webofevil: (all hail)
Lord Freud, reading directly from his brief (which is a relief for all of us), produces a phrase that is exquisitely ambiguous:

Lord Freud: ... we will ensure that pension credit awards are accurate and that, in future, limited resources are spent on those who require the most support.

Van damn

Jul. 28th, 2013 06:53 pm
webofevil: (all hail)

Following the news that the Home Secretary has been diagnosed with diabetes, advertising vans carrying a new information campaign aimed specifically at her have been spotted driving around in the vicinity of the Home Office. A department official denied that the posters could be seen as scaremongering, saying, “It's the only language Theresa May understands.”

webofevil: (all hail)
Here is the text of the story in today's Daily Mail about Lord Selsdon:
Most of us don’t have the time or the energy to reprimand anti-social drivers who drop litter out of their car windows. But it seems Tory peer Lord Selsdon has both these gifts – and good connections to boot.

In an extraordinary outburst in a House of Lords debate yesterday, the 75-year-old told colleagues how he calls his ‘friends at the DVLA’ to obtain the vehicle owner’s phone number. Lord Selsdon said he records the number plates of British cars when abroad if sees litter being dumped on the road before calling up his friends at the DVLA.

The peer claimed the DVLA would then use the details to find the telephone numbers of offenders before handing them over. But with a possible threat to data protection laws, the DVLA said it was trying to contact the hereditary peer before considering launching a full probe.

The Data Protection Act requires organisations such as the DVLA to keep the personal information they are processing secure and to have controls on making sure such information is not inappropriately accessed. But Lord Selsdon told the House of Lords that he found that British families travelling in large 4x4s to go skiing in the Alps were the most badly behaved.

The peer said: ‘I find when you look at the international scene that, believe it or not, some of the most badly behaved now are British families in large 4x4s driving to the Alps to ski.

‘They are the ones I've followed occasionally and, for a bit of fun, I've just taken note of their number and occasionally manage - because I have friends with DVL(A) - to find their telephone and I give them a ring.

‘I just say, ‘I'm sorry I happen to be involved in the political world a bit and it was noticed that at a particular point you did this”.

‘And of course most continental motorways have got signs every kilometre or every half kilometre or often more often so you know exactly where you are and so do the spies.

‘If the police themselves are deciding that they may be perhaps a little short of income for Christmas, the number of fines seems to go up.

'There is of course absolutely no connection between these two issues. But this is self-interest.’

Lord Selsdon made the surprise admission during a debate on a legislation drawn up by former journalist, Tory Lord Marlesford, which calls for anyone caught throwing rubbish out of a vehicle to be fined. Under the Littering from Vehicles Bill, a registered driver would be the automatic recipient of the fine.

The Bill, which stands little chance of becoming law, would require local authorities to publish the details of the contracts awarded in relation to its enforcement. A spokeswoman for the DVLA said: ‘We are writing to Lord Selsdon to ask him for further information.

‘Depending on his reply, we will then decide on whether or not it is necessary to conduct a full investigation.’

She said drivers were not obliged to provide their telephone numbers when applying for a licence so that in some cases the agency would not hold the details apparently requested by Lord Selsdon. The spokeswoman added: ‘We take our responsibility to protect information seriously. That is why information is only provided under strict controls to those who are legally entitled to it, such as local authorities and the police.’

A spokesman for the Information Commissioner said: ‘We expect any organisation handling personal information to have appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that access to people's details is strictly controlled.

'These arrangements must be effective in practice.’ [Daily Mail]
webofevil: (all hail)
Lord Hoyle winds up his contribution to a classic Thursday afternoon low-impact debate in the Lords (“That this House takes note of the role of government in generating economic prosperity and employment”) with an improvised flourish that could almost be accused of being tautologous:
Lord Hoyle: If [the Government set up a business investment bank], not only will we benefit, but all of us in the country and the country as a whole will benefit as well.
Are these three ways of saying the same thing? Or are there subtle gradations of meaning between them? [livejournal.com profile] psychonomy is firmly convinced that the first “we” refers to members of the Lords listening to Lord Hoyle's speech, several of whom could well make a fortune out of any such investment bank.

That leaves “all of us in the country” and “the country as a whole” to contend with. Perhaps they are indeed separate categories: “the country as a whole” could cover the geographical extent of the UK and any things that it contains, such as infrastructure and geological features, while “all of us in the country” could, as [livejournal.com profile] psychonomy firmly contends, take in not only the population but any visitors from abroad (in line, it turns out, with the existing definition of “licence fee payers”), although this doesn't seem to take into account people from that population who are currently elsewhere.

It's unclear which category animals fall into. Does the degree of consciousness dictate whether a beloved pet is merely part of “the country as a whole” or can be counted among “all of us in the country”? With one ostensibly innocuous sentence, the noble Lord has plunged us into a philosophical rabbit-hole.

In the event, though, after much discussion, we think we have nailed down what Lord Hoyle was driving at:

webofevil: (all hail)
With the media brimming over with the Department of Health’s steady stream of anti-NHS propaganda, both subtle and not so, onlookers might be wondering how a Secretary of State who had previously appeared to be good for little more than waving through Rupert Murdoch’s wholesale takeover of the media turns out to have such an firm grip of his department’s message and such steely determination in hammering it home. This is no mystery, though, if you look at the consistency of the single message that he himself has been relentlessly exposed to for many years:

“What a dreadful c—”, “Here comes the c— now”, “I know he seems like a useless c— but he means well. No, only kidding”, “Watch this, the c—’s about to do his earnest face as he reads out my briefing notes and pretends to understand them”, “First up after the news, we're going to be talking to Jeremy C—”, “The fact that he looks like Sebastian Coe recovering after a massive traffic accident isn’t helped by the fact that he wears that dozy concussed grin around the place all the time, even when he’s alone. Also, he’s a c—”, “Mind where you're throwing that bell, you c—”, “Who’s that hapless c— hiding behind a tree?”, “Look at the rictus grin on this ghastly c—.This is your last chance to back out before he slips the ring on and I pronounce you man and wife”, “You’ve had all your Christmas presents, you irksome little c—, stop trying to steal other people’s”, “Congratulations, Mrs Hunt. It’s a c—.”
If this appears to be a case of tackling personalities rather than policies, it’s because what the Conservatives are engaged in now isn’t worthy of being called policy; it’s outright lying, treated as worthy of serious contemplation only by the party’s own wonks, by overworked churn-hacks in sparsely populated newsrooms passing on the bullshit as gospel, and by those who will benefit directly and materially from the Tories’ dishonesty (i.e. not most of us).

Liam Fox was secretly recorded in 2002 laying out the exact plan that his party has since carried out to the letter:

Tory health chief Dr Liam Fox is secretly plotting to kill off the NHS as the tax-funded, free-to-all bedrock of the welfare state. He says in a “secret” speech to Conservative doctors­—a tape of which has been leaked to the Mirror—that private insurance and payment for treatment from savings are the way ahead.

Dr Fox chillingly unveils a four-phase strategy to undermine the health service—“the first is to persuade the public the NHS is not working”… The Tory “softening-up” operation on the British people is planned to pave the way for a dismantling of the NHS…

Spelling out the strategy to undermine the NHS, he told the doctors: “The first is to persuade the public the NHS is not working... presently the press does that for us.”

Then the party had to convince people the service wouldn’t work and couldn’t work.

Thirdly, themes had to be introduced into the debate of how to fund reform and improvements.

The final stage would be details for the manifesto, “ultimately the most difficult phase”.

On the audio-tape, leaked to the Mirror, Dr Fox makes it clear that the “open-minded” health policy review ordered by party leader Iain Duncan Smith is a sham… The Tories fought the election last June pledging to match Labour spending on health pound for pound. Before the poll, Dr Fox assured voters: “We believe in a comprehensive National Health Service, funded from taxation, free at the point of use.” [Daily Mirror link now dead, but captured on this forum post]
A lie deployed specifically to reassure people that the one thing you won't do is the actual atrocity you intend to commit has many precedents, but none of them honourable. No wonder Liam Fox is still considered by many in his party to be a highly promising future leader.

Once again, though, I’m left asking the question that this “administration” raises more than any other: if the right wing have won all the arguments socially and economically, as we’re repeatedly assured by the affluent that they have, why this constant pressing need to keep lying?
webofevil: (all hail)
Lord Dear sternly informs the House that he wants parents to be able to withdraw their children from lessons where same-sex marriage is being endorsed, or practised, or where bawdy parodies of traditional marriage are being filmed, or whatever the hell shenanigans these people think are going to go on once the Bill is passed. Anyway, he seems blithely unaware that parents can and do already yank their children out of lessons for any old nonsense. Fifteen years ago my mother was informed frostily by a parent that she was withdrawing her daughter from her GCSE English classes. "Why? It's her exam year!" said my mum incredulously. "Macbeth," replied the Parent-Who-Clearly-My-Lords-Knew-What-Was-Best-For-Her-Child. "It's got witches in it."
webofevil: (all hail)
Lord Selsdon tackles questions of identity and immigration:
Lord Selsdon: I have tried to search and work out what the level of immigration is. The best way to do it is to ask the immigrants themselves. This morning I was woken up as usual by 11 Romanian builders. I complained to them that there was a chap at the end of the road who was one of those who sells you the gold ring that he drops on the ground. You pick it up and it has got “19” on it and he says, “Can you give me some money?” and you say, “Are you an illegal immigrant?”. They have got to know me now. [Hansard]
webofevil: (all hail)
Yet further proof that The Thick of It has rendered not only political satire redundant but actually a great deal of politics itself could be found in this policy initiative, presented with a straight face by the shadow defence secretary. The iconic scene in a taxi on the way to a press conference where they’re desperately trying to concoct a new policy on the hoof for awaiting journalists (“It’s not easy coming up with Das Kapital in the back of a cab”) has become Westminster shorthand with good reason: its echoes can be heard in one hollow, meaningless policy after another, from government and opposition alike. Like this:

Labour calling for UK airlines to introduce ‘speedy boarding’ for members of UK Armed Forces

Jim Murphy MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, has written to 22 airlines proposing that they offer this special service but none agreed. Labour is urging them to think again and introduce this public symbol of support for UK military personnel…

Jim Murphy MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, said: “Speedy boarding for UK heroes would be a fitting public tribute. I am disappointed this is not being embraced by UK airlines.

“There is much we can learn from our US friends on how we celebrate the unique contribution made by those in uniform. I urge all UK airlines to think about how they can do more to reflect our national pride in the Armed Forces community.”
Perhaps making it compulsory to affix a daisy to the cap of a passing soldier, or always giving way to them at junctions even if you had right of way, had already been rejected as impossible to police. Gestures this empty can only patronise. Neither soldier nor voter is likely to fall for such hopeless tat, in which case I’m forced to wonder who it exactly it was pitched at. The Sun? Other politicians? Jim Murphy’s own relatives? Did anyone at any point actually say, “Wow, that sounds like a great idea!”? Did it replace a bit of solid policy that was an early casualty due to costing actual money?

Murphy gets bonus points for an instance of “community” so redundant that it’s actually satirical. I never thought we’d get to this point but we have now reached Threat Level Delta: there is now the distinct potential of a sighting of some strategy gimp using the phrase “the going forward community”.
webofevil: (all hail)
Full marks to Lord Taylor of Holbeach. In a question about allegations by the Metropolitan Black Police Association that the Met is still drenched in racism 20 years after the Stephen Lawrence case, Lord Waddington chips in with what, even for him, is—despite the years that I've worked here, and I know this sort of thing shouldn’t surprise me any more—a jaw-dropping contribution. Lord Taylor has to frame his answer carefully and on the hoof, and all credit to him for that.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, does this not come close to the pot calling the kettle black? What could be more institutionally racist than insisting on having a black police association?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: For my part, I am reassured that any drivers that ensure that the police more fully reflect the communities that they serve must be a good thing, so I cannot join with my noble friend in this regard. A lot of progress has been made in increasing the number of police officers from BME backgrounds but there are still too few, and there are still too few in the higher ranks of the police force. I hope that one of the considerations of the direct entry scheme will be to ensure that some of the higher levels of the policing profession are from British minority ethnic backgrounds. [Hansard]
webofevil: (all hail)
A useful formulation that could be applied in parliamentary chambers more often than we might like to think:
The Minister (Baroness Stowell of Beeston): I have been given an answer to [Lord Mackay's] question, which I could read out, but I know I would
not understand what it is I am reading [Hansard]
webofevil: (all hail)
Is this a thing? I had no idea. *downloads Land of Hope and Glory*
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: This country is well known for its ability to sedate wildlife.

webofevil: (all hail)
Public attitudes [about poverty] remain sceptical. An Ipsos MORI focus group in 2007 was presented with evidence of severe deprivation in some of Britain's poorest communities. “They probably don't wear coats because it's fashionable not to,” was one participant's explanation. “People in Cornwall don't need so much money—they can go out and cut trees down for fuel,” said another. The researchers concluded that people were reaching for outlandish explanations as to why the evidence didn't match their opinions.

Mark Easton, Britain Etc.
webofevil: (all hail)
Stonewall provided a handy guide to the phrases they expected to crop up most frequently in last week's equal marriage Second Reading in the Lords (see right, click for enlargement), and sure enough Norman Tebbit managed to hit about half of them in his first couple of minutes, but there's a reason why no-one creates any bingo cards for Lord James of Blackheath's helpful contributions. No Foundation X this time, but the prolonged section where he takes a detour through Sussex had a member of staff who had just arrived in the Chamber concerned that she was somehow attending the wrong debate.

Lord James of Blackheath (Con): My Lords, I got a phone call last week from a former colleague of mine, whom I had not heard from or seen for some time, asking if I would come to his same-sex wedding. I said, “Yes, when is it?”. He said, “As soon as you lot have passed the Bill”. I said, “We might not pass it”. He said, “Well, you’ll vote for it won’t you?”. I said, “No, I won’t”. He said, “Well, you can’t come to the wedding then”. I said, “You’ve just exercised extreme prejudice against me. Why are you doing that? You’re pleading that you want this in order not to have prejudice, and now you’re prejudiced against me because I’m saying that I’m going to vote against it”. Then he said, “It’s not you we want, anyway, it’s your wife—she’ll really make the party rock. Can she come instead?”. I said, “Yes, of course she can. You had better write and ask her. She’ll agree”. They did and she is going. There's more )
webofevil: (all hail)
A shoplifter had a £20,000 crown court trial over claims a stolen joint of beef reminded him of his dead grandmother. John Casey was caught on Asda’s shop camera hiding a £12 roast in a rucksack at the Washington Galleries store last October and arrested for theft.

But the 51-year-old denied he was being dishonest and said he had moved the meat out of sight as it was giving him “flashbacks” about his grandma, who died of a blood clot when he was a child.

Casey, of Lumley Close, Oxclose, Washington, was tried over two days by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court. The estimated cost per day of a trial per day is £10,000 and the case was heard before John Milford QC, one of the north’s top judges.

After just over an hour deliberation Casey, who has never shoplifted in the past but has other convictions, was found guilty. [Sunderland Echo]
webofevil: (all hail)

This is how to issue a denial.

To this day, David Kolitz, owner of Elul, denies [his company’s involvement in Operation Seashell in 1981, supplying weapons from Israel to Iran], insisting that:

Elul does not trade in arms, has never exported weapons and/or ammunition to Iran at any time and has never served as a “front” for any such government activities, if there were any such activities.

Question: But your signature appears on the documents from Elul that deal with the trade with Iran and your name appears as a participant in all of the meetings on the subject.

Kolitz: I am not saying that you are a liar and I am not saying that you are insane. Despite the documents that you have mentioned and despite my signature, I repeat my earlier response.
Ronen Bergman, The Secret War With Iran
webofevil: (all hail)
One of those times where it's very hard to tell whether or not someone's being sarcastic.
Democratic Republic of Congo


Asked by Lord Ashcroft

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Foreign Secretary achieved all the objectives of his recent visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Angelina Jolie. [Hansard]
webofevil: (all hail)
Don’t worry, George. The I-told-you-soers and the change-courseniks around you, they’ll cajole and aerate, but hold firm. You’re on course and they’ll never understand, until it’s too late.

You remember what it was like. More often than you’ll ever admit, they hang you by your ankles and crash your head on the floor, these ghosts, looming larger than they have any right. They were only adolescents, you all were, but the hurt and the shame and the fury are fresh as this morning’s dew. You learnt all the lessons you needed to about the arrogance of unwarranted privilege and how completely it shields those born into it. You yearned for that at first—who wouldn’t?—but you were denied. Instead, you saw old money’s urgent desire to attack new, and recognised the weakness that this betrayed. There is no revenge in impotent rage or empty gestures, but what group that thrives and depends on fierce tribal loyalty could survive betrayal by someone they had clasped to their heart leading them to their doom?

The usual suspects on the left who decry your decisions see only the surface layer of the damage you're inflicting, but you know just how deep it’s going to cut. Those at the bottom of the pile, the ones without the wherewithal and the family connections, they were always going to get a rough deal come what may—they’re collateral. It’s those at the top you need to dislodge, and that will take a far more colossal impact. For them to lose money and face, the country’s finances can’t just tank or slide off a shelf. The economy, along with any remaining notions that Conservatives have the faintest clue about governance, needs to be consumed in a screaming, deranged fireball. The fact that you will be consumed along with it isn’t even a price to pay; if it finally tends that ancient wound, any amount of chaos and hardship will be a blessed balm.

So, for now, hold your course. Your intended victims must have no time to shelter themselves from what’s coming. They trust you as one of their own, so reassure them as they get restive. Practise your most earnest facial expressions for when the PM—himself from the right school, the right background­—asks you, brow furrowed, “Are you sure…?” Every sign of economic failure, every creak and shudder from an increasingly strained hull, be sure to blame on your opponents. Make the right noises as you talk your toughest to those siphoning huge amounts of taxable income out of reach, while signalling that they have plenty of time to get their new arrangements in place and continue uninterrupted, tearing an ever greater irreparable hole in the country’s finances. Give your firmest support to divisive and destructive plans like the council tax benefit and the “bedroom tax”, even as older Tories begin to sniff the social unrest they could lead to and scramble to dissuade their government from implementing them. More Berlusconi-style contemptuous and unworkable gimmicks such as “trade in your employment rights for probably worthless shares” could see right-wing credos discredited for generations, and with them the entire basis for rule by the very people who broke you.

Revenge is an ugly thing, George, but they are even uglier. You owe it to yourself to take them with you. You can do this. You were born to it.
webofevil: (all hail)
As anyone will tell you*, transporting horses for long distances is hard. There are many stories online of horses on aircraft being monitored closely by armed vets for the slightest sign of distress, when they will be immediately shot to avoid damage to the pressurised outer wall. Never mind that these are not truewhat if they were?

We have had our best people working on a solution to just such distressing fictional scenarios, and the final results are impressive. Rather than expose horses to the manifold risks of flying, this proposal would see them exposed to the slightly reduced risks of seafaring instead. Chief designer Mary Anne Zimmerman kindly presented me with the finished design on my birthday:

For a detailed guide to the many features of HMS Seabiscuit (but, due to an error, minus the sparkly horses), click the picture below:

* Well, not anyone.
webofevil: (all hail)
Adolf Hitler


Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any plans to mark the 80th anniversary of the coming to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime in Germany on 30 January. [HL4387]

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: The Government have no such plans. [Hansard]
webofevil: (all hail)
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, when I went to see the latest Bond film, "Skyfall", there were two Members of your Lordships' House in the audience. I think we both found that the least credible part of the film, which was a high hurdle, of course, was the active executive role taken by the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. [Hansard]

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