Tag Archives: news

What Difference Does It Make?

Seeing as I posted the first comment on Tom Harris’s blog post that made the front page of the Daily Mail and have had a streaming torrent of (ooh) eight visitors here’s some comment on his points on my own blog.

I agree with Tom that it is sad that optimism is rare. In my own comment I pointed to three issues I myself find (slow rail links home, the poor quality of rental property and the long term effects of student debt), and others have pointed to some more interesting ones, my favourite of which notes that in an economic environment where the government is demanding below inflation pay rises those with student debts face interest rates rising high above the same inflation cap. So we have a government policy to squeeze the take home pay of graduates (and drop outs like myself). Not good.

I’ve come to the understanding that the optimism of the immediate post war period was there because society believed that utopia might still be possible and with hope of electricity too cheap to meter, an end to disease and poverty and education for all for example it was thought that the issues of society were possible to solve completely. Sadly now, we know all too well that we live in a world of scarcity not abundance, and that our choices have led and are leading us down a road to a world which we don’t like the look of. Knowing you need to turn back and think again isn’t nice.

Much is hysteria, we’re hardly drowning from global warming if the jet stream deflects a little and Glastonbury turns into a mud bath, and children are safer now than ever despite however many knives or paedos you see in the media. However, naturally, some fear is justified. We only get the one planet, and if we waste resources needlessly we don’t get them back. There’s a resources crunch behind the credit crunch at some level and talk of peak oil has gone from far fetched future to near term planning. Rail Minister Tom Harris (for it is also he) openly talks of a programme of electrification. That tells you all you need to know about the future direction of the oil price. He also dismisses a High Speed Line on spurious environmental and economic grounds, ironic considering he’d probably find a good north/south link rather handy in getting from his Glasgow constituency to Westminster and back.

We’ve had eleven years of Labour government, something I dreamed of in my teenage years. However, I have only voted Labour on a single occasion, as a second preference for Ken at the mayoral election this year. I have to remember sometimes that we have seen a Scottish Parliament, human rights legislation and a minimum wage introduced (which is itself going up by more than inflation anyway) because 14/28/42 days, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, Identity Cards, DNA Databases and other similar daftness weigh heavier on the mind. Lots of law has been created, and money spent (even without the wars) and it is hard to see what improvements have been achieved. Little in the way of great projects have been accomplished so it’s hard to feel much love. There’s no Open University or NHS that this government leaves behind. Nothing huge. More of a series of pet projects, some of which, like devolution are now overdue for renewal and improvement due to the half hearted implementation they were initially given.

What many have also noted, and rightly so, is that what you could read as the symptoms of a happy society – lots of large televisions, bigger and better cars, more books, people eating out more often – may well just be the activities of a society which deep down is depressed and having to occupy itself to cope.

I’m reminded of one of my favourite books, David Boyle’s The Tyranny Of Numbers (subtitled Why Counting Can’t Make Us Happy) which works well at explaining why it can be so hard to achieve happiness by focussing on the numbers. I like to look on it as an earlier and more insightful Freakonomics and it’s well worth a read.

For King and Four Countries

Just been reading Anthony King’s report on the BBC network news coverage of the four UK nations for the BBC Trust. It’s a very well written, engaging and sometimes rather amusing document. In the main it doesn’t stick the knife in and there is much about the BBC to be praised, but here are some highlights for you to enjoy where that’s not the case. Firstly:

[In the main the BBC is unbiased] … However, there was one exception. Others drew it to our attention – an article in the Scottish edition of the Daily Telegraph was headlined ‘Fibs about Scotland on the BBC’ –and we could observe it for ourselves. It concerns the question of whether or not a group of people collectively called ‘the English’ – and, in particular, people called ‘English taxpayers’ – do, or do not, ‘subsidise’ a group of people collectively called ‘the Scots’. We were not in a position to monitor the BBC network’s entire output on this issue, but some of the coverage could give viewers and listeners the impression that there is a known and settled answer to this question and that the known and settled answer is that the English do, indeed, subsidise the Scots.

There is a very real and strange assumption that there is a subsidy as the BBC has asserted in various media several times. Perhaps no small part of the reason for the arguments to fail to advance towards anything resembling a resolution is down not just to Treasury intransigance but also a misinformed electorate, and possibly also politicians. Just remember, that’s the Daily Telegraph (scots edition admittedly) pointing out to the BBC how to be fair and accurate in reporting on Scotland. Questions of BBC bias are not as simple as Tory or Labour anymore, as my MP would do well to learn (p.s. Greg as you ask more written questions than the average MP, perhaps best not to lay into a journalist for asking questions themselves).

A second gem:

The events in Wales were important. They were obviously important for the people of Wales; the Welsh National Assembly has a wide range of devolved powers and controls a budget of £14 billion … However, the BBC’s UK-wide network, as distinct from BBC Wales, had little to say about any of these developments … Network news did, however, take considerable interest in another story emanating from Wales during the same May-July period. It concerned Shambo, a six-year-old Friesian bull.

It’s noted elsewhere that many in the BBC audience believe that often their local area was more likely to be covered as a quirky local interest story than anything of genuine note.

My favourite:

To be fair, there are millions of people in the UK, most of them in England, who have also failed to grasp, or even to notice, the scale of the changes that have taken place. To judge by what they say on television and radio, some of them sit on the green benches at Westminster, including the front benches.

Indeed, King notes that Ministers at Westminster are deliberately failing to append (of England (& Wales) (& Northern Ireland) to their job titles. He reckons journalists should do their best to make such things clear, though he also notes that our devolved system could hardly be more complicated and he reckons only a “select few” understand the Barnett funding formula, for example.

And a final shocker:

In our travels, we noticed, for example, that not all of the newsrooms we visited had maps of the UK on their walls.

My workplace is littered with UK Maps, indeed it seems you can’t be a director without having one somewhere. Personally I sit typing this with a large map of Scotland behind me, but I’m just a tad biased, and I have some London maps as well.

All in all, a great review, and now we must hope that good things come from it.

If this is the last blog I ever make, do write to me in Belmarsh

The London Police have started another lovely new terror campaign, in their continuing efforts to stamp out the rampant threat of terrorism in London that threatens us all. This time they’re targetting people with multiple mobile phones and people who take photos of CCTV cameras.

So, mutiple phones looks suspicious, in that case we’re dead if the terrorists find these sim switching devices. Quick, make the technology illegal, THEN we’ll be safe.

How do you take a photograph in central London without including a CCTV camera anyway? OMG! What if the terrorists find the internet, there’s lots of photos of cctv cameras there – and maybe a map of them! Why look, the London Borough of Lambeth are terrorists.


And that took about 60 seconds of googling, just think what the finest terrorists on earth could achieve in an hour.