29 January, 2015

The top 1%

I am grateful to Guido for pointing out that in the last quarter of 2014 Apple sold 74.5 million devices.

That is to say that in just three months, 1% of the world's population bought an iPhone.

Amazing.

And no, I didn't.

Pas du tout Charlie

This blog covered the events in Paris earlier this month with some scepticism. It is one thing to say 'Je suis Charlie', that is to say 'I support the right to publish whatever you wish', and quite another to walk the walk.

The French Government's newly announced response to this outrage is to insist that Facebook and other social media police themselves to eliminate anything which might be hateful. That is to say the Government announces what you can and can't say and the media, acting as an arm of the Government, enforce this.

This is a step exactly in the wrong direction. Just as the French Government makes it illegal to deny the Armenian genocide and just as Cameron in Britain tries to regulate the press, we are saying we love free speech so we are going to limit it.

This really needs to be thought out.

27 January, 2015

Greece

It seems one of my New Year's predictions has already come good: that Syriza would win the election in Greece but without a majority.

The question all over the papers is 'what happens now?'.

Greece should never have been let into Europe, and it appears that when it applied to join the euro, the European Commission was well aware that it had fiddled the figures. It happened because - and this will become increasingly important to bear in mind - Europe and the single currency are political, not economic, phenomena.

Greece did not have a set of responsible politicians. The same parties, indeed the same families, had run it since the era of the colonels, and they were corrupt and incompetent. They went on a spending spree. The standard of living of the average Greek increased by 36% between the start of the euro and the financial crisis.

The powers in Brussels, and indeed the Germans, knew this. But they said nothing.

Why? Because the spending spree had been financed by German banks, with help from the French (there was very little British lending to Greece). In one of the worst pieces of credit misjudgment in history they decided that all eurozone countries were an equal credit risk and since Greek debt paid more (why did it pay more? Aha!) they piled in.

Of course if you believe all eurozone risk is equal, you are assuming that countries in trouble will be bailed out. We shall have to give some thought to that in the coming weeks.

At the start of the crisis it was clear that Greece couldn't pay its debts and a chunk needed to be written off. But that would have exposed the incompetent German bankers so instead the Greeks were saddled with even more debt. Very little of this actually went into Greece - there was very little new money.

The Greeks had been shafted to save Germany.

So it isn't surprising that they voted for Mr Tsipras, who declares Greece should have the same kind of debt forgiveness Germany was given after the war.

But Europe can't do that because Italy and Spain would also want it.

What should happen is that Tsipras should take Greece out of the Euro and declare a full moratorium on its debt.

But it won't happen because the Greeks, poor ignorant souls, think the euro is a good thing: a badge of solvency.

There will be a fudge, and the Greeks will continue to suffer.

Colouring

Benedict Cumberbatch, the actor, has apologised for his language on American television. He says he is 'devastated' to have caused offence and that he was an 'idiot'.

He had referred to 'coloured' people.

I don't suppose I shall ever be interviewed on American television (particularly after they have read this) but I confess I thought 'coloured' was the polite version and that you weren't supposed to say 'black' or 'negro'.

How on edge must America's race relations be if this causes such a storm?

24 January, 2015

De mortuis...

The flags were at half mast in London yesterday and for a while no one knew whether it was for King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia or for Leon Brittan, the former Home Secretary.

Abdullah ruled one of the most corrupt, terrorist-ridden countries on earth, with an appalling human rights record, and which dealt out medieval punishments to its own people. The monarchy is in thrall to a gang of religious nutcases. It is possible but unlikely that Abdullah didn't know what was going on and possible that he just didn't know any different.

Leon Brittan was the only senior Conservative politician of the 1980s that I really didn't like. He had an unpleasant, supercilious demeanour and closed down argument rather than engaging with it. Along with Heath, Heseltine, Clarke and Gummer he lied and lied to get us into the European Community as it then was, going on to collect a decent sinecure and pension as his reward.

It turned out the flags were for Abdullah. 'Go figure', as the Americans say.

PS I should add that I know nothing of the tittle-tattle surrounding Brittan. A man is innocent until proven guilty.

20 January, 2015

The NHS

Delighted to hear Nigel Farage saying the NHS will have to move to an insurance based system within ten years.

The true ghastliness of the NHS is reported piecemeal in the papers - such as more than 1,000 people dying unnecessarily in South Stafford alone; people going into hospital with something fairly trivial and coming out in a pine box because of a disease they caught in the hospital; inadequate medicines, equipment, staff. But no one ever questions the structure.

It is the whole system which is wrong and insurance will help but not solve the whole problem.

I shall be putting forward my views on the NHS in my manifesto, due to be published in good time for the election, on the Feast of All Fools.

18 January, 2015

Italian culture

Happy birthday to ANSA, the Press agency, which is 70 years old. It performs an excellent service, unbiased although Italian-centred. Its website ansa.it can be read in English.

Another useful Italian service, if you are fed up with Radio 3 and Classic FM: http://www.radiofd5.rai.it/dl/portali/site/page/Page-e2d8dd75-9ebf-4de9-9880-514bdad658ad.html

This is a classical music service which just plays the music with a sombre announcer who just says what it is and names the performers. No chat, no traffic reports or news. No need to speak Italian. Just music

14 January, 2015

Easing

As I write, the pound sterling has risen dramatically against the euro.

The reason is that the markets believe that the European Central Bank will commence some quantitative easing at its meeting on 22nd January.

It would do this by creating money and using it to buy government securities whose holders, principally banks, woud then have cash they could invest in their economies.

Three days later, on 25th January, is the Greek election. The likely winners, Syriza, claim they will repudiate part of the Greek government debt.

So the ECB would be buying stuff which it knows in a few days might be worthless.

Doesn't seem too honest to be.

13 January, 2015

Aux armes, citoyens!

So what was it all about, this march in Paris, repeated all over France? Some say 3.7 million people came out.

Well....according to Piers Morgan in the Daily Mail, they were marching for 'freedom'; he seemed to imply that Obama's failure to appear meant the President was against the concept.

Most of the European Press seemed to feel they were marching against terrorism.

Now it's fairly easy to find several million people in favour of freedom or indeed against terrorism. But that isn't what the march was intended to be about. It was intended to be about freedom of speech. What 'Je suis Charlie' means is that you stand with those dead cartoonists willing to risk your life to publish what you want, however offensive. However offensive. So whether it's about the holocaust, or Mohammed or Princess Diana or Stephen Fry you are allowed to publish it and will stand by the risks of doing so.

Several journalists, notably Robert Shrimsley in the FT, said they were not Charlie, because they simply didn't have the courage.

The reason the moral thrust of the march is important is that if it was about being against terrorism, resentment that French citizens had been killed, that feeling will soon turn into an anti-muslim backlash and this, in my view, would be a very bad thing, if understandable.

If, however, it was against any attack on freedom of speech, it means something very different. Western Europe has been moving in the opposite direction to free speech. I mentioned France's laws against denying the holocaust and the Turkish / Armenian massacre. In Britain the police continually monitor social media for 'offensive' posts. And you can't say anything racist without plod turning up on your doorstep. Free speech would mean dismantling that whole apparatus.

I'd love to be proved wrong, but I rather think this march doesn't mean anything at all.

11 January, 2015

Hypocrisy (2)

And I'm afraid a miasma of hypocrisy is settling over the Charlie Hebdo affair. Fran├žois Hollande, who has done more than most to cover up investigation of his own peccadilloes, has, if you please, called a sort of public demonstration (normally he sends the riot police to this sort of thing), inviting David Cameron (who wanted to regulate the press over the Millie Dowler business) and such free press stalwarts as Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.

I don't know if the presidents of Russia and China are turning up to look like Charlies.

Some people I hope are not attending are the trendies of the Hacked Off Group, which includes JK Rowling and Stephen Fry, who have led a campaign to limit press freedom in England, particularly when it comes to being horrid to luvvies.

If so we shall have to hand out 'Je suis hypocrite' badges.

Hypocrisy

A good article by Catherine Bennett in the Observer today pointing out that there seems to be one law for Ched Evans and another for Roman Polanski who is allowed to pursue his trade of film director despite having committed an even worse crime, raping a 13 year old.

10 January, 2015

The Commentator

Do read The Commentator - it's free. My latest article describes Berlusconi's comeback

09 January, 2015

Ched Evans

An aide to John 'Vince' Cable, the Business Secretary, has interfered in the talk about Ched Evans, a footballer who was convicted of rape and now wants to return to football. I have no idea why but this is one of those subjects which seem to throw up more nonsense than it should.

Both sides in the argument seem to be exhibiting gross disrespect to the British Justice System. First, have no truck with people who suggest that he didn't really do it. Evans was tried and found guilty of rape. He may be able to appeal the verdict, I don't know, but unless and until that happens he is guilty.

The other side also seem not to have understood the Justice System. A convicted criminal is sentenced not by the feminist twitter feed but by a judge. That sentence was handed down, he served it and is now out. The Judge didn't say 'Four years and you shall never work again'. It was just the prison sentence.

We have a great problem with recidivism in Britain. On release prisoners are more likely to return to a life of crime than not. Here is someone who can do a job and people are trying to stop him.

Anyone who is such a halfwit as to believe that footballers are role models needs locking up for their own safety. And even if they were it doesn't alter the fact that our system has released Mr Evans. Let him get on with his life.

2015

I should have begun the year by giving you my forecasts but to be honest they're more often wrong than right.

OK, here we go.

In the Greek election this month the left-wing anti-euro Syriza party will be the largest, but they won't have enough of a majority to do what they want. As a result a fudge will be organised to keep Greece in the euro. which is the last thing the people of that benighted country need.

After the British elections in May David Cameron will be Prime Minister but only after the sort of undemocratic stitch-up he used last time. UKIP, it pains me to say, will not do as well as people think.

The oil price will firm up a bit after the end of the summer.

There will be the usual amount of hunger, disease and war. There will be more Islamic terrorist outrages and Europe will increasingly see an anti-Islamic backlash, which, it will quickly be realised, is not a healthy development.

Out on a limb here: Italy will choose a woman president and the Labour Party a woman leader.

The euro will continue to look unsustainable but will not actually collapse. 

In America the Republicans will continue to fail to find a credible candidate to oppose Hillary Clinton.

The FTSE 100 and the S & P in America will reach new highs; the European bourses will not.

People will get fed up having to carry enormous smart 'phones around with them.

08 January, 2015

Perfect!

The supremely irritating TripAdvisor - why can't they spell adviser properly? - has just sent me an email entitled 'Paris in 2015 - sounds perfect!'.

Perhaps it is some sort of political statement.

Je suis Charlie (3)

The problem now appears to be how people react, in France and elsewhere. France has around 6 million muslims, the highest of any Western European nation, and feelings have been running high for some time.

People will see that the gunmen escaped to the Banlieue, the suburbs around Paris, which are effectively a police no go area. Political tension is palpable and more than a thousand cars are torched every year.

With Marine Le Pen riding high in the polls it will be Hollande's unhappy job to calm the feelings of non-muslims. There is a clear threat of backlash.

Elsewhere, there have been anti-muslim riots in Germany, and nationalist parties are on the rise in several European countries.

These are going to be difficult times.

Je suis Charlie (2)

By the way I'm not sure I want to hear too much from the French about freedom of speech.

If Charlie Hebdo, instead of printing cartoons about Mohammed, had said that fewer than 6 million Jews died in the holocaust, the magazine could have been closed and the journalists imprisoned. Equally if it had conducted a personal campaign against the President. The penalty for saying that the Turks didn't commit genocide over the Armenians during WW1? €45,000 fine and a year in prison.

A couple of years ago a French wine writer who described Beaujolais as a vin de merde was prosecuted for criminal libel.

Free speech should mean just that.

Je suis Charlie

There is only one way, in my view, to see the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris: it was an attack on us all, from the great international publications to this humble blog, down to the ordinary person who reads them.

I have read Charlie a couple of times (Hebdo means 'weekly' in French). It was often offensive, sometimes needlessly provocative, rude. But the point to be stressed is that it has every right to be those things. If you didn't like it you didn't buy it, tout simplement.

We have all been staring down the barrel of those guns. Let us now show how we can comport ourselves when threatened.

Happy New Year

I have neglected this blog over the last year, partly through illness and partly through getting involved in other projects. It is very much a part of my plan to keep it going, however, so there should be many more posts in 2015.

If there are any Readers left I wish you a Happy New Year

12 December, 2014

Immigration

I read that thousands of people are estimated to have been given British passports even though they are criminals or otherwise quite unsuitable. A recent report lists smugglers, illegal workers and in one case someone who admitted to stabbing a man to death, as successful applicants.

I had my passport stolen a while back and for months have been in correspondence with the Passport Office, who seem to me to be what I would call, were it concerning anyone else, utterly thorough.

I now wish I had given my profession as 'Serial Killer' - I'd probably have received a replacement immediately.

10 December, 2014

Torture

Using advanced interception techniques, this blog can reproduce the interrogation of a terrorist subject.

MI5: Do you know about a plot to blow up part of the London Underground?

Abdul (not his real name): Yes, I know all about it.

MI5: When and where is it going to take place?

Abdul: I'm not telling you

MI5: Dash it! The bounder refuses to talk! Oh well, nothing for it, those innocent commuters are just going to have to die.

See anything wrong here? If we think someone knows about a plot to murder thousands of people, I want him waterboarded, surfboarded, beaten with a copy of the Independent and forced to listen to a recital of EU Directives until he spills the beans.

When you enter a war, either against another state or against 'terror', nasty things happen. Thousands of innocent people died in our bombing raids on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and so on, but we're not allowed to beat up a terrorist suspect in order to save lives.

That is how we should see the arguments on torture.

PS I should mention that I don't think torture should be authorised, as in the recent American case, by intelligence officers. I think it should be authorised by a High Court judge on strictly pre-determined criteria.

27 November, 2014

New Tories

How, I must ask, has the Conservative Party sunk so low? You meet them on the doorsteps, at parties or their fundraising events and something speaks to you that all is not normal, not as it was. Has some alien force invaded? How did they enrol these new people?

We hear a Judge confirm that Andrew Mitchell, a former Chief Whip, had indeed called a policeman (a policeman!) a f***ing pleb and tried to bully him out of doing his job. This week also we hear that David Mellor, a former Cabinet Minister, has been recorded swearing at a taxi driver, and listing his achievements - broadcaster, QC etc before saying the cabbie should get an education before arguing with him.

Having a rank in society or a good education brings with it obligation, not the right to sneer. You know what I think about people who use their position or their education to bully more ordinary folk?

I think they're f***ing plebs.

06 November, 2014

The way we live now

A lesbian couple, described as intelligent and sophisticated, approached a male gay couple, also described as intelligent and sophisticated, with a view to them, the lesbians, conceiving children.

The procedure was done by in vitro fertilisation. Two children resulted. Now the two sets have been quarrelling over 'parental access'. Legal action has been taken, the parties being known as 'Mother 1 and Mother 2' (M1 being the biological mother) versus Father 1 and Father 2 (F1 being father). The children are called Child A and Child B.

The action has been going on for 4 years and cost more than half a million pounds.

Custody has been awarded to the two Ms, even though they have a history of domestic violence with each other, M1 having been treated for psychiatric disorders and M2 being described as 'controlling'.

F1 and F2 are allowed to see something of B but only write to A.

The two children's lives have been 'irredeemably marred' by the court conflict.

I don't really know where to start here, so I'll just report it. Bonkers parents, unnatural relationships, domestic violence, children's lives ruined.


Immigration

Recent confusing figures trying to quantify the cost or benefit to the Exchequer of immigration are missing the point.

The important aspect is that a significant number of people in Britain - enough to turn an election - think that immigration has created ghettoised areas where English is not spoken and life not lived in an English way and that this leads to social upheaval.

The non-political class also recognise that these people need public services such as schools, hospitals, policing and so on, costs which don't come out in the figures.

It is not racist to discuss this and if the present politicians don't allow such discussion, either they will find themselves replaced by people who are more normal, or the hitherto silent majority will rebel.

I am just talking about discussing the matter, nothing more than that.

Europe

We now learn that some €7 billion of the European budget (around €150 billion in total) was paid out in error, whilst the masterminds behind this are asking Britain to stump up another €2.1billion.

I am not here making the traditional eurosceptic point. We knew it was corrupt when we joined; we knew they could ask a successful country for more money to subsidise the lazy and unsuccessful; we accepted that European Law takes precedence over ours.

We should pay up without all this whingeing: this is money we owe.

Of course we shouldn't have joined in the first place. Of course we should now leave (we should have left long ago). But this was our cock-up and we must take responsibility for it.

OH NO!

It seems that the head of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, has entered the pantomime season early. From a press conference to mark his new job:

JCJ: I am not the head of a band of bureaucrats
Public: OH YES YOU ARE!

JCJ: I deserve some respect
Public: OH NO YOU DON'T!

Dear me. I don't suppose we shall ever take these people seriously.

28 October, 2014

Close encounter

It seems that Dean Farley, a hospital worker from Leeds, barged into the prime Minister, David Cameron, who was emerging from a speaking engagement.

My first thought was that he was probably protesting against unchecked immigration and the cost of belonging to the European Union and that it would do Mr Cameron good to meet a member of the general public.

Mr Farley - alright I'm guessing here - is not an Old Etonian.

However the truth was even better. Mr Farley, who surely has a future on the world stage, didn't know who Cameron was.

26 October, 2014

Jack Bruce

Sorry to hear of the Death of Jack Bruce. He started as a jazz musician, playing upright bass, played blues with John Mayall, pop with Manfred Mann and of course progressive rock with Cream.



Quite a cv

Apology

Sorry for the lack of posting. I have been in the South of France which has a glorious warm autumn.

Whatever people tell you about France's economic disaster it is not true of the Cote d'Azur which is comfortable and expensive.

Terrible coffee, though.

Sense of time

As usual on these occasions I got up this morning not knowing what bloody time it was. I had some recollection of having changed the time on my 'phone before I went to bed, but another recollection that I hadn't known how to do it. Turning on the computer, which updates itself automatically, was the only way to find out, and by that stage I was awake and the day had to start.

It was 5am.

Now, at last, we see some sense. Russia, which had turned to some sort of permanent summer time a few years ago has listened to its people, who feel their biorhythms were being played around with, and abandoned the concept completely. The clocks will no longer change in Russia but simply reflect the time nature intended.

It is high time our own so called democracy did the same.

11 October, 2014

Boycott

One wouldn't have thought there was much of a connection between toymaker Lego and the Shell energy company, unless it was for the purchase of chemicals to make the vile plastic bricks which hurt when you tread on them.

But apparently the two go back fifty years. Shell pays Lego to make imitation Shell petrol stations, fuel trucks and so on, and the contract is worth around $100 million.

Now Lego has pulled out, persuaded by the environmental pressure Group Greenpeace that Shell are absolutely horrid.

Shell and Greenpeace also go back a long way, following Greenpeace's wholly bogus attack on rig decommissioning some years ago. Greenpeace hadn't understood anything about oil and water and supplied the media and the public with outrageously inaccurate figures.

Really, we do need a few more facts and a bit less hysteria from the enviro-loonies. This blog has long boycotted Greenpeace; it is now boycotting Lego, too.

What are those little bricks made of, anyway?

Nobel Peace Prize

Considering that the Nobel Peace Prize has, in the recent past, been awarded to the European Union, Barack Obama, Al Gore and the bogus International Panel on Climate Change, we must congratulate the organisers on awarding it to someone, Malala Yousafzai, who has actually benefitted humanity.

Spare a thought for Kailash Sathyarti, the Indian children's campaigner, who shared the prize with Malala but whose name is likely to be forgotten.

30 September, 2014

Offensive

A charming tale from Northern Ireland. A golf fan in Holywood, Co. Down, was holding a party to celebrate the European win in the Ryder Cup. He flew the EU flag in celebration and a neighbour complained to the police.

All very straightforward and normal, you might think.

But the complaint was to the effect that the twelve Golden stars on a blue background was an Arabic symbol and offensive.

I have never been to Holywood, but I salute its inhabitants. 'Oh brave new world, that hath such people in it!'. Life must be bliss where you have no idea what this flag means.

But the Europe Team in the Ryder Cup has nothng to do with the EU, an undemocratic tyranny of bureaucrats.

And the flag is offensive.

28 September, 2014

Tory resignations

No one will have really been surprised at the resignation of Mark Reckless, who has joined UKIP. Reckless explains in some detail how he came to the conclusion. Principally, he doesn't think Cameron means it.

Cameron has been relying on his promise to hold a referendum if the Conservatives win, and it is tempting to vote Conservative just for this. But increasingly people are believing it to be a sham. Cameron will do very little to renegotiate our deal with Europe (and be allowed very little by Europe) and will then lead the 'staying-in camp', pretending his reforms are the best that can be achieved.

Reckless points to the European Arrest Warrant which Cameron at first opposed then has quietly brought back. A corrupt judge in Romania or Slovakia can order your arrest by British police without your being able to contest it. They don't have habeas corpus in Europe so you can be locked up for a long time without charge, and, except for murder, none of these countries have trial by jury.

So Reckless went. Others will too unless Cameron looks as if he isn't cheating us.

More interesting is the departure of Brooks Newmark. Firstly, what was he doing for a living? Why do we need a Minister for Civil Society? Is it as opposed to military society or to those in religious orders?

Anyway, this bogus minister, who is filthy rich and married with five children, got a message on social media from 'Sophie, 20-something Tory researcher' saying she'd like to ask his advice about becoming an MP and he, sensing the possibility of a shag at the Party Conference, purred along.

It is almost inconceivable that a grown man could be so stupid (Sophie was, of course, an undercover reporter) but he fell for it hook, line and sinker.

And then, good gracious.... Ask yourself, gentlemen, how you look at your best, which outfit makes you most attractive. I have known women who favour the cords and brown shoes casual look, but most I have known think a decent suit and tie. Some women find cufflinks quite sexy.

Mr Newmark sent 'Sophie' a picture of himself in paisley pajamas, naturally with his penis hanging out. Paisley pajamas! Good grief! and this is a minister of the Crown!

Cameron appointed this man a minister, even though he had been in trouble before about stupid posts on social media and had to resign, and Cameron must take the blame.

Mr Newmark's constituents now need to hand him the pistol and the bottle of whisky. He is too stupid to be an MP.

26 September, 2014

Surely....

As the world prepares for war in the Middle East and the Ukraine, I see there are photos in the newspapers of Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham) addressing the United Nations.

Fortunately it's 1st April

Oh

25 September, 2014

Softened up

I first began to think we were being softened up for a war when ISIS was described as 'the biggest threat the United States has faced'. That's the United States of America, with its fast jets and stealth bombers, its ships and Aircraft carriers, its drones, its hundreds of thousands of soldiers. ISIS at the time numbered 10,000 (it's probably now around 20,000) and was equipped with the sort of weaponry an American could buy in a hardware store.

ISIS are Sunni muslims and largely Syrian. They were rebelling against Bashar al Assad in their own country and we, if you recall, were trying to help them.

Then we imposed our own man to lead Iraq next door, and he, a Shia, like the majority of Iraqis, was being unpleasant to Sunnis and the Sunnis in Syria crossed the border to fight him.

None of this fighting has taken place in Kent, or New York.

Where the Sunni bandits are a threat to the West is that they might send suicide bombers to our shores. Why would they do that? Because they perceive us as being involved in what they perceive as their country. So what would be the effect of us bombing the hell out of them? Exactly: they will respond in the only way they can.

Now David Cameron has adopted the usual mantle of the Tory Right: 'If there's a fight anywhere, we want to be involved'.  It is a demonstration of national and personal machismo.

Cameron has already told one porky pie to support the idea of British involvement: he said ISIS had already plotted an atrocity on British soil. That was the so-called 'toothpaste bomb' threat but it wasn't by ISIS, it was by an offshoot of al-Qaeda. ISIS have so far killed, what, four westerners? Five?

And yet Cameron has recalled parliament to discuss going to war: another war in which no way out has been suggested and none will be found and which will put not just our service personnel but our civilians at risk.

If instead of vast resources being devoted to a foreign campaign, we simply strengthened Britain's borders we would defend ourselves more effectively.

19 September, 2014

Scotland: the fallout

The Scots have voted and the nonsense level has reached what surely must be its peak.

The Spectator (and many others): 'we are in danger of dissolving the most successful political union in history.' No, think America, think Germany, think Switzerland. If ours was so successful 45% of one of its constituent parts wouldn't have voted to leave.

Cameron: 'the Scots have voted for a new constitutional settlement'. No, Davy, they voted to stay in the UK, the old settlement. Other leaders tried the same sort of tosh, aimed to cover up their spectacular own goal during the campaign.

Now the vote is over, Britain finds itself not at ease with itself, but in a rather difficult predicament. No one who knows the man will be surprised that the source of its predicament is Gordon Brown, disgraced former Prime Minister and the man with the anti-Midas touch.

Towards the end of the campaign, when people thought the Yes vote might win, Brown announced that he had been having a chat with some of his constituents (he didn't name them and we can be sure this was a lie) and there was support for a new constitutional settlement. The three party leaders in Britain all gave it their full support. It involves what is called devo-more. At the start of the campaign we could have got away with devo-lite, a modest amount of devolution if the Scots stayed in, then the price went up to devo-max and now it's even worse than that.

The three leaders and Mr Catastrophe had no right to offer what they did - the way we do constitutional change in Britain is through a vote in both houses of parliament then approval by the Queen - and now we are in the do-do.

The Scots can fairly say (even if it's not true) that they voted 'No' because of this offer. They will insist on it being fulfilled. But parliament won't approve it without equally generous terms for England. Of course that scuppers the timetable: it's going to take at least two years, whereas Catastrophe promised it for Burns' Night (25th January).

But if this looked like a bad night for Alex Salmond and David Cameron, think how Ed Miliband must be feeling. When Parliament insists on only English MPs voting on purely English matters, he is going to find that every time Cameron wants something done he just needs to say it's an English matter and he will have a majority. Miliband is frantically backtracking, but his Agreement to Catastrophe's plans have effectively meant the end of the Labour Party for the near future.

And while we are on the subject of who has done well or badly, has anyone in Britain come out of this feeling that our politicians and our media are fit for purpose?

I don't think so.

We have a long and difficult time ahead. The people don't like not knowing where they stand.

18 September, 2014

Our NHS

David Prior, head of the Care Quality Commission, says that up to 10,000 people a year die because of poor NHS care.

Ten  thousand  people  per  year.

At the same time we see that staying with an unreformed NHS is the principal issue in the Scottish Referendum campaign. The Yes side are concerned that the evil English might allow private money and private health standards to contaminate the service they are getting.

I should have thought one of the main benefits of Independence would be that you didn't have to have the NHS.

17 September, 2014

Still going

A week away and I return to find the Scottish referendum debate still going on. I wonder that anyone has anything new to say, although I suppose Gordon Brown's promise to have more devolution if they say no, hastily backed up by the party leaders, is new. It is new constitutionally, that a former (disgraced) prime minister could start making promises on a constitutional settlement without reference to parliament.

Anyway, it's nearly over.

One interesting point: I saw that Bob Geldof had addressed a 'No' rally. Geldof is Irish. Is he saying that he thinks being a part of the UK is so wonderful that he'd like it for his country?

Reversing the 1922 constitutional settlement would be a change indeed.

07 September, 2014

The Great Negotiator

Finally, as many commentators (not me) foresaw, the polls show that Scotland's Independence vote is in the lead.

If the UK breaks up - indeed whether it does or not - we are going to have to have a look at how we got into this mess.

Scotland voted for an SNP majority, and the SNP leader, Alex Salmond, came down to London and demanded an Independence referendum. He must have been staggered when he got it. Any normal Prime Minister would have said 'OK, you set out how it would be like, Independence, and we'll set out how we think it would be like. After that we'll start talking about referenda.'

But Cameron, who wants to be seen as a modern, all-inclusive sort of moderator, rather than leader, rolled over immediately.

Then the question. Again, any normal leader would have devised it as 'Would you like Version A (complete independence) or Version B (some sort of independence light)?'. But Salmond saw the danger of this and insisted on a straight 'in or out'. Again Cameron rolled over.

The problem is that this is the man we've got negotiating for us over whether we stay in Europe. I suppose it's possible that Cameron wants Scotland to leave (his Labour opponents would lose a lot of MPs at Westminster), and that he wants Britain to leave Europe. But I don't think so. I think he's just a weak negotiator.

This is quite worrying.

04 September, 2014

All you need to know

On Monday, the most searched for internet items in the USA were the nude photographs of celebrities which had been hacked from Apple.

In Britain it was news of football transfers.

01 September, 2014

The Commentator

See my piece covering the appointment of a new EU Foreign Minister in The Commentator. It's free.

30 August, 2014

Equality

Apparently someone has hit the MP George Galloway, breaking his jaw and damaging his ribs. Stop laughing at the back there, this is serious.

A man has been detained by police.

I assume that the events which follow will be the same as they would be if a pro-Israeli MP had made a vehement and intemperate attack on Hamas and had been assaulted by a Muslim.

27 August, 2014

Explain please

You may have heard the appalling news that in Rotherham, northern England, some 1,400 children have been raped and abused over a period of several years.

The independent report into the matter said that no one on the council could claim ignorance over what had been going on. Yet only one has resigned.

One said that the workers on the case were 'waiting for guidance'. I don't know what guidance you need if you find out children have been systematically raped.

The truth of the matter is this: with a couple of exceptions all the attackers were Pakistani Muslims, and with a couple of exceptions all the victims were ethnically British (white). I know this sort of discussion is difficult for some people but it has to come out for it to be properly investigated. Why did the Pakistanis want to destroy the lives of white children but not those of their own ethnicity? We have to know the answer to this.

And this was their defensive shield: the council, the social services, the police did not prosecute them, because they were Asian muslims.

And we need to ask this: what is it with the Labour Party (for they were all Labour, bien sur) and child rape? Not long ago we had the story of Harriet Harman, currently deputy leader of the Labour Party and Patricia Hewitt, a former front bencher, back in the days when they were at the National Council for Civil Liberties. They were using taxpayers' money to help the Paedophile Information Exchange on the grounds that being a paedophile was a valid lifestyle choice.

Now Labour permit it to go on, the rape of children for God's sake, on the grounds that to make a fuss might seem racist.

Can we have an explanation, please?

Surely..

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, is under formal investigation in France for misuse of her position (Finance Minister) by 'resolving' a dispute in favour of a friend of her boss, Nicolas Sarkozy, costing the French taxpayer hundreds of millions.

Of course she will resign her post while she clears her name.... er....no?

23 August, 2014

Space Shuffle

Imagine you are a bank manager and someone wants you to invest a huge sum of money in his new factory.

What does it make? Clothes pegs.

A new design of clothes peg? No, same as the old one.

Er....a cheaper clothes peg? Nope. They cost very little as it is, these will be a fair bit more expensive.

So the world is well served for cheap clothes pegs. What is the point of this new one? He just wanted his own clothes peg factory.

Some years ago the American military developed a mapping system which can position an object within... well it's probably a millimetre by now. And they offered this system - not quite as good as the military's but down to a metre - free. You pay nothing for satnav, it's a gift. You just pay for the gizmo which works it.

So what did Europe do? Started their own of course (they're bureaucrats, not bank managers). Firstly with the Chinese, then when the Chinese got tired with the indecision and bureaucracy and developed one on their own, they continued alone. It has cost billions - we'll probably never discover quite how much - of our money.

Yesterday the satellite launched - years late and massively over budget - and went into the wrong orbit.

Now there will be more money wasted, to obtain something that is already free.

Admit it!

The global warming loonies at the BBC have reluctantly come up with another change to the certainty they have been espousing.

Scientists now believe that the global warming 'pause' will continue for another ten years. What they mean by 'pause' is that they will not permit any suggestion that temperatures are not going up (that would be DENIAL), only that they will be going up soon, not right now.

So: they tell us that rising carbon dioxide emissions cause the temperature to rise, then at a time when carbon dioxide levels have been rising, there is no rise in temperature. There has been no rise since 1998 and now it looks as if it will be 2025 before you get any warmer.

I want to stress I am not a climate change denier, I am a sceptic. I would be less sceptical if they could explain why temperatures aren't rising when they said they would. But they can't explain it. According to the BBC there are ten theories as to why temperatures aren't rising. Actually there are eleven, the final one being that they were talking cock in the first place.

Incidentally, for those of you sitting in terror that temperatures may rise 0.15degC over a decade, here in Italy it is usually 5C warmer than Britain and often 10C warmer. And we don't have raging tsunamis and arid deserts; it's quite nice, really. You can grow potatoes as well as aubergines and peppers, wine and olives and in spring there are lambs bouncing around on the grass.

I just want an apology from Prince Charles, George Monbiot and the other fools who have been promoting this story, then an admission from the scientists that they haven't a clue what is going on.

After that I might listen.