Friday 28 January 2011

Unelected Bodies

Colin Firth is somewhat of a favourite for my wife (something to do with some scene from a BBC drama in the mid '90s) and he's currently, and deservedly, in the running for an Oscar for the King's Speech - a fine film although not entirely accurate.

That however doesn't stop him from being an arse:
The 50-year-old star of The King's Speech who was this week shortlisted for the Best Actor Oscar, said in an interview on Friday night that he believed people should choose their rulers.
A fine sentiment and one I agree with, he then goes on to say:

Asked for his views on the Royal Family by Piers Morgan on CNN, Firth said: "I think they seem very nice", and praised The Prince of Wales for his environmental activism.

But pushed harder for his opinion he added: "I really like voting. It's one of my favourite things".

Asked by Morgan: "So, an unelected institution isn't really your cup of tea?" Firth responded: "It's a problem for me, yeah. Unelected bodies".

So Colin Firth expresses anti-monarchist sentiments? This immediately in my cynical mind raises suspicions that his objections to unelected bodies is probably not all encompassing. Normally these objections are in conjunction with support for other more powerful 'unelected bodies'.

And so it proves. This would be the same Colin Firth who before last year's general election gave his backing to the Lib Dems. This is the party who said; "no, yes, maybe then we'll give a different referendum on the EU - anything to get the Lisbon Treaty through". Mr Firth's response? Er nothing. He later withdrew his support from the Lib Dems. Why you may ask? For his party's support of unelected bodies? Nope. For the Lib Dem betrayal on student tuition fees instead.

Then in 2005 Mr Firth lobbied the EU for fair trade, in particular the then EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson:

Mr Firth said that he wanted to lobby for the cause as a "European citizen..."

As a European Citizen, not a British one:

However, asked by the EUobserver whether he would get involved in promoting the EU, Colin Firth said without hesitation: "No."

But it wasn't a "no, because EU unelected bodies are not my cup of tea" response, nor was there any criticism of Peter Mandelson as an unelected EU Commissioner - instead Mr Firth is happy to lobby and engage with unelected bodies if it suits his purpose.

It always seems odd that the Queen, though granted is unelected but has relatively very little power, comes under criticism yet this criticism rarely extends to other unelected bodies, such as the EU Commission, the Council of the EU, the President of the European Council, Baroness Ashton or the European Court of Human Rights which passes judgment on prisoner's right to vote against the wishes of the UK people.

If republicans such as Mr Firth really cared about "unelected bodies" perhaps they would be better off starting with the bodies which actually have real power over public policy and the lives of real people, such as judges, quangos or international bodies like the EU.

Instead they waste their time fretting over an old lady who has a love for dogs and horses, her jet-flying climate change worrying son and the Privy Council.

But then some unelected bodies are more equal than others it seems.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Does The Daily Mail Read The Boiling Frog?

Probably not...

Iran has been embroiled in another censorship row after a top worn by Baroness Ashton was doctored in state media because it was too revealing.

Photographs of the EU foreign minister with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili at talks in Istanbul on Friday appeared the next day in Iranian media - but showed her wearing a top with a much higher neckline than she actually had on.

...but you heard it first:

Monday 24 January 2011

Know Your Place

Sky Sports presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys ignore a fundamental rule of broadcasting by failing to treat every microphone as a live one, and engage in off-the-air sexist comments about female assistant referees:

Personally I thought that not knowing the offside rule was a fundamental criteria of being an assistant ref anyway, or at least that's how it always seems in practice.

Sunday 23 January 2011

BBC Bias

I've come a bit late to this article in the Daily Mail by BBC newsreader Peter Sissons regarding BBC bias. In truth he was never my favourite newsreader; he always seem to read the news as though he wanted to break through the television screen and punch me in the face. However his article on BBC bias, as a former employee, is a must read:

In my view, ‘bias’ is too blunt a word to describe the subtleties of the ­pervading culture. The better word is a ‘mindset’. At the core of the BBC, in its very DNA, is a way of thinking that is firmly of the Left.

By far the most popular and widely read newspapers at the BBC are The Guardian and The Independent. ­Producers refer to them routinely for the line to take on ­running stories, and for inspiration on which items to cover. In the later stages of my career, I lost count of the number of times I asked a producer for a brief on a story, only to be handed a copy of The Guardian and told ‘it’s all in there’.

And surprise surprise the BBC supports the usual suspects:

Whatever the United Nations is associated with is good — it is heresy to question any of its activities. The EU is also a good thing, but not quite as good as the UN. Soaking the rich is good, despite well-founded economic arguments that the more you tax, the less you get. And Government spending is a good thing, although most BBC ­people prefer to call it investment, in line with New Labour’s terminology.

All green and environmental groups are very good things. Al Gore is a saint. George Bush was a bad thing, and thick into the bargain. Obama was not just the Democratic Party’s candidate for the White House, he was the BBC’s. Blair was good, Brown bad, but the BBC has now lost interest in both.

Of course none of this comes as any kind of shock as Autonomous Mind points out. It's a shame, as is always the way, that the truth only outs from the inside when those concerned have left positions of responsibility.

For some time I've contemplated withdrawing from paying the license fee. Partly because I no longer watch much television, particularly because the news has become so much more vacuous, but mostly because of precisely the issues that Sissons' raises. The BBC will only listen via their wallets:
Complaints from viewers may invariably be met with the BBC’s stock response, ‘We don’t accept that, so get lost’. But complaints from ministers, though they may be rejected publicly, usually cause consternation — particularly if there is a licence fee settlement in the offing. And not just ministers, if a change of Government is thought likely.
The only thing that stops me is that my wife is less keen, and nervous of a license fee battle in court; not surprising as they adopt bullying tactics and go for the innocent and more vulnerable members of a non-paying family.

Baroness Ashton's Too Sexy For Iran

Baroness Ashton, the UK's, EU's foreign Minister is currently attending talks in Turkey over Iran's controversial nuclear program.

It would seem though that her top was too 'low-cut' and so Iranian newspapers have altered it to make it appear more Islamic. This is the original:

And these are some of the Iranian front pages:

Wednesday 19 January 2011


I've said before and the Talking Clock notes as well today, why, in the UK, do we have to rely on a Russian news site for televised coverage of the UK and the EU?

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Ireland Prints Its Own Euros

A great spot by the Talking Clock, the Irish Independent reports (my emphasis):

EMERGENCY lending from the ECB to banks in Ireland fell in December, the first decline since January 2010, but only because the Irish Central Bank stepped up its help to banks.

The Irish Independent learnt last night that the Central Bank of Ireland is financing €51bn of an emergency loan programme by printing its own money.

Wow! This is desperate stuff, the ramifications of which are potentially enormous. It surely defeats the object of a single currency having individual member states printing money on a whim. What is now obvious is that the issue of Ireland and its bailout is far from over:

In hindsight, the attention of the market moving to Portugal or Spain was a misdirection of where the real attention needed to be, and that is Ireland still.

The bail out of Ireland, funded currently from their own retirement savings, has not been ratified by their government. The ECB has not started to poured funds from the Stabilization fund into Ireland yet, as they await ratification of the bailout.

The bailout, like a ticking time bomb has not been ratified yet, and if Fianna Fail’s 1 vote coalition collapses before the vote, all bets are off as to it ever being passed.

And it's not even clear that Ireland have permission to do this:

Ireland Central Bank was allowed, with or with out permission, to print up up new Euros without new sovereign debt issued behind them.

As Ireland have now set a precedent will Greece, Portugal and Spain do the same? The inflationary pressures of doing so will greatly increase. So how will Germany react to this, given that they are obsessed with keeping inflation low at all costs for very obvious historical reasons.

The crisis affecting the Euro has just deepened.

'Legal Difficulties'

Much is being made this morning that the Government is introducing minimum pricing for alcohol, although in reality no such thing is actually being proposed. Instead of a blanket minimum price per unit, it is being linked to the duty and VAT paid:
Under plans to be unveiled by the Home Office today retailers will be banned from selling drinks for less than the value of duty and VAT owed on them.
But the announcement means the Government has stopped short of setting a blanket minimum unit price for alcohol – such as 50p per unit – which would have pushed up the average price of all products.
And there's a very good reason for this, a blanket price per unit would have been challenged in the European Courts as I blogged here and here. Don't expect the Telegraph to mention this though:
It is understood officials were concerned such a move would run in to legal difficulties. Similar proposals in Scotland were dropped.
No elaboration on what those legal difficulties are, and not for the first time has the Telegraph stayed quiet. In contrast even the BBC managed to get around to mentioning the EU in its report, albeit briefly:
Last September, the Scottish Parliament rejected plans for a minimum price per unit of alcohol of 45p, after opposition MSPs said the move would penalise responsible drinkers and could be illegal under European competition law.
Predictably the usual fake charities are not happy:
Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "Duty is so low in the UK that it will still be possible to sell very cheap alcohol and be within the law.

"The government needs to look again at a minimum price per unit of alcohol. That is the only evidence-based approach that will end cheap discounts once and for all."

How about the evidence based approach that our real government lies in Brussels not in London?

Monday 17 January 2011

Sunday 16 January 2011

The Tautology Quote Of The Day

From the Daily Mail (my emphasis):
Top Premiership footballers like Wayne Rooney and Gareth Barry are avoiding millions of pounds in tax - and it's all legal.
Er...well yes, avoiding tax is legal, who woulda thunk that?

Interestingly the article then goes on to say:
Scores of top footballers launched their own companies eligible to take image rights payments after Labour Chancellor announced the 50p top rate tax...[image rights] royalties are paid into a company which is only liable for 28 per cent corporation tax rather than the 50 per cent income tax.
So by raising the higher rate of tax on the rich, tax avoidance schemes are implemented which reduces the overall tax take. Not only proof that Labour are intrinsically economically illiterate but that each generation has to learn the whole Laffer curve lesson all over again.

Thursday 13 January 2011

EU Landfill Directive 'Backfiring'

A report by Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has warned that pressure on recycling more leads to goods that can be recycled such as; paper, glass and plastics being sent to landfill anyway because the quality is not good enough:

The document by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) says councils are focusing too much on the quantity of recycling rather than quality.

This is tending to produce a poor-quality stream of recyclable material.

Because of this, the lower-grade material sometimes has to be sent to landfill anyway.

To combat this the ICE believes that focusing on the quality should be as important as the quantity:
The report says the waste industry must change its culture so the focus is not only on increasing the quantity of recycled materials but on retaining the quality and value of reusable materials.
Quite how the ICE thinks the culture will change whilst we under EU obligations (Landfill Directive 99/31/EC) to send less to landfill - or else, it doesn't say.

I'm sure Councils would like to improve recycling quality, but that's not where their priorities lie. Their priorities lie in trying to avoid massive EU fines - £150 fine per landfill tonne (a possible £3 Billion bill to the taxpayer). This kinda concentrates Council's minds over and above all other considerations. It simply matters not if the consequences are; poorer quality recycling material, fortnightly bin collections, residents anger, public health issues, unpopular incinerators or no collections at all.

And until our relationship with the EU changes, then the ICE can produce as many reports as it likes, it matters not one jot.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Execution Only

Among the most prominent characteristic traits of the EU is that it believes we need protecting from ourselves by over regulation - whether we wish it or need it - and that if an EU proposal fails at the first hurdle then it'll keep coming back again and again until it succeeds.

This mindset is neatly illustrated by the latest proposals by the EU Commission to overhaul its Markets in Financial Instruments Directive. Dubbed Mifid II it's another power grab on the City of London a review of the original with the aim of regulating all those investment services it missed the first time around.

One of the most radical parts of Mifid II is a proposal to ban execution-only investments. 'Execution only' is a form of business where a customer has requested a specific investment but has chosen not to receive independent financial advice. This is aimed primarily at professional investors who have enough knowledge to make their own choices, thus cutting out unnecessary advice which in turn reduces paperwork and costs. Execution only has been an established market in the UK for nearly 30 years. People making their own choices by their own free will.

Freedom of choice (and the right to lose our own money) is an anathema to the EU project, so they propose a ban (my emphasis):

Do you consider that, in the light of the intrinsic complexity of investment services, the "execution-only" regime should be abolished.
In other words people are too stupid to make their own decisions so they need their hand held:

Deleting Article 19(6)

This implies abolition of the execution only regime. In support of this option it may be argued that retail clients – who are essentially concerned by the provision of execution only – should always expect a higher standard of service from intermediaries...

The net effect being that investors will be forced to pay for something that they neither want nor need. Unsurprisingly it's not the first time that this ban has been proposed, this from 2003:

Theresa Villiers, a British MEP, announced last week that she is taking up the cudgels in support of cheap, no-frills, execution-only stockbroking, which looks like becoming the latest victim of EU interfering bureaucracy.

Investors who want the freedom to use such a service should sit up and take notice because the EU nannies are suggesting that some of us are not "suitable" investors.

Villiers is the Rapporteur for the EU Investment Services Directive which, as currently drafted, would require stockbrokers to run suitability checks on all clients' investments - even those that have opted to trade without advice through execution-only share dealing services.

The proposal was dropped after opposition from the UK Government, but one wonders how hard this Government will fight. Not very I suspect.

What it does prove though is that the EU never ever takes no for an answer.

Monday 10 January 2011

Déjà Vu Again

A new year, but the same old problems. The Euro continues to beg to be put out of its misery:
Portugal is resisting pressure to become the next eurozone nation forced into a massive financial bailout.

Perhaps worryingly for the Portuguese people, the noises out of Lisbon match those Ireland made in the days leading up to its own European Union/International Monetary Fund bailout worth £72bn.

But there is a growing belief that Portugal may also have to climb down in its opposition to a rescue package, which some commentators estimate could reach £66bn.

And guess what?

Under any deal, Britain is committed to making a contribution.

Bailing out Portugal is to save the Euro by trying to protect Spain - whose banks are massively exposed to Portuguese debt. Spain is too big to be bailed out. This is desperation to protect contagion spreading to Spain, which may or may not work. Naturally, during the processes of the euroslime protecting their own interests, the question of Portuguese democracy, and voter's wishes, will trampled on, burnt gleefully and buried six foot under:
It’s believed that Portugal is negotiating a private placement. Their objective is to take some pressure off, rather than rely solely on the market and having to defend her sovereignty in the press.
It simply can't continue like this.

Update: from the Guardian:

"A bailout for Portugal is inevitable – foreigners own 80% of Portuguese debt and they have decided to stop lending to Portugal," said Jonathan Tepper, chief editor at Variant Perception, a research firm in London.

What's It Like?

I have no brothers or sisters. It's something that has never been a big deal for me; I've rubbed along quite nicely for 30 odd years without giving it more than a moment's consideration. But...boy does it become a big deal when the subject arises in social situations, as it did for me this weekend just gone.

My wife dragged me along to a belated Christmas gathering, involving lots of small talk with people we rarely see. The conversation turned to troublesome siblings, then at one point in the discussion I was asked my thoughts on the matter. "I don't know, I don't have any [brothers or sisters]". These seven words had a dramatic effect; there was a sharp collective intake of breath, and within seconds I'd magically transformed myself from an acceptable member of the human race into a zoological freak.

"'re an only child? You kept that quiet" was one response. Obviously what I had said was the equivalent of a family secret so shaming that we've been desperate to keep it quiet only for the pesky drunken Uncle to blurt it all out at the most inappropriate moment.

I tried quickly to move the conversation along to another subject - unfortunately to no avail - because I knew what's coming next. The questions. Normally a mixture of the clumsy and downright rude; questions will be asked. I awaited the verbal equivalent of curiously prodding me with a stick with dread:
  • What's it like?

  • Don't you miss / wish having a brother or sister?

  • You must have been lonely?
and this one always always gets asked. Always:
  • I bet you were a spoiled brat?
Those questions above are the classics, but I've also had these:
  • What's wrong with your Mum and Dad?

  • You don't look like an only child.
And more rude ones besides.

The least offensive yet conversely the hardest question to answer is; "what's it like?" Stephen Fry addressed the perils of answering this ubiquitous question regarding his fame:
Is [fame] fun? Or, as student journalists always ask, what’s it like? ‘What’s it like working with Natalie Portman, what’s it like doing QI, what’s it like being famous?’ I don’t know what it is like. What is being English like? What is wearing a hat like? What’s eating Thai red curry like? I don’t believe that I can answer any question formulated that way.
Exactly how do you describe what it's like? To me being an only child is just normal. I don't know any different. I usually respond with; "what's it like having siblings?", it's the same question. I don't miss siblings as it's very difficult to miss what you've never had. I have occasionally wondered how different it may have been, out of interest, not to be an only child but it's never been more than a passing thought. I guess that those with siblings occasionally wonder the reverse.

The one that really needles though is "spoiled brat" and after many years of hearing that I have plenty of rather offensive one liner responses to that in my locker. Quite the contrary, my parents in common with other parents of only children strive to make sure that is not the case - they overcompensate. Similar to the football managers who treat their sons worse as a player, than the rest of the team.

I have two loving parents and had a happy childhood and I wouldn't change a thing. Ever. Growing up as an only child is neither better nor worse just different. The only major downfall I can see with being an only child is that you often get talked to like you're a petri dish experiment. I'm not. I'm just a bloke who happens not to have any siblings.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Absent Ashton

Bruno Waterfield from the Telegraph reports:
Absent Baroness Ashton leaves Britain without a voice
Baroness Ashton has failed to fully attend two thirds of European Commission meetings over the past year, leaving Britain without a voice in the most important forum for EU law making, according to research by The Daily Telegraph.
Leaving aside for one moment that Ashton has never seemed popular within the EU, the Telegraph seems to think this is news, surely more pertinent questions would be;
  • Why does such a job exist?

  • Who cares if Ashton fails to attend?

  • Who cares - full stop?

Quote Of The Day

From The (my emphasis):
Disability campaigners have welcomed the EU's ratification of the UN convention on rights for people with disabilities.
It commits signatories to ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy their rights on an equal footing with other citizens.
Hmm unfortunately phrased.

Europe And You

A wonderfully vacuous video by the EU (paid for by us naturally) on the merits of our membership in the style of; 10 great things the EU did for us last year:

Apparently the EU secured a sound economy (no...please...don't laugh) and boosted small businesses (despite the endless regulation), oh and fairer trials.

But let's not fret, at least they ensured that there was a common charger for mobile phones. My oh my, what would we do without them?

Update: Have just spotted that Open Europe posted this video this afternoon.

Saturday 1 January 2011