Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dr Crippen is back

Good news one of my favourite bloggers Dr Crippen or NHS Blog Doc is back after a too long absence of three months.

NHS Blog Doctor: Crippen redux

Empty "Vision" of the Big Feartie

According to the Sunday Times the Feartie, after a week to forget, is getting even more flack from Blairites of the New Labour variety as he has failed to set out an inspiring "Vision" for new Labour and and an "empty" conference speech.

Apparently Mr. Blair (remember him?) has disclosed that he is "unhappy" with the direction of the party and concerned about what new Labour stands for.

It also appears that is is not just Blair who is complaining a number of quotes appear from Blair allies complaining of a policy vacuum, being policy free, no vision, no coherent narrative and belittling Blair.

Lord Falconer in particular was scathing about Brown. Having left the cabinet in June he has launched a thinly veiled attack on Brown, warning that an inspiring vision needs to be “spelt out”. He said Brown’s experience and management of crises was not enough to win the next general election.

In addition there are reports that three former Blairite Ministers, Stephen Byers, Alan Milburn and Charles Clarke are "itching" to speak out.

Not all is wonderful in 10 Downing Street at the moment. Never mind Gordon can spend his wakeful times during the night phoning even more Newspaper editors to complain of "bad press". Should keep him busy for awhile.

Tony Blair turns on Gordon Brown as ‘empty’ - Times Online

Big Feartie trails Tories by biggest deficit in 15 Years

The big Feartie will be in more trouble now as his Government goes from bad to worse. he is now presiding over a government with the biggest deficit to the Tories in 15 years. The last time the Tory lead was this high was before Black Wednesday, which says much for his leadership and "Vision".

The Poll from October 10/11 will be a bitter pill for Gordon to swallow after a bad bad week for him.

UPDATE: Must correct this entry. This is not the biggest lead for the Tories(they had a bigger lead as recently as March) but the highest level of support they have had in 15 years. This is probably even better than a big lead as I suspect that Labour still has a few points to fall.

Gordon Brown hit by Tory poll surge - Telegraph

Slapping the Uppity Nats down.

When the SNP came into power in "devolved" Scotland in May after the elections and the humiliation of Labour it was really only a matter of time before the London based Labour Government of the UK decided it needed to slap those uppity Nats down. Now they have a ready-made excuse after Alex Salmond revealed details of a draft copy of a statement by Hilary Benn which pledged £8.1 million to Scottish Farmers.

Apparently a senior Whitehall source is quoted as saying

"A line will be going out from the Scotland Office soon telling all departments to conduct a very careful audit of anything that is to be shared with the Scottish Executive, looking for any information that could be used or manipulated for political purposes by the SNP."
This is mainly because they have been embarrassed by the revelations by Alex Salmond and what the real reasons were for the withdrawal of this pledge.

Similar arguments are also going on about what the permanent secretary to the Scottish Government, Sir John Elvidge, meant when he said
"The CSR ... announced by the UK Government today gives details of the level of funding the Scottish Government and UK Departments will receive over the next three years.

"As we expected, this is a tight settlement, with a lower rate of annual growth than we have experienced since devolution."

Both sides are saying it means different things, one that the government figures were correct and the other that they have been manipulated to get the lowest possible increases to Scotland and then to squeeze them even harder.

It remains to see how this tit-for-tat battle goes. Labour are playing a dangerous game here as any thing they do to upset the SNP government will be seen in a bad light by the majority of Scots at the moment.

It is unlikely anyone will be a real winner, but more than likely the loser will be the regular punter in Scotland. News - UK - Whitehall papers to be vetted before being seen by Scottish civil servants as row over payments escalates

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Monument to the Servicemen of Modern Times

Good to see that this monument has finally been finished.

It commemorates the more than 16,000 British Servicemen and auxiliary forces members who have lost their lives since 1948 when the Commonwealth War Graves Commission closed its books.

There are memorials around the world to particular regiments, campaigns and even individuals, but there was no national shrine on home soil.

Money was raised by subscription, from the Lottery and even the government chipped in, but the trustees are still short of £1 million to ensure the memorial is properly maintained.

This is a place for memories and a place to honour those friends and relatives who were sadly taken from us. Growing up in a Service family you were exposed to this on a number of occasions.

The saddest part about the memorial though is that, despite there being 16,000 people remembered here who have given their live in the pursuit of freedom and peace, there is a blank space for a further 15,000 names. In this supposedly advanced World this is a sad reflection on Life at the moment.

A monument at last for the fallen of modern times - Times Online

Old Rebel - Billy Idol

Just a quick post for a Friday. It's been a few years since I took my wife to see Billy, she kind of idolised him in a loving way (something about throwing intimate articles to him on stage was mentioned). I enjoyed the concert as well as the backing vocalists were equally easy on the eye.

This version of Sweet Sixteen is just superb.

Watch and enjoy

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Election Bribe by Labour?

According to the Scotsman the UK government was last night accused of playing politics with Scottish farmers' livelihoods as it was revealed plans for an £8.1 million compensation payout for foot-and-mouth disease were mysteriously scrapped after Gordon Brown decided not to call an election.

Alex Salmond, the First Minister, revealed Westminster's original foot-and-mouth compensation proposals yesterday. The First Minister issued a draft of Mr Benn's speech which had been given to the Scottish Government on Friday ahead of Mr Benn's statement in the House.

The draft statement contained a paragraph saying Scotland would receive £8.1 million to deal with the foot-and-mouth disaster.

The Environment Secretary was due to say:

"I have also agreed with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury that Scotland should receive £8.1 million and Wales £6.5 million to assist them in countering the impacts of foot-and-mouth on their livestock farmers."

But by Monday, when Mr Benn delivered the statement to MPs, the paragraph had disappeared.

He instead said:

"I am announcing today a package of assistance for the English livestock sector, amounting to £12.5 million. The devolved administrations are proposing to introduce their own schemes."

This looks like a typical piece of Labour sleaze, attempting a bribe for the "non-election" and then dropping it to save a little money, especially if the SNP will look bad.

This is typical of the small minds of Labour who are now seeking their revenge on Scotland for throwing them out of Government. They may see this as a good idea, but in todays climate in Scotland this sort of action will have the opposite effect to what they require to get back in Government. News - Politics - Foot-and-mouth payouts for farmers dropped after U-turn on election

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tax rise threat to ‘save as you earn’ schemes

As I expected the Capital Gains Tax change announced in GordonsDarling's first budget will hit Share Option schemes , and yes I do have one!

This was supposed to simplify CGT and hit Private Equity Chiefs, however it looks like it will also hit, not only entrepreneurs and the like, but also savers who at the moment appear to be a dying breed as is normal when it looks like we are going into a recession.

As noted in the depths of the CSR (p146 apparently) the savings ratio in the UK is the lowest it has ever been as noted here.

So what has the Chancellor done he has changed the rules and now the 1.7m savers in share-save schemes will face increased CGT taxes up from 5% to 18% for basic rate Tax Payers and from 10% to 18% for Higher rate tax payers.

According to Labour they are trying to encourage Long Term savings and wider share ownership. Either they are lying about this or they are just incompetent. They just can't work out joined up government.

As normal with one of Gordon'sLabour's tax changes it is the poorest who are hit hardest.

According to ifs ProShare, whose members include many FTSE-100 companies, the CGT changes were ill considered and would hit some savers hard.

“While the Treasury may have sound reasons for simplifying CGT, it would appear the consequences for employees saving through employee share plans had not been fully assessed. These apparently unintended consequences contradict the government’s stated commitment to encouraging long-term saving and to its support for wider share ownership,” it said.

So another "hidden" tax from Gordon. As they said it's all in the Detail. / In depth - Tax rise threat to ‘save as you earn’ schemes

Don't Kick A dying Dog - End the Phoney War

Brown drops his Bottle

Perhaps now is the time to lay off the kicking of the Feartie. He is obviously in his death throes as a politician and we should be merciful to him in his remaining days as Prime Minister.

Whatever else happens it is likely that Gordon will now just be a spent force as Leader of the Labour party and Britain. He has been made to look like a fool in Parliament and to millions of people around the world. I suspect he will quietly say he will be going before the next election and then do a Macavity.

The problem for Gordon is that he will not be respected here or in the rest of the World. I can just see him at the next EU meeting taking out his red pen when they are discussing the EU "treaty". He will be challenged by all and sundry and they will know that he will back down as he does not have courage of his convictions. Even worse will happen when/if we are in conflict with other countries like Iran, who would you like standing up for you, it certainly wouldn't be Brown.

It is unlikely that anyone in the Labour party will have the guts to challenge Brown at the moment but they should realise that the longer he is around the worse it will get for them. Perhaps Maggie should pop round and speak to him again about what happens when you lose the support/respect of your colleagues.

So I wonder how long this phoney war will last, Labour are a dying force with Gordon at the helm, they have to look at the options ahead, which after recent events, are pretty thin and come up with someone who still retains the remnants of respect in Britain. Until they do this the battle to be the next Prime Minister will not start.

Mind you I could always be wrong because it's well known that It taks a lang spune ti sup wi a Fifer.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Cheap and Nasty knock-offs.

The Telegraph has an article entitled "Darling's tax hike demolishes business builders" and starts out with a joke about Aberdeen which I was surprised they knew about as it's north of Watford.

The joke is

In Aberdeen you can tell when it's freezing: lawyers resort to sticking their hands in their own pockets.
It continues
No need for that, in Westminster, where Alistair Darling, the Aberdeen-educated lawyer, stuck his hands in the Tories' pockets, pulled out some policies, and claimed them for himself.
Do I need to say much more! I do hear the Sun has headline tomorrow of "Stop Thief"

Darling's tax hike demolishes business builders - Telegraph

Another Feartie cock-up

It appears the Tax Credit system is causing unnecessary distress and hardship to the poorest families it was designed to help.

That's probably an understatement, I know of more than a few families who no longer claim for Tax Credit' because of the number of problems they have had with the system. Maybe this was Broon's idea of saving money for the government, another part of his "Vision" for Britain.

In case you had forgotten Tax Creditswere introduced in 2003 as part of a drive by then-Chancellor Brown to reduce poverty, but has been dogged with problems, not least because of its built-in requirement to claim back many of its payments.

As well as this it has cost the Tax Payer about 2bn because of poor administration and overpayment of some 6bn.

According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman more than a quarter of all complaints received from the public were about the tax credit system, run by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). News - Latest News - UK - Watchdog attacks "harsh" tax credit system

EU treaty same as Constitution

This article in the Scotsman will not leave Feartie Broon much room to move after his answer to questions about why there would not be a Referendum on the "new" EU Treaty yesterday.

The Parliament's all-party European Scrutiny Committee concluded in a report that the effect of the entire new treaty was "substantially equivalent" to that of the Constitution.

The Conservatives' Europe spokesman Mark Francois said in view of the committee's conclusions, Brown was "morally bound" to offer Britons a referendum.

But Europe Minister Jim Murphy insisted that the new treaty was "significantly different to the old constitutional treaty in intent, form and substance" and that the version Britain would sign up to was even further from the old Constitution.

So when Gordon takes out his "red pen" to compare them he will find his work has already been done for him and they are virtually the same. He will then have to as a "conviction" politician honour the Labour Party manifesto which, in 2005, promised the voters a Referendum.

I have no doubt though that Gordon using his own special "moral compass" will find a new direction to move that will not allow us to have the promised Referendum.

Never mind perhaps it was just a "Vision" when Blair promised us the Referendum.

Just in case you wondered 9 out of the 16 members of the Committee were LAbour MP's. News - Latest News - UK - UK report says new EU treaty same as Constitution

Monday, October 08, 2007

Football-mad drivers bid for "WE57 HAM" plate

I wonder if the esteemed Blogger and West Ham supporter Iain Dale will be bidding for this registration plate for his nice Audi Convertible. I suspect it may go for around 40,000 pounds, cheap to any fervent supporter.

However Iain may be more interested in the following after West Ham losing their last two games Lot 835: "LOS 3R", which has a reserve price of 900 pounds.

Apparently the top 10 prices for Football related registrations sold by the DVLA is as follows:

1 - AR53 NAL (36,000 pounds)

2 - V1 LLA (35,000 pounds)

3 - ALB 10N (19,000 pounds)

4 - DER 8Y (14,500 pounds)

5 - S41 NTS (11,500 pounds)

6 - PRE 570N (9,400 pounds)

7 - 1 WBA (8,400 pounds)

8 - W1 GAN (7,700 pounds)

9 - EVR 70N (6,400 pounds)

10 - S9 URS (4,600 pounds)

Why this item should be in the Scotsman I have no idea. News - Latest News - Odd - Football-mad drivers bid for "WE57 HAM" plate

A Senior Moment

A group of young students were on a bus discussing the burden placed on society by the older generation of pensioners. One of the pensioners took great exception to some of the comments and stated that he thought it was impossible for some of the older generation to understand todays younger generation and vice-versa. Things had changed so much during the years between their ages. As he was explaining the student interrupted him.

"You grew up in a different world, actually an almost primitive one," the student said, loud enough for all his friends and most of the other passengers to hear.

"The young people of today grew up with colour high definition digital television, high quality music on CD's and MP3 players, jet travel, space travel, trains that have never travelled faster, man walking on the moon, our spaceships have visited Mars. We have nuclear energy, electric and hydrogen cars, computers with light-speed processing and ..."

The pensioner interrupted him and said "You're right, son. We didn't have those things to enjoy and marvel at when we were we invented them. What are you doing for the next generation?"

The applause was resounding...

Hat tip to WhichEndBites

Whichendbites: A SENIOR MOMENT

Third of RAF bomber squadrons 'to be culled'

Dad in his Bomber Days

Stunning isn't it when our Services are as stretched as they have ever been since the Korean war here we are seeing the Labour Government of the Man of Courage, being savaged due to their inadequate financial management.

According to the Telegraph and a number of other papers a third of Britain's frontline RAF bomber squadrons could be disbanded under proposals to save money in the defence budget. This is despite a month ago the Chief of the Air Staff Sir Glenn Torpy saying the RAF
was as lean as it can get.
The Telegraph continues
But Air Force chiefs have been told the priority now is to divert all resources into the current conflicts, leading to cuts elsewhere.

Under the Comprehensive Spending Review proposals, plans are also in place to keep the ageing Tornado F3 fighters in service for another seven years because the Saudi Arabian purchase of 75 brand new Eurofighter Typhoons will mean the RAF will not get any new fighters for an estimated two years.

Much defence funding has also been tied up in major projects such as the two new aircraft carriers, leading to less money being available elsewhere.

So it also seems we are not to get Eurofighter Typhoons as they have all been promised to Saudi Arabia, this is just sheer lunacy.

In addition the Navy will not miss out in swingeing cuts as it could lose all four of its Type 22 frigates and a destroyer.

After Gordon's cheap Political Trick last week when visiting Iraq, this is just what our Armed forces need to hear as they fight on our behalf.

One of the bases which will be affected will probably be Lossiemouth where my father served his final years in the RAF. The loss of anymore squadrons from this area may bring even further problems to this area that has relied on the RAF as a major employment generator for many years.

Third of RAF bomber squadrons 'to be culled' - Telegraph

Warm glow spreads through Scotch Whisky

Great to see the resurgence of Whisky that is going on in Scotland. This is due to the greater demand for our products in countries such as China, India and Brazil, with exports up to over 2.5bn last year setting a record high.

This is not only good news to the distillers but also good news to many of the supporting industries. Scottish Farmers are benefiting from doubled prices for Malting Barley, Coopersmiths are doing better, packaging firms are getting a slice of the increase and even CalMac are benefiting from increased demand for capacity.

In addition we also have a "Consultation" by the UK Government for tighter definitions of Scotch Whisky in UK Law. This would then lead onto possible use of the names in international trade agreements, Islay and Speyside would be in the same category as Champagne, Parma ham, Rioja and Roquefort cheese with protection from European trade law.

Scotch whisky has been defined for many years and is protected by law, but the new laws, which could be in place by spring 2008, will prevent foreign spirits using geographic areas in Scotland. / Companies / Consumer industries - Warm glow spreads through Scotch whisky

Scotland’s nationalists can afford to relax

An interesting article in the Financial Times, from Harry Reid former editor of the Herald, saying that Scotland's nationalists can afford to Relax.

I have to agree with his starting paragraph when he says:

Serenity is not a word often associated with politics, particularly nationalist politics. But since the Scottish National party won its dramatic victory in the Scottish parliamentary elections five months ago, Scotland has been a serene place. Less fractious, more relaxed.
Scotland seems to be happy to be ruled by a party that genuinely has Scotland foremost in it's mind rather than always having to look to London for oversight. It has also been helped by a good degree of consensual help by most of the parties during the start of what could have been a difficult time for the Scottish Parliament, in this they have been helped by the fact that the Scottish Labour party is in disarray and disbelief that Scots should have turned their back on them. Happily this has meant them not being much of a force in Parliament during the first, possibly rocky, months.

Harry also continues with what has undoubtedly been the strongest part of the SNP government, that they have realised that we need no more legislation. He says:
The secret of the governing party’s success so far is that it has concentrated on effective administration rather than legislation. Scotland, like the UK as a whole, had suffered a surfeit of legislation from Labour, some of it ill thought-out and ill drafted. This was a particular problem in Scotland, where there is no second chamber to refine and improve poorly considered and rushed legislation. Even the SNP’s enemies concede that the loss of the imperative to legislate has had a benign effect.
The one blot on the landscape, is that which is at the heart of the SNP, Independence, I don't think that Scotland is quite ready for it. It needs a few more years of decent government from all parties before the country as a whole has the confidence to go it alone. It needs confidence that it has the people, the energy (in more ways than one) , the Businesses and in addition the belief that we will not lose out if we go it alone.

There are also a few rumblings that things may not be so easy for the SNP over the next few months. These have culminated in the vote against the SNP's record on implementing its manifesto. By 70 votes to 48, MSPs voted to recognise that the SNP was elected on the basis of promises it failed to keep and called on ministers to make a statement on why its pre-election promises are no longer government policy. It will also likely have to deal with receiving much less of a rise in spending from the Labour Government when the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) is announced next week, a rise of less than 2% is expected contrasted with rises of above 5% in the past 3 years. This may be balanced against the gaining of 900m pounds not spent in previous years that will be released to Scotland.

These will be problems that the SNP has to face over the Winter, but if they continue as they have started then they will probably rise over these setbacks. There is also the point that none of the other major parties are really ready to force the point at Holyrood at the moment as they are unlikely to achieve anything by forcing setbacks on the SNP apart from a backlash from the public who voted for a change of government.

You might wonder why a Conservative voter is looking at the SNP and saying your doing well and bring on Independence. I do as well, sometimes, but I am foremost Scottish and then Conservative, I believe that Scotland is strong enough to run itself. It has unique challenges and options that are not now best served by a Central Government in London. What the SNP has shown is that different parties and people can work together to get what is best for Scotland and this must remain the most important thing that a Scottish Government must do. / Comment & analysis / Comment - Scotland’s nationalists can afford to relax

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Marr Bottles the Big Feartie interview

Just watched Andrew Marr and the full interview with the Big Feartie Brown. Atrocious journalism, he never challenged him properly once and let him blather on about change and competency rather than attacking the issue. Brown himself was just as poor, faltering and nervous and full of what HE had done. Truly the politics of I.

Now wonder the Big Feartie chose him to do this interview. Any serious journalist given this chance would have forgotten his own prejudices and been on the attack from the word go.

Anyhow that will be the last we will see of Brown for a while, he will be doing his "Macavity" the cat act again until as late as possible next week. Maybe he even won't turn up for some of those important announcements in Parliament that he was due to make next week. The ones like Iraq and the CSR that were so important next week, Flunkies can do these for him and take the flack. I have a feeling PMQ's on Wednesday might be slightly interesting and embarrassing for him.