Saturday, November 28, 2009

Is having less MPs really the answer?

The fallout from the revelation of MPs expenses has been the call for smaller parliament. It takes 435 Representatives to run the House in the USA. This does make the 646 MPs in the UK look insanely large.

The current governing party holds 350 of those seats. They hold a rather thin majority and the backbenches are filling up with exhausted ex-ministers how have either resigned or been managed out by the Prime Minister in reshuffles. With around 100 Members of either democratically elected Commons or the hereditary/friends of the PM Lords needed to make a government, the pool of talent is shallow even with a change of administration.

The every stretching arm of government is now an arms race and isn't going to be easy to rationalise. The Spectator published a post yesterday that states that David Cameron's rhetoric may not have meaning because of the amount of shadow cabinet it would upset if it turns out they aren't going to walk into a job in government should the Tories win the general election next year.

If small government is what the Conservatives want then they need to commit to it now and implement early. The answer that came to me was to use a policy of natural wastage if reassembling Whitehall and upsetting some loyalist MPs is too much for a start out administration. The problem with that is it gives out a message of weakness and dithering.

So the only way is to be bold and do it early or change tact. If a few shadow cabinet members have to wait before they get a post then they should bear in mind that it won't take long for their colleagues to mess up and Cameron can take comfort that he has a pool of replacements to choose from.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mobiles and Cars Don't Mix

Whilst it may be legal to swan around in your car (at least in the USA) with your mobile phone to your ear, that doesn't make it a good idea... Waste of a Bugatti

Source: BBC

Friday, November 13, 2009

Just for fun - Barcodes

I caught this rolling off Information Aesthetics and thought it worthy of note.
An example of the possible ways of livening up that old stable, the barcode from

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More ACMD Advisors Resign

The trouble in the Home Office may have gone away for a week after Alan Johnson sacked Professor David Nutt but it's back again.

Three more advisers have joined Marion Walker and Dr Les King, who left the day following Professor Nutt's sacking (I nearly wrote that last part with a straight face).

There can't be much more than the Home Office can do wrong during this administration.
They haven't got the "faintest idea" how many illegal immigrants there are residing in the country.
Foreign criminals get released into the public when they should be deported.
The employ illegal immigrants as cleaners.
Murderers walk out of open prison.

Now it is in the midst of losing the support and cooperation of the scientific community. It must have something else to slip in before the Election...

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Britain's Bust - What about the Labour Party?

Charlotte Gore has written a thought provoking post on Labour's Money Situation. The main premise being that if you want to see how a party will run a government then it is best to look at how a party runs itself.

You won't be surprised to learn that their debt when put to scale would match the situation of the country quite aptly. This isn't a new issue. Type Labour Party Funding into Google and you'll be presented with an article from 2002 in the Guardian saying they are £6m in the hole. The big cause then was that they pumped a load of money into a General Election they were guaranteed to win in 2001 because the Tories were still as unelectable as they were in 1997.

So Labour spend the future to save the present. That's as much as I can conclude from their approach to economics thus far.

The interesting turn in Charlotte's post can be found in the comments. What it amounts to is that Labour's banks have them by the short and curlies because they can't pay their bills. This article in the Times illustrates that cuts are the order of the day. 75% of the telephone lines at Labour HQ call centre are no longer operating as tightening up is forced upon them.

All this, makes the event appear to be a mexican standoff. The banks are pointing the gun at the Labour Party and the government is pointing its gun at the banks. One can only imagine a tweaking of the government nutsack by the banks to secure the bailout.

I have to agree with Charlotte in thinking that this done point to a conflict of interest. If the mexican standoff metaphor works then should the Conservatives disarm the government and discard the Labour Party then the bank will be the only one shooting.

This plays perfectly into the scenario I laid out in June that is vital for this country. Labour could go insolvent and drop out the top 2 parties. Labour was born out of the trade union movement and so it would be only appropriate that it dies a death at the time when the trade unions have lost faith that it is the party that will represent them in parliament.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Gordon Brown's letter's to the bereaved

Mark this one in the diary because it is not very often you'll get me supporting our current Prime Minister. Today he is being slammed for one of the finer parts of his character. He takes the time to write personal, handwritten letters to the families of those that die on duty in Afghanistan.

Basically, his handwriting isn't up to much. Good handwriting is hard to find these days. It is incredibly harsh to judge him on his script. His heart is in the right place.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

All year this event has been given the big billing. This is going when the authorities of the world are going to get together and decide what to do about the human pollution impact on the planet. I hope I'm not read as too cynical in my belief that nothing of the sort is going to happen.

Why is that?

Lets see who is attending and the views.

Amongst others: China, USA, EU, India, Japan, African Union, Gulf states, Small Island Alliance

No wish to commit on targets
We'll cut if you cut
Rich countries cut your emissions by 40% by 2020
Rich countries pay developing world to adapt
Rich countries provide low carbon technology
BRIC nations to commit on slower growth of emissions
Rich nations to cut emissions by 80%-95% by 2050
Financial aid to oil producers if agreement requires cut of fossil fuels

So much to reconcile and so much vested interest. There is a huge reluctance to commit to targets and make it a legal obligation. The 80% cut by 2050 (on 1990 levels) for rich nations gets the most agreement even amongst the rich nations, USA and the EU. However there are two very good reasons for that.
1: It's years and years away where not only is there a good chance that the people signing up to it will not be serving in office at the time, but it's also likely they'll be dead
2: We'll have burned near all of our oil, gas and coal so the carbon emissions will fall off a cliff because we have no further means of producing them

It won't be for lacking of trying. We're just not grown up and trusting of each other enough yet.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Afghanistan - Here for a long time

The government line still sticks with supporting a corrupt leader in Hamid Karsai to end corruption in the Afghan police and army so that the nation becomes stable and doesn't allow the Taliban back in. After this is done, are troops can be pulled out and Afghanistan can be left to its own devices.

I hope you don't need me to point out the logical problem with that plan of action. Democracy doesn't exist where only one candidate stands for election. But, considering that's how we got our very own leader, it shouldn't be too surprising that this is how we recognise it as a democracy.

It took 8 years for WWII to begin (counting the Japan-China war as the start) and end. Of the 3 objectives for the Afghan war, none have really been met:
Over 8 years have passed since troops stormed Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden still evades capture. Saddam Hussain was captured in the same year as war was declared on Iraq in 2003.
Al-Qaeda is still claiming atrosities.
The Taliban are camped out in the Pakistani hills waiting for the coalition forces to go home.

We need a new strategy if we are to leave anytime soon.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Prime Minister's Questions - 04/11/2009

12:01 - More fallen in Afghanistan. This time to a police turncoat, undermining the strategy in the war.

Good on the Speaker; Stopping Gordon Brown from going off topic on the NHS trying to refer to an comment from the shadow health secretary.

12:06 - Very subdued opening brace of questions from the leader of the opposition, David Cameron. Playing into the Prime Minister's hands at the moment.

12:10 - Finally moving to MP's expenses. Cameron is trying to get the PM to agree to the Kelly report. The PM agrees at the end of a long response.

12:11 - David Blunkett with a loaded question on the Tory situation with the Lisbon treaty. The speaker again doing a good job in directing the Prime Minister in his response.

12:12 - Nick Clegg is attempting to speak and getting heckled by the childish bullies in the House. Looking for a timetable for the Afghan cabinet clean-up. Sadly he's looking for a specific answer which the Prime Minister would never give even if he did have an answer.

12:16 - A Labour backbencher asking for a exit strategy/timetable. More bla bla bla as a response.

12:16 - A transport question. No real response again.

12:18 - NHS spending question. Again, nothing much in a answer.

12:19 - Helpful question on tax credits. PM response entirely geared towards keeping promises. Boom and bust anyone?

12:20 - Youth Parliament. Vote at 16 question from Labour backbencher. A direct response. The PM favours giving the vote to 16 year olds.

12:23 - Afghan serious injury figures question. No commitment.

12:24 - Helpful question on the car scrapage scheme.

12:25 - NIMROD crash compensation question. The PM resolves to deal with it.

12:27 - Question on rotting submarines. Dodges the question.

12:28 - Question on cutting nurseries. Another entirely unrelated jibe at the Tory Lisbon position.

12:29 - Question on the faithfulness of the Afghan police and army. Party line response.

12:30 - The Professor Nutt question. An orderly response.

Show's over. An easy ride for the PM. His strategy of making life easy on himself by bringing up the dead at the beginning of every session is working perfectly.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Breaking up the Banks

Over the weekend, news has broken that Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling wants to break up the banks which the government owns a significant stake in. This is to increase competition.
"What I want to do now is begin the process of reform and reconstruction so we have got a safer, more competitive banking system with more high street banks than we have at the moment, with new entrants coming in"
New entrants? From what I've read, whatever is broken up is going to be sold on. Virgin Money, Tesco Finance and Santander amongst the names. No new entrants there. Before the banks all got eaten up into the larger entities, the profits were huge. Huge profits in a mature market means something is very wrong. Going back to the competition levels of 10 years ago may help a little, but it is a hardly going to make the banking system robust.

To make the banking system safer we need to address the now cliched "too big to fail" problem. Only a radical breaking up of the banks will help competition do its thing and control risk and pricing. More successful routes will be getting to grips with the fractal reserve system itself (which forces perpetual and ever increasing debt the more is paid in) and limiting areas for wide scale speculation, specifically in land.

Story: BBC, Reuters

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Government Drug Advisor Cannabis Row

If you have an opinion on anything. It can be politicised. When the opinion of yours, solicited by the government, is on drugs it be nothing but politicised. I would be horrified if the various advisory groups supporting the numerous government departments didn't bark when their advice was ignored by their minister.

Professor David Nutt was absolutely right to call the decision a whim. It clearly isn't based on science. Nicotine and alcohol being more dangerous substances? You won't catch me arguing against that. We all know that if those two drugs were discovered now they would be illegal.

It would take a brave government to make that happen. Naturally, because we haven't got one, cannabis gets a rawer deal. That said, I'm struggling to find the point of the classification system for drugs. If the issue we reclassification is that down grading a drug sends out the message that it's ok then the system is always onto a loser. Unless of course the figures must be revised upwards. Should a Class A+ come into being then you know what's going on...

Story links: BBC, Reuters

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