Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Roxy Music to appear on final Jonathan Ross show

The hype will have you believe that David Beckham is the star here, however at the host's request the BBC has also booked Roxy Music to appear on his final Friday Night with Jonathan Ross show on Friday 16th July.

Boys will be boys, as they say

In addition, the show will feature Jackie Chan and David Beckham, who it is believed will be given additional time in the wake of England's short-lived World Cup campaign. I don't quite see the logic there, maybe he owes the BBC a few hours or something.

Oh, that reminds me ...

Fewer criminals to be jailed in prison reforms

Fewer criminals will be sent to jail and more will be given community sentences to try and cut re-offending rates, under radical plans to reform the criminal justice system announced by the government. Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said deep cuts in public spending will require a new approach to dealing with crime and punishment. He likened the review to a "rehabilitation revolution," which would save money and reap results.

A policeman said it was more of a diversion than a U-turn

In a speech at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies in London, he described the doubling of the prison population since he was Home Secretary in 1992 as "astonishing" and a failure of the penal system. "It costs more to put someone in prison for a year than it does to send a boy to Eton - on average 38,000 pounds," Clarke said. "The taxpayer is providing keep and accommodation, albeit in grossly overcrowded conditions, at expensive hotel prices ..."

The prison population reached a record high in May of 85,201. Britain has one of the highest prison populations and one of the highest crime rates in Western Europe. Almost half of all prisoners re-offend within a year of their release and reoffending rates have risen by 8% in recent years, official figures show. Clarke said that of particular concern was the high rate of re-offending, around 60% of the 60,000 prisoners serving short sentences each year, which had to be tackled. Prime Minister David Cameron said he fully endorsed his minister's review, saying the previous Labour government's policies ended in a "complete mess" and failure.

MoD wins ruling on troops' human rights

The Supreme Court has overturned a ruling that soldiers are protected by human rights laws at all times, reversing a decision which the government had said could hamper military decision-making. Lawyers for the Ministry of Defence argued that earlier court rulings risked obliging it to protect soldiers from risks caused by conflict, or face potentially costly lawsuits.

Britain currently has 9,500 troops serving in Afghanistan and a rising death toll there has prompted calls for a commitment to withdraw them as soon as possible. Six of the nine judges who heard the case overturned two lower court judgments on Wednesday relating to the death of Jason Smith in Iraq while serving with the volunteer reserve Territorial Army in 2003. The court was asked to rule on whether a British soldier on military service in Iraq was subject to UK jurisdiction and covered by human rights laws at all times or only when on a British military base or hospital. It chose the latter.

Lawyers who represented Smith's mother declared that the ruling was astonishing, saying it risked undermining the morale of serving soldiers. "It is artificial to assert that rights can be protected on base but not off base," said Jocelyn Cockburn of Hodge Jones & Allen. "Whose jurisdiction are our soldiers under when they are off base in Afghanistan; Afghan jurisdiction or some sort of legal 'no-man's land'? Either must be a matter of serious concern to our servicemen and women," she added.

Smith told medical staff he had been feeling unwell due to high temperatures in Iraq - sometimes over 50C - before reporting sick in August the same year. He was found lying face down and taken to a hospital but had suffered a cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead. Smith's family had sought a judicial review of the case after claiming they were denied access to crucial documents during an initial inquest.

A court reviewing the case decided that the European Convention on Human Rights applied to all armed forces personnel serving outside the UK whether or not the death took place on an army base. An Appeal Court judgement last year that the Human Rights Act should apply wherever troops were involved - now overturned by today's Supreme Court ruling - had been accused of making life more difficult for battlefield commanders.

Union boss calls for 'generalised strikes'

Militant transport union boss Bob Crow has called for "generalised strikes" to protest against spending cuts planned by the coalition government. "It will take general and co-ordinated strike action across the public and private sectors to stop their savage assault on jobs, living standards and public services," said the outspoken leader of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. Crow, whose organisation represents over 80,000 members and claims to be Britain's fastest growing trade union, said the new government had thrown down the biggest challenge to unions since Margaret Thatcher took on the National Union of Mineworkers in the early 1980s.

Bob Crow: handsome fellow

Unions have promised to fight government plans to freeze public sector pay and curb pension benefits in what could be a tense autumn, however tough anti-union legislation introduced by Thatcher has significantly curbed the power of organised labour. British Airways used legal action to delay, but not prevent, strikes earlier this year while in April a judge blocked a strike by railway signallers, effectively halting Britain's first national rail strike in 16 years. In February, the High Court issued an injunction to stop a 48 hour strike that would have closed the key oil and gas port of Milford Haven. Earlier this month, an RMT-led two-day strike by London Underground maintenance staff caused little disruption.

Budget will cost 1.3m jobs - Treasury

George Osborne's austerity budget will result in the loss of up to 1.3m jobs across the economy over the next five years according to a private Treasury assessment of the planned spending cuts, the Guardian has learned. Unpublished estimates of the impact of the biggest squeeze on public spending since the second world war show that the government is expecting between 500,000 and 600,000 jobs to go in the public sector and between 600,000 and 700,000 to disappear in the private sector by 2015.

The Guardian uncovers a nasty piece of work

The chancellor gave no hint last week about the likely effect of his emergency measures on the labour market, although he would have had access to the forecasts traditionally prepared for ministers and senior civil servants in the days leading up to a budget or pre-budget report. A slide from the final version of a presentation for last week's budget, seen by the Guardian, says: "100-120,000 public sector jobs and 120-140,000 private sector jobs assumed to be lost per annum for five years through cuts." 

The job losses in the public sector will result from the 25% inflation-adjusted reduction in Whitehall spending over the next five years, while the private sector will be affected both through the loss of government contracts and from the knock-on impact of lower public spending.

The Treasury is assuming that growth in the private sector will create 2.5m jobs in the next five years to compensate for the spending squeeze. Osborne said in last week's speech that tackling Britain's record peacetime budget deficit would help keep interest rates low and boost job creation. "Some have suggested that there is a choice between dealing with our debts and going for growth. That is a false choice." However, investors are increasingly nervous about the lack of growth in the world economy. 

The FTSE 100 fell more than 3% yesterday as fresh jitters hit confidence.

Paraguay 0 - 0 Japan (5 - 3 pens)

Oh, come on, a picture of who exactly?!

Spain 1 - 0 Portugal

Looks like we've seen the back of Ronaldo

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Boris Johnson reaches reasoned decision

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, today won a high court order evicting protesters who have turned Parliament Square into a makeshift encampment.  Mr Justice Griffith Williams said the mayor had "directed himself correctly, considered all the relevant matters and reached a reasoned decision which cannot be criticised" [Really?  I think you'll find it can.  However, it won't be criticised by me as I believe this to be the right decision].  He noted that the camp had no running water or toilet facilities and said there was evidence of criminal damage to flowerbeds, graffiti and other unlawful activity.  There was also evidence that the camp was acting as a magnet to homeless people who were taking advantage of the lack of control, and evidence of heavy drinking.

"I am satisfied the Greater London Authority and the mayor are being prevented from exercising their necessary powers of control management and care of Parliament Square Gardens," he said.  A Greater London Authority spokesman said the mayor was pleased the court had supported the GLA's application.  "The mayor respects the right to demonstrate," the spokesman said. "However, the scale and impact of the protest, which has gone on since 1 May, has caused considerable damage to the square and prevented its peaceful use by other Londoners, including those who may have wished to conduct an authorised protest.

10 ways to save English football

A very good article by Henry Winter in today's Telegraph.

1.  Build Burton. For the £50 million-plus that the Football Association has spent on England managers in compensation, wages and pay-offs since 2000, the National Football Centre could have been up and running and nurturing home-grown managers, ensuring the FA did not automatically have to look overseas. This university of football should finally be open by 2012, allowing England to adopt a more intelligent approach to developing players and coaches, and focusing on conditioning, preventing injuries and sports science. It will be the home of all the national age-group teams, fostering more of a Team England philosophy and continuity between sides.

In memoriam

Adams, Daily Telegraph

First coalition mutiny as Lib Dem MPs rebel on VAT

The coalition faced its first rebellion last night, albeit small, when two Liberal Democrat MPs voted against a budget proposal to increase VAT to 20%.  Bob Russell and Mike Hancock voted with Labour to oppose the increase, which has alarmed many Lib Dems who warned during the election of a Tory VAT "bombshell".  To shouts of "shame" from the Labour benches, the 2.5% increase in VAT from January was backed by 346 votes to 270, a majority of 76.  Russell, MP for Colchester, and Hancock, MP for Porstmouth South, had earlier supported a backbench Lib Dem motion demanding a Treasury investigation into the impact on the poor of the VAT rise.

The backbench amendment was not put to a vote. But the two MPs rebelled against the government when the VAT rise was put to a vote, highlighting unease in the party that the budget is not progressive.  Russell and Hancock are long serving and respected MPs.  Russell is known as "battling Bob" for his work campaigning on behalf of members of the armed forces stationed in his Colchester constituency.  Hancock has a special status because he was a founding member of the SDP.

Recession puts government on course to reduce immigration

The continued decline in migration to Britain in the face of the economic recession means that the government is already on course to reach its goal of reducing the level to "tens of thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands".

The level of net migration – the number of people coming to work and live in the UK over people leaving to live abroad – has been falling sharply, from 220,000 in 2007 to 142,000 in September 2009.  Net migration has continued to fall in the past nine months and for the first time since Poland joined the EU in 2004 the number of east Europeans leaving exceeds those coming here.  This trend is likely to accelerate next year as Germany lift its seven-year transitional restrictions on Poles working in the country.

This has been accompanied by a 15% fall in applications by skilled migrants from outside Europe – the group to be covered by the annual immigration cap – in the first three months of this year.  It means that the coalition's aim of reducing net migration below 100,000 within five years is likely to be achieved whether or not the cap is in place.  It also explains why the Home Secretary, Theresa May, is able to satisfy Vince Cable's demands as business secretary for greater flexibility to protect Britain's global reputation as being "open for business".  She can exempt staff transfers by multinational companies – known as 'intra-company transfers' – without jeopardising the target even though they account for nearly half of all skilled migrants coming to Britain.

The real test will be to see how the migration limit copes when the economic recovery arrives and shortages of skilled labour develop.  Instead of cutting higher education's financial lifeline and sending some lower-rated colleges to the wall by reducing overseas student numbers, the colleges could be used to ensure Britain's younger generation have the skills to meet the upturn.

Peers to get £300 allowance each time they turn up at the House of Lords

Peers will get a £300 allowance for each day they "clock in" at the House of Lords under a system designed to cut their expenses bills by 10%, it was announced today [cut their expenses?!].  The flat-rate payment - to cover their accommodation, staffing and administration costs - means that they will be able to claim a maximum of £45,000 a year compared with £53,000 a year under the current system [woop!].  

And how it would look if we got rid of them altogether

The controversial £174 daily payment for "overnight subsistence", which had been abused by some members of the house of Lords, will be scrapped [gutted].  Under the plans there would be a tiered system of payments with £150 for a half day and £300 for a full day. Travel expenses will be reimbursed separately [WTF?!].  Lord Strathclyde, the leader of the Lords, said: "It means the end of the old expenses regime. It means a new system that is direct, transparent and accountable. It means we are making a significant step towards winning the public's confidence again [right]."

Monday, 28 June 2010

Netherlands 2 - 1 Slovakia


Incapacity benefits 'to be cut'

The bill for benefits paid to people judged unfit for work will be reduced as part of plans to reduce the deficit, George Osborne has indicated.  He said he wanted to protect "those with genuine needs" while encouraging those who could work to get a job.  Some 2.6m people claim incapacity benefit, or its successor, the employment and support allowance, at an annual cost of about £12.5bn.  Housing Benefit pays out about £21bn each year.

Osborne said that these figures made the benefits bigger drains on taxpayers's money than many Whitehall spending departments.  Ministers are looking for ways in which to reduce the welfare bill over the summer, in time for the Spending Review on 20 October.  Osborne said there would be a "trade-off" which could see savings in the benefit bill used to cushion the impact of cuts of as much as 25% in budgets for public services such as the police, defence and schools.

Germany 4 - 1 England

Well of course Capello should resign, he should never have been given the job in the first place.  He can't speak English, for Christ's sake!  How on earth are the spoilt little brats supposed to understand his instructions when he's shouting from the touchline, flapping around like a duck that can't fly?  Sack the lot of them - it all seemed far too much like hard work for most of them anyway.

Joe Cole gets ready for a good shafting

NHS suffering devastating cuts to jobs and services, warns BMA

The British Medical Association has said that thousands of doctors and nurses face being made redundant or not replaced if they leave and that many hospitals have cut treatments, as the Government’s austerity drive hits the health service.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has boasted that frontline services would be protected. But it emerged yesterday that in his Cambridge constituency, Addenbrooke’s Hospital is planning to sack 170 nurses and up to 500 staff in total over the next year.

A survey for the BMA asked 361 doctors, who between them represent committees at all of Britain’s hospital trusts and some larger primary care trusts, how the NHS was being affected by the demand to make £20 billion of cuts.  It comes as the Coalition faces political pressure to reverse its pledge to ring-fence health spending.  The BMA found that 43% of those who responded said there was a freeze on recruiting doctors and nurses at their trust. Almost as many, 40%, said that patient treatments, including varicose vein operations and blood tests, were being rationed.  GPs in Bedfordshire said they had been told not to refer patients with certain conditions, such as skin lesions and cysts, to hospitals except in exceptional circumstances.

Nearly a quarter of those who responded said that their trust was planning to make workers redundant. Although the majority of these would not affect frontline staff, the union warned that cuts to administrative workers could force doctors and nurses to spend more time on these duties and less time with patients.  The poll – to which 92 doctors responded – represents the first real evidence of how the NHS has been hit by the cuts. It found trusts were trying to make annual savings of six per cent on average. The Government has promised to guarantee NHS spending growth in real terms but the BMA says this will be “minimal”. The association called the cuts potentially “devastating”.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, the chairman of the BMA, said: “Whilst we accept that difficult decisions need to be taken in this tight financial climate, there is a real danger that cutting back on health now will have a long-lasting impact on our ability to maintain high-quality, comprehensive and universal care in the future.”

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Half of Lib Dem voters ready to defect after VAT rise

Nick Clegg is suffering a fierce public backlash over the coalition's VAT rise, with almost half of Liberal Democrat supporters saying the tax U-turn makes them more likely to desert the party.  A YouGov/Brand Democracy survey shows 48% of those who voted Lib Dem at the election are now less inclined to back them again as a direct result of the increase in VAT from 17.5% to 20%.

A distant memory: the Lib Dem election campaign poster

Clegg campaigned vigorously against a VAT rise in the election campaign, warning of a Tory VAT "bombshell". But since he signed off on Tuesday's emergency budget which announced an increase from January next year, the Lib Dem leader has argued that a rise was "unavoidable" because the public finances were in a far worse state than the new government expected. The poll results will spread unease in party ranks as MPs prepare for a Commons vote on Tuesday on George Osborne's emergency package of cuts and tax increases. They will also raise fears about the coalition's ability to survive for a full parliament as the austerity programme tests the patience of ordinary Lib Dem supporters.

There will be more uncomfortable reading for Liberal Democrats today as a new study exposes the scale of pain the emergency budget is likely to inflict on the country's poorest families.  The study by economists Howard Reed and Tim Horton says those earning under £14,200 will be hit six times harder than those at the top of the pay scale, earning more than £49,700.

Coalition adopts Tebbit's 'get on your bike' ethic

Radical plans to relocate the long term unemployed to areas where there are jobs are being drawn up by the Coalition.  Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, discloses the move in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph today in which he outlines proposals to make the workforce “more mobile”. The controversial plan echoes the words of Norman Tebbit in 1981 when he told the unemployed to “get on your bike” and look for work.  It is part of tough action to cut spiralling welfare bills and tackle Britain’s record deficit.

Last week a major shake-up of housing benefit and increased health checks for disability claimants were announced as part of the biggest cuts in public spending for almost a century.   Duncan Smith, the MP for Lord Tebbit’s former parliamentary seat of Chingford, disclosed that ministers were drawing up plans to encourage jobless people living in council houses to move out of unemployment black spots to homes in other areas, perhaps hundreds of miles away.  The former Conservative Party leader said millions of people were “trapped in estates where there is no work” and could not move because they would lose their accommodation.  The proposed scheme would allow them to go to the top of the housing list in another area rather than lose their right to a home if they moved.

It is understood that the Coalition is looking at ways to provide incentives for workers to move to areas where there are jobs, such as regional tax reductions, rather than compelling them to move.  As the welfare shake-up continues, ministers will unveil measures in the coming weeks to “make work pay” including changing the threshold at which claims are withdrawn so people who take work do not lose all their benefits.  But as well as incentives, there will be tough action to cut welfare bills which may prove controversial.  Duncan Smith, disclosed details of moves to tackle “under occupation” of large council homes.  Last week, the Coalition said it would reform the housing benefit system to stop the state paying up to £100,000 a year in some cases to house families in expensive areas. But Duncan Smith suggested that a tightening of the rules could apply more widely, meaning single occupiers or couples without children could be asked to leave larger houses.  Duncan Smith said the “excesses” of some council tenants living in large homes in expensive areas would end, adding: “We need to exert some downward pressure on this now.”  Ok, dickbreath.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Liberal Democrat MPs back Nick Clegg despite benefit freeze and VAT rise

Support for Nick Clegg is holding up among Lib Dem MPs at the end of the most difficult week for the coalition after the budget heralded a freeze in child benefit and a VAT increase from next year.  A Guardian survey of Lib Dem MPs found unease about some of the harsh measures, but also consensus that tough action needs to be taken to tackle the record fiscal deficit and agreement that Labour is in no position to offer lectures.

Simon Hughes, the deputy leader, highlighted concerns yesterday when he floated the possibility of tabling rebel amendments to the finance bill.  He also warned the Tories that they cannot unpick any element of the coalition agreement as Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, indicated that some pensioner benefits may have to be reviewed.

John Leech, the MP for Manchester Withington, said the coalition was having to stabilise the public finances and the Lib Dems could not secure a budget which completely reflected their thinking.  "I would have preferred to have seen taxes raised in other areas but as part of a coalition government we don't always get our way.  But we don't have a Lib Dem government, we have a Liberal-Conservative coalition.  The idea of raising personal [tax] allowances by £1,000 is progressive."

Annette Brooke, the MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole, reflected the thinking of many when she voiced concerns about the VAT rise to 20% and the freezing of child benefit which was offset by an extra £2bn for child tax credits. "I don't like the budget but I dislike the economic situation we find ourselves in even more. The Lib Dems have done their utmost to address the fairness issue.

Ian Swales, the newly elected MP for Redcar, was highly critical of the size of the deficit. His remarks will be significant in the party because he won the usually safe Labour seat amid local anger at the government's failure to support the local Corus plant, which has been mothballed.

John Thurso, MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, showed support for the coalition in Scotland where the Lib Dems will face pressure in next May's elections to the Scottish parliament. Labour is planning to blame the Lib Dems, who have nine MPs in Scotland including the treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander, for implementing cuts on behalf of the Tories, who are still unpopular north of the border.

Das Englische Elfmetertrauma

The Germans call it a rather endearing Elfmeter (eleven metre); the English, on the other hand refer to it as the penalty shoot-out, thereby presenting the image of something to be feared.  The Germans, in turn, are amused at the angst surrounding an England penalty shoot-out, referring to it as 'das Englische Elfmetertrauma'.  

Many England fans still cling to the memory of their team's most famous win over Germany, in the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley.  But Germans remember that day in a very different light.  "England's only important victory at a big tournament was based as we all know, on a referee's mistake," insists Lars Wallrodt, football commentator at Die Welt.

Watch your back, son. ?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organisation that determines which suffixes - such as .com or .uk - can be added to the internet, has announced that it will start registering .xxx by making checks on ICM Registry, the company that wants to run the domain and sell registrations.  It marks the closing stages of a ten-year battle by ICM Registry, now run by the British internet entrepreneur Stuart Lawley, to get the .xxx domain set up so that legal pornography sites can be found in a single grouping.

But is this a good thing?  Many pornography companies are unhappy with the idea of a dedicated space online because they expect that as soon as .xxx is implemented, conservative members of the US Congress will lobby to make any sex-related website re-register there and remove itself from other domains such as .com or .org.  That would mean that sex sites could be more easily filtered out from web searches and lower their revenues.  My main concern however, is that sites about topics seen by US conservatives as controversial, such as homosexuality, might also be forced to use the .xxx suffix.

Lawley says he expects to make $30m (£20m) a year in revenue by selling each .xxx site for $60.  Despite his pledge to donate $10 from each sale to child protection initiatives, there seems to be only one winner here.  And it ain't you.

Brazil, Chile, Portugal and Spain go through

Friday, 25 June 2010

Slovakia 3 - 2 Italy

Denmark 1 - 3 Japan

Cameron and Clegg urge public sector workers: 'Tell us where to cut'

Public sector workers have reacted with fury to an email from David Cameron and Nick Clegg inviting them to identify waste in their own departments.  Six million workers were asked to ‘be bold’ in suggesting ways to cut costs, just days after being told of a two-year pay freeze.

"Tell us where to cut.  Don't hold back"

Cameron and Clegg urged workers to be ‘radical’, saying: ‘Don’t hold back.’ Their email said: ‘You work on the frontline of public services.  You know where things are working well, where the waste is, and where we can re-think things so that we get better services for less money.’  Workers are asked to leave suggestions on a special website by 9th July.

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: ‘Cameron and Clegg have a damned cheek in asking public sector workers to co-operate in sacking thousands of them. It is an utter outrage.’  The GMB said it would join other unions to ‘resist the savage cuts’ to public services.  Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said the proposed 25% cuts in most Whitehall budgets would strike the ‘vital services we all rely on. . . it will hit the poorest and the most vulnerable the most’.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Italian shame

Italy finish bottom of their group losing to Slovakia 3 - 2

Absolutely Fabio

And then we draw Germany ...

IFS challenges Osbornes's 'tough but fair' claim

Britain's leading experts on tax and spending have strongly challenged George Osborne's claims to have delivered a "tough but fair" budget, concluding that the measures in the emergency package would hit the poor harder than the rich.  The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the chancellor and Nick Clegg could only assert that the better off were the big losers from the austerity move by including reforms announced by Labour, such as the changes to pension contributions.

"We're all in this together"

The think-tank gave its view as David Cameron came under Commons pressure to justify the insistence that the budget was fair, and as Osborne admitted he was looking for extra welfare savings to spare Whitehall departments, other than health and international development, from cuts averaging 25% during this parliament.    Noting that Britain was facing the "longest, deepest, sustained cuts in public spending since the second world war," Robert Chote, the IFS director, said: "Osborne and Clegg have been keen to describe yesterday's measures as progressive in the sense that the rich will feel more pain than the poor. That is a debatable claim. The budget looks less progressive, indeed somewhat regressive, when you take out the effect of measures that were inherited from the previous government, when you look further into the future than 2012-13, and when you include some other measures that the Treasury has chosen not to model."

The IFS estimates that the squeeze on poorer families would increase in the second half of the parliament as welfare cuts kicked in and the two-year increase in child tax credit ended.  Yvette Cooper, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "The IFS has confirmed today exactly what we thought yesterday: that George Osborne's budget was a typical Tory budget - unfair and hitting those on lower incomes hardest.  So much for 'we're all in this together'."  Osborne's aides said that it was legitimate for the government to include pre-announced measures in its analysis of fairness.  It was arbitrary to look at Tuesday's measures in isolation. "What matters is what happens over the course of this parliament," one said, adding that the richest 10% of the population suffered most from the budget once both Alistair Darling's and Osborne's measures were taken into account.

The IFS found that the richest 10% would be 7.5% worse off by 2014-15 because of measures coming into force during the current parliament but that almost seven percentage points of that was due to Labour changes.  The poorest 10% were left almost untouched by Labour's plans but would see their incomes cut by more than 2.5% over the next five years.  With the IFS estimating that some government departments could face cuts, in real spending, of up to a third during this parliament, Chote added: "Perhaps the most important omission in any distributional analysis of this sort is the impact of the looming cuts to public services, which are likely to hit poorer households significantly harder than richer households."  The thinktank said that if the coalition wanted to cut spending on schools and defence by only 10% there would need to be reductions of up to 33% in housing, universities and the police.  It added that Britain was facing an unprecedented six consecutive years of public spending cuts, which would more than wipe out all the increases under 13 years of Labour.

Osborne said: "If, over the coming couple of months, we can find further savings in the welfare budget, then we can bring that 25% number down.  In the end that is the trade-off, not just between departments, but also between the very large welfare bill and the departmental expenditure bill."  Cameron was twice pressed to explain why tables on the distributional impact of the budget stopped in 2012-13, before £8bn of welfare cuts came into force, and took into account measures announced by the last Labour government.  He replied that he would have two further budgets after 2012-13 that would do more to ease child poverty.  But Labour MPs claimed that Cameron's true intention was, by that date, to have altered the definition of child poverty – a move his new poverty adviser, Frank Field, had recommended.

Darling, the shadow chancellor, also challenged Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat leader, to justify claims that the budget was fair when the single biggest measure, the increase in VAT, had been denounced by him only days earlier as "the most regressive form of tax" in that it "penalises the poor".  Vince Cable, the business secretary, claimed raising VAT was not necessarily regressive, saying the tax was fairly "progressive" due to the exemptions on food, children's clothing and other key essentials in the expenditure of poorer people.

Larry Elliott and Patrick Wintour, the Guardian

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

England scrape through to the last 16

England managed to scrape through to the next 16 this afternoon but not because they played 'well' - they played better than their previous two performances but that does not constitute 'well'.  They played better because Slovenia play better football than the USA and Algeria; England raised their game in response.  

England just had the edge over Slovenia and this was fairly reflected in the score. Interestingly, the biggest cheer of the afternoon went to Joe Cole as he came on in the second half, replacing Wayne Rooney.  This cheer was apparently echoed in Manchester and Glastonbury, who had the largest gathering of England fans in the country with 100,000 bodies.

It ain't Bugs Bunny

The Independent

How is that fair, George Osborne? How is that fair?

David Miliband writes in today's Daily Mirror:

"Yesterday George Osborne slammed on the economic brakes just as we were starting to emerge from the recession.  The verdict on this Budget is simple - it will slow growth and raise unemployment.  That verdict comes straight from the Government's own figures.

If the Tories really meant it when they said "we're all in this together", they would follow the Swedish example from the mid-90s where they made halving unemployment the central plank of their deficit reduction plan.  There was no such pledge from the Tories - because this Budget was driven by ideology not economic reality.  They found money to cut taxes on business profits including the banks, but paid for it by taking money out of manufacturing. And then they increased VAT, cut benefits and slashed spending on Government services by £30billion more than Labour was planning.

All these measures will hit the poorest hardest.  George Osborne tried to use the language of fairness to mask a divisive, damaging Budget. Token gestures won't hide the fact that this is a Budget that gives with one hand and punches with the other."

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

'Chris Huhne's lover does NOT wear Doc Martens' shocker

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph's Mandrake, Ms Trimingham, who is 'believed to be abroad', said:

"And do make it clear that, contrary to what one tabloid says, I have never worn Doc Martens in my life."

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you'll be telling us next you don't use John West tinned tuna chunks as a pot-pourri for your bedroom.

Spain 2 - 0 Honduras

Portugal 7 - 0 North Korea

She scored eventually

The life and very different loves of Chris Huhne's bisexual lover

As Carina Trimingham takes her place beside the Secretary of State for Energy, Chris Huhne, she could be forgiven for feeling rather out of place "with her boyish cropped, spiky haircut and love of Dr Marten boots and jeans."

Well, that would explain the trouser press.

Read the complete bucketful of bollocks from the Daily Mail here.

Monday, 21 June 2010


Diane Abbott writes: "There are three main reasons why I believe I am the right person to lead the party in the coming period: 

1) Rebuilding and re-energising the party is essential. I have come up through the movement. I have done every job that it is possible to do in the Labour Party: collected subs at a local level; served as a City councillor; served as an elected member of the National Executive of the Party from 1994 to 1997. And I have been a Member of Parliament for 23 years. I believe I know the party better than my rivals and that I am more in touch with the grassroots. I am the candidate to rebuild and revitalise the party and build it into a fighting force to oppose the Lib Con cuts. 

2) On issues of policy, I am closer to the heart and soul of the movement than my rivals. I called all the big issues correctly. I voted against tuition fees, I was opposed to the removal of the 10p tax, and I marched, spoke and voted against the Iraq war. No other candidate took these positions when it was difficult to do so. 

3) I believe that in an era of 24 hour news, the party needs a good communicator at the very top. I have a proven record of being able to communicate with people. I am able to talk about social ideals in a way that engages people. Above all, I think I have a reputation as a straight forward, principled and consistent politician."

Good luck, m'dear.

Diane Abbott's leadership campaign kicks off

Fabio Cannavaro

Not a fan myself but for those of you who are ...

Capello crushes John Terry's England revolt

The Guardian reports that former captain John Terry suggested the time had come for the players to speak their mind after a stuttering start to the side's World Cup campaign but ended up in danger of being left isolated within the England camp after senior team-mates reacted with dismay to him going public with their desire for a clear-the-air meeting with the manager.

John Terry, self-appointed team spokesman

Terry was eventually persuaded against speaking at the meeting by a member of Capello's coaching staff and with no guarantee that other players would fall in line behind him, even though they had agreed in principle with the need to air their opinions. The manager nevertheless made some nominal concessions to appease his squad. There were suggestions last night those could include abandoning his controversial policy of informing the players of his line-up only two hours before kick-off, though that would represent a radical change of policy.

Read the full Guardian article here.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

What is going on at the World Cup?!

England can't beat USA or Algeria, Podolski misses a penalty and Germany lose to Serbia, Italy draw 1 - 1 with Paraguay and New Zealand, the Spanish lose to Switzerland and the French haven't even scored a goal yet and look unlikely to anytime soon.

The French team has a tête-à-tête then leaves the field 
after deciding not to take part in a training session

France's players refused to train on Sunday following Nicolas Anelka's expulsion from the squad for verbally abusing coach Raymond Domenech.  Domenech read out a statement from his squad which said: "The French Football Federation did not at any time try to protect the group.  "To show our opposition to the decision taken [on Anelka], all the players decided not to take part in training."  The French Football Federation's managing director subsequently quit.  Moments before a public training session was about to begin, Domenech had to separate captain Patrice Evra and fitness coach Robert Duverne.  Duverne is understood to have stormed away from an argument with Manchester United left-back Evra, throwing his accreditation badge to the ground.  The players then left the pitch and walked towards the bus where they had a meeting with Domenech behind closed curtains.

Domenech has now led France for a record number of matches but his six-year stint as coach has been consistently controversial and he will be replaced by Bordeaux boss Laurent Blanc once their World Cup is over.  That will be on Tuesday, unless they convincingly beat hosts South Africa in their final Group A encounter, and Uruguay and Mexico do not draw the other match.

Chris Huhne splits from wife following affair

Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, is leaving his wife of 26 years after confessing to an affair with another woman.  Mr Huhne, 55, the Lib-Dem MP for Eastleigh, Hampshire, said last night: “I am in a serious relationship with Carina Trimingham and I am separating from my wife.”  Ms Trimingham a 44-year-old divorcee who lives with a female friend in central London, is campaigns director of the Electoral Reform Society. 

Well, I guess that's one way of doing it.

Ballade Of Youth And Age

Spring at her height on a morn at prime,
Sails that laugh from a flying squall,
Pomp of harmony, rapture of rhyme -
Youth is the sign of them, one and all.
Winter sunsets and leaves that fall,
An empty flagon, a folded page,
A tumble-down wheel, a tattered ball -
These are a type of the world of Age.

Bells that clash in a gaudy chime,
Swords that clatter in onsets tall,
The words that ring and the fames that climb -
Youth is the sign of them, one and all.
Hymnals old in a dusty stall,
A bald, blind bird in a crazy cage,
The scene of a faded festival -
These are a type of the world of Age.

Hours that strut as the heirs of time,
Deeds whose rumour's a clarion-call,
Songs where the singers their souls sublime -
Youth is the sign of them, one and all.
A staff that rests in a nook of wall,
A reeling battle, a rusted gage,
The chant of a nearing funeral -
These are a type of the world of Age.


Struggle and turmoil, revel and brawl -
Youth is the sign of them, one and all.
A smouldering hearth and a silent stage -
These are a type of the world of Age.

William Ernest Henley

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Tory MP throws himself under a train - and survives

A Suffolk Conservative MP is recovering after being hit by a train at a London railway station.  David Ruffley, who represents Bury St Edmunds, suffered only "minor injuries" in the rush-hour incident at Victoria on Thursday evening.  He was taken to hospital for treatment. A spokeswoman for British Transport Police (BTP) said the incident is not being treated as suspicious.

David Ruffley:  FAIL

The MP has represented the seat since 1997.  He returned with a majority of 12,380 on 6 May and is a former Opposition whip and shadow police reform minister.  The BTP spokeswoman added: "The incident was reported to police at 1700 BST.  "London Ambulance Service attended and the man was taken to St Thomas' Hospital where he was treated for minor injuries."  A Conservative Party spokeswoman said: "David Ruffley received minor injuries at a London railway station on Thursday evening."

David Ruffley was dragged into the expenses scandal tlast year after allegations that he had 'flipped' his main home to London so he could claim expenses for his constituency flat.  Mr Ruffley changed his main residence to his London flat in 2007, before allegedly trying to claim £1,674 for a sofa and £2,175 for a 46-inch television from Harrods to furnish his second home in Bradfield Combust.  The Sunday Telegraph alleged Mr Ruffley also tried to claim £6,765 for bedroom furniture from And So To Bed for the second home, which was later cut by the Parliamentary Fees Office.

The Conservative MP fiercely denied the claims, saying he had designated his Pimlico flat as his main home as ministerial duties meant he spent most of his time in Westminster.  "Nothing matters to me more in life than the good opinion of my constituents, who I try hard to serve to the best of my ability."

England fans have something to be proud of after all

No England fans were arrested after Friday's match with Algeria, despite the 25,000-strong following being left furious at their team's showing.

UK police in the country praised their reaction to the 0-0 draw in Cape Town, describing them as "extremely well behaved", even when drinking.

What's going on, guys?!