April 22, 2011

But why did Oborne write such rubbish?

Oborne is trying to set up today a narrative where the Conservatives have been a eurosceptic party scared to come out of the closet because the rest of the political establishment would have kicked sand in their faces and called them names.

Obviously he hadn't read his North:
It was Ted Heath, a Tory (theoretically), who took us in (after the ground-breaking by Macmillan), it was the darling Thatcher who led the "yes" campaign for the Tories in the 1975 referendum, and it was she that agreed the Single European Act.

Then, of course, it was little Johnny Major, Thatcher's protégé, who negotiated the Maastricht Treaty (aka Treaty of the European Union) – and wrecked the Conservative Party getting it through the Commons. Now the heir to Heath, the fabulous Mr Scumeron, refuses us a referendum on the Lisbon treaty and gives us AV instead.
North has duly torn into Oborne's revisionist tosh.

Oborne must know it is tosh, so who fed him the line (and was lunch nice?)? It must have been a Tory, but why?

Anyway, the issue is not why do the Tory high command want to pretend they're eurosceptic. It's not even is euroscepticism important to the Labour front bench. (Answer: probably just to a means to an end, a chance to bash the government for failing in goals they know they can't meet because the powers have been signed away. If the Tories implausibly turned anti-EU, Labour would resurrect the cry of Little Englanders.)

The issue isn't even why is Oborne so venal.

The "£400 a family" is in the news, so the Tories are confident they can shake this stick with no serious worry about a eurosceptic party. Of course they are right.

Farage drives people who are better than him out of UKIP, which leaves it very low quality. Luckily for him, when they leave UKIP they seem to leave politics. The disaffected MEPs show no sign of putting together a True Finns or a UKIP mark two, and the much touted South West disaffection continues to be just grumbling.

And so the Tories can pretend to be eurosceptic in what Oborne would probably call utter security.

Someone should give them a fright.

April 19, 2011

Inside the heads of subsidised environmentalists

I have no intrinsic interest in vendace at all. I certainly couldn't pick one out in an identity parade. Line one up alongside the IPCC's Pachauri, or Call Me Dave, and which is the fishiest?

I wrote about the vendace here after The Telegraph's copier-out of environment press releases was taken to task by commenters on her article, who noted she hadn't mentioned that the Environment Agency had done something of the sort before.

So I asked the Environment Agency why they were doing it again - something their press release had curiously omitted.

Here's their statement in reply in full, copied and pasted, so the spelling etc is theirs. The bold, however, is mine. The question is not where to start in pulling this apart, but where to stop. It's a sunny day, and readers may enjoy exploring the environmentalists' mindset for themselves, with just some signposts to guide them on their breathtaking journey. Enjoy.
We have already put vendace from Derwentwater into Sprinkling Tarn and that fears around water quality and pollution in Derwentwater were among the drivers for this. However, we were also conscious of the climate change benefits that Sprinkling Tarn brings due to it being higher up and therefore colder. These fish were introduced in December 2005 and will now be sufficiently large to catch in nets - previously they would have been too small to recapture so we couldn't be sure that they had established successfully.

Ideally we would have waited until we had checked that this introduction had been successful before introducing more vendace into Sprinkling Tarn but a number of factors influenced our decision to act now rather than wait any longer. First, the Cumbria floods of November 2009 deposited large amounts of silt into Derwentwater, covering parts of the lake bed in silt which can reduce spawning habitat quantity and quality and / or prevent their eggs hatching successfully. If climate change results in an increased frequency of these extreme weather events then we could see a rapid decline in vendace numbers in the lake such that we may not be able to catch enough fish to carry out a future translocation.

Secondly, recent studies have shown that Bassenthwaite Lake is likely to warm up to such an extent in the future the cold (deep) water that vendace need to survive the summer could all but disappear, if the same happens in Derwentwater then vendace numbers may decline here as a result of this too. Finally, vendace were transferred as newly fertilised eggs in 2005, the lifestage at which survival and therefore successful population establishment is least likely.

Given the threat that vendace are under in Derwentwater we felt that we could not afford to wait any longer to carry out a second translocation. If we left it any longer then we ran the risk of being unable to catch enough vendace broodstock in Derwentwater to enable a transfer. And, because previously transferred fish will only now be large enough to recapture in the tarn and were introduced very early on in their lives, we cannot be sure that the previous introduction was successful.

African refugees aren't the EU's main problem

Richard North is writing again (I couldn't find his previous posts yesterday) about the internal EU problems arising from the inflows of Tunisians and Libyans.
Even The Economist is flagging this up as presenting "the greatest danger to European unity", over and above the economic crisis and the bailouts.
Italy as usual wants the to lean on the EU rather than pull its weight. As The Economist beautifully put it last week
Like the euro, which requires mutual trust among members about their readiness to preserve sound public finances, the Schengen area relies on mutual trust about the capacity of members to control their borders and migration flows. But Italy threatens all that: rather than acting as a dam and reservoir for migrants, it would rather be a weir, allowing the human flow to pass over it.
But are they right in their comparison of the seriousness of the two problems for the EU's structure?

The flows of refugees can be stemmed gradually, and the problem can trickle away as the refugees cross the borders in small groups. It can be managed to be containable.

By contrast, the default of even a small euro economy will be like an economic earthquake. The economic structures of the defaulting country will be cracked and unstable, while the tsunamis will bear down on the other economies whose banks have big loans out to the defaulter.

It will all be horribly visible (horribly if you're a Commission fatcat), not susceptible of resolution in the mountain passes of Northern Italy, away from the prying eyes of journalists.

And if there's an economic earthquake, the journalists will be interested. To start with, sure, it will be the economics reporters. Economic earthquake in far-off Greece/Portugal isn't an obviously big story for our msm (it's abroad, oh god it's numbers, and there aren't even any pictures).

It will be the economic tsunamis that grab the attention, as government after government bleats that there's nothing to see here while their domestic opponents loudly count the cost of bailing out their weakened banks.

Any head of government in a country doing contingency planning for a default should be modelling whether to withdraw from the euro at the same time. If you stay in, you'll have less debt to repay, sure, but politics will stop any eurozone institution lending you another cent, even to roll your debts over. Turn to the IMF then, and they have currency devaluation as an essential component of their rescue packages.

So what hope would there be for an economy which restructured its debts but wanted to stay in the eurozone?

If an economy leaves the eurozone, the size of the shock shoots up the economic Richter scale (and then our msm could run some pieces about cheaper holidays in the sun).

Mary Ellen Synon points out that in Finland
The biggest party, the National Coalition conservatives, took 20.4 percent of the vote. The second biggest party, the Social Democrats -- who, under pressure from Soini's party, have moved towards euroscepticism on the bailouts -- took 19.1 percent. The True Finns were just one-tenth of one percent behind at 19 percent.
But then like a typical eurosceptic she goes over the top by claiming "that's what happens when solid northern European Protestant people are actually given the choice of voting for a eurosceptic party: they grab it". 19%'s a lot, Mary Ellen, but it's not 100%, or even 50%. Maybe she needs to get out more.

But she reports a analyst claim that the True Finns' gains will make future euro bailouts more difficult to achieve (true) and make sovereign defaults far more likely (debatable).

Compared to this, the Schengen border problems remain small beer.

April 18, 2011

More stresses and strains for the EU

So the anti-euro-bailout True Finns seem to be emerging from the Finnish general election with 19% of the vote - up from 4% last time. The bailouts seem to be acceptable to Finland's other main parties, so even if the True Finns are invited into government they seem unlikely to be offered the Finance Ministry.

Far away in the south, even the EU thinks Greece's debt will rise from €298 billion in 2009 to €375 billion in 2013. As Charles Forelle points out, Greek debt won't go down until Greece has surplus cash to pay it off - but Greece "hasn't had a budget surplus in more than two decades".

So either the eurozone countries arrange for Greece to keep borrowing more and more as surreptitiously as possible for ever and ever, or Greece defaults.
A restructuring could well mean losses for those 15 lenders, which would be deeply resented in Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and other strong countries whose voters were wary of the bailouts to begin with. The euro-zone bailout loans explicitly rank equally with existing creditors, making it hard for the euro-zone countries to demand that private-sector creditors take haircuts while exempting themselves. The resolution remains uncertain.
From a political viewpoint, it's hard to see the euro-zone countries taking a loss, says one analyst. From a legal viewpoint, he adds, it's hard to see them not taking a loss.

Yet, says Irwin Stelzer, a debt restucturing proposal for Greece does exist. But how would France and Germany sell this to their voters? Sarko and Merkel must feel they're unpopular enough at home already.

Stelzer rehearses Spain's assertion that its economy is in good shape. He doubts it. Spain doesn't export much, its construction sector is flat on its back, its banks are not out of the wood yet, and "Madrid is finding it somewhere between difficult and impossible to rein in the spending of largely autonomous regional governments".

Whoever's in the new Finnish government, they're likely to enter the negotiations for a Portuguese bailout cautiously. They can be sure they'll be taking a loss on their Greek exposure; to set themselves up for a loss in Portugal too would be throwing good money after bad - and giving the True Finns more political momentum.

As the eurozone keeps tottering, France continues to flout the Schengen border agreement, as Richard North has been highlighting. Italy - always wanting to take from Europe, never give - wants to pass its Tunisian refugees on to France. This would be another blow to Sarko's already slim chances of being re-elected. So of course it's not going to happen.

As EU officialdom contemplates French and German defiance of Schengen, they must be wondering what position a new Finnish government will take on a Portuguese bailout. The EU's wobbling a fraction more this morning.

April 14, 2011

Clegg joins Cameron talking cock

Occasionally a politician makes a remark which brings their character into sharp focus.

Ed Miliband did it recently in front of an audience of businessmen.
Question from floor on green policies. Miliband shows he's in listening mode by asking delegate about his views on green. But his tactics backfire horribly on the next question: 'you've never been in business, how are you qualified to know what small businesses need?'

Miliband says 'good question' but immediately seeks to take another one at the same time: delegates reckon he's trying to buy time and jeer until he agrees to get on with it.

'I don't claim to be a business person but my grandfather was,' he says. 'He died before I was born but I heard a lot about him from my father.'
Just for clarity, that would be Ed Miliband's Marxist professor father.

Cameron notoriously said:
I saw figures the other day that showed that only one black person went to Oxford last year. I think that is disgraceful. We have got to do better than that.
Of course, he was wrong.
Senior officials at the university described the figure as "highly misleading" as it related only to British students who described themselves as black Caribbean. They said Oxford admitted another 27 students who described themselves as black African and another 14 who were mixed race.

The university also said that only 452 black students across the country had even achieved the A-level results demanded by Oxford to meet its minimum entry requirements for the 2009-10 academic year.
And black students apply in disproportionately high numbers for the most heavily oversubscribed courses, such as medicine, making it less likely that they will win places.

Graham Stuart, the Conservative chairman of the Commons education select committee, is right on the button:
The problem we have with various minority groups in this country who don't get into the best universities is that they don't receive a sufficiently good education in the first place.

You don't solve that by forcing institutions with high standards to lower their intakes, you deal with it by improving the standards of state education for all. That's the betrayal and the scandal here – we don't provide good enough education in our schools.

We let down the poorest and those from ethnic minorities and that's what we have got to put right, not blame Oxford for the situation we've got ourselves into.
An Oxford don says, "I thought it was an extraordinarily misguided comment. It seems to be based on zero understanding of what’s actually happening in the real world."

Of students starting in 2009-10 who chose to state their ethnicity, almost a quarter of students were from ethnic minority backgrounds but 1.5% were black.

In Oxford, individual colleges choose their own students. Is Cameron saying that all Oxford colleges, right across the board, discriminate against black Caribbean students but not against other ethnic minorities? Just a second's thought would show how implausible that is.

Clegg has chosen to join Cameron in talking this cock. Whinge, whinge, blame everyone but yourselves.

Cameron also claimed that Britain was responsible for many of the world's historic problems, including the conflict in Kashmir between India and Pakistan, a display of ignorance that would disgrace even a journalist. Here, please take loads of money.

And today he's going to pledge to cut the numbers entering Britain to tens of thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands. Of course the trailer for his speech doesn't mention the EU, where we can't control numbers.

Some argue that we need highly skilled immigrants because our state education is below par.

Isn't this where we came in? But doubtless we will just be served more tripe.

Meanwhile Cameron and his ilk continue to talk cock, spouting their ill-informed prejudices and sticking plaster solutions. Good government is harder work than that.

Environment Agency plays, using our money

"Fish carried up a mountain on backs of llamas to escape global warming", trills The Telegraph's "Environment Correspondent" Louise Gray.

You expect the dateline to be 1 April, but no, it is the 12th. And indeed she's lightly rewritten an Environment Agency release.

Derwentwater in Cumbria is thought to be the only remaining site where vendace are found in England and Wales. At our expense the Environment Agency is setting up a new population at Sprinkling Tarn. (Not Sprinkler Tarn, Louise, didn't you read it back?)

But what is this? Commenting at The Telegraph site, "fringe" has discovered that the Environment Agency had the RAF on standby to do this before, back in 2005. Sadly, the plans to airlift 200 fish had to be cancelled because rescuers could not catch them.

But the taxpayer funded Environment Agency didn't give up. Oh no. By January 2006 thousands of rare fish eggs had been transported in special flasks to nearby Sprinkling Tarn during an 11-night operation.

Louise is blaming "man made global warming". Back in 2006, though, the powers that be blamed "poor water quality, the silting-up of spawning grounds and competition from other species".

Of course we know so much better now.

Good, by the way, to see the concentration of taxpayers' money on essential front-line services.

April 13, 2011

Irish ponder dangerous U turn

Sadly not in their politics, though. It seems some Irish motorists have been doing U turns on their motorways.
Harry Cullen, a senior project manager for the roads authority, said the motorway network in Ireland had been massively extended over the past four years - from around 200 miles to 750 miles - and many drivers simply did not know how to use the new roads.
It's unlikely to get extended much over coming years. Let's hope they can afford the maintenance.

Watching the Finns

Finnish politics surface (briefly?) ahead of their general election (who knew?). The WSJ headline "Finland's Bailout Blues Cast Pall Over Euro Zone" probably overstates Finland's influence in the eurozone, and certainly exaggerates any regard EU officials would pay to a small member's democratic mandate.

Nonetheless the rise of the True Finns party is striking. Opinion polls suggest they might get 17% of the vote, up from 4.1% in 2007, "partly in response to dissatisfaction with the fact that taxpayers ... have been asked to bail out Greece, Ireland and Portugal at the same time as welfare benefits are being cut at home". Hm, maybe we can identify with that.
The True Finns want further restrictions on immigration, and argue social-welfare benefits should be maintained....

"The political elite have not really listened to the people of Finland," said Risto Heiskala, professor of sociology at the University of Tampere in Finland. "That has created a space for political protest to which the True Finns party is now giving a voice."
The Finnish election may prove worth following if the British media deign to mention it. Otherwise we will have to rely on serious news coverage from elsewhere.

In this country UKIP is incapable of mounting a coherent challenge, headed as it is by the - ahem - mercurial Farage, whom the Conservatives will want to stay exactly where he is to ensure that UKIP remains a pigmy. Goodness knows why UKIP members put up with it.

April 08, 2011

Congratulations to James Delingpole

... on the Press Complaints Commission ruling in his favour.

But what is an academic institution - University of East Anglia - doing trying to curtail someone's free speech? We taxpayers pay for them, and this is an abuse of our money.

Reasons to be cheerful

1. It's gloriously sunny

2. The world has enough energy for hundreds more years

Sure, Britain isn't specially well endowed with shale gas. But global recoverable resources are so huge, and so well spread in different parts of the world, that gas isn't going to get expensive any time soon.

3. The EU is crumbling

Greece and Portugal will never return to growth without devaluing, which means leaving the euro - and that will plunge the eurozone currency union into turmoil.

Greek and Portuguese voters will only put up with so much raising of their taxes and cutting of their benefits. They won't tolerate reforms and austerity lasting several decades which may or may not turn them into another Germany, so that they can stay in the euro. And why should they?

When they default on their debts and devalue, other EU countries' banks will lose billions on their holdings of the defaulting countries' debts. This will be painful for the UK, but the damage to the fabric of the EU will make it a price worth paying.

If it were a normal bank, the European Central Bank (ECB) would be considered insolvent already, because it has purchased huge amounts of government and bank debt issued by the most endangered eurozone countries. This will become visible when Greece and Portugal default and the ECB has to write down its holdings. This, and the damage to German banks, will strengthen German voters' increasing determination not to vote for any government which wants to spend more German money to keep bailing those countries out. Would their disillusion stop there?

As Richard North hilariously points out, France has decided its border with Italy isn't an open border any more, just like that. Vive l'exception francaise.

It will be no loss to us when the EU disintegrates.

4. Carbon dioxide isn't causing global warming

As Prof Courtillot points out in his talk, there is no uniform global climate. Temperatures in the US and Western Europe have moved differently over recent decades, with periods of stability followed by short, sharp movements - and in recent years the temperatures have been falling.

So there are such things as regional climates, he says, but there is no such thing as world climate. "I can average them, but what is the point?" And the work he's done for Europe and North America hasn't been done for other parts of the world, so we don't know what their temperature records will look like.

This means there are regional influences at work. None of this is what the CO2 theory predicted, but some of the data is a good fit to solar changes, as Prof Courtillot and Matt Ridley point out.

As CO2 isn't a poison, we can abolish all our expensive green measures, which will make people better off. (They were pointless in any case, since the UK only produces 2% of CO2 and almost half of the increase in primary energy use in the past decade has come from coal. Most of the rest has come from oil and gas.)

5. So we're all going to be better off.

But we'll have to wait till the politicians, stuck in the past, catch up.

While you wait, enjoy the sun.

Fine writing? Move along, please

If you're a comment writer for a national newspaper, you're supposed to be able to write. You should be able to summarise a sprawling story succinctly and offer new angles. Jeremy Warner often does this. Jeff Randall usually does. Today Damian Reece does neither.

This tells you he is filling space:
The nature of today's eurozone crisis has the feel of the creaking European Monetary System in the early 1990s, the Asian financial crisis later that decade and the rolling credit crisis which took from the summer of 2007 until the October of 2008 before Lehman Brothers eventually blew up and Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group needed rescuing. The violent aftershocks continue.
He doesn't understand metaphors at all (my italics):
There is a momentum behind events on the Continent which Thursday's developments didn't cauterise. Far from it. If anything they exacerbated the underlying problems which aren't financial but political – hence the markets' lack of reaction. If the challenge faced by Portugal was a conventional debt crisis then markets would be right to be sanguine. Europe's bail-out fund will ride to the rescue with terms agreed and contagion avoided.
He oddly tells us that "Portugal is taking on another €75bn of debt, albeit at cheaper rates than those charged by conventional lenders who have fled the scene". Er, if they've fled the scene they're not charging higher rates.

Continuing his car crash with the English language, he writes that the likely political instability "makes the possibility of one or all of the countries defaulting (restructuring as it is known in the anaesthetised parlance of markets) all the more likely". Anaesthetised parlance? If you're anaesthetised, you generally can't engaged in parlance, and if you can, why should it be less colourful than your usual speech? "Anaesthetised" is the wrong word.

Back to metaphors:
But, until there's clarity, Spain remains the next domino.

An even bigger uncertainty is just how far Germany will go in standing behind this pack of cards.
In a rush were we, Damian? Did you read it back?

Did anyone?

Meanwhile, the paper's Madrid correspondent has nipped over to Lisbon. She can't have been there long. She chatted to someone in a café, and is even reduced to quoting her taxi driver. Her theme taken from a union leader is that the Portuguese are passive.
In the sun-soaked, cobbled squares of the historic centre of Lisbon, it was hard to detect any seething resentment behind the calm faces of the Portuguese people as the nation braced itself for yet harder times ahead.
Somehow this is consistent with "people in the capital forced to seek alternative transport to work on Thursday as metro workers went on strike for the sixth time in as many weeks in protest at austerity cuts". Is there some tension with her theme here? No time to explore it. She had to dash back to file her piece.

April 07, 2011

Deregulation - here we go again

Yet another relaunch for deregulation. First we were going to have a bonfire of regulations. But surprise surprise, no minister has abolished any.

Then it was going to be one in, one out. Of course this was a cop-out, as officials would scrap regulations which didn't apply any more, while new regulations would bite, so the regulatory burden would still increase.

Meanwhile, the flaky Nick Clegg seemed overwhelmed by people's suggestions for laws they would like to see scrapped, and passed the ball to Teresa May, preferring vapid grand gestures to detailed governing - a preference evidently shared by Vince Cable. He is served by Business Minister Mark Prisk, pictured here looking - well - stupid. Whatever did he think was the point of this?

So what's the latest on deregulation? You guessed it, another call for ideas. Does Dave think we're stupid? Evidently yes.

This time "the stock of more than 21,000 regulations will be published on the website in phases, with those affecting retailers the first to appear, followed by the hospitality and food and drink industry". So far, so routine. We've seen it before.

But maybe this is the key point:
Mr Cameron has told ministers they will have three months to either agree or make the case for retaining the rules.
In other words, on the face of it ministers will have to start doing their jobs. Step forward, Vince.

Some of the tests will be: what regulations appear on the website? Do ministers have to make a reasoned case for keeping them, or will a perfunctory No to abolition be considered sufficient? And what follow through will there be if they say Yes?

Let's at least hope we're not being invited in twelve months' time to give grovelling applause to an initiative designed to identify regulations ripe for review.

It's the London Ambulance Service again

The London Ambulance Service (LAS) management jobsworths comprehensively screwed up in responding to the 2005 July 7 bombings, as the inquest has shown.

Yes, they did it again in their so called response to Caren Paterson's medical emergency, leaving her with severe brain damage.

Not only that, but her family have had to fight what the Mail calls "a lengthy legal battle". Only now have the LAS admitted 11 separate breaches of duty and agreed to pay for her ongoing care. So in 2011 we get a report of this shocking, self-regarding procedure-driven care-free response, which happened back in 2007.

Doubtless the inadequates running the LAS are pretty satisfied with themselves, squandering our money on a defective service.

A striking Portuguese number

So Portugal wants a debt bailout. Among all the figures, this from the Wall Street Journal stands out:
The total economy's debt owed to foreigners is equal to more than two years' economic output. The government, which hasn't had a balanced budget or a surplus in more than 30 years, has amassed debt equal to more than 80% of gross domestic product.
If governments keep running deficits, sooner or later the foreign lenders may come calling. Fecklessness now has to be paid for when you're older, or by your children.

Portugal's education is poor, it's western Europe's poorest country, and "its growth has trailed the rest of the euro zone over the past decade".

It's already got long term stagnation, so what chance does it have to improve its lot when it gets saddled with extra debt, if it can't devalue its currency?

As it is, Portugal seems condemned to join Greece in the bin of hopelessness, as it lacks Ireland's educated workforce and dynamism.

Meanwhile, stare that number in the face. The government hasn't had a balanced budget or a surplus in more than 30 years.

A risky strategy even if the country had been rapidly modernising. But it was just featherbedding, living off the future. Soft option. Now its future will be harder.

State schools don't encourage excellence - shock

Well look here.
Teachers focused their attention on bumping-up pupils from a grade D to a C in order to improve their ranking in school league tables.

Meanwhile those youngsters who were considered bright enough to get a grade B or higher at GCSE have been neglected.
And the study's author says
Children who try harder do better. But because of a fear of appearing “elitist”, pupils are not being encouraged to put in the effort which will bring about excellence.

We need an approach which will recognise and nurture signs of high performance in every subject – both academic and vocational.

There are many more pupils capable of high performance than we currently recognise.
And indeed Ofsted has found that some 46% of students do not feel they are intellectually challenged at school.

Rather than adding bells and whistles to give the impression that the government is tinkering with the social mobility issue, they should grip one of the major bars to greater social mobility, which is state schools' tolerance for mediocrity and even celebration of it.

You cannot stretch A and A* pupils in a mixed ability class, even at the level of the dumbed down, modular GCSEs. Quite apart from the huge ability range in such classes, some pupils there just won't be interested, which will lead to continual disruption. Clegg and his sanctimonious ilk are forcing an inferior product onto the taxpaying public.

If comprehensive schools cannot accommodate 'setting' for individual subjects (and timetabling may prevent this), then they must stream.

This isn't warm and fuzzy, it isn't headline grabbing, it's basic. Governing means sometimes tackling basic problems even though they're a bit disagreeable, or even hard.

April 04, 2011

Good news on education

A couple of minor bits of good news on the education front this morning.

The new guidance on teachers' powers will reduce the rules and regulations from 600 pages to a 50-page document. 600 pages! That smacks of detailed, centralised control by the likes of the thug Balls. Gove has obviously made it an objective to reduce the amount of documentation, and good for him.

Schools will also face inspections from Ofsted without prior warning. Good. All inspections should be unannounced, of schools, care homes, or anywhere else (apart from royal visits). Otherwise, the inspectors aren't seeing the institution as it really is. Giving it time to buff itself up before the inspectors appear turns the inspection into a ritual which allows an easy ride for those running the institution, and for the inspectors themselves.

But they matter less than the people the institution is supposed to be serving. Let's also have value for taxpayers, who are otherwise paying for a charade.

April 01, 2011

Yes to AV

Guido writes today that
Research out today from the No to AV campaign suggests that in the region of 35 constituencies could have their outcomes determined by the second preferences of BNP voters. This is the unwelcome empowerment that the AV system brings to democracy.
So what?

The No to AV arguments seem to be dominated by members of the political establishment who want to preserve the status quo. Maybe AV would stop the Conservatives ever getting into power again.

But that's democracy. Inconvenient though it may be for the political establishment, give citizens' votes more power, and let the chips fall where they may.

Not a new epilepsy treatment

Jessica Banks has been prescribed a high fat diet for her epilepsy. It's helping a lot, and the blog wishes her well.

But it isn't a pioneering treatment. In the 1930's, before drugs for epilepsy were available, doctors used to prescribe a high fat diet.

Very best wishes to Jessica and her family for the continued success of this traditional treatment.

Why buy today's Telegraph?

According to the Telegraph's front page, these articles are today's selling points.
  • Free CD inside tomorrow Ten stunning arias
  • How Miliband has changed politics
  • The night I became midwife to a ewe
  • "Sitting in a police cell, I thought: I can't go on like this" (this is a Paul Gascoigne exclusive, so hurry while stocks last)
  • The perverse path that leads to true love (by Piers Morgan's wife)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal on collision course with reality