student grant, or have lost entitlement to income support.

Every day this exposes welfare recipients to the temptation of not promptly passing on news which would make them poorer. So they delay, maybe initially for a week or two. Then a few weeks becomes a few months and they can't afford to return the overpayments. And thus the state makes criminals of people at the bottom of the ladder who might have remained law abiding had not the state thrust temptation in their way.

Yet the pompous and ridiculous Brown proposes a personal webpage for everyone to which doubtless thousands of officials would have access.

Big government tends to hoard information and power to itself and become increasingly undemocratic. Well worth viewing is Michael Portillo's recent programme on Power to the People. Resolutely non party political, it features two controversial directly elected mayors from outside the main political parties. After the obligatory trip to see the sheriff at Phoenix, Arizona, Portillo asks if police chiefs should be directly elected here. There's a quietly hilarious interview with ir Hugh Orde, where he tells Portillo that police chiefs know better than the electorate what is good for them, and it is for police chiefs to set policing priorities. Even if that goes against the democratic will, asks Portillo in a quiet but deadly voice. Orde seems not to notice the elephant trap he's dug and flings himself into it.

As Portillo points out, the sort of people who fancy themselves as ministers do usually think they know better than the rest of us, and want to leave their mark. Thus there us a bias towards centralisation - Mrs Thatcher does not escape criticism here.

The visibility of the two local mayors increases accountability in itself, just because they have high local exposure. No hiding place for them. Both the Hartlepool and Doncaster mayors owed their election to flukes, but Stuart Drummond at Hartlepool has been re-elected more than once - which can be no fluke.

The invisible NHS bureaucrats - paid, incidentally, a lot more than the mayors - are accountable only to their secretive, unaccountable centre. The mayors, by contrast, are accountable to their electorates, which is as it should be. Fewer chances to hide, or to impose policies people don't want.

Brown's model is that the state is above the citizens, that the people are clients of the state, which provides them with services such as health or education on a take it or leave it basis. The NUT seems to agree with this, as it proposes to strike against schools being removed from local authority control.

In France and elsewhere, governmnt recognises the need to slim the state sector with a '2 out 1 in' policy for state employees. Would the newly frisky unions tolerate any such policy here? The union demonstration at Whitehall today suggests not.

Big government is inherently oppressive and poor value for taxpayers' money, and tends to grow as ministers seek to boost their own popularity.

Power to the people.

March 22, 2010

Greece splinters euro dream - carry on

Ambrose has written one of those pieces which don't set out to tell you new facts so much as to analyse what we already know. Has Germany just killed the dream of a European superstate, he asks, and his answer is Yes. This is important enough to appear in the Telegraph's business section rather than in the main paper, where you can read about party leaders' wives.

His thesis is that the smoke and mirrors surrounding attempts to put together a European bailout for Greece have been blown away by clear refusals from Germany & Holland (Holland of course voted against the Lisbon Treaty), and that Greece will have its bluff called and will have to turn to the IMF.

In a paragraph cut from the printed version, he writes that:
Paris is watching nervously. As Le Monde put it last week, “behind the question of aid to Greece is a France-Germany match that pitches two conceptions of Europe against each other.” The game is not going well for 'Les Bleus’. The whole point of the euro for the Quai D’Orsay was to lock Germany into economic fusion. Instead we have fission.
Maybe the big crisis came several decades too soon for those who hoped that it would bring about More Europe.

Not that IMF support will be a Get Out of Jail Free card for Greece - first because the IMF is limited in the amount of support it can give ("the maximum ever lent by the Fund is 12 times quota, or €15bn for Greece, not enough to nurse the country through to June"). Greece can't devalue (the traditional route for the profligate, like the UK), so it will be "stuck in a slump with no exit route".

The Germans are not blameless. Commentators have been pointing out that Germany's chronic surplus makes the eurozone inherently unbalanced. Far from providing endless subsidies, German officialdom prescribes hair shirts. As Ambrose scathingly puts it:
It is not enough for the EU to impose a fiscal squeeze of 10pc of GDP on Greece, 8pc on Spain, and 6pc on Portugal, and 5pc on France over three years, we need a dose of 1930s monetary policy as well to make sure life is Hell for everybody.
He declines to blame Greece, Ireland, Italy, or Spain for what has happened (though that's pretty generous to Greece).
Nor do I blame Germany, which generously agreed to give up the D-Mark to keep the political peace. It was the price that France demanded in exchange for tolerating reunification after the Berlin Wall came down.

I blame the EU elites that charged ahead with this project ... ignoring the economic anthropology of Europe and the rules of basic common sense. They must answer for a depression.
Doubtless those same eurocrats will carry on, trying to look as if nothing has happened. But this holes any prospect of a federal EU below the waterline for decades.

For them, it would be safer to refocus on CO2. As Richard North has been pointing out, they are good at hiding vast spending on projects which were pointless anyway (as any "global warming" there may be is not caused by CO2) and which never produce any deliverables. They are unlikely to face challenges from the brain-lite so-called political élite (too scared to question any consensus they may come across), or from most of the media, and in UK terms they can brush off low grade rants from the brain-dead and corrupt UKIP.

Of course all the spending on cutting CO2 emissions will be money down the drain, and of course it will do positive harm, just like the euro project. But - despite their failures - the eurocrats face no serious challenge.

March 19, 2010

Clarke insults Mandelson stylishly

An Evening Standard interviewer writes:
He also admires Lord Mandelson, though he says the “evasive” Business Secretary is “more in the bookies' runner end of politics than the think tank end”. He admits: “I like him a lot. He is a very good performer.”

March 15, 2010

The odious Andrew Dismore

Andrew Dismore is doubtless preening himself over his prominence this morning as chairman of Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights, which has criticised Trevor Phillips.

Remember the sanctimonious Andrew Dismore. He is MP for Hendon, which is an easy ride to Westminster on the tube, with just one change. Yet he milks taxpayers for a second home.
Andrew Dismore reportedly claimed £34,000 in second home expenses for a west London flat, which hosts his girlfriend’s homeopathy surgery, while declaring a property just a few miles away in his north London constituency as his main home.

Mr Dismore - who serves on the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee - then allegedly “flipped” his second home designation to the north London property and claimed a further £31,000.

The Labour MP for Hendon split a total of £65,000 in second home allowances between the two London properties over an eight year period.
And he claimed enough travel allowances in a year to drive between his constituency and Parliament three times every day that the Commons sat.

Andrew Dismore has no moral standing at all.

March 12, 2010

Parliament drags itself lower

Mr & Mrs Keen, also known as Mr & Mrs Expenses, are getting away with repaying a mere £1,500. MPs have come up with the excuse that officials condoned their thieving. Of course it never occurred to Mr and Mrs Pig that their claims might be against the letter and spirit of the rules. Perish the thought that a minister should have the brain or imagination to consider such a possibility!

Mr and Mrs Keen stole our money. MPs have condoned it. They seem intent on making themselves look even worse than they did already.

Birmingham Council spends to save its face

A spin doctor was paid £800 a day to defend the disgraced council that failed to stop seven-year-old Khyra Ishaq being starved to death, says the Daily Mail. Terry Brownbill is said to have earned £113,000 for 141 days' work.

As well as the morality, there are questions over whether Birmingham Council's procedures for approving the contract were followed.

A Freedom of Information Act request to release details of Mr Brownbill's pay was refused "because it was claimed the details could damage his company". This is flagrantly against the spirit of FoI.

It would mean that any time a state body had overpaid for a service, it could refuse to disclose the information because it might damage the reputation of the provider that had milked it. A reasoning that could stop investigations of overpayment dead in their tracks.

If the Tories manage to scrape in, they are pledged to openness of contracts. Central and local government would have to disclose contracts like this on the web, for anyone to see, whether or not it damaged the reputation of the other party.

Meanwhile, by fighting accountable transparency Birmingham Council is putting itself in the dock.

March 06, 2010

Wind turbines make no sense

Not only do wind farms provide expensive energy, they can be pretty unpopular. At least one in six wind farms have led to complaints about noise causing a lack of sleep or just being "dreadfully irritating".

At one wind farm the company switch off the turbines when they turn in a certain direction, in order to keep the noise down! Yet there are still complaints about noise ("like a train that never arrives or a helicopter landing outside"), and campaigners are gathering evidence on the noise problems caused by wind farms to pressure the government to take action.

As Booker, North and others have repeatedly explained, wind power is highly intermittent. Now Aggreko looks at Ireland's 900 megawatts of installed capacity. In the first quarter of last year, there were 12 occasions when power output varied by more than 100 megawatts within 15 minutes, and 76 occasions when that happened within 30 minutes.

Peak output was 940 megawatts - but when the wind drops, it's down to nine megawatts. That's one percent of installed capacity.

And in winter, the wind drops most when it gets coldest, and demand is highest - as indeed, it's been doing this winter as well.

So the economics get even worse. There needs to be full back-up power, available at the touch of a button, to cover 100% of peak demand. 
This is the economics of the madhouse. Which hasn't stopped the government. It plans to spend billions of pounds of taxpayers' money encouraging developers to erect around 1,000 new onshore turbines over the next ten years.

March 04, 2010

BBC still doesn't get it

The Sun reports that the BBC "dished out 275 FREE tickets for top sporting events last year - to wealthy celebrities".

The BBC's line is that it didn't pay for any of the tickets as they were part of its broadcast rights packages:
These tickets did not cost the licence fee payer a single additional penny.

The BBC did not offer any corporate hospitality at sporting events in 2009 and the recipients of these tickets were not provided with any food, transport or accommodation by the BBC.
So is that all right then? No. The taxpayer funded BBC should auction all these tickets. Throw in a chance for buyers to meet the presenters, and they could generate a healthy sum for charity.

March 02, 2010

Prof Jones does not convince

After watching almost all of yesterday's select committee hearing on global warming issues, it's interesting to see what themes newspaper reporters have chosen. The Times reports that
The committee had been asked not to press him too closely because he was close to a nervous breakdown. 
His admission that some of his emails were "awful" makes the headline both in The Times and in the Mail. They and The Guardian have been impressed by the stark submission from The Institute of Physics. Thus The Times:
The Institute of Physics said that e-mails sent by Professor Phil Jones, head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, had broken “honourable scientific traditions” about disclosing raw data and methods and allowing them to be checked by critics. 
It is left to Steve Mosher to torpedo Jones's narrative. Jones is claiming that (for some reason) it was never the practice in climate science to disclose data and methodology. But Mosher shows that Jones had previously been co-operative and relatively open, and then pulled down the shutters. So it wasn't just that Jones was economical with the data and methodology, he is still being economical with the actualité.

There were also unresolved questions about the status of the US data sets. At one point Jones seemed to be claiming they used the same data and had full disclosure. In that case, why the secrecy at CRU? But if they had the same disclosure constraints as CRU, why mention them? Puzzling.

March 01, 2010

Common sense in Lincs while Richmond fritters money

Lincoln councillors have attacked efforts to tackle climate change – and questioned if people in Lincolnshire can really make any difference to global warming.
Conservative Moorland councillor Oliver Peeke said that in years to come, people would look back and realise that carbon management was "a waste of resources" and that the current eco-agenda had been "created by an industry just to make money".
"I think it's very important to question the basis of climate change as it's an issue that isn't discussed enough," he told a full council meeting.
"I believe these things always happen and always will – so we should be concentrating on delivering local services on the ground, rather than worrying about climate change.
"But as an authority, we're under the cosh and have to follow the trends."
Birchwood Conservative Eddie Strengiel said there was "no point" in turning off lights, or looking to reduce the areas carbon footprint if places like London, Las Vegas and Hong Kong were not making similar efforts.
"Don't bully us," he said. "Bully the people outside Lincoln."
Their comments came in response to a City of Lincoln Council report, written by sustainability advocate Councillor Yvonne Bodger.
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on environmental chiefs in Richmond after it emerged £75,000 was spent researching low carbon initiatives – despite none being introduced. Richmond Council spent £55,000 on a study to cut the carbon footprint of the Civic Centre, in Twickenham, followed by a further £20,000 on a study into installing renewable energy boilers, before scrapping the plans.