28 October, 2013

Lou Reed

There was cool, there was very cool, and then there was Lou Reed, who has died, much too young


27 October, 2013


As I write, it is supposed to be a sensible hour of the morning - 7.30 - but it is 6.30 because the State has decided it should be.

I am not a revolutionary but I could wish, if the people were one day to rise against their masters, that this patronising, bullying measure would be one of the reasons. The State fondly believes that we - you - cannot be trusted to get up a bit earlier in summer and a bit later in winter. It clings to the idea that we cannot organise a Parent-Teacher Association to set the school hours according to the seasons, and that farmers are as stupid as their cows.

To confirm them in this belief they put out all kinds of drivel and lies about improving tourism and road safety which even the most witless of our citizens can surely see through.

Once again, notwithstanding the massive importance of the person making the declaration, the earth will continue to go round the sun in the way it always has, and the same Prime Mover which gave us the planets and the stars has also gifted us - and the animals in the forest - the ability to get up at the right time.

Leave us alone.

24 October, 2013


Angela Merkel, Germany's Chancellor, says that it is 'really not on' (congratulations to the translators) for America to bug her personal telephone.

Well. We are not talking about Burkina Faso here. Germany has some of the best electronics companies in the world and if they couldn't protect the Chancellor's 'phone, something has gone badly wrong.

My guess is that this is mock outrage, and that in fact Mutti ('Mummy' as she is called) has given the head of the Foreign Service a roasting he won't forget.

But his job is safe because to fire him would be an admission of incompetence

This stuff is for the proletariat.

Colour coordinating

It appears that a family in Ireland has had their child taken away because it was White and blonde. The family were .... um ....not white, or rather not very White: they were Roma.

What on earth is going on here? It is not as if the police were looking for a specific child and suspected this might be it. They were going round a Roma camp and saw a child which looked out of place. Do they have colour charts? If the parents are approximately No. 14 on your chart (Roma Brown) the child should be between numbers 8 and 13; if it is 7 (White including mild suntan) or less you can take it away.

Is this what is going on? Is this how we live? If so, it isn't working. The whitey child turned out to be the offspring of the browny parents and the police were left ..er.. red faced.

Boy George

We have to remember that in the absence of a fixed retirement age for the monarch (something which would be welcomed by this blog), Prince George is not going to be king until around 2075. He will be a very different monarch for a very different, modern, age, an age where, perhaps, in Andy Warhol's words, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.

It seems a mistake, therefore, that he didn't sell pictures of his christening to Hello! magazine.

23 October, 2013

The breadline

This blog sends its commiseraitons to Veronica Lario, former wife of Silvio Berlusconi.

Her alimony cheque has been more than halved. Now she is going to have to live on €1.4 million.

Per month.

Energy prices

There seems to be a reluctance to face reality in Britain over the cost of energy. For years we have been told that the price would go up and up, and now it has, it is somehow a disaster. And not only a disaster but a fiddle. 'We are being cheated', they cry, and it is, of course, the horrid big companies doing the cheating. Trust me, when it comes to fuel prices, big companies are good; you don't want to be buying your energy from some tiny local supplier down the road, like a corner shop. That would cost far more.

Then someone introduced the idea of 'fuel poverty', where people were deemed to be fuel poor if they spent more than 10% of their income on fuel. Instead of pointing out that this is a complete nonsense - some people live in large houses in cold, exposed areas, some live snugly in city flats; some need to be warm, others don't - the BBC and several newspapers have been treating this bogus concept as if it were important..

Next we had David Cameron's wizard scheme to tell the horrid companies to put everyone on the 'best' tariff, thereby reducing the number of different tariffs available and reducing consumer choice which is what keeps energy prices down.

Then we had the astonishing economic illiteracy of Ed Miliband, announcing a price freeze if he won the election. Of course it is quite easy for the Government to announce a price freeze, simply by reducing fuel taxes by the amount the market price had risen. But this wasn't Mili's idea: he wanted to ban the horrid energy companies from increasing prices, even if their cost of fuel goes up. Of course what would happen is they would put up prices on election day, particularly if it looked as if the country were daft enough to vote for Miliband, and they'd put them up again at the end of the freeze period.

After all this swaggering incompetence, all it needed was for some senior political figure to keep the 'debate' going and attack those horrid companies. Step forward Sir John Major, Prime Minister, astonishingly, for more than six years. Now, this was a fairly inglorious moment in our history (remember the Cones Hotline? Back to Basics? Edwina Curry?) and you would have thought that having been such a risible disaster in power he would have had the decency to keep his mouth shut after he had been found out. But no, the man with the blue underpants wants a windfall tax on the horrid companies.

One wouldn't have thought this needed saying, but it obviously does. Energy is a fairly long term business, and the investors need to be fairly sure about future prices and returns. If the government suddenly intervenes with a new, unexpected tax they grow nervous and don't invest because there is an atmosphere of uncertainty. They invest somewhere where the government is more sensible.

Going back to the Miliband Plan, there are a few things people should know. The first is that part of the taxation regime is arbitrarily imposed 'green' taxes. These were popular with the previous government and several were introduced by Ed Miliband when he was Energy Secretary. They were very popular with David Cameron, who also fell for the Global Warming twaddle, although less so now that it has been disproved (the IPCC say Britain is due to get colder). The green taxes amount to around 15% of fuel bills, all based on some fashionable bogus science. They tried to cover up the additional cost by making it illegal for companies to mention them on the bills they send out.

The next thing people should know is that the Miliband freeze could well make things much worse. As stated, the companies will put up their prices to cover the uncertainty, but 2015-17  will be a period of stable or falling energy prices, as the Americans release their vast reserves of shale gas on to the world markets. At best, the Mili-freeze is unlikely to have any impact.

As to the claims that there is no competition, there are six large energy suppliers and I believe this is enough to permit competition to flourish.

I am not, here, appealing for lower energy prices or lower profits. I am appealing for some common sense to be spoken on this subject.

18 October, 2013

The monkey and the manager

Having suggested we ignore bogus racism in football, I was cheered to learn that the England Manager, Roy Hodgson, made a joke to the players during the half-time interval, concerning an astronaut and a monkey.

In the joke the monkey is given a number of tasks to perform in the spaceship and the astronaut asks what there was for hm to do. The reply from ground control is 'feed the monkey'.

In Hodgson's example, the monkey was a player of mixed race with the exotic name of Andros Townshend, who, it was hoped by the racism lobby, would be outraged. But he wasn't.

No one seems to have noticed, except perhaps Mr Townshend, that in a comparison with the joke, it is better to be the monkey than the astronaut.

17 October, 2013


What are we to do about racism in football? It is almost a standard question for one of those TV or radio shows where famous people are asked questions by a hand-picked freethinking audience.

You always get the same sort of answer: the VIP loathes racism, there is no place for it in our modern way of life, da-di-da. This is intended more to boost the credentials of the respondent than inform us.

We need to have a good look at this because the nonsense is reaching crescendo level.

Is it difficult for a black man to get a job playing football? No, there are lots of them.

Are they paid less than their white counterparts? No.

Do they, as used to happen in Apartheid South Africa, have to use a different changing room to the whites? No

It is in the crowds that the racism is spotted - people making monkey noises and so on. It is in us, the people, not 'Football'.

And 'Racist' isn't the only '-ist' levelled as an accusation by the New Inquisition. There is a 'clubbist' or regionalist discrimination whereby, horror!, the fans of one team shout insults at the fans of another.

And, strangely enough, the world of football has been surprised to see the fans themselves resenting this interference. In England, fans of Tottenham Hotspur, traditionally called 'Yids' because of the high Jewish element in the area, don't resent it but carry banners calling themselves Yiddos or the Yid Army. In Naples, Italy, where there were cholera outbreaks at the beginning of the twentieth century and this is recalled by the chants of Rome and Milan fans, they now have banners saying 'we are the cholera sufferers'. Morbid, but the point is they don't want to be told what to sing or shout by the do-gooders.

Long may it continue.

The last minute

America has once again come to a deal on raising the borrowing ceiling from its present, scarcely credible, $16 trillion.

Nobody has come out of this well. Obama has looked as if he didn't understand the politics, and his refusal to back down has often looked mulishly stubborn. The Republicans have looked worse: they bleated and made proposals which were obviously not going to be acceptable and now they have lost.

The problem with leaving it until absolutely the last minute before cutting a deal is what you will do next time. Allow a default? Plunge the whole financial system into disarray?

America, and the rest of the world, deserves better than this, from both sides.

09 October, 2013

Pride and timidity

The man who adapted Pride and Prejudice for television tells us that the famous scene where Mr Darcy dives into the lake and emerges in a wet shirt was supposed to be filmed nude, but the actor, Colin Firth, refused because it would show his love handles.

Men will be silently cheered by the news, women may find it's just a bit too much information.

05 October, 2013


If it were Italy, and the Italian government were no longer able to function and to pay its staff, people (myself included) would say that the political class has shown itself unfit to govern.

As it is, it is America in this position. The problem is that the law does not permit the Government to borrow more than $16,699,000,000,000.

But it needs more. A lot more. Perhaps that is what we should be focussing on.

04 October, 2013


The Senate committee has voted to evict Silvio Berlusconi after his conviction for tax fraud.

I have enjoyed Silvio's antics over twenty years but of course this is right: you can't be one of the legislators over the taxes of a country if you have been thieving from your fellow citizens.

See, incidentally, my article in The Commentator.

Ralph, Ed and the Mail

The row between Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail over the paper's treatment of his late father Ralph continues, in part because, idiotically, the Mail on Sunday sent an undercover reporter to a family memorial service.

More of the madness comes from Ed Miliband, who seemed to take the view that the Mail had no right to discuss his father, a view seemingly shared by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

The nub of it all is that the Mail said Miliband père hated Britain. One of the questions to be answered is: did he?

Ralph Miliband was a Marxist academic, a man who campaigned in the middle of the twentieth century for a Communist Government. What Miliband wanted for Britain - a country to which he came as a refugee - was no monarchy, no army (except as a political tool) and no independent elections. Miliband certainly hated many or most of the institutions which made up Britain. From those days, I still remember the air raid sirens being tested, and publicity from the Government as to what to do in the event of a Russian attack. And of course it was to Russia that Miliband looked. If he had achieved his aims, Britain would have been subservient to Russia in a Worldwide communist movement.

So I think it is fair to argue that Miliband hated Britain: I'm not sure it is right, that's all. I for example have spent twenty-odd years campaigning against a particular bit of Britain's constitution: that it s a member of the European Union. I want upheaval in this respect. Am I the same? Do I hate Britain?

Here we delve into the subjective: my wanting to leave the EU would not cause any loss of democracy (quite the reverse) and would not kill anybody. Ralph (his first name was Adolphe, by the way) Miliband would have damaged everything a democrat might love about Britain. That is the difference. He hated democracy and Britain was and is a democracy.

Another thing to be considered is Miliband's statement that the Daily Mail should look at its core values. It fills me with horror that a man who wishes to be Prime Minister should speak in this way: I certainly don't want the executive looking at the values of a free press: it would no longer be free. And this is in itself justification of the Mail's story: if Miliband had said 'they can print what they like' it would have been fine. Now, however, he archly asserts that we must consider how newspapers are run.

Lastly, it is the hypocrisy: it has become normal in British politics for the left to comment on David Cameron's privileged upbringing: he was the son of a rather rarified family, his father being a wealthy stockbroker. Miliband himself has made comments about the 'rich boy', clearly implying that Cameron's upbringing has influenced his world-view. It must be equal for Miliband. He grew up also in a rarified atmosphere, the son of a prominent Marxist, and we are entitled to scrutinise that and wonder whether it has influenced his own politics (he has several times said in eulogies for his father that he had been influenced by him).

So the Daily Mail must keep publishing this stuff, whether you like to read it or whether you agree with it or not.

That is what we call a free press.

01 October, 2013

Barnet Conference

It is the UK party conference season, although I am sure you were hoping not to be reminded of it.

As usual no one can remember what they said. We are left with general impressions: Nick Clegg looking so confident that you knew there was something wrong, Ed Miliband longing for the days of Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock and...George Osborne's hair.

What on earth is going on here. It looks like a cross between Jeremy Hunt and Caroline Lucas of the Green Party.

Clearly they have been going to the same hairdresser and someone should send in an urgent Freedom of Information Act request to find out where it is, although I urge the public to keep the protest within the realms of civil obedience.

I remember arriving in Edinburgh one cold morning badly in need of a haircut. There was one near the office but its prices were incredible: more than I paid in Hampstead or the City. A colleague pointed me towards a more traiditonal barber a few streets away who offered what was known as an Edinburgh Baldie.

The next two or three times I went to a hairdresser he said 'My God! What have they been doing to your hair?'It took about a year to grow it out, and so I fear it will be for these unfortunates.