Iron Lady – not a very good film

…Not very good ultimately. The senility is not a particularly valid framework for a shallow cut and paste of the Thatcher life. …Ultimately disappointing and quite pathetic. One good performance when Thatcher lectures her cabinet around the time of the poll tax. Good performance from Anthony Head as Geoffrey Howe.

If you want to see a film about senility in general then this is for you. It could be about anyone with senility – your father, mother, aunt, uncle, grandmother. …A rather cheap hook on which to hang a shallow biopic which stretches itself far too thinly with very little compelling dramatic substance. A waste of three hours of my life. If you want to watch a decent film about Thatcher watch The long road to Finchley.

Does Meryl Streep deserve an Oscar for this? No, on the basis that Oscars should only be given out when the overall film is worth watching. Since only a handful of people, none of them involved in this film, know what Lady Thatcher is like these days, then how the heck can we say whether or not Streep’s portrayal is accurate?

Critic Matt Brunson puts in very well:

Forget for a minute the movie’s soft-pedaling of its central character. … With so much history and personality to draw upon, it’s infuriating that so much of the running time is wasted on mere speculation involving an elderly person’s flights of fancy.

Picture of the week: Governor points finger at Obama

Jan Brewer, Arizona Governor, points her finger at President Obama when he arrived in Phoenix, Arizona. They had an exchange of views on Brewer’s description of Obama’s behaviour in her book, which has now, needless to say, climbed to the top of the Amazon charts.

Brewer accused Obama of lecturing her when she met him in the Oval Office.

Seeing this picture, you have to ask: Who’s lecturing who?

Ms Brewer has caused amusement before when she had a brain freeze during a televised debate. Some blame all this on the “hot as hell” Arizona weather – it fries your brain, apparently.

Deep breath. I'm going to defend Stephen Hester's bonus

First of all, let’s get the facts straight. Stephen Hester has not been awarded a cash bonus.

He has been awarded share options. These do not vest until March 2013 and March 2014 (50% for each date).

So, OK, presumably that is where the eyes of 90% of the population glaze over and they change channels. Here’s a definition of vesting:

When employees are given stock options or restricted stock, they often do not gain control over the stock or options for a period of time. This period is known as the vesting period and is usually 3 to 5 years. During the vesting period the employee cannot sell or transfer the stock or options.

So, (a) he can’t cash the shares in until 2013 and 2014. And (b) because they are shares, the value may go up or down during that period.

As a result of those conditions, Stephen Hester is, to an extent, locked into the fortunes of RBS. He has an interest in ensuring he does all he can to increase the value of RBS shares. So that’s an incentive for him to improve the performance of the bank.

I can readily accept that Hester has done a good job. He has, farnkly, stopped RBS going down the toilet.

The level of banking bonuses and salaries is obscene and morally reprehensible. But to start with a hairshirt approach (and yes I know he gets a £1million salary anyway but that is similar to others in a similar position) to just one bank leader is daft. It would result in a worse performance of RBS for the taxpayer. It would be cutting our nose to spite our face.

Reform, or reduction, of banking bonuses and salaries needs to be done across the world. It can’t be done in isolation in one bank.

Here’s the FT quoting the reaction of Boris Johnson:

RBS should be run “on public sector lines”, he added

Public sector lines? Absolute, unmitigated round sperical objects rolled in unlimited horse manure. If it is run on public sector lines it will end up being unsuccessful in the competitive world of banking. That would be a disaster for the taxpayer.

PMQs: The importance of Doncaster, almost to the exclusion of everything else

At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, David Cameron and Ed Miliband first clashed on the subject of economic growth (or, indeed, contraction). That entanglement was, more or less, a score draw. But Ed Miliband was much stronger during a later exchange on the NHS reform bill, culminating with this belter:

I shall tell the Prime Minister what is happening in the NHS: waiting lists up, morale down. What does the majority-Conservative Select Committee on Health say about his reorganisation? It says that it will be a “disruption and distraction that hinders the ability of organisations to” release savings.

Let us be frank: this is a Bill that nobody wants. It is opposed by doctors, nurses and patients. Before the election the Prime Minister said, “No more top-down reorganisation.” Is it not time he kept at least one promise, put aside his pride and arrogance, and dropped this unnecessary and unwanted Bill?

In return, all Cameron could do was bleat on about Doncaster, almost to the point of obsession.

Pass the sick bag, Alice

It takes considerable aplomb to out-pontificate Sir Peter Tapsell, but Eleanor Laing (Con) managed it with a very loud quotation from Robert Burns, it being Burns Night (Day). OK, she’s Scottish. – Shame she has to represent Epping Forest.

But she set off David Cameron who also felt the need to quote Burns. Oh dear.

iPad watch

Caroline Spelman (Con), Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, spent the first few minutes of PMQs catching up on her email on her iPad. Bless her. She types very well on a touch-screen.

Liberal Democrat questions

Suitably, for Burns Night (Day), they came from two Scots:

Sir Robert Smith stated that the UK has developed a world-leading safety regime for offshore oil and gas which is threatened by EU regulaton. He asked if the PM would press for directives which can be interpreted flexibly, rather than regulation.

Malcolm Bruce asked about the British Airways takeover of BMI and what assurances there would be to retain landing slots at Heathrow Airport from regional airports such as Aberdeen.

Letter from Vince Cable – LibDem leadership go big on tax cuts

I have just received this mail from Vince Cable, trailing a speech by Nick Clegg later today. It seems the LibDem leadership are making a campaign out of getting tax cuts for low/middle earners into the budget – something that would be normally done behind the scenes. It’s a newish tactic and one I welcome…

As families face more of a squeeze, today Liberal Democrats are arguing for greater tax cuts for hard working people. Between now and the Budget, Nick and Danny and I will be arguing for faster tax cuts, giving you a reward for hard work. And Nick will be setting out our case in a speech today.

Given the budget constraint we have to raise money for the tax cut elsewhere and have plans to raise an equivalent amount from the wealthiest taxpayers.

At the last election the Liberal Democrats promised to raise the personal allowance for ordinary taxpayers to £10,000. I am proud that the Coalition has committed to doing so over the course of this Parliament.

For millions of ordinary hard working people, that means paying £700 less in income tax each year. Low earners, mostly women will benefit from being lifted out of tax altogether.

But times are tough and quite simply, Liberal Democrats in Government want to help families who are currently being squeezed by moving more quickly.

Whether it’s targeting an extra £7bn from tax evaders and avoiders, taking an extra £2.5bn every year from the banks in a balance sheet tax, or the announcement I made on Monday to curb the excesses of executive pay, this Coalition is taking important steps to deliver a fairer economy.

And we have already made a big difference, click here to see how.

We are building a new economy, one that benefits the whole country, not just bankers in the City of London. Making the tax system fairer is crucial to that. This is a huge task that will make Britain a fairer and more liberal country for generations to come.

The Strasbourg Court of Human Rights in one easy-to-remember figure

Helena Kennedy had a killer fact on Today this morning. Just eight – eight – count them – 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 – UK cases were adjudicated upon by the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights last year. Their main concern is helping to improve human rights by judging on cases from Russia, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine – surely a cause we’d all support in this country…

Eight cases.

So what on earth is all the fuss about?

My tweet read out by Jeremy Vine today

Father Christmas brought me a hat with earphones inside it. It’s ideal for running with. Today I used it for the first time and listened to Radio 2 as I did my normal three circuits of Stroud Green with our trusty hound, Charlie (who actually runs faster than me).

I came back and started to take my trainers off outside the back door. I had been listening to heart-rending stories of cancer misdiagnoses on The Jeremy Vine show. I decided to tweet @thejeremyvine with a quick comment. I then finished taking my trainers off, opened the back door and closed it and then heard Jeremy Vine reading out my tweet. It could only have been about 30 seconds after I sent it!

And these are my words of wisdom, since you ask:

paulwalteruk (@paulwalteruk)
24/01/2012 13:35
@thejeremyvine please remember all the GPs who get it right and send people for tests readily and save lives