Thursday, March 15, 2007

My blog has moved

As per the title I've moved to

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ugly Rumours

Listening to the chart on Sunday there was a cover of Frankie's hit 'War!' from the 1980's being covered by someone (maybe it was a cover by Frankie also, I can't remember if they wrote it or not)

Anyway it reminded me of another hit of theirs Two Tribes and I was wondering where are the great protest songs these days; do they not get in the charts anymore, or do they not get written.

As the cover finished, the band was apparently called 'Ugly Rumours', the same name as Tony Blair's group at University.

Shum coincidence shurely?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A 1970's TV renaissance on the horizon?

Someone sent me this link today

It made me laugh, but also reminded me of watching this when originally broadcast with my parents. I enjoyed watching them laugh, but I didn't understand why. I certainly now recognise its great quality.

However I understand various broadcast companies are forcing YouTube to remove clips like this because of copyright infringement. A shame if they do, because more than likely many people will get to enjoy them properly second time around, and buying the DVDs because, not in spite of, YouTube.

Maybe we'll even get to see them on the screen again ?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Local Government

Yawn, not exactly the most interesting subject, but here goes.

A couple of weeks ago, before I went on holiday, Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart and someone else (I think the name was Julian Myserson) described as a Guardian journalist and former London Labour Councillor (but I can't google that combination to get the right name) debated on Radio 4 changes needed in local government to get more involvement.

In short Sir Sandy was saying give us more power and the other guy was saying pay us properly. Also neither seemed to recognise the force of the others argument.

The truth is you need a several changes, a virtuous circle of a number of changes that will re-enforce each other to improve the standing and purpose of councils and increase relevance and interest in them. And both of these contributors were right.

Localism - Sir Sandy's point, give more power to the councils and let them have the freedom to govern their areas. In the council elections I'm running for this May, I'm told that have freedom to spend approx 4% of the budget. The rest of what we raise has to be spent the way Tony Blair's government wants it spent.

Professional Pay - Julian's point - Councillors need to be paid something approaching a proper allowance or salary. Oxfordshire County Council pays a basic allowance of 7k/year and expects a minimum of a day a week from its councillors. The really good people that you want running these organisations could easily earn £100k+ elsewhere. I'm not suggesting we pay that, but it seems a lot of Conservatives see it as a plus when their Councillors are working for peanuts. This greatly limits the people we can attract.

Two other points to make:-

- Unitary authority - Rather than the multi-tier council operations that exist in many shire counties, we should have a single authority responsible for all. No wonder hardly anyone turns to vote in local elections, most people haven't got a clue what council/service/issues they're voting for. In fact of the 30% who do, I bet a significant number do so because of a duty to vote rather than a clear understanding of what they're voting for. (Caveat here is that the current proposed reforms are exactly this, but are providing an excellent means for the Labour government to undermine well run Tory shire councils.)

Many rightly argue that multi-tier systems work fine in many places and in an operational sense they are correct. In a political or democratic sense that may not be so, but we mustn't break the good governance in pursuit of electoral utopia.

- Local fiscal accountability with revenue raising powers - The basic problem is most Councils raise only about 15% max of what they spend, the rest coming from Whitehall. This creates a gearing effect that means small reductions in central Government grant have a huge impact on the local council tax; it is genuinely not under their control.

The LibDems present their solution as a local income tax, but as often is the case with them it is a potentially good principle, spoiled by PC gibberish, bureaucracy and contradictions. The Direct Democracy group proposed raising sales tax (VAT) locally. Not all questions were answered by their research, but they made the good point that current central government grants almost equals the VAT take nationally. This implies a move to separation of local and central government without complex and drawn out transitory arrangements. Much better.

There's probably others as well, we must take time to make the changes and it will be painful at first, but all done together and we will achieve a great thing; restoral of a proper functioning local democracy.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Carphone Warehouse shows principle

It appears that some people tied up with the Big Brother controversy can come out of this with reputations clean. CPW at least has shown it is not prepared to stay wallowing in the publicity and try to elicit some more business out of it.

I suspect there are other business considerations in that decision, but yesterday the behaviour of Endemol, Ch4 and advertisers linked with the show indicated they seemed to be happy to continue milking it to get the most out.

On Question Time last night the panel was asked if it was a window on society or irresponsible programming. Yet the MPs on the panel seemed a little retiscent to condemn it completely.

Earlier in the day Tessa Jowell said that the regulator would deal with it and it was not a good day if ministers call for programmes to be axed.

Well from a Government that wants to list us all on endless databases, and assaults our liberties everyday, yes that would be a worry. But if as David Cameron says we establish a consensus in a future Britain based around social responsibility, where the Government doesn't legislate on everything and anything and people to recognise the consequences of their actions, then we could rightly take such statements from Ministers and MPs for what they should be seen as; a lead to follow and an example of behaviour, not an implicit threat to outlaw something else.

Let's stop arguing whether BB is racist, based on class or a culture clash. It is glamourising and commercialising a behaviour pattern that many of us will recognise as objectionable and Channel4 or Endemol should take responsibility for their actions and get it off our screens.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Airport Tax

The new tax Gordon has imposed on flights is getting a bit of airtime now that the deadline is approaching and it will have to be collected. Its quite small but it sums up Browns attitude to a lot of things; how can I turn it into a revenue opportunity ?

Applying this tax on all flights already booked (rather than flights booked after say Jan 1st 2007) is very unlikely to deter people from flying. Hotels and other expenses will already be committed. It might have a tiny, tiny affect on business or air frieght, but probably so small as to not be measurable. Yet this will now cause confusion and stress for travellers and the airlines trying to collect it.

Let's be honest, we need extra stress at an airport like a hole in the head.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Mythbusting fingerprint recognition

Following on from my earlier ID cards post.....Mythbusters is a kind of kids semi-science program where the presenters use methods to try to disprove a myth, such as soldiers must break step whilst going over a bridge, otherwise it will collapse.

So they decided to break into a door lock that used finger print recognition, that supposedly had never been compromised.