Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Will there really be a political earthquake in the next year or two?

Below is from The Guido Fawkes website here

"Four more constituency polls from Survation out this morning, bankrolled by UKIP’s millionaire bookie donor Alan Bown. UKIP are up to 28% in Folkestone and Hythe, 30% in Great Yarmouth and 27% in Bognor Regis & Littlehampton. In Crewe and Nantwich they are only on 11%, but the Tories fall behind Labour into second. Indeed the Tories are down by an average of 14 points on their 2010 results across the four seats.

Bown has taken out a full page ad in today’s Telegraph to answer Lord Ashcroft’s claim that voting UKIP puts Miliband into Number 10. UKIP have two lines on this. First, that today’s polls show the net gain to the Tories if UKIP were not to field a candidate would be only 2% nationally. Only 26% of voters polled said they would vote Tory if UKIP did not run so, put simply, not enough are not going to ‘come home’ in 2015 as the Tories hope. Second, that UKIP voters do not really care if Miliband becomes PM. 53% said they would rather vote UKIP than Tory even if that meant Ed won, just 33% said they would vote Tory instead of UKIP to stop him. That is the number that will cost the Tories in 2015…"

In general polling over the last year UKIP are averaging over 10%. In some polls where they are prompted for they are even higher.

Nigel Farage is everywhere, arguable hugely over exposed but at present he is still an asset to UKIP. Indeed he IS UKIP in many peoples eyes.

UKIP have only a few hundred councillors (226) and 9 MEPs. Yet they do appear to have a lot of momentum with more members now than the Lib Dems (well over 30,000) and greatly increased media coverage. They also have a key target to aim at - the European Elections in May. There are 73 MEP seats up for grabs, will UKIP be the largest party within that? It looks possible at present, with a second place seemingly already in the bag.

Of interest is the fact that many council elections will be held on the same day in May and it might just transpire that if people are willing to hammer the main parties in the Euro elections they might just find it easier to vote UKIP in the council elections. Once a "taboo" is broken then more votes may go UKIPs way.

Who knows what will happen, but imagine the political earthquake if that day in May goes well for UKIP. How would the Tories et al react? would it give UKIP momentum going into the general election, would people think twice etc etc.

There's lots going on next year to throw into the mix with the Scottish referendum and probably another bout of Euro worries etc etc. Farage will have to decide whether he is standing as an MP and where, I suspect he will leave it late to announce where he stands as it will leave the main parties less time to prepare a defence.

The biggest issue UKIP will have is being subject to greater scrutiny on their policies and their people. There will be a fair few negative stories, as the main parties get to work on them. However although they may get media coverage I don't think it will have much of an effect on potential voters.

People are thinking of voting for UKIP for all sorts of reasons not the least of which is "stuff the rest of you, you're all the same". (Which leaves open just how many ideas will the main parties take off UKIP to take the sting out - 1 or 2, lots or none).

So will the next few years see an entertaining flash in the pan or a significant further breakdown of the two party system we grew used to? I don't know and for me that makes it all the more interesting.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Concrete block UK - population explosion to continue

Over the last decade the UK population has exploded. London is now as crowded as it was in the 1920's when it was not a pleasant place. The Northwest has grown by over a million people in the last decade and it was a busy place already.

I like a bit of space, I don't like concrete blocks. So living on an island that's the most densely populated place in Europe and one of the most globally is depressing.

I am therefore not overjoyed by today's OFfice of National Statistics prediction that the UK population will jump from around 62-63 to 70 million by 2027. 

Just how much do we want to live like rats in a sack or rabbits in a cage like all these flats in London and Manchester etc. How much more crowded do you want your train to be. Do you want special "crammers" like Japan pushing you onto rammed tube trains. Overcrowded schools, hospitals and alike.

Do you want to see a field between London and the south coast or between Manchester and Liverpool etc. 

The UK is going to get a lot lot busier - more roads, schools, hospitals, housing will be required concreting over what's left of our ironically named "green and pleasant land".

A combination of an increasing birth rate, large scale immigration and people living longer will ensure the figures are not too far off.

I just find it all a bit depressing and totally unmanaged.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Birmingham blight - is the Ofsted inspector right?

Birmingham is 'national disgrace' says Ofsted chief inspector. Below is taken from an extremely depressing Telegraph article.

Birmingham, Britain’s second city, has been branded a “national disgrace” and one of the worst places to grow up in the developed world.

But Sir Michael Wilshaw singled out a catalogue of wider social problems including:

:: Infant mortality rates almost twice the national average and “worse than in Cuba and on a par with Latvia and Chile”.

:: Having 12 of the 20 neighbourhoods which have declined most dramatically in the whole of England over the past 10 years.

:: A third of children growing up in households on low incomes.

:: The highest levels of homelessness in the country and double the national unemployment rate.

The above is all so depressing. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Ofsted chief inspector, said the city had declined dramatically from being the “powerhouse of the nation” to the “fourth division” in the wake of a string of child scandals.

Birmingham should be thriving, it should be challenging London and confident. It is instead seemingly struggling. It's fine council offices not sitting in a fine city. Having the largest council in the Country probably doesn't help.

See here for more details.

European Regulation - the issues

I have reposted an article below which seems to quickly outline the issues - the web link is here.

European regulation: two of the words most likely to put a chill up a British businessperson’s spine

No matter the mechanism, and no matter who bears ultimate responsibility, EU regulation can cost UK businesses time and money.

Posted by
Dr Adam Marshall, Director of Policy and External Affairs 23 Apr 2013

Every business has a tale of how it has been hamstrung, caught out or disadvantaged by a regulatory requirement. And many of those companies say that the root cause of their problems is a regulation emanating from the paper factory that is Brussels.

Yet the impact of European regulation on British business isn’t quite so black and white. There are “good” European regulations, for example the ones that enabled a Single Market to come into being (at least for goods) some twenty years ago. And yes, there are the sorts of “bad” European regulations so regularly ridiculed in the British press, like rules governing the size and shape of fruit and vegetables.

At a business debate at Plymouth Chamber of Commerce last week, I tried to separate out the good, the bad, and the ugly. Business difficulties with EU regulation basically have three causes:

Poorly conceived regulation. Brussels is, legitimately, at fault here. Things like the Ergonomics Directive, which would heap €4bn in costs on European SMEs, make good examples. There is no need for this regulation and the case has simply not been made for the Council and the European Parliament to legislate. So the BCC and others have campaigned, successfully, to prevent a bad decision from happening in Brussels.

Poorly transposed regulation. Here, it’s Westminster and Whitehall that deserve the blame, not Brussels. Some EU regulations come out of the European institutions in a more or less acceptable form, only to be complicated and “gold-plated” by our own UK civil servants and MPs. A great example here is the Agency Workers Directive, which both the Labour government and the Coalition gold-plated to such an extent that it has become a major burden and difficulty for businesses.

Clumsy regulatory enforcement. Here, it’s government agencies – and their inspectors – who should be the target of business ire. Often, businesses’ concerns about health and safety rules, or some sector-based regulations, are down more to the way that national government agencies choose to enforce them, rather than the actual rules themselves. As a result, “hyper-compliance” becomes commonplace, with businesses taking expensive defensive action because they fear a heavy-handed regulator knocking at the door.

No matter the mechanism, and no matter who bears ultimate responsibility, EU regulation can cost UK businesses time and money. So BCC – often working in partnership with other business organisations, with UK MEPs, and even with the UK government’s representatives in Brussels – lobbies continuously to try to prevent any of the three scenarios above from coming to pass. We try to stop poor regulation from reaching the European statute-book in the first place. We warn Whitehall, when implementing new rules, not to make them overly complex. And we shine a light on regulators who think ticking boxes is more important than achieving the right outcomes. Chamber members may not see all of our work on the “internal wiring” of regulation, but I can safely say that without it, the cost of doing business – and the impact on Britain’s competitiveness – would be far higher.

Monday, 16 September 2013


Originally founded by Greeks 657 BC. For nearly sixteen centuries following its reestablishment as Constantinople in 330 AD, it served as the capital of four empires: the Roman Empire (330–395), the Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the last caliphate.

Impressive history - see here for more

Remember - Roman Republic - 509 BC–27 BC

Roman Empire - 27 BC–AD 476 (West), 330–1453 (East)

Thursday, 29 August 2013

A letter on the Middle East

A letter in a national paper published today:

'Sir - Iran is backing Assad. Gulf States are against Assad.
Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood and Obama are against General Sisi.
But Gulf States are pro-Sisi! Which means they are against Muslim Brotherhood!
Iran is pro-Hamas, but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood!
Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood, yet Hamas is against the US!
Gulf States are pro-US. But Turkey is with Gulf States against Assad yet Turkey is pro Muslim Brotherhood against General Sisi. And General Sisi is being backed by the Gulf States.
Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day.
KN Al-Sabah, London'

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Edinburgh Fringe Top 10 Jokes 2013

Comedian Rob Auton has won an award for the funniest joke of the Edinburgh Fringe 2013 say the BBC.

The 30-year-old, from York, was given the prize by digital TV channel Dave, whose panel put a selection of their favourites to a public vote.

He won for the joke: "I heard a rumour that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Could be a Chinese Wispa."

The top 10 funniest included jokes by Tim Vine and Marcus Brigstocke.

The judges sat through hours of material before nominating their favourite three gags for the shortlist.

The top 10 were:

Rob Auton - "I heard a rumour that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Could be a Chinese Wispa."

Alex Horne - "I used to work in a shoe-recycling shop. It was sole-destroying."

Alfie Moore - "I'm in a same-sex marriage... the sex is always the same."

Tim Vine - "My friend told me he was going to a fancy dress party as an Italian island. I said to him 'Don't be Sicily'."

Gary Delaney - "I can give you the cause of anaphylactic shock in a nutshell."

Phil Wang - "The Pope is a lot like Doctor Who. He never dies, just keeps being replaced by white men."

Marcus Brigstocke - "You know you are fat when you hug a child and it gets lost."

Liam Williams - "The universe implodes. No matter."

Bobby Mair - "I was adopted at birth and have never met my mum. That makes it very difficult to enjoy any lapdance."

Chris Coltrane - "The good thing about lending someone your time machine is that you basically get it back immediately."

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

MP's Pay facts and figures - pure greed

Well it will be more than a little upsetting if the "independent" body who sets them pay gives them a whacking pay rise up from a minimum £66,000 to £75,000.

From Guido Fawkes

First the facts and figures; MPs are paid a handsome £66,396 plus another £14,582 if they chair one of the 39 Select Committees. If they number among the 169 MPs who are ministers they also receive extra payments to compensate them for the burdens of the Red Box. If they make it to Cabinet they add an additional £68,827 – more than doubling their MP’s salary to £134,565. In short whereas the basic pay of an MP is more than triple the average £19,000 income of UK workers, almost a third of MPs are earning between 4 and 7 times average earnings. This is of course before any outside earnings are taken into account.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Living in The Now

I like this poem even if it comes from an advert. See the add on YouTube from the link below.


The words to the Magners Ad poem

"Now is a good time"

When yesterday's gone and tomorrow is near,
Why look for a thing when it's already here.
And tell me you never once asked yourself how
Some people end up in the middle of the now.
Now is the beat of the feet on the floor,
Now is the then we were all waiting for.
It's the strike of the luck.
It's the go with the flow.
It's the sharing the luck with the people we know.
See, a wise fool once said,
Kinda out of the blue,
That life is a dream
That's already come true.
It's less of the what and the where and the how,
It's more of the you and the me and the now.

(Composed specially for a television ad campaign on behalf of Magners Original Irish cider 2013)

Monday, 6 May 2013

Cameron's problem encapsulated by Montegomerie

Tim Montgomerie (former editor of the conservative home website) in this mornings Times sums up what the Tory base thinks Cameron has done. This coalition Government has faced a very very difficult economic climate but Cameron has also not been Mr Perfect when it comes to dealing with his base support hence the further collapse in Tory membership. Going into coalition was also the best thing ever for UKIP but still I reckon below is a decent stab at how the base feel:

"Spend most of your time as Tory leader ignoring the issue that matters most to your activist members: Europe. Launch your bid to be leader by promising to introduce a tax allowance for married couples and then, once you’ve won power, fail to deliver that pledge at four successive Budgets. Tell parents that they can set up any school they want as long as it’s not the one they most want, a grammar school.

Stop Gordon Brown holding a honeymoon election in 2007 by promising to abolish inheritance tax but then put it up in office. Spend the general election campaign talking about an issue that no one understands — the Big Society — and don’t talk about immigration, an issue that three-quarters of voters do care about. Subsidise expensive renewable energies at a time when families are struggling to pay their electricity bills.

Form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats even though 80 per cent of your members want you to lead a minority government. Promise not to reorganise the NHS, then reorganise it anyway. Oppose press regulation but then embrace it. Keep pledging to tackle European human rights laws but do nothing when Abu Qatada proves again and again that Britain is run by inventive lawyers rather than democratically-drafted laws.

Insist that you want to reach out to northern and poorer parts of Britain but stuff your Downing Street operation with southern chums who attended the same elite private schools as you. And, just for good measure, insult people who normally vote for your party as clowns, fruitcakes and closet racists."

Read the rest of the article behind the Times pay wall

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Celebrate St. George's Day

Today, 23rd April, is St. George's Day. He is the English Patron Saint.

"Cry God for Harry, England and St George!" - William Shakespeare

Saint George (c. 275/281 – 23 April 303 AD) was actually a Greek who became an officer in the Roman army. His father was the Greek Gerondios from Cappadocia Asia Minor and his mother was from the city Lydda. Lydda was a Greek city in Palestine from the times of the conquest of Alexander the Great (333 BC). Saint George became an officer in the Roman army in the Guard of Diocletian. He is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography, Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic (Western and Eastern Rites), Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints. So says Wikipedia.

"There is a forgotten, nay almost forbidden word, which means more to me than any other. That word is England." - Sir Winston Churchill

Monday, 8 April 2013

Saturday Kitchen - Pancetta-wrapped salmon

A pretty simple dish that's perfect for week nights and is actually very tasty.


1) 200g small new potatoes , sliced
2) 3 sprigs tarragon , leaves chopped
3) zest 1 lemon
4) knob of butter
5) 2 x 170g skinless salmon fillets
6) 4 slices pancetta or prosciutto


Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Boil the potatoes for 5 mins. Drain and tip into a bowl - they will be slightly underdone. Toss with the tarragon, lemon zest, butter and seasoning to taste. Pile in the centre of a foil-lined baking tray.

Season salmon with black pepper and wrap the pancetta or prosciutto around the fillets. Place on top of the potatoes and roast for 15-20 mins, or until the fish flakes easily and the pancetta or prosciutto is golden. Serve with steamed green beans.

Make it different Dill or basil both work well with salmon and pancetta, instead of tarragon.

See here for details.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Fact Friday -

1) 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321.

2) The phrase “rule of thumb” is derived from and old English law which stated that you couldn’t beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.

3) Stewardesses is the longest word typed with only the left hand.

4) Marilyn Monroe had six toes on one foot.

5) Women blink nearly twice as much as men.

6) Right handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left handed people do.

7) The sentence “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” uses every letter in the alphabet.

8) A rhinoceros horn is made of compacted hair.

9) It is impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.

10) On a Canadian two dollar bill, the flag flying over the Parliament Building is an American flag.

11) All of the clocks in the movie Pulp Fiction are stuck on 4:20.

12) Winston Churchill was born in a ladies’ room during a dance.

13) The youngest pope was 11 years old.

14) The world’s youngest parents were 8 and 9 and lived in China in 1910.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Worth reading - ‘The UK Tax System Explained In Beer’ by David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D

A brilliant way of explaining our tax system. It is accurate and enrages socialists like Gordon Brown -

Suppose that once a week, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten
comes to £100.

If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something
like this: -

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay £1.
The sixth would pay £3.
The seventh would pay £7.
The eighth would pay £12.
The ninth would pay £18.
And the tenth man (the richest) would pay £59.

So, that’s what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every week and seemed quite happy with the
arrangement until, one day, the owner caused them a little problem. “Since
you are all such good customers”, he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost
of your weekly beer by £20. Drinks for the ten men would now cost just

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the
first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free but what
about the other six men? The paying customers? How could they divide the
£20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share? They realized that
£20 divided by six is £3.33 but if they subtracted that from everybody’s
share then not only would the first four men still be drinking for free
but the fifth and sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his

So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fairer to reduce each man’s
bill by a higher percentage. They decided to follow the principle of the
tax system they had been using and he proceeded to work out the amounts he
suggested that each should now pay.

And so, the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (a 100%
The sixth man now paid £2 instead of £3 (a 33% saving).
The seventh man now paid £5 instead of £7 (a 28% saving).
The eighth man now paid £9 instead of £12 (a 25% saving).
The ninth man now paid £14 instead of £18 (a 22% saving).
And the tenth man now paid £49 instead of £59 (a 16% saving).

Each of the last six was better off than before with the first four
continuing to drink for free.

But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings. “I only
got £1 out of the £20 saving,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the
tenth man, “but he got £10″

“Yes, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved £1 too. It’s
unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me”

“That’s true” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get £10 back when I
only got £2? The wealthy get all the breaks”

“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get
anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor”. The nine men
surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next week the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat
down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the
bill, they discovered something important –they didn’t have enough money
between all of them to pay for even half of the bill.

And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our
tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will
naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much,
attack them for being wealthy and they just might not show up anymore. In
fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat

From David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D. - Professor of Economics

Thursday Drinks Cabinet - Pineau des Charentes

Pineau des Charentes, (Pineau Charentais, or simply Pineau) is a regional French aperitif from 1589, made in the départements of Charente, Charente-Maritime and, to a much lesser extent, Dordogne in western France. While popular within the region of production, it is less well-known in other regions of France and somewhat uncommon abroad. It is a fortified wine (mistelle or vin de liqueur), made from a blend of lightly fermented grape must and Cognac eau-de-vie.

It is mainly used as an aperitif and is also amazing with foie gras . It is lovely stuff and connects to a region of France I know well.

It also has the advantage of not being too pricey, most Pineau des Charentes Plessis 75cl is around £10.

Try it this summer.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Wednesdays Joke of the Week - 40 - 50 - I said to this train driver ''I want to go to Paris". He said ''Eurostar?'' I said, ''I've been on telly but I'm no Dean Martin''.

40. I said to this train driver ''I want to go to Paris". He said ''Eurostar?'' I said, ''I've been on telly but I'm no Dean Martin''.

41. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly. But when they lit a fire in the craft, it sank, proving once and for all that you can't have your kayak and heat it.

42. I've got a friend who's fallen in love with two school bags, he's bisatchel.

43. You see my next-door neighbour worships exhaust pipes, he's a catholic converter.

44. A three-legged dog walks into a saloon in the Old West. He slides up to the bar and announces: ''I'm looking for the man who shot my paw.''

45. I tried water polo but my horse drowned.

46. I'll tell you what I love doing more than anything: trying to pack myself in a small suitcase. I can hardly contain myself.

47. So I met this gangster who pulls up the back of people's pants, it was Wedgie Kray.

48. Went to the corner shop - bought 4 corners.

49. A seal walks into a club...

50. I went to the Doctors the other day, and he said, 'Go to Bournemouth, it's great for flu'. So I went - and I got it.

More jokes here.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Tech Tuesday - BT Sport - the birth of a new media giant?

Towards the end of this Summer BT Sport are aiming to launch two new channels. This has been a massive undertaking. Many have entered the sports media world since the birth of Sky Sports and all have died.

Think of Ondigital Sport, Setanta Sport, ESPN, ITV Sport etc etc. indeed even the BBC has lost nearly all, it's sports rights.

BT are opening a huge new sports media complex on the Olympic site, allocated billions on sports rights and committed to the project for a decade saying it will sit alongside their broadband and tv offerings.

So far they have nabbed some premiership games, the rugby Aviva premiership, WTA, bought out ESPN etc and shown they mean business.

They have also hired some quite big "talent" like Clare Balding and Lawrence Dallaglio. Getting all the tech in place too has been tricky and they have signed some pretty big deals with production companies to make sure all the sport is covered.

The channels will definitely be available on Sky and Bt Vision, alongside you view and also hopefully Virgin media.

Lets see how it pans out but it's a big step in the media tech world. Can they compete with Sky? They have the funds from their other businesses to do so and that's a good start.

Monday, 1 April 2013

PM - A Dream Within A Dream by Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow--
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand--
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep--while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Edgar Allan Poe (born Edgar Poe; January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. See here for more details.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Sunday Service - UK National Debt - how Britain owes over £1 trillion

The debt bombshell website spells it out accurately. We are stuffed. See here for more. I have taken their front page figures and statement below.

It's a truly frightening figure. Why is the world's sixth richest country so deeply in debt?

Every year the UK runs a large budget deficit. The Government spends more money than it can tax, so we plug the gap by selling bonds to investors at home and abroad. These bonds - known as gilts - have to be repaid in full, with interest. Added together, our unpaid loans make up the UK's national debt.

Right now, that debt is growing violently. The Government forecasts it will soar to an eye-watering £1.5 trillion by 2016. To put that in perspective, the UK went bust in 1976 running a budget deficit of 6% of GDP. In 2012 that deficit is going to top 8.9%.

Historically, our debt burden was heavier after World War II. But like any loan, if the money isn't invested wisely we end up borrowing even more. When the Government runs up huge debts and produces nothing to show for it, we're the ones that shoulder the burden. This year that burden will grow by £138 billion.

The state has been wasting our money for decades. Weak politicians have bribed voters with endless amounts of borrowed cash. As a result, in 2012 the interest on the national debt will cost £44.8 billion a year. That's more than we spend on defence, and not much less than the entire education budget.

Future generations won't thank us for mortgaging their future. At best, national debt will be a millstone round our children's necks. But if lenders lose faith in Britain there could be profound consequences for our currency, our country and our lives.

Read on for the complete guide to Britain's debt »

What's the answer? I have no idea but the current coalition idea of carrying on spending and printing money won't work. Especially when pensioners, savers and everyone else are getting relatively poorer every year in large part because of the money printing.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Saturday Kitchen - Poached pears in spiced red wine

This is good stuff as a pudding and is fat free

Ingredients - this recipe serves 6.

1 vanilla pod

1 bottle red wine

225g caster sugar

1 cinnamon stick , halved

fresh thyme sprig , plus sprigs to serve

6 pears , peeled, but kept whole with stalk intact

Method -

Halve the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape out the black seeds and put in a large saucepan with the wine, sugar, cinnamon and thyme. Cut each piece of pod into three long thin strips, add to pan, then lower in the pears.
Poach the pears, covered, for 20-30 mins, making sure they are covered in the wine. The cooking time will very much depend on the ripeness of your pears - they should be tender all the way through when pierced with a cocktail stick. You can make these up to 2 days ahead and chill.

Take the pears from the pan, then boil the liquid to reduce it by half so that it's syrupy. Serve each pear with the cooled syrup, a strip of vanilla, a piece of cinnamon and a small thyme sprig.

Per serving

235 kcalories, protein 0g, carbohydrate 51g, fat 0 g, saturated fat 0g, fibre 2g, sugar 51g, salt 0.3 g

See the BBC Good Food website for more details.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Fact Friday - A monkey was once tried and convicted for smoking a cigarette in South Bend, Indiana. 30 more.

For Your Warehouse of Useless Knowledge. Not entirely sure how true these all are!

1) 1,525,000,000 miles of telephone wire a strung across the U.S.

2) 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

3) 12 newborns will be given to the wrong parents daily.

4) 123,000,000 cars are being driven down the U.S's highways.

5) 160 cars can drive side by side on the Monumental Axis in Brazil, the world's widest road.

6) 166,875,000,000 pieces of mail are delivered each year in the U.S.

7) 27% of U.S. male college students believe life is "A meaningless existential hell."

8) 315 entries in Webster's Dictionary will be misspelled.

9) 5% of Canadians don't know the first 7 words of the Canadian anthem, but know the first 9 of the American anthem.

10) 56,000,000 people go to Major League baseball each year.

11) 7% of Americans don't know the first 9 words of the American anthem, but know the first 7 of the Canadian anthem.

12) 85,000,000 tons of paper are used each year in the U.S.

13) 99% of the solar systems mass is concentrated in the sun.

14) A 10-gallon hat barely holds 6 pints.

15) A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.

16) A cockroach can live several weeks with its head cut off.

17) A company in Taiwan makes dinnerware out of wheat, so you can eat your plate.

18) A cow produces 200 times more gas a day than a person.

19) A dime has 118 ridges around the edge.

20) A dragonfly has a lifespan of 24 hours.

21) A fully loaded supertanker travelling at normal speed takes a least twenty minutes to stop.

22) A giraffe can clean its ears with its 21-inch tongue.

23) A giraffe can go without water longer than a camel can.

24) A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.

25) A hard working adult sweats up to 4 gallons per day. Most of the sweat evaporates before a person realizes it's there.

26) A hedgehog's heart beats 300 times a minute on average.

27) A hippo can open its mouth wide enough to fit a 4 foot tall child inside.

28) A hummingbird weighs less than a penny.

29) A jellyfish is 95 percent water.

30) A "jiffy" is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second.

More daft facts here.

Thursday Drinks Cabinet - Port - can't be beaten when with good cheese.

I had some port the other evening at a dinner party with good cheese. You can't beat that combination. It is lovely.

Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, and comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties.
Port is produced from grapes grown and processed in the demarcated Douro region. The wine produced is then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content. The fortification spirit is sometimes referred to as brandy but it bears little resemblance. The wine is then stored and aged, often in barrels stored in a cave as is the case in Vila Nova de Gaia, before being bottled.

The wine received its name, "port", in the latter half of the 17th century from the seaport city of Porto at the mouth of the Douro River, where much of the product was brought to market or for export to other countries in Europe. The Douro valley where port wine is produced was defined and established as a protected region, or appellation in 1756, making it the oldest defined and protected wine region in the world.
The English have played a key role in port eg. what was to become Warre was set up by Englishman John Clark in 1670, Croft was founded in 1678, Quarles Harris in 1680 and Taylor’s in 1692.

See here for detailed information on Port from BBR.
Port comes in all shapes and sizes and prizes. Go on give it a go.
Tip: Also amazing with chocolate.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Wednesdays Joke of the Week - Part 4 - eg Four fonts walk into a bar the barman says ''Oi - get out! We don't want your type in here''

31. So I went to the Chinese restaurant and this duck came up to me with a red rose and says ''Your eyes sparkle like diamonds''. I said, ''Waiter, I asked for a-ROMATIC duck''.

32. Four fonts walk into a bar the barman says ''Oi - get out! We don't want your type in here''

33. I was having dinner with Garry Kasporov (world chess champion) and there was a check tablecloth. It took him two hours to pass me the salt.

34. There was a man who entered a local paper's pun contest.. He sent in ten different puns, in the hope that at least one of the puns would win. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.

35. I went down the local supermarket, I said, ''I want to make a complaint, this vinegar's got lumps in it'', he said, "Those are pickled onions''.

36. I backed a horse last week at ten to one. It came in at quarter past four.

37. I swear, the other day I bought a packet of peanuts, and on the packet it said ''may contain nuts.'' Well, YES! That's what I bought the buggers for! You'd be annoyed if you opened it and a socket set fell out!''

38. A lorry-load of tortoises crashed into a trainload of terrapins, What a turtle disaster

39. My phone will ring at 2 in the morning, and my wife'll look at me and go, ''Who's that calling at this time?' ''I don't know! If I knew that we wouldn't need the bloody phone!''

40. I said to this train driver ''I want to go to Paris". He said ''Eurostar?'' I said, ''I've been on telly but I'm no Dean Martin''.

Jokes courtesy of newslite.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Tech Tuesday - Bitcoins bid for world domination starts small

The BBC notes Bitcoin virtual currency can now be used to pay for pizza

Orders made via the Pizza for Coins website are funnelled to others for preparation and delivery.

The Pizza for Coins service has been set up by two programmers as a way to boost use of the digital cash. The service acts as a middleman and converts bitcoins into US dollars that are used to pay for food. It charges a small fee to do the currency exchange.

They are not the only ones getting attention with Entrepreneur Taylor More listing his two-bedroom Alberta bungalow, asking 405,000 Canadian dollars (£261,000; $395,000) - or the equivalent in Bitcoins get global attention as noted here.

Bitcoins are now a widely used alternative payments system and one Bitcoin is currently worth about £37. Bitcoins first appeared in 2009 and are closely linked to the global network of computers that supports the currency and its users. Many people generate or "mine" the coins by participating in that network and a growing number of web stores and online firms accept bitcoins as payment.

Bitcoin does not operate like typical currencies: it has no central bank and it solely relies on an internet-based peer-to-peer network. The fact that the system operates outside the global banking world is pretty fascinating and means transactions costs for transferring money and alike are very low and the transaction instantaneous. However you have to worry about just how secure the system is.

I am not sure yet whether the above are examples of a future system or just one off in something that won't take off.

More on Bitcoins on Wikipedia or the Bitcoin website itself.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Tim Montgomerie on the troubled Tories

I agree with Tim Montgomerie's article on Cameron almost entirely.

So here is his article below thanks to The Times newspaper:

I hesitate to be the bearer of bad news but while there may still be 775 days until the end of this Parliament, the general election campaign is already in full swing. It started last Wednesday when George Osborne delivered his fourth and most political Budget. Almost every announcement was designed to tickle the tummies of the voters that the Tories need in order to stay in office. First-time housebuyers, the low-waged, motorists, working mums and, of course, pasty-eating beer drinkers. They were all targeted with as much help as a near-bankrupt country can’t afford. This is a Government that is no longer focused on its Plan A for deficit reduction. Downing Street is focused on Plan B(eer) for re-election.

The Government’s retreat from a focus on deficit reduction has happened in stages but there can be no doubt that the retreat is now almost total. Last year the Government borrowed about £120 billion. It will borrow about £120 billion this year and a similar record-breaking amount next year. At the end of this Parliament, in the year we were promised the deficit was to be eliminated, annual borrowing will still be £100 billion. By 2015 the national debt will be heading over £1,500 billion. It will be the year in which taxpayers are paying more to service the nation’s debts than they’ll be spending on policing and schools.

It didn’t have to be this way. The Government could have made a fundamental re-evaluation of what kind of State we could afford. It could have abolished whole Whitehall departments, ended universal benefits and brought public and private sector wages in line. It could have used the crisis to enact landmark changes to tax, banking and energy policies to supercharge national competitiveness. We got neither big cuts nor big vision.
The Chancellor and Prime Minister still hope — with good reason — that there’ll be just enough economic uplift by polling day to persuade voters that their period of stewardship hasn’t been for nothing. They will run a version of Barack Obama’s successful re-election campaign. We will be told that progress may be limited but that it would be a gross folly to hand the country back to the party that wrecked things in the first place. So long as Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are leading the Opposition, they have a reasonable chance of succeeding.

Mr Cameron’s shift from mending the economy to saving his electoral bacon is only the latest in a long line of “strategic adjustments”. He has struggled ever to define a mission, let alone stick to one. His big idea was once the Big Society, and climate change was his top priority. Neither gets much attention any more. He launched his leadership bid with a promise to recognise marriage in the tax system and, in 2007, he saved his leadership by promising to abolish inheritance tax for all but millionaires. Today there is no marriage tax allowance and inheritance tax is going up. He promised not to reorganise the NHS or to regulate the press by statute. We all know what happened to both promises.
No 10 attempts to bat away all criticisms of Mr Cameron by pointing to opinion polls that suggest that he is more popular than large parts of his party. And it’s true that Mr Cameron is good on telly and portrays a reassuring, wholesome family image. But are these really the qualities our country needs at this moment?
There are many examples of institutions that have gone backwards or failed to prosper under popular or charismatic leaders. In recent times, one might think of the Catholic Church under John Paul II where, despite the Pope’s personal holiness, the moral degeneration of large parts of the Church went unaddressed. Or — to go from the sublime to the near-ridiculous — one can think of Tottenham Hotspur under the charismatic Harry Redknapp. Spurs were a good team under his management but they are only beginning to fulfil their true potential under the less charismatic but more technically astute André Villas-Boas.

Successful leaders guard and develop the underlying institution. At some point leaders must be judged by their success at doing that, rather than by their own celebrity or popularity.

What, then, about the country and the Conservative Party under Mr Cameron? The coalition will deliver significant improvements to our schools, to the welfare system and to the accountability of the police, but the central issue of our time is the national debt. That at least is what the Prime Minister told us three years ago. At the end of this Parliament the nation’s debt problem won’t be better. It will be worse. Much worse.

In its postwar history the Conservative Party enjoyed three principal electoral advantages: a mass membership grassroots organisation, a supportive centre-right press and a monopoly of the centre-right vote. Under Mr Cameron, the long-term membership decline has accelerated. Worse, there have been no efforts to build a digital machine to compensate for that decline. Relations with the press have deteriorated badly, probably irreparably. And, third, and most significantly, for the first time in the postwar period large numbers of centre-right voters have, in UKIP, a new vehicle for their concerns.

In regretting Mr Cameron’s unfocused, drifting leadership, I don’t recommend to the Conservative Party that it chooses a new leader. The nation’s problems are complex. There is no political messiah sitting behind Mr Cameron in the Commons, or indeed opposite him. The country may need a statesman in charge — someone with a plan to restore competitiveness and to ensure that everyone in every part of Britain shares in the prosperity that results — but I can’t see an obvious candidate.

Mr Cameron can claim achievements that will stand the test of history: his support for gay marriage, for example; his investment in transformational vaccination programmes for the world’s poorest people; his lifting of nearly 3 million poorly paid Britons out of the income tax system. Overall, however, to reapply a phrase used by the Labour leader on Saturday, Mr Cameron’s leadership of the Tory party is looking dangerously like a lost decade. The decade began with a promise to save the world’s climate and rebuild conservatism. Cameronism then became a more modest project to balance the nation’s books.
By 2015 the shrinkage will be complete. The Tory leader will stand before the country with the thin claim that he’s not as bad as Ed Miliband. It may be enough to keep him in No 10, but it’s a depressing prospect for the country.

Tim Montgomerie can more usually be found here.

PM - The Man In The Bowler Hat

The Man In The Bowler Hat

I am the unnoticed, the unnoticable man:
The man who sat on your right in the morning train:
The man who looked through like a windowpane:
The man who was the colour of the carriage, the colour of the mounting
Morning pipe smoke.

I am the man too busy with a living to live,
Too hurried and worried to see and smell and touch:
The man who is patient too long and obeys too much
And wishes too softly and seldom.

I am the man they call the nation's backbone,
Who am boneless - playable castgut, pliable clay:
The Man they label Little lest one day
I dare to grow.

I am the rails on which the moment passes,
The megaphone for many words and voices:
I am the graph diagram,
Composite face.

I am the led, the easily-fed,
The tool, the not-quite-fool,
The would-be-safe-and-sound,
The uncomplaining, bound,
The dust fine-ground,
Stone-for-a-statue waveworn pebble-round

By Arthur Seymour John Tessimond. See more of his work here.

Arthur Seymour John Tessimond (Birkenhead, July 19, 1902 – Chelsea, London May 13, 1962) was an English poet.

He went to Birkenhead School until the age of 14, before being sent to Charterhouse School, but ran away at age 16. From 1922 to 1926 he attended the University of Liverpool, where he read English literature, French, Philosophy and Greek. He later moved to London where he worked in bookshops, and also as a copywriter.

After avoiding military service in World War II, he later discovered he was unfit for service. He suffered from bipolar disorder, and received electro-convulsive therapy.

He first began to publish in the 1920s in literary magazines. He was to see three volumes of poetry were published during his life: Walls of Glass in 1934, Voices in a Giant City in 1947 and Selections in 1958. He contributed several poems to a 1952 edition of Bewick's Birds.

He died in 1962 from a brain haemorrhage. See Wikipedia for more detail.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Sunday Service - The rise and rise of UKIP

It's their spring conference this weekend and boy do they have a lot to celebrate. They are beginning to win local council seats which is a decent sign of progress in the first past the post world.

More importantly they are doing well in recent by elections such as Eastleigh where they came a close second and put the Tories in third. UKIP have also now polled consistently well for say about a year. They are on a par if not above the Lib Dems, maybe averaging 10% in polling.

And on it goes as they get more media coverage (eg today they are in the Times, Telegraph, BBC online etc as mainstream articles), get an audience with Rupert Murdoch and have the future on their side.

By that I mean they have the May local elections mid way through an increasingly struggling coalition Government. The ingredients for a perfect protest vote. Indeed Nigel Farage hopes that the party is now more than a protest vote or ex Tory party. He believes there is strong evidence they have picked up plenty of Lib Dem, Labour and non voters too.

Following the May elections come the Euro elections next year. This is obviously UKIP home turf really as they already have a number of MEPS, Europe is in turmoil and their principal reason for existing is to get out of Europe. In addition it's not a first past the post system which helps them enormously. They may well just about finish top of the pile if if if...

If they can keep the momentum rolling and ride the wave then it could be an incredible next 12 months for them. Certainly over the last 12 months their membership has apparently flourished, they are improving their professional organisation and standing in more and more areas. They wish to stand in all seats at the next general election.

So the rise of UKIP has occurred. Will they fall flat as a pancake or will they continue to flourish over the next year. We shall see.

One final point - UKIP are still dominated by Farage, who is very good on the media and seemingly everywhere. However they need to get others in the firing line and in the meantime hope Farage stays well. Plus they can expect their policies to be attacked but I don't think that will get Labour or the Tories far.

I think UKIP at present are on the rise because they are not one of the main parties and UKIPs rhetoric chimes much more closely with those outside Westminster village and the media.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Saturday Kitchen - Moules Mariniere

Another classic dish that we don't eat enough of. this recipe is from from Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets.

Preparation time: less than 30 mins.

Cooking time: less than 10 mins
Serves 4.

It's surprisingly easy to make.


- 1.8kg/3lbs 8oz mussels
- 100ml/4fl oz dry white wine
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, very finely chopped
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tbsp whipping cream
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh flatleaf parsley


1. Wash the mussels under cold running water in a sink, removing any beards and barnacles. Do not scrub the shells as the colour will transfer during cooking giving an unappetising grey colour to the dish. Discard any mussels that float or remain open when tapped against the side of the sink.

2. Boil the wine in a small saucepan for 30 seconds then set aside. (This is to remove the harsh taste of the alcohol and leave only the fruity acidity of the wine.)

3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a high heat, then add the onion, bay leaves and thyme. Stir for 10 seconds, then add the wine and bring to a boil.

4. Add the mussels, cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the mussels open. (Discard any mussels that do not open.)

5. Add the whipping cream and parsley and stir well. No seasoning is required as the mussels will release a little salt water when they open, which is enough to season the dish perfectly.

6. Serve the mussels in a large warmed serving dish or four soup plates. Give your guests finger bowls and plenty of good-quality French bread to mop up the juices.

Top recipe tip

There are many variations of this dish. Try adding Madras curry powder with the onion and finish the dish with lemon juice and fresh coriander. For a Thai version, add chilli, garlic, lemongrass and lime leaf with the onion and replace the cream with coconut milk.

So tasty

Best place to get the mussels from is fish for thought online. Amazing stuff.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Fact Friday - 10 useless facts

1) The word "queue" is the only word in the English language that is still pronounced the same way when the last four letters are removed.

2) Beetles taste like apples, wasps like pine nuts, and worms like fried bacon.

3) Of all the words in the English language, the word 'set' has the most definitions!

4) What is called a "French kiss" in the English speaking world is known as an "English kiss" in France.

5) "Almost" is the longest word in the English language with all the letters in alphabetical order.

6) "Rhythm" is the longest English word without a vowel.

7) In 1386, a pig in France was executed by public hanging for the murder of a child

8) A cockroach can live several weeks with its head cut off!

9) Human thigh bones are stronger than concrete.

10) You can't kill yourself by holding your breath

More useless facts here.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Thursday Drinks Cabinet - Meantime London Pale Ale

Meantime Brewery founded in 2000 by Brewmaster Alastair Hook, who had previously trained at the world famous brewing school at the Technical University of Munich of Weihenstephan makes Meantime Pale Ale. The Greenwich Brewery, home of the Meantime Brewing is located on Blackwall Lane, London, 2010. More info on them is here.

Meantime may be yet another trendy micro brewery but their London Pale Ale is good stuff. Indeed their lager is lovely too.

One hundred and fifty years ago the new bitter beer style, Pale Ale, was so popular that brewers had to import Californian hops to meet demand.

Meantime London Pale Ale continues that tradition by combining lots of American Cascade and Centennial hops to give it a complex citrus aroma and buckets full of local Kentish Goldings to provide the bitterness that makes the style so refreshing.
Together they are quite tasty.

See here for more detail.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Where your taxes go in 2013-2014

Quite interesting to see how the receipts and spending break down.

See order-order for a clearer view of the chart.

Wednesdays Joke of the Week - part 3 - another 10 of the top 50 ever

21. A jump-lead walks into a bar. The barman says ''I'll serve you, but don't start anything''

22. Slept like a log last night........ Woke up in the fireplace.

23. A priest, a rabbi and a vicar walk into a bar. The barman says, ''Is this some kind of joke?''

24. A sandwich walks into a bar. The barman says ''Sorry we don't serve food in here''

25. The other day I sent my girlfriend a huge pile of snow. I rang her up, I said ''Did you get my drift?''.

26. I cleaned the attic with the wife the other day. Now I can't get the cobwebs out of her hair.

27. Went to the paper shop - it had blown away.

28. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. ''But why?'' they asked, as they moved off. ''because,'' he said ''I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer.''

29. I was in Tesco's and I saw this man and woman wrapped in a barcode. I said, ''Are you two an item?''

30. I'm in great mood tonight because the other day I entered a competition and I won a years supply of Marmite......... one jar.

Jokes courtesy of newslite.