March 31st 2013 – the miracle happens here

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I was rather amused by George Osborne’s quoting of the growth forecast from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), as reported by Andrew Sparrow on the Guardian’s Live Blog:

This year – growth of 0.9%

2012 – 0.7%

2013 – 2.1%

2014 – 2.7%

2015 – 3%

2016 – 3%

So, we go from low 0.7% growth in 2012 to a thumping 2.1% in 2013.

So in 2013 the Eurozone will all be sorted out, Greece and Italy will be awash with cheap cash and flowers will bloom out of George Osborne’s ears.

They haven’t really got a clue have they? It’s ‘forecasting’ in the sense of “wishful thinking’.

Merry Crisis image credit: Some rights reserved by Design Insane

Reflecting on the making of David Cameron

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Despite living in the same county for 34 years, yesterday I had my first opportunity to explore Eton College and Eton itself. It is an extraordinary place. The facilities at the college are unbelievably comprehensive and sumptuous. Wandering through Eton, with its Eton College bespoke tailors and high quality shops and restuarants, one is amazed at the sense of entitlement which such a place must engender in its pupils. They are extraordinarily fortunate. One wonders if any of them pause long to consider such blessedness. One doubts it.

OK, I went to a public school,[captionpix imgsrc=””%5Dwhich happened to be the subject of the novel and TV series “To serve them all our days” by our old boy R.F.Delderfield. But, being stuck on the edge of Exmoor, 600 feet above sea level, at West Buckland School is something of a different experience than Eton.

It is interesting to reflect on the upbringing of David Cameron. He was brought up in Peasemore, a village near Newbury which I know relatively well. It is “out in the sticks”, as they say. He went to a high-falluting prep school in Winkfield, Berkshire, then onto Eton, the “dreaming spires” of Oxford and the rather privileged pastures of Carlton Television.

One therefore has to ask when he actually came into contact with the real world. Some might argue “never”. However, he did have a summer job just near where I live in the Newbury Hambridge Road industrial estate. Plus, his mother was a magistrate (so came into contact with the real world, to an extent), his father, lest we forget, was disabled and his son, Ivan, had severe epilepsy and cerebral palsy and died aged six. [captionpix imgsrc=””%5D(My son died aged sixteen months so I would readily recognise that losing a child is dose of “real life” – on steroids. And having grief after six years of bringing up a severely disabled child doesn’t bear thinking about).

I am being careful here. I don’t want to turn this into a standard anti-Toffs rant.

But one does begin to wonder.

We have a Prime Minister who has lived a very priviileged life, rather closeted from the real world. Plus a Deputy Prime Minister who was brought up in the grand environs of Princes Risborough, albeit under the influence of a “real world” mother.[captionpix imgsrc=””%5D

I don’t know what this all means. But sooner or later I think we may look back and point the finger at such privileged backgrounds for our two main leaders.

Ed Balls gets fruity with the LibDems

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The only coalition which actually could sort out our economic problems at the moment is a coalition between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, because we are the only ones who understand together what needs to be done.

-Today’s Independent

It’s a great shame he didn’t have such clarity of thought eighteen months ago…

Ed Balls photo credit: Some rights reseved by Demos

LibDems: We should be more like Oxfam

…So runs the Mail on Sunday front page. I seem to remember the link between those two organisations being raised previously, perhaps at the last LibDem conference. So, I don’t think this is the first time such a connection has been raised in the public domain.

From the front page snapshot available, I can’t quite read all the text, but the story is along the lines that Nick Clegg is terribly worried that no-one knows what the LibDems stand for….(continued on page 97)

David Cameron’s very choosy Christmas card list

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The Guardian has published a downloadable spreadsheet of David Cameron’s 2010 international Christmas Card list, obtained via a Freedom of Information request. You can download it here.

The Christmas card which Cameron sent in 2010 was fronted by a photo of him, his wife and their new baby on the steps of Number Ten.

Much comment has been made of Cameron’s choice of Christmas card recipients. The Guardian observed:

Argentina and the Dominican Republic make the cut, but Peru and Venezuela do not. The prime minister of Malawi is on the list, but South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma is not.

France’s president and prime minister both appear, as do the heads of state and of government of Poland, India and South Korea. But only Dmitry Medvedev, as president of the Russian federation, makes the grade; prime minister Vladimir Putin is conspicuous by his absence.

I’ve taken the list and compared it to the ISO 3166 list of countries. By doing so, I have spotted some interesting omissions from the list.

So, Cameron sent Christmas cards to Australia and Canada. He sent cards to three leaders of Qatar and three leaders of the United Arab Emirates. But he didn’t send one to New Zealand. Dear old New Zealand!

He didn’t send one to Iceland, perhaps due to the debate with that country about banking.

But I notice he didn’t send one to Croatia or Switzerland.

His office say that the list reflected the contacts that Cameron had during the previous year.

Here’s the full list of countries which Cameron didn’t send a card to:

Cameron family Christmas Card 2010 photo credit: Some rights reserved by The Prime Minister’s Office

Åland Islands
American Samoa
Antigua And Barbuda
Bosnia And Herzegovina
Bouvet Island
British Indian Ocean Territory
Brunei Darussalam
Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Cayman Islands
Central African Republic
Christmas Island
Cocos (keeling) Islands
Congo, The Democratic Republic Of The
Cook Islands
Costa Rica
CÔte D’ivoire
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Falkland Islands (malvinas)
Faroe Islands
French Guiana
French Polynesia
French Southern Territories
Heard Island And Mcdonald Islands
Hong Kong
Iran, Islamic Republic Of
Isle Of Man
Korea, Democratic People’s Republic Of
Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
Marshall Islands
Micronesia, Federated States Of
Netherlands Antilles
New Caledonia
New Zealand
Norfolk Island
Northern Mariana Islands
Papua New Guinea
Puerto Rico
Saint BarthÉlemy
Saint Helena
Saint Kitts And Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Martin
Saint Pierre And Miquelon
Saint Vincent And The Grenadines
San Marino
Sao Tome And Principe
Sierra Leone
Solomon Islands
South Africa
South Georgia And The South Sandwich Islands
Sri Lanka
Svalbard And Jan Mayen
Syrian Arab Republic
Taiwan, Province Of China
Tanzania, United Republic Of
Turks And Caicos Islands
United States Minor Outlying Islands
Viet Nam
Virgin Islands, British
Virgin Islands, U.s.
Wallis And Futuna
Western Sahara

Good heavens! There is a liberal bone in Ann Widdecombe’s body after all!

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I was alerted this morning, via an @IainDale tweet, to Ann Widdecombe’s “If I ruled the world” article in Prospect magazine. As Iain tweeted, we may think it is hilarious, but she is deadly serious.

Here’s a taster:

All magazines with a young readership would have to use adverbs, adjectives and subordinate clauses in their stories so that the young would be exposed to the beauty rather than just the functionality of language. Latin would be compulsory from 11 till 16 and classical Greek once more widely available. All television companies would be obliged to put on at intervals of no less than one a month an excellent play which had no serious swearing, explicit sex, drunkenness or estuary English. Children’s television presenters would be banned from ending every simple sentence with an interrogative note.

I hesitate to call something “liberal” because it is a very subjective judgment and I’ll get my reader commenting to say that I wouldn’t know a liberal measure if it hit me between the eyeballs.

But, I’ll stick my neck out and say that, within all the tripe about Latin and adverbs (and by the way I am surprised and distraught she didn’t mention split infinitives) there a blinding shaft of liberal light.

She says:

Young offenders who stayed law-abiding for two years after release would have their records wiped clean and begin adult life with a fresh chance.

Wow! Now that’s something I can say a hearty “Amen” to!

Well done Widdy! (Terms and conditions apply)

Ann Widdecombe photo credit: Some rights reserved by Catholic Church (England and Wales)

OMG! Cameron has flipped his lid! He’s sending a copy of the King James Bible to every school

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1. Many have got a copy or many copies already.
2. If you are going to send a Bible anywhere, send the New International Version or similar modern translation, so young people do not think that Jesus spoke in 17th century English.

Yes, The King James Bible is a great work, as are the works of Shakespeare and Chaucer and The Origin of the Species.

But, for goodness sake, there are bad enough problems with communicating the faith of Christ without muddying the waters too much with idiotic “thees”, “thous” and “wherearts”.

….and a foreword by Michael Gove?! Is it April 1st?! (Apparently not, the story is in the Times Education Supplement.)

What utter nonsense! What a complete waste of money!

Bibles image credit: Some rights reserved by J. Mark Bertrand

PMQs: Ding-dong over youth unemployment

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Cross-posted from Liberal Democrat Voice

The focus of the Cameron v Miliband this week exchange was the new figure of one million unemployed young people. It started with a battle between the government’s Work Programme versus Labour’s Future Jobs Fund. Miliband blamed the Work Programme for increasing Youth Unemployment:

…in June, when the Work programme was introduced, 85,000 young people had been unemployed for more than six months; now, there are 133,000—a massive increase since he introduced the Work programme.

But Cameron countered with figures saying that:

The Work programme is helping 50% more people than the future jobs fund: it will help 120,000 young people this year, where the future jobs fund helped only 80,000.

Cameron said that youth unemployment increased by 40% under Labour, starting in 2004.

…A bit of a score draw that.

Why doesn’t he take up the idea of Labour’s bonus tax? – Miliband asked. Cameron had a very effective answer to that:

He has used his bonus tax for higher tax credits; giving child benefit to those on the highest rates of tax; cutting the deficit; spending on public services; more money for the regional growth fund—that is when he is defending it rather than attacking it; turning empty shops into cultural community centres; and higher capital spending. This is the bank tax that likes to say yes. No wonder the shadow Chancellor has stopped saluting and started crying.

Miliband retorted with the accusation that Cameron:

…is the one cutting taxes for the banks year on year in the course of this Parliament. That is the reality. He is creating a lost generation of young people, and he knows it. It is his responsibility; it is happening on his watch.

Cameron said that the government is introducing the bank levy which will raise more every year, allegedly, than Labour’s bonus tax in one year.

Miliband read out an optimistic quote from Cameron from June 2010, saying all his predictions then of higher growth, lower inflation and falling unemployment have not come true. Ah but, we’re doing better than most of Europe, said Cameron.

In the exchange, Miliband probably didn’t do as well as he should have done. He’s got something of an open goal on the economy these days, but Cameron always manages to keep his head above water in these debates.

There was much mention of the forthcoming public sector strike. I noticed that there was no call, this time, for parents to teach in classes when the strike is on. But instead, the PM’s idea is now for parents to take children to work. When is the government going to stop making such inane suggestions?

Mature question of the week

Chris Bryant (Labour) asked a remarkably dignified question as follows:

The personal damage caused by long-term unemployment can be phenomenal. On average, somebody who is unemployed for more than six months is six times more likely to contract a serious mental health problem. Does the Prime Minister not worry that we will have a generation of young people who will suffer many of the problems of lack of self-esteem and of never having a first job? Would it not make more sense to guarantee every under 24-year-old a job after six months’ unemployment, thus paying them to work, not paying them benefits?

LibDem question:

Alan Reid asked about the cuts to the Ministry of Defence Police budget and “possible implications for security at the nuclear bases at Faslane and Coulport” in his constituency of Argyll and Bute.

Tribute to Pudsey Bear

The Prime Minister paid tribute to Pudsey Bear for all the money he has raised for Children in Need. This was in response to a question from Conservative MP Stuart Andrew. I am almost too embarrassed to mention which constituency Mr Andrew represents.

Oh all right then. It’s Pudsey. [Squirms]

“Jobs not cuts” photo credit: Some rights reserved by Labour Youth

The utter and complete cobblers being talked about the “Devonwall” seat proposal

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OK, first of all let’s get this out of the way. OK, I have lived in Berkshire most of my life. The last time I lived in Cornwall in any sense of the word, was when I was seventeen. A long time ago.

I am Cornish. I was born in Bude. Yes, actually in Bude, not a hospital in Devon. And I have actually bothered to trace my family tree on my surname’s side back to Henry Walter whose baptism is recorded on the first page of the first volume of the Kilkhampton Parish Register in 1550, the same year as Cardinal Wolsey decreed that parishes should have a register of baptisms, funerals and weddings.

But, OK, I know more about Berkshire than Cornwall and if I was really Cornish I’d live there wouldn’t I? Right?

So, that’s got that out of the way.

So now a rather detached view. I have looked at the “Keep Cornwall Whole” website.

I have to say that there is an aura of ridiculous hysteria about the campaign against the “Devonwall” seat. It is interesting that most of it is coming from the Cornwall end. Remember, half of the seat involves Devon being stuck in Cornwall. There is triumph of Devon/England over Cornwall here – it’s halfy-halfy chaps.

What I am about to say is going to make me very unpopular. So be it. Or “Sod it” as they say.

All that is proposed is that an MP will represent places such as Bude, Tintagel and Launceston as well as place such as Holsworthy, Bradworthy and Bideford.

Cornwall remains as Cornwall. The border will not change. How the hell could they change the border? It’s the Tamar. How the hell can you redivert a river without spending the entire UK national wealth for the next century on the project?

People in Bude have more in common with people in Holsworthy than folks in Padstow or even Camelford.

For two centuries the local newspaper of much of that northern part of Cornwall has been the “Cornish and Devon Post” – does that not give you some clue that there is a natural cross-border community?

And the writer of Trelawny, which is known by some as the “national anthem” of Cornwall, Rev R.S.Hawker (Whisper it: He was born in Devon) was a Devonwall minister – he was the vicar of Morwenstow (Cornwall) and Welcome (Devon) at the same time.

OK, please make your views known to the Boundary Commission about this proposal. You can do so here. Local views may well sway them. Excellent.

But please let us accept two things:

1. If you live in Truro or places round about there, you tend to know absolutely diddly squat about the community patterns of North Cornwall. That’s a given.

2. The border isn’t changing. Land is not being “stolen” from Cornwall. To pretend otherwise is bovine scatology of the most round spherical order.

And one final plea to those who call themselves Cornish: Take that chip off your shoulder, check yourself for inferiority complexes and approach this proposal as informed, mature adults, please.

Thank you so much.

Update 24/11/11:

I have now submitted this comment to the boundary commission:

Re: Bude and Bideford seat.

There is, to an extent, a cross-border community within the proposed seat. For example, people from Bude see Holsworthy as their local market town. Also, the Cornish and Devon post series newspaper has, for two centuries, covered the area on both sides of the border. The A39 is an important link between the communities on both side of the border. Historically, the writer of what is known by some as the “Cornish National Anthem”, Rev R.S.Hawker, was the vicar of Morwenstow parish (Cornwall) and Welcome parish (Devon) at the same time. Indeed, the church tower of Welcome is represented on one of the chimneys at his vicarage at Morwenstow, Cornwall.

So I can see some sense in the proposal, which would be better than, for example, than a Torpoint/Saltash/West Plymouth seat.

However, there is a very strong passionate attachment to the entity of Conrwall from Cornish residents, and this would run counter to that. You should particularly consider that Launceston is of great historic significance as the ancient County Town of Cornwall.


One and all image credit: Some rights reserved by Leo Reynolds