Polly On Welfare

Unemployment is a Labour triumph – at its lowest in 30 years. Numbers on incapacity benefit are down.

so Pathways to Work is now being rolled out aimed at 1m people out of the 2.6m on incapacity benefit who say they want to work and are reckoned capable of it.


The Rule of Law

This is interesting:

BSkyB\’s 17.9pc stake in ITV may have offended many people\’s sense of what\’s fair but it didn\’t appear to offend the Government\’s very own 2003 Communications Act which allows BSkyB to own up to 20pc in ITV – it became known as the Murdoch clause after all. That was introduced under the more Murdoch-friendly Tony Blair.

The law says that BSkyB can own 20 pc of ITV. The Minister has said that it must sell half of its 17.9% stake.

What was that about being a country ruled by the law?

So, err, Not Licenced Music Then?

A website promising free, legal and unlimited music online was unable to offer users any actual music to download today after admitting it did not have permission to use major companies’ songs.

Bet their website got some hits though…..

Two Sons?

A senior Tory MP has been severely reprimanded for using taxpayer-funded expenses to pay his teenage son almost £50,000 as a "researcher" even though there is no evidence of any work having been done.

It also emerged yesterday that Mr Conway used to employ his elder son, Henry, as a researcher while he was at Cambridge.

This sort of thing is actually fairly common in family owned businesses. The kiddies get put on the books while off at uni: it\’s a way of giving them money without it having been taxed already (although they obviously then pay tax at their, lower, marginal rate). It can even be said to be a business expense: you know, paying them while they are training sort of thing.

Unfortunately for Mr. Conway, being an MP isn\’t a family business, nor are his allowances the same as the revenues from a family business.


Blogger\’s Bleg

So, does anyone know the details of the UK welfare system?

The son in law is self-employed in the building trade. Yesterday he broke his collarbone in three places playing football.

He\’s got a private insurance contract to cover long term unemployment/disability, the deductible of which is 60 days.

Medical advice is that he can\’t work for at least 6 weeks.

So what, if anything, can he expect to get from the social insurance system, otherwise known as the welfare state, which he has been paying into for the past 10 years?

The mortgage paid? Sickness benefit? What?

Or, being self-employed, is he screwed?

TV Producers, Listen!

My secret fantasy is that one day the two genres should collide, and Jeremy Clarkson be filmed as the tall, sneering Regency hero in the tight pantalons, test-driving his four-in-hand racing curricle at high speed. I know, only 4bhp. Not a patch on a Bugatti Veyron. But think of the viewing figures, boys, think of the viewing figures.

Statistics, Statistics

According to The Guardian not enough women or ethnic minorities are being appointed as High Court judges.

But a Guardian review of selection shows that those appointed since last September are remarkably similar to those selected under the old process. All 10 are white male former barristers and six of the nine educated in Britain went to leading independent schools belonging to the Headmasters\’ and Headmistresses\’ Conference.

They tell us that people have to apply now….but the one thing they don\’t tell us is the gender and racial make up of the applicant pool. Only by looking at the success rate of such from applying to appointment can anything interesting be said about whether there is discrimination in the appointment process.

Unfortunately, the numbers are not given on the JAC website.


It is surely no coincidence that these films are emerging from a country that has had eight years of ultra-conservative Republican rule. A report last week showed that abortions in the US have fallen by 25% since 1990, and 2006 saw the largest number of children born for 45 years – but the teenage birth rate also rose for the first time in 15 years.

This is a bad thing? Discuss.

(BTW, Tim Harford\’s new book puts part of the explanation (please note part) down to two things: one, the risk of HIV leading to more oral and less penetrative sex and second, to parental notification laws. No, not stopping young girls having abortions, but raising the perceived cost to them of unprotected sex thus reducing the incidence.)

Capitalist Bastards

Really, making things cheaply:

Given that a kilt usually costs upwards of £375, I know what you\’re thinking: Scots love a bargain – or at least words to that effect – so they must be delighted at such a good deal. Well, yes and no. As prudent as Scots are – and I proudly count myself among them – after a day of wearing the £25 kilt, I\’m left wondering: is nothing sacred? I ask, not because of the inevitable chaffing that comes from wearing a kilt around the office, or the funny looks I got going to the canteen, or even because of the difficulties I encountered going to the loo, but because it\’s so cheap.

How dare they make things that the hoi polloi can afford? Next thing you know the proles will have enough to eat!

Jack Brod


Another recently deceased New Yorker didn\’t even shift a millimetre across the city\’s map in nearly 80 years but still embodied the American dream.

Jack Brod, who died earlier this month at 98, chose to go up rather than across to define his success. The last original tenant of the Empire State Building, Mr Brod spent the years since it opened in 1931 gradually working his way from the seventh floor to the 76th (via the 14th, 15th and 66th) as his business grew and he could afford a better view.

He started as a Depression-era debt collector. When many debtors paid with jewellery, Mr Brod became a jeweller. Stationed in England during the Second World War, he did well from hard-up stately home owners, shipping boat-loads of cut-price antiques back to America.

Mr Brod\’s post-war entrepreneurism, including an engagement ring that "costs you nothing if she dumps you within 60 days", helped push him further up the skyscraper. By the time – reportedly, in 2004 – he was offered the solid gold dental bridge that had popped out of the mouth of a jilted lover who had jumped off the building, he could afford to say no to new business.

Entirely trivial, but fascinating.


Community life is now anti-social.

Villagers have been barred from putting up posters inviting people to charity events because it is "anti-social".

Volunteers in the hamlet of Misterton, Somerset, regularly use the village hall for coffee mornings and jumble sales to raise money for good causes.

Because of the building\’s isolated location they often put notices up around the village to drum up interest for the functions.

However, they were threatened with prosecution after local council officials discovered notices pinned up on a lamp post advertising a children\’s charity bingo.

The town hall claimed that the organisers were flyposting, which was against the law and punishable by a £75 fine.

The council told Paul Bradly, the treasurer of the village hall committee who wrote to complain, that it had a duty to "enforce legislation in regards to anti-social behaviour".

My order for lengths of the best hempen will need to be increased again I see.

I Thought Everyone Already Knew This?

Mongrels are cleverer than pedigree dogs, according to research.

Hybrid vigour isn\’t it called?

It\’s one of those things that has always amused me about those who worry about "racial purity" in humans. The more the merrier for the pool your genes come from rather than being limited to a sub-group.


Newsreaders Really Are Serious, Professionsal Journalists, Oh Yes

Kate Silverton, the BBC newsreader, is threatening to sue a leading Harley Street doctor after routine laser surgery left her face so badly marked she was unable to work.

Miss Silverton, 37, was forced to take a fortnight off after the laser skin-rejuvenation procedure, which should have removed acne scars and improved her skin tone, left her in agony.

Her face was covered in painful and unsightly swellings, sores and lumps.

She returned to work last week and has instructed lawyers to begin proceedings following her experience at the Jan Stanek clinic in London.

The presenter, who is tipped as the BBC\’s next golden girl now that Natasha Kaplinsky has defected to Five News, is due to take over the One O\’clock News from Sophie Raworth when she goes on maternity leave next month.

On Sunday Miss Silverton said: "It\’s been awful. I went in to get some minor scarring on my cheeks treated. I was told it would be a routine procedure and I\’d be back to work in days. The treatment, however, caused a massive skin reaction."

Miss Silverton visited Dr Stanek\’s clinic last month because she wanted to remove minor scars and blemishes before the introduction of high definition television.

Brushing up on the shorthand, taking a sabbatical to learn more about the world, practising tose precis-ing skills, just what\’s needed to revitalise the career, eh?