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The least convincing 'technical error' of all time?

Saturday, August 29, 2009
The website of the French government - the Matignon - managed to list three individuals as part of the government, the fellows concerned all being portfolio-less at the moment. All have been speculatively linked to posts by the press. The 'error' having been spotted the names - Poniatowski, Giacobbi and more traditionally French surnamed Lefebvre - were removed.

Even our lot manage to avoid foul ups of that level of technical idiocy.

Elsewhere, just half of all Gauls polled think it possible that a Leftist candidate could beat Sarko in 2012. Even among the left itself, only 72% of PS voters think they could win. How about that for positive thinking?

What are the French afraid of this week?

Another one of those 'only in France' surveys:

"When you think about the future, which things worry you most?"

And top of the list is 'That my children won't be happy'. Yes, really, 45% name this. While this would suggest that our Gallic chums are devoted parents, after a brief adjustment to my cynical hat, I reckon that an awful lot of Gauls would have felt compelled to choose that from the options offered. Next up is 'illness' at 39%, 'damage to the environment' at 38% and 'unemployment' at 38%. Elsewhere, ageing (19%) is not popular nor loneliness (7%).

The demographic breakdown goes no further than age groups, alas, but note that 18/24 year olds worry most about the environment and unemployment, and are not overly worried about the happiness or otherwise of their progeny. 25-34 year olds are most exercised by whichever green scare is current, 35-49 year olds lie awake worrying about their rugrats, as do 50-64 year olds. Those over 65 are nervous about being ill, and - relatively speaking - have decided that their kids' happiness is not really their concern.

Shame there's no breakdown by voting, as that would have been most entertaining.

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Do not watch this with a mouth full of coffee

Friday, August 28, 2009
Borrowed from the b3ta newsletter. I suppose this could be called the cost to human dignity of cuts in local news budgets. Particularly at the 38 second mark.

Click through here.


The vintage Hansard trawl - featuring telegrapher's arm, suicide stats and quackery

Thursday, August 27, 2009
Having taken the day off yesterday, a double dose of vintage Hansard-related goodness.

Telegrapher's arm

Mr. J. P. FARRELL asked the Postmaster-General whether, in the case of a lady telegraphist who has contracted muscular disease of the arm in consequence of her occupation, he will consider the advisability of arranging for her transfer to some other department requiring less manual effort instead of being removed from the service?

Mr. BUXTON If, when such a case arises, the officer in question desires to make any representation to me on the subject, I will, of course, gladly consider it.

Mr. FARRELL If I forward the right hon. Gentleman particulars of the case; will it receive his attention?

Mr. BUXTON I shall be very glad to look into it.

What about that for dedication to one's constituents, even the ones denied a vote?

And the ever popular topic of warships, again:

Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON (for Mr. Middlemore) asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the cruiser which is to be built as an answer to the foreign super-"Invincibles" is to be of a design which will merely enable it to outrun capture by the foreign vessels, or whether it will be itself equipped with such speed and armament as will enable it both to outrun and to capture the enemy's vessels?

The SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara) It is premature, as yet, to give details of the design of this vessel.

One would have thought that blasting them to kingdom come was the aim of the game.

The vexed issue of the Rhondda and Swansea and Great Western Railway Companies:

Mr. WARDLE (Lab) asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has communicated with the Rhondda and Swansea Bay and Great Western Railway Companies, asking if they would supply a copy of the working agreement into which they had entered; and, if so, will he say what has been the result of such application?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Churchill) I have not asked the railway companies for a copy of the agreement, which they are under no obligation to supply, but I called their attention to the hon. Member's previous questions on this subject, and was informed by them that they saw no reason for the publication of the agreement.

Mr. WARDLE Will the right hon. Gentleman seek for legislative powers to compel them to publish these things?

Mr. CHURCHILL I am not in a position to make any statement upon that point.

Socialists, eh? Always seeking an increase in the power of the state. A bit of sniffing around suggests that the R&SB, a loss making line serving coal country, was taken over by the GWR but maintained some autonomy for a while after. Disappointed that Churchill did not tell Wardle to shove it, frankly.

Wardle would appear to have had a lively and enquiring mind, as he came up with this too:

Mr. WARDLE asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether any statistics exist of the number of deaths from suicide; whether he can give the figures for each of the last five years; whether the statistics are classified according to the manner of death; and, if so, can he give particulars?

The average for the period was 3,447. The figure for 2007 was 5,377, so on the basis of an approximate UK population of 41 m in 1909, the rate is largely unchanged.

Youthful criminality:

Mr. FENWICK (for Mr. Bottomley) asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the sentence of five years' detention in a reformatory recently passed by Mr. Rose, the stipendiary at the Tower Bridge police court, upon a girl 14 years of age for stealing the sum of £3 10s. from a coffee-shop in which she was employed; whether there had been any previous conviction against the girl; and, if not, whether he proposes to advise a mitigation of the sentence?

Mr. GLADSTONE I have made inquiry into this case, and am not prepared to interfere with the order of the court. There had been no previous conviction against the girl, but it is clear, in view of her character and history, that it is in her interest that she should remain in the reformatory school, where she will receive the careful training which is called for in her case.

My suspicions that £3 10s did not constitute an entirely trumpery sum were confirmed by playing around with a calculator here, which gives a figure of £271.84 based on RPI, and £1,428.19 based on average earnings. I reckon she got her just deserts, frankly.

Socialists, always messing with property rights:

Mr. BARNES (for Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) asked whether the Scottish Office has had any communication from the Peebles Town Council regarding the closing of paths in the grounds of Neidpath Castle by Lord Wemyss; whether the Scottish Office has any powers to protect the public in the enjoyment of these paths; and, if so, whether it proposes to put them into operation?

The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND (Mr. A. Dewar) No communication from the Peebles Town Council dealing with this matter has been received at the Scottish Office, nor has the Secretary for Scotland any power to interpose in the direction suggested by the hon. Member.

Mr. H. A. WATT Can the hon. Gentleman say whether this action was prompted by the fact that the Commissioners of Woods and Forests have permitted fishing in the Tweed?
Mr. DEWAR I have no information on the point.

The castle is not uneasy on the eye.

Full marks to Asquith for honesty and for not taking up an opportunity for point scoring

Captain CLIVE asked the Prime Minister whether, seeing that the Government Bill relating to hops is now practically uncontroversial, and is of importance to the hop-growing districts, he will proceed with it so that it may have an opportunity of becoming law this Session?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith) I am afraid that the Bill in question cannot be regarded as of a non-controversial character, and I cannot hold out any hope of its being proceeded with this Session.

Mr. JOHN GRETTON Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate in what quarter of the House the opposition to the Bill arises?

The bill looked to revolve around 'the abolition of hop-substitutes and the marking of foreign hops'. Fascinating.

And now for a big finish:

Captain CRAIG asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the increase in recent years of the sale of quack medicines; whether he is aware that it has been proved that such nostrums frequently contain nothing but harmless drugs, coloured grease, coloured water, small quantities of aloes, pilules of sugar, etc., though advertised to cure a multitude of different maladies; whether he is aware that the chief cost of such quack medicines is in the advertising; and whether he will appoint a small Commission to inquire into and report upon the whole subject?

Mr Glastone I beg to refer the hon. Member to the answer on this subject which I gave to the hon. Member for North Lambeth on 12th March last. I understand that inquiries are being made, at the instance of the Lord President of the Council, as to whether the practice of medicine by unqualified persons is extending, and as to the effects produced by such practice. These inquiries will, no doubt, throw some light on the question of the use of quack medicines, and I think it will be advisable to await their result.

Meanwhile, reiki practitioners, homeopaths etc etc continue to go unprosecuted.....

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Buying back the rope they failed to hang us with. And then selling it again.

So to speak. This quote - 'The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them' is often attributed to Lenin, although I cannot find a scholarly reference.

Anyway, that came to mind seeing this tale in Pravda:

"The Russian tobacco market has been showing a curious trend recently. The cheapest and premium class cigarette brands currently enjoy the biggest demand in Russia. Many tobacco companies focus their efforts on the inexpensive segment and resume the production of Soviet brands...BAT Russia took account of the changing demand and launched two new brands – Capri slim cigarettes...and The Golden Fleece (Zolotoye Runo), - a legendary Soviet brand which the company relaunched in April. The cigarette brands with the Soviet past from another company, Nevo-Tabak, also managed to improve their sales. The sales of such brands as Arktika, Troika and Leningad improved considerably during the recent six months".

Gives me almost as much amusement as those wags who sport Che T-Shirts with the all important addition of this text - 'This T-Shirt brought to you by capitalism'

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'You'd need a heart of stone' dept

This, from Dutch site Nis News:

"UTRECHT, 27/08/09 - Subsidised local festivities to promote the integration of immigrants attract very few immigrants. A study by sociologist Ruben Bino reveals that in Utrecht, immigrants were underrepresented at 95 percent of the festivities.

Bino researched how over 300 local street parties organised by residents in 2008 with subsidies totalling 200,000 euros from Utrecht municipality's 'liveability fund' affected a neighbourhood.

The requests for subsidy came almost exclusively from white residents, usually highly educated... Considering the population composition of the neighbourhood, immigrants were under-represented at 95 percent of these street parties".

Doubtless the city of Utrecht meant well, but this does not come as a huge surprise.


The Vintage Hansard Trawl - featuring a lack of military intelligence, the defence of Bristol and quite a good putdown.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009
An interesting one:


Anyone who has seen the film 'Gandhi' will recall that a certain Indian lawyer was treated none too kindly while out in Natal. Anyway, the text at issue:

Mr. T. HART-DAVIES presented a Petition, signed by 8,500 people of the Residency of Madras, praying the House to take into consideration the condition of the Indian subjects of His Majesty in the Transvaal, and to adopt such measures as may appear necessary to secure the repeal of the Asiatic Law Amendment Act, 1907, and the fair and considerate treatment to which British Indians in the South African Colonies are entitled as British subjects.

A bit of digging reveals some speeches relating to the ALAA 1907 in the Lords in 1908, elements of which are liable to make one's flesh creep. Indians out Randwards were unhappy about being fingerprinted, inter alia, for ID purposes :

Lord Ampthill. (Con)...To us as an Imperial race it cannot but be gratifying that our Indian fellow subjects should have learnt from us and have adopted that which is best in our political methods, that they should have such a high sense of what is due to their individual and their collective dignity, and that, they should so sincerely value that liberty which we in this country consider the birthright of every man...What was that situation? Briefly it was this—200 British Indians were in gaol, thirty had been ordered to leave the Colony, twenty more had been warned, three were in the Chinese goal, and 13,000 of His Majesty's loyal Indian subjects were prepared to sacrifice everything that men hold valuable in life, their personal prospects and worldly possessions, and to face even exile and actual starvation, rather than sacrifice their individual and communal self-respect and submit to a law which they regarded as humiliating and oppressive.
And an interruption to his flow:

"Some noble Lords opposite (and therefore wicked Liberals) are and have been engaged in loud conversation during my remarks. There is a Standing Order of this House which requires that noble Lords who desire to indulge in private conversation should do so in the Princes Chamber. I am sure that I am voicing the wishes of every speaker in this House when I ask your Lordships to insist on the observance of that Standing Order, which is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. I myself have always carefully refrained from interrupting speakers by any loud or protracted conversation, and I think, therefore, I have some little right, the common right of every Member of this House, to ask that I should be treated in the same way.

Earl Roberts....No one who knows the difficulties which the white men have to contend against in South Africa in earning a livelihood can for a moment doubt that the Transvaal Government is justified in making such laws as may be necessary to prohibit the future immigration of Asiatics into that Colony, and also to arrange for the deportation of those who have obtained admission by fraudulent means....I rejoice that the question of registration has been settled, and that henceforth the finger-print system is not to be enforced in the case of Indians of whose respectability there can be no doubt; and I would earnestly express my hope that, in that class, may be included all natives who have had the honour of wearing the King's uniform, and have served loyally and faithfully in the Indian army. It is true...that finger prints are utilised in India in most branches of public business, but the origin of the finger-print system was the detection of criminals. Its use may since then have come into general practice; but the system has a smack of criminality; and I think we can all readily understand that its application, especially in a foreign land and to only one section of the community, must necessarily be felt as a degradation by any self-respecting Indian.

Lord Curzon - ...Now, let me, if I may, follow the Indian on to the wider field of argument. He claims the full rights of citizenship of the British Empire. I do not think it is for us to blame him for that. We have taught it him. We have inspired him with these ideas. They are the result of our speeches, our writings, our textbooks, which he studies in India, our principles of administration and of education. A feeling has been growing up in India in recent years, and it arises from the value which is attached by the educated Indian to the principles of freedom and equality which he has been taught to regard as the birthright of the British citizen. That is a very valuable, and, in my judgment, a very sacred, feeling. I do not think we ought to say anything or do anything to depreciate or to deride it in the smallest degree; because it is, after all, the only basis upon which you can expect the loyalty of an Asiatic population to an alien rule to be permanently developed or maintained. So much for the Indian point of view, in so far as I know it....I do not believe, from a careful study of the evidence, that the English colonist in South Africa or elsewhere is in the least degree inspired by a feeling of racial superiority or class antagonism. He says to himself: "That which has been won by British money and British blood let the British keep."

Anyway, enough of matters South African, and onto the ever diverting issue of warships:

H.M.S. "Invincible" (Electrical Equipment).

Mr. ASHLEY (Con) asked whether the electrical equipment of the "Invincible" has been in any way defective now or recently; if so, in what manner; and whether any of her guns are now or have been at any time recently out of proper action for that or any other reason?

Mr. McKENNA Certain troubles have arisen in connection with portions of the mechanical gear of the gun mountings, but no defects have recently occurred in the electrical gear of the "Invincible" which have placed her guns out of action. Improvements to overcome these troubles are now being made to her mountings, and while they are being carried out, her guns will temporarily be out of action.

Mr. ASHLEY Can the right hon. Gentleman say why an important ship like this, which has only been in commission five or six months, should be in such a state that her guns are out of action?

Mr. McKENNA No, sir.
I blame dodgy shipbuilders on the Tyne meself. The Invincible was sunk by the Derfflinger at Jutland. Good also that the Colonel was concerned about value for money and so forth.

Anyway, here she is:

For a military man, Ashley (a Lt-Colonel) was being a bit dim here:

Mr. ASHLEY asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would take steps to ensure that in the Home fleet reasonable information as to the future movements of the ships should be published, so that officers and men may be enabled to receive letters from their relatives and friends without undue delay?

Mr. McKENNA It is not considered desirable to publish the movements of His Majesty's ships, as suggested.

Meanwhile, some folk want to legislate about everything:

Mr. BOTTOMLEY (Lib 1) asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will favourably consider the introduction into the Shops Bill of a provision dealing with the quality of food supplied to shop assistants and with the system of fines which prevails in most large establishments?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Gladstone) I regret that it would not be possible to deal with questions of fines and of the quality of food in the Shops Bill.
And the issue of defending Bristol:

Mr. ASHLEY asked the Prime Minister, as Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence, whether the recommendations of the Committee which sat in 1905 on the question of the defences of Bristol have been carried out?

Mr. HALDANE Yes, Sir.
Mr. MacNEILL When does he expect an attack on Bristol? Was not the last attack on Bristol by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, when it was repulsed with slaughter?

Turns out the Member for South Dublin was a Unionist (William Hume Long), but beyond that the joke has gone whoosh, as Haldane sat for a Scottish seat. Turns out that the successor seat is now occupied by a certain plank MSP, until recently not well known south of the border.

(1) Bottomley was a noted fraudster and all round bad egg, but when spotted in prison poised with a needle over a mail sack and asked 'Sewing?' had the wit to reply, 'No, reaping'.

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Underestimating the intelligence of the public

From El Pais (not a permalink):

"The Basque regional government on Monday asked for a public boycott of bars, restaurants and other establishments that have put up posters and pictures paying tribute to ETA...The Basque regional government on Monday asked for a public boycott of bars, restaurants and other establishments that have put up posters and pictures paying tribute to ETA".

Applying that line of thought to these parts, I imagine that precious few Irish Republicans frequent bars with UVF regalia, and reprints of the Dublin Declaration probably do not line the walls of pubs favoured by Loyalists.

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The vintage Hansard trawl - featuring surprise butter competition and the vexed issue of prams in Kew Gardens

Monday, August 24, 2009
I am not making this up:

Surprise Butter Competitions (Ireland)

Mr. SHEEHAN (Irish Nat (1)) asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland), how many creameries were sending butter to the surprise competitions in June, 1907, when the central council of the Creamery Managers' Association notified he Department that their members would withdraw from the competitions; and how many creameries have forwarded exhibits this season?

The VICE-PRESIDENT of the DEPARTMENT of AGRICULTURE (IRELAND) (Mr. T. W. Russell) In June, 1907, exhibits for a surprise butter competition were received from 122 creameries. At that time 128 creameries were eligible to participate in the competitions. At the surprise butter competition held in July last, exhibits were received from 73 creameries out of the total of 80 then eligible to compete. In 1907, the competitions were open to all creameries from which applications for registration under the Department's creamery scheme had been lodged. In the present year those creameries only which have been found, on inspection, to satisfy the requirements of Clause 8 of the scheme can take part in the competitions.

I do wonder what might have been buried in the butter that would constitute a surprise. The mind boggles.

Sheehan, it would seem, was suffering from some form of dairy obsession, as there's more:

Rattoo Co-operative Dairy Society

Mr. SHEEHAN asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland) whether, as a result of the refusal of the manager of the Rattoo Cooperative Dairy Society to send butter to the Department's surprise competitions in furtherance of the protest made by the Creamery Managers' Association against the appointment by the Department of an incompetent instructor...

Or rather the Rattoo UnCooperative Dairy Society, perchance.

Mr. T. W. RUSSELL I have already had occasion, in reply to the hon. Member's question of 17th May last, to say that there is no ground for the statement that an incompetent instructor has been appointed by the Department.

And so on.

Having milked that theme dry, on to the crème de la crème of the days proceeedings:

Kew Gardens (Perambulators).

Mr. BRANCH (Lib) asked the hon. Member for South Somerset, as representing the President of the Board of Agriculture, if his attention has been called to the exclusion of children from Kew Gardens who are in perambulators; and will he have this prohibition removed, as it restricts the pleasure of families in visiting these gardens?

Sir E. STRACHEY The adoption of the suggestion made by my hon. Friend would not, I think, be conducive either to the pleasure of the general public or to the utility of the gardens as a scientific institution, especially in view of the very considerable growth of population in the neighbourhood in recent years.

And a grateful nation offered up its thanks to Strachey.

Rather weightier matters:

Mr. HAZLETON asked whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that, in connection with the recent grave rioting at Lurgan, the urban district councillors and other prominent citizens undertook to act as special constables and to use their influence on the side of peace; can he state if their services were availed of and with what result; and whether representatives 1934 of both parties joined in this effort to secure peace and order?

Mr. W. MOORE Before the right hon. Gentleman answers that question, may I ask whether it is not the fact that when the chairman of the urban council carried out the policy in the question he was at once felled to the ground by a bottle thrown from a Nationalist public-house in Portadown?

... And so on...

Mr. JOSEPH DEVLIN Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there was peace both in Portadown and Lurgan until the hon. Member for North Armagh introduced a blackthorn stick and challenged—

And then he snapped

Mr. BIRRELL It is perfectly obvious that I cannot enter into these wretched disputes between two factions, but I hail with joy any proposal made by respectable portions of both communities to put an end to these miserable disturbances.

(1) Sheehan looks to have been an interesting character in that while an Irish Nat, he sought the consent of Northern Prods to an independent Ireland, rather than ignoring them or seeking to compel them. He also served with distinction on the Western Front.

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Politics Home's Lockerbie poll

Those nice people at Politics Home have polled the nation on the Megrahi decision, and here are the headline figures, by party, as to approval or disapproval of his early release:

It is rather encouraging that supoprt or otherwise conforms, roughly to the pattern one would expect, with Tories the least pleased, and LDs the nearest to being gruntled.

Unfortunately there is no published detail on what Scottish, as opposed to UK, voters think about the decision and the impact on Salmond's merry band north of the border.

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The top ten governmental lobbyists in Washington DC

From Propublica.org:

Now, the Sunlight Foundation and ProPublica have taken more than a year’s worth of data filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, and put it in a digital format that can be easily searched and analyzed to discover all the players in the foreign lobbying game.

Under FARA, all lobbyists who represent foreign governments, political parties and government-controlled entities in a “political or quasi-political capacity” must file disclosures. The forms list activities, fees received, political contacts and any campaign contributions

Before looking at the figures, pause and let your inate prejudices go to work (1).

Ready? Here goes:

United Arab Emirates - $10,914,002
United Kingdom - $6,105,200
Japan - $4,231,656
Turkey - $4,185,248
Iraq - $3,708,368
Morocco - $3,337,392
Saudi Arabia - $3,308,285
South Korea - $2,941,004
Netherlands - $2,694,604
Equatorial Guinea - $2,408,168

Further details on which UK entities have been lobbying their Uncle Sam is available here.

These include some $266,000 from the British Council, $104,141.04 from the City of Sunderland and the big one, $4,116,161.26 from the DTI in connection with Invest Northern Ireland. There's also $1,442,315.34 from Scottish Enterprise.

And one speech by an attention seeking Scottish politician later, that's $1,442,315.34 in the hole.

(1) Thinking of a certain country at the eastern end of the Med with a blue and white flag? They spent just under $422,000 in 2008.


As if Bono needed any more encouragement...

From The Irish Times:

"Speaking at the annual commemoration of the death of Michael Collins in Beál na mBláth, Mrs Robinson said the Irish people needed “a vision of ourselves” and “the lack of one lies at the heart of the crises we face”.


To shape a vision of how we hope to develop as a society “we need to listen to everyone who has something to contribute; yes the business sector and the financial experts, but also the social entrepreneurs and innovators, the teachers who educate our children, social workers and activists ... and those who have been marginalised in the past. We should also listen to our creative artists.

As I am so very fond of noting, 'Rock stars Is there anything they don't know?'. Given Robinson's history of modish left wing views, presumably she will not be very interested in the contributions of creative artists with more traditional, let alone religious leanings.

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Vintage Hansard, featuring an important question about chalk and wrongs done the Irish.

Friday, August 21, 2009
A bit of 1909 for you all:

Bayonet Charge, Cappamore

Mr. LUNDON (Irish Nat) (1) asked the Chief Secretary whether, as the result of the bayonet charge which took place at Cappamore (a small town in county Limerick. C) on 6th May last, the district inspector, Mr. M'Carthy, of Newpallas, who ordered the police to charge on this occasion, has been transferred to Newport, county Mayo, which is one of the smallest stations in the West of Ireland; and, if so, will he say whether this punishment on the inspector is due to the orders given on the occasion; and, in view of the conduct of the police authorities in connection with this matter, will the Government compensate the four men who were injured on the occasion?

Mr. BIRRELL District-Inspector McCarthy was transferred because the Inspector-General considered it desirable in 1923W the public interests to move him to another district. Newport, to which he has been transferred, is considerably larger than New Pallas, and the district attached to it is also larger than the New Pallas district. The men who were wounded on the occasion in question were members of a disorderly crowd. If they consider themselves entitled to compensation it is open to them to assert their claims in a court of law.

That I am a Unionist is a matter of record, but one can hardly wonder at the unhappiness of the Plain People of Ireland at British rule if a 'disorderly crowd' might receive a bayonet charge.

A masterclass in avoiding addressing a question

Mr. ASHLEY asked whether the free conveyance of an officer's wife and family when he is sent away on duty is still confined to conveyance by sea, or whether this privilege has been extended to moves made by land?

Mr. FULLER The reply to the first part of the question is in the affirmative, and to the second part in the negative.

Mr. ASHLEY Will the hon. Gentleman say why when it is right to pay the carriage of the conveyance of an officer's wife and family by sea it is not so by land?

Mr. FULLER I am informed that it has always been the custom to pay for the conveyance by sea and that the War Office have no intention of making any change in the matter.

Mr. ASHLEY Will the War Office receive representations on the subject?

Mr. FULLER I really have nothing to add.
And there ends that exchange.

MPs having tired of ragging the Chancellor over what would or would not constitute a building, a new front is opened up:


Sir GILBERT PARKER asked whether chalk would be considered a mineral within the meaning of the Finance Act, and therefore subject to taxation?

Mr. FULLER I must refer the hon. Member to the reply which was given by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on 21st June last to the hon. Member for North-West. Manchester.

There is nothing up for 21/6/9, so the minerality or otherwise of chalk remains unsettled.

A topic dear to many of us:


Mr. PATRICK WHITE asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many hours per week, including Sunday, licensed houses are open for sale of intoxicating drink in London and Dublin, respectively;

Mr Fuller The number of hours during which licensed premises may by law be open during a week including Sunday are, in London, 123½ hours, and in Dublin, 98 hours.

The sheer unfairness, not to say out and out savagery, of that beggars belief.

More of the same later, maybe.

(1) - Lundon got into a slanging match with another Irish Nat - different faction - a few years later, this tale making the New York Times. Lundon called William O'Brien a descendant of 'the most blackguardly informer that ever appeared in Ireland'. O'Brien then shouted back 'you are an infamous liar and scoundrel!'. The two had to be held apart. Not exactly Swiftian or Wildean levels of wit.

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Yet another obligatory Lockerbie post

Briefly, either al-Megrahi is guilty, in which case he should have been left to rot, or his appeal should have been expedited a long time ago.

There is plenty of information knocking around that suggests that there may have been a miscarriage of justice, and as this still does not seem to be especially common knowledge in these parts, here's something I found in Le Figaro a while back:

I cannot see any reference in the English language media to this bombshell in Le Figaro, so here is a minor filetting of the article:

Swiss engineer Ulrich Lumpert has admitted lying in his testimony made to the court in the trial of Abdelbasset al-Megrahi, currently in the Glasgow big house for involvement in the bomb that detonated on PanAm 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. He has added a claim that he stole a timer from his employer, Swiss company Mebo and to have then given it a Scottish police officer involved in the investigation. Translating directly from Le Figaro, "This assertion accredits a thesis maintained by many people - journalists, lawyers and even parents of victims: there had been a "manipulation" in the investigation to incriminate Libya, whereas the first suspicions pointed out to a pro-Syrian Palestinian faction".

Mebo had sold timers to Libya in the past, but has always maintained that the timer in question had not been sold by it to the Libyans.

I recall there being much shaking of heads over the suspicion of Syrian involvement being ruled out at the time - when they were seen as being on our side during Gulf War I - and without claiming to have studied the whole affair to any great depth felt that something was not entirely right in the apparently over-neat fingering of Libya to the exclusion of Damascus and its various cat's paws.

Meanwhile, al-Megrahi was granted leave to appeal in June, although that was prior to this business with the timer....


They do things differently in...

Brazil, and more particularly in Sao Paulo. As I discover from the Romanian Times, of all things, Sao Paulo's metro is installing extra large, and extra strong seats for the benefit of local salad dodgers.

What is more, these are marked out as priority seats for the oversized, complete with a 'fatty' logo. And as such, the seats are being shunned by doubtless shamefaced people of size.

I would be quite happy for transport operators, and particularly airlines to charge based on total weight including luggage, especially if it means I never again suffer being wedged between two he doughnut enthusiasts for the duration of a flight.

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Privatising war, re-visited

Thursday, August 20, 2009
That Langley made use of Blackwater's Finest in its pursuit of Al Qaeda has given me an excuse to go rooting around in the archives for something pertinent. Plus I am suffering from blogger's block, and have enacted a self-denying ordinance that digging around in the Hansard Klondike is for the afternoon. So, from just under two year ago, The Privatisation of War:

That's what the UN thinks might be happening, and it does not like it at all with Jose Del Prado, Chairman of the working group on the use of mercenaries, putting it thus:

"Since the Working Group’s first report, it had called the Assembly’s attention to the impunity with which the military and private security companies operated, which violated human rights. In zones of armed or post-conflict, the outsourcing of military functions and the supplying of military and security services by transnational companies would lead to the privatization of war. The monopoly on the use of force by the State had been at the basis of national sovereignty for centuries".

As a sidebar, it notes the following, "The visits to various countries had allowed the Working Group to study the emerging manifestations and trends among mercenaries. Those indicated bad working conditions for the mercenaries, including working excess hours, mistreatment and isolation". Erm, I would not have expected a unionised workforce with coffee breaks and so forth, frankly.

Anyway, I would think that full-scale privatisation of warfare would end up with there being rather less of it, and it being a good deal less expensive in terms of life, limb and money, and the experience of the last period of private warfare - 15th century Italy - would seem to bear this out:

"...the rich burghers and merchants of medieval Italy were too busy making money and enjoying life to undertake the hardships and dangers of soldiering themselves. So they adopted the practice of hiring mercenaries to do their fighting for them, and, being thrifty, businesslike folk, they dismissed these mercenaries immediately after their services could be dispensed with. Wars were, therefore, fought by armies hired for each campaign. . . . For the first time, soldiering became a reasonable and comparatively harmless profession. The generals of that period manoeuvred against each other, often with consummate skill, but when one had won the advantage, his opponent generally either retreated or surrendered. It was a recognised rule that a town could only be sacked if it offered resistance. Immunity could always he purchased by paying a ransom.... As one natural consequence, no town ever resisted, it being obvious that a government too weak to defend its citizens had forfeited their allegiance. Civilians had little to fear from the dangers of war which were the concern only of professional soldiers." Veale, quoted by Rothbard in 'The Anatomy of the State'.

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Defining a 'building' - hours of fun for bored MPs

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
As will be seen:

Mr. HAROLD COX (apparently just about the last classic Liberal in the Libs) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he proposes to insert in the Finance Bill any definition of the word "building," and which of the following structures constitutes a building for the purposes of Clause 10 of the Bill—a weaving-shed, a cow-shed, a greenhouse, a carpenter's-shed, a smithy, and a creamery?

Mr. HOBHOUSE The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. As regards the second part, I may point out that the question as to what is a "building" must always be a matter of degree and circumstances.

Mr. HAROLD COX Can the right hon. Gentleman state what is primarily regarded as a "building"?

Mr. HOBHOUSE No, I do not think that is possible.

Mr. W. W. ASHLEY (Con) If the Bill becomes law can the right hon. Gentleman say who will decide what will be the definition of what these buildings are?

Mr. HOBHOUSE That will depend upon the exercise of a certain amount of common-sense.

Mr. ASHLEY Will the right hon. Gentleman give us some of his common-sense now?

And at this stage Hobhouse is on the rack, so it would be remiss not to turn the wheel another notch or two:
Mr. WILLIAM THORNE (Lab) May I ask whether a monkey house will come under the definition?

Mr. WILLIAM CROOKS (Lab) Or a pigstye?

And that, alas, terminated the exchanges.

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Hansard 1909, featuring old horses, policing in Zanzibar and a no-nonsense Speaker.

The Zanzibari Inspectorate had high standards:

Sir GILBERT PARKER asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Inspector Maneckji is at the present time employed in the police department of Zanzibar; whether he was at any time suspended from duty; at what date this occurred; what were the charges against him; and what were the reasons for reinstatement?


Inspector Maneckji and a sub-inspector were suspended from their duties a few months ago on a charge being made that evidence had been obtained from prisoners by ill-treatment and pressure. They were both tried before a judge...Inspector Maneckji was acquitted and returned to his duties. But as the occurrence of anything of the kind on the part of his subordinate gave some presumption of lax administration, it was decided that he should retire on the expiry of the next term of leave due to him, which will be within this year.

Post offices open *after* 8 PM. I'd be happy with 6PM..:

Mr. REES asked the Postmaster-General whether arrangements can be made to close post offices in country towns during August and September at 8 p.m., in order to allow employés, and more particularly lady employés, an opportunity for relaxation during the hot and holiday season?

He's a sexist pig, that Rees. Nice use of the é acute in employés too.

The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Sydney Buxton) I am anxious to restrict the hours of attendance for Post Office servants so far as circumstances permit, but each case must be considered on its merits. I am sorry to say that my efforts in this direction have not always met with support from the local authorities consulted.
And minister are being nagged about nags again:

Sir GILBERT PARKER asked the hon. Member for South Somerset whether he could give an approximate estimate of the number of old horses exported from this country; and would the Government consider the usefulness and advantage of putting on an export tax apart from the amount of return from such a tax to the Treasury?

Sir E. STRACHEY No statistics are available which enable exported horses to be classified according to age. I assume that the object of the hon. Member's proposal—with which I may say I am in hearty agreement—is to prevent the exportation of horses, which by reason of their age cannot be conveyed without cruelty. The Board believe that this object can be attained much more satisfactorily by means of the strict enforcement of the Exportation of Horses Order than by the imposition of an Export Duty.

Meanwhile, 'Eastern Europeans comin' over 'ere taking our jobs'. (As it were)

Mr. CURRAN asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that three Russian mechanics are at present employed on the turbines of H.M.S. "Collingwood" at the works of Messrs. Hawthorn Leslie and Company, Hebburn-on-Tyne, at a weekly rate of 25s.; whether he is aware that this is much below the rate of wages for the district; and whether he will take steps to secure the observation of the Fair Wage Clause?

Get the feeling someone snitched out the Russians to Curran?
The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. McKenna) the Admiralty have no other information on the subject than that contained in the hon. Gentleman's question, but inquiries are being addressed to the firm.

Hardly surprising, all things considered. Not that Curran will give up.

Mr. CURRAN When inquiries are being made I should like the right hon. Gentleman to be aware that 37s. per week is the standard rate on the North-East Coast, and that there is 12s. difference.

Mr. SPEAKER The hon. Member is not asking a question at all.

Now I would that the shade of Lowther - for it is he - would return to the Commons and deal with the non-questions, the non-answers etc etc.

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Hansard 1909 - featuring the menace of automobile road scouts, polar expeditions and the creosotability of cut larch

Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Unlike the current lot, the MPs of 1909 were still busy legislating and so forth.

There were some major issues to consider:

Naval Depots (Officers' Mess Subscriptions).

Mr. COURTHOPE (Con) asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will take steps to alter the regulations now in force at naval depots whereby an officer, when appointed to a depot for work unconnected with that depot, is compelled to pay a subscription of over £1 per month and his savings to the extent of 10d. per day to the officers' mess of the depot, whether he uses the mess or not?

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. McKenna) The maintenance of a depot ship's ward room mess, which is for the benefit of the officers as a whole, would not be practicable unless all the officers borne on the books of the depot are required to subscribe; and it is therefore not proposed to make any change in the existing system.

Mr. COURTHOPE Will the right hon. Gentleman consider if some relaxation cannot be made in the case of engineer officers?

Mr. McKENNA I will inquire into that point. But there is difficulty, I understand, in relaxing the rule.


Courthorpe would appear to be the bane of ministerial lives:

Mr. COURTHOPE asked the Postmaster-General whether larch is a timber which will take creosote; and what are the respective cost and average length of life of telegraph poles of uncreosoted English larch and of creosoted foreign pine?

And with the answer, a fretting nation exhales a deep sigh of relief:

The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Sydney Buxton) Larch will absorb creosote, but not nearly so well as red fir. The Post Office has but slight experience of uncreosoted English larch, but the life of poles made thereof is thought to be about seven to ten years. The life of creosoted red fir poles is very much longer. If the cost of uncreosoted larch be taken as 100, the cost of creosoted larch is 134, of uncreosoted red fir 77, and of creosoted red fir.

Ah, they don't ask 'em like that any more.

Something else to keep the nation from slumber:

Mr. REMNANT asked the Home Secretary if his attention has been called to the increased number of persons employed by the automobile associations as road patrols between 1st July, 1907, and 1st July, 1909; and what steps does he propose to take, by legislation or otherwise, to preserve the control of the roads in the hands of the police?

Mr. GLADSTONE The Commissioner of Police reports that, as regards the-Metropolitan area, there is no noticeable-increase in the number of scouts employed. There can be no doubt that the scouts hamper the police in carrying out the duties which Parliament has imposed on them, and, if the evil continues, it may become necessary for Parliament to intervene for their protection.

Can anyone shed any light on this?

Not a sparrow falls but Colonel Seely spots it:

Mr. SUMMERBELL asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies if he can state whether there were any deaths in Chaguanas, Trinidad, in the year 1908, due to privation; and, if so, the names of such persons so dying?

Colonel SEELY All the evidence before the Secretary of State goes to show that no case of death from privation occurred among residents or labourers in the district during the year 1908, and that such deaths are almost unknown in the Colony, as the necessaries of life are very cheap, and there is an efficient system of relief for those who are found to be actually destitute. The district medical officer of Chaguanas has found the record of one death in 1908 which might be attributed to privation. It is that of a free Indian named Biharri. He was a vagrant from some other district, and died suddenly while begging at a house in Longdenville.

One wonders whether Biharri was offered something particularly good as the result of his begging and the shock killed him.

Elsewhere, Gladstone fils emerges as a stern character

Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention had been drawn to the case of a car conductor who had been sentenced by the Cardiff stipendiary to six weeks' hard labour for stealing a penny fare; whether he was aware that, if guilty, it was the man's first offence; and whether he would favourably consider taking action to secure a mitigation of the sentence?

Mr. GLADSTONE I am still making inquiries with regard to this case, which presents difficulties of which I have not yet obtained any satisfactory explanation. If the prisoner was actually guilty I do not think it can be said that the punishment was necessarily excessive merely because the sum stolen was a penny. In such a case all the circumstances have to be considered, and not the mere amount which is the subject of the charge.
No soppiness from Asquith either:

Mr. ASHLEY asked the Prime Minister if he can now state if it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to aid Lieutenant Shackleton in meeting the cost of his recent South Pole expedition?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith) The matter is still under consideration.

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Gross national income - could you define that standing on your head?

Quite possibly not.

Anyway, here's a definition from the UN:

"Gross national income (GNI) is GDP less net taxes on production and imports, less compensation of employees and property income payable to the rest of the world plus the corresponding items receivable from the rest of the world (in other words, GDP less primary incomes payable to non-resident units plus primary incomes receivable from non-resident units). An alternative approach to measuring GNI at market prices is as the aggregate value of the balances of gross primary incomes for all sectors".

I offer up that definition and raise the question of awareness, as Eurobarometer has been polling we British types as to our opinions of the EU, and one of the questions was this:

"How much percent of the UK's gross national income do you think goes towards the EU budget?" (Horrible use of language there, not that that concerns us right now).

Some 48% of those polled were honest enough to admit that they did not know, while the remaining 52% had a stab at answering a question. What we should have been stumbling towards is the following - 'In 2007, the UK’s contribution to the EU budget was slightly over 0.5% of the UK’s Gross National Income (GNI)'.

What Eurobaromer got was this: "Only 6% of respondents estimated the UK’s contribution at below 3%, and only 25 of the 1,000 interviewees put this figure in the 0-1% range. The anticipated average proportion of the UK’s national income transferred to the EU was a stunning 23%; this shows that the average citizen does not seem to understand such figures".

Well just fancy that.

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The obligatory healthcare post

Saturday, August 15, 2009
Unlike, I imagine, most of the people participating in the healthcare debate, I have sharp end experience of another system - my father died in a French hospital, and both of my sons were born in a French hospital.

What stands out the most clearly in both instances is that the comfort and so forth of the patient was absolutely uppermost in the consideration of the system, rather than the patient having to adapt to whatever suited the system. My father died of cancer of the lymphatic system a little over ten years ago and spent the last few months of his life in a clinic, undergoing chemotherapy and resting up in a private room with its own bathroom. This, I should add is par for the course for the French system, which is insurance based. My mother got to visit him daily, and to stay in the room for as long as she wished. No 'visiting hours' as such, as there was no risk of my mother inconveniencing other patients, or having other patients' visitors inconveniencing her.

The mother of my children had initial scans and so forth at an NHS hospital in London, but being French preferred to give birth nearer her family. Not unreasonable, one might think. Being a sensitive new man type, and also having the advantage of being a freelancer, I attended the scans, but also went along to a couple of month's worth of NCT ante-natal classes. The NCT woman I would describe as Guardian Woman Incarnate and hardly some dangerous Friedmanite radical, but something that particularly sticks in the mind was her suggestion that her charges should take cleaning materials with them in their overnight bags as all too often the baths at the hospital would be filthy. I am not making this up. When the graduating class was held after the various happy events, every single mother - bar one - had a horror story. Admittedly the women concerned were middle class thirty somethings, more likely to complain the most, and less likely to come up against the public sector than most.

The exception was the mother of my children. #1 son was born in a specialist maternity unit in St Brieuc just under ten years ago although that nearly did not happen. At one of the later scans, a smirking doctor in Tooting relished declaring 'well, maybe we won't let you go to France' when there was the suggestion that there might be complications of sorts. As it turned out there were no complications, but it was made remarkably clear who was the petitioner and who was the petitioned. Fast forward a month, and she was given a tour of the facilities in St Brieuc, a consultation with the anaesthetist etc and a fairly straightforward delivery followed. I was present for the entirety of the time that the mother wanted me to be. After the birth she was given a private room with, apart from its own bathroom, a reclining chair for me to crash out on overnight. The ethos of the unit was that whatever could be done to make the delivery and the aftermath easier and more pleasant for the mother would be central to the process. She stayed in the unit for a couple of days, but was told that she could stay for as long as she liked, as the unit also did research on the post natal condition and so on.

Perhaps the best way of evaluating a maternity healthcare system is the infant mortality rate. In France it is 4.2 per thousand births, here it is 4.8. Given that the extreme is Sierra Leone's 1 in 6, the marginal difference between the UK and France is extremely small.

Bringing it all back home, where I think that the French system has the edge over our own is that is more focused on the patient, rather than the producer. As a middle aged man I do my level best to avoid any dealings with the medical business, and doubtless will die a premature death because of it. However, when dealing with a doctor, as with dealing with a lawyer, a dentist or an optician, or any other tradesman, I am looking to do mutually advantageous business with them - I do not want them to love me, and I am not going to love them.

The Sage of Kirkcaldy interfaced the hammer and the nail to good effect:

"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages".

Because public healthcare in the UK operates as 'free at the point of demand', I never get to control where my money goes, and the sawbones cares not one jot whether he or she has my business, and indeed why should they? It makes little difference to their bottom line, as most of us will put up with grubby waiting rooms, receptionists who behave like the mutant spawn of Cerberus and so forth, if we have had the fortune to find a local quack with open books. At the other end of the scale, a resource free at point of demand is always open to abuse / misuse. As I was once told by a doctor, if you fancy your chances of turning up at a surgery to see a quack on spec, go when it is raining - as a sizeable proportion of patients with appointments simply will not turn up


Deep excavations in the Hansard mine - 1809

Friday, August 14, 2009
I have been saving this one for a rainy day, and although it is quite sunny in these parts, it is metaphorically engulfed..

So, Prime Minister Lord Liverpool speaks on Mr. Curwen's Reform Bill, 15/6/1809:

"I shall, in the first place, pronounce what the bill is not. This measure does not in the least partake of the nature of what has been denominated Parliamentary Reform. It does not interfere with, or profess to disturb, parliamentary representation. There is no person in this country, who has turned his attention to that species of reform, who has more than myself considered the dangerous consequences of such a system, if carried into effect. From long, deliberate and mature consideration, I am convinced that the disfranchisement of the smallest borough, would lead to consequences of a most pernicious nature, and would eventually destroy the constitution".

This note, was the pre 1832 reform Parliament which rejoiced in the delights of Old Sarum, Dunwich etc (qv).

"sorry should I be to see that system altered—sorry should I be to see the representation of this country so changed, that the whole of our elections should be similar to those of Middlesex and Westminster. Look, my lords, to those elections, and you will perceive the evil of such a representation! Every noble lord who now hears me has had an opportunity there of observing how perjury, subornation of perjury, and all the vices which are consequent thereon, abound on those occasions, and tend to degrade and disgrace the community".


The introduction of this measure is founded upon the existence of certain abuses. It has been acknowledged, that a practice has long existed, whereby seats in parliament have been sold and purchased...such a practice is not punishable at common law. But supposing it be doubtful whether the buying and selling of seats in parliament is or is not an offence punishable by common law, yet, my lords, I cannot hesitate a moment to assert, that, according to all analogy of law, and according to the true principles of the constitution, it is an offence which ought to be punished.

And yet:

The Earl of Carysfort in very strong and forcible terms, expressed his opposition to the bill.

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Meanwhile, in old Pyongyang....

Some nuggets for the delectation of fans of all things DPRK:

"Unique platforms under umbrellas are being set up in traffic control posts at intersections of Pyongyang these days, attracting attention of people...The umbrella shields the traffic controllers from sunrays and rain and the platform shuts out heat from the heated asphalt...Passers-by stop walking for a while to see the new scene. They say it can be seen only in the country led by Kim Jong Il".

Indeed. Many cities prefer the use of traffic lights and or roundabouts these days.

Being a traffic controller in the DPRK has some pretty nifty fringe-benefits:

"The traffic controllers are moved by the warm affection shown for them by General Secretary Kim Jong Il who saw to it that the platforms with umbrellas are being set up this time after raincoats, rain boots, sunglasses, gloves and cosmetics as well as seasonal uniforms were provided to them".

It is only fair to point out that the TCs are all female, apparently.

Meanwhile, the General Secretary has been exposing himself to the arts again:

"General Secretary Kim Jong Il, together with servicepersons enjoyed art performances given by the art group of servicemen's families and servicepersons of a company under a sub-unit of KPA Unit 974....It is of weighty significance in enhancing the combat power of the unit and establishing the revolutionary and militant way of life to conduct vigorous mass cultural and art activities among the servicepersons and servicemen's families, he said, advancing the important tasks that would serve as guidelines in intensifying the mass art activities".

Doubtless if service spouses in these parts engaged in a bit of mass art, our troubles East of Suez would be over very quickly.

KJI loved his dad, by the look of it:

"The Workers' Party of Korea Publishing House brought out Vol. 1 (enlarged edition) of "Selected Works of Kim Jong Il" which comprehensively deals with works of General Secretary Kim Jong Il.....Among them are works "Our Leader Is the Great Statesman" and "The Leader of Working Class Plays a Decisive Role in the Revolutionary Struggle".


The country where the Socialists are even less popular than in these parts

Is Germany. The SPD, the party of Brandt and Schmidt, inter alia, is currently nestling at a derisory 22% in a German opinion poll: "the worst result ever for the party". It managed 34% in the 2005 elections, and is in an unwieldy coalition with the CDU?CSU at present. Our own dear Labour party has managed anywhere between 23% and 27% in the last swathe of polls.

Given that Germany votes in September, it is looking rather good for Angela Merkel, as her CDU/CSU is polling 37%, and if allied with the splendidly sound FDP would ratchet up 52%. Out at the extreme, the Greens are polling 12% and the Left Party 9%.

Meanwhile on the othe side of the Rhine
, Sarko appears to be on the verge of snaring De Villiers and his eurosceptic MPF party for his presidential coalition, which along with the CNPT scalp means that he now has the entirety of the respectable French right in his corner. Annihilation awaits Martine Aubry or whoever come 2012, by the look of things, given that the French left's alphabet soup seems intent on thickening itself by the day.

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Where to find ideological confreres Stateside.

Gallup has been kind enough to poll Americans, state by state, as to whether they deem themselves conservative, moderate or liberal.

Alabama and Mississippi emerge as the most 'conservative', with 49% and 48% identification respectively. At the other end of the scale, DC is the most 'liberal' at 37%, followed by Massachusetts and Vermont (surprise, surprise) at 29% and 28%. Rhode Island and Hawaii would appear to be the least ideological with 43% of each reckoning themselves moderate.

The figures mapped look like this:

By American terms, my politics are rather confused, in that I would fail on any number of 'conservative' shibboleths - abortion for starters - so perhaps that is why, broadly, I would rather visit the 'liberal' states rather than the 'consevative' ones. Apart from Hawaii, which because of its climate is one of my ideas of Hell.

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Is this the end of the Huntin', Shootin' and Fishin' Party?

Thursday, August 13, 2009
In news that will bring sorrow to many, the leader of Chasse Pêche Nature Traditions, Frédéric Nihous, is in discussion with Sarko's lot about folding itself into the Gaullist UMP:

"CPNT is ready to become a partner of the UMP on the basis of a win / win deal. We will not be going to Canossa".

Current sticking points include the opening date for the waterfowl season and forestry in the south west. A rather more interesting set of ideological problems than those posed by most party mergers.

Given that CNPT aimed to serve chasseurs of left and right, I am hoping that there will be a split and a continuity CNPT of a reddish hue will arise.


If Lloyds HBOS gave money to Labour

It might end up with a few broken windows, and certainly the loss of some business (1).

However, the Finns do things differently, as only now has the issue of donations to political parties by state-controlled companies become a live issue in those parts:

"Finland’s political parties would lose an important source of income if companies in which the state has a majority shareholding were banned from contributing to political parties. Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) said on Tuesday that he feels that it is not appropriate for such companies to take part in financing political activities".

The sums involved are verging on the pitiful: "The [Centre] party says that it has received about EUR 20,000 from companies with a majority state holding between 2006 and 2009...Coming in second is the Social Democratic Party, which has received more than EUR 20,000 from state-owned companies, including both contributions to the party in general and for individual SDP candidates".

It turns out that the funding is mainly from companies buying tickets to seminars, but even so.

(1) I continue my one-man boycott of the Co-Op in all its forms, and occasionally get the opportunity to aver to some greenhorn, 'If you shop there, you may as well just fork over money to the Labour party right now.'

My Ma, otherwise thoroughly sound, would sometimes have to make use of a Co-Op in the nearest town, it being the only supermarket in those parts. So far so not very interesting, but she would then decant the marmalade or whatever in order to disguise her dealings from my father. This would have been to avoid a lecture, rather than anything worse, I hasten to add.

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The vintage Hansard Trawl, featuring the menace of park bands, confused deserters and turbulent Tristanians

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Out of the frying pan and into the fire:

COLONEL DUNNE said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the practice of orders being sent from the War Department to Officers commanding Militia Regiments to release deserters from their corps who have enlisted into the Line; and to ask the Secretary of State for War if such a practice is not contrary to the Articles of War?

MR. SIDNEY HERBERT said, there could be no doubt that, whether politic or impolitic, the practice was strictly legal; because it was laid down in the Mutiny Act that a deserter from the Militia who enlisted in the Line was to be received, but that his time in the army was not to count till the time for which he had enlisted in the Militia was expired.

Am I baffled by the idea that anyone would desert the equivalent of the TA and then want to go on active service. Very rum indeed.

And slapdown o' the day:

COLONEL DUNNE But how does the right hon. Gentleman get over the perjury of these men?

MR. SIDNEY HERBERT I don't get over it at all. The question is how the law gets over it.


Disgruntled sabbatarians:

MR. EDWIN JAMES (Lib) said, he wished to ask the First Commissioner of Works what reply, if any, he gave to a Deputation of the Lord's Day Society, which attended him upon the subject of preventing the performance of Bands in the Parks on Sundays?

Mr Fitzroy ....he fully agreed with them as to the right of every man to the enjoyment of one day of rest in the week, and that he would be most unwilling to be a party to anything that would affect that right; but at the same time he stated that the performers who composed the band were free agents, and undertook the duty voluntarily; that according to the showing of the deputation, vast numbers of persons frequented the parks to enjoy the music; that the privilege had been continued for several years; that no complaints of riot or improper conduct had been made with respect to the parties frequenting the parks: and that he would not feel justified in abolishing the existing practice, which had been so long continued without leading to any inconvenience.

Sounds like a sensible chap, this Fitzroy character


MR. CAMPBELL moved the following Resolutions: — That this House feels bound, before the Session closes, to express the deep respect it entertains for the firm and honourable manner in which the Government of Portugal has acted on its Treaties with Great Britain, in restraining Negro exportation from the Eastern Coast of Africa in 1857 and 1858. That this House fully recognizes the zeal with which the Emperor of the French has resolved to check the Slave Trade in all its forms through his dominions.

Mr Buxton ....He knew that the Portuguese themselves were anxious that there should be some such expression of opinion on the part of the British Parliament as that now proposed, which would have the effect of placing them in a better position with respect to their efforts to suppress the slave trade than they were in at present.

I very much doubt whether Lisbon would care a fig for any resolutions the Commons might pass these days. Ah well.

Moving swiftly on, 1909.

Tristan da Cunha

Major ANSTRUTHER-GRAY asked the Under-Secretary if he can state what is the latest news he has received from Tristan da Cunha as to the condition of the inhabitants; whether it is his intention to appoint a magistrate there; and whether any arrangement can be made for periodical visits of ships to the island?

Colonel SEELY Information has been received up to April last, from which it appears that the health of the islanders had not been very good and the attempts to open up trade with the Cape had not so far been successful. Some trouble has been caused by certain turbulent persons on the island, and the appointment of a magistrate is under consideration. Further attempts are being made to open up trade, and, if successful, a vessel will no doubt be able to visit the island at more or less regular intervals.

Storing up trouble for further down the 'pike

Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD asked the Under-Secretary for the Colonies what meaning the Government attaches to the words of European descent used in the South Africa Bill [Lords]; whether the meaning of the words was discussed with the official representatives from South Africa, and with what results?

Colonel SEELY The term European descent has been used in various Acts of Parliament passed by the Legislatures of the South African States and in official documents used in this' country. There was a judicial decision in the Transvaal in 1905 as to the interpretation of the word "white" which was regarded as substantially identical with the term of "European descent," and administrative decisions have been given in this country, but it is not possible to state in precise terms what exact meaning will be attached to the words in the Bill.

Mr. W. P. BYLES Is a person with only one European parent entitled to claim to be of European descent?

Colonel SEELY Everybody has two parents. This question is one of great difficulty, and I cannot say what the decision would be in such a case. It is not clear, from cases already decided, how many parents are required to establish the qualification for European descent.

I believe such folk ended up being termed 'coloured'..

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If you really hate your children....

..make haste to Geneva for Sunday 6th September, as the WTO has an open day, and,

"Throughout the day, children will be able to participate in face painting workshops, enter a drawing contest where the challenge will be to “Draw me globalization” and/or “Draw me the WTO”, and there will be the chance to play in an inflatable castle (outdoors in the park)".

The mind boggles. And I thought that the obligatory visit to a reservoir every family summer holiday - yes, really - was as bad as it got.

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The vintage Hansard trawl - featuring

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
First things first, the state of the Serpentine:

SIR JOSEPH PAXTON (Lib, and he of the Crystal Palace) said, he would beg to ask the First Commissioner of Works if it is still his intention to proceed with the Works as proposed by Mr. Hawksley for partially cleansing the water in the Serpentine.

And came the reply:

MR. FITZROY replied, that it was his intention to proceed with the works proposed by Mr. Hawksley, not as stated by his hon. Friend for the purpose of partially cleansing, but of totally and effectually cleansing, the water in the Serpentine. He thought that great misapprehension prevailed upon this subject. Two questions, which were quite independent of one another, had been mixed up in this discussion: the first relating to the mud at the bottom of the river, and the second with respect to the water itself....He believed that if the plan he proposed were successful perfect purity and limpidity would be secured in the water of the Serpentine, and that the mud, having lost its organic power, would no longer evolve any noxious gases, but would cease to be a source of ill-health or annoyance to the inhabitants and frequenters of the neighbourhood. It was therefore with the water of the Serpentine, not with the mud, that he proposed to deal.

Mr Stephenson (Con, and yes, that one):
...He had been in the habit of visiting the place for many years, and had watched closely its want of purification. He had held the office of Commissioner of Sewers, and had devoted his attention a good deal to the means of excluding from the Serpentine the sewage of Bays water, which formerly fell into it to a large extent, and the exclusion of that sewage had undoubtedly, to a proportionate extent, led to the purification of the riverHe had been in the habit of visiting the place for many years, and had watched closely its want of purification. He had held the office of Commissioner of Sewers, and had devoted his attention a good deal to the means of excluding from the Serpentine the sewage of Bays water, which formerly fell into it to a large extent, and the exclusion of that sewage had undoubtedly, to a proportionate extent, led to the purification of the river...He was in the habit of driving past it twice a day, and rode there occasionally for some hours, but he had never found, for the last three or four years, anything so offensive to his olfactory nerves as to lead him to coincide in the outcry that was recently raised. He believed that outcry was entirely unfounded, because, whatever the state of the Serpentine might have been, it was not now, to the best of his judgment, in an offensive condition".

And so on. Two of our greatest engineers in one debate. I doubt that there any engineers in the Commons these days, let alone towering geniuses like those two.


MR. VINCENT SCULLY said, that the feelings of the women ought to be consulted in this matter as well as those of the men. He did not believe the Divorce Court was in conformity with the wishes of the women of England, and he thought the House ought to retrace their steps and abolish the system altogether.

Nice of him to speak on their behalf, eh?

The Attorney General said....He regretted to say that the court was a place of resort—according to the accounts that were given to him—of characters of the worst description. Crowds congregated there for the purpose of hearing details which could only give gratification to depraved and diseased minds...One might well imagine a lady of sensitive feelings, and under the distressing necessity of seeking the redress of her grievous wrongs, shrinking from having recourse to a tribunal where she would have to relate the story of her husband's cruelty in the presence of a jeering, laughing, and prurient mob, eager to catch at every indecent particular.

MR. BOWYER said, he was one of those who strongly opposed the Divorce Bill, on the ground that it would be most injurious to the morality of the country. Now, after it had been in operation a short time, the Attorney General was obliged to come forward, in the name of the Government, and propose the introduction of an entirely new principle in the English law, namely, enabling a Judge to shut up his court and proceed secretly. The fact was that the proceedings in the Divorce Court had become so scandalous, and were so injurious to the public morality, that the hon. and learned Gentleman felt bound to introduce this clause
Speeding forward 50 years, dreadnoughts:

Mr. MIDDLEMORE asked how many of the four additional battleships to be laid down on 1st April next were to be built in the Royal Dockyards, and how many by private contractors?

Mr. McKENNA The four ships will be contract built.

Marvellous stuff.

The 1909 equivalent of Rosindell had St Helena in his sights

Major ANSTRUTHER-GRAY asked whether the present condition of the inhabitants of St. Helena was satisfactory, or whether they were still suffering from the effects of unemployment and stagnation of trade?

Colonel SEELY The situation in St. Helena has not materially altered since I replied to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's inquiry in May last, except that the Governor has now reported that he hopes that it will not be necessary for the Government mill to close down, at any rate until the end of the year, as a large supply of mature leaves has been obtained from a farmer who was not satisfied with the results obtained from his own mill.

Given that a hurricane could have levelled St Helena weeks before without the government knowing, I think Seely was being a bit glib. Wish I knew which were the leaves of which he spoke.

All hail the smokers' friend:

Sir FREDERICK BANBURY asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the fact that the usual monthly permission was given last April to remove tobacco from the Victoria Docks after 4 p.m., he will charge duty at the old rate on tobacco which would have been removed in the ordinary course of business after 4 p.m. on 29th April last?

Mr. HOBHOUSE My right hon. Friend regrets that he cannot see his way to accede to the hon. Baronet's request.

And an one:

Mr. MADDISON (Lab) asked the President of the Board of Trade how many pianofortes and reed and pipe organs were manufactured in the United Kingdom in 1907 and 1908, respectively, giving separately those made in London and the provinces. How many...were exported in 1907 and 1908, respectively, giving the countries to which they were sent and the value declared for Customs purposes; how many were imported...how many were re-exported
Mr. TENNANT There are no official records of the number of pianos and reed and pipe organs manufactured in the United Kingdom. These articles are included in the official accounts of imports and exports under the heads of "Pianos" and "Organs and Harmoniums" respectively, and particulars of numbers and values imported and exported under each of these heads are given in the "Annual Statement of the Trade of the United Kingdom." I am sending to the hon. Member a statement giving the fullest available details.

Not sure what I can add to that, so I will not add anything.

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