The Snow In The Summer or So-So


Fri 03 Nov 2006

Look what's back!

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Dear diary,

Another Wednesday, another jaunt to Let's Vote, the place where we all go after lessons. As ever, school captain Blair was pontificating about how rosy the garden was, and how he has personally persuaded the school to take on a second Matron.

Now, a few weeks ago, I asked whether Blair stood by his remark from January, about wanting his miserly chum Gordy to be the new school captain when Blair steps down next year. And I still want to know. Only problem was, Micky M stopped me half-way through and said that he wanted to see questions about what the captain does, not who Blair wants to follow him.

MM is a wanker, of course; just 'coz Gordy's chums ganged up and made him leader doesn't mean that he's right about anything. I'm better than pushing a man on the way down while he's falling flat on his face. To be honest, diary, I'm a little glad that I've got a lot of people doing the punching for me - some spekky second former called Gimson, Treneman from Blair's in-house rag, and Hoggart, the lovable smart-arse from the lower Sixth.

Must dash, I've got to hug Anna Hoodie while quietly removing her badge from A.S.B. O'honour's shop. It's a dare from Bozza, when he was playing he managed to remove Anna's bra...

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posted 03 Nov 2006, 19.29 +0000

Sat 04 Nov 2006

This week in the Commons

Prime Minister: I have had no discussions on taxing aviation fuel.

Shaun Woodward: We haven't a clue how much money the B.B.C. puts in to the economy.

Tom Harris: We don't care if rail passengers are charged for toilet facilities. Go on, piss off.

Tom Harris: Nor do we care about Eurostar north of London. Indeed, we're going to pretend that this is entirely a matter for Eurostar, even though the main reason why it's not economic for them to go elsewhere is our paranoia about people sneaking into the country and our insistence on completely sterile platforms.

A good week for the Cheam Independence Movement, raising their desire to be separated from Suttonand.

Bad week for anti-abortion campaigners, whose attempt to reduce the time limit from 24 weeks to 21 has been declined at the first hurdle.

An adjournment debate on Neustraßebahnhof.

Over at Lords', a good performance by Geoff Rooker on gum turds and old bags: My local butcher was a very good example of that: when I took my own bag, he said clearly, "I cannot possibly let my high-class meat go out in that bag."

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posted 04 Nov 2006, 09.41 +0000

By-election watch

Enough information to update the projection from council by-elections to the next parliament.

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The current transfers, with changes against 12 October, are:

Lab --> Con: + 6.9% (- 0.5%)
LD  --> Con: + 0.4% (- 0.9%)
LD  --> Lab: - 6.5% (- 0.4%)

The trend for LD voters to move to the Conservatives seems to have stopped; in part, this is because the sample contains more by-elections in seats fought during 2006, when the C were doing well and the LD quite badly.

Feeding these into the computer models, we see the following spread of results:

Con 292-308
Lab 233-250
LD   77- 81

C largest party in
 hung parliament

Remember, 326 seats are required to take an overall majority. Once the new boundaries have come into effect, and constituency selections have mostly finished - so probably around Easter next year - I'll start looking at how these changes might affect members of the cabinet and other senior figures.

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posted 04 Nov 2006, 13.26 +0000

Sun 05 Nov 2006

Political news digest

Two of the people who were subjected to Charles Clarke's Control Commands have, er, vanished. Gone missing. Cannot be traced. Disappeared. Another triumph for interior minister John Reid, who if he had any scruples would have resigned over this mess. Unless, as the sober and rational D-squared suggests, the two have not merely disappeared, but have been disappeared. Wouldn't put it past the attack dog.

Two more of the people arrested in the attack dog's bite at power have been released, after a judge ruled there was no case to answer. The alleged plot to blow up an aeroplane using bottles of mineral water is looking more and more like an elaborate hoax designed to scare people.

The United Kingdom government has endorsed a report into global warming that recommended an increase in carbon pricing, enhanced energy efficiency, and technological advances. It's twenty years too late, and the chance to address global warming before it started to affect many people has gone, but it's better than the probable catastrophe. This is, I suspect, the beginning of the end of the mania for private transport, and it's another nail in the coffin of the low-fares airlines. The report in full - I'll be commenting further once I've had a chance to review each section of the report.

In the Commons, the Conservative backbenchers are threatening to do a Hezza if the Speaker tries to stop legitimate questionning again. Even if there is no such demonstration, it is utterly clear that Michael Martin has lost the confidence of the Conservative benches, and it appears that he is unlikely to regain that confidence. He's had six years, his health is not what it once was, and it would be best for him to step aside with honour intact.

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posted 05 Nov 2006, 13.31 +0000

Wed 08 Nov 2006

The Legend of Donkey Arthur Redux

The provisional results from the FARCE election are in, and just look at that. The Upper House is on a knife edge; 49 seats retained by the Corporatists, 49 for the Democratics, and no fewer than two seats have been won by Independents. They hold the balance of power. The Lower House, meanwhile, has turned blue, with a net 28 gains for the Democratics.

All this represents a swing between 7% and 8% from the Corporatists to the Democratics, and that's had the expected effects on the Swingometer. If you don't like the colour blue, don't follow that link.

It should be noted that the 7-and-a-bit percent swing was only just enough for the Corporatists to lose their majority in the Upper House, and that relies on the Independent member for Vermont remaining in broad sympathy with the Democratics. A 5.5% swing, similar in magnitude to the one that propelled the Corporatists to power in 1994, certainly would not have sufficed. Given the huge personal votes and blatant pro-Corporatist gerrymandering in many provinces, this represents a significant sea-change. It remains to be seen how much of it is a reaction against the noxious proposals of the Corporatist opposition, and how much an expression of support for President Kerry. If this pattern of voting were to be repeated, he would not have to rely on a meaningful recount in Ohio to retain the top job.

In recent British political history, a 7% swing has only been attained once, in the 1997 Labour landslide. It is roughly the combined swing from the 1964 and 1966 elections, which saw a Convervative majority of 100 replaced by a Labour one of similar magnitude.

To add to the celebrations, there's to be a reshuffle of the opposition Corporatist shady cabinet. Donald Rumsveld will step down as Secretary For War, with Robert Gates tapped up to succeed him.

And there's more. Five British cabinet ministers are to be interviewed by police in the ongoing cash-for-honours probe. Harriet Harman and Alan Milburn are two of them. All ministers in the Cabinet in the run-up to the last election, including the notoriously rogueish David Plunkett, have been contacted by the investigating authorities. It's not clear if soon to be former prime minister Mister Tony Blair will be interviewed under caution.

Could this day get any more agreeable? Only if the nation's most nauseatingly over-hyped football club were to be dumped out of competition by a side from darkest Essex. Oh.

And for those of you who prefer something to laugh at, portions of this post are available as a podcast.

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posted 08 Nov 2006, 20.07 +0000

Thu 09 Nov 2006

Parliament this week

At Lords', they discuss why Cross-country trains will no longer visit Glasgow.

Westminster Hall debates are usually played out before an audience that almost reaches double figures, which is why they go out on The Parliament Channel at 6am. Not so the Farepak debate, into a collapsed savings scheme, in which the Halifax Bank of Scotland and some crooked directors cost the savings of an awful lot of people. Anne Snelgrove said,

I wish publicly to name the Farepak directors. [Hon. Members: Hear, hear.]. They were the finance director and company secretary Stevan Fowler, the independent non-executive directors Neil Gillis, Paul Munn and Michael Johns, the chief executive William Rollason - I understand that he is soon to appear in an Australian court, possibly on a not unrelated matter involving another company - the executive director Nicholas Gilodi-Johnson, who is set to inherit £70 million, and the chairman Sir Clive Thompson, formerly of Rentokil, who is a modern-day Scrooge. He bemoaned a 30p rise in the minimum wage when he was earning more that £2 million a year, he wound up the pension scheme at Rentokil for all but the executives and then walked off with a £690,000 a year pension. No doubt Sir Clive and the directors will be eating a very big turkey this Christmas and enjoying it.

And there was a good one on the rail network, including mention of the nonsense at Burscough, and the atrocious service between Shrewsbury and Brum.

Parliament was formally porogued on Wednesday; there will be a Gracious Speech next Wednesday. These recaps will resume with business from 20 November.

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posted 09 Nov 2006, 18.13 +0000

Mon 13 Nov 2006

Final Straw

John Straw, former foreign minister, has taken time off from writing this week's Queenie Speech to tell more lies about Iraq. He responds to questions sent in by readers of the Indytab, and I present a selection here without further comment. Questions and answers are complete and unedited; not all questions are included.

You congratulated and hugged Colin Powell, who addressed the UN Security Council in perhaps the most shameful and cynical attempt to argue the case for war against Iraq. Don't you feel ashamed?

No. We are supporting the Iraqi people as they seek to build democracy in Iraq. In their recent elections, millions of ordinary Iraqis defied the terrorists to vote for a democratic future. Supporting them in that aim is nothing to be ashamed about.

Why is the UK Parliament stalling on an inquiry into the Iraq war?

There have been three inquiries into the Iraq war, conducted by Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, by the Intelligence and Security Committee and by the Butler inquiry. The Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly also examined aspects of the war.

Many people, including myself, regard you and Blair as war criminals for invading Iraq. You no doubt think you are not, why not?

I'm sorry that you feel that way about me, but you are wrong. The Iraq war was not illegal.

On 7 December 2002, as required by Resolution 1441, Iraq provided the UN Security Council with a 12,000-page declaration of its past WMD and missile programmes. You condemned it as "12,000 pages of lies". Is that still your opinion?

Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant who deceived the international community time and again. Military action could and would have been avoided if he had co-operated fully with the UN.

Do you concede that the invasion of and occupation of Iraq is fuelling terrorism in the region far greater than al-Qa'ida ever could have?

No. The terrorism in Iraq is appalling. But it is important to remember that the terrorism is being carried out by people who are seeking to stop Iraq from having what a majority of its people want, democracy. This kind of terrorism did not begin after the Iraq war - it had been growing for many years before.

What was your honest reaction to being replaced by the robotic uber-Blairite Margaret Beckett?

Margaret is a good friend of mine and she is a very good Foreign Secretary.

You unleashed mayhem in Iraq. You unleashed racism in Britain. You even turned in your own son to the police. Why on earth do you think you are fit to be deputy leader of the Labour Party?

Your question contains an assumption wrapped in a series of inaccuracies. I have answered the first two points you make. You are absolutely wrong on both counts and I reject what you say. On the third, I have never talked publicly about my family.

What do you think was your biggest mistake as Foreign Secretary?

Good question. The only people who never make mistakes are those who never make decisions.

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posted 13 Nov 2006, 11.46 +0000

Thu 23 Nov 2006

The Legend of Pieter van der Snej (2)

Hello! The provisional results from yesterday's election in the Netherlands have arrived, and here they are, in order from left-to-right:

PvdD  2 (+ 2) - Animals party
D66   3 (- 3) - Liberal (left)
GL    7 (- 1) - Green-left
SP   26 (+17) - Socialists
PvdA 32 (-10) - Centre-left
CU    6 (+ 3) - Christians
CDA  41 (- 3) - Centre-right
VVD  22 (- 6) - Liberal (right)
SGP   2 (n/c) - Permanent opposition
PvdV  9 (+ 9) - Suspiciously like racists
LPF   0 (- 8) - Racist right

The transfer here is mostly from other left-wing parties to the Socialists, and from the racist List Pim Fortuyn to the suspiciously-like-racist Party for Freedom. The Christian Union has also grown, at the expense of the other centre-right parties.

It's clear that even a grand coalition, between the right-wing CDA and centre-left PvdA won't secure an overall majority. Any three of the four largest parties could form a majority, though the Grand Left coalition would require the support of the CU to take office. Traditionally, the largest party will try to form a coalition, and the CU has already said that it won't serve with the VVD, limiting the options for a broadly right-wing coalition. Our correspondent on the ground suggests that the centre coalition - CDA, PvdA, CU - may be the one to win through, giving the Dutch some stability after a turbulent few years.

Turbulence was the order of the day a couple of weeks ago, in the Canada (South) elections. We've finally got confirmed vote tallies in most of the counts, and the final swing appears to be (drum roll) +9.5%. Nine and a half per cent, not - as we said at the time - seven and a half. It is, of course, the biggest swing since the war, and twice the size of the largest swing that anyone really expected.

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posted 23 Nov 2006, 17.17 +0000

Sat 25 Nov 2006

State of the Parties

The occasional review of swings and transfers resulting from council by-elections in the UK. These results cover by-elections since 21 September.

             Now      Last
Lab to Con  + 7.04% (+ 6.94%)

Lib to Con  + 0.52% (+ 0.42%)

Lib to Lab  - 6.52% (- 6.52%)

As you can see, very little change in the transfers at all; do not read anything into changes of less than a full percent. Translate this into Commons seats, using the shiny new boundaries, and we see no change at all:

Con 292-308
Lab 233-250
LD   77- 81

C largest party in
 hung parliament

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posted 25 Nov 2006, 12.02 +0000

Mon 27 Nov 2006

Reiding and writing

In to-day's Indytab, John "Oh, fuck health" Reid is answering questions sent in by readers. Below, full exchanges in which Mr. Reid reveals his deep hatred of democratic elections, details his unsavoury populist stance, and offers a tremendous hostage to fortune. All questions and answers are completed and unedited; all mistaikes are Mr. Reid's.

«I can conceive of circumstances in which I might like to shout "Boo" at a passing prime minister. Would you wish to retain this freedom?»

You can shout "Boo" to the Prime Minister if you want. It's not illegal. I support freedom of expression, within the constraints of our law designed to curb the extravagances of racism, hatred and violence.

«It seems biometric passports can be read from 30ft. The same technology is being used in ID cards. Why do you persist with this expensive folly?»

The question is factually wrong - international standards mean that e-passports are designed so that data exchange is possible only at a distance between the reader and the chip of a few centimetres, not 30 feet!

«Will the Government compensate people if their identity is stolen from the National Identity Register?»

The Register will be safe and secure. For example, staff operating it will be security vetted and it will be a criminal offence to tamper with the Register.

«Why do you continually pander to the right-wing press with populist policies on immigration?»

It's not pandering to populism to protect our country from illegal immigration or international crime. It's my duty as Home Secretary. I am committed to creating a fair and effective immigration service precisely so that unscrupulous people can not abuse the system.

«My partner is in one of your immigration removal centres, and at great risk if returned to Iraq, but you still seem determined to return him to his death. Do you not want British citizens to have foreign partners?»

I've always spoken positively about the cultural benefits migrants bring. However, we have to balance that with ensuring people are here legally; part of that is preventing people coming here for one reason and then applying for permission to stay as the spouse of an individual.

«I am a lifelong Labour supporter. If you bring in compulsory identity cards, I will have no option but to vote Tory. Do you really want to be back on the opposition benches?»

I strongly believe ID cards will bring huge benefits. No British citizen will be compelled to carry an ID card.

«Is President Bush as stupid as people say?»

If he's so stupid, how come he's been elected so often? I don't agree with many of his policies but in my dealings with him I have always found him to be an intelligent individual.

«How accurate was Henry McLeish when he called you a "patronising bastard"?»

I think that is something you should ask Henry.

«Blair, Brown and you (and the spooks) got it so wrong on the war in Iraq, why should we trust a word you say as you seek to restrict our liberties? You're all a bunch of liars.»

I am still of the view we took the right action in going into Iraq. I have no desire to restrict liberties, I wish to protect this country and its citizens from harm. Incidentally, it would serve you well in life - even on your terms - to distinguish between a mistake and a lie.

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posted 27 Nov 2006, 20.01 +0000

older writing... write to