Saturday, 30 October 2010


So Harriet Harman lacks judgement. So she is limited in intelligence. So she has stooped to insulting someone in the most stupid terms. Where's the story? Harriet Harman was always over-promoted and now her career is over she is lashing out.

Where's the story?

Friday, 29 October 2010


I took a great interest in the Bosnian war of 1992-1995. I had just finished a Degree in International Relations so my attention to matters global was perhaps as focused as it ever has been. Seeing Europeans once more killing, raping and torturing each other for a few scraps of earth was pretty shocking and the attitude of our government and the EU was even more surprising as they simply stood back and tutted. The Bosnian war and wider Balkan debacles were horrific and remain so.

So, for Boris Johnson to compare the atrocities which took place there with proposed cuts to Housing Benefit payments is laughable, absurd, quite frankly stupid.

I have never bought into the myth that Boris is super-intelligent yet hiding this behind his buffoonish exterior. No, he's just well-educated but lacking in any common sense whatsoever. His attempts to generate controversy are idiotic, none more so than this latest bit of nonsense.

Johnson is not a brilliant politician. He was MP for Henley - not the most difficult seat for Conservatives to win nationally - and he became Mayor of London at a time when the Tories' stock was rising nationally and the bleating nasal whine of Ken Livingstone had started to grate with enough people to make him less popular. London now faces the acute shame of an unkempt, stammering public school oaf representing that fine city before the world in 2012. If only he could be cleansed from London in some way before then. Until that blessed release, we can only hope he shuts up about grown up issues like the massive and growing benefit bill.

Thursday, 28 October 2010


Another article from earlier in the week in the Indescribablyboring discusses the crisis among brewers who are struggling to sell beer and who are seeing pubs closed up and down the country.

I'm a big fan of English beer. I believe it to be a wholesome and good thing which is only abused by a minority and which could do much to address a range of social ills in ways I could go on for at great length - but not now and not here. The problem with the brewing industry appears to me to be two-fold, with a third reason tacked on for a full picture.

1. Pubcos have destroyed the local pub by charging prohibitive rents to tenants and forcing them to purchase overpriced rubbish from them, rather than seeking the long term success of pubs as an investment. That much is known and discussed generally and sadly nothing has been done to stop this ridiculous destruction of a major business and social sector in our country.

2. Pubcos can't have all the blame. The simple, bald truth is that beer is overpriced in many pubs. In my area a pint for £3 is cheap. Any less and it feels like Christmas. Businesses will claim that they have to charge this to make ends meet but they have forgotten an alternative, successful business plan. Sensibly priced products often sell in greater quantities and encourage people to return. I go to the pub once a month (pity me!) for an evening out. I enjoy several pints and have a good time. I go once a month because it costs too much to go more often. If I could buy a pint for, say, £2.50, I would probably think nothing of going to the pub more often. Its pure psychology: if I can have a night out for a tenner I will feel good. Any more and I will consider it expensive.

For those pub owners who decry me, please tell me why I can get a pint in Liverpool for £2 or in Newcastle for £2.40? Sure, these cities are cheaper than the Cotswolds but not that much cheaper.

Beer is not a premium product, despite the recent efforts of some brewers who have started marketing some of their products as drinks to go with food. Beer is a simple pleasure and should be sold and priced as such.

3. The final reason which emerges from point (2) above is that beer is too strong. Most people drive everywhere and most drive to the pub. I like a pint but I live in the middle of nowhere. If I am to be encouraged to go to a pub I want a pint - a nice one, mind, not 0% Eurofizz. Also, weaker beer tends to be cheaper AND it encourages a degree more sobriety.

If you think it can't be done and you live in the south east (and some blessed parts farther afield) try a pint of Fullers Chiswick Bitter. It's great, weaker than the usual pint and usually a bit cheaper - though sadly not always as cheap as it could or should be.

Let me finish by being absolutely clear: I am not encouraging heavy drinking or debauchery as the Tory Daily Mail crowd would have it but I would like to see pubs stay open and thrive. I do stuff in my village and having a local pub to meet in for various events strengthens a community. We lost our pub in January but people are working hard to get it reopened because everyone recognises how important it is to have a good local.

At the moment dozens of pubs close every week so it is as clear as the nose on your visage that the existing model is wrong. Its not quite a crisis on a par with the credit crunch or global warming but it is important to communities - urban and rural - across the country.

Of course now I really fancy a pint...


With apologies for the lack of any recent streams of vaguely Lib Dem consciousness, here is an interesting article in the Independent which focuses on NIMBY power which challenges wind farms across the country, drastically reducing the number of new turbines going up.

I am a strong supporter of wind farms, indeed I live in a very windy village and I would love a blooming great turbine on a nearby ridge which is currently home to a series of radio aerials - thus not exactly a beauty spot. However, I am sure that if any such plans were proposed (there are sadly none in the pipeline, despite my gentle enquiries to the industrial unit which sits there) a vocal minority would oppose them and our spineless council and the less than radical MP (one D. Cameron esq.) would doubtless cave in to pressure and oppose any such proposals. The sadness is that a lot of people support wind farms but they are invariably a private concern and therefore they seldom provide an opportunity for positive campaigning.

Back to those radio aerials in the heart of Oxfordshire, because they have a very interesting history. The small village I live in was home to one of the very first transatlantic radio antennas established by an Italian immigrant named Marconi. Not sure what became of him but it is interesting to reflect on what would have happened to the incredible and generally beneficial progress made in radio, TV, mobile phone and satellite communications over the past 100 years if a bunch of NIMBYs had told Mr Marconi that he couldn't put his masts in Oxfordshire as it would depress local property prices.

This country - every country - depends on progress and every inch of our country has changed throughout our history, most radically in the past 300 years. That includes Oxfordshire - the vast Morris plant, East Oxford, Didcot Power Station, the town of Carterton and RAF Brize Norton being clear examples of this which bear a mention. I wish we could be reminded of the fact that we don't live in a museum more often. Museums are for relics.