November 15, 2014
September 6, 2014
British PM David Cameron announced that the under-construction aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales will be active after completion, reversing the decision from the SDSR in 2010:
At the close of the NATO summit in Wales this week David Cameron delivered the good news that the Royal Navy will be allowed to retain the second aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales. This was another U-turn, reversing one of the many mistaken decisions of Cameron’s 2010 Defence Review that stated the ship would be mothballed or sold. Although undoubtedly good news for the navy, and more importantly the defence of the UK, it is difficult not to be cynical about the entire situation and timing of the announcement.
The announcement was not accompanied by much detail and leaves a lot of unanswered questions. The RN and its major procurement projects must successfully navigate a general election and the 2015 Defence Review before we can be really certain about HMS Prince of Wales’ future. The biggest unknown is how will the costs of the second carrier be carried by the RN, have the additional costs been found by cuts elsewhere or has this been funded by new money?
The photo above is a computer generated fantasy, apart from the fact carriers would rarely sail in such close formation, it is highly unlikely the RN will ever have the resources to field both carriers simultaneously. Generating the extra crew that the second carrier needs will be one of the first challenges for the RN, already in the throes of a manpower crisis. Although the carrier in refit or maintenance will not require anything like a full crew, it will still require an overlap of manning.
As noted earlier this week, the Royal Navy has shrunk from 38,730 to 33,330 since 2010. It’s going to be a scramble to train (and retain) enough skilled personnel to crew even HMS Queen Elizabeth, never mind at least a cadre for the second aircraft carrier.
Update, 7 September: An interesting, but not surprising revelation from Ali Kefford (retweeted by @NavyLookout).
Apparently PM banned then CDS from mentioning carriers during Op Ellamy, when he learnt the hard way that axing Ark Royal had been a mistake
— Ali Kefford (@akefford) September 6, 2014
September 4, 2014
Historian Max Hastings pours out the scorn toward British PM David Cameron and American President Barack Obama for their dithering and unwillingness to grapple with real world problems like the invasion of Ukraine and the rise of ISIS:
Suddenly, the world seems a frightening place. The beheading of a second American hostage by jihadist fanatics and the threat that a British aid worker will suffer the same fate has shocked the peoples of the West, as have few events since the Cold War.
We are uncertain how the Western Powers should respond.
At such moments, we turn to our national leaders for wisdom, reassurance and decision. Instead, we get posturing, dithering and waffle.
David Cameron mouths foolish nothings, proclaiming that Britain would commit ‘all the assets we have’, including our ‘military prowess’ against the Muslim extremists.
More serious, the President of the United States seems supine in the face of the gravest threats to international order in a generation.
Barack Obama boldly strides golf course fairways, while apparently washing his hands of the job the American people — and, by association, the civilised world — pay him for: to strive to lead us into the paths of righteousness.
To borrow P. G. Wodehouse’s phrase, however intelligent Obama may be, he resembles a spineless invertebrate.
This was always nonsense, but then again so much of the hype about Obama in the early days of his presidency was nonsensical. Still it does contribute to the poignancy of the moment. I’m referring specifically to the Islamic State and their celebration of slavery. MEMRI has excerpts of Facebook chats between British and French supporters of the group as they discuss the great news that you can buy Yazidi women as sex slaves.
It’s also worth noting that the president has done everything he can to claim that his domestic political opponents are engaged in a “war on women.” He won an election largely because he convinced enough women — and pliant journalists — to take this bilge seriously. Just this week the head of his party went on at great length to claim that the Republican governor of Wisconsin has been “giving women the back of his hand.”
Oh, and let us not forget, the president and his supporters work very hard to paint their domestic political opponents as religious extremists because some private businesses and religious groups don’t want to pay for procedures that violate their conscience.
Now compare this to the people who are celebrating the fact their faith allows them to enslave women.
Just think about it for a moment. The president surely knows about this. His administration surely knows about this. And yet, the president — this modern incarnation of Lincoln, protector of women and opponent of domestic religious extremism — defines his goal for the Islamic State as reducing it to a “manageable problem.” Does this mean that if the group renounces any designs on attacking the U.S. homeland (an impossibility given the tenets of their faith and ambition for a global caliphate) he will stand by as they continue to barter women as sex slaves and breeders? This is the same man who campaigned in Berlin as a “citizen of the world” and champion of global community.
Forgive me, but the term, “Lincolnesque” doesn’t immediately spring to mind.
February 13, 2014
Rob Lyons asks who is to blame for the current flooding in Britain. The answer may be … nobody:
Floods in the UK are getting worse. There’s not much we can do it about it. It’s caused by climate change, which in turn is caused by human beings. It’s payback time.
There you go. In one paragraph, I’ve saved you having to read British newspapers or watch British TV news for the next few days. Of course, the recent flooding is a nightmare for those affected. It’s also a dream for lazy TV news editors who want to plonk their reporters in front of some interesting backdrop offering trite statements about a human-interest story. But the discussion about the causes of the floods and whether we can – or should – do anything about them is rather more worrying than TV’s dumbed-down ‘news values’.
A briefing published by the UK Met Office earlier this month highlights just how unusual the weather is at present. ‘Although no individual storm can be regarded as exceptional, the clustering and persistence of the storms is highly unusual. December and January were exceptionally wet. For England and Wales this was one of, if not the most, exceptional periods of winter rainfall in at least 248 years. The two-month total (December + January) of 372.2mm for the south-east and central southern England region is the wettest any two-month period in the series from 1910.’ It’s the conveyor belt of stormy weather, rather than any particular individual event, which is causing the problems. The ground is already soaked and rivers are already high; further rainfall has nowhere to go but out on to the flood plains.
However, a quick look at the Met Office briefing shows that while rainfall in southern England in January was very exceptional, it is hard to glean any particular overall pattern – other than that rainfall is very variable.
Indeed, just two years ago, Britain was in drought. Consecutive winters of below-average rainfall had left water companies enforcing restrictions on supply. Then the heavens opened, and it seems to have barely stopped raining since. So how on earth did the head of the Met Office, Dame Julia Slingo, conclude that while there was ‘no definitive answer’ to what caused the storms, ‘all the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change’? Indeed, Slingo is not alone in her assessment. The prime minister, David Cameron, said in January that he ‘suspected’ climate change was behind the floods. Labour leader Ed Miliband declared that climate change was sure to bring ‘more flooding, more storms’. Yet less than a year ago, scientists were assuring us that climate change would lead to more droughts in the future in the UK.
August 29, 2013
Twitter just lit up with the news that Prime Minister David Cameron’s motion to allow military action against Syria has been soundly defeated in parliament. The reported voting line was 272 in favour and 285 against. This was not a confidence motion — the government will not be forced to resign over this vote, but it’s a strong slap in the face to Clegg and Cameron.
House of Commons votes against the Government motion on #Syria by 285 votes to 272
— House of Commons (@HouseofCommons) August 29, 2013
"I believe in respecting the will of the House of Commons. The British people do not want to see military action. I get that," Cameron.
— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) August 29, 2013
Dignified, decent, democratic response by the PM. A truly stunning shift in power from executive to legislature.
— Daniel Hannan (@DanHannanMEP) August 29, 2013
August 24, 2013
In Maclean’s, Emily Senger goes after the biggest issue facing Canada today:
On Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s annual tours of the North, like the one he undertook this week, photographers know to be quick with their cameras whenever Harper mounts an ATV or gets down on the ground to fire a .303 Lee Enfield rifle. Whatever the photo opportunity, though, one thing is constant — the big, blaring CANADA brand frequently emblazoned across his chest or back.
The patriotic clothing line, from the Bay’s Olympic Collection, has become a staple for Harper at events where his go-to sport jacket and open-collar shirt are still too formal. During his 2011 election campaign, Harper wore the jacket for many a stump speech and to photo-ops, sporting it as he posed with preschoolers and bowled with seniors.
Apparently it’s now a big problem that the Prime Minister happens to like wearing a certain line of clothing. We’re back to our media’s sense of shame about anyone showing the slightest pride about Canada (see their collective whingeing about our Olympic teams, for example).
Then we’re treated to a quick review of how “proper” political leaders dress:
We don’t see U.S. President Barack Obama wearing a jacket emblazoned with a screaming bald eagle against a backdrop of stars and stripes (though, we wish he would). Instead, The U.S. president is known to clip a stars-and-stripes pin to his suit lapel. Likewise, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron keeps his sartorial patriotism subtle, and has been spotted wearing Union Jack cufflinks.
See, rustic Canadians? Real leaders of real countries don’t need to advertise! You’re such yokels!
August 1, 2013
James Delingpole had far too much fun writing this column:
You may be aware that David Cameron — as part of a secret, Lynton Crosby-inspired operation codenamed Suck Up Shamelessly To The Embittered Authoritarian Killjoy Harpies At Mumsnet — has decreed that as from next year the default option when you sign a contract with your new internet provider will be ‘No porn in this household, thank you. I think it’s a disgrace.’
Superficially (and does this coalition ever think any other way?) I can see this makes a lot of sense. After all, what do a growing national debt, falling living standards, rising inflation, skyrocketing energy prices, out-of-control immigration, Weimar-style money-printing, a burgeoning new housing bubble, a failed health service and a collapsing infrastructure matter when you’ve got the most important problem of our times, so to speak, in hand, viz. blokes sneaking a quick one off the wrist while their missus has popped down to Waitrose to stock up on Mabel Pearman’s Burford Brown eggs, Isigny Ste Mere unsalted butter and that Duchy Originals cider on special offer at just £1.45 a bottle?
According to James, nowadays women are about as likely to go looking for pornography on the internet as men are:
But according to some of my techie friends, this isn’t the case at all. They’re the ones who have to clear up all the viruses which you accidentally invited into your computer along when you were trying to Google the weather and mistakenly typed in ‘Romanian donkey babes xxx hardcore’ instead.
Here’s what one of them has to say: ‘The very worst I came across was a shared houseful of young ladies. It took over eight hours to do just the first pass with the antivirus software. That pass removed over 58,000 pieces of malware and spyware, and just under 2,000 viruses. It took all the next day to finish cleaning their computer. I told them it was the worst case of an infected computer I had ever come across, and one asked how it had happened for it to be so bad. Easy I said. Porn sites. They all went bright red and then the hilarity ensued, as the finger pointing started.’
I realise, of course, that there are still plenty of puritans out there who feel differently. To them I quote first Thomas Sowell: ‘What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don’t like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don’t expect freedom to survive very long.’ And second, Pastor Niemoller: ‘First they came for the wankers…’.
July 24, 2013
Apparently British Conservative MP Claire Perry doesn’t know a lot about the way the internet works, despite being described as an “architect” for David Cameron’s proposed porn blocker:
Claire Perry is the UK Tory MP who architected David Cameron’s idiotic national porno firewall plan. Her website was hacked and defaced with pornographic gross-out/shock images. When Guido Fawkes, a reporter and blogger, wrote about it on his website, Perry took to Twitter to accuse him of “sponsoring” the hack, and publicly announced that she would be speaking to his editor at the Sun (Fawkes has a column with the tabloid) to punish him for writing about her embarrassment.
Perry is so technologically illiterate that she can’t tell the difference between writing about someone hacking your website and hacking itself. No wonder she’s credulous enough to believe the magic-beans-peddlers who promise her that they’ll keep porn off the British Internet — a feat that neither the Chinese nor the Iranian governments have managed.
May 3, 2013
A “bunch of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” finished second in UK by-election, gain seats in local elections
The initial reports from the UK’s local elections yesterday were certainly encouraging for the UK Independence Party:
Britain’s populist United Kingdom Independence Party made sweeping gains in local elections and finished second in a parliamentary by-election, according to results announced Friday, shaking mainstream political parties, consolidating its position as an emerging political force and claiming a “sea change” in national life.
Once scorned by Prime Minister David Cameron as “a bunch of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists,” the party, which wants Britain to leave the European Union and strictly control immigration, gained about a quarter of the vote in a series of elections in different areas of the country on Thursday, according to an initial count. The outcome represented the party’s fourth electoral advance in six months.
“We have been abused by everybody, the entire establishment,” Nigel Farage, the Independence Party leader, told the BBC, “and now they are shocked and stunned that we are getting over 25 percent of the vote everywhere we stand across the country. This is a real sea change in British politics.”
A government minister, Kenneth Clarke, had also dismissed party members as “clowns,” prompting Mr. Farage, in a string of TV and radio interviews, to parry with, “Send in the clowns.”
April 30, 2013
Patrick Hayes on the vitriol being sent UKIP’s way by the Conservatives and by the mainstream media:
Nutters. Nutcases. Loonies. Morons. Crackpots. Cuckoos. Oddballs. Fruitflies. Fruitloops. Fruitcakes. When it comes to slang used to suggest that members of the right-wing libertarian UK Independence Party (UKIP) are mentally ill, mainstream politicians and the media have lobbed the entire urban dictionary at them.
UKIP’s latest diagnosis came at the weekend from polo-necked Conservative minister Ken Clarke. In light of the upcoming local elections, Clarke dismissed UKIP as a ‘collection of clowns’, full of ‘waifs and strays’ not sufficiently ‘sensible’ to become local councillors. His comments echoed UK prime minister David Cameron’s oft-quoted remarks from 2006 when he dismissed UKIP as a bunch of ‘fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists’. Cameron has refused to retract these comments, adding earlier this year that he still thought UKIP was full of ‘pretty odd people’.
Almost since its launch in 1993, politicians have chosen to paint UKIP as the successor to the Monster Raving Loony Party, full of — as Michael Howard, Cameron’s predecessor as Tory leader, put it — ‘cranks, gadflies and extremists’. The message is clear: on no account should UKIP be taken seriously as a political force. It deserves only ridicule. After all, how could any party that calls for the abolition of the smoking ban, or for the UK to leave the EU, be considered to be of sound mind? If you support UKIP, you need your head examined.
April 15, 2013
In the Telegraph, Ed West explains some of the reasons for UKIP’s rise in support at the expense of David Cameron’s Tories:
Across the North of England, Ukip is able to appeal to a wide range of socially conservative people who hate the Tories as the people who destroyed their towns and yet are voting for Thatcher’s heir.
The key to David Cameron’s failure, in 2010 and since, has been the pursuit of the centre ground. The key to Ukip’s success is their understanding that there’s no such thing, and that on a range of issues — health, transport and jobs — the public are more Left-wing than the powers that be, and on several others — crime, Europe and immigration — they’re considerably more Right-wing. Whether Ukip’s economic policies would help working-class people is open to debate, although restricting unskilled immigration would help.
The cornerstone of Ukip’s support is the subject of mass immigration, which is not only an unpopular process in itself, but tends to create a code of dishonesty and cant in the political class, further driving them apart from the public. It is an issue inescapably tied up with the European Union, and Ukip has successfully (so far) negotiated a middle course close to the centre of public opinion; most people do not share the political elites’ talk about “Britain’s diversity is its strength”, but neither do they dislike immigrants or wish to support the politics of hate. They just don’t want their country changed beyond recognition, and don’t see why they should be condemned for this.
None of this would matter, of course, if people had particular confidence that one of the major parties knew what they were doing with the economy. As it is, Labour got us into this mess, while having George Osborne in charge rather feels like being on an aeroplane where the company owner’s 12-year-old son has insisted on being the pilot. I hope he knows what he’s doing, but I’m prepared to let someone else have a go.
February 8, 2013
I’m a minarchist: I’m in favour of much smaller, less intrusive government. Even saying that, I can’t find it in my heart to get upset about this “shocking” revelation:
Ministers fail to balance books at £3million wine cellar
Ministers and guests have got through 5,000 bottles of alcohol worth more than £55,000 in the last year, report into the Government’s wine cellar has revealed.
[. . .]
The latest annual report into the Government’s wine cellar has revealed that ministers, officials and their guests got through nearly 5,000 bottles of alcohol worth more than £55,000 in the last year.
In total, the cellar holds 38,000 bottles costing £857,000 when bought, but are now valued on the open market at £2,953,000.
Some of the taxpayer-funded bottles are sold in shops for more than £1,000 each.
Guests at Government events drank 23 bottles of the 1982 Chateau Margaux Bordeaux, which sells for up to £1,100 a bottle.
Five thousand bottles? That’s all? David Cameron’s cabinet consists of 22 senior ministers. I assume there are junior ministers or parliamentary assistants for most of those ministers, so let’s call it 50 men and women who are entertaining on government business and would be drawing from the official wine cellar. Even if each of them only entertains one other person at each event, that’s roughly two bottles of wine per minister per week.
The Queen drinks more than that by herself!
And the eye-popping number of £857,000? That works out to less than £23 per bottle. And we’re told that some of the bottles could sell on the open market for £1,100 a bottle. But based on the figures, there can’t be very many of those ultra-expensive bottles, can there?
I fail to see a scandal here…
September 24, 2012
In his weekly column at Vice, Warren Ellis finds it in his flinty heart to mourn the passing of fun in politics:
There has long been a notion abroad that positions of authority should be given to the best-qualified people who don’t want them, as the job of “ruler”, like “censor”, does not necessarily attract the best kind of human being. That would, of course, kill the inherent black comedy in politics-watching. The creatures who fight and kick and bite for the right to fuck with our lives tend to be grotesques, and serve as warnings. Warnings we never heed, of course, because we end up voting something in from that shallow pool of eels every time.
But, every now and then, there comes a period where that pool gets drained, and we find ourselves dealing with the dregs.
I actually find myself weirdly nostalgic for the authentic monsters of politics. Even the sly, hollow hustling of Tony Blair would be preferable to the callow bafflement of Nick Clegg, the unnaturally shiny forehead and beta-male posturing of David Cameron, and the… well, whatever Ed Miliband is. There’s Vince Cable, whom lots of people seem to like the idea of, but his presence, unfortunately, is that of Gravedigger #2 in one of the less successful Hammer Horror films.
Over the water, Mitt Romney doesn’t even have the facility to be slippery. He just staggers down the corridor of ideology like a cheap drunk, bumping into the walls. And President Obama isn’t even a tragic hero in the mode of Jimmy Carter, who struggled mightily (with himself, as much as anything else) and fell before the eerie charm of Ronald Reagan. I can admire the man’s intellect and general beliefs (or “values”, which is the season’s buzzword) while recognising that his main mode of operation is as a chilly functionary unwilling to take the big fights all the way.
August 24, 2012
Everyone knows that Britain’s current economic woes are because of the government’s harsh austerity measures, right?
The argument over ‘the cuts’ has now become wholly detached from reality. Listen to any BBC debate and you’ll find the debate presented along these lines: ‘The Coalition, aiming to eliminate the deficit by 2015, has cut spending; this has had the effect of reassuring the markets and preventing a Greek-style meltdown but, on the other hand, it has impeded growth, and so reduced the tax-take, which has meant that the deficit now won’t be abolished until at least 2017. Some people believe that we need to focus on growth, not austerity. They are calling for Plan B’.
Every assumption contained in that summary is false. Net government expenditure is higher now than it was three years ago. Such deficit reduction as there has been has come largely through tax rises rather than spending cuts. The reason that government borrowing costs are low is not because of the imagined austerity programme, but because the Bank of England has magicked up nearly £400 billion through quantitative easing, given it to banks and told them to buy government debt with it. Growth and austerity are not antonyms: it was debt-fuelled growth caused the disaster in the first place. As for Plan B, no one has yet tried Plan A: spending less.
July 14, 2012
James Delingpole on the British government’s latest announcements on flood policy:
Yesterday it was reported that the Coalition had decided we should all be liable for the cost of flood damage, regardless of where we live. This puzzled me, as the Coalition’s decisions so often do. The only way it would make any kind of sense would be if you believed a) flooding is a new and unnatural phenomenon resulting directly from late 20th century Man Made Climate Change or b) that everyone is now so stupid they cannot be trusted to act in their own best interests and that it is therefore government’s job to hold their hands and wipe their bottoms for them from cradle to grave.
To discount a) you only have to go somewhere like the River Severn, just below Worcester Cathedral, and look at the flood marks on the wall. Many of the most dramatic inundations happened in years long before “man made global warming” was even a sinister glint in Al Gore’s eye. This isn’t to say that the cost of flood damage hasn’t risen to unprecedented levels these last few decades. But that has more to do with our insane practice of allowing property developments to be built on flood plains, together with our unfortunate habit of paving and tarmacking everything (such as the front gardens we would once have kept as front gardens) which means that in times of high rainfall floodwater is likely to accumulate in drains more rapidly. Plus, of course, we’re all richer — so there’s more expensive property for flooding to damage.
But it’s the b) aspect I find more worrying because of the way it rides roughshod over the most basic principles of free market economics. Can we really assume that when anybody buys a house by a river — or near a floodplain — they don’t do so in the full knowledge that flood-risk is one of the prices they pay for their pleasing waterside ambience? The very idea is a nonsense. Buyers, being rational, will factor this into their calculations: “OK, so it will be great for fishing and swimming and boating. But getting insurance will be a bugger and we’d better not keep anything too precious on the ground floor.” These complexities will be reflected by the market. While the value of the property may be enhanced by its attractive location, it will simultaneously be decreased by its flood-damage potential.