31 October 2012

Time to cut the EU budget

The news that Tory rebels and opportunistic Labour MPs have defeated the coalition by calling for a cut in the EU budget means it is time for Lib Dems to rethink their atitiude to the EU.

With austerity across Europe it seems bizarre the political elite that is calling for belt tightening in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal among others is incapable of practising what it preaches.

The line used by opponents of a budget cut (including Lib Dems) is that it will be impossible to agree budget cuts, so the best that can be hoped for is a freeze or small increase - so there is no point in trying.  And by not backing Cameron they are making it more difficult for him to negotiate.

This is pragmatism taken to a ludicrous degree which tells the people in the UK and across Europe that the man in Brussels is not one of us.  Because the EU won't refom itself or its policies such as the ludicrously overblown CAP it makes it more likely the only recourse is for people to pursuade their government that withdrawal is the only option.

So instead of ignoring this vote - the coalition should use it to strengthen their diplomacy - particularly among those governments facing tough EU backed austerity measures.  Showing the poorest in Europe that even the most priviledged Brussels bureaucrat is 'all in this together' may be the only way of keeping the EU together and curbing the rise of right wing isolatist parties like UKIP.

30 October 2012

Mitt Romney does a Fred Picker

News that Mitt Romney transformed a campaign rally in Ohio to a fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts seems spookily familiar.

Yes it's Florida governor, Jim Fricker's (Larry Hagman), call to give blood to help stricken candidate governor Harris from Mike Nichols 1998 political satire Primary Colors:

"What I have thought about is the best way I can help Senator Harris.
As I know him as a man of action rather than words...
the best action is for me to go down and donate a pint of blood,...
because that's what he needs now.
If you want to come with me and donate a pint,...
Mrs. Harris would appreciate it."

29 October 2012

Hearts ask fans to pay tax bill

The financial crisis at Hearts - who failed to pay their players again last month - has surely reached its penultimate stage before they go bust.  They face a tax bill of £1.75m and have asked their supporters to cough up through buying £100 or more of their worthless shares.

Despite claims of cost cutting director Sergejus Fedotovas - one of the Russian/Lithuanians running the club under the ownership of Vladimir Romanov - admitted they were still spending much more than their income.  He told the BBC "The cost of the squad that won silverware last season is £8m and our income is just short of £7m".  And this excludes non-wage running costs which were running at a further £8m in their last set of accounts - now nearly two years out of date.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the behaviour of the owners of Hearts has been to deliberately cheat - by spending money they didn't have and had no realistic way of earning - so cheating the taxman and the rest of Scottish football.  Exactly like Glasgow Rangers.  Given the SFA are looking at stripping the now defunct Rangers of some of their titles won while cheating - will they do the same for the two Scottish cups Hearts won under the now ill fated Romanove regime?

26 October 2012

Friday favourite 82

With tickets going on sale for the Simple Minds 2013 tour today, here's a reminder of how good they were before they discovered stadium rock...

25 October 2012

Alex Salmond finally acts over Trump policing

After more than two years Alex Salmond has finally responded to his own constituents complaints about police tactics at the Trump golf course at Balmedie - including the bogus arrest of film maker Anthony Baxter. 

In a hard hitting statement statement Montrose Pictures accuse Salmond of 'deliberate silence and inaction' on the issue.  Interestingly Salmond is both a huge supporter of Trump and of nationalising Scotland's police force into one megaforce - meaning there would be no independent investigation of police wrongdoing.

And Salmond's complicity with Trump doesn't appear to end at policing.  In this piece by the excellent BBC film critic Mark Kermode - Baxter reveals that the Scottish government funded Edinburgh International Film Festival refused to show You've Been Trumped. 

So did Salmond try to censor a film that shows him in a poor light?

23 October 2012

Two departures show how far we've come

Two sad departures today that reinforce the march of time.

Firstly the news that the BBC's Ceefax is no more - due to the final switch from analogue to digital TV.  Ceefax was a technical wonder of the 1970s - an era of teleprinter and punched card.  It survived all the way into the internet age - teaching web editors how to keep copy short and to the point.

The other sad loss is of Flight Lieutenant William Walker - the last of the few.  As is usual on these occasions the Telegraph provides an excellent obituary.

His poem 'Our wall' adorns the memorial to the 2,937 aircrew who died during the Battle of Britain - helping to defeat tyranny and ensuring that innovations like Ceefax would be put to peaceful use in future years.

21 October 2012

Save the Guardian - sack Toynbee

An interesting article from this week's Press Gazette.  In it the Guardian NUJ chapel calls for massive pay cuts for senior execs and marquee journalists instead of axing 70 odd editorial staff.

The Guardian is in trouble - losing more than £44 million last year.  Yet it pays editor, Alan Rushbridger £400,000 per year.

It also employs patronising, hand-wringing, state aggrandising, poverty crocodile tear crying, socialist atrocity denying, Lib Dem flip flopping, top rate tax cut benefitting, lip quivering, septic - Polly Toynbee.  She admits to be paid more than £100,000 per year by the Graun - and no doubt thousands more from her contracts with other media outlets such as the BBC.

Her wrongheadedness can no better be expressed by this article from 2004 entitled 'Why isn't New Labour proud to be the nation's nanny?'

In it she boasts:
"The nanny state is the good state. A nanny is what every well-off family hires if it can afford it. So why do the nanny-employing Tories use the word as an insult? In the Commons and in their press, they bray like a bunch of prep-school bullies calling anyone a cissy if they do what nanny says."
What La Toynbee forgets (or probably never knew in the first place) - as the ever excellent Eaten by Missionaries reminded me at party conference - is that nannies are for children.

So here's a thought - by getting rid of the awful Toynbee the Graun could save itself a large sum of cash - enough to employ several young hungry journos and possibly increase its sliding sales figures by seeing the return of the many Lib Dems who have stopped buying the paper due to its kneejerk antipathy to the party since 2010.

19 October 2012

Friday favourite 81

Some classic early 80s ska from the archive of TOGWT.

Romney's seven point Gallup lead - don't panic!

US political watchers are getting particularly excited by Gallup's post debate poll showing Romney with a seven point margin over Obama - surely enough to propel him to the Whitehouse in  19 days time.

But this interesting analysis from the Huffington Post suggests some reasons why national polls - such as this Gallup one - are apparently at odds with state polling that shows Obama with leads in key swing states

18 October 2012

Cameron's crazy energy pledge needs disconnecting

I was glad to hear that Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, had distanced himself from David Cameron's idea that the government will legislate to force energy companies to put all their customers on the lowest tariff.

The only result of this would be to raise the cost of the cheapest energy deals across the board.

The fundamental problem in the energy sector is the fact that the big six companies act as a cartel - squeezing out any real competition, rigging prices and delivering super profits as a result.

What the energy bill should contain instead is a statutory cap of 10% of the market for any energy company - opening up the market to real competition and ending the oligopoly of the 'big six'.

16 October 2012

Beeb to air 'You've been trumped'

News from the Tripping up Trump campaign arrives in my in box saying their award winning documentary about the stand off between local people and ludicrous US golf magnate Donald Trump will be aired by the BBC on Sunday 21 October at 10pm on BBC2.  

You can watch the trailer here.

15 October 2012

Exclusive: That Scottish independence referendum question

News has reached LOWA Towers from my sources in the SNP of the draft wording of the question Scots voters may be asked in the 2014 referendum.  I have also been given a sneek preview of the rushes of the first SNP broadcast.  However I am wondering whether either will get past the electoral authorities.

"Do you agree with Scottish first minister Alex Salmond that Scotland should throw off the English yolk or do you agree with English, Eton educated toff David Cameron that they should continue to lord it over us?"

12 October 2012

Friday favourite 80

It's the X-factor finals with the usual smattering of real talent hidden among the wannabee dross.  So it's time for some real music...

Davey needs to act on energy bills

NPower has now joined the UK's largest energy supplier - British Gas - in hiking its energy tariffs just as winter hoves into view.  The fact that there are just six main players in the market means these suppiers act as a cartel with no real competitors to act as a brake on their corporate avarice.

It's clear now that these energy giants - whose annual profits run into billions - need to be broken up and the pitch cleared for proper competition in the market.

Over to you Ed...

10 October 2012

Obama hits back at Romney...

Following his underwhelming debate performance Barack Obama has hit back with this fabulous attack ad on Romney's priorities:

It appears to have ruffled sufficient feathers for the (non-partizan) Sesame Workshop to ask for it to be taken down.

9 October 2012

Did Boris Johnson really call Jeremy Hunt a 'wanker?'

It appears so...

At last night's rally Boris Johnson suggested a politicians' Olympics, including "Jeremy Hunt banging the bell-end"- so says the Gruaniad.

Sadly this section of his speech doesn't appear to be available on YouTube or (unsurprisingly) on the Conservative's official website.

8 October 2012

Making sick jokes should not be a criminal offence

A 19 year old has been jailed for drunkenly posting some sick jokes on the internet about April Jones. 

Matthew Woods is currently serving three months at her majesty's pleasure for being stupid, insensitive and crass - convicted for sending 'grossly offensive public electronic communication' under some bizarre clause of New Labour's Communications Act 2003. 

My problem with this sort of law beloved by the Daily Mail and authoritarian Labour Home Secretaries is that it relies on generalised terms such as 'grossly offensive' which are purely subjective - one person's offence is another person's humour.

In a liberal democracy the state is not there to bolster the will of the majority - it is there to protect the minority - however unpopular and however moronic. 

It's time for the Lib Dems (at least) to take a stand on issues like this.  There is a whole raft of mainly useless Labour crime legislation - made in haste to play to the tabloid gallery - that simply criminalises people for their views.  They should be repealed and the Lib Dems should lead the charge.

5 October 2012

Friday favourite 79

It was fifty years ago today that Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play...

4 October 2012

Semaphore signals and successful franchises

In all the furore about the cock up over the refranchising of the west coast main line, it might be easy to imagine rail services in the UK are generally overpriced, unpunctual and unclean.

Well I had to go to Banbury today and I did it by the excellent Chiltern railways - running out of London's best railway terminal (and John Betjeman's favourite) - Marylebone.  Chiltern run fast, frequent, clean and reasonably priced services - taking just over an hour to get to Banbury - far quicker than the traditional Great Western route via Oxford and Reading.

And my experience was made even better by the very rare sight of working semaphore signals.  There can't be many left anywhere on the rail network - let alone on busy commuter routes around London.

3 October 2012

Ed Miliband's lack of self awareness

With the plaudits from pundits across the political spectrum ringing in his ears, Ed Miliband must be pretty pleased with his conference platform speech.  Interestingly, I listened to it on the radio and it came across much less well - the confidence was missing and the oratory more faltering.

But whether you saw it on the telly box or listened to it on the wireless, what did come across was a complete lack of awareness of the culpability of Labour (and Mili minor) for most of the issues which came under his criticism.

A widening gap between rich and poor, failure to regulate the banks (or separate consumer from investment banking), high energy bills and kowtowing to the Murdoch press were all hallmarks of the last Labour government.  A government that let's not forget Miliband was either a senior adviser to or a minister in.

But most interestingly in Miliband's monologue was his reference to his mother's escape from totalitarianism and arrival in the UK (having been smuggled in by some nuns). 

Unfortunately for Mili minor on the very same day Mohammed Rafi Hottak - an Afghani interpreter who served with UK forces and was injured in a bomb blast - was told by the UK Border Agency - a creation of Miliband's government - that his claim for asylum was being refused because he had entered the country unofficially without papers (ie smuggled in).

So much for the embracing of the dispossessed and those fleeing oppression under Labour's asylum and immigration policies - policies the coalition need now urgently to revisit.

1 October 2012

Ed Miliband praises holocaust apologist

The Grauniad reports... the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, led tributes to the Marxist historian and academic Eric Hobsbawm, who died on Monday , calling him "an extraordinary historian, a man passionate about his politics and a great friend of my family".

Liberal England carries more details of Hobsbawm's support for Soviet mass murder including this most egregious exchange with Michael Ignatieff:
Ignatieff: What that comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty million people might have been justified? 
Hobsbawm: Yes.
If nazi non-historian David Irving had said similar (and he probably has) he would have rightly been attacked.  But the left always gets away with it - witness the fawning tributes to him on tonight's Newsnight.