Aye Aye

So I think we can conclude that the payments were indeed for services rendered?

The businessman at the centre of the "Donorgate" row received beneficial planning status from the Government just weeks after he gave the Labour Party more than £100,000 in concealed donations.

David Abrahams\’s controversial plan for a business park at Bowburn in County Durham was put on a pilot scheme designed to speed the planning process and cut the costs of the application, it can be revealed.

In January last year, Yvette Cooper, then the minister for housing and planning, named Mr Abrahams\’s scheme as one of 20 new Planning Delivery Agreements to be set up across Britain.

The announcement came a month after Mr Abrahams had made three separate payments to Labour totalling £100,000.

Wouldn\’t it all have been simpler to continue to operate as we had done for a century or more? Flogging off the odd bit of ermine is better than flogging off the right to build business parks, surely?

Ahah, Ahah, Ahah, Ahahahaha

Snort, giggle. Via, surprisingly, here, this:


Yes, it is what you think it is. It\’s a gold noose, to be worn as jewelry (I suppose we could call it a Pierrepoint as the other part of his name is already used for jewelry of a more intimate nature). And guess who it is sold by? Yup, Disney, so you were right there too.

$36 a pop.

Stave off plunderers with a charming threat wearing this Disney Couture necklace! Booty hunters beware!

From the Pirates of the Caribbean "Dead Man\’s Chest" collection – 14K gold plated 20" Noose Necklace.

By Disney Couture

I wonder which marketing executive thought up this one, which one actually signed off on it and whether both have already been fired or have that pleasure yet to come?

I think it\’s mindgobbingly stupid but then what do I know?

Well Done Greenpeace!

I know, I know, you\’ll not see that sort of headline around here very often.

However. Which environmental NGO did not take European Commission money to lobby the European Commission?

Which environmental NGO got right up the noses of the Comissars by getting people to email them?

No, of course I don\’t agree with why they did so and yes, of course I know that they\’re Luddites who want us all to convert to eating yurts around the tofu fires.

But full marks to Greenpeace for actually being independent of the Commission so that they can effectively lobby the Commission.



Labour was paid £180,000 from public funds to help party officials to understand new funding rules shortly before it began accepting secret donations from a property developer, The Times can reveal.

The party applied for and received a “start-up grant” from the Electoral Commission to meet the costs of abiding by the law on declaring donations that Labour had itself enacted. It was for training staff in the duties imposed by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 and was specifically for the party to prepare for its requirements on submitting accounts and declaring donations above £5,000.

The grant could also be used to hire consultants to give advice on the Act, for guidance for party officials and volunteers, and to adapt computerised accounting systems.

Simply laughing to hard to comment.

Tim Watkin

Really, standards are slipping:

When George Bush took office the debt was $5.7bn; when the national debt hits $10bn, probably sometime around the time Bush leaves office in January 2009, the debt clock in New York\’s Times Square will not have enough zeroes to register the fact; paying the interest on this debt is now the third largest item on the US budget, behind only retirement and health entitlements and defence.

Out there by three orders of magnitude I think. Trillion, not billion. Still, nice to see that someone is indeed worrying aout the level of US public debt. Like that nice Mr. Bush is, as he\’s been gettin te deficit down these past couple of years, hasn\’t he?

This though is worse:

Once upon a time, we ordinary folks saw banks as places to put our savings. Following the dictum that it takes money to make money, and using economies of scale, they would then work their bankerly magic to make profits and pay dividends. Now, they sell credit, not savings.

That bankerly magic has always depended upon the banks selling credit. That\’s actually what they do. How elsedoes anyone expect them to make a profit so as to pay us our interest?


Soooo Nouveau Dahling

Something of a waste:

The cocktail consists of a large measure of Louis XII cognac, half a bottle of Cristal Rose champagne, some brown sugar, angostura bitters and a few flakes of 24-carat edible gold leaf.

You usually put white sugar into a champagne cocktail (for that is what this is) as brown will rather overpower the flavours. If people want to spend £35,000 on it well, good luck to them say I. But not only do you have the right to spend your money as you wish, you also have the duty to put up with what people think about you for your choices:

The drink will appeal to "the stupid segment of the super-rich", said the social commentator Peter York. "It is so gauche, so crashingly crass, that everyone else will see the buyers as barely literate, as one step up from a potato.

"It will be one of those things that unite both the middle class and the old rich in a belief that the super-rich come out of some kind of primeval ooze."

More Childcare

All sounds rather Stalinist, doesn\’t it?

The 10-year Children\’s Plan will address the whole experience of modern childhood, including concerns about the decline in play outside of school hours and worries about children\’s self-confidence.

Ten year plans to make th New Briton?

But the basic news is that free childcare is to b offered to two year olds. Rather confuses me, for haven\’t we seen recent reports that starting childcare too young actually harms the child?

And He Calls Himself a Literary Editor?

Sam Leith:

Personally, I\’d think primary school children would be rather better off starting on Spike Milligan\’s charming Ning Nang Nong than The Rime of the Ancient Mariner or Daffodils. The first joy of poetry is in its sound-effects – which is why kids love silly rhymes and limericks. It introduces the idea of language as play.

Clearly the young shaver doesn\’t actually know his Spike from his elbow. The finest piece of poetry produced in the 20 th century was indeed by the aforementioned Mr. Milligan, but it\’s not Ning Nang Nong, rather:

A thousand hairy savages

Sitting down for lunch

Gobble gobble, glup glup,

Munch, munch, munch.

I ask you, the young of today, eh?

Not Connected

I fear that Andrew Pierce may notbe all that well connected:

It has a simple philosophy: it argues there is a strong moral case for allowing taxpayers to keep a greater share of their income. Who can disagree with that?

He\’s obviously not met Polly Toynbee.

Hillary\’s Experience

Yes, well, what is it exactly that Hillary Clinton does have experience at?

What Hillary does have copious experience of, however, is what it\’s like to be publicly humiliated by a philandering husband on a scale of historical proportions. Make no mistake: if my husband ever gets a bit too friendly with an overweight, goo-goo-eyed groupie less than half his age, Hillary will be the first agony aunt I\’ll consult. On charming rogues and public smiles pasted on private anguish, she\’s an expert.

Russian Business Ethics

A rather rough world out there:

Oleg Zhukovsky, the deputy chairman of the state-run banking giant VTB, appeared to have become the latest victim in a series of high-profile killings that have stirred memories of the brutal mafia wars of the 1990s.

State television, however, suggested that Mr Zhukovsky may have committed suicide, despite the fact that his hands and feet were tied.

Cheap Booze

This chart of tax paid on booze in supermarkets is instructive:


Shows you quite how much is already gouged out of you when you try to partake of one of the pleasures of life. But even more instructive is this:

Safe drinking campaigners say it is impossible for supermarkets to make any profit on a £20 bottle of vodka, if 88 per cent of the sale price is being passed straight to the Treasury through VAT and duty.

I don\’t see why it\’s impossible for them to make a profit on such: Morrison\’s has £1,17 to play with on that bottle of Smirnoff. But let\’s go further and accept that it is in fact true, that they\’re not making a profit, that they are selling at cost.

That\’s actually what we want, isn\’t it? If you look at the classical economic models what happens in a perfectly competetive market is that competition forces profit margins down to zero. To the benefit of the consumer, of course. That the supermarkets are selling things at cost shows that, in this sector of the market at least, that we do indeed have something close to perfect competition and that the consumer is thus benefiting.

A cause for celebration, surely? So, who has the best deal on bubbly?

Bit of a Shocker

MPs are incompetent, couldn\’t run a whelk stall. OK:

The plan to abolish hunting provoked mass protests and consumed many hours of parliamentary time; yet it seems to have been beyond the wit of MPs to come up with a law capable of enforcement. How absurd this makes parliament look!

Bit odd to see it in The Guardian though….

Polly Today

Even when she\’s right she can\’t get it right:

Howard\’s final act was to put US-style two-strikes-and-you\’re-out sentencing on to the statute book for Labour to implement. (In the US a man went to jail for stealing a slice of pizza.)

Yes, the US style two strikes and you\’re out system is indeed insane.Yes indeed, one of the first people sentenced under it in California did go to prison for stealing a slice of pizza. But that\’s not the reason that it\’s insane. He went to prison for life, with no possibility of parole. No, we don\’t have a system like that, we simply don\’t, and your wittering about how awful Howard was will not make it so.

Consider the disastrous message here. This proclaims the government doesn\’t expect any of its social programmes to have any good impact on crime. On the contrary, things will get worse. The 10,500 extra young men imprisoned in 2014 will be Labour\’s children, arrived in school in 1997. Young offenders will have been born under Labour and yet more not fewer of them will "need" to be locked away than under the Tories.

So much for Labour\’s improving schools, extended school activities, expanded youth services, the Yips (youth inclusion programme) designed to catch children at risk before they offend, or a score of other acronyms from Labour\’s neighbourhood programmes. All wasted, all dust?

Well, could be, yes. Its certainly possible that these things do not in fact reduce crime.

Listen to ministers complain that crime has fallen by 40%, including violent crime, yet voters refuse to believe it. But who is to blame for that? Of course people think crime must be rising when prisons are bursting as never before.

There\’s a possible alternative explanation of course. One that most economists would sign on to. As more people are being jailed for longer, the price of committing a crime has gone up so that there are fewer people willing to pay that price.

Frankly, if ministers bothered to study their own departments\’ recent work it would be a good start. Visiting one minister the other day, just as he launched a vital new policy, neither he nor his special advisers had ever heard of a very expensive and highly successful pilot scheme his predecessor had just completed as he left. When government\’s own memory is goldfish short, what hope for deeper history?

Quite. When politicians\’ horizons are only to the next election, (if that long) then how are we to expect any rational long term choices to be made by them? And thus collapses the Statist project.

But Labour has taken us backwards, feeding punitive sentiment instead of persuading by proving what works. Douglas Hurd cut the prison population in the higher-crime Thatcher era: Labour has hugely inflated it.

She see the correlation but insists that it cannot be causality. High crime, low prison numbers, high prison numbers, lower crime. Seriously now, how dim do you have to be to refuse to even consider the thought that perhaps banging people up in prison reduces crime?

David Cronin

Jesu C.

He\’s actually arguing that import tariffs make Ghana richer. No, they don\’t. Tariffs on poultry will make poultry farmers richer an every consumer of poultry poorer. As, even in Ghana, there are more consumers than producers of poultry, the net effect is impoverishment, not wealth creation.



So Congress has passed a climate change bill:

In addition to imposing a 35mpg standard on cars, the bill would require power companies to generate 15% of their energy from renewable sources such as wind or solar power by 2020.

It would encourage the use of energy efficient light bulbs – in effect phasing out incandescent bulbs – pay for training for \’green collar\’ jobs, and offer small monthly stipends to people who ride their bicycles to work. It also calls for tax incentives to encourage the use of ethanol as a motor fuel.

More ethanol? Just when everyone is coming round to recognising that it\’s both howlingly expensive and actually emits more CO2 than it saves? Raising the CAFE standards? Are these fools unaware that it\’s CAFE that created the SUV in the first place? Paying people to ride bikes? The mind boggles.

If you think that political action is going to solve climate change you\’ve really not been paying attention now, have you?



Excellent News!

Police in Scotland are to get a better pay deal than their colleagues south of the border for the first time, it emerged yesterday as a furious row broke out over the pay award for forces in England.


Let\’s hope this is the beginning of the end for national pay deals of all types. It\’s insane that we have the same pay rate for a copper in rural Scotland as we do for one in Birmingham, given that the costs of living in each place are so wildly different. Same with nurses, doctors and all the rest of them. Abolish the whole system of setting wages nationally say I.

Spuermarket Price Fixing

This is interesting:

Supermarket giant J Sainsbury has agreed to pay £26m to the Office of Fair Trading to settle a long-running investigation into the price fixing of milk, cheese and butter.

The OFT concluded in September that supermarkets including Sainsbury, Tesco and Asda has colluded to fix the prices of milk and cheese, costing shoppers an estimated £270m.

Naughty, naughty. However, the supermarkets themselves appear a little perplexed:

The OFT investigation has stunned supermarket executives, at the time of the alleged price fixing in 2002 supermarket depots were being blockaded by dairy farmers and they were under immense pressure from the government and the National Farmers\’ Union to raise milk prices to help alleviate stress within the farming and agriculture industry.

It is believed that in late 2002, following public declarations of support for the farming industry from leading retailers including Tesco, the milk processors began sharing details of other supermarkets\’ pricing policies with rival retailers.

In public and privately supermarket executives have expressed exasperation at the OFT probe, claiming they are being punished for trying to do the right thing for farmers.

So is that actually the truth here? The supermakets and the milk processors colluded to raise prices to the farmers, as everyone insisted that they should, and now they\’ve been fined for it? Anyone seen the report or know more?

The Mirror of the Sacred Scriptures and Paintings World Foundation

So this group are claiming that Leonardo da Vinci put into his paintings, in the same way that he used mirror writing, images that only clarified themselves when seen in a mirror.

But now a group known as The Mirror of the Sacred Scriptures and Paintings World Foundation believes that he applied the same technique to some of his best-known creations, including the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, to conceal mysterious faces and religious symbols.

When applied to the sketch The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist, which hangs in London’s National Gallery, the authors say the mirror image reveals the ancient Old Testament god Jahveh, who "protects the soul of the body’s vices" and wears the Vatican’s crown.

All most interesting of course and if you want to know more, try out their website. And, well, they\’re pushing a book about it all: isn\’t that amazing?

Me, I\’ll take it all with a pinch of salt, I will:


They\’ve found Darth Vader in a Leonardo sketch? Give me a break, please.