Friday, February 09, 2007

My Entry For The £12m Virgin Prize

I was reading Daily Pundit's views here on Richard Branson's new £12m prize for the person who can develop the best way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and it gave me a great idea. How about a Spaceballs style Mega Maid? Alright just send me a cheque.

Tough Life For Lounging Royal

Looks like The Earl of Wessex is having a particularly exhausting trip to the Caribbean judging by today's Court Circular in The Times (here). He visited a gallery and then went to a Golf Club. This follows a pretty arduous trip that included a quick stop over in Palm Beach, Florida (here). Good to see him still representing the UK on the beaches, sorry major social events of the world. Money well spent in my opinion

February 8: The Earl of Wessex, Trustee, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award International Foundation, this morning visited the new National Heroes Gallery, Bridge-town, Barbados.
His Royal Highness, Trustee, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award International Foundation, afterwards attended a Reception for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Golf Cup at Sandy Lane Golf Club, Saint James.
The Earl of Wessex later departed Barbados for the United Kingdom.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Miliband Whacks Brown On Question Time

David Miliband made a huge gaffe on Question Time tonight by claiming that the audience would be booing Gordon Brown and demanding Tony Blair back in a year. He realised his mistake and lamely tried to put it right, but perhaps a little too late. Ooops... not sure Gordon is going to be very pleased with that. See the latest episode here. It is close to the end.

Update: Also on the BBC news website here. The exact quote was "I predict that when I come back on this programme in six months or a year's time, people will be saying 'wouldn't it be great to have that Blair back because we can't stand that Gordon Brown'."

Congestion Ken

I've just been reading over the form I'll need to fill in for my Congestion Poll Tax when the charging zone expands into my street on February 19th. I started off outraged that I'd be hit with an additional £200 charge, but I suppose in the mini police state that is the UK, it isn't a massive amount of money. In fact, the more I've thought about it the happier I've become. I now qualify for the 90% discount on the overall cost, so I'll be happily driving into the old congestion charge zone on weekdays because it'll make no financial difference. I might not be able to park, but I'm sorry Ken I'll be driving round congesting all day everyday to teach you a lesson.

The western front of the congestion charge zone will cover a massive residential area of people who will probably drive in central London much more than they did before. Please tell me this isn't just a money making scheme.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Conservatives Come Out Strongly Against New Times Poll

In a shock reaction to this morning's Times poll showing that David Cameron's support doesn't extend to the Midlands, North of England, Wales and Scotland, the Conservatives have announced that they will begin a huge trench that starts on the west coast and runs the width of the UK. "The North" will then be towed closer to the Arctic Circle enabling northerners to complain even more about how grim things are. Cameron's official spokesman stated, "it's about bloody time. Why didn't we float these people away years ago when we first knew that they didn't like us?"

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Good IDea

I am incredibly pleased that the Conservatives have come out wholeheartedly against the ID scheme. All they need to do now is pledge to tighten up rules on how information is shared across government departments, scale back the (ab)use of the police DNA database, reduce the number of CCTV cameras and remove a large number of speed cameras and they might have a pretty good freedom platform to run on.

They Can't See The Small Business Bureaucracy For The Trees

I have just received a letter from HM Revenue & Customs inviting me to a "London Business Advice Day" to help me deal with government red tape, sorry help me succeed in running my business. There are a ridiculous number of public bodies to meet. Here's the letter:
Dear Sir/Madam,

I am delighted to enclose an invitation to a free business advice day being hosted by HM Revenue and Customs on Wednesday 21st March 2007 at The Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 0QH.

Over 50 Government Departments, agencies and public sector organisations will be attending the event, providing advice and support to help you succeed in running your business successfully.

There are also free education semnars on a range of isses, to help you make the most of your day.

For further details please see the enclosed flyer or alternatively visit our website at www. businessadviceday.co.uk

I hope you will be able to join us.

Yours faithfully,

Roger Lovell
Business Liaison Team Manager

Over 50 bloody organisations and agencies!!! If this many entities are involved, no wonder small business is suffering. This is a shambles and a good example of unjoined up government. I definitely won't be wasting a day at this thing. I spend enough time filling out the endless forms and complying with the infinite regulations that these people spew out on a daily basis.

Cameron Sinking Lower And Lower This Morning

David Cameron has made a major media appearance today on This Morning with Fern and Phil. Incisive questions such as "How do we deal with extremists in our society?" were followed up with "Why's Tony Blair having such a tough time?" Fern clearly fancies herself as a little bit of a serious interviewer and why wouldn't she after her long stint on Ready Steady Cook? I would think that the new host of that programme, Ainsley Harriott, will be in line for the BBC Political Editor role in a year or two.

My favourite part of the interview was Fern's impassioned "Patients just want clean hospitals, with clean sheets and no bugs, with decent food and good nurses". I can just see the letters being written now by Doreen in Whitstable, "Thanks Fern for speaking on behalf of us normal people". The problem with this is that these things don't just appear Fern they need policies and that means talking about other points that are slightly more complicated.

These lightweight interviews play a specific role of reaching an audience that isn't normally interested in politics, but in terms of learning anything new about the Conservative party it was a waste of time. This was a very Blairesque performance and I'm sure the styles will be compared again and again.

To put this edition of This Morning into perspective, the other major guest was Jamie Oliver's dad. Are you kidding me? What the bloody hell? I'm surprised Jamie Oliver's postman hasn't gotten in on the act. All aboard the Cash-In Express.

Monday, February 05, 2007

John F Kennedy 1960 Television Political Ad

This blog has been a little too newspaper focused today, so I thought I would balance it a little with a political ad from JFK's 1960 election campaign for President. Priceless.

Guardian Knows Nothing, So Makes Up Headline

There's a story on The Guardian website (here) with the headline "Blair will not face third interview". Well there we are. We should assume that Blair is in the clear and that all is right with the world should we? Well er... no actually.

If you bother to read the article you realise that the only evidence they have of "will not" is the word of Blair's official spokesman who is not aware of any contact between No 10 and Scotland Yard regarding a further interview. Indeed, he has "checked with everyone [he] can conceivably check with in Downing Street and in wider government and the answer is no." Well that's a little different from "will not" isn't it. It may be more appropriate to use the headline, "Blair may not face third interview because we can't find someone to tell us he will, but wait a minute they kept it secret from us last time, so we cannot categorically say either way". Not as snappy, but about 100% more accurate.

Times Site Still Not Really Working

The redesign is a total disaster. I tried to get on there to give feedback on how bad it is and managed to get my screen to look like this (below) before giving up and moving on. "web 2.0" features like participation in the site only work if the site actually loads.

Terrible Times Redesign

Hurrah for the web consultants. Another website redesigned and ruined. I cannot believe that the new Times website has gone live in what can only be described as an Alpha version of the site. It looks awful. Admittedly the navigation bar has been made simpler than the odd mix of horizontal and vertical that the site used to sport, but this has been done in such an ugly fashion that any navigational benefits are lost as a result. It also loads incredibly slowly for some reason - slower in fact than any of the other UK newspaper sites I visit (Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Sun, Mirror, Independent and the NOTW). There are objects floating everywhere and there has been no effort made to streamline the page. It is now a horrible mess of icons, stories, pictures and links. And who chose that awful font size and the shocking colour scheme?

Update: The site is so bad that had to go out and buy a paper version. Is this their cunning secret strategy to drive up circulation?

Protect And Survive

There is a brilliant article here in the Guardian by Steve Boggan. He has visited the huge government underground bunker in Wiltshire that was built as a command and control centre in the event of a nuclear war. He has also examined the current civil defense measures in place to protect us today.

His article mentions the old Protect and Survive government instructions and I've found some really interesting old videos on Youtube. Here's one entitled "Action After Warnings".

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Blair Drums Up The Usual Suspects For Support

Interesting article on the BBC website here that sums up the comments of ministers that came out swinging for Blair today. Unsurprisingly, Blears, Jowell and Hewitt drew the short straws. What was more interesting was who wasn't out defending the Prime Minister. If that's the best they can rustle up then he really must be in trouble.

The key talking points can be summed up as follows:

1. He should be allowed to "get on with the job";
2. He should all be wary of "unattributed" stories;
3. It would be "undemocratic" to drive him from office during the inquiry;
4. "The prime minister is giving outstanding leadership."

As far as number one is concerned it seems pretty clear to me that a Prime Minister who doesn't have control over the Cabinet or his party cannot just "get on with the job." I have a little sympathy with the second point and I do think the Labour politicians who are spinning against Blair should to some extent put up or shut up. I cannot for the life of me work out what is "undemocratic" about his party pushing him from office. That is exactly the way our political system is supposed to work. He cannot be primus inter pares without the support of other MPs. Once this is lost then he should no longer be Prime Minister. This overrides any party systems to elect leaders and so it should. Do I need to say anything about four other than it is patently not the case.

Weak talking points, none of the big gun ministers. How long does Blair have left?