Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Miliband or no Miliband?

Will he or won't he? (Probably not).

But more importantly - would it make any difference at all if he did have the top job?

Labour's disastrous result in the Glasgow East by-election allowed political pundits to entertain themselves with wild predictions: If the swing away from Labour were to be repeated at a general election then Labour could be left with just one MP in Scotland, the PM and the Chancellor could be among the many who would lose their seats, etc.

But, assuming a Labour win is all but impossible, could a change of leader at least provide damage limitation come the next election?

The Daily Mail reports that allies of Brown have warned that "pressure for an election would be "unstoppable" if a new Prime Minister was installed for the second time since 2005 without voters having a say."

Of course the idea of any other parties demanding that any new leader this term should immediately call an election (as they did when Brown took office) shows a deliberate refusal to acknowledge political history.

As John Kennedy O'Connor pointed out on ABC's 'Perspective' program back in June 2007, the Tories hardly a have a good record in this area when "five of their last seven Prime Ministers took over mid-term, four of whom doing so without even an internal party election"

Despite this, the myth that Labour did anything out of the ordinary - or wrong - when Blair handed power to Brown without immediately calling a general election is one that is (unfortunately for the Government) rife amongst the electorate, perpetuated by the media and the opposition.

But whether or not a challenge is made this term, undoubtedly behind the scenes Labour will already be looking for a successor as leader. The bookies certainly rate Miliband's chances.

Anthony Browne: A foreigner opened his eyes.

Anthony Browne: Recently appointed Policy Director for Mayor Johnson.

Moderate? Keen on multiculturalism? Fan of public sector management? Respects left-wing views? Enjoys walks in Hackney?

Not quite.

A selection of his best articles, educating the masses about how to cut down on the unwanted masses, can be found splattered across the internet. The Spectator is a good place to start. Thought I'd include a few quotes and respective links.

Don't feel obliged to read them all. They are pretty much identical anyway.

Over to Browne:

"Sharing the same language, culture and values as the people you come into daily contact with may not be excitingly multicultural, but it means you end up with deeper relationships, a sense of community, belonging and security."

"The decline of diversity within countries preserves the diversity between them."

See more of this, including why he admires Japan, here.

"On top of all the legitimate Eastern Europeans from the enlarged EU, the open border mania has let in lots of less legitimate immigrants, from Russian mafia bosses to Kosovan and Albanian gangs."

(Double-take... Yes, he did write Russian mafia bosses.)

That gem can be found hidden somewhere here.

"Sometimes it takes a foreigner to open your eyes."

(Don't get excited. It's more of the same. His eyes have obviously been "open" for a while now).

To find out what he means, jump here.

You get the picture. In a nutshell: Immigration = bad.

He won't be moving to Hackney or Finsbury Park anytime soon.

Friday, 18 July 2008

How to make a problem disappear.

The Evening Standard may have found ways of underplaying - or dismissing - the dropping of the anti-racism message in this year's Rise Festival. Gilligan did a particularly good job of it.

But, the question is, what about next year? Won't Boris’ administration have the same problems?

Well, not if they find a more permanent solution. Page 26 of the FAP report makes a suggestion:

There may also be scope for reviewing the list of events offered through Events for London; it is possible that a detailed critical analysis could generate substantial savings, particularly if entire events such as the ‘Rise Festival’ (which cost over £300,000) were cancelled.

Well, that’s one way of avoiding the issue I suppose.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

FAP Report: Ken wasted money. (We think).

After months of thorough investigation by a panel which seemed to forget what the term 'impartial' means, Wheatcroft and co. have released the FAP report into the evil workings of Ken's corrupt, thieving regime. (Or for those who are not Andrew Gilligan: The last London mayoralty.)

For those with enough energy to plough through it then I pre-warn you: Prepare for 40+ minutes of reading which culminates in the realisation that you have read pages of points which seem to have no relevance to each other.

It essentially amounts to a 'D' Grade undergraduate essay, on which the tutor has written: "Good structure, but needs work. Try drawing conclusions from actual facts."

My two favourite points from the report:

"We suspect that projects may have benefited also from this desire to use up the budget."

Suspect? In an official report the investigators decide that guessing is appropriate.

"There is some anecdotal evidence that the previous Chief Executive congratulated people who spent up to budget in the year"

For those who don't see how ridiculous it is to print those words within what should be a respectable official report, I thought I would provide a dictionary definition of 'anecdotal evidence':

"An informal form of hearsay obtained from random sources and having no legal basis."

I see.

Side note: I notice a certain Andrew Gilligan is credited within the FAP report. Bet he's chuffed.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Ray Lewis: The conspiracy.

Anyone with an interest in the real reasons behind JFK's assassination, who was actually responsible for 9/11 and which studio the moon landing was filmed in are in luck:

Today's Standard runs an article which investigates whether "a plot" was behind the whole Ray Lewis scandal, which obviously relies on the rather comical assumption that elements of the church are somehow secretly seeking to destroy Boris Johnson's administration.

So, what was the real reason why the church didn't warn Boris Johnson about Lewis'past?

"The Tories at City Hall smell a plot. The Mayor's senior aide Nick Boles thinks that, at the least, Church leaders have been negligent: "The Church sat on it and suddenly decided to bring it into the public arena now. Why?" he asked."

Why, indeed. What ghastly plan have they concocted?!

"Some suspect a political agenda behind the fact they surfaced at a time apparently calculated to cause Boris Johnson maximum embarrassment."

Hmm... Perhaps the Church of England is in league with the Labour Party?

"Senior figures at City Hall asked why, when nearly 10,000 letters were delivered to the Mayor's office shortly after he was elected, this one was not marked private and confidential to denote its significance?"

Precisely. Everybody knows that whenever you send a letter to City Hall you should always write: "URGENT! READ ME NOW!!" on the envelope. Otherwise it just goes straight in the bin.

"But mayoral aides have said that to include a veiled reference in paragraph six of a long letter was, effectively, burying it in code."

Well of course - no-one reads WHOLE letters. People get bored after the first few lines. It is borderline negligent to write something of importance within the main text of a letter. It should always be scrawled at the top in capital letters. Preferably in blood for maximum effect.

(Reminder to self: Draft a letter to City Hall. Include the words "YOU'RE MAD" halfway through and see if they can crack the crafty code...)

Monday, 7 July 2008

Gilligan: Knives not Knifing

In my last post I said to keep an eye on Gilligan's response to the Ray Lewis mess. Once again he never fails to disappoint.

I want to start off by making clear that I am prepared to reserve judgment about the financial allegations - a luxury not afforded to Lee Jasper.

So, let's begin:

"Of course Ray Lewis... had to go."

Agreed. But then...

"Ordinary Londoners may see Lewis as a man... brought down by petty enmities and long-ago mistakes."

So it's a valid excuse to have done something seriously wrong provided it was in the past? And by what measure, exactly, is this 'petty'?

"Well, I know Lee Jasper, and Ray Lewis is no Lee Jasper. No public money is missing."

Ok, so apparently it is acceptable to steal money from individuals who trust you as long as it doesn't hit the average taxpayer.

"Boris needs to get back to the story Londoners really care about."

Exactly: Who cares. No big deal is it. Bit of lying, incompetence, etc. No harm in that...

"That [knife crime], rather than this "scandal", is how he will be judged."

This is a curious one: why has the word scandal been written in inverted commas? The implication seems to be that, once again, Gilligan sees this as an over-reaction.

The trouble is that he makes the mistake of trying to play down the issue - and once again shift the topic back to Lee Jasper and the Labour party ("Labour can usually be relied on to trump any Tory disarray.")

There is something depressing about how Andrew Gilligan has developed as a journalist. Little more than a year ago he was writing reasonably balanced columns, with more well-thought out, logical arguments.

However, as the election approached he appeared to get more and more angry, which badly damaged his approach.

And since the election it has descended into bitterness. He is dismissive, defensive and even patronising.

If he continues down this path he is also in danger of sounding desperate.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Mayor's aide in claims of sexual and financial misconduct

Oh dear. First Boris loses one aide - deputy chief of staff James McGrath - over remarks with arguably quite obvious racist undertones. Now, little more than a week later another aide - deputy mayor Ray Lewis - is facing a double whammy of allegations of both sexual and financial misconduct.

Keep an eye on Gilligan's next column. Surely he's going to take a similar line as he took to Lee Jasper from the start? Surely?

Hmm...

Gilligan: IT'S THE BUSES!!!!!!!

Gilligan is excited: The launch of the new Routemaster bus design competition is upon us.

So why is it all so important?

"What the Routemaster symbolised was public-service idealism: a conviction made flesh"

A 'conviction made flesh'? It's a bus, Andrew.

Anyway, to get more flesh on the roads we need to push ahead. Trouble is there are just a few small barriers to Gilligan's (sorry, Johnson's) vision. Basically, TFL, the mayor's transport advisor and Boris himself are "doubtful", due to the "difficulties".

Oh dear. Hang on though:

"Yet experts are often wrong, and they're wrong about this", says Gilligan.

Exactly - who needs spectacle-wearing transport professionals when the Standard's resident bus expert is here to impart his wisdom.

I say wisdom. But actually it's more of a rant:

"Theoretically, a bendy does carry about twice the old RM's load, but all the extra people, and more besides, have to stand. The new RM will be larger than the old one, and will let you sit down. And what TfL tended to do when a route went from Routemasters to bendies was to reduce the frequency - so it should be easy enough to increase the frequency right back again."

Ok...

Any problems you have with current double-decker buses?

"The air is filled with high-pitched beeping noises”

No, that's just the voices in your head Andrew.

But to be fair on Gilligan, he does get one point right:

“It's [Johnson's] only specific manifesto item that most Londoners remember.”

Actually - hang on a minute... Boris had a manifesto?!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Crime and Education: A question of "integrity"

Doing the rounds in the papers today is the news of Majid Ahmed, an applicant to Imperial College's medical school, who was rejected on the basis of a spent criminal conviction.

The 18 year old, who is described as coming from a "deprived area", was convicted of burglary in 2005 but "turned his life around" by getting 4 A's at A-level.

Patrick Butler, editor of SocietyGuardian, refers to it as being a "vivid example of why social immobility in Britain seems so entrenched".

Imperial has defended itself by claiming that in most cases they would usually only request unspent convictions, but that medicine is an exception, being one in which "the public must have confidence in the integrity and probity of its doctors."

However, as Jessica Sheperd reports in the Education Guardian, Dr Shahid Ali, Deputy Director of GP Provider Services at Bradford and Airedale Teaching PCT, stated that he would "support Ahmed" should he achieve the required grades.

Without a doubt there is need for caution when it comes to criminal records, but you could argue that these cases can hinder the desire for those in similar situations to try and change their circumstances.

Many of the comments readers have posted on news websites in response to this story seem to share a view that people who have worked hard to correct mistakes, especially when they were young teenagers, should be given a chance to have their slate wiped clean.

Yet Imperial College, it seems, believes there are limits to rehabilitation.