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Your handy guide to the popularity of the Labour leadership contenders

Monday, May 31, 2010
Data taken from here.

So that's 102 MPs playing hard to get, including Harman, Straw, Darling and the ex PM, Mr 'Albatross Around The Neck' Brown.  Miliband still hasn't nominated himself, by the way.


The vintage Hansard trawl, featuring sycophancy, the salary of the Pres of the Board of Trade and sundry other oddments

Thursday, May 27, 2010
This, from 1960

Dr. A. Thompson asked the Minister of Health if he will examine the possibility of providing separate wards in hospitals for non-smokers in order to protect bronchitic and asthmatic patients.

Mr. Walker-Smith It is within the discretion of individual hospital authorities to decide what arrangements should be made regarding smoking and I am sure they will be vigilant to protect patients who find tobacco smoke objectionable. One must however bear in mind that many bronchitic patients are confirmed smokers.

The 'guid doctor' from Dunfermline is still among us apparently.  Perhaps he is a non-smoker.

And so back to 1910:

Mr. BYLES asked the Prime Minister whether the salary of the President of the Board of Trade has been increased, and to what amount; how long has the increase been paid; was it provided in the Act of last year that the amount of the salary should be fixed by Parliament; and why has that not been done?

The PRIME MINISTER The salary of the President of the Board of Trade was raised to £5,000 per annum from the date of the appointment of the present holder of that office, and that sum has been provided in the estimate for the Board of Trade for the current year. Should the House decline to vote the increased salary, the amount overpaid will be recovered.

If the rather nifty historic inflation calculator at Thisismoney.co.uk is to be believed - and why not? - five large then equates to 437 and a half large now.  Not a bad scratch. 

Matters Somali:

Mr. J. D. REES  I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any intelligence to communicate to the House regarding the Somali Mullah?

Just the one?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Colonel Seely) No, Sir, we have no confirmation of the rumours appearing in the public Press as to the death of the Mullah. I will communicate to the House any information I receive.

Taking being the policeman's friend just a little too far, by my reckoning:
Captain JESSEL  asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, seeing that in celebration of His Majesty's Accession, remission of sentences and condonation of certain offences has been granted to the Navy, Army, Mercantile Marine, and to prisoners both in the United Kingdom and in India, he could see his way to advise the grant of similar remissions to the police forces and to the Metropolitan Police, such as a reduction of the period of disqualification for a clean sheet and other measures suitable to the occasion?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill) To commemorate His Majesty's Accession I have approved the proposal that men of the Metropolitan Police Force who on 23rd May were undergoing punishment by fine or by suffering a decrease, for a period, in their rate of pay shall have the amount of any fine or balance of a fine outstanding on above date remitted, or a curtailment made in the unexpired period of decreased pay up to a limit of three months. Notice of this remission appeared in the newspapers yesterday.
Meanwhile, nice words from Persia vis a vis his late maj:

Mr. SPEAKER I have to report to the House that I have received from the President of the Medjlis of Persia a telegram, of which the following is a translation:— "Teheran, 12th May, 1910." "At the moment when the British nation mourns its terrible loss, the Medjlis, imbued with a deep feeling of profound sympathy, directs me to transmit to the House of Commons an expression of its own great affliction at the loss of a man who, quite apart from the greatness of his reign as a Sovereign, is entitled to the gratitude of humanity." "President of the Medjlis," "MOSTECHAREDOOLET."

Laying it on with a trowel, wasn't he?  My republican tendencies nothwithstanding.....


Mr GIBSON BOWLES asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether there is any record in the Foreign Office of any overtures either in 1899 or in 1901 between Great Britain and Germany for the accession of Great Britain to the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria, and Italy, or are there any papers relating thereto; were any overtures begun in January, 1901, and broken off in March, 1901, for any understanding with Germany, or any joint action with Germany; and is there any correspondence that he can lay upon the Table for the information of Parliament?

Sir E. GREY I cannot answer questions of this kind about relations between Great Britain and other Powers ten years ago.

A very brief dig has not disclosed anything informing me one way or another.

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What's Miliband Sr got that Miliband Jr, Balls et al have not?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010
A certain boundless confidence, judging by the noms list over at the Labour party's site:

Here's Balls:

And here's Burnham:

Miliband jr:

And here's the David Miliband-sized hole in his nomination list:

It could be the case that BananaMan did nominate himself, but "the People's Party" is no better at running a website than running the country. 


The perils of automating?

An outbreak of rather unfortunate juxtapositioning on the BBC site:


No-one (else) likes them, they don't care


Hughes, Simon
That this House congratulates Millwall FC, pride of South London, on its successful season in League One and its roaring finish; salutes its play off semi-final victory over Huddersfield; and wishes the chairman, board, manager Kenny Jackett, captain Paul Robinson, record goal scorer Neil Harris and all the squad, staff and fans all the very best in the League One play-off final against Swindon on Saturday 29 May.

No-one else has signed it, especially the members for Swindons North and South

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David Beckham in Afghanistan

Yes, we all know he's been there, but here is an extract from an e-mail from a friend who has just gone out there:

"...followed by another pair of hours on the ground in the Middle East before moving onto a C-17 and flying direct into Camp Bastion – again in the dead of night.   All pretty swept up and well organised…and despite the lateness of the hour when we popped out of the system at Bastion we were delighted to be met by a number of smiling faces (our predecessors!), who were only too pleased to visually sight us!

A somewhat surreal addition to the above – David Beckham was on the same flight out to theatre; it had been a well-kept secret that he was coming out to spent the weekend meeting the boys and girls and so his arrival in the departure lounge at 0330 was greeted with a stir of interest, followed by a rapid queue as folk lined up for photos, autographs, or as in the case of one young aircraftsman, a wordless hug akin to hero worship.  This was a scene that endured throughout the flights, holdovers and subsequent 2-day visit around the units in Bastion – Beckham went everywhere, forgoing meals and enduring long days to meet and talk to as many folk as he could.  As I was finding my way around Bastion I bumped into him 4 times – shows how much he got around, and his patience and stamina, in temperatures in excess of 43 degrees Celsius and frequent choking dust storms, was just brilliant.  Likewise his humility in interacting with the troops – from holding doors to let others pass, giving up his chair so others could sit, and taking time to talk to each person he met.  Quite remarkable given his fame and lifestyle, and massively well received out here".

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A further sign of the Apocalypse?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

As spotted in these parts the other day:

If these are not heralding the End of Days, might someone offer up some illumination, please?

(OK, they look to be real, and a serious response to a problem, but I suspect most non-diabetics would have done a double take too)


At least one former minister has started job hunting....

Saturday, May 22, 2010
At the risk of appearing a tease, I am going to be very opaque about this one:

A friend received a call from this former minister and ex MP yesterday, with him hoping to get a foot in the door with friend's company.

The two had only met once before, that being when the minister (OK, a PPS, which is practically pond life) attended a meeting between friend and a PR agency.


The vintage Hansard trawl, featuring the four crooks elected to serve, Garibaldi, limits to the working week and an early outbreak of a troughing MP.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Starting with 1860:

"MR. HENNESSY said, he rose pursuant to notice to call the attention of the House to the Statement by the Solicitor General with reference to an advertisement in The Times newspaper for raising money to assist the insurgents in Sicily, and to call attention to a decision of the Court of Common Pleas as to the illegality of such a proceeding....The hon. Member (Mr. Grant Duff) who introduced the subject frankly owned he wished success to the revolt, and hoped that, spreading into the main land it would before long overwhelm the King and Government in utter, destruction. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in replying, said:— "The question was, whether the subscribing of money by any of Her Majesty's subjects in this country or paying it into the hands of a foreigner living here with the purpose and object described, came within the rule of common law, or was an offence against any prohibitory statute. Now, it appeared to him that, as long as what was done was limited within the bounds of a mere subscription in this country, such as this advertisement prescribed, no law of this country would be violated...Any man who thought [it] proper might put his hand into his pocket [to] take out his money and put it into the hands of another on the faith of its going to Genoa to be disposed of by General Garibaldi, without violating any law whatever".

Can't say I am entirely up to speed on the current law on this sort of thing, but I will give very short odds that such adverts and actions would be remarkably illegal these days.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will arrange so that the Bill to limit the hours of labour to forty-eight per week, introduced by several hon. Members, be either adopted by the Government or given facilities for its passage into law at the earliest possible opportunity?
The Government proposes to introduce at an early date a measure dealing with the same matter and the suggestion of my Noble Friend accordingly cannot be adopted.  
They just can't leave well alone, can they?

A question that might have been phrased better:

 Sir B. FALLE asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can say if  the Serbs have any right to occupy Gusinje; if they have occupied Vermoshi, the summer grazing ground of the Albanian tribes; and what will be the result of such occupation?          
A bit of digging shows Vermoshi to be at the Northern extremity of Albania, just over the border from Montenegro.  If Albanians can digest grass, I'm impressed.

Anyway, further on in the exchange:

Can the Government take no steps at all to safeguard the Albanians from ill-treatment on the part of the Serbians?
Is it not the duty of the British Government to protect the Moslems in Albania against ill-treatment of this sort, in view of the fact that the British Government is the greatest Moslem Power in the world? 
For what it is worth, I very much doubt that this is the year as advertised, judging by this:

Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the many charges and counter-charges levelled, not only against the Bolsheviks but against Admiral Koltchak, General Denikin, and the White Guards in Finland, the Government will appoint a committee of Members of Parliament to investigate these charges and to issue from time to time impartial and trustworthy statements as to the position of affairs in Russia?

Mr. HARMSWORTH  I have given careful consideration to the hon. Member's proposal, but, as at present advised, I have grave doubts whether any useful purpose would be served by the appointment of a committee of the nature he suggests.

Colonel WEDGWOOD  Is it possible for the Government to issue a White Paper detailing the results of the White Terror in Finland and the Ukraine as a parallel to their White Paper on the Red Terror in Russia?
Either the date is very wrong, or some of our Parliamentarians could have made a killing on the nags or the stock market judging from their ability to read the future.

Not especially time-sensitive, but plus ca change etc:

    Mr. SPENCERasked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can take any action to secure for Members of this House travelling on railways and holding season tickets the privilege of travelling on alternate lines?
    Mr. BRIDGEMAN  Regulations, of which I am sending the hon. Gentleman a copy, are in operation in. regard to the interavailability of season tickets, and I am afraid that I cannot secure their modification in favour of Members of Parliament.

    Major WOOD In view of the desirability of hon. Members being able to keep in close touch with their constituents; will the hon. Gentleman consider the desirability of giving them free passes?
    I will represent to the proper authorities the desire expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend.

The doubtless gallant Major sat for Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Central (in the Liberal interest), so his desire for a freebie is understandable, if not wholly laudable.

Meanwhile, as an off-meter treat, readers should hie themselves here to see if there have been any parliamentarians sharing their surnames.  No matches for me, alas.  Our PM is the seventh Cameron, by the look of it.  There have been *ten* John Smiths, and three John Smyths.   And there have only ever been four Crooks in Parliament:

Reg was a Socialist, as is Doug, Joseph a Whig / Radical (nomenclature varies) and Chas was one of my lot, despite being elected to the less than leafy seat of  East Ham North in 1922.  

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If the Franklin Mint did politics...

....and had a well-developed taste for the ironic and the po-mo , it might come up with something like these offerings from Zazzle.co.uk:

Can't say I have a particular yen for any of them, but they are rather droll.


The news we've all been waiting for.

Saturday, May 15, 2010
Yup, the DPRK has finally woken up to what happened the other day:

"Pyongyang, May 14 (KCNA) -- DPRK Premier Kim Yong Il Thursday sent a congratulatory message to David Cameron upon his appointment as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Hoping that the relations between the two countries would develop on good terms, the message wished the Prime Minister successes in his work.
Meanwhile, DPRK Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun sent a congratulatory message to William Hague upon his appointment as UK foreign secretary".
Given the strange things that have come to pass of late, maybe DC will chummy up with KJI.  I doubt it, however.

 And as a special bonus, the DPRK Insult generator, care of the generous Mr Eugenides.

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A bit of historical perspective, or the long awaited return of the vintage Hansard trawl

Thursday, May 13, 2010
Starting with 1860:

Lunatics in Scotland

With a wonderfully irrelevant addendum:
MR. E. ELLICE (St. Andrews) said, he rose to ask the Lord-Advocate, Whether he intends at an early period to propose a Bill for establishing greater uniformity in the interpretation of the Law of Scotland as regards the definition of Lunacy; for removing doubts as to the obligation of Counties to provide accommodation for Lunatics; and for giving to the Commissioners in Lunacy extended powers with regard to the custody of Pauper Lunatics?

THE LORD-ADVOCATE said, it was his intention to introduce a Bill to remedy some of the defects which were found to exist in former Lunacy Acts, and he hoped soon to lay it on the Table of the House.
Given the exciting times of the lion lying down with the lamb etc, readers are invited to choose which political party's Scottish election performance best points to mental health issues North of the Border.

And the add on:
"MR. G. W. HOPE said, he rose to say a few words of explanation with reference to a statement he had made when moving for the production of the Civil Service Exanimation Papers a few nights previously. On that occasion he had said that in the case of the particular candidate of whose rejection he complained, there had been but one single mistake in his spelling. He had since been informed that there was more than one mistake. He had also stated that he was unacquainted with the names of the Commissioners. He had now ascertained that two of them were Sir Edward Ryan and Sir John Lefevre, and he might say that if there were any gentlemen whom he would entrust with the duties of such a position with confidence, those were the two he would select".



COLONEL LINDSAY said, he rose to draw the attention of the House to the system of cooking in the army invented by Captain Grant, and to ask the Secretary of State for War, if he intends to recommend that some remuneration shall be given to Captain Grant for the great services he has rendered in improving and economising the system. The hon. and gallant Gentleman observed that before those improvements were introduced the only means employed for cooking soldiers' dinners were boilers, and if the men desired to have their food baked they had to take it to an oven in the town where they happened to be, and to pay for it out of their own pockets...The expense of cooking at the present moment varied from ½d. per man per week to 5d. per man per week. But this last was an excessive charge. It occurred at St. George's Barracks, and was caused by the apparatus of cooking by gas, which for military reasons ought to be discontinued. The system which only cost a halfpenny per day per man was that of Captain Grant.  The Army Sanitary Commission...recommended that the means should be furnished the soldiers of having their rations cooked by baking, stewing, and frying.
Mr Cave....If a man invented a method of blowing a whole regiment to atoms, he was amply rewarded, and covered with distinction; but if he merely contrived a means of keeping them alive, he was not thought entitled to distinction or reward by the Government of the country
If an army does indeed march on its stomach, I pity our Tommies a non-stop diet of the boiled.

In 1910, our Parliamentarians were mainly concerned with encomia to the lately deceased Edward VII, which does not lend itself to much amusement or facetious asides.  Mind you, how about this for flowery:

"The Douma of the Empire at its sitting of the 26th April (9th May) has charged me with the duty of interpreting to you the sentiments of profound condolence and of sorrowful sympathy which it experiences on the occasion of the decease of His Majesty King Edward VII. The mourning of your country has found a unanimous echo in the representatives of the Russian nation, which loses in the person of the late King a near relative of the Imperial family of Russia, a sure friend and constant well-wisher, a monarch devoted to the maintenance of universal peace. Please convey to the House of Commons the expression of the Sentiments which animate the Douma of the Empire, as well as the profound assurance which it feels that the bonds of friendship between our two countries, which received so powerful an impulse from the great Sovereign who has passed away, will not cease to be developed and strengthened for the greatest good of both nations.   ALEXANDER GOUTCHKOFF, "President of the Douma of the Empire

A bit late, Sandy, we know you volunteered for the Boers in that war.

Meanwhile this little nugget from 1960, prefacing a question about surplus army boots:

Mr. Norman Dodds  (Erith and Cray ford, LAB) The Sixth Report of the Select Committee on Estimates on Treasury Control of Expenditure reports that a very knowledgeable person, Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, former permanent head of the Foreign Office, had called for a purge of top civil servants who squander public money. In fact, he asked that civil servants who waste public money should be sacked, and he said that many top civil servants are failing to keep a tight hand on the taxpayers' money and should be retired earlier, with revocation of honours granted. That is the view of Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, who should know.

There are many thousands of people in this country who are asking why top civil servants are not penalised when public money is wasted. People want to know, and I want to know, what does happen to them when millions of pounds are thrown away or lost through lack of initiative or care. Are they punished, and if not, why not? I have asked this question of the Prime Minister, and there does not seem to be any record at any time in recent years of any top civil servant being sacked or in any way penalised when money has been spent and it has been proved that much of it has been wasted. 

I think it should be politicians first, then civil servants

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Fact o' the day

As found in China Daily's English language edition (8/4/10):

"Statistics show that 41 percent of private businesses in China are managed by women, while 28 percent of the executives at State- or collectively-owned companies are female".

Bit of a thing, eh?


Yes, it is an attention seeking press release, but...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010
..it is rather amusing.  Anyway, just received from Paddy Power:

    What will Cameron do first?

    3/1       Meet the England Cricket team

    7/2       Christen the bed at number 10

    7/2       Announce a House of Commons Speaker election

    4/1       Attend Henley Regatta

    4/1       Cycle to the House of Commons

    5/1       Hold a meeting with Barack Obama

    10/1     Kick out the Downing Street cat Sybil

    16/1     Attend a World Cup 2010 match

    25/1     Start a war

    100/1   Unveil his own statue on Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth

At least one of those does not seem especially open to outside verification.


Gerald Ford speaks on Brown. /Ish/

Tuesday, May 11, 2010
One of my first thoughts:


Fun and games with the NHS

Back in mid-March, my GP referred me for surgery.  Nothing serious, and nothing embarassing either, but I am not going to spell it out.

Anyway, my first appointment was slated for the 1st of April.  Pretty fast moving, all things considered.  Some way down the line this was spiked by the hospital concerned, and I was offered the 20th of May.  Marvellous, thinks I, although the central appointments department - based in Milton Keynes of somesuch, then wrote to me in late April saying that the appointment - not dated - had been cancelled.  I assumed that 20/5 was now no longer happening, but was prevailed upon to ring to check.  Lo and behold this actually referred to the 1/4 appointment, a mere few weeks late.  A great use of the post etc, I am sure you will agree.

Last week I was again written to, and was told that 20/5 was no longer an option and was told that this was due to cancer admissions taking priority.  Since what I have is a long way from being life threatening, and rates as little more than a minor nuisance, that would seem reasonable enough, if (and only if) cancer surgeons deal with the same minor procedure I am going in for.  Perhaps a little unlikley, yes?

I have now been offered the 8th of July, not that I expect that to happen either.  If it does, however, that is a mere 18 weeks from first referral, and I believe what is supposed to be the targeted maximum wait....  


Whilst we are on the subject of 'fair' voting....

Despite my highest mathematical achievement being a 'C' at 'O' level (for which I needed coaching...), I derive much pleasure from fiddling around with electoral statistics, and armed with the turnout figures for the election I have derived an electorate of 45,533,309 and have then allocated the 650 seats to the regions based on actual population, rather than the near-gerrymandered ones we actually voted for.  This sees the following adjustments:

Wales -8
SW +2
SE +6
London +2
Eastern +3
East Midlands +2
West Midlands -1
North West - unchanged
Yorkshire & Humberside -1
North East -1
Scotland -4
NI -1

If each party had secured the same percentage of seats in each region under these theoretical boundaries as they did last week, the Tories would have an extra nine seats (316), Labour would have lost seven (251), the LDs would be flat and PC would have lost one (2).  The vegetation-coloured Far Left of Brighton Pavillion would be unchanged.  I have assumed that Thirsk will stay blue.  Northern Ireland presents something of a problem, in that rounding up and down confuses things horribly....

This still leaves us in hung Parliament territory, but Con + DUP comes to 324, and given that the Shinners are not keen on turning up to vote, Lab+LD+SNP+PC+SDLP+Alliance+Sylvia Hermon comes to 322.

Interesting, no?

Update - Idle Pen Pusher has been doing something similar, and it is well worth the read..

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The Election Debates - recast

Saturday, May 08, 2010
This was found at B3ta, and shows 'In a bid to appeal to the younger electorate, the leaders of the three main parties...a fourth televised debate, in the form of a rap battle'.  If this has already done the rounds and I'm late to the party, apologies.

Anyway, enjoy.


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A cut out 'n keep guide to Caroline Lucas

Friday, May 07, 2010
Just so you know.  I did this in November 2008, and think it is worth re-visiting:

In 2004 173,351 people in the South East of England voted for the Green Party in the form of Caroline Lucas. I was not one of them, surprisingly enough. She crept in via the D'Hondt list system, not FPP, naturally.

Rooting around among some of my lesser used bookmarks, I chanced upon the 'People Before Profit' charter, via the SWP's website. Google will bring up the references, there being some sites I refuse to link to.

This is it:
  1. Wage increases no lower than the rate of inflation as given by the Retail Price Index. No to the government’s 2 percent pay limit.
  2. Increase tax on big companies. Introduce a windfall tax on corporation superprofits, especially those of the oil companies.
  3. Repeal the Tory anti-union laws. Support the Trade Union Freedom Bill.
  4. Unsold houses and flats should be taken over by local councils to ease the housing crisis. No house repossessions. For an emergency programme of council house building.
  5. Stop the privatisation of public services. Free and equal health and education services available to all.
  6. End the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and use the money to expand public services. Stop the erosion of civil liberties.
  7. Abolish tax on fuel and energy for old people and the poor. Re-establish the link between wages and pensions.
  8. No to racism. No to the British National Party. No scapegoating of immigrants.
  9. Reintroduce grants and abolish tuition fees for students.
  10. Increase the minimum wage to £8.00 an hour.
Definitively hard left, is it not?

Ms Lucas likes it a lot:

"I fully support the Charter and am happy to lend it my support. However, I would also encourage you to seek to broaden its appeal by addressing the lack of any environmental perspective or reference to the causes of the current economic crisis and unemployment. To this end, I recommend that two additions be made to the Charter as follows:
● Fight rising unemployment with massive investment in energy saving and renewable
● End the free for all and regulate financial institutions".

That the Greens are not just a bunch of tree huggers but firmly on the hard left has been obvious for years, but I do wonder how many of those 173,351 voters realise their MP makes common ground with 4th International Trots. Note that the only other extreme left party to stand, Respect, reaped a grand total of 13,426 votes.

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Party slogans we can all approve of

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Spotted while out and about. I rather like all of them, although I think the blue team has the winner.