Archive for April, 2012

Fox, Hunt and Spads

Do the Tories make up the names of their ministers just to look like a gathering of the landed gentry, I wonder?  And what is it about these ministers and their special advisers that is so problematic?  Liam Fox’s special adviser went and, shortly  after, Fox followed.  What are the odds on Jeremy Hunt following his?

But the Hunt and Murdoch affair is very odd indeed.  If there were a need to keep the Murdochs informed about progress on the case relating to the takeover of BSkyB, and given this was a quasi-judicial role, the special adviser should never have been involved in any way.  Spads are political appointees, giving political advice to ministers etc.  As such, they should not be involved in the exercise of an adjudication which must, as we know, be according to the law, evidence, due process etc.  This should not be a political decsision and so a spad has no business being involved.  Of course, this particular spad overstepped the mark – or so we are to believe.

It is another astonishing aspect of this case that so many senior people with resources, staff etc should be so unaware of so much.  Murdoch Snr. didn’t know of the cover up.  Murdoch Jnr. didn’t know very much at all and seems to have put a good deal of effort into paying no attention to something that was the subject of widespread discussion.  And Hunt knew nothing of the activities of his spad.

Of course, to rail enthusiasts, spad means Signal Passed At Danger – referring to trains that run through red lights.  SPADs tend to result in accidents.

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The last Tory PM and Chancellor

Will Hutton rounded off an open lecture last night with a prediction that pleased most of the room.  Some old white men, mainly from the sponsoring organisation, were not so amused or heartened by the prediction.

Following more disappointing lectures by Brendan Barber and John Birt, Will Hutton really lived up to the promise of the ‘Burning Issues’ lecture series.  For a start, it was clear that he actually cared about the subject of his talk – ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ capitalism.  Once warned up, he got into his stride, launching into a sweeping dismissal of recent and current economic policies.  While much of what he had to say was doom and gloom (debt, stagnation, managed inflation as the only way out), he did also point to a future.  He presented the outline of a case for an innovation eco-system (encourage ideas and research, back the best, scale up and socialise elements of the risk) embedded in a European-wide market, looking to the next generation of ‘general purpose technologies’ and supproted by a reformed welfare system (he pointed to Denmark for ideas).  Perhaps this is where his background in economics raises some questions.  He was clearly of the view that zero growth solutions are out of the question.  We will always strive to innovate and develop, he suggested.  So, deep down, while aspects of technology and innovation have got us into this unsustainable mess, they will also get us out, much as ‘good’ capitalism can rescue us too.

Right or wrong, at least it was coherent and he sounded like he believed it.

Pulling teeth

The news this morning included a bizarre item that suggested dentists should be our front line of defence against the dangers of cancers caused by excessive drinking.  We are more inclined to go to the dentist for routine check-ups than to a doctor and, therefore, the dentist might pick up signs that would otherwise not surface for some time.  Apparently, as they peer into your mouth, dentists might notice decay caused by stomach acids, ulcers etc.  Presumably, they might also smell your breath!?  But a spokesperson declared that dentists might then be able to offer advice and he even went so far as to say they could offer ‘cognitive behavioural therapy or talking therapies’.  Wow.  I have this weird image of a doctor peering into your mouth and trying to practice as a psychologist at the same time.

I don’t know about you, but I have never associated dentists with empathy and with therapy.  They tend, in my experience, to be highly judgemental about the lifestyles and habits of their patients.  Having only taken my postcode, one dental surgery once asked me whether I was a drug addict!  Such tact.  Such delicacy.  But then, their patients are rarely able to anser back when there are sharp implements stuck in their mouths.

A cornered man?

Recent events (granny tax, pasty gate etc) have been so comical as to be not worth commenting on.  But now, having given way on so many policies that seem alien to them (NHS reform etc), Nick Clegg is at last showing his fighting spirit.  He seems to have remembered that the Liberal Democrats are in favour of some basic protection of the rights of the individual against surveillance by the state and of the right to a fair trial process with all evidence available to the defence.  Hmm. Could it be the LibDems fear oblivion in the upcoming local elections?