31 December 2011

Best of 2011

Very briefly, before I head off to an extended New Years Eve party which will be a valediction to alcohol for at least 2 months, some bests of the year:

Best blog post - Chris Brooke with Nick Clegg - Liar. Simple and to the point.

Best political blog: Richard Murphy

Best economics blogger: Duncan Weldon

Best political satire site: Nick Clegg looking sad

Best political columnist (Left): George Monbiot

Best political columnist (Right): Peter Oborne

Special award for ConDem apologism: Martin Kettle

Special award for 'false flag' assistance to Ed Miliband by offering a 'straw man' critique which Ed gains strength every day by knocking down: Dan Hodges

The worst of everything (at least in this country) award goes to 'Slasher' Osborne.

Have a great remaining 12 and a half hours of 2011, and see you in the next cycle.

30 December 2011

A tablet for (just after) Christmas

Over the last few months I've found myself strangely attracted to the idea of a tablet - not ibuprofen (although that has its pleasures), but the dinky little oversized phones with large touchscreens that are the biggest growth area in the computer market ever since Apple brought out the iPad almost 2 years ago. It's interesting, and largely unpredictable, what takes off and what doesn't in the computing world. Most of the pundits shared my initial opinion that the iPad would be a flop because at the end of the day, what was it? An oversized phone that doesn't make phone calls. But in fact, it was a huge success, on the back of very slick marketing, the excitement of the app store, and the integration with iPhones and Apple computers.

I haven't bought an iPad for several reasons, the main one being that I consider Apple kit somewhat overpriced for what you get - they are to computing what BMW is to cars, although I am pleased to report that Apple owners don't try to run you over in the same way BMW owners do. The iPad 2 is undoubtedly better value than the iPad 1 but there was still something about the £500 price point that didn't say "value" to me. £200 says value to me - I don't know why, but if there's a piece of kit that's less than £200 I am so there... if it's more than £200 I have to think carefully. This number is arbitrary and takes no account of inflation, but still... that's the way it is for me.

The other thing that pisses me off about Apple is the Stalinist approach to software and media management. I do have an iPod nano (2009 edition) because I got it free with an Android phone (hilarious irony!) One day I decided I'd like some MP3s on the iPod. It appears on my Windows PC as a USB hard drive, but can I copy across MP3s by drag and drop in Explorer the same way I can with any other MP3 player on the market? No, sir... I have to use iTunes which is the crappiest piece of software (at least on a PC) imaginable... Charlie Brooker called it a "binary turd" and that was being kind IMHO. Apple doesn't trust you to be able to get music on your device the way you want... you have to do it their way, or not at all. Similarly, Apps have to be approved by Apple before being placed on the App Store. This takes the free-for-all open approach which was the foundation of success for the internet and replaces it with a digital North Korea (I'm borrowing terminology from Van Patten here, but in this case the analogy is a good one). Contrast this with Google's Android platform where you can use any damn music player (and file format) you want and there is no central oversight to the application repository - anyone can get out there on the Android market. This probably means a higher percentage of shit applications but hey, I'm an intelligent consumer and I'll take my chances.

So why haven't I bought an Android tablet yet? Two reasons. One is that Android wasn't really tablet-ready until version 3.0 (Honeycomb) and Google reckon that it won't really be fully optimised for tablets until version 4. The other reason was the price of a good tablet. Any fool can sell you an el cheapo tablet held together with string for £150 or so, but the good stuff starts at about £330 with the Asus TF101 Transformer - and at that price point ol' tight wad comes into play again. It feels expensive and not at all an impulse buy. So again, at this point Android didn't feel quite ready for me - nor I for it.

What about other options? Until about 48 hours ago my response to that question would have been "ho ho ho", in the seasonal spirit. The main competition is RIM's Blackberry Playbook. At this point the tech-savvy among you will have fallen about laughing, so [in-joke alert] if your name is Foley let me return you to the floor by reminding you about the biology lab microscope.... :-) But Blackberry. Are you serious? The platform that gives you 72 hour outages because they didn't spend any money on infrastructure? An App Store less well populated than the Outer Hebrides? Hello?

Well, yes. Why? Two reasons, both the converse of why I rejected Apple and Android. One, cost. At its launch price of £400, the 16GB Playbook was really no better value than Apple, considering it is a 7-inch tablet rather than 10-inch. But PC World have now discounted it to £170 and at that price, in hardware terms, it's a steal. God bless underselling products.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, this is a "stealth" Android tablet. The Blackberry App Store remains woefully underpopulated (although RIM have released a utility for easy conversion of Android apps to Playbook apps which has helped a bit), but with version 2.0 of the Playbook OS (due in February 2012), there will be a built in launcher application allowing users to run Android apps on the Playbook! Furthermore, the tech-savvy among us can install the beta version of the 2.0 OS, root the Playbook, and - with some hacking about - install the Android Market on the Playbook, thus gaining access to (slmost) the full range of Android apps (subject to some library compatibility issues which will no doubt be sorted out down the line in any case).

An Android tablet with high build quality for £169? It's a reality. OK, if you believe the hype from the late great Steve Jobs that 7 inch tablets are crap then this won't be for you. But I don't - in fact, for me the iPad always looked a bit unwieldy. So rock on with the Playbook into 2012, kids.

Ed Miliband: 2012 HAS to be better than 2011

The last few days of the year seem to have passed extraordinarily fast and I'm now conscious of the fact that 2012 is almost upon us.

For followers of the left the year could best be described as frustrating. About the best I can say for UK politics is that Ed Miliband is still in the job... and likely to remain so, despite ongoing mutterings about the quality of his leadership. He is vastly helped by the fact that most of his critics are unable to organise a piss-up in a brewery, as the "vote Labour - get Tory" LINO pressure group Progress proved with their completely inept contribution to the Yes To AV Campaign. Other maverick anti-Ed LINO forces like Dan Hodges do Ed a favour on balance by catalysing support for him more than they damage him - leading to my continuing belief that Dan is secretly in the pay of Ed's office. The classic "useful idiot".

However, just because Ed is still in the job doesn't mean he's doing a particularly good job in it. The hope with Ed was that we would see finally someone getting the Labour leadership job who combines the drive and single-mindedness (if not quite the charisma) of Tony Blair with the ideological backbone of previous Labour greats like Attlee and Wilson. What we have had so far, instead, with some honourable exceptions, is a slightly more approachable rehash of the Gordon Brown leadership style - i.e. not leadership at all; more just sitting in the middle of events waiting for something good-ish to happen. There is a memorable sequence from James MacIntyre and Mehdi Hasan's autobiography Ed where Ed goes on a radio phone in (maybe Radio 5 Live?) sometime in the new year of 2011, and the only thing callers are really interested in talking about is how he "knifed his brother in the back" to become Labour party leader. Twelve months on, if Ed were to go on the same phone in show, I'm sure much the same would happen. And after 12 months of these insane ConDem austerity measures and economic failure, that's simply not good enough. Labour ends 2011 in no better a polling position than it began - indeed, in the wake of the "veto" farce, Cameron's personal ratings have actually improved substantially. This is, to put it mildly, bad news.

To turn things around, Ed needs to observe one very simple maxim of politics; it's hard for a leader to be successful unless he/she is prepared to get out there and bloody LEAD. I have heard a story - which could be apocryphal, but it rings true, so I'll tell it anyway - that when Alan Johnson resigned as Shadow Chancellor Ed locked himself in his office for 2 hours not talking to anyone because he was so depressed that he'd have to give Ed Balls the job. Apparently because Ed Miliband is scared of Ed Balls. What does that tell us, if true? It tells us that Ed Miliband needs a kick up the backside and to grow back the spine that was so in evidence during the summer 2010 leadership contest. Listen son, Ed Balls is a washed-up also-ran in leadership terms. Tony Blair was scared of Gordon Brown because the two of them chose a stitch-up deal over a leadership contest in 1994 - enabling Brown to argue, however implausibly, that he had been denied the crown that was rightfully his. By contrast, Ed Balls fought as a candidate in the Labour leadership election - and was absolutely f***ing WALLOPED, finishing a very poor third. This guy, in Labour leadership terms, is HISTORY. I can understand Ed M being worried about a possible leadership challenge from his brother David, still sullen and watchful on the sidelines. But Ed Balls? No bloody way.

So Ed (M) is the leader... and so he needs to lead. That means not being scared of Ed Balls and it means refusing to bow down to the inflated paper tiger that is Progress. In practical terms, what does this mean Ed should do in the new year?

Firstly, he should make a number of keynote speeches fleshing out his very promising but underdeveloped ideas from the 2011 conference speech for a (much) better capitalism - squashing predatory businesses to open up space for the real producers. That has to mean a much smaller financial sector and much more for manufacturing, green jobs, the creative industries, and hugely underfunded sectors like social care. Together with a tax and corporate governance system system focused strongly on redistribution of income, wealth and power in favour of working people - the "squeezed bottom and middle", ambitious moves to increase gender equalities, and subsidies for education and innovation. Basic, obvious, centre-left stuff, articulated well by the left pressure group Compass, the Green Party, and academics like Martin O'Neill of York University. If Labour can't support a moderate social democratic programme along these lines there really is no point whatsoever in the party.

At the same time, he needs to accuse Progress of being a right-wing analogue to the extreme-left infiltrators of the 1980s - Militant et al - whose main objective is to destroy the Labour party. If this results in a handful - or even a few thousand - of the most ardent right-wing LINOs jumping ship to the Coalition, oh happy day! Labour's hard right is a huge albatross around its neck and probably the biggest internal hurdle to its return to power.

Thirdly, Big Guns need to be fired at the Coalition on a pretty much daily basis. This is happening a bit at the moment but in a far too reserved manner. Tony Blair had some good lines of attack in the mid-1990s which can be dusted off here - the weird thing is that although New Labour was largely a failure in policy terms, the rhetoric 1994-97 was actually pretty good. For example, "tacking the bills of social and economic failure" is a phrase that resonates completely with Ed Balls's critique of the Osborne austerity measures - which are fatally damaging Britain's economic capacity.

Lastly, there desperately need to be some big policies which the Labour Party can hang its message on. Again, New Labour had some totemic policies despite being weak on detail - windfall tax on privatised utilities, minimum wage, smaller class sizes, etc. The Labour Party policy review seems to have produced nothing of value so far and with Liam Byrne at the helm that was always the risk - indeed I now believe that the whole operation was a ruse by Ed to divert the energy of the Labour right into the minutiae of policies that would never see the light of day while he ran a parallel operation in his own office. But if that is what has happened, the parallel operation needs to produce concrete results very soon. As far as I can see there are two reasons that few people trust Labour on the economy; firstly because they presided over the worst recession since the 1930s (in fact recent data show that in the UK it's actually worse than the 1930s), and secondly because Labour has given no indication of how things would be any different in future if they were returned to power. Giving a clear indication of how Labour would do it differently this time round is an absolute prerequisite for standing any chance of winning the next election; and the greatest failure of Ed Miliband is that, over a year into his leadership, almost nobody has any idea how a Labour government would make life better for people in the UK or elsewhere. That is something he has to address in 2012. If he doesn't, I think he'll still survive in the job until 2015; but he'll be out on his ear after an election defeat.

(note: reading this back I'm very conscious that there are no links etc., mainly because it was stream of consciousness stuff and I had to motivate myself to write fast, or not at all. I'll try to put some links in tomorrow... if I get time. Otherwise, you know where Google is.)

19 December 2011

That which survives.....(Part 1)

Family being in New York City prior to Xmas means I've been off the airwaves so it looks unlikely my co-author and I will make the requisite 100 posts by year end - however, in another Star Trek entitled post, on a day when the world pondered the end of one of its worst tyrants whilst still in mourning for one of the greatest statesemen of the last three decades , it's worth contemplating their respective legacies.

Friends credit me with a near obsession with the small South East Asian country North of the 38th parallel, so the messages have been flooding in regarding the death of Kim Jong-il. A spat with Guardian journalist Owen Jones will be raised in a latter post, but I'm compelled to write by an extraordinary article by Neil Clark in The Guardian which has provoked a mixture of anger and utter bewilderment across my Twitter colleagues.

The Left is at some pains, (and I include the co-author of this blog)to distance movements such as the soon to be defunct Occupy, UK Uncut, and even Ed Miliband's Renewed Labour Party from the USSR. I am confident thus, we'll see people disavowing Clark and hoping that his truly mindbending article can be attributed to shaaring the same grief we see on the brainwashed citizens of the Korea DPR. Based on my co-author's comment to Telegraph writer Ed West:

'Can Imagine the uproar if a Telegraph comment piece contained the words, fascism, for all it's faults'

which drew:

'I thought that was pretty much what the Telegraph does say day after day'

I'm not that hopefulful. For anyone, thinking I'm exaggerating, please feel free to head to Tallinn, Vilnius, Riga, Warsaw, Budapest, Bratislava, Podgorica, Ljubljana and the rest and translate this piece which you have to reread multiple times to quite take in:

'Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first.'

And who said Kim Jong- il was the last communist on Earth? - it would appear we have one right here in our midst - 'That which survives'.....

13 December 2011

Tories hoovering up UKIP and in the lead

Following my previous post today, YouGov has come out showing the Tories with a 2 point lead (41%, their highest polling since 2009 I think) while UKIP sinks to 3%. Labour, on 39%, is marginally down on where it has been polling recently, but the real story here is the transfer of voting intention from UKIP to the Tories. The question is: could a very Eurosceptic Tory party manage to hoover up most of that UKIP vote while hanging on to more pro-European voters in an election campaign, and thus building the kind of 40%+ coalition that could perhaps win a general election majority? Are there in fact any pro-European Tories left, or have they all died or signed with Nick Clegg? And what the f*** is Nigel Farage gonna do now the Tories are parking tanks on his lawn?

I remain of the feeling that this is a short-term bounce... but on the other hand, the long term is in many ways a series of short terms, so further convulsions in the Eurozone could allow Dave to run and run with this. Are we having fun yet?

12 December 2011

Labour post-"veto": the Kool-Aid drinkers return

Jeez Mick, if you want a bunch of professional doom-mongers, go to any Labour party blog and hang out there awhile. 72 hours after an initial euphoria at the stupidity of David Cameron's "veto" on the EU treaty, bloggers on the left are now doing their usual Kool-Aid act. Of course we'd expect to find ultra-LINO Telegraph blogger Dan Hodges doing his normal anti-Ed wail ("Miliband stranded in the middle of the English channel" indeed), but we've also got relatively sane people on Twitter - e.g. Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy - saying that Labour's been outmanoeuvred by Cameron.

Is this correct? I identified this possibility pretty early on, and I wasn't sure. I'm still not sure, but overall I think probably Ed Miliband is actually in a much stronger position than his critics, although Cameron certainly could get lucky out of this.

The truth is, the veto has achieved nothing in concrete terms at all for Britain as long as we remain in the EU. Some kind of deal will proceed with Britain excluded from the negotiations. The terms of the treaty on issues like financial regulation will cover Britain as an EU member. There will be some more legal shenanigans but the EU will be able to negotiate these. Cameron achieved no concessions or quid pro quos whatsoever. In short, as a negotiator Dave was a disastrous flop. Ed pointed all this out - very effectively - in the Commons today.

But as political theatre, Thursday's "veto" was a brilliant stroke. It gives Cameron, not a very popular PM to start off with, a big political boost based on the rabid anti-EU print media reporting that he's fighting for Britain's interests - the old "bulldog" line. Dave's doing no such thing of course: he's fighting for the rogue state which is the City of London, and none too effectively at that. But a poll for ComRes apparently shows that 57% support the PM's "veto" decision (I'd like to link to that but it was an unlinked source from Twitter). John Harris quotes similar statistics in an excellent Guardian article.

That backs up what I said in my last post - anti-EU jingoism is popular. At least, initially. John Harris's line is that Europhobia is now the mainstream majority position. On headline polling, yes: but I'm not sure people really give a shit enough about it one way or the other to turn out in droves and vote the Tories in with a majority based on this one issue. If that is the case why isn't UKIP way out in front in the polls rather than on about 7% max? The post-"veto" polling shows a small swing to the Tories but based on a transfer of support from UKIP rather than any wider movement of support - which is what I'd expect. And given that most of the business community appears to think the "veto" was crazy, in an election campaign I'd expect centrist support to fall away from the Tories - leaving them with William Hague's rump vote of 2001 once again.

There is one situation where Dave might see long term benefit from "the veto": if the Eurozone falls apart, and maybe the EU with it, Dave can say "I told you so" and become a kind of visionary. That would be a powerful argument. But I think it's still a long shot, although possible; more likely is that treaty change will force the ECB into becoming a proper central bank prepared to do QE to save the Eurozone, combined with fiscal union further down the line.

In the meantime, Ed Miliband can strengthen his position by coming off the fence and openly saying he would have signed the treaty - and then worked within the treaty framework for Britain's interest. That's what all previous PMs including Thatcher and Major would have done and it's a strong line which effectively exposes Cameron as a seat-of-the-pants amateur. Ed could also add that getting on board with the treaty is the UK's best chance of helping avoid a Eurozone breakup, which gives him the opportunity to say to Dave, "it's your fault" if the Euro does fail.

But yeah, I'm beginning to wonder whether I should send leading Labour bloggers boxes of anti-depressants - and I'm not even a Labour party member or supporter. Cheer up guys, for f***'s sake.

09 December 2011

Europe: has Cameron played a blinder by accident?

The general consensus reaction to the EU treaty negotiations last night is that they were a disaster for Dave Cameron and for Britain. Having vetoed changes to the Lisbon Treaty which would have started to move the Eurozone toward fiscal union, Cameron was then sidelined as the Eurozone states - plus 6 other countries - opened negotiations for a new deal outside the treaty framework which would create a "two-tier" EU with the UK on the outside track. According to the FT,

Several diplomats said Mr Cameron emerged from Friday morning’s negotiations deeply wounded, angering fellow EU leaders and getting no trade-offs for British interests.

But was it really a disaster for Cameron? Or could it in fact be the start of his biggest triumph? It seems to me that - although he didn't go into the negotiations wanting this outcome, and Europe has been a constant headache for him this year - Cameron may have accidentally come out of this summit in a strong position. With Britain isolated at the negotiating table, Dave now has the viable option of calling a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU - which he could well (if current opinion polling is any guide) win. We know that the majority of grassroots Tories, and many of the MPs, want to leave the EU. This would be Cameron's opportunity to shore up his position and delight the right of the party, who have been in the ascendancy since the 1980s at least.

The Lib Dems would probably leave the coalition if Cameron decided to go for a referendum on Europe (although who knows? They've swallowed much more bullshit than that without complaining in the last 18 months) but if so, Cameron would be tempted to call a general election on the EU issue. As far as I know the fixed term parliament bill is not on the statute book yet so he remains free to ask for a dissolution should he so wish... CORRECTION: Chris Brooke points out in the comments that it IS on the statute book so he can't ask for a dissolution immediately (but see comment thread below). Maybe 2012 will turn out to be an election year? Stranger things have happened.

07 December 2011

The Deadly Years

Having been recommended two links by my erstwhile Co-editor, Hal Berstram, time for another Star Trek entitled post. The first was a superb BBC Documentary detailing the denouements of events at the Royal Bank of Scotland: RBS: Inside the Bank that ran out of money was a quite staggering tale of hubris, arrogance and a group of people who believed their own hype, not realising that their strategy was effectively a giant house of cards. Notorious former chief executive Fred 'the Shred' Goodwin is arguably the biggest bastard revealed in the course of the documentary but effectively the entire board failed utterly in its duty of car to the customer and the investor. That they have all been rewarded quite handsomely for the failure speaks volumes about the state of UK finance today. The second link was another acerbic, and very timely piece by Larry Elliott, Economic editor (and arguably the best columnist) in the Guardian, describing the current economy as like something out of a George A.Romero Production

What lessons can we learn about the Best way forward? Arguably the closest historical parallel in recent times (as opposed to the 1930s) is offered by the Japanese experience. Since the collapse of a massive commodity boom at the tailend of the late 1980's, Japan has experienced at least one, and some commentators would say two 'Lost decades' with anaemic growth rates, ongoing price deflation and general economic stagnation. The reason why the Japanese example is, for me, so relevant today, is I, and I'm assuming a ,lot of other 'normal' Newspaper/online news junkies have lost count of the number of 'stimulus packages' or 'deficit reduction programmes' which have been produced or mooted to bail out the Eurozone. It is eerily reminiscent of Japan during the 1990's where a succession of governments whose initially lukewarm reception sank to usually single digit poll ratings put stimulus package after stimulus package forward, and nothing seemed to have any impact. Elliott's 'zombie banks' phrase originated in the land of the Rising sun, although it was applied to any enterprise (not just bank) which was considered 'Too Big to fail'. A small recovery was only possible (in the latter part of the 1990s and early in this century) when a reforming Finance minister basically forced his country's banks to confess up the scale of their losses. Given the globalisation of the economy in the last decade, increased external pressure has meant, like every other G30 economy Japan has been buffeted by the ongoing global economic crisis, and the March tsunami has also caused major structural damage, both literally and in an economic sense for a manufacturing economy highly sensitive to production delays, but nevertheless, they are well ahead of the West on this particular curve.

The worry for Western policymakers is that having visited Japan, and seen their country's infrastructure, organisation and efficiency as immeasurably superior to almost any European country I have visited (Aside from maybe Germany, Norway and Denmark), one wonders how long it will take the UK and the rest of Europe to recover from a similar toxic scenario of wildly inflated asset prices (UK housing anyone?), massive debts and economic sclerosis. Lest we forget the Japanese savings ratio is significantly higher than the UK, their populace is amongst the world's most educated. They are culturally somewhat 'old school' and work hard, with minimal expectation of the state providing for them in the event of an emergency. Their 'Deadly Years' have already lasted for almost two decades. Given the damage wrought by 5 decades of Socialist education policies, the level of dependency created by Labour in the period 1997 to 2010 and the collapsing state of UK infrastructure, how long will our own 'Deadly Years' endure for?

01 December 2011

The importance of watching whole interviews: a salutary lesson

I'm glad now that I didn't go with my kneejerk reaction to contact the Met Police regarding Jeremy Clarkson, as the release of the full transcript of his One Show appearance shows that basically he was trying to be funny. Reproduced below:

Matt Baker: Now, at the end of a day where Britain has seen some of its biggest strikes, what we need is someone calm and level-headed.

Alex Jones: Yep, a guest with balanced, uncontroversial opinions, who makes great effort not to offend.

Matt Baker: And we've got Jeremy Clarkson!

[studio laughs]

Jeremy Clarkson: Thank you very much.

Matt Baker: So Jeremy, schools, hospitals, airports, even driving tests have been affected. Do you the strikes are a good idea?

Jeremy Clarkson: It's been fantastic. Seriously, never had … London today has just been empty. Everybody stayed at home, you could whizz about, your restaurants were empty.

Alex Jones: The traffic actually has been very good today.

Jeremy Clarkson: Very light. Now airports, you know, people streaming through with no problems at all and it's also like being back in the 70s, it makes me feel at home somehow.

Alex Jones: Do you know anybody who …

Matt Baker: [interrupts – inaduiable] – being on strike today?

Jeremy Clarkson: What, in public service? Of course I don't. No, absolutely. We have to balance it though, don't we because this is the BBC.

Alex Jones and Matt Baker: Exactly.

Jeremy Clarkson: Frankly, I'd have them all shot!

[studio laughs]

Jeremy Clarkson: I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families. I mean how dare they go on strike when they've got these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?

Matt Baker: Well, on that note of balancing an opinion of course those are Jeremy's views.

Jeremy Clarkson: I just … ! I was just giving two views for you!

Alex Jones: Well, we will be talking to Jeremy more later.

This is a textbook example of what is called "attitudinising" - adopting a particular position as a posture. Jeremy Clarkson doesn't strikers, I'm fairly sure. And he has a fairly duff line in comedy. But he's not seriously calling for the adoption of Chile's Pinochet regime in the US.

And next time I'll do my homework better before posting stuff off Twitter. I'm trying to up the number of posts but it's no excuse for writing complete cack. Sorry, people.

The High Ground

Which was the title of Star Trek: The Next Generation's 60th episode, but an appropriate one for the response to prize clown Jeremy Clarkson's highly contentious comments on an early evening chat show yesterday, where he called for the Striking workers to be 'taken out and shot' in front of their families. This has caused the customary furore, no better illustrated than my co-blogger pressing for Clarkson's prosecution for 'Hate Crimes', amongst a variety of 'Twitterati, New Statesman bloggers and Guardian journalists, as well as the Unions behind yesterday's industrial action. In fairness to him, he confesses to 'severe misgivings' over hate crime legislation, and in the wake of UNISON deciding to use its membership fees to press for police action against the presenter, he has ceased the action.

There are, however, strange Double standards at work for the Left here. One of the most prominent Leftist 'Twitterati' member is the New Statesman blogger Sunny Hundal, who in this entry bemoans the fact that the remarks 'weren't comedy' and parrots the line that the BBC 'is overwhelmingly right wing'. Given Star Trek's Liberal use of alternative dimensions and parallel universes you could be forgiven for thinking you've stumbled into one here. Possibly in comparison with the
KCNA website, their output might be characterised as right of centre but otherwise it's certainly well to the Left of any political spectrum bar, perhaps an ILEA one of the mid 1980's wherein Trotskyites were defined as 'the Right'. Perhaps, most telling, is his comment that 'Let's not have Tories complain about 'PC gawn mad' and 'have a sense of humour' when they get so uppity at 'small jokes' themselves'.

This echoed my reaction on this blog to the interview given by mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone to Total Politics magazine where he equated the coming mayoral election with World War Two: (and implicitly, if not directly, Opponent Boris Johnson to Hitler) Strangely Hundal was noticeably silent on that issue. But why stop there? Prior to that point, Livingstone had also compared his rival's chief of staff to Serbian War Criminal Ratko Mladic , and subsequently, he remarked to Hammersmith and Fulham councillors proposing the redevelopment of a Council Estate, that they should be 'burned in hell with their flesh flayed by demons for all eternity', and called for the execution of Chancellor George Osborne. That's the trouble with this kind of thinking, it invariably escalates, and for the Left, the trouble as I tried to point out in my post on the Johnson/Hitler comparison, is that if you take vicarious offence on behalf of every 'minority' and try to censure the terms of the debate, then you'd better be pretty secure on the moral high ground or you'll come tumbling down. As it stands, all they've done, really is to make themselves look both priggish, petty, small-minded , and probably increase sales of 'Top Gear' DVDs by about 100,000 heading into the Xmas period.

It is worth quoting arguably one of the greatest politicians of the last 30 years, Lord Tebbit, who gives a sense of how both sides of the political fence today come across as Latter-day Neros - the fact that Mr.Ed sought to force Cameron to 'disown' the ludicrous Clarkson remarks, is on a par with Hague and Blair in 1998 debating the fate of Soap character Deirdre Rachid.:

'There are plenty of other matters crying out for attention. Despite all the promises and protestations, immigration is unchecked. While the Left wrings its hands at the appalling unemployment figures, it hides its face from the truth. Last year the number of UK nationals in work fell by 280,000. The number of foreigners rose by 147,000.

Perhaps it is time we asked why our own people are not finding work when people from overseas do. Is it our schools that are failing to produce young men and women with the skills, aptitudes and self-discipline needed to find work? Is it that the benefits culture has become so deep-rooted that idleness is the preferred option?

Whatever it is, the cost is appalling and stretches out into the future. Not just the economic and social costs of those unwilling or unsuitable to work, but the huge cost of providing infrastructure to support an ever increasing army of immigrants and their dependents. Schools, hospitals, roads, water and sewage works, power stations – none of which we would need if our own people took the jobs that are there for the taking.

The papers, but not the BBC, report on a daily basis the bizarre decisions of judges who fail to punish criminals with long records of crime, and others who think it is their duty to ignore the interest of we taxpayers who pay them. They’d rather allow foreign criminals to stay here to pursue their lives of crime.

Wherever one looks, be it Parliament, the Civil Service, the judiciary, local government or indeed the top management of public companies, the hired help behaves as though it were the owners, not the servants of the true owners, of the institution that pays their wages.'

In the context of the litany of woe above, a man known as someone 'whom the Hard Left feared'(and I would say, still fear) spells out the real issues facing us. Is it any wonder people like Sunny Hundal would have us worry about trivial, ridiculous comments?

Jeremy Clarkson: hate criminal?

After a severe lack of postings in November, I'm going to start as I mean to go on in December - with at least one post a day. To kick us off here's something truly horrible - Jeremy Clarkson calling for striking public sector workers to be shot in front of their families.

I've contacted the Metropolitan Police hate crimes unit to ask them to investigate Clarkson for hate crimes.

It's worth noting at this point that I have severe misgivings about "hate crime" legislation as it can easily be used to clamp down on free speech. But as the Tories are fond of pointing out, if a crime has been committed then arguably it's my duty to ask for an investigation - my personal feelings on the matter are irrelevant.

(Plus there is the fact that Clarkson is a fascist bastard and it'd be nice to see him banged up. But I didn't let that interfere with my judgement on this matter. Oh no...)

Update, 5pm 1 December: As UNISON have announced they're taking legal advice on the Clarkson issue I've decided not to bother with the Met complaint - I'm sure UNISON has more resources than I have.

Another update, 9pm 1 December: the BBC has now released this transcript of the conversation which, to be fair to Clarkson, makes it clear that he was joking. (He was trying to give two extreme opinions to wind the audience up). Case closed as far as I'm concerned.