Friday, March 27, 2009

Queen Used As Pawn In Chess Game Spin

Her Maj has been thrust into the spotlight, in a move which smacks of breathtaking spinning, as Beleaguered Brown fights for his political survival and the headlines get worse for him by the day. The Orange Party is usually happy to go along for a spin on happy fridays but this really takes the right royal biscuit.

King is running the economy, the Queen is running the State and the prime minister is just running around.

So today of all days it's revealed Brown and the Palace have discussed plans to change the rules of succession to the throne, including giving royal women equal rights.

Some MPs today launched a bid to bring in changes by reforming the 1701 Act of Settlement but the government has said time and again it would not support this particular MPs’ move, though the prime minister wants “progress” on the issue.

Back in 2005, with an election round the corner, that very issue of the monarchy was raised.

Then Downing Street told the BBC: "We don't believe in any change to the present system and this is not an issue that has been raised in any significant form during our National Policy Forum consultation process or during The Big Conversation."

Nothing much has changed, so why the big deal now? Could it be anything to do with drawing attention away from the Brown mess and his pointless trip to South America?

The tactics worked a treat. Brown's Brazillian briefing, that he's had talks with the Queen, neatly diverted the baying press hounds from savaging his deluded Save The World tour.

Meanwhile more troops are poised to be sent to the hopeless new Vietnam war in Afghanistan. There's further signs today the economy is in ruins and Brown's G20 vanity summit is turning into a pointless, expensive and increasingly dangerous charade.

There is a huge debate to be had over constitutional issues and indeed the whole future of the monarchy.

Politicians on all sides should be free to debate, particularly as some believe it is an anachronism in a modern, democratic society.

But most MPs don't want to stick their head above the parapet right now, with an election around the corner and an eye on their constituents and their seats.

There is a time to get it out in the open and have a proper discussion about a modern monarchy but now is neither the time nor the place.

Stick it in the manifesto and see how that plays out with voters.

Picture: Private Eye 1998


Half-Baked GCSE Science Fails Pupils

A half-baked science GCSE was pushed through by the government, leaving pupils with a dumbed down qualification not worth the paper it's written on. 

The exam watchdog has slammed tests as being far too easy but it's ministers who now need to learn the lessons of their GCSE science exam sham. 

After two years of playing with the future of our children and moving the goal posts to hit unrealistic targets, regulator Ofqual has finally nailed the "dumbed down" science GCSEs with too many multiple choice papers and superficial questions which are no longer a challenge to the brightest pupils.

Both the LibDems and Tories have hit on New Labour failings exposed by the report which said there had been "an overall decline in the standards of performance" and the papers are now easier. The specifications for the science, additional science and physics exams raised "significant causes for concern." 

Now CSE boards have been told they must sharpen up their act to improve the quality of science questions in order to stretch and challenge students and the entire science specification should be rewritten.

The controversial new GCSE in single science has led to more than 500,000 students being told their qualification has been "dumbed down" because of "significant causes for concern" about the quality of the exams last year. 

The regulator, Ofqual, ordered a review of the controversial new GCSE in single science  after an investigation found a "lack of challenge" in papers, standards differing wildly across three main exam boards, and too many multiple-choice questions. 

Ofqual blames the monstrous exams quango, the qualification and curriculum authority but it was the government which rushed in the GCSE before pilots were finished.

Concerns were raised about the 21st-century science GCSE since its teaching began in September 2006. 

Ministers and their New Labour lackeys reckon this is a science problem not a GCSE problem, coming out with the usual uneducated NewLabourSpeak.

But the report will trigger concerns because those GCSEs are entirely modular and that's the model all GCSEs will follow from September.

At the risk of stating the obvious, GCSE science tests are far too easy. Bright pupils just sail through. And that is an insult to the hard-working children who are forced to sit a set of worthless exams and then lulled into a false sense of academic achievement which does no-one any favours, not least the pupils. 

The warning bells were sounding back in 2007 when a science and technology select committee report noted the rollout of the science GCSE was rushed in without piloting, at a time when there was panic about not enough students coming through to the universities.

Many private schools have switched to teaching the more traditional International GCSEs to stretch bright pupils, in a move criticised with breathtaking arrogance by school's secretary Ed Balls as being out of touch with the reality of "our education system". 

His education system maybe but not "ours". Anyone with the best interests of all our children's future at heart will be shocked by these findings. How on earth can the country hope to get top-notch scientists for the future?

In one of his rare forays away from saving the world, Brown recently pledged to double the number of pupils in state schools taking three separate science GCSE exams in physics, chemistry and biology, by 2014. 

Just moving the goal posts and making exams easier is a shameful way to achieve a misguided and unrealistic political promise. 


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Will McNulty Join The Jobless?

A second government minister is under investigation by parliament's sleaze watchdog over expenses in a further blow for beleaguered Brown, as the watchdog rounds on two New Labour chancers in the fag-end of his government. Employment minister Tony McNulty's job should be on the line, after an investigation was launched by the standards commission over claims he abused his expenses. 

Two homes McNulty joins two homes secretary Smith, saying he did nothing wrong, after the Mail on Sunday exposed his greed by claiming £60,000 second-home expenses on a London house where his parents live, just a few miles from his main home.

Yet another New Labour chancer in the fag-end of a government which is up to its neck in the deep doo-doo of sleaze. 

Home secretary Smith is already under investigation after claiming £20,000 a year in expenses on a room she rented from her sister in London, claiming it was her 'main home'.

On a sticky wicket, the employment minister says he had not broken commons rules and said he would not return the estimated £60,000 he received for the property in his Harrow East constituency.

But shadow commons leader, Alan Duncan said it was "not clear" that McNulty had operated within the rules and there were some serious questions to be answered: "There he is brazenly trying to bat this away by saying - Oh well, the system is not very good but I didn't do anything wrong."

Meanwhile, New Labour MPs are breaking out in a sweat with next week's commons publication of a list of expenses claimed by MPs in the last financial year. 

The figures are expected to show MPs enjoyed taxpayer-funded expenses worth up to £95 million, an average of around £147,000 each, with New Labour MPs caught in the 'McNulty Triangle' shown up to be amongst the most expensive, worst culprits. 

McNulty and Smith are not the first ministers to be caught fiddling their MPs' homes expenses in a squalid rip-off at the taxpayers' expense. 

Brown's favourite cabinet couple, Ed Balls and wife Yvette Cooper were let off the hook after it was claimed they had been able to "maximise" their taxpayer-funded second homes allowances, by claiming their London home was their main home. 

Going through all the rigmarole is starting to wear very thin. This bunch of fiddlers may not have broke commons rules but they broke common rules of morals and decency. 

And that's while the rest of the country is having to suffer the misery and hardship of unemployment and a deep recession depression. 

Ministers are on the take in what is nothing short of a common commons scam. 

With ministers wrapped up in their own arrogance and self-interest and with the full backing of Brown, any minister caught fiddling expenses has been able to ride out the storm. 

Westminster will be looking at how bunkered Brown plays this one and stands by his man. Unless McNulty decides to spend more time at one of his homes with his family, bringing the whole rotten pack of cards down with him.  


Councils Shopped 'Til They Dropped At Iceland

Greedy councils and public bodies caught out shopping at Iceland have been shopped by the spending watchdog which has branded some of them a 'negligent' bunch for shopping right up to closing time. But councils weren't the only ones who kept mum while shopping at Iceland - the audit commission itself is up there with the worst of them. 

Millions of pounds of council tax and profits from property sales were squirrelled away in Icelandic slush funds, despite the warning bells and with lame treasury advice. 

The BBC puts the figure around £1 billion, revealed here in deposits in the collapsed Icelandic banks from a whopping 111 councils and 16 public bodies, with Transport for London at £40m and  Kent council's £50m at the top of the heap,  as well as police and NHS trusts and £10m from the audit commission. 

That's £1 billion of public money that could have been spent on rubbish collection, coppers, libraries, jobs and a decent wage for council workers. 

Now it's revealed seven councils in England "acted negligently" putting £33m of taxpayers' cash into the banks days before they went bust last October, according to the local government spending watchdog.

The Icelandic connection revealed the extent to which councils, police and other public bodies like Transport for London, had huge deposits in Icelandic banks.

The so-called cash-strapped councils and police authorities, cried foul after Iceland refused to cough up their cash. 

But public bodies, are classed as "informed investors". Informed means they should have realised what was going on. They are supposed to be, er, informed. 

Instead greed took hold, as million of pounds of our cash was stashed away for a quick profit and putting the pensions pot at risk. 

These investments do not have the same protection as individual deposits in Icelandic banks, guaranteed by the goverment after the meltdown of Iceland's banking system.

Preaching to the newly converted, the audit commission reckons "the potential loss of nearly a billion pounds is of great concern". So it should be - the audit commission itself deposited £10m in Icelandic banks. 

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. That's twice the level of exposure of Kent council. A point not missed on naughty Kent, accusing the commission of hiding behind a smokescreen. 

Many saw this coming. Credit ratings agencies were warning public authorities of the risks back in the spring. LibDem treasury spokesman, Lord Oakeshott, revealed he warned the treasury back in July but they were "blind and deaf" and all he got back was waffle.

Yet 127 English local authorities still had £954m deposited with the two Icelandic banks when they went bust, 3% of the total funds held on deposit by English authorities.

The fate of that £954m remains uncertain though the local government association reckons councils are expected to get back the "lion's share" of their Icelandic investments".

But the questions still remain. How come councils, police authorities and the rest have got so much cash swilling around to invest? If they've got so much cash, why does our council tax keep going up? What checks were made by government on council investment? 

Treasury officials tried to smooth things over with the Icelandic government after Brown's diplomacy - to  use anti-terror laws to freeze the UK assets of Icelandic bank, Landsbanki - went down a bomb in Reykjavik. 

And at the time of the Iceland bank collapse, blameless Brown was quick to point the finger of blame at poor little rich Iceland: "They have failed not only the people of Iceland; they have failed people in Britain."  

The Orange Party thought at the time that was a tad too quick  and his own treasury could have done more. 

The government was adamant local authorities had not been "reckless" in investing with Icelandic banks. Well someone had been and after today's watchdog report, clearly someone was.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Crisis What Crisis? Brown's Farewell Tour?

Beleaguered Brown could feel the Callaghan hand of history on him as he begins his doomed 'save the world' tour, prompting many at Westminster to ponder whether the prime minister has lost the plot. 

As part of his pre-election party political posturing, Brown's jolly jaunt, allowed a Cable classic in the commons, leaving Brown increasingly alone, to nurse his painful fiscal stimulus with the EU president branding it "a road to hell"

The Orange Party flew a kite earlier with speculation how long Brown would stay in Blighty? The answer is now clear. Not very long, as he massages his own ego with an over-hyped tour to prop up his borrowing binge and spending spree, dressed up as a fiscal stimulus. 

As he tours first Wall Street and then Latin America in advance of hosting next week's pointless G20 summit, many at home are left wondering what exactly is he playing at, with memories of the late Labour premier Jim Callaghan's gaff in similar circumstances.

What is happening smacks of Blair's contrived farewell tour in the dying days of his premiership. Is this what Brown plans - to go out and to the country on an artificially created high? 

The Orange Party genuinely believes he's lost the plot and has said so on a number of occasions and, like Ben Brogan, believes there's something distinctly 'odd' going on at the moment. 

His five-day mission impossible to save the world, didn't start off at all well. Savaged at the EU, not least due to Dan Hannan's magnificent and forthright put down: "You have run out of our money pathologically unable to accept responsibility". Now playing to huge crowds on YouTube and across the US, thanks to Drudge.

Today Strasbourg tomorrow the world. If it's Wednesday it must be New York, then Chile and Brazil. Brown is clearly uncomfortable in the bear pit of the commons chamber or maybe he doesn't give a hoot about parliamentary democracy. 

No trip to the White House this time however. Not even to return the useless boxed set of DVDs which won't play in the UK.  

Today once again was the battle of deputies. Only Hague is not the deputy leader of the opposition and doesn't want the job. Harman is not deputy prime minister although she certainly wants to be and Cable isn't leader of the LibDems but should be. 

Cable pressed Harman hard on Bank of England boss King's warning to Downing Street to shelve plans for a huge public spending spree, suggesting he's  mounting a "very British coup" by sending his tank's up the Mall to seize control of economic policy. Nice one, Vince. So that's why King met the Queen.

Either way the battle of deputies was another chance to wrong-foot the Tories, starving Cameron of the oxygen of publicity as conservative election strategy is to try to get Cameron up front and personal.

Big domestic and foreign issues will not go away and indeed are coming to the fore. Not least the vexed question of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, Brown is playing to Washington and Baghdad's tune but Afghanistan needs a decision, particularly with Obama's new troop surge about to kick off. 

Thank goodness for Simon Jenkins delivering a powerful plea in the Guardian, warning of the hopeless bloody war in the new Vietnam. A view shared and indeed observed by the Orange Party many months ago. 

At home, Brown stands alone in the world with only his new best friend Obama pushing for a massive borrowing binge and spending spree as a cure all for all the economic ills. That will not play out well in the US media which is increasingly turning on Obama, reported here on Sunday, branding him the boring teleprompter president

At home, Downing Street is with Brown and in denial, despite warnings of the social effects of the recession depression, pushing up costs.

Burying his head in the sand, Brown has shelved this year's Comprehensive Spending Review, leaving ministers and the opposition in the dark about how much each of the big spending departments will have to play with.

Those with long memories or a dab hand at a quick Wiki will remember Sunny Jim Callaghan returning from sunning himself during the bitter end game of the 'winter of discontent' and brushing off the gloom.

Callaghan later admitted regarding the winter of discontent that he had "let the country down" but not before returning home from an economic summit  in 1979, when he was asked: What is your general approach, in view of the mounting chaos in the country at the moment?

Gentleman Jim replied: "Well, that's a judgement that you are making. I promise you that if you look at it from outside, and perhaps you're taking rather a parochial view at the moment, I don't think that other people in the world would share the view that there is mounting chaos." 

Remind you of anyone? Bloomberg is today reporting the crisis and dire state of the UK economy going pear-shaped as no-one wants to buy our bonds.

"Crisis what crisis?" screamed the Sun's front page back in '79. Callaghan was forever dogged by the headline, which contributed to Labour's subsequent defeat and a Tory landslide, under the slogan: 'Labour isn't working'.

The questions which now remain is whether the deluded prime minister will dig himself into the bunker on his return and cling on to the bitter end, taking his Party and the country down with him. Or go to the country soon, for the good of the Party, the country and his health. 

Brown should heed the Callaghan warnings: Be careful what you say to the press and don't throw another paddy on the plane. 


New Terror Plans Are A Muddled Mess

New terror plans unveiled by the government have nothing to with fighting terrorism and everything to do with political posturing and striking fear and panic, as the old spectre of WMDs and the 'war on terror' is resurrected to prop up a beleaguered government and hapless home secretary, while the real causes are brushed under the carpet. 

At a stroke, decent muslims are again branded as a bunch of baddies as home secretary Jacqui Smith unveiled a new UK strategy to tackle an apparent terrorist threat, ignoring the root causes of the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and half-baked measures to get to grips with the preachers of hate. 

Harking back to the bad old days of WMDs and 45 minutes, the home office used fear and panic with the audacity to trot out a warning of an increased risk terrorists could get hold of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons to attack the UK with dirty bombs. So how come Brown is coming over all cosy with Iran?

The government paper, Contest Two, updates the 2003 strategy updated in 2006. The next update no doubt won't be far behind. 

By 2011, the government wants  to spend £3.5 billion a year on counter-terrorism, while the number of police working on counter-terrorism had risen to 3,000, from 1,700 in 2003.

There's more chance of being run over by a bus than there is  being blown up by a terrorist. More police just make the odds of shooting the wrong person that much higher. 

The Orange Party is late coming to this, after listening to Smith waffle on the Today programme, mainly because it's taken so long to read the damn thing. It's full of muddled unjoined-up NewLabourSpeak thinking. 

Without an historical, political, social, cultural and international context, it is quite meaningless. Moreover, without dovetailing into other over-arching UK domestic and foreign policies, it's not worth the paper it's written on. 

Putting the frighteners up nobody, homes secretary Smith says "challenges should be made to those who undermine our belief in democracy". Beat them over the head with a copy of a wet challenge, that'll sort them out. 

What's lacking is the context - a sociological imagination - and a framework which would put the current terrorism 'threat' into perspective and point a way forward to a solution. 

Instead the government plans to train 60,000 selected snoopers to spy on potential terrorists and at a stroke stigmatise anyone who looks a bit Middle-Eastern.

With the government  trailing in the polls, Brown and Smith are raising the hairy old chestnut of terror panic for political reasons. 

Of course there is a threat but this government doesn't seem to have a clue what it is. Hiding behind a muddled smokescreen, they can't see that years of misguided domestic and foreign policies are a large part of the problem and that means they cannot provide an answer.

Fears and warnings over dirty bombs abound. Yet with the UK 'reaching out' to Iran that's where the problem lies. Gone are the days when Blair could pull the wool over our eyes with a fruitless search for enriched uranium for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. 

Iran backs the fundamental Islamic terrorist and through a circumspect route that is where the bomb-making comes from. Even if Iran is genuine about just wanting nuclear power, it's so easy for a sympathiser to turn a blind eye.

Suicide bombers are now more sophisticated, practising in the killing fields of Afghanistan with live troops as target practice. Pull out the troops and you take away the  target practice for an attack on this country. 

Time and again suicide bombers justify their actions on video, with a tirade against the current UK and US occupation of muslim Iraq and Afghanistan. UK troops will be stationed in Iraq for at least a year in some number. In Afghanistan, with a new troop surge on the cards, the bloody, hopeless and unwinnable war is set to drag on for years. Pull out the troops and you remove a reason and justification for terror attacks. 

At home, border security has been tightened but the preachers of hate and their brain-washed slaves thrive. Playing a cat and mouse game with the authorities up and down the legal ladder, hiding behind the shield of half-baked human rights legislation. 

Authorities turn a blind eye to recruitment in the undercover mosques for fear of upsetting 'the muslim community', when in fact the vast majority of muslims would welcome a root and branch clear out.

Trailing in the polls and still smarting from the 42 day detention debacle, the measures announced to 'combat terrorism' are a slippery slope to holding suspects without charge.

All the Orange Party's muslim pals want what everyone wants and that's just to live their lives, make a living and look after their families. 

They have no truck with the preachers of hate and no truck with anyone who is bent on radicalising the youth for their own power and glory.

At the end of the day there'll always be terrorists lurking around somewhere or other. One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter and that's the same in a draconian dictatorship and it is in a free democracy. 

The key is to take an overview and co-ordinate all government policy, both domestic and international. That's what isn't happening and that why report Mark 3 will have to be rewritten as report Mark 4 after the next outrage. 


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Borrowing Brown Blown Out Of The Water

Borrowing Brown's bonkers crusade for a painful cure-all fiscal stimulus has been blown out of the water after 'surprise' inflation figures left him at odds with the Bank of England boss, his chancellor and most of the world. 

Brown's hyped-up Save The World ego tour and London G20 plan is in tatters. 

In the economic La-La Land of making it up as you go along, today's widely predicted inflation figures were supposed to show the Retail Price Index (RPI) sinking into dangerous deflation while the government's much-loved Consumer Price Index (CPI) dropping like a lead balloon. 

Only they didn't. Headline RPI fell to 0 percent in February, its lowest since 1960, from 0.1 percent in January, while the CPI actually rose to 3.2 percent in February from 3 percent. 

But the government is a victim of its own spin and deserves all it gets. The neat trick of the CPI was brought in by Brown during the false boom years as the government's preferred spin to measure inflation. Now it's coming back to haunt them. 

That left Bank of England boss, Mervyn King, who prefers RPI, in a pickle, forced to drop a line to hapless Darling explaining why CPI inflation is more than a full percentage point above the official 2 percent target. 

Darling will be rubbing his hands with glee and then putting two fingers up to Brown who's still bent on a massive borrowing binge and spending spree. 

What is happening is plain to see. RPI is zero because mortgage costs and house prices have taken a dive. Take out housing and CPI, which measures the cost of what people are buying, has risen. 

Any fool can see inflation has increased. The devaluation of the pound in our pocket has made us poorer. Food bills are going up, water rates have risen, while savings interest has dropped.

The price of food and drink is soaring. Cigs are going up. Imported goods like clothing and footwear are now falling less fast because of the weakness of the pound, which has raised the price of imported goods. 

Inflation is the proverbial Monty Python parrot. It isn't dead, it's just resting. And could soon return.

The Orange Party has long warned the government's reckless fiscal stimulus, unprecedented borrowing and printing of money could unleash a huge inflationary hurricane leaving behind the debris of debt.

But a much-needed steady hand on the economic tiller isn't happening, as deluded Brown, obsessed with his multi-billion pounds borrowing stimulus is getting increasingly short shrift from many, apart from his new best friend Obama, who has the luxury of four years to run himself out of his economic hole. 

Ben Brogan reports, King dropped a bombshell in his evidence to the treasury select committee.  He doesn't think there is a case for another fiscal stimulus

And that's the very same economic stimulus on which Brown is pinning all his hopes at the G for Gordon 20 summit and in the very budget where he's been forcing a reluctant Darling to write his own political suicide note and pump-prime the economy with more of Brown's borrowed billions. 

The head of the European Central Bank, Sarkozy of France, Merkel of Germany, the boss of the IMF and now the Bank of England governor are all backing off from another bonkers borrowing boost, leaving an obsessive Brown increasingly alone in his own little world. 

Making sense of it all is a nightmare for sure but without that steady hand on the tiller, deflation or inflation are economic killers.  

Burning Our Money is, as usual, on the money: "Our currency is being systematically debauched. Interest rates have been slashed, the printing presses are roaring, and savers are being raped."

What's needed is a sound strategy - and a leader. Answers on a postcard to: G. Brown, the Bunker, Downing Street, for when the Supreme Leader gets back from his South American pre-election PR jolly.