Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A Day on The Road

Radio face
I had a tour of a rather magnificent new cancer facility in an NHS hospital today. My presence there was work related and therefore definitely not the stuff for blogging. However it brought home that you simply can't trust politicians with any story. I strongly suspect this beautiful building would never have been built but for the much derided PFI. Health funding is a lot of things, but simple aint one of them. So let's at least stop pretending.

Driving home from my appointment I listened to that Ed Milliband making his speech to the Labour faithful in Liverpool. Oratory really isn't a big part of politics is it these days. I mean that prize pratt Kinnock was a marvellous platform speaker (and I bet he'd be bloody good company in a bar) but it ultimately didn't do him any good. Hague's good but equally unelectable. Milliband isn't a natural. I don't think it's really his thing but you can imagine he's formidable in a meeting. So his speech started badly - mawkish, sloppy and the usual crowd-pleasing digs at the evil Murdoch who one rather gets the impression had himself hacked Millie Dowler's phone. So far so banal. But as he went on he seemed to be talking about things he actually believed in. There was the germ of a big idea knocking around in there dressed up in a nice soundbite that distinguished between producers and predators. He'd hate me for saying it (actually I think he would just hate me anyway - I'll return to this point) but his central tenet is not that far removed in its ambitions from Cameron's Big Society. British politics is not  a battle between good and evil but between ideals of implementation. Or rather it is for folk like me. Not for Ed.

Radio face
Something struck me about the speech. He hates Cameron. He doesn't just regard him as misguided, he thinks he's evil and dishonest. He would think the same of me. Actually he might not - he might overlook my calumny on the condescending grounds of 'forgive them Lord, they know not what they do.' Well here's the point Ed: I am a big boy, I don't pay the top rate of 50% tax, but it doesn't mean that I must automatically have shit for brains to think such tax is wrong. I don't want you to lift me out of my misery, I'd rather do it myself.

One more thing, banging on about 'vested interests' is all very well but you left one out - organised labour. Organised labour, one of the great British industrial monuments and I say that without a trace of irony. But it is an institution that connived in our nationalised industries becoming businesses run exclusively for the benefit of their employees. Cock-up? Yes largely, though I exempt from that explanation the crazed politburo of the NUT. You see in Ed's world when the left gets it wrong it's a cock-up, when the right gets it wrong it's a conspiracy.

Radio face
Now for a bit of balance. I heard a snippet of George Osborne reacting to the Millispeech. Here was a chance to acknowledge the common ground (a good political move as well because it would have pissed Labour off) and invite a sane debate. So what does he do - he slags Milliband off with what was a response clearly written for him before he'd even heard the speech. A pox on the whole bloody lot of you!

Oh and another thing. Having heard the speech on radio I saw some television highlights this evening and was struck how much more I liked it on the radio. This shouldn't matter but he really does have a classic face for radio. Like Kinnock and Hague. 


Sunday, 25 September 2011

A Lot Of Things Have Been Worrying Me Lately

Capitalism. It's been getting a bad press and some guilt-ridden liberals have been proclaiming its death. Not so fast lads, not so fast. We're in baby and bathwater country here.

Ken Ofori Atta learned his trade on Wall Street but now plies his trade in the emerging markets of his native Ghana. Here is his diagnosis of where the west went wrong,
What went awry among the frenzy for growth in more mature markets was people losing sight of the fact that someone somewhere has to work hard to make a market and build a business to create real enduring value that goes beyond the bottom line.
That's one of those cartoon light bulb moments if you ask me. Nail on the head job. Getting something for nothing is not a viable basis for an economic system. Nor is a dumb belief in ever increasing growth and exponential rises in values of favoured assets, be they South Sea stocks, property or dotcom shares. Where the system falls down is when the fools and charlatans go unpunished by that system - the currently fashionable term is 'moral hazard.' This simply means getting your just deserts or more precisely your lack of them. (And that is the correct way of spelling 'deserts' - it has nothing to do with pudding.) So when it is deemed politically necessary to bail out banks (and that one could also legitimately be 'bale' out) what would really help would be if the bastards at least said thank you and took a pay-cut. Not because some simpleton like St Vince of Twickenham says they have to but because they realise that such would be the proper (and in fact ironically also the enlightened self-interested) way to behave.

Warren Buffet. People keep telling me what a champion bloke he is. I don't quite buy it. Apparently he thinks 'the rich' (who they ed?) should pay more tax. Well, Wazza mate, here's the news, there's no rule against you paying some extra over to the revenue if you want to. But I also note that you plan to dispose of the bulk of your own spondulicks to the Gates Foundation, presumably (and one might add wisely) because you trust your fellow billionaire (the nice bloke from Microsoft) to spend the readies more sagely than the government. Funy that.

The Euro. Gorgeous George Osborne says we Brits should be worried about the fate of this dishonestly conceived currency. If I'm honest George there's a considerable part of me that doesn't give a stuff. The Euro is the bastard love child of a social-democratic continental elite who have our very best interests at heart, so much at heart that something as petty as the affection of the people for sovereign nations will not be allowed to get in the way of them doing what is good for us. Now I am not so pig-headed as to deny that they might very well have a point. I am of a fortunate generation who did not grow up in the clamour of pan-european war. I respect the motives of men such as Edward Heath who served in a war and were determined that it should never be repeated. I happen not to think that the creation of a European single state is a prerequisite of such peace. Sovereign states have sovereign currencies. The Euro is and always has been a signpost to absoulute surrender of sovereignty to a larger entity. The French think that larger entity is Franco-German. The Germans know it is German but are coming to doubt the wisdom of what they have taken on. Which may or may not be a good thing - that is another debate. But what is categorically not acceptable is the intellectual determination to pretend that sovereignty was never at issue here, a pretence posited on an assumption of laxity/torpor/stupidity on the part of the little people. My hope is that the people are not that lax/torpid/stupid.

Here's a thought - the total sovereign debt of the Eurozone countries is within acceptable bounds if measured against the GDP of that zone. Greece's debt (expressed let us not forget in Euros) is a cataclysmic problem only because it is Greece that has to pay it - can't, won't, fact. If we transpose the problem to the pound zone (let us call it Poundland - geddit?) this would be rather like Gorgeous George saying that our own bonkers debt is not our problem because we have had a look at how it happened and we think Hounslow (or perhaps more realistically Scotland, now there's an even better thought) should pay the whole shebang. Oh no Overgraduate I hear you saying, you're over-simplifying things there. Well yes I am but this is precisely the line that your ubereuroistas (I made that one up) will take (are already taking) to justify greater integration. They will say it is ridiculous to have a currency zone within which the participants do not stand, fall and (here's the rub) tax together. I kid you not, there's a class of politico out there who saw this coming, who welcomed all manner of basket case economies into the Eurozone because it would precipitate a crisis (the scale of it has rather taken everyone by surprise) whose resolution would further the grand project. All in a good cause. So that's alright then. Actually no.

Silvio Berlusconi. I'm beginning to think I must have imagined him. He can't be real. But he is and so is Ed Miliband, which possibly worries me more.

My right hamstring. It's pissing me off.        

Monday, 19 September 2011

Some People Just Don't Get It

The Eye is apparently 50 years old. Happy birthday. I'm not a regular reader but I regard Ian Hislop as something of a national treasure - certainly more worthy than Stephen Fry. This is what Roy Hattersley thinks of Hislop's organ,
"public schoolboys laughing at the world outside the dormitory… at the expense of the peccadilloes and pretentions of lesser mortals".

It does strike me that earning the opprobrium of so arch an inverted snob as Hattersley is a mark of greatness. Roy mate, I didn't go to public school (though some of my best friends etc) and I find it funny. As we say round these parts, get over yourself you knob.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

... Are Brilliant Mark VIII

Masterchef Australia. I may have mentioned this one before. This is addictive and warm-hearted television. The saviour of reality television. Leaves the British version dead in the water. Catch it on UK Watch - a great advert for council house tele. There is a certain sort of programme I am never enthusiastic about watching but which captivates when it is on. This exemplifies the category. It is on as I type. One can smell the bread they are baking.

Next up is one of the heroes of English rugby. Phil 'Raging Bull' Vickery manages to be expert and unassuming in his role as colour commentator for ITV in its RWC coverage. During Wales' heroic but somehow predictable defeat to South Africa Vickery was unstinting in his praise of the Welsh. Above all else he did it with a sincerity the English can struggle to attain. Matt Dawson might take note.

Saw this in London last week with Mum (her present from Players for directing Little Women). This is not as good as the wild publicity suggests - it's better. Sentimental, yes. A little predictable, perhaps. But by a mile the best puppet show since Thunderbirds. Please see War Horse. Do not wait for the Spielberg film (The Overgraduate eschews the wrteched prevalence of the term 'movie') which will at best be different and, more probably, a travesty. It will dismiss any doubts you may have about the relevance of theatre. It does things which no other medium can handle. Standing ovation from the matinee audience - no mean feat given your average age in a matinee crowd. I felt positively juvenile.

That London. Home of the world's most honourable university. Our own city state and whether the rest of us like it or not, Britain's greatest hope of economic revival. I can even detect a vibrant dillapidated charm in the underground - a system which throbs with purpose if not with beauty. I also love having an Oyster card.