Saturday, August 30, 2008

Darling admits economy is tanking

The stock government response to the recession has been to downplay it, and when that didn't work to claim that things were worse under the Conservatives in the early 1990s. Given the daily reality that most people face the first was insulting and the second irrelevant. Now they are trying a new tack, actually admitting it's all rather bad, in fact the worst it has been for 60 years, which means since the great depression. At least Alastair Darling has said this, in an interview with the Guardian. So, this raises a question: is this a change of language from the government? Or is it just a change of language from the Chancellor in contrast to the claims from his boss that things aren't so bad? This story broke this evening in an interview for tomorrow's paper, so I would expect a vigorous journalistic follow-up over the next couple of days that will tell us if this really is a new strategy. My small experience of public policy is that admitting things are bad is quite a good idea when they are actually bad, with the important proviso that you then have to credibly sort them out. Admitting that all is gloom and then failing gets you nowhere. In fact it leaves you with nowhere to hide. In the murky world of Labour's internal politics, Darling might just have deliberately hung his boss out to dry. George Osborne certainly picked up on this when he asked "Who is telling the truth at the top of government?". Who indeed?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Brown and Darling driving British business abroad

Under Tony Blair Labour understood the importance of thriving business to Britain. Business provides jobs and brings in tax revenue and so any government of any stripe needs commerce to meet any other objectives that it may have. Brown and Darling have thrown that all away with incoherent tax policies that squeeze multinational businesses, presumably in some effort to placate the brothers in Transport House or their own back benches. Now British business is voting with their feet and becoming Irish business instead. Tax revenue and jobs are leaving our shores thanks to these two incompetents, who don't recognise that you cannot run a high-tax regime and expect everyone just to knuckle down and pay up. Even more stark is the news of revived US growth on the back of tax cuts and financial stimulus from their government. Meanwhile our hapless, dithering duo have done absolutely nothing to help British business and British people, except to trail plans about maybe changing Stamp Duty and wrecking the housing market in the process. This recession may have its origins abroad, but no government has done so little to deal with it than Brown's Labour shower.

Brown maybe a bright chap, but he has no leadership qualities that are at all evident. Darling is just his poodle, an empty suit without a shred of self-respect. They are dithering while our country needs help and it is unforgivable. Come the next election they will find out just how unforgiving the electorate can be.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

John Baron MP says give teachers the powers they need to sort out discipline

Growing concerns over violence and disruption in schools and on the streets

John Baron MP has welcomed recent policy proposals announced by the Conservatives to restore classroom discipline and raise standards of behaviour in schools.

Life in local communities is being marred by violence and disruption in schools – and on the streets as well from children playing truant. These social problems hit the poorest areas the hardest. Bureaucratic rules imposed by the Labour Government have made it harder for teachers to keep order, while false allegations and assaults on teachers have never been higher.

Since 1997, across Essex, the number of permanent exclusions from secondary schools has fallen by 10% – not because of better discipline, but because it has become more difficult to exclude troublemakers.

Conservative proposals include:

· Restoring the authority of headteachers, by ending the right to appeal against exclusions to external panels. Parents would still have a right of appeal to school governors – who are the people who should decide such matters.

· Changing the law so that teachers can physically restrain violent pupils if they need to.
· Establishing new protections for teachers from false and malicious allegations.
· Give headteachers the freedom to pay bonuses to teachers who do a good job.
· Allow headteachers to ban any items they think may cause violence or disruption in schools.

John said:

“In too many of our schools, good education is ruined by bad behaviour. The problem doesn’t lie with teachers – but with the Government’s rules and regulations which stop teachers instilling proper discipline. Conservatives will give teachers and heads the powers they need to tackle disruptive kids, improve standards and ensure parents have a real choice over where to send their child.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

Latest Election Prediction

A new prediction has been posted on 24 August 2008 at

Polls in the recent few weeks show a stable, or slightly increasing, lead for the Conservatives over Labour. Populus (Times) has 16% (up by 3%), YouGov (Sunday Times) has 20% (down by 2%), and Ipsos-MORI has 24% (up by 4%). Unchanged are both ICM (Guardian) on 15% and today's ComRes (Independent on Sunday) on 21%.

Overall and on average, the Conservative lead is 19%, which is 1% higher than last month, and a historical record for recent years.

The current prediction is that the Conservatives will have a majority of 172 seats, winning 411 seats (+6 seats since 27 July 2008).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

There is no hope with Gordon

That wasn't my title, it came from a post on Labourhome of all places, where at least some members of the Labour party are no longer in denial. The poster's central point that Gordon is electoral poison is spot on. Should be interesting when all the politicos are back at work in September...

Professers slam NICE on cancer drugs

I have a particularly nasty cancer, Multiple Myeloma. When I was diagnosed five years ago I was told I probably had two years to live. Today the disease is in remission thanks to the excellent care that I have had with the team at St Bartholomew's (Barts) Hospital, where I went through three clinical trails in the course of my treatment. In each case that gave me exposure to the way we test and then license cancer drugs in the UK, and my view is that the system betrays the hard work of the doctors on the front line when the National Institute for Clinical Excellence refuses to licence drugs that save or prolong life on the basis of some opaque actuarial calculation. Basically, they put a monetary value on a year of human life and then plug drug performance into a spreadsheet on that basis. If the drug is 'cost-effective' then it gets licensed and becomes available on the NHS. If the drug doesn't deliver 'value' for money then it gets the thumbs down. Now that may sound reasonable, except that they don't show anyone their models and there are many cases where every similar body in the developed world disagrees with their conclusions. This leads to situations where some cancer drugs are available almost everywhere else in the world except for England, and that includes such faraway and different places as Scotland. For example the drug that initially saved my life, Velcade, fell foul of this process until a general outcry caused a change of heart. This disgraceful situation is now the subject of a letter to the Times, signed by no less than 26 professers of medicine working in cancer research.

Something needs to be done to stop the tragic situation of desperate patient selling their homes to fund cancer drugs that are available free of charge everywhere else in the world than England. Others, of course, just die in pain for the want of modern treatment. It seems that there is no end to the damage that this numbers-obsessed government can do.