The SNP: decline and fall (13)

The wind has rather gone out of the sails of the whole SNP schtick. Those heady days of 2014 (up to 18th September that year) seem like last century.

So it seems a bit harsh to continue to point out their failings. However, I’m up for it.

39. The upper chamber beckons…

Here’s a Twitter snapshot series:

snpa1

snpa2

Yup, the Daily Record has mysteriously floated the idea of unemployed Eck hitting the House of Lords – where The Knife has personally sipped at the finest subsidised booze in the kingdom – followed quickly by the Scotsman doing the same thing. Funny that. It’s almost as if Eck is regretting his rash promise about rocks and the sun (his usual), to which the True Believers of the SNP still cling. Don’t hold your breath. Eck’s perceptively brilliant finger-on-the-pulse style of leadership is sorely missed.

40. Indyref is not very popular

Not just amongst us plebeian voters, some of the sharper knives in the SNP box have begun to have doubts. Isn’t that verboten, under party rules? Not sure if the message is getting through though. That kind of authoritarian bullying has real world consequences.

snpf1
…this is actually all true…

41. Experienced hacks are taking the mick

Admittedly @JournoStephen and @davidtorrance have never been SNP flavour of the month, they’re not sycophantic enough, but this piece by the former is a gem of Holyrood observation:

Why, she demanded to know, genuine frustration in her voice, wasn’t Labour praising her achievements? Cruelly, Kezia Dugdale’s group broke into sarcastic applause and cheering. The SNP leader was baffled by it all. You would be too if you got your news from The National and had rules against internal party dissent that make the Chinese Communist politburo look like a model of open debate.

….and Twitter remains invaluable:

snpd1

snpe1

snpdoomed1

…watch the development from the last tweet. Gerald Warner is always precise:

So, a few little local difficulties, then, for the poor man’s Angela Merkel. At least she still has the consolation of being the highest paid politician in Britain, which suggests that, among the political class, remuneration is in inverse proportion to ability.

42. They’re still not good at running things

See what I mean?

snpg1

…and when they do mess up, the UK bails them out.

43. There’s a problem with Labour…

Gordon Brown ruined his own party partly by taking the Scots for granted, and amusingly if  predictably, the Nats are copying him. Corbyn is now going for them. Corbyn of all people – Mr Free Stuff versus the party of Free Stuff. And if you read wise owl @euanmccolm, they don’t know what to do about it.

44. The Fringe beckons…

Salmond promises to talk about his relationship with Trump at this year’s Fringe. Heavily redacted, no doubt

—————————————————————————————————————————-

As I often point out, none of this is about a problem with Scotland as such. It’s all about a problem with the SNP  – who for the most part are bullying, limited, rabble rousing, unimaginative power freaks. They almost never make a legitimate case for independence based on sovereignty, with all the risks honestly explained.

They never will.

what-is-molten-rock_e9b070f7-d7ef-45b5-abac-240b4c3fbf29
…molten rock, in case Eck’s not seen it before…

The SNP: Decline and Fall (2)

A continuing series charting the Scottish National Party, and its very overrated leader, Nicola Sturgeon’s inevitable downward trajectory (part one here):

11. Three high up Nats advise Nicola to calm down

Yes, in a party where free thinking is actually verboten, the Glorious Leader has had to endure public dissent. Kenny MacAskill, the man who freed the convicted murderer and terrorist Megrahi (though in reality just a handy frontman for the unholy cabal of Blair, Salmond and Jack Straw) in a hilariously lugubrious and pompous speech, and Alex Neil, the amiable ex Cabinet Secretary for Health, last seen being chased around a hospital car park by an irate ex-follower, have suggested that Nicola buttons it going on and on about a second independence referendum. As sentient people now realise, she only does this to placate the zoomer element – she doesn’t actually want a referendum – but boy is it irritating. So far as anyone knows, MacAskill and Neil have yet to be stealthily ‘disappeared’. The third Nat, Bruce Crawford is quite experienced and quite normal, he’s now the finance committee chairman and is actually doing what he’s meant to do by insisting that the draft Scottish budget be adequately scrutinised. Admittedly his stern critique was addressed to apparatchik Derek Mackay, rather than Sturgeon herself, but the point was well made. Such appalling adherence to basic democratic instincts is currently a thought crime of the most heinous sort.

12. The SNP redefine the word ‘crowd’

It’s a long way from the heady days of Salmond encouraging unruly marches on the Glasgow BBC HQ to the latest ‘crowd’ gathered in George Square, Glasgow, to…er…go on and on about a second independence referendum. As STV news primly observed “around 200 people attended the event throughout the day”. Which is probably about the same as my outpatient clinic area, on any one day.

snp-crowd
…stop pushing at the back..

 

13. The polls haven’t moved, except Nicola is more unpopular

YouGov at the end of August were quite clear about this: ” just 37% of Scots backing a second independence referendum and 50% opposed. Should they be successful in forcing another vote, the results would be almost identical to last time, with 54% of Scots voting against independence and 46% in favour”

Ho hum. However, they found that the hated Tories’ leader Ruth Davidson is, strangely, not hated “Overall, 46% of Scots think that Davidson is doing well, compared to 25% who think she is doing badly, giving her a net score of +21 compared to Sturgeon’s +20. Kezia Dugdale, by contrast, is seen as doing badly with a net score of -17” 

Poor old Kez is pretty useless. She managed to save Sturgeon from Holyrood defeat by failing to vote herself. However, in the relevant debate NS was at her shrill, unpleasant, hectoring unprofessional worst. Hopefully we’ll be getting it on YouTube in due course. Statesmanlike she is not.

……to be continued…

Scotland's First Minister Sturgeon is welcomed by EC President Juncker ahead of a meeting in Brussels
…where to start with this one…

 

 

 

Celebrity deathmatch: The Donald v Hillary

binarychoice
Mating blue crabs: an easier binary choice (thanks to J Exp Biol)

Sometimes you get wisdom and truth from the unlikeliest places. Dodgy narcissist Julian Assange has been doing the world a service by revealing Hillary Clinton’s duplicity, with hard facts. He claims also to be ‘working on’ Trump’s tax returns, and not as an accountant. Here he is on the two of them:  you have really, two very bad presidential candidates, albeit he qualified this with the rider it was ‘from the perspective of Wikileaks trying to protect its sources’, whatever that means. Give Assange his due, though, this is the opposite of endangering national security, which is the kind of thing that he and Edward Snowden usually get accused of.

The Dems are very upset that from their point of view Assange seems to be favouring Trump. They might be right: “the natural instincts of Hillary Clinton and the people around her, that when confronted with a serious domestic political scandal, that she tries to blame the Russians, blame the Chinese, etc. If she does that when she’s in government, that’s a political, managerial style that can lead to conflict.”

Which leads me to wonder how to resolve the ‘two bad candidates’ issue, not that I have a vote, but the entire world retains a legitimate personal interest. Back in March (long before he got the nomination) I predicted Trump would do it, and I stick with that. The other predictions in that post seem about right just now.

Here’s a fairly typical comment to ponder: I’m stunned to think that anyone can consider a racist dishonest misogynistic hateful, despicable human as Trump as suitable over any other candidate. I agree Hillary leaves a lot to be desired but for sheer evil Trump outstrips her every step of the way

That was taken from an email from one of my family. I don’t see any evidence that Trump is a racist, he tells far fewer lies than Hillary, and on less important topics, his relationships with women are at times sexist rather than misogynist if you want to be critical (which is not say that’s acceptable, but I don’t think he hates women, far from it). In fact, on this I will respectfully defer to a zinging piece by my all-time favourite lesbian feminist, Camille Paglia.

‘Hateful and despicable’ really depend on the viewer rather than the subject. ‘Sheer evil’ is a tricky one, though if I had to make a judgement between them over public, rather than personal morality and behaviour, Trump is a clear winner. Benghazi, abortion, quite amazingly lucrative financial jiggery pokery, Huma’s dodgy links,  aiding and abetting sexual molestation – it’s a long and well documented list that Hillary has racked up, before you even get to the mysteries like Vince Foster.

However, Trump is hard to like, respect or warm to, most of the time. He has quite a few very smart admirers, like Conrad Black and Bob Tyrrell, despite his many detractors, and he doesn’t hide from criticism. The UK opinion formers tend to hate him, but a straw poll of the punters – such as in my operating theatre – will tell a slightly different story.

One of the very best, and wittiest, American journalists is Kevin D Williamson at National Review. He loathes both candidates, and despite his own claims to the contrary, has tied himself up in knots deciding which is worse and what an honourable position would be. If I understand him rightly, he’s abstaining. Here is a recent summary of his take on it:

If your argument is, “Regardless, I prefer him to Hillary Rodham Clinton,” okey-dokey. But let’s be honest about what exactly it is you prefer to Mrs. Clinton, what manner of man you would see entrusted with the most powerful political portfolio on Earth. If you are going to do that, then you should have the intellectual honesty and the moral courage to be straight and plain about what it is you are doing.  

Well, if I did have the vote, that would be my position: vote for the anti-Hillary, who happens to be Trump. I suppose that it’s conceivable that someone worse than Hillary might be out there, but they’re not the Republican or Libertarian or Green candidate (so feel free to vote for the last two).

What about abstaining? Is it effective or ‘honourable’? If you genuinely cannot pick then I guess it is the honest approach. I knew a few EU Referendum voters who did exactly that, and fair enough. However, while this blogger at Ace of Spades HQ is, on the face of it, agreeing with KDW:

I am not hoping for Trump to get into some serious international snafu by supporting him. Yet I know that is a very real possibility if he’s president. Should this happen, I can’t just say “But I didn’t want Trump to screw up so badly.” People would say — no, but you knew the risks in supporting him, and you supported him anyway; you are therefore morally responsible for this.

…he takes issue with the abstension-get-out-of-jail-free approach:

…the #NeverTrumpers claim that the obvious, inescapable outcome of their position — that Hillary Clinton will be the president — is not their responsibility, just because they didn’t intend that as a primary matter.

He has a point. It’s a great piece, which while it’s stating the obvious – that this is a binary choice in reality – skilfully unpicks the fantasy world of an allegedly principled abstension. The main and somewhat selfish benefit of the latter is to be able to sit around a few years hence saying “it’s not my fault, I abstained on principle”. Abstension also has consequences. Oddly enough, if you Google ‘binary choice’, you’re already seeing quite a few Clinton and Trump images. Final quotations (I apologise for  lifting someone else’s work so thoroughly):

All choices have consequences. By supporting Trump, I am responsible for the consequences of a Trump victory — and those consequences could indeed be dire.

But a childish morally-unserious fantasy has infected the #NeverTrump not-so-intelligentsia, that they can agitate for Hillary Clinton — by relentlessly disparaging Trump — and somehow, they are not responsible for the consequences of the Hillary presidency they are bucking for**.

They’ve dreamed up this self-pleasing, responsibility-evading dreamscape in which those who plump for Trump are responsible for the outcomes of a Trump presidency, but, for no explanation thus far discoverable, they are not responsible for the outcomes of the Hillary presidency they’re agitating for.….  If you think Hillary would be a better president — or if Trump is so repulsive to you, you cannot support him even if you think Hillary would be worse — fine. I respect your opinion.

We all have different brains. We all have different priorities.

But what I must insist you cannot do — what I will not permit you to do — is fantasize that while a Trump supporter is responsible for the gaffes and disasters of a President Trump, you are somehow innocent of the purges and witchhunts of a President Hillary.

Trump supporters will own the consequences of a Trump presidency — and Hillary supporters, both those who declare it proudly and those who wish it secretly — own the consequences of a Hillary presidency.

donald-hillary-800
The Donald has more fans than I realised

**For the record, I entirely agree with Kevin Williamson’s employers on Hillary, in their editorial a week ago:

If you need a reintroduction to Mrs. Clinton, we will oblige: She is an opportunist without anything resembling a conviction with the exception of her unwavering commitment to abortion, a “public servant” who along with her husband grew vastly wealthy exploiting her political connections and renting access to everybody from Goldman Sachs to Vladimir Putin, a petty, grasping, vindictive, meretricious time-server whose incompetence and dishonesty have been proved everywhere from Little Rock to Benghazi.

$$$ I now have to add a summary from the fiery and hilarious Ann Coulter:

Everything Hillary has ever touched has failed, been engulfed in scandal, resulted in massive investigations, litigation, financial ruin, prison or death. The final stage of any Hillary enterprise is a grand announcement that Hillary did not technically break the law. Or no one can prove she did. Or, even if she did, no one ever gets prosecuted for it.

Clarity of expression: left v right

It was an erstwhile leftie** – albeit a privileged and well educated one – George Orwell, who wrote the classic guide to good writing, Politics and the English Language. The whole thing is great, but here is the distillation:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

It is quoted continually, and I would say that it’s an excellent basis for anyone who enjoys writing – bloggers, for example. A more recent teacher, from the other end of the political spectrum, would be Simon Heffer, in his Style Notes.

Orwell-2
*

Sadly, lefties have fallen far from grace in this important area. Here is (non-leftie) Douglas Murray critiquing ‘Jack’ Monroe and ‘their’ employer, the Guardian:

Soon afterwards, even the award of “Woman of the Year” to someone with a penis seemed passé as a far-left blogger and “anti-austerity activist” called Jack Monroe came out as “nonbinary transgender”. A few days later she accepted a “Woman of the Future” award,  which was not merely undeserved but (if Monroe were to be taken at her word) singularly inaccurate.

Or not. For although Monroe has announced that she is “trans” she expressed herself unwilling to do anything about it. Indeed, she demonstrated even less skin in the game than Caitlyn Jenner. Personally, I slightly admire people so sure they are stuck in the wrong body that they go through the terrible operations necessary to change sex cosmetically. But I feel reluctant to go through the necessary language hurdles if they won’t do anything other than “declare” themselves something. And what hurdles! In reporting Monroe’s desire to “transition”, Pink News adopted the new house style which makes pronouns for trans people not only non-gender specific but also plural. So we read, “Writing on their blog, Jack said . . .” Also (lovers of our delicate and beautiful language look away now), “The Guardian columnist and poverty campaigner changed their name to Jack when they was younger.”  The new newspeak is the old illiteracy.

That ‘they was’ hits you hard at the end of the beautifully written paragraph.

liddle1
*

Which brings me to my main reason for writing this post, which is to find an excuse to quote Rod Liddle, who is a unique political mix of left and right, and extremely funny with it. Here he is in the latest Spectator, on two of his bêtes noires (permitted, as I  can’t think of an English equivalent):

Let me mention a couple of names to you: Alan Rusbridger and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. One is the former editor of the Guardian, the latter a columnist at the Independent until it went digital, and read by almost nobody, anywhere. Between them they are or have been honorary visiting professors at four universities — Nuffield Oxford, Queen Mary, Cardiff and Lincoln, and possess honorary doctorates from four more. I know this because I hate both of them and regularly check what they are up to.

Limpid, direct prose, perfectly expressing his point. Orwell would have been proud.

**should it be lefty, or leftie?

 

 

“Experts”

This blog has always hosted a tremendous quote by living legend, economics professor and all round fount of wisdom, Thomas Sowell. Anything written by the Great Man is worth reading. Here it is:

“There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.”

Charles Moore, writing about tax havens, reminds us of the classic example – economists v Thatcher:

I am no tax expert, but when 300 economists, particularly if led by Jeffrey Sachs and Thomas Piketty, all agree about something — as 364 did that Mrs Thatcher, in 1981, was messing things up — one can be confident they are mistaken. 

And here is Dan Hannan, today, musing on the snobbery of the ‘elite’, many of whom of course propel themselves into politics:

Experts often get things hideously wrong. When the entire Establishment coalesces around a fashionable idea, ordinary people are right to become suspicious. Everyone knew that it was wise to appease the Nazis in the 1930s, to nationalise industry in the 1940s, to have a planned economy in the 1950s, comprehensive education in the 1960s, prices and incomes policies in the 1970s. Everyone knew that it was sensible to back the ERM in the 1980s, the euro in the 1990s, the bailouts in the 2000s. Everyone, that is, except the general population.

So, given this year’s twin challenges of the US election* and the EU referendum, beware of received wisdom. Time to place bets.**

ts2
another zinger

 

*for the record, Sowell can’t stand either candidate

**this “Lunch with the FT” piece, with Philip Tetlock , author of Superforecasting, is fascinating and highly relevant

The McPinnochios of the SNP

pinnochio3
*

One of the more tiresome aspects of being right is the difficult-to-control compulsion to set out the facts and refute specious and stupid arguments, often recurrent, noisy, specious and stupid arguments. It’s time consuming and boring after a while. Even being constantly proven right can become tedious.

Enter the Scottish Nationalist Party, a mob of chancers, makeweights, thugs, spivs, pseudointellectuals, wealthy middle class smugs, public sector leeches, zoomers –  and the occasional decent human being – and their ongoing utterly bankrupt warblings about independence, getting a fresh airing this week, as once again, they’ve been rumbled on something that actually matters.

Happily, tougher people than I have addressed these issues over a long period, and one must pay particular homage in the blogging world to both Kevin Hague, a businessman who has actually contributed  to the Scottish economy, and Adam Tomkins, a distinguished and highly erudite professor of Law at Glasgow University. Hague in particular has for a long time painstakingly deconstructed the Nats’ hopeless economic lies, using the government’s own official Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland figures, known as GERS. It has been a virtuoso performance to be honest, and the Nats have no answer, other than their trademark abuse.

In addition, there have been some heroic hacks**. Today’s post is really to point an interested reader or guilty Nat in the direction of some very sharp and entirely factual analysis. First up is a true Scottish Labour hero, the former minister Brian Wilson, who knows who he’s dealing with:

…let us raise a timely glass to a fate avoided, which would certainly not have been paid for by the architects of the great deception. There is an argument against re-fighting battles that have been won and lost. But this must be counted an exception. The run-up to the referendum and the fraudulent case set out in the White Paper is not just history. It is, more importantly, a lesson which should never be lost sight of in the future.

Like all fundamentalist beliefs, nationalism creates zealots who are prone to assuming that their end justifies the means. If the facts do not suit, create new ones. If history does not stand scrutiny, rewrite it. Above all, if the numbers do not stack up, brazen it out and make them up. This will never change.

There are plenty decent nationalists exempt from these charges. Their belief is based on a principle they place above others. If there are negative economic consequences, then so be it – they should be set against other benefits and opportunities. That is a standpoint which can be argued with, honourably and without rancour. It involves neither denial nor falsification.

But that was not the route chosen by Salmond, Sturgeon and Swinney. For them, the mission was to concoct an economic case they knew to be thoroughly dishonest but which they hoped would avoid exposure long enough for them to win. They did not give a toss for the ordinary people of Scotland who would now be paying the horrendous price which this week’s figures confirmed, with much worse still to come.

The italics are mine. They really don’t care about the punters, that’s not what Nationalism is about. Secondly, the always perceptive Euan McColm:

The problem with the claims made by the SNP during the referendum campaign is that they were fantasy. I know there are arguments to be made about the unpredictability of oil markets and the wider economy, but the fact is that the nationalists’ financial case was not an exercise in optimism but a deception. Yet still the SNP and its supporters argue that a fairer Scotland is possible if we’d only break those chains that bind us to Westminster (that’s code for the English, in case you were in any doubt). Surely, in the name of the wee man, it’s time for this nonsense to stop?

If your current position is that independence is needed now – or in the near future – to ensure a more prosperous country, where assistance of the vulnerable is a priority, then you have not been paying attention to the facts. If you have been paying attention to the facts and you still believe the swift break-up of the UK is required for a fairer Scotland, then you’re deluded.

The facts to which I refer have been provided by the Scottish Government. The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figure published on Tuesday shows that Scotland ran a deficit of £14.9 billion in 2014-15. The difference between tax raised and the amount spent was breathtaking. Of course, a deficit, in itself, is not unusual. Most countries run them. But the size of an independent Scotland’s deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) exposes the size of the potential problem. As a percentage of GDP, the UK’s deficit was 4.9 in 2014-15 while Scotland’s was 9.7. An independent Scotland would have the highest deficit in the European Union. This would be completely unsustainable.

Those who rail against “austerity” today might want to examine what happened in Greece and Ireland, when deficits soared. Inhabitants of those countries can tell us all about austerity.Had Scotland voted Yes in September 2014, we’d now be on the brink of financial catastrophe. Independence Day – 24 March, according to Scottish Government proposals – would have ushered in an era of savage cuts to public spending and tax hikes to make the eyes of even the most wilfully compassionate amongst us water. Plummeting oil revenues – predicted to be £7.9bn in the independence White Paper but heading towards £100 million for 2015-16 – hammer home the case that an independent Scotland would have been in severe difficulty from the word go.

pinocchio1
*

Strictly the facts, as they say. If you want to get a feel for the despotic thought police approach nurtured by the Nat hierarchy (Salmond, Sturgeon, Hosie and a few others), read how easily weak but slightly more honest Nats such as John Swinney and Fergus Ewing get rolled over when it comes to ‘the message’. It’s all in Wilson’s superb piece.

I actually still hold the view that the SNP breathed a sigh of relief when they lost the referendum. It didn’t take Eck et al long to bounce back, in their usual antagonistic bragging idiotic way. They’re not an able administration (1,2,3) even when being showered with Barnett Formula money, even they know that they’d be dead in the water if they ever got their alleged goal.

 

** To which, add many pieces by Iain Martin, such as this one.

 

Celebrity death match: the Queen v Blair

The Queen has done us another unexpected favour, via journalist Iain Martin at CapX. He has provided in one paragraph a neat summary of the unique awfulness of the Blair years’ cultural mood (traces of which remain). I would normally use the joint worst film ever made, Love Actually, to provide the necessary snapshot of the era, but here is the paragraph. You probably had to be there to fully appreciate how awful it all was:

For all that the Queen has provided continuity, she has been extremely canny in the manner in which she has adapted to change. In the last quarter of a century, no British institution or profession has been untainted by scandal. Parliament, the press, the police, the BBC, the armed forces, the City, bankers and sporting stars have all been badly burned at various points, as that decline of deference turned into full-blown disaffection with the behaviour of elites. In the scandal stakes, the monarchy got there first in the 1990s, from the events surrounding the divorce of the Prince of Wales to the death of Princess Diana, when even some of the monarchy’s supporters accused the Queen of hard-heartedness and inflexibility. But in a tight spot, the monarchy executed a pivot rather brilliantly while looking slow-moving and reliant on others. The masters of spin and marketing descended to “rescue” the Queen following the death of Diana. Afterwards, the Blairites swaggered about. They had prevented a potential revolution when public feeling spilled over into outright mania. They had saved the stuffy old Queen (who during the madness was doing the best thing possible of caring for her bereaved grandsons in the tranquility of the Scottish Highlands). Under pressure, she was forced back to London by the mob and politicians responding to the mob. And the two boys, just young boys, were paraded in front of the mob outside Kensington Palace, where there was a mountain of flowers, so that the mob – which had so fetishised emoting on demand and “caring” that it could not see the cruelty in what it was demanding – could gawp. This was all done in the name of modernity, but 18 years later the Queen is still reigning, magnificently. Where are the bright, modern Blairites and their hero now? In the dustbin of history.

In a separate cinematic reference, the kind of milking the public that Martin describes is reminiscent of the quote from Gracchus, in Gladiator:

I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they’ll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they’ll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the senate, it’s the sand of the coliseum. He’ll bring them death – and they will love him for it.

Possibly a link with the utterly daft invasion of Iraq there. If Labour hadn’t got the push in 2010, God knows what mob-friendly schemes they might have come up with, though I reckon the incompetent crowd pleasers of the SNP may yet show us.

The Queen, out for a stroll
The Queen, out for a stroll

Exciting new words – an occasional series: ‘rastaquouère’

Some of the best writers tend to reuse their favourite obscure words, for example, Bruce Anderson’s many references to a degringolade (eg: 1, 2, 3). Here’s a cracker from one of the most gifted and funny hacks of them all, R Emmett Tyrrell jr, comparing presidents Bill Clinton and Warren Harding:

The similarities between Bill and Warren are instructive. Like Bill, Warren was an inveterate golfer and like Bill he adored socializing in the White House—though with a difference. When Warren had finished socializing his pockets were empty, and occasionally he had a hangover. Bill only drinks lite beer and wine, preferably of the non-alcoholic variety. Also when Bill finished socializing his pockets were full. Usually they were stuffed with lush donations from the rastaquouères of Hollywood, of Wall Street, and not infrequently rastaquouères from foreign parts.

‘rastaquouère’ ~ A social upstart, especially from a Mediterranean or Latin American country; a smooth untrustworthy foreigner.

It could get a lot of mileage with the referendum looming.

Dave following a couple of rastaquouères
Dave following a couple of rastaquouères

Labour’s glorious 13 years in power: an appreciation

Right then, what should we wreck first?
Right then, what should we wreck first?

Labour were in power for 13 years: 1997 to 2010, mostly under Tone, of course.

I used to argue with friends on the topic: what genuinely good things did Labour actually achieve, with the massive power to be wielded after their landslide? Bear in mind we can agree on most of the bad things, Iraq being no 1, and we probably can, however grudgingly, agree on what Maggie achieved in many key areas, as a handy comparison.

Happily, Labour Uncut, in the course of considering a Corbyn leadership, have offered their own carefully considered list. Remember, they all voted for Blair etc, and they still keep the Labour flame burning. Here is their list, with my comments. I’m pretty sure they haven’t missed any opportunities to big up the New Labour legacy:

…all the time Jeremy has been in parliament he has had a Labour party that either was in government or acted like it wanted to be in government. So his, and other constituents benefited from the minimum wage, 78,000 more nurses, devolved power in Scotland, a Welsh assembly, the overseas aid budget doubled, 30,000 more teachers, winter fuel payments to pensioners, halved waiting times in the NHS, free school milk and fruit, the Disability Rights Commission, free entry to museums and galleries, the Good Friday agreement, paternity leave, civil partnerships, to name but a few.

Hmm. Is that it?

the minimum wage

OK, not bad in principle, as a safety net. But it does distort market forces, which can be very damaging. Already Osborne has been fiddling with it, to his peril. as the FT says “As for working people, many will thank the chancellor as their wages rise. Others will become unaffordable and will lose their jobs”.  A mixed blessing, at best.

78,000 more nurses

Well, as a full time NHS worker, I would say firstly, it’s not that many, and secondly, putting nurses in non-jobs, which is a lot of it, is of no use. The problem, if there is one with hospital nursing, is attitudinal, and the changed nature of the job.

devolved power in Scotland

Tam Dalyell would have been proven right, if the oil price (and industry) hadn’t started collapsing. Basically a short term bit of meddling with terrible consequences. The only plus point is that despite the extremely low calibre of Holyrood MSP’s, the devolved chamber means that public spending is protected in Scotland by a nervy Westminster, whatever the Nat morons claim to the contrary. See Chokkablog on all this.

a Welsh assembly

What can I say? The Welsh NHS?

the overseas aid budget doubled

Like the minimum wage, in theory it’s a humane approach. The reality is a bit different, and being in government really shouldn’t be primarily gesture politics. It’s also spending money we don’t have.

30,000 more teachers

Another numbers game. What did the OECD find when it assessed Labour’s legacy on this? Try visiting any country in Europe, even crisis hit Spain and Greece, they seem pretty well educated and mostly fluent in English.

winter fuel payments to pensioners

Another blunt instrument, does it actually work in practice?

halved waiting times in the NHS

Ah yes, waiting times. I am part of this one. Fine concept for cancer, good for A&E, but very difficult in that service due to Labour’s destruction of GP out of hours services. However, the politicians are obsessed with waiting times for non-urgent elective surgery, over almost anything else. This distorts NHS provision, damages staff, wastes money and creates unmeetable expectations. There is no evidence that it gains votes, and all this when huge swathes of elective surgical practice are, embarrassingly, of uncertain value and unknown outcomes. Not everything is as good as a cataract op or a hip replacement.

free school milk and fruit

It’s not ‘free’. Do they actually consume it?

the Disability Rights Commission

OK as far as it went, now unfortunately swallowed up in the potentially tyrannical megabureaucracy of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a classic politicised quango

free entry to museums and galleries

Gold star, we can all agree on this one

the Good Friday agreement

Well, I have to admit that peace in Northern Ireland – for the most part – is better than the bad old days. I’m of the view however, that letting unrepetentant thugs like Adams and McGuinness swan around in government and being lauded has its down side. A lot of crimes have now gone unpunished, a lot of people feel very bitter, but powerless. A genuinely tricky one. Read this

paternity leave

Otherwise known as extended annual leave. A nightmare for small businesses and running essential public sector services. Of no proven advantage, as compared to the old days, when we just took annual leave. Actually, a pathetic development in the true sense of that word.

civil partnerships

Fair enough. Not to be confused with ‘gay marriage’.

I note that they didn’t include banning fox hunting. Is this a secret pleasure for the Labour Uncut staff? In any event, does the thin gruel outlined above even come close to outweighing the Iraq War, the institutionalisation of lying to voters, the destruction of the economy, the issues with immigration, the bizarre relationship with the worst of the EU, the explosion in unaffordable freebies by abusing Bevan’s concept of the welfare state, the subtle and not so subtle attacks on the teachers, the doctors and religion, the witless nurturing of violent Islamism in the UK?

I think the answer is no. And remember, the above is the Labour supporters‘ list of achievements, not mine. Also, bear in mind their indirect responsibility for the worst film ever made, Love Actually.

No wonder they are, happily, self-destructing.

We all need a (working) bullshit detector

Iran/Belgium fashion week
Iran/Belgium fashion week

Men who wear bow ties, cravats, and/or glasses on a string. People who join MENSA. Middle class people who go on a bit too long about ‘their’ football team.

All these categories may be victims of blind prejudice, or alternatively they may simply be stimulating a fully functioning bullshit detector, which is an essential piece of one’s armamentarium these days.

In medicine, beware of the patient loudly proclaiming they have a ‘high pain threshold’ – they will squeal like a pig as soon as you examine them. Junior surgeons who boast of their huge list of operations, personally undertaken are often the most callow and ineffective, prone to panic and misjudgement. Patients who enthusiastically medicalise their every feeling, for whom new diagnoses with arcane names such as fibromyalgia are the gift that keeps on giving. Doctors who are anxious to tell you how busy they are always have all their holidays booked, know their exact leave allowance, and go to silly meetings and get out of clinical duties more than any of their quieter colleagues.

So when I first saw Camila Batmanghelidjh, now of Kids’ Company notoriety, I think on Question Time a few years ago, I assumed she was of Nigerian heritage, or something similar. Why would she dress like that otherwise? The bullshit detector should have kicked in. Her exotic Belgian/Iranian gene pool doesn’t suggest an immediate affinity for sub-Saharan Africa.

Of course it now seems evident that at best she was naive and bad at running things, but today’s revelation that she had an expensive chauffeur, because she didn’t like walking or getting public transport, suggests a more calculating persona, perhaps.

Normally I’d be indifferent to this sort of nonsense, were it not for the fact that her organisation seems to have hoovered up literally millions of taxpayers’ cash, with, as it happens, not much to show for it beyond a few anecdotes. Dave’s own involvement suggests he needs a new bullshit detector. Worrying in a prime minister.

Most people reasonably assume charities compete for money that the public may or may not choose to give away, not just sign up with the government for enormous handouts. If you did want to spend all that public money on the disadvantaged, you’d be far better handing it out in the street a la helicopter money, rather than funnelling it through some loosely structured inefficient fiefdom like Kids’ Company appears to be.

So, I have to add to the above list, which is far from exhaustive anyway, a proclivity for dressing flamboyantly in a manner suggesting a different ethnic group. There are parallels here with the defiantly white black activist Rachel Dolezal, and indeed former candidate for the Democratic nomination, 1/32 Cherokee Elizabeth Warren.

Douglas Murray’s neat discussion of the ‘halo effect’ is as good an explanation as any of how previously well functioning bullshit detectors can be disabled:

It has often occurred to me that if you wanted to perform any great con trick these days you could do no better than to have a hard to pronounce name, wear achingly ethnic clothing and cultivate a sort of ‘mother earth’ persona. The search for authenticity is such that before long every culturally embarrassed media and political creep would beat a path to your door, sit at your feet and hug you like a tree. In reality you would never need to do anything much because you’ve already ticked all the culturally correct boxes.

Those of us who feel this way could be accused of being wise after the event, but once you’ve identified, well in advance of their current diminished popularity, Tony Blair, Bono, Richard Branson, Alex Salmond and many others, I feel one is entitled to claim a degree of authority in this emerging discipline.