Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Melanie Reid

The Times pays Melanie Reid to write. Bollocks. Like this piece published before Christmas on compulsory volunteering. Today, sticking to her flipflop principles, she writes that people like her friend who had better jobs than the rest of the planet ought to receive five star treatment at JobCentrePlus when they sign on. Oh the indignity of queueing and waiting behind plebs, of having to be punctual for appointments, of having to prove one is available and searching for work in order to receive JSA or NI credits. Surely, the better people with their networks of contacts should be ushered into the VIP Suite and offered refreshments before telling the Personal Advisers how to do their jobs. There aren't any high calibre jobs on offer in JobCentres, she moans (as did Harry Blackwood last year). There's a reason for that: HR Departments don't advertise free in Jobcentres as they prefer to keep their own jobs and routines comfy by advertising in the national papers or contracting headhunters. Actually, if it became compulsory to advertise all vacancies on the JobCentrePlus website then paradoxically a lot of people wouldn't get jobs because many people find work for themselves by phoning up companies, arranging a meeting and submitting a carefully crafted CV for what we in the job-finding trade called "speculative" vacancies, ie the need for the job was not recognised until the enterprising job-seeker matched their jobskills to the business needs of the company. It's the sort of thing that "Operations Directors" should be able to do for themselves - if not it's not difficult to imagine why they were made redundant. JobCentrePlus help, such that there is given tight budget constraints, is directed at those people with higher barriers to re-employment, such as low qualifications, language, literacy and numeracy needs, long-term unemployed, former soldiers, homeless people, recovering drug addicts, ex-prisoners etc and the ES4 or "exercise book" into which the claimant writes job search details is provided to ensure accountability, for didn't the "Operations Directors" and hackettes swap stories of dole scroungers at dinner parties before they encountered democracy in action at the local JobCentrePlus? Ironically, those people deemed to have significant barriers to employment can be referred to private sector jobfinding companies contracted by the DWP. These companies are paid a fee for each person they find a job for who signs off benefit and no questions are asked how that money is spent. Unlike JobCentrePlus where every penny of public money spent on decent clothes for an interview or the first month's season ticket has to be justified and accounted for. So Melanie, if you are stuck for a few hundred words to write for your next column, why don't you suggest that everyone signing on should be given a shovel and brush and told to sweep for twenty hours a week? Except your friends, of course.

Update 24 April 2010 : I read in today's Times that Melanie Reid suffered a fall from her horse on 4 April causing her to suffer a broken neck and back. She dictated an excellent article about the accident and her subsequent treatment. The prognosis for her recovery at this early stage is pretty good and she is realistically positive. Despite my acerbic comments about her on JobCentrePlus above, I offer her my best wishes and hope that she is able to get back in the saddle as soon as possible. Reading her article again I know that she will not give up trying.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

It's Not The Dunkirk Spirit But The Bridport Spirit That England Needs Now

Man of cabbage/courage Gordo Broon proposes that we delve into his dumbed down and pc bowdlerised dvd of British history and draw strength from the Dunkirk Spirit* which kept plucky Blighty fighting on alone against evil Adolf Hitler until the Soviet Union stopped sending trainloads of supplies to Germany. Well, Broon is talking bollocks as a better analogy of this country's present situation is April-May 1942 when the Japanese were apparently unstoppable in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the Germans were racing across the steppes to Stalingrad and the 8th Army vitually had its back to the pyramids. Indeed, whoever has the bad luck to win the next election had better start reading up on how the post-war economic miracle in Germany took place for tips on avoiding relegation to the third world.
But one item of news cheered me up: I call it the Bridport Spirit. Small, isolated examples of individuals standing up against alien cultural oppression will snowball into bigger and bigger victories until the evils of Nulab, Common Purpose and the European Union are driven from our shores and every English Man, Woman and Child can stand up free of the shackles of beeboid orthodoxy. Beacons of Hope and Common Sense fuelled by numerous copies of government propaganda, gudelines, strategies, framework documents and all the other unsustainably vacuous toss of years of business school nonsense will light our way into the future. England will make and sell things that hurt if you drop them on your toes instead of being the dodgy bookmaker of Europe.

* As Kenneth Horne described it " Half starved and scared to death."

Top Ten List Of Ordinal Numbers 2009

Back by popular demand. No change from 2008. What is the point of Ann Widecombe?

1 First

2 Second

3 Third

4 Fourth

5 Fifth

6 Sixth

7 Seventh

8 Eighth

9 Ninth

10 Tenth

No change from 2007 then.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

How About This For An Idea?

Come July 31 2009 when British Forces are ceremonially chucked out of Iraq by an ungrateful mob aka the Iraqi people and Parliament (we must have lunch sometime), wouldn't it be a good idea to throw two pairs of shoes out of the last departing Hercules. Attached to both pairs of shoes will be labels inscribed with the simple message "Fuck Off , Don't Make Us Come Back" in arabic, and wearing the shoes will be Anthony Charles Lynton Blair and Aleister "Campbell" Crowley. I am sure the good citizens of Basra will make expert use of centuries of islamic scientific learning to teach the two gentlemen what can actually be done in 45 minutes.

Jacqui Smith's Winterval Viewing Suggestion

Here's an excellent choice of film for our popular Home (Economics) Secretary to watch over the period 25-26 December (The Festival of Shamalamadingdong):

I would have also recommended it to the jovial Assistant Commissioner X as he is now known for anti-terrorist security reasons (no Christmas surcharge on car hires) but he has probably got the Home Secretary's bunker wired already "for the best of reasons".

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Sunday, 14 December 2008

A Communication Failure

Just a quick posting on the De Menezes Inquest. I was taught in the Civil Service that every message requires two things:

person 1 to say or write it;

person 2 to understand it exactly as person 1 means it.

If person 2 does not umderstand exactly what person 1 means then there has been a failure of communication. It is the responsibility of person 1 to ensure that his message is properly understood by his audience.

I read this interesting snippet about DAC Cressida Dick*'s evidence at the Inquest in yesterday's Daily Mail:

She denied that she gave an order that Mr de Menezes must be stopped from getting on to a train at Stockwell 'at all costs' and also denied instructing the firearms teams to use lethal force to stop him.

Miss Dick told the inquest that she ordered armed officers to 'stop him' from getting on the Tube. She said: 'Stop is a phrase we all use all the time to detain, either to talk to someone or to arrest them. I was asking for what you might call a conventional - albeit aware of the risks - challenge from the firearms officers.'

Miss Dick described Mr de Menezes as 'the victim of some terrible and extraordinary circumstances' and said she did not think any officer did 'anything wrong or unreasonable'.

Well that's alright then. As Charlie Croker famously said to a subordinate in different circumstances:

* BA Oxon, MPhil Cantab so one can assume she is reasonably skilled at selecting the precise words required to nail a lucid sentence together.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Pound's Fall Againt The Dollar

Gordon Brown blames the credit crunch on America and says Britain is best placed for recovery and that he has saved the world.
Take a look at this graph from Yahoo Finance . Call me cynical but doesn't a falling Pound mean that the rest of the world is losing confidence in it?
And here's another one from Yahoo Finance showing the Pound's collapse against the Euro. Looks like a converging trend to me.
The good news is that sterling is maintaining its parity against - see Yahoo Finance again - the Zimbabwe Dollar.

Well That's Interesting But I Have No Idea Who He Is

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

The sci-fi character my personality is most like according to the answers I gave to a few questions. Apparently, it's John Sheridan.

An experienced survivor who has maneuvered around many obstacles, you are looked up to by those who rely on your good judgment.

In the last few years, we've stumbled. We stumbled at the death of the president, the war, and on and on. When you stumble a lot you tend to look at your feet. Now we have to make people lift their eyes back to the horizon and see the line of ancestors behind us saying, "Make my life have meaning," and to our inheritors before us saying, "create the world we will live in."

John is a character in the Babylon 5 universe. You can read his biography at the Worlds of JMS fansite.

Haven't these people ever tried fishing?

With thanks to Prodicus

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Good and Bad

I applaud the efforts of Preston to restore some semblance of civility to its streets. Swearing, vomiting and urinating in public are evidence of the decay of society and individual self-respect. How sad though that a poster campaign is needed to educate fellow Englishmen and women of the minimum standards of acceptable behaviour. I remember walking once along an underpass on the Fiveways Island in Birmingham and seeing a large dog cigar on the ground that could not have been extruded from a dog.
Let every town and city in England follow Preston's lead. Make criminals clean every inch of the ground under the supervision of hard-working street cleaners (now that is real public service). Let's make 2009 the year when public drunkenness becomes as much of a social taboo as admitting that football is boring. I don't mind drinking, in fact I don't mind drinking a lot but I don't like people who can't hold their drink. I like people who drink and can still engage in meaningful conversation (which includes listening quietly) or play a game of cards, darts, billiards or dominoes or whatever (skittles for captain haddock no doubt). And best of all I like people who drink with a meal or snacks (pork scratchings, seafood, or best of all good crusty bread, a fine cheese and decent firm, pickled onions*). Good food is vital for social drinking.

* not forgetting thick slices of cold meats with the appropriate condiments: eye-watering mustard and horseradish sauce, richly-complex cumberland sauce and a weapons-grade chutney. And pickled onions for the vegetarians.

EU Sets Up An Anti Pirate Flotilla Round The Horn Of Africa

Good Idea. Trouble is the Spanish Navy have 85% of the ammunition quota.

Let's have some classic Rambling Syd Rumpole from Round The Horne to cheer Our Brave Matelots with a salty mouthful or two of naval slang

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

On Being Treated Like Shit

This is my first Ebay post. It describes how I was shabbily treated today in the local sub-post office where I have spent over £5,000 in postage in the last three years and have helped to keep open despite the wishes of the idiots who mismanage the Post Office.
I went in this morning at 10:30 with six packets to be sent. There were three customers ahead of me and one assistant on. The first customer had decided to cash up twenty bags of loose change from a church christingle service or something on Sunday. While she was being served the first parcel collection of the day was removed by a Royal Mail driver. The next wanted to send assorted size cards but hadn't sorted them out and also various cards to abroad. The third wanted to buy a card and some sweets. When I finally got to the counter at 11:00 there was a queue of about a dozen people behind me stretching to the door. Being an unselfish sort, I suggested that I leave my bag of packets with some cash to be stamped when the workflow eased off and another assistant was due in. No problem, give me your phone number and we'll call you so you can pay by debit card which we prefer. So I departed, thinking that I would be back as soon as the last person in the queue had been served. I had saved the people in the queue five minutes' waiting.
Fast forward to 3:00 pm and I have another packet to send and still no phone call from the post office. So I walk in and find six people in front and within a couple of minutes another six behind. The Royal Mail driver comes in for the second parcel collection. The assistant opens the door to hand the sacks out, sees me and says "I'll serve you right after Glenys" As there were five possible contenders for that title, I said "Don't worry, call me when you a free." I don't like to queue jump: I'm not an OAP.
So at 4:30 pm the phone rings "Come up immediately." I go to the post office to find my packets haven't been stamped yet - I have to put them on the scales myself. The owner says that when the volume of customers eases off she will be able to have lunch. Yes, I have worked without a break many times in a Jobcentre as well but keep that to myself as I did not profit from the number of customers I saw. So after six hours' delay I was finally able to message my customers that their items had been posted.
Was I right to feel that I had been treated like shit? Or is this par for the course for people without sharp elbows? The problem is that having been treated for depression, were I to assert my rights, doubtless the Police firearms team would peremptorily murder me in order to get back to the office for their paperwork, tea and bacon sandwiches.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Did Robert Adam Break Gordon Brown's Moral Compass?

I yield to no one over my dislike of Gordon Brown and the pointless game of football. However, this disturbing story in which the Beria-like Headmaster of Kirkcaldy High School allegedly tricked Our Dear Leader and several other pupils into a beating with a letter strap made my blood run cold. Apparently,

"The headmaster announced at assembly that he'd heard some of the boys were planning to sneak off for the afternoon to watch the [Scotland-Italy World Cup qualifier] game on television and that would not be tolerated. But he said if there were any boys who were desperate to watch the game, they should come to his office after assembly to discuss it."
"Some of the boys went round, thinking the headmaster might put a TV in one of the classrooms. Instead, he got them in one by one, gave them a good belting, and told them if they tried to play truant that afternoon, they'd get another belting every day for a month."

If true, the perpetrator should be dragged out and shot in the gutter both for the duplicitous misery he inflicted at first hand and then through Brown on the rest of us. What a sick, twisted, perverted evil bastard. From Fife Today I learn that:

"The late Robert McGowan Adam (1906-90) was headmaster of Kirkcaldy High School from 1948 to 1971 and cared much about education in Fife."

If so, he had a funny way of showing it. I hope he drowned in shit.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Mortgage Interest Payment Protection From Gordon: A Con

Is it me being cynical or has Gordon Brown found a money mine at the bottom of his garden?
His wonderful new plan to allow "hard-working households" to take a six-month mortgage interest holiday for up to two years to avoid repossession of their homes looks too good to be true.
In the first place there are scores of mortgage interest protection plans out there for responsible people to buy along with house and contents insurance. I remember most of the nicer people in the Jobcentre on the other side of the desk had signed on for Jobseekers Allowance in order to claim against their mortgage interest insurance policy. Provided they satisfied the conditions for JSA, every two weeks we would complete a form for them to send to their insurers which stated they were looking for work as the policy required. No charge on the public purse.
For claimants on income-based JSA (and with savings of less than £16,000), the DWP pays average interest for the mortgage after 39 weeks in most circumstances. Here is the rubric.
It is clear that the logic behind this scheme is simply that £1 billion is a cheap price to mollify Middle-England/Worcester Woman/Mondeo Man voters in the run up to the next General Election when many Labour marginals will be at stake. Most people who might need it will already have MIPP and will not qualify. Somehow, when people realise that their mortgage holiday has ended and they are left with a larger monthly repayment to find (because the deferred interest and the capital will accrue interest during the holiday) in order to stay in their less valuable houses (because this scheme won't increase prices) , I reckon they will be extremely reluctant to pay the extra tax to pay the interest on HMG's increased borrowing. And not repaying the capital sum won't do much for increasing the amount of liquid cash in the financial system - the reason why the banks were bailed out by the Bank of England. But by then Labour hope to have squeaked through for another four years' of loot and pillaging.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

A Message From Someone Else Below The Law

"Tell our enemies that they may take our sanity, but they'll never take back... THEIR FREEDOM! "

Monday, 1 December 2008

The Damian Green Affair: An Ex-Civil Servant Writes

I can honestly say that during my career as a civil servant I never leaked any information. The fact that I had signed the Official Secrets Act (twice actually, one for me and one for my Estabs. file) had nothing to do with it. The reason was that I dealt with Top Boring material that the most desperately-close-to-a-deadline-with-no-copy hack would not even use to wipe bird poo off a car. How I wished in my early days that the six foot tall armour steel safe in the office contained more than a copy of the combination numbers in case the Admin Assistant was sick and couldn't come in to open the safe. I saw minutes about proposals for open government marked confidential and a minute about a road on the Welch Borders replying to one on file 31 years before (not much need for "action this day" in Shropshire) but never anything that would set fire to every front page. Or if I did, I read it, forgot it instantly and made a coffee. Oh, did I tell you I worked for two years on the site of the apartment block where Carol Vorderman and Frank Skinner now own flats? That's about the extent of my Civil Service-related gossip.
I understood, believed and practised the Northcote-Trevelyan (and their successors) philosophy of Civil Service impartiality because it was fair and made sense. The Civil Service was like cricket umpires, there to make government run effectively whichever party was in power for the fun of the game. And just as cricket and sport in general has become more "professional" ie nastier in recent years, so politics and government has also. When once a batsman would walk before waiting for the umpire's finger, today ministers and whips use every trick of the Nixon-Stalin-Macchiavelli manual to stay in (money) power at the expense of the opposition. Special Advisers have mushroomed during the NuLabour years and the Government Information Service has become horrifyingly politicised (eg Campbell's souped-up 45 minute Iraq dossier and Tom Kelly " Dr David Kelly was a Walter Mitty character"). The rules of the game have changed. Play cricket if you pad up and walk out to the crease but politics a la Brown has become seal clubbing. And so when EURefendum writes this Colonel Blimpish tosh I have to say, look the battle being fought in Parliament is too important and too vital for the old, superseded rules to apply. If Brown wins again then the European/Global project will be unstoppable without bloody and protracted civil war which nobody wants. If the Tories form the next government the immediate situation and policies might not be to the purist tastes of Dr Richard North and Peter Hitchens, for example, but they will be a step in the other direction or even just a slowing of the rate of change. And that can be built on. But petulantly saying that because a particular party is not 100% to your taste it is wrong is like refusing to catch a bus because it doesn't drop you at your door. The only form of politics where you get all you want when you want it is dictatorship.
And so in this radically different and dangerous world the certainties of yesteryear no longer apply. I would not encourage any civil servants to break their position of trust and advise the raising of any concerns with management with trade union support to resolve matters but if their consciences preclude alternative actions then, in the present circumstances, leaking material embarrassing to Labour is acceptable. Leaking material prejudicial to national security (national interest has been confused with party interest) is a different matter. Remember, Labour politicised the Civil Service with SpAds and politically acceptable senior civil servants, so they are only getting a bit back of what they dished out. If you take the EUReferendum point of view then you might agree that it was right for police in the Channel Islands to continue to work for the Nazi occupiers as the Germans became the governing authority when the islands were surrendered.
Sometimes desperate measures are needed in a fight for the survival of the independent English way of life and, being too young to have voted for or against membership of the EEC, EC or EU or whatever, we should all begin by renting the DVD of V for Vendetta, reading a biography of Ghandi and shouting "I'm mad as hell and I won't put up with this any more". England can mind its own business once again but the weapons and tactics to fight the peaceful war against those who wish to remove our special identity and turn us into identical global producers and consumers will require stronger stomachs to use them effectively. When the war for freedom is won then Northcote-Trevelyan can come back into the room.