Friday, February 25, 2005

It IS fiddling

Warning: this is a posting about accountancy. The faint hearted may wish to move on.

I posted here about the UK government's change to the way they treat road repairs in the national accounts, and the concern that this was driven by a need to meet Gordon Brown's golden rule.

I've done a bit of gentle digging since then and here are the results of that work.

I contacted the Office of National Statistics to ask about the rules that are in force in this area and was pointed to the UN system of National Accounts. The link is here.

There I found this (all emphasis is mine):

Maintenance and repairs

The distinction between maintenance and repairs and gross fixed capital formation is not clear-cut. The ordinary, regular maintenance and repair of a fixed asset used in production constitutes intermediate consumption. Ordinary maintenance and repair, including the replacement of defective parts, are typical ancillary activities but such services may also be provided by a separate establishment within the same enterprise or purchased from other enterprises.
The practical problem is to distinguish ordinary maintenance and repairs from major renovations, reconstructions or enlargements which go considerably beyond what is required simply to keep the fixed assets in good working order. Major renovations, reconstructions, or enlargements of existing fixed assets may enhance their efficiency or capacity or prolong their expected working lives. They must be treated as gross fixed capital formation as they add to the stock of fixed assets in existence.
Ordinary maintenance and repairs are distinguished by two features:

(a) They are activities that owners or users of fixed assets are obliged to undertake periodically in order to be able to utilize such assets over their expected service lives. They are current costs that cannot be avoided if the fixed assets are to continue to be used. The owner or user cannot afford to neglect maintenance and repairs as the expected service life may be drastically shortened otherwise;

(b) Maintenance and repairs do not change the fixed asset or its performance, but simply maintain it in good working order or restore it to its previous condition in the event of a breakdown. Defective parts are replaced by new parts of the same kind without changing the basic nature of the fixed asset.

In essence this is identical to a standard UK company accounting treatment: if you are just putting the asset back to it original state then you are repairing it and you cannot put the cost on the balance sheet.

Except that's what the government appears to be trying to do. They are going to have to string together quite an argument to explain why they think this is acceptable under the rules. It's certainly hard to imagine anything they could say which would pass muster with a commercial auditor.

Perhaps these are guidelines rather than rules? I went back to the ONS to find out about the UN system and whether it binds the UK government. The answer came back a few hours later:
[T]he situation is that as an EU member state, the UK is obliged in its National Accounts to follow the European System of Accounts 1995. This is consistent with the earlier (1993) UN System of National Accounts [...]

With the evidence I have, it looks to me as if the government is flouting the regulations it has signed up to, in order to meet its self-imposed golden rule. This matters because of the effect it might have on the financial markets- it will surely dent the Chancellor's reputation for prudence. (When was the last time you heard him mention dear old Prudence?) I can only assume that the markets will apply a risk premium to UK debt if they think the accounts can't be trusted, and that will cost us all money in the end.

The ONS have stated that the change was part of their regular review of policies and was not due to political pressures, so I asked them to clarify what was felt to be wrong about the previous treatment. After all, we've had roads for hundreds of years, so you would have thought the treatment in the national accounts would be pretty much settled by now. The ONS didn't want to answer this just yet. Apparently there is to be a briefing note on the subject on Monday which they have promised to copy me in on. This may also throw some light onto how the government is intending to talk its way out of sticking to the rules. I'll post anything interesting they send me.

Until then I'm working on the assumption that Gordon Brown has hinted strongly to the ONS that he would be made a happy man if a way were found for him to meet the golden rule, and the ONS has decided to oblige.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Middle Eastern democratisation

Bubbling along nicely...


The thought of some scruffy teacher trying to fill my children's heads with lefty propaganda is pretty horrifying. This is worse.

(Via Daily Ablution)

The Church weighs into the John Bell scandal

I blogged here about the claims by one Dr John Bell that Israeli troops targeted Palestinian children. These claims, which were broadcast on BBC Radio 4, lead to an apology, but not a retraction of the central claim.

Via Melanie Philips:
Now, an official in the Church of Scotland has weighed into the controversy --
by comparing Bell to Jesus!

The official, Sandy Gemmill, stated in a letter to the Herald:
Governments are like monoliths in exercising power on behalf of the people and
from time to time must be reminded of the need to see beyond their own self-centred interests to those of the human race. If an uncorroborated story concerning any member of the Israeli Army, real or imaginary, can aid that process then that should be applauded.

So it's all right to make stuff up if you think it's in a good cause. Is Sandy Gemmill a pseudonym for Alistair Campbell or what?

Are blogs having an effect on the UK MSM?

In a post on Ian Duncan-Smith's piece on blogs, Melanie Philips points out that it being published in the Guardian may be significant.

[The] Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, is astute enough to grasp the nature of the gathering threat to the MSM. Word has it that he intends to use the opportunity afforded by the imminent radical redesign of the Guardian into a format somewhere between a tabloid and broadsheet in size to 'put the "r" back into reporting' -- in other words, to rid its news pages of their fabled prejudice and bias.
It would be nice to think that this was down to UK blogs, but it's more likely that he has seen the way the tide has turned in the US and is trying to get ahead of the game.

Another Martin Bell

The Independent reports that Craig Murray, our outspoken former ambassador to Uzbekistan, is going to stand against Jack Straw in the general election. He intends to use his campaign to ask lots of embarrassing questions.
He is [...] making extraordinary allegations, the most damaging of which is that Britain is using information obtained from torture to imprison people indefinitely.

The election needed livening up a little bit, so many thanks to Mr Murray.


Didn't post anything yesterday, pressures of work getting the better of me. Or that's what I thought. Got back to blogging tonight to be reminded that yesterday was the protest day in support of imprisoned Iranian bloggers. We were either meant to blog about the protest (as most sites I visit seem to have done) or not blog at all. So there you are, I protested without even knowing it.

Actually I'm feeling a bit guilty and as my penance, I'm going to work out how to get the banner from the Committee to Protect Bloggers on my site. If it's not up by the end of the week, please feel free to blogswarm me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Lebanese protest against Syrian occupation

The Lebanese protests are being widely reported, both on blogs and the MSM.

Some idle speculation: could the Iraqi elections presage a wholesale collapse of the Middle Eastern tyrannies in the same way that the fall of the Berlin wall lead to the collapse of the Eastern European tyrannies?

It's not obviously the case, and it's easy to point to differences between the two situations. For example Eastern European countries were all Soviet client states, whereas the Middle Eastern countries are much more independent. But then again, the Middle Eastern countries share languistic and religious ties which might make a domino effect more likely.

If the situation in Lebanon does blow up into something big then it is not beyond the realms of possibility that sufficient momentum could be built up to take down a series of dictators. If I were George Bush I might want to push just a little harder right now.

More civil liberties bite the dust

Spy Blog asks:

If a Judge is to be trusted to "review" a "Control Order" case after 7 days, why on earth can't the Judge examine the "evidence" before granting a "Control Order" in the first place ?

There needs to be a roll of shame published so that so that MPs who have voted in favour of all of the government's authoritarian legislation can suffer some consequences for their slavish devotion to party over country.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Political subsistence

Labour Watch has an excellent piece from the Scotsman on councillors' expenses.

Scotland on Sunday asked every one of the country’s 32 local authorities to reveal which trips councillors had undertaken over the past three years. Glasgow failed to provide any information, blaming an "administrative error", while Orkney and Inverclyde claimed not to have received our request. Figures from the remaining 29 show that hundreds of councillors took the chance, funded out of the public purse, to escape the mundane world of local politics and travel abroad. Highlights - for the councillors involved - include the £856 trip to the picturesque French community of Cognac taken by Perth and Kinross Provost Bob Scott to celebrate the town’s Festival of the Grape Harvest.


Dundee City Council charged its taxpayers £949 to send Councillor Fiona Grant to the Global Digital Cities Network conference in Australia’s Gold Coast. Then there was the £1,382 cost of flying Fife councillor Tom Dair and a "Mrs T Dair" to Tampa, Florida. The reason for that trip is not known.

What is so depressing is that these same sleazy crooks will be voted back in again next time round.

US meeting with insurgents

Time magazine is reporting that there have been meetings between Baathist insurgents and the US military in Iraq.
In that guarded pledge may lie the first sign that after nearly two years of fighting, parts of the insurgency in Iraq are prepared to talk and move toward putting away their arms--and the U.S. is willing to listen. An account of the secret meeting between the senior insurgent negotiator and the U.S. military officials was provided to TIME by the insurgent negotiator. He says two such meetings have taken place. While U.S. officials would not confirm the details of any specific meetings, sources in Washington told TIME that for the first time the U.S. is in direct contact with members of the Sunni insurgency, including former members of Saddam's Baathist regime.

It's difficult to know what has prompted the move by the Baathists to negociate - perhaps their losses are too great, perhaps they are tiring of being on the run, perhaps they have now recognised that with a democratic government in place their claim to be fighting an occupier ring hollow. But if they back down and sue for peace then it is possible to foresee better security and improving economic conditions feeding back on each other and undermining the jihadis. It could be the beginning of the end.

Via USS Neverdock

IRA subversion

Scotland on Sunday carries a fairly mindblowing piece on the IRA's (alleged) attempt to subvert the political process in the Republic of Ireland

There is now a belief that the finance operation uncovered is intended to fund a massive campaign to subvert politics in the Republic of Ireland, undermining its political parties and institutions. Gardai now talk in apocalyptic terms. The scheme is, they say, the IRA’s banking system to be used to overthrow the government of Ireland.

A key part of the grandiose plan was the subverting of Sinn Fein’s political opposition. The IRA is in the process of building a black propaganda campaign to attack members of the Irish parliament and other elected representatives. Across the country, the IRA has been spying on members of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the Progressive Democrats. Units of IRA volunteers, under the guise of Sinn Fein "activists", have been building up dossiers on members of opposing political parties. This information is to be used to destroy the careers of politicians and public figures at key points in the run-up to the next Irish general election, in which Sinn Fein hopes to establish itself as a major presence in the Dail.

Run that by me again. They want to overthrow the government of Ireland? I struggle to get my head around the implications.

The article goes on:
Gardai believe that the IRA has turned itself into a criminal organisation comparable to the Mafia in the US. It has, they say, become a threat to the institutions of democracy.

It will be an appalling fate for the whole island of Ireland if the terrorist arm of the IRA is silenced, but the mafia arm grows and prospers. In May, there is a huge decision to be made by Nationalist voters in the North. Will they support parties that abide by the rule of law, paid for by their supporters, and engaging in civilised debate? Or will it be a party that robs, threatens, murders and extorts? They will live with the effects of that decision for a long time. If they choose the democratic path, they could sink the IRA once and for all. The alternative doesn't bear thinking about.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Lies and damned lies

The Office of National Statistics has decided that it will now treat road repairs as capital rather than revenue expenditure. That's to say that repairing a road has become an investment, and not, well, a repair. According to the Times:

The ONS denied that it had been leant on by Mr Brown or the Treasury to make any changes to how it calculates its statistics, saying that the revisions had been decided on as part of the normal review of methodology. “There was absolutely no improper influence. There was a joint study with Treasury statisticians but the decision to make the revision was made by the National Statistician alone, and its implementation fully accords with the National Statistics Code of Practice,” a spokesman said.

This is so blatantly the government cooking the books as to make the ONS denial of political involvement in the decision look laughable. Do they really expect us to believe that something as huge in scope and as basic in nature as road repairs suddenly needs to have a revised treatment in the national accounts? I could understand it if we were talking about something complicated like foreign exchange or interest rate hedges, but this is road repairs for heaven's sake. The nation has been repairing things since before the Conquest. We have been accounting for repairs since double entry bookkeeping was invented. What has changed now?

The rules for accountants on what is revenue and what is capital expenditure are pretty clear: repairs are revenue, improvement is capital. You don't see the Accounting Standards Board spending months discussing whether property repairs should be capitalised. So why is it different for government? I can't imagine what sort of rules the ONS has for distinguishing the two but they are clearly not the same as the rules that are enforced on the rest of us.

The answer is easy of course. It's different for government because Gordon needs it to be different.

When you think about it, it's pretty unlikely that anyone is going to believe anything put together by a combination of politicians and statisticians anyway. The Tory policy of making the ONS independent is therefore a sound one, although let's face it, not one that is going to sway many punters at the polling booths. Meanwhile it's up to the commentariat to point out every time a set of government figures is released, that they cannot be trusted because their production is under the malign influence of politicians. This is the only way we might embarrass them into change.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


There is an admirable post up on Crooked Timber at the moment, wishing Instapundit Glenn Reynolds and his wife well while she is in hospital. In the comments is this:

Sorry, but I find it disgusting to wish a lying, racist bastard anything good.
And do remember that he is a lying, racist bastard.That sort of “may the best
man win” good sportsmanship died with Ken Starr and Newt Gingrich. And perhaps it’s also because people like me found it a little difficult to cry at massa’s
funeral.Tough luck for marrying a scumbag is the best I can do.

This is beyond contempt.

Update. The comment has now been removed. Kudos to Crooked Timber.

Dutch safe houses

Dutch parliamentary representative Hirsi Ali, who famously collaborated with Theo Van Gogh on the film "Submission", has revealed the locations in which she and fellow representative-in-hiding Geert Wilders are being housed, in order to protest at the conditions they are required to endure.

Wilders is being held in the high security jail best known for housing the Lockerbie bombers, while Hirsi Ali is housed in a heavily guarded marine base.

She experiences it as “very unjust and pathetic” that she has to live on secret locations. She thinks the “basic rights to be involved in politics” is under threat by the security philosophy professed by Minister Donner and the National Security Coordinator (NCBB). She says the philosophy is this: “Who is under threat should disappear”.This way they “unintended reach the goals of my opponents who do every thing to stop me: from threats to murder plans.”, Hirsi Ali says.

And she's right. If she and Wilders are forced to disappear then the terrorists have won.

(Via Dutch Report)

Joyce Lee Malcolm on hunting and self-defence

"God's hammer against cakes and ale" they called them in the seventeenth-century, those Puritans who outlawed sports, music and dance on the Sabbath. Today Labour backbenchers are a hammer against the "upper-class" country pleasure of fox hunting, ostensibly in the name of animal protection. The same politicians with little sympathy for householders fighting to protect themselves -burglars have rights too - insist police invest time and resources to protect foxes. One wonders who will get scarce jail space - violent criminals, bat-wielding householders, or hunters whose dogs kill a fox.


Friday, February 18, 2005

Forward with Labour (but not to all addressees)

The Labour party has been keen to be progressive in its approach to technology, what with eCzars, e-government, pagers for its MPs, and the like. While Tony seems like a bright chap and no doubt can turn on his computer and his eCzar without an aide to help him, the technology seems to have got the better of Alastair Campbell who famously sent an expletive laden email from his Blackberry personal organiser to the wrong person. Alastair will feel much better, knowing that his colleagues in Ben Bradshaw's office have the same problem.

Mp Ben Bradshaw has been forced to apologise to an Oxford University undergraduate after his staff accidently e-mailed her a message describing her as "insufferably arrogant".

Biochemistry student Hannah Caspar, 22 and from Exeter, received the e-mail, riddled with insults, after she had written to her local MP, Mr Bradshaw, to complain that Labour had let the country down over a number of issues, including the war in Iraq and fox hunting.

Clearly a little more training with their latest technological toys would not have gone amiss in various quarters of the party. A few snappy slogans to remind the apparatchiks how to get it right might help too. I know - something like "Forward, not Reply"

Hat Tip Labour Watch via Cabarfeidh.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Blogstorm coming

Hot on the heels of Eason Jordan's accusation that the US army targeted journalists, the BBC has broadcast and partially retracted the accusations of the Rev Dr John Bell of the Iona Community that the Israeli army deliberately targeted children. Melanie Philips reports:

Now the BBC has made partial amends. After today's Thought for the Day, the Today presenter announced that the BBC had posted an apology for 'inaccuracies' in last Thursday's broadcast on its Ethics and Religion website. It says the following:
'We have talked to the Israeli authorities and we are unable to find any evidence to support the story told to Dr Bell and recounted by him on Thought for the Day. We also understand that Dr. Bell made two factual mistakes in his script. Those facts should have been checked before the broadcast. The Religion and Ethics department apologises on behalf of the BBC and regrets the offence that was caused.

It then goes on to recount Dr Bell's own apology. Amazingly neither of the two factual errors referred to relate to the accusation of targeting children.

This appears to show that Dr Bell is standing by his accusation of deliberate targeting, and also that the BBC does not feel that the accusation should have been checked before broadcasting.

I get the feeling that this one will run for a long time.

Anglosphere Institute

Via The Adventuress' blogroll I learn of the new Anglosphere Institute, a new organisation set up to promote the values of the Anglosphere. It's clearly early days for the website, but I was impressed by some of the ideas.

On the individual level, economic migrants find it easier to adapt and prosper moving within the Anglosphere. Both employers and employees could benefit from a larger labor market that provides opportunities within a common framework. Again, such policies would not replace but supplement existing or developing policies on immigration in Anglosphere nations. The Institute will develop proposals for sojourner provisions, allowing a right to travel to, reside in, and do business on an equal and reciprocal basis within all Anglosphere nations willing to agree to this principle.

I fancy that while it remains a member of the EU, the UK will be unable to sign up for this. Another reason to get out.

Bloggers get senate recognition

Via Powerline, I see that a revamp of the US Freedom of Information Act is being proposed with bloggers in mind. One of the sponsoring senators said:
The Cornyn-Leahy legislation is not just pro-openness, pro-accountability, and pro-accessibility - it's also pro-Internet. It includes a hotline enabling citizens to track their requests, including Internet tracking, and grants privileged FOIA fees for bloggers and writers for Internet outlets, providing the same status as traditional media.

I particularly liked the idea of Mark Tapscott of the Heritage Foundation, that it was the role of citizens and particularly bloggers to watch over the government, implying that the main stream media has had its day in this area. When government is so huge and the mainstream media so few, he's probably right.


The ban on hunting with hounds will go ahead, reports the BBC.

The law will now come into force on Friday although it is unclear whether prosecutions and arrests will follow. The attorney general has ruled out a "blanket policy of non-enforcement", which the Countryside Alliance wanted to be put in place until all its legal avenues were exhausted.

In a statement, his office said: "The attorney general will, however consider with the director of public prosecutions and police what approach to take in relation to such prosecutions, and will be holding a meeting in the near future for that purpose."

I find it amazing that the government's senior lawyer can suggest, even obliquely, that a newly introduced law will not be enforced to the letter. What is the point of putting a law in place in the first place if the first thing you do when it's on the statute book is to hint loudly that a blind eye will be turned to its flouting. The effect is to reduce English Law to being a branch of the public relations industry, and for a barrister like Mr Blair to bring that state of affairs about would be a sorry epitaph.

Syria next?

Belmont Club has a must-read on what may turn out to be the next front in the war on terror.
Whether consciously or not, the choice of Iraq as a beachead into the mainland of Middle Eastern terror was a blow directed at a faultline in the Islamic world, just as generals of the previous century directed attacks at the command boundaries of enemy armies. If that strategy proved profitable, so would its sequel: Lebanon lies along another such faultline. If this speculation is true, the evidence will not be long in coming. The indicators will be a gradual quieting of Iraq as a military theater and a corresponding shift of emphasis onto Iran and perhaps, Lebanon.

I noted here that it looks as if there may have been a quieting of the Iraq theatre already.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

More on OCR religious studies exams

I have received a very prompt reply to my email to OCR which I posted about here. This is what the board had to say:

Thank you for your email. The claim that candidates must put 'pbuh' after Muhammad is nonsense. OCR will always write 'peace be upon him' after Muhammad in the form of an Arabic colophon as a mark of respect, but we do not expect candidates to do this. A reference to this can be found on page 13 of the OCR
GCSE Religious Studies Notes for Guidance. The article has been removed from the

Yours sincerely,

Libby Wilson
Subject Officer (GCSE Religious Studies)

Initial thoughts: good that it is not required for candidates; can't quite understand why a mark of respect is required.


The original post on which this blogstorm was based has indeed been taken down. The blogger, David explains:

I have done this for two reasons. First, too many of the comments do not reflect my views. Second, because the underlying information was related to me by a work colleague as being how she was told to inform students in response to my query about this, I have not had an opportunity to check this further with my
department or with OCR. As this is half-term, I may not be able to confirm this for a few days.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Big lottery fund are sensitive souls

Today I took the chance to revisit the discussion board of the Big Lottery Fund who I blogged about here. The gist of the post was that the Fund is refusing to make awards to organisations like the RNLI and the Samaritans on the grounds that they cannot show they are targeting the government's preferred "disadvantaged" groups.

I ended the post by suggesting readers take a visit to the discussion board and post a polite critique of their policy. But when I went back today, I was completely gobsmacked to find that my comments had been deleted! I had been extremely polite - I think the strongest word I used was "shameful", which hardly counts as abusive.

Interestingly I also said on my post that I thought that any application involving saving of lives should take preference over any that didn't, and pointed out that refusing tiny grants to the RNLI was pretty appalling when the fund was making grants for "Green Gyms for conservation volunteers", as shown on their website. I think they may have found this all a bit too close to the mark, because I can find no reference to Green Gyms on their site any more.

Fortunately by the wonders of Google, I can confirm that I wasn't dreaming.

The poor sensitive souls at the Big Lottery Fund need to learn that denying criticism is happening is not going to help them. Their best defence is the truth - which is that they are implementing government policy. Then their political masters (well, mistresses actually) can do their jobs and stand up and defend what they believe in.

Found the link on the Big Lottery Fund site again

The BBC's endemic bias

Stephen Pollard has been posting irregularly recently, presumably because he's been building up to this post on the BBC.
Until yesterday, I had no idea that Liam Fox, the co-chairman of the Conservative Party, plans to slaughter thousands of babies over the next few months. I was also unaware that David Miliband, the Cabinet Office minister, is a veritable living saint, whose every word should be treated as the revealed truth.


Something has clearly affected the BBC - and that something goes by the name of Alastair Campbell. He is back on the warpath, freshened up and revitalised by his months away from Downing Street.

Funny, just looks like their normal service to me.

Halfway through February

Popped over to Global Security to check out whether how the Iraq elections have affected the US military casualty figures.

January, the month of the elections, was as expected pretty appalling: 107 killed and 789 wounded. The good news is that there has been a dramatic improvement in January. So far this month there have been only 21 deaths and 101 injuries. Global Security extrapolates to a figure of 42 deaths for the full month, which would make it the lowest monthly toll since last June, and one of the lowest since the war began.

It's obviously far too early to jump to conclusions, but we can at least take heart from the improvement. (Strangely, the casualty figure in February 2004 was extremely low - just 19. Is there a reason for this?)

Read this

Every so often you read something that makes everything I've blogged about seem, well, trivial.

“I took seven rounds; five in my right leg, one in my foot and one to the buttocks area. When the grenade went off I got 30 to 40 pieces of shrapnel in my back,”
Read the whole thing.

Brian Monteith

Good piece by Tory MSP Brian Monteith on education reform.
[J]ust throwing money at schools is a cop-out and it is failing. A more varied supply of schools and the ability to choose a school irrespective of a family’s wealth would help the most disadvantaged. Letting the money follow the pupil is a reform that is well overdue.

Rather more radical than what is being proposed by the party nationally.

Compulsory peace

Via USS Neverdock, the Adventuress and LGF I find this piece at a blog called David's Daily Diversions which claims of a GCSE Islam exam.

The exam board [OCR] requires that every time Muhammad is written, the letters "pbuh" in parentheses be placed after it. This is shorthand for "peace be upon him". The writer therefore prays a blessing upon him everytime his name is written, as is the custom of Muslims. So I have to tell my students (over and over if there is any hope of them remembering) that they must bless Muhammad every time they mention his name.

Which is quite amazing, if true.

One of the comments jolted me a bit too:

So you're just going to grumble to everyone you know (and don't know) but still do what you're told? How English of you[...]. You should consider some American
(a) Ignore the rule, and if anyone complains, tell them to **** off.
(b) Openly flout the rule, and tell them to **** off.
(c) Complain to
every media outlet you can think of.
(d) Sue.

And he's absolutely right. One of the things which always bugs me about Brits is that we grumble but rarely do anything. (Although having said that point d is out because the government has got all of our money).

Anyway. Consider this blogger jolted into action - do what Daily Ablution would do and email them:

Dear Sir


I chanced upon this article on the internet
which states that:"The exam board requires that every time Muhammad is
written, the letters"pbuh" in parentheses be placed after it. This is shorthand
for "peace beupon him". The writer therefore prays a blessing upon him everytime
his nameis written, as is the custom of Muslims. So I have to tell my students
(overand over if there is any hope of them remembering) that they must bless
Muhammadevery time they mention his name."

This now seems to be attracting a considerable amount of attention on the internet. I was wondering if the board intends to issue a press release to confirm if this ssertion is correct and if it is to explain the thinking that lay behind it.

Thank you for your attention.

I will let you know if anything comes back from them.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

More on Mike Baker

Impressed with Mike Baker's piece on the purpose of schools and the role of the state in education in the last post, I took a look at his previous piece which was about education in Thailand:

Why Thailand? Well the parallels are uncanny. Starting at the top, both [Britain and Thailand] have prime ministers equally determined to drive through radical modernisation in schools.

Having been impressed by his thoughtfulness on the proper role of schools in society it was disappointing to read him sounding like a NuLab press officer. I cannot think of one reform to the schools system that the Government has made that could seriously be described as "radical". Behind all the rhetoric their approach to education could best be described as "don't offend the NUT".

The really radical changes in UK schooling seem to be coming from the start of cheap private education and the growth of homeschooling. Getting the state out of education delivery is radical. Tinkering with the curriculum isn't. Literacy hour isn't. Expansion of specialist schools isn't.

Mr Baker needs to remember that when he writes that the Prime Minister has a determination to drive through radical reform it is a matter of opinion. Those who believe that he has are largely by people of the left. From where I stand he is shrinking in the face of union opposition. I have my opinions and Mr Baker has his. But Mr Baker is obliged to be impartial in his reporting and it is hard to read this article of his as anything other than cheerleading.

BBC correspondent in libertarian thinking shock

At the end of BBC news education correspondent Mike Baker's latest piece:
Amid all the understandable concern about discipline in schools, it is perhaps
worth asking whether the more the state, and the school, takes on the role of
the parent, the more some parents may abdicate their responsibilities?

Where does the balance lie between the school as educator and the school as
agent of social inclusion?

It's good to see MSM debating the proper role of the state.

Worstall's on form today

Tim Worstall:

When we have a minimalist, libertatian State, which group of morons happens to be running it is less important...people can get on with life rather than obssessing over which prat is screwing up the world this week.

Labour not muckraking

Nick Cohen's piece in the Observer (Via Tim Worstall) raises lots of interesting questions about Michael Howard's time in the Home Office and is well worth a read. Cohen points out that for people to use applications under the Freedom of Information Act to gather information to support their political case is not muckraking: it is the whole point of the act. This includes gathering information that seeks to show that ones political opponents are incompetent, dishonest or liars. In this he is undoubtedly correct, and even the emasculated FOI that has been passed into law will shine enough light into the corridors of power to lead eventually to better government.

Cohen goes on:

the British may not be ready for American-style freedom of information; may not yet have understood how a raucous democracy works.

That may or may not be true, but in a raucous democracy, the public need to look carefully at the decisions taken in the light of the way government works. Otherwise we end up with a lot of shouting and little enlightenment. In this case it is impossible to judge whether, as Cohen concludes, Howard was guilty of a "misjudgement" and a "monumental blunder" without knowing the advice he received from officials and the police. If he overruled his civil servants then the case against him would be damning indeed. But if he acted in accordance with advice given, then to accuse him of blundering is to go too far, for all that innocents suffered as the result of the decision. To call it a misjudgement is to suggest that ministers should not trust the advice of their civil servants and the police. And that is the way to make the FOI a recipe for worse rather than better government.

Blogger's story of arrest in Iran

Iranian blogger Farouz Farzami tells the story of her arrest in the LA Times

Do you accept the charges?" the interrogator asked.
"What charges?"
"That you have written things in your Web log that go against the Islamic system and that encourage people to topple the system," he said. "You are inviting corrupt American liberalism to rule Iran."
"I've tried to write my ideas and opinions in my Web log and to communicate
with others in Farsi all over the world," I said.
He was displeased.

Do whatever you can.

Bystander on ID cards

Bystander, the magistrate who blogs here has a good summary of some of the practicality arguments against ID cards. As a member of the law enforcement community, his views carry some weight.

PC madness

I missed this piece about the National Lottery Fund last week, but picked it up at No Pasaran

Last month the Severn Area Rescue Association’s request for £5,000 to replace the 14-year-old Land Rover used to launch its lifeboats was turned down because it could not provide details of the social backgrounds of the people that it has rescued.

The Preston-based Bowland and Pennine Mountain Rescue Team’s £200,000 application was rejected on the same ground.

If true, then the people responsible should be fired. Simple as that. These are matters of life and death. To normal people, there are no ifs and buts, you just say yes. Who is responsible?
Update: The answer appears to be Estelle Morris.
The DCMS [Department of Culture Media and Sport] has responsibility within Government for National Lottery policy, and sets the policy and financial framework within which the distributing bodies operate, but does not award lottery grants. The Minister for the Arts, Estelle Morris, has day to day responsibility for the National Lottery.

Via Blognor Regis I also found this piece from the Times.
HUNDREDS of children in a rural English town have been deemed too white, too ablebodied and too middle-class for a grant for a new Scout and Guide headquarters by the organisers of the National Lottery’s Community Fund

The Big Lottery Fund (the successor body to the Community Fund which has been behind some of these decisions) has a discussion board here. There is already a post up about their appalling decision making. (Be polite!)


Pakistani man arrested at Heathrow on explosives charges

Could it be a March Election?

Political Betting speculates that Labour might be kidding on that there is to be a May election. (Remember Cherie's accidental slip where she gave away the date?). The thinking is that it might actually be March.

BBC fallout from the Eason Jordan affair

I blogged here about claims made by the BBC journalist Kate Adie that seemed to be behind the claims of CNN's Eason Jordan that the US military were targeting journalists in Iraq.

Go now to Blithering Bunny for a good summary of another possible source for the story, namely the BBC's Nik Gowing. The Gowing story seems much more credible, as the paths of Gowing and Jordan seem to have been linked closely over the last few years.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Dullest suicide note in history?

Stephen Hawking once related how his publisher had told him that every equation in one of his books would halve his readership. I do hope this turns out to be untrue, because if it is this could kill the Technorati profile of this blog stone dead.

Her masters voice (again)

I blogged here on a member of the German media using the expression "her master's voice" in referring to Condi Rice's relationship to George W Bush. This struck me and a large number of commenters at Medienkritik as at best insensitive and at worst outright racist.

Now (via Normblog) it seems that Simon Tisdall at the Guardian is doing the same thing.

But while Ms Rice addressed America's image problem, it remains unclear how far she can or will go in changing real-time US behaviour. International superstar or not, her political position at home is intrinsically weak. Her Washington power base rests solely on her personal relationship and access to Mr Bush.
So far, she has not dared defy her master's voice.

Now I try (really, I do) not to leap to conclusions, but surely the nuanced fellows at the Guardian would be sensitive enough not to let this slip through by accident.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Charles & Camilla

Fine, yeah, very exciting.

Can anyone out there enlighten me though. Why am I so uncomfortable with there being a Royal Wedding just a month before the election? Does TB have any input into the timing of the event?

Journalists at the Prime Minister's morning briefing seem to have pressed unusually hard on the subject of the Royal Wedding. There seems to be an unwritten suggestion that Alastair Campbell has been up to no good again. Not the same rat as I am smelling, I think, but interesting nevertheless.

Polling Report points out that amongst other options the government could hold the election before the wedding.

BBC on blogs

Here's an amusing snippet from a couple of years ago. It's from a site called which quotes the head of the BBC news online on the subject of blogs:
"It's like all stuff on the web," Mike Smartt, editor of BBC News Online, told dotJournalism. "Dissemination of information is great, but how much of it is trustworthy? They are an interesting phenomenon, but I don't think they will be as talked about in a year's time.

The article is dated 25 March 2003.


The Volokh Consipiracy reports that a legislator in Oklahoma is proposing if an academic sleeps with an undergraduate student under the age of 21 he will be guilty of rape, unless they were married before employment or enrollment at the school.

The Gang of four

It's amazing how often any reference to Debka, the Israeli intelligence site, carries a disclaimer about its occasional lapses into speculation. There is a posting up there today which claims that a new regional club of four was formed by the leaders of Israel, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinians at conference at Sharm el-Sheikh. This report should carry the disclaimer too, but is startling enough to read in full.
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, the newly-elected Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas – Abu Mazen, Jordan’s King Abdullah and their beaming host, President Hosni Mubarak, were [...] thrown together alone and confronted with the task of forging a form of accord. With careful choreographing and expectations of little more than initial ice-breaking in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, they succeeded quite well.


A new Middle East Club of Four came into being. With a good measure of audacity and inventiveness, this bloc could dictate the next steps towards lifting the Israel-Palestinian dispute out of its stalemate – or even play a role in other conflicts, such as Lebanon and Iraq. Mubarak hinted as much in his closing speech when he urged Israel to embrace Syria and Lebanon in its peace diplomacy. This call was taken as a token response to a request from Syrian president Bashar Assad to raise the Syrian issue at the summit. In fact, the Egyptian ruler was already beginning to weave other regional issues in with the conflict on the table.

While it probably too early to say whether these claims carry any credibility, the fact that they can even be raised as a plausible possibility seems to be a sign of changing times in the Middle East. The constant drip, drip of hopeful news from the region (like this, this, or this) reminds me of the years of Glasnost and Perestroika before the fall of the Berlin wall. I'm not holding my breath, but I think there is a chance we are on the verge of something big.

Hat tip : Roger L Simon

Prison works

Via The Adventuress, we learn that New York's prison population is now following its crime rate in a downward direction. The left has long argued that incarcerating large numbers of criminals is inhuman and that it doesn't prevent reoffending and that prisons are just universities of crime. The report , from City Journal, suggests that in New York at least, tough sentencing has finally got through to the minds of the criminal classes. They have learned through bitter experience that there are better ways of making a living than stealing from other people.

In Britain meanwhile, the Home Secretary has instructed judges only to pass custodial sentences where there are prison places available.

Euro police force already in action

Dutch report in recent posts tells us that
  • The Amsterdam police have called in the army to assist with guarding prominent buildings there, yet still have resources to ticket people who don't have lights on their bicycles.
  • A robber, who was apprehended by a ticket inspector on a bus, fainted while being held down. The ticket inspector was arrested and is now awaiting a police decision as to whether he will be prosecuted. The robber meanwhile was taken to hospital where, after making a full recovery, he decided to sue the ticket inspector.

I've always felt the British and Dutch had a great deal in common. I didn't realise we had the same system of law and order.

Update: Dutch Reporter points out that I am mistaken about the suing by the robber. The possible prosecution is correct though.

BBC may be source of Eason story

Followers of US blogs will know of the scandal raging after CNN's Eason Jordan claim that the US military deliberately targeted journalists in Iraq.

Tonight it has emerged that one source (and to date, the only source) for this claim appears to be our very own BBC. Kate Adie, the BBC journalist, claimed in an interview in 2003:

" I was told by a senior officer in the Pentagon, that if uplinks --that is the television signals out of... Bhagdad, for example-- were detected by any planes ...electronic media... mediums, of the military above Bhagdad... they'd be fired down on. Even if they were journalists ..' Who cares! ' said.. [inaudible] .."

This was reported on the internet as


So what appears to have been a warning to journalists to keep them from danger is transformed into deliberate targeting of them by the US military. It is obvious from Kate Adie's words that she understands what she is being told by the military and why, but that she expects the war to stop for her benefit. And because that is not going to happen she distorts the whole story into a some sort of a scandal, enabling others to turn this into targeting of journalists.

The BBC is the world's most trusted news organisation.

(Hat tip National Review)

More on Mohammad al-Dura

The story of the possible faking of a film which purported to show the death of a Palestinian boy at the hands of the Israeli army has been doing the rounds of the blogosphere for a while now. I picked up on it here. It is alleged that French television were complicit in the deception, which lead to hundreds of deaths in Israel and to international condemnation of the Israeli state.

Now the story has been picked up by the MSM in America, with a story appearing in, of all places, the New York Times business section. It has already been a big story in France and Germany. It will be no surprise to most people in this corner of blogosphere that the BBC have made not a single mention of the story. Not one hint of the doubts raised have appeared on the BBC website. And this from an organisation which has a fully fledged commission to ensure evenhandedness in its handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The BBC's bias is obvious. They will continue with their preferred tactic of ignoring stories which don't fit their preferred agenda, or spinning them to their advantage if they cannot ignore them. But it will become an increasingly difficult strategy to maintain with the news now finding its way into the mainstream media in the English speaking world. With internet editions of the American papers now viewable in Europe, stories like this are not going to go away, and the BBC will find it difficult to suppress the story as an unsubstantiated rumour when newspapers as big as the NYT and Le Figaro have reported it.

The big election battle ahead

Political Betting has a really good post on what may turn out to be the most interesting battle of the election campaign - namely, Alastair Campbell versus Lynton Crosby. It's really worth reading in full, but in summary it asks if maybe Mr Campbell has finally met his match. It also puts forward the idea that the Tory strategy may be to make Campbell himself a major campaign issue.

Certainly the challenges to the accuracy of opinion polls and the news (which I had missed) that the Conservatives are suing the Times over what it claims Lynton Crosby said about Tory chances suggest at least that Crosby is injecting some backbone into the party.

I have no doubt that a Conservative victory is not on the cards, and nor would I wish for such a victory until they start opposing ID cards, but if Labour can be weakened to the extent that their most illiberal inclinations are kept under control, then I for one will be happy.

UK election bulletin board

A new website called Vote 2005 has a bulletin board with a thread for each and every constituency. Strictly for the election junkies I would say.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Guess the sentence

The Law West of Ealing Broadway (a blog by an English magistrate) has one of his regular "Guess the sentence" posts up. Great fun and educational to boot.

American Heritage Dictionary

Scott at the Daily Ablution is after someone with knowledge of old editions of the American Heritage Dictionary, in the interests of fisking what appears to be a lefty email pamphlet.

Love and hate

I was reading this post at the Yes Campaign blog.

Opponents of the supranational institutions in Europe ought to reflect on this. The creation of these institutions has enabled different European countries to resolve their disputes without resort to violence. Compare the last fifty years in Europe with the previous fifty years to see the difference that it has made.

Which prompted a thought. Europhiles often describe Eurosceptics as xenophobic, a claim which could politely be described as a sweeping generalisation. Why is it that if don't want to share government with someone I must hate them or want to go to war with them? Conversely if I like foreigners, should I want to share government with them? Why? It's a very strange way to organise your relations with others. I mean, can you imagine a conversation which went along the lines of:

"Do you like me?"
"Then you'll want to marry me."
"So you hate me......"

It's all a little reminscent of the kind of conversations you have with members of the opposite sex as a teenager. I wonder what the average age of Europhiles is? Here is some worldly advice for them. Just because you like someone, doesn't mean you have to go to bed with them. And if someone says they won't go to bed with you, doesn't mean they don't like you, so don't get upset about it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Adam Smith was an old lefty

According to the Guardian.

Scotland is a small country

In an opinion column in today's Scotsman, Duncan Hamilton worries that
We are in danger of becoming a small country with a small mentality.

In an adjacent column, his colleague Katie Grant proves that it is already too late.
Abroad, Scots are respected for not being English, but are still part of a Great Britain with more friends across the globe than enemies. And people like us better. Where the English are unattractively soft, the Scots are endearingly tender. Where the English are yobbish and aggressive, the Scots are manly and tough. Where the English are insufferably arrogant, the Scots are grittily stubborn.

Both columns decry the failure of Scotland to drag itself out of its socialist mire. Both recognise the left-wing intertia that is destroying the economy. But Ms Grant seems to be part of the problem:
Politicians are like people stuck in a bog. Tractor drivers arrive and offer a helping hand, but because the politicians don’t like the driver’s accent, or the clothes he is wearing, or his leisure-time pursuits, they send him away, thus condemning the country to carry on sinking deeper and deeper into the mire.

Ms Grant doesn't seem to realise that telling the tractor driver that she doesn't like him because he is English is just as bad as doing it because he his accent is wrong. Let's face it, the accent is usually wrong because it's an English accent. She asks:

[...W]here is the person determined and charismatic enough to turn our miserable present into this magnificent future?
To which the answer may well be that he was English and was sent homewards to think again.

As an unattractively soft, yobbish, aggresive, and insufferably arrogant Englishman who has just started a small business in Scotland, I would like to say to the endearingly tender, manly, tough, and grittily stubborn Ms Grant: stick to writing fiction.

Hate speech amendment defeated

The government has defeated a Lib-Dem amendment to tighten the definition of racial and religious hatred. Comedian Rowan Atkinson has been prominent in his opposition to the new bill. Speaking earlier he said:
"The incitement of religious hatred doesn't even have to be intended, it is just if it offends any person.

"It couldn't be more broad."

He also thinks the government only introduced the measure in order to boost support for Labour in the run up to the election. And he is quite right in this. As William Rees-Mogg noted in today's Times the government is increasingly seen as ruthless and squalid. It is willing to stoop very low in order to secure reelection, and this, following on from the O'Brien speech and the anti-Semitic posters, is just one more example of just how low that is.

They are squalid and they are ruthless. I don't think Blair and his colleagues are anti-semitic or naturally anti-liberty. But they are willing to make any sacrifice to secure re-election and that makes them very dangerous indeed.

Is the BBC left wing?

Is the Pope a catholic? A thought occurred to me just now. I will believe that the BBC takes seriously its remit to be politically unbiased when it dramatises something by Ayn Rand. The BBC fills its schedules with left wing dramas and films. When was the last time you saw a BBC programme that extolled the virtues of capitalists? So come on BBC, show us how sympathetic you are to libertarian and conservative views: make a film of Atlas Shrugged.

I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Kofi Annan under investigation!

Drudge is reporting that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is under investigation by the Volcker commission to see if he used his influence to secure a contract for a Swiss company that employed his son.

If guilty it would certainly be the end for Kofi. It might be too much to expect it to mean the end of the UN as well.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

It woz the 1952 Committee wot dun it

Well, probably not, but it's nice to kid on that we had an influence:

The Conservative Party will this week withdraw support for the Government's identity cards scheme, in a major climbdown by Michael Howard. The Tory leader has told aides that the party will abstain from a key vote on the controversial roposals on Thursday.

An abstention is obviously not as good as outright opposition, but is a lot better than outright support.

Link: The Sunday Telegraph

Freedom of speech at SOAS and St Andrews

The School of Oriental and African Studies in London has forced its student union to reverse its decision to ban a speaker from the Israeli embassy from attending a debate.

Meanwhile St Andrews University maintains its unprincipled stance on free speech issues by persuading the University debating society to drop an invitation to Nick Griffin of the BNP. Previously the University stood by as the Students' Association evicted a student newspaper the views of which they opposed.

When will they learn that bans are the way of totalitarians. Free societies allow all voices to be heard no matter how odious.

Sir Menzies Campbell said, “I’m afraid that those who issued the original
invitation have been rather naive.”

I'm afraid that Liberal Democrats don't believe in freedom of speech.

Statism at Samizdata

There is a bit of a rumpus over at Samizdata, where Antoine Clark has suggested a statist solution as a result of a case of child abuse by some homeschoolers. The comments thread suggests that most of the site's readers are not entirely impressed with this proposal.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Muslim apostates

Anthony Browne in the Times pens a must-read piece on the violence and oppression meted out to muslim apostates in the UK.
One estimate suggests that as many as 15 per cent of Muslims in Western
societies have lost their faith, which would mean that in Britain there are
about 200,000 apostates.

Now that's what I call education

Ben Macintyre in the Times on his year of home education:

We invented our own amusements, such as tying my little brother to the pet sheep which then bucked until he fell off, a sport we called “mutton busting”.

Now that's real education!

Geert Wilders on everything

Dutch Report quotes in full the speech made by Dutch politician Geert Wilders, his first since coming out of hiding. He had been forced to flee in the face of threats from Islamists. It's too long to quote in full but it is a rousing anti-establishment tirade which will warm the cockles of libertarian hearts, covering the gamut of policy areas from terror to bureaucracy, the EU and liberty. He seems to me to be setting himself out as the leader of a classical liberal party, something which is long overdue in Europe.

A few choice quotes:

An expanding government is hanging as a drunken man on the neck of our hard working citizens.

I like to quote Thatcher: “it’s not governments that create jobs, businesses do”

Was the abolishment of the Guilder [Dutch Currency] in the Dutch interest? The price rises caused by the euro? Denhaag gives our monetary and fiscal policies away to anonymous bureaucrats in Frankfurt. Is that really smart?

Because of the new European constitution, Turkey will have more influence on Dutch legislation than The Netherlands it self. It can’t become crazier than this.

Europe is out of control. Europe is not owned by its citizens but owned by the bureaucrats in Brussel.

Our issue is freedom. I put freedom central. The freedom that your mother can go out in the evenings, the freedom that your grant children are not forced to wear a head scarf, the freedom that you can spend your income on your family, the freedom to say what you want, the freedom you have because your government
protects your family against terrorists, the freedom to have a job and a pleasant live, the freedom as a country to decide for our selves independently.

Freedom is the central idea.

Watchdogs turned lapdogs

The reports in all the papers today that

HIGHLY sensitive Treasury papers on the events leading to Black Wednesday in
1992 are being kept secret at the request of John Major and Lord Lamont [...]

The timing of the reports at the start of the election campaign has been widely noted. It is a very strange coincidence that all of the papers seem to have got hold of the story at exactly the same time. This sort of coordinated leaking, presumably at the instigation of ministers says a great deal about their integrity or more accurately their lack of it. It also raises questions about whether the mainstream media in the UK are now puppets of the government rather than independent watchdogs of it.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Bloggers as investigative journalists

Roger L Simon has a post on the Unscam interim report with an interesting comments thread on the subject of whether bloggers could effectively become investigative journalists. Only if they get the pyjamas off and get out on the streets talking to people face to face, I think.

Too obvious

A couple of days ago I blogged on a BBC report which purported to show that the US had been embezzling oil funds in Iraq. I ended the post:

Is another Unscam report due shortly? Do they need to distract attention from the success of the elections? I think I'm becoming cynical.

But it now seems I wasn't. The interim Unscam report is out today. Austin Bay is liveblogging it.

Failing schools

The Chief Inspector of Schools, Mike Tomlinson reckons that 1.5m children are denied a decent education. It's hard to greet this news with anything other than a bored yawn. There is a litany of failures in the education system and the only solutions the education establishment suggests are the usual calls for more (or fewer) exams, more (or less) tightly prescribed syllabuses, more (or less) coursework and so on.

When is an interviewer going to put it flatly to a politician that it is the education system that is broken, not the intracacies of its delivery? The system needs to be torn down and started again from scratch. Without any involvement in delivery by the state. None. Tony Blair told us shortly after he was elected that Labour would think the unthinkable. Well, it was absolutely unthinkable that eight years of tinkering with the education system would follow, but that is exactly what Labour have done. How many thousands of young lives have to be destroyed before Mr Blair plucks up the courage to take on the education establishment? I'm afraid that the answer is "Many thousands more". I have no doubt that Blair would love to leave a reformed system as part of his legacy, but he lacks the political muscle to persuade his party to back him in radical reform. He has lost far too much political capital over Iraq, and his backbenchers are part and parcel of the bureaucratic system that is most threatened by any change to the status quo. That is now his great weakness and the reason why we can expect no significant changes to the education system, or anywhere else in the public services while he is in office. Perhaps this is the true cost of the Iraq war.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

It's OK to shoot them in the chest

Interesting post from last year which reviews some of the case history around the subject of self-defence, which suggests strongly that it is OK to shoot or stab an intruder so long as you don't get them in the back.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Good news on ID cards

The ASI is reporting that some town councils are refusing to cooperate with the ID cards scheme. This is encouraging, although no doubt Westminster will take on powers to force them to do as they are told.

The Guardian should read blogs

The Guardian repeats the story that a US soldier has been kidnapped in Iraq 24 hours after the blogosphere has noticed that the photos published on the web are in fact of a doll! Rigorous fact checking by the mainstream media does put the blogs to shame.

Unpublished poll

Anthony Wells has a piece about an unpublished YouGov poll which puts the Tories only 2 points behind Labour. Some mistake surely.

Self-defence guidance

The Crown Prosecution Service has today released its guidance on the homeowners right to self-defence. This was promised by the Home Secretary in the face of a pretty effective campaign led by the Conservatives' Patrick Mercer.

The key part is the first section on the definition of reasonable force.

Anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime. You are not expected to make fine judgements over the level of force you use in the heat of the moment. So long as you only do what you honestly and instinctively believe is necessary in the heat of the moment, that would be the strongest evidence of you acting lawfully and in selfdefence. This is still the case if you use something to hand as a weapon.

The last sentence looks as if it has been worded with the utmost care. Read quickly and you might think that you can keep a weapon by your side for self-defence purposes. Indeed Channel Four News this evening reported that you would be allowed to keep a gun by your bedside, which suggests to me a little ignorance of the firearms laws. Read the sentence more carefully however and it is probably more accurately interpreted as meaning you cannot keep a weapon by your side. It must be something to hand.

As a general rule, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-defence.

Meaning what exactly? So if I am scared witless, I can use a gun? Is that what it means?

The leaflet says I don't have to wait to be attacked first. Thank-you Mr Clark, you are too kind.

The guidance goes on to state that you cannot set a trap to hurt or kill the intruder rather than involve the police. Which begs the question "Is it OK to set a trap to hurt or kill the intruder if the police had done a Tony Martin and repeatedly ignored your attempts to try to involve them."

The questions I have always wanted answered on this area are "Do I have to turn the lights on before attacking?" and "Do I have to challenge the intruder before attacking". It always struck me that if you are small, weak or infirm, the last thing you would want to do is to demonstrate to the intruder that you are any of those things. But the guidance is silent on this.

The leaflet closes with a big fat lie
It is a fact that very few householders have ever been prosecuted for actions resulting from the use of force against intruders.

Patrick Mercer was on the radio this morning pointing out that they don't know this because they don't keep any records on the subject. It has also been pointed out that even a cursory search of the press suggests that there are more than the CPS is owning up to.

All in all it's a pretty poor attempt. It reeks of guidance put together in a hurry to face of a concerted opposition campaign rather than having been thought through properly. Plenty more ammunition for Patrick Mercer by the looks of it.

Getting the big guns out

Marc at USS Neverdock has a piece up in which he tries to interest some of the blogosphere's big guns on the other side of the Atlantic in the BBC's rabid anti-american stance. Now I've thought for a long time that this would be a good way to fight back. But hey, I now think I've got a better idea. Get a world leader to point out loudly that the BBC have "an anti-American mindset". That might do the trick.

(Via: The Adventuress)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Getting your retaliation in first

The BBC has is giving lots of coverage to a report by US auditors criticising the CPA for a lack of controls over Iraqi oil funds in the period following the fall of the country to coalition troops.

Former US Ambassador Paul Bremer's response to the criticism seems to recognise that controls were in fact poor, although I can take his point that they were operating in the aftermath of a war and platoons of heavily armed bookkeepers might have been a bit thin on the ground at times. But I just can no longer read things like this on the BBC without thinking that there is another agenda here. Is another Unscan report due shortly? Do they need to distract attention from the success of the elections.

I think I'm becoming cynical.