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Friday, 29 August 2014

Threat Level – Severe My Arse

Most of the time, ministerial announcements do not raise the average citizen’s interest level one jot. Sometimes those announcements gain a flicker of recognition because they might affect you. And then there are the occasions when the Prime Minister stands there and says something that sets the bullshit detector howling long and loud. Young Dave just did one of those.
No Dave, that's a mic, not a frigging missile

So what has Cameron announced? Well, “new laws will be introduced to remove extremists' passports” [not sure he can do that] , and there are “fears over UK jihadis returning from Iraq and Syria”. But his own Home Secretary saysthere's no evidence to suggest that an attack is imminent”. Dave seems not to care about what Theresa May thinks: “A terror attack on the UK is now 'highly likely'”.

And what is Cameron’s assessment of the scale of this threat? It is, get this, a “greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before”. Really? Greater, perhaps, than the Spanish Armada? More significant than the Dutch venturing up the Medway and trashing a number of our ships and forts? More deadly than the Kaiser and his gang sending Zeppelins to chuck bombs out over London?

Does the Prime Minister think that ISIS, or whatever they want to be called this week, is a more severe threat than the Third Reich, which sent us the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, V-1s, V-2s, a submarine threat that came close to cutting off the nation’s food supplies, together with the side order of total war in Europe, north Africa, and much of the rest of the world?

Perhaps Cameron thinks that a bunch of hotheads with shoulder launch missiles and pick-up trucks is a more potent threat than Soviet Russia’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, which were estimated to be capable of vapourising much of the country at less than five minutes’ notice? Does he think, maybe, that the self-proclaimed Caliphate could inflict more damage than last winter’s storms?

What Young Dave has said there is a great big steaming pile of fresh and highly pungent weapons grade bullpucky. We’ve already got every sodding airport in the UK in a state of lockdown, ports likewise, and armed Police can even be seen patrolling around central London and major rail stations across the country. This is just a cheap attempt to make the Government look half competent.

ISIS, as Sunny Hundal has pointed out, has shown no sign of being even remotely interested in exporting its particular brand of terror. It wants to establish a Caliphate in the Middle East, which, the last time I looked, was no nearer to the UK than before the threat level got raised. This is just a cheap attempt by Cameron to get himself onto tomorrow’s front pages – and Douglas Carswell off them.

Hello Dave. Stop treating us like paranoid children and do some proper governing.

Clacton – Possibly Bad Road Trip

Tory Shock As MP Joins UKIPscreamed the Daily Express this morning, adding “Defection on day official migrant numbers soar”. The paper known as the Daily UKIP may be a joke across most of the country, but its ageing demographic and aggressive stance in favour of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers could be highly significant in Clacton.
That’s because Clacton, along with other reliably genteel seaside conurbations such as Frinton and Walton, are home to large numbers of retirees, the kind of people who not only pay good money for the Express, but read the paper and possibly even believe it. And Clacton is where the by-election, triggered by Douglas “Kamikaze” Carswell’s resignation from the Tory Party, will happen very soon.
And this presents a problem for Young Dave and his jolly good chaps: while Cameron told BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson yesterday that Carswell’s ship-jumping was “counter-productive, he will have been livid that his party’s unity has been endangered – once more, over the issue of Europe, that did for Mrs T and hobbled “Shagger” Major. Moreover, the Tories now need another candidate.
There was nobody “nursing” the Clacton constituency: Carswell was expected to stand for the Tories next May. Then the local party has to be considered: many of them might jump ship along with Mr Kamikaze. Here, party chairman Grant “Spiv” Shapps is able to call on Mark Clarke and the Road Trip 2015 organisation, which has already been gearing up for the campaign.

The Road Trip 2015 Clacton Volunteer Force (which title sounds ominously like something paramilitary from the years of Northern Ireland’s troubles) has a Facebook page with more than 1,300 members. Sounds impressive. But what Shapps and Clarke have to bear in mind is that Clacton’s retirees may not take kindly to all those bright eyed and bushy tailed youngsters.
UKIP, on the other hand, has three factors working to its advantage (in addition to the advocacy of the Express): Carswell was a popular MP, the party can call on activists of A Certain Age who will be able to talk, reminisce, and complain about the modern world with all those retirees, before ushering them towards the voting booth – and then there are the European Parliament election results.

As Nick Sutton has noted, returns from the Tendring Council area, which covers the Clacton constituency, showed UKIP polling 48% of the popular vote, with the Tories way back at 25%. Farage and his fringe need to keep hold of as much of that as they can. The Tories may have a mountain to climb in one of the flattest and most featureless parts of the country. And they may not win anything with kids.

Meanwhile, everyone else can get the popcorn in and enjoy the spectacle.

Uber – What Did I Tell You?

Just three days ago, I noted that “Uber gets into price wars; it therefore lowers prices. Driver earnings take the hit”. This was clearly anathema to all those Clever People Who Talk Loudly In Restaurants out there on the right, notably ConHome’s Mark Wallace, who had adamantly told that ““[Uber] Drivers work for themselves under better conditions with a better income”.
It does not require a qualification in rocket science to deduce that Wallace and I cannot both be right. So who called this one correctly? Ah well. Sadly for ConHome’s credibility, it was not Wallace: almost as soon as I had posted those earlier observations, Uber’s London operation decided to cut the price on its UberX offering, which means basic cars like the Toyota Prius and VW Passat.
London commuters face fare decrease. Starting tomorrow!” told the Uber London Twitter feed. The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines was in no doubt as to what this meant: “Free markets work. [Uber] just cut taxi fares by 15%. 2 sharing is cheaper than Tube! Get £10 off first ride!” Uber ain’t a taxi, and the aspect of that free market in action here was seemingly lost on Staines.
One critic knew exactly what was happening: “The race to the bottom”. What that 15% cut means is that, at existing fare levels, there was insufficient demand to meet supply, and so the price is being reduced in order to (theoretically) clear the market. All those right-wing think tanks would no doubt approve. But the 15% reduction was also a unilateral imposition of a similarly-sized pay cut on drivers.
Matt The List was unaware of this: “[Uber] was so cheap in [the] USA. So hooray ... 15% cheaper in London from Friday!” Car purchase or leasing, insurance, congestion charge, fuel and maintenance, and living costs for drivers remain constant. Yet their earnings are cut at a stroke by 15%. Hooray indeed.
Yes, as Knowledge Boy pointed out, that 15% decrease in fares meant “Uber X drivers face 15% pay cut”. Invariably self-employed, and with no union or trade association to fight for them, Uber’s London drivers are screwed. It is exactly as happened in the USA. In the new sharing economy, those with all the money still wield all the clout: nothing changes.
Yet the likes of Jamie Rigg just don’t get it: “I doubt London’s black cabbies are thrilled about Uber cutting prices in the capital by 15%”. If the two bods in that photo are Uber drivers, they might not be smiling quite so broadly now. Meanwhile, black cab drivers can sit back, smile and respond “I told you so”.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick thinks his main competitor is an “asshole”, and cares little about his own drivers. But he is a billionaire. And how d’you think he gained that worth? Have a think about it.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Don’t Menshn Douglas Carswell

The torrent of idiocy coming out of that reassuringly expensive Manhattan apartment never ceases to amaze: first, there was an article in the Daily Beast which was riddled with untrue statements, and then a tirade against Douglas “Kamikaze” Carswell, from Louise Mensch, who was caught lying about Piers Morgan, and then ran out on her party and her constituents.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

Ms Mensch asserts in her piece for the Beast that Labour established Sharia tribunals (untrue), funds Sharia scholars (untrue), that the Law Society “issued guidance as to how best to disinherit women” (untrue), and that the Human Rights Act is an “invidious, broadly drawn law that a liberal judiciary uses to overturn deportation orders” (untrue). Why the Beast failed to fact check it is unclear.
And then came the hypocritical attack on Carswell: “Douglas Carswell was always a bit of a slimeball. He organised referendums against Conservative MPs”. That can’t unseat them. But she felt suitably important about her role: “I remember telling him what a dick he was to his face in No 10 at a PM’s reception he didn’t hesitate to slime to”. Says someone else who slimed their way in.
Anyway, Doug’s going to lose: “Carswell will do every bit as well as Roger Helmer did in Newark”. Helmer had not been the sitting Tory MP. Have another go: “What a self-indulgent, toys out of pram, whiny Labour-supporting tosser Carswell is”. Says the whiny one who gifted her seat to Labour when she ran off two years ago.
Like that thought would stop her: “Hope people of Clacton remember how long and hard Carswell tried to help Labour in Tory marginal Thurrock”. Was she all right? “Note to self make sure you’re on message for GE15 – Vote Conservative”. Every day, and in every way, she’s getting better and better. Or maybe not.
There was time to spit on the hand of friendship, offered by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines: “I don’t drink, I don’t gamble and I don’t stuff my face”. Has she discovered perpetual motion, then? Whatever, she says Bozza should stand: “If he doesn’t put himself forward when needed, MPs and party activists will have contempt”. Not as much contempt as someone who forgot he’s applied elsewhere.
Oh look, real fantasy: “In order to exit the EU, we need David Cameron to be Prime Minister in 2017”. As if Young Dave would ever do the deed. Then there’s time for one last irony-free snark: “Listen to Douglas Carswell admit rebelling is childish, he regrets helping Labour”. If only one former Tory MP had been prepared to regret helping Labour – like gifting Andy Sawford over 48% of the vote in Corby.

Douglas Carswell may be accused of many things. But treating membership of the House of Commons as a career interregnum prior to piling off to the States is not one of them. Louise Mensch is right now standing in a very draughty glasshouse.

Douglas Carswell – Beyond Barking

This morning, Nigel “Thirsty” Farage informed everyone at the bar that he had a major announcement to make at 1100 hours sharp. What significant news did UKIP’s Oberscheissenfuehrer have to impart to an all too easily led press pack? Would he be giving up the smokes or going on the wagon, perhaps? Ah, but that would be an earth-shattering action too far. No, UKIP now had an MP. Perhaps.
It's the way he tells them

If one Tory MP could be said to fit the description unkindly bestowed by Bernard Ingham on John Biffen so many years ago – that he was “semi-detached” – it is Douglas “Kamikaze” Carswell, who represents the unfortunate voters of Clacton. Young Dave and his fellow jolly good chaps would have been more than happy to see him go – except that he is going to resign, and force a by-election.

Carswell will then stand as a UKIP candidate. Mil The Younger must be thinking that all his birthdays have come at once: UKIP and the Tories are about to engage in their own little local bloodbath, the issue of Europe has returned with a vengeance to bite Cameron, and Labour – plus the Lib Dems – need only get the popcorn in and watch what is bound to be a particularly nasty scrap.

Those who study past election results will have noticed that UKIP did not field a candidate in Clacton last time round. This meant the Tories had little problem racking up 53% of the popular vote – partly because UKIP gave Carswell their endorsement.. The constituency is popular with retirees: not for nothing did comedians once talk of “Harwich for the continent ... Frinton for the incontinent”.

Carswell and Farage will be hoping that many of those retirees – who also feature strongly in Walton (but only on the better side of the level crossing, don’t y’know) – take the Daily Express, aka Daily UKIP, of a morning. In this way, they will hope to prise enough lifelong Tory voters away from their natural home and into the realm of saloon bar propper-uppers populated by Mr Thirsty and his friends.

How will Cameron and his pal Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, react? The Tories can’t just let the constituency go without a scrap, not after all the crap they threw at Pa Broon after the Election That Never Was. They are the incumbent party, they have to win the by-election – or suffer humiliation as a result. And there could be worse to come.

CCHQ will be desperately scouring the ranks for another Europhobe, while hoping that the two other MPs that were endorsed by UKIP in 2010 – Philip Davies in Shipley, and Philip Hollobone in Kettering, do not follow Carswell, who is full value for his “Kamikaze” nickname. The Tories have no happier outcome on the horizon than hanging on to Clacton and heading off a worse split.

How’s that overall majority next year looking? The EU issue gets them every time.

Rotherham – Telegraph Pundits Go All Wrong

Now that the report into historic Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham has been published and disseminated, the ranks of pundits have suddenly and miraculously become highly knowledgeable on all matters relating to social services, policing, grooming, and whatever else it needs to generate lots of clicks for Themselves Personally Now.
Nowhere is this more prominently on view than at the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs, where the unholy trinity of Tim Stanley, Dan Hodges, and Dan, Dan The Oratory Man has persuaded itself that, unlike all those useless social workers and rubbish cops, they have all the answers, and that we all need to talk about it. Except that, in one very obvious way, we cannot.

Hodges goes first: “we cannot ignore that race played a part in these crimes” he asserts, going on to tell “The abuse experienced by the children of Rotherham is beyond belief ... But one equally vicious aspect of the assaults on these children is identified in a less explicit way. And that is the manner in which the vast majority of the Rotherham victims were also racially abused”.

Yes, they weren’t allowed to talk about race, but it was about race. Really? Not really: many of the victims were girls from Pakistani heritage families. Those who abused them weren’t discriminating racially: this was more about misogyny, control, and exploitation. And that means Stanley and Hannan, who both take their cue from Hodges, have a distinctly shaky foundation to their efforts.

The former homes in on social services: “The social services system is in need of overhaul, but there is also a moral question to be asked here. While some of the systemic problems in Rotherham can be blamed on underfunding and understaffing, or put down to political correctness gone mad, the reality is that individuals either failed to see or chose to ignore evidence of abuse”.

It wasn’t political correctness, as I pointed out yesterday, and social workers reported everything back up the chain. Did Stanley read the report? Whatever. Reading the report is something Hannan does not need to do in order to make his pre-determined conclusion, which he delivers in typically sniffy fashion.

If you take a group of people, not all of them terribly bright, and encourage them to be more concerned with following procedure than with doing the right thing ... you will end up with much injustice and an occasional atrocity”. Yes, Dan says that they were all too thick to understand – not like clever Himself.

But, unlike their dubiously talented array of pundits, Telegraph blogs cannot trust those who float around the comments sewer to have their say. “Comments are closed” on all three posts. They aren’t allowed to talk about race, either.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Uber – Now The Dirty Tricks

In the debate over the arrival of driver and rider matching company Uber into London, all those Clever People Who Talk Loudly In Restaurants who favour the new kid on the block over the capital’s black cabs cite one supposed fact about Uber time and again: it is bringing competition to the streets. They favour free markets, and this is free market competition in action.
To which I say fine – so, if we’re talking about competition, and choice, there should be no problem with Uber having its own competition – other, similar services that match riders with drivers by means of a smartphone app. And, hey, there are other services like that in the USA already. So we can see how Uber deals with that free market competition, from the likes of Lyft and Gett.

Perhaps the likes of Mark Wallace, Christian “Mr Soundbite” May, Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam, and the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, who are all eager to tell the world that Uber is A Very Wonderful Thing, would like to endorse Uber’s response to Lyft and Gett. Or, given that the response includes playing particularly dirty, perhaps they will pretend it’s not happening. But it is, and could happen here.

Uber behaves aggressively not just towards regulators and established taxi operations, but also to competition in its own back yard. As The Verge reported, “Earlier this month, CNN reported that Uber employees around the country ordered and then canceled 5,560 Lyft rides, according to an analysis by Lyft (Lyft arrived at this figure by cross-referencing the phone numbers of users who tried to recruit Lyft drivers to Uber with users who had previously canceled rides)”.

There was more: “Uber requests rides from Lyft and other competitors, recruits their drivers, and takes multiple precautions to avoid detection. The effort, which Uber appears to be rolling out nationally, has already resulted in thousands of canceled Lyft rides and made it more difficult for its rival to gain a foothold in new markets”.

Gett gets the same treatment: “Uber considers Gett a threat: over the past few weeks, Uber employees have been posing as pedestrians, creating Gett accounts for the sole purpose of scheduling and then canceling Gett rides. The result is clear: wasted time for Gett drivers, fewer available rides for Gett users, and general disarray for the whole service. And it's coming from the top brass at Uber NYC”.

And what happened after all those cancellations? “After these rides had been canceled, Uber texted the affected drivers in an attempt to recruit them—and after all the frustration they'd had with Gett, it'd seem like a sweet offer”. Lobbyists recruited to bend the rules in their favour, a queue of useful right-wing idiots to cheer for them, and dirty tricks to keep competition out of that supposedly free marketplace.

Would those Uber supporters endorse these tactics? Don’t all shout at once, guys.

Don’t Menshn Rotherham

The Child Sex Exploitation scandal in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham has been attributed to many things, but a religious motivation is not one of them – unless you are a former Tory MP and attention seeker with a column in the Sunday edition of the Sun. Yes, unbelievable as it may seem, Louise Mensch has decided that what happened in Rotherham is not what has been reported.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

Without doing any research – so the same as usual, then – Ms Mensch has decided that, behind the report published yesterday are the machinations of Scary Muslims. Moreover, these are not just Muslims, they are Extremist Muslims. And they have been perpetrating not just crimes, but Hate Crimes. You think I jest? Cast your eyes over this lot, then. It’s down to the usual standard.
For starters, the headlines are wrong! “This headline. It should read ‘Muslim Extremist Sex Abusers’”, she tells. And why should this be? “It is not right to gloss over the hate crime element of the paedophila [sic], which was racist and religious hatred against non-Muslims”. Yeah, what does that report author know, eh?
She goes on (predictably): “Nor is it right to say ‘Asian’ and leave out the word ‘Muslim’ there is no Hnidu [sic], no Sikh abuse here. There’s religious hatred Paedohilia [sic]”. And, just to make sure you get her drift: “ONE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED children raped by extremist Muslims in Rotherford [sic] in a hate crime, a religious hate crime”. And there is some advice for the authorities.
Rotherham Council did NOTHING. My God. You should ALL go to jail you pandering bastards. Children doused in petrol”. The cops don’t escape her all-seeing eye, either: “Our own Police did this to these children. By not helping them. Senior Police officers. Councillors. Name every one of them”.
As if a witch-hunt will help. But no-one should diss Ms M: “Stop saying ‘political pointscoring’ when a religious hate crime based on children being non-Muslim has been committed ... instead of crying Islamophobia [nobody has] accept that, yes, Muslim men committed religious hate crime against non-Muslim children, look to that cancer”. Guess what will be in her next Sun column?
Just in case you didn’t get the “Muslim” angle, there was more: “It is not one-off. It is not one city [Rotherham isn’t a city]. It is not multi-religious [it ain’t religious at all]. It is vast majority Muslim male child abuse against non-Muslim children ... This was Rotherham. Don’t forget Rochdale [that isn’t a city, either]. Judge found religion was a hate crime factor here [not true], non-Muslim victims [not all of them]”.

Remember folks, someone let her into Oxford University. And someone else allowed her to become a Tory MP. Now, someone has given her a column in the Sunday Sun. Never assume our ruling classes know more than jack shit about anything.

Rotherham Abuse Scandal – Press Hypocrisy

A report commissioned by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, and published yesterday, confirmed that “At least 1,400 children were subjected to appalling sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013”. Most – but not all – of the perpetrators were Asian men of Pakistani heritage. Five men from the area have, in the meantime, been convicted of a number of sex offences.
There were failings among senior officials at the Council: “Council and other officials sometimes thought youth workers were exaggerating the exploitation problem. Sometimes they were afraid of being accused of racism if they talked openly about the perpetrators in the town mostly being Pakistani taxi drivers”. And the failure to prioritise the issue by the Police was shockingly bad.
Fortunately, both Council and Police have recently improved their treatment of such behaviours. If only the same could be said for those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet, whose sloppy reporting and agenda-driven rabble-rousing is as bad as ever. After the Independent told of “The streets where child abuse was part of growing up”, the rest of the press pack went off the end of the pier.
The Mirror kept more or less to the actual story, with “Horrific Betrayal Of 1,400 Children”, but the Mail – to no surprise – had an agenda to push. “Betrayed By The PC Cowards” it thunders. If only the Dacre doggies had read their own copy, which includesSerious discussions about sexual abuse were impossible because of the ‘macho’ and ‘sexist’ culture at the Labour-controlled council”.
So, Mail people, riddle me this: how the merry f*** can a “macho” and “sexist” culture be the domain of “PC Cowards”? That sounds as if the likes of Richard Littlejohn would have been right at home. And that question applies equally to Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, howling “1,400 Victims Of PC Brigade”. Moreover, the sloppy reporting doesn’t stop there.
The Maily Telegraph tried a collective shame angle, claiming dishonestly “Town turned blind eye to sex abuse”. It didn’t, and with a population of 258,000, we are not talking Royston Vasey here. The Times has also cut the odd corner by splashing on “Scandal of the 1,400 lost girls”. They weren’t all girls. But the most serious press shortcoming remains out of sight, and predictably so.
If there was all this child abuse going on, and over a sixteen year period, where were the newspapers? The mainly right-leaning press had a ready-made field day: predominantly Asian men, a Labour stronghold, the apparent downplaying of ethnic backgrounds – all should have been meat and drink to them. But they were, once again, absent elsewhere, only arriving when someone else had done all the work.

Too much punditry, too little real journalism. And that’s not good enough.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Boris In Uxbridge – Bring It On

London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has today demonstrated his customary regard for his Mayoral duties – zero – and declared his interest in succeeding John Randall, who is stepping down next May as MP for the west London constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Bozza would allegedly serve out his term as Mayor, if elected an MP.
Would you buy a vanity bus from this man?

On the face of it, this looks Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy for Bozza, until a number of his recent actions and pronouncements are factored in. Yes, the likes of the Evening Standard, aka London Daily Bozza, imagine that yet another electorate will see only the clown act and rush in their droves to hail their new representative. Others, though, have already seen through the flim-flam.

Many of Bozza’s prospective constituents work either at Heathrow Airport, or their employment depends on it being there. But the Mayor, while opposing a third runway at the airport – which is popular in the constituency – has also vigorously championed a new airport out in the Thames estuary, which would mean the eventual closure of Heathrow and loss of all those jobs.
Expect to see much campaigning outside this station

Workers would have to move to the other side of London – or commute, which would add a couple of hours to the working day, and for many workers would mean travelling during peak times. Bozza was still talking up his new airport idea, despite it being universally ridiculed, earlier today. His lack of interest in this aspect of constituents’ welfare is bound to be picked up by his opponents.

What he has also done – and remember, Uxbridge and South Ruislip is described as “prosperous and multicultural” – is to propose in his latest “chicken feed” generating column for the Maily Telegraph that anyone returning from Syria should somehow forfeit Habeas Corpus and be presumed to have indulged in terrorist activity – in other words, presumed guilty. But only if they went to Syria.

Given that visitors to the Middle East include those visiting friends and relatives, as well as humanitarian workers and medical staff, Bozza is proposing to demonise rather a lot of people. On top of that, he is vulnerable to being painted as dishonest – Michael Howard sacked him from his shadow cabinet for lying – and inconsiderate, as exemplified by his attack on the people of Liverpool.

He will also find that being one candidate in an election involving 650 constituencies means he gets less of the star billing. Persistent interviewing will reveal that Bozza gets peevish and even abusive when pressed to actually give answers to questions. UKIP will relish the chance to paint him as a closet Europhile. And Labour will remind voters of all those Mayoral vanity projects and broken promises.

Uxbridge is an opportunity not only for Bozza but more importantly for his opponents.

TPA – What A Waste Of Money

Regular visitors to Zelo Street will have noticed that there has been little attention given of late to the machinations of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), which claims to represent all taxpayers but speaks for less than one tenth of one per cent of them. The TPA is, despite its protestations, an Astroturf lobby group closely aligned with the Conservative Party and its pals out there on the right. 
Not much guff from Tufton Street right now

There is a good reason why the TPA has not featured at this blog of late, and that is its lack of visibility on the Zelo Street radar. This is despite the TPA claiming on its website to have a staff of fourteen. Now, it’s understood that coordinators Lee Canning and Tim Newark have their own full-time occupations away from the TPA, and Research Fellows Mike Denham and Lee Rotherham may be part-timers.

But that still leaves ten staff, including CEO Jonathan Isaby, and, were I one of that select band pumping money into keeping the TPA balloon in the air, I might ask what on earth they are all doing, given that there has only been one of those infamous FOI trawls in the past five months – a typically ill-informed hatchet job on the NHS, published at the start of April.

Indeed, apart from telling the world about their latest FOI based “report”, the TPA website contained only one other entry for April. There was just one entry for May, two for June, and then only one in July. The May item was to announce the re-launch of the TPA’s “debt clock”, which hardly needs the collective efforts of ten staff to achieve. There was, however, one other activity in play.

And that was something called the War On Waste Roadshow: here, the TPA’s staff travel around the country whining about Council Tax and parking restrictions. Last month, it appears that this tour was in the North West, not that it appears to have attracted any significant media interest. Few images of this enterprise have been published. But plenty of money has been spent on hotels and travel.

So it appears that the “waste”, far from being perpetrated by local Government, is coming from the TPA. And, despite more news items appearing on their website this month, all the content appears to be recycling articles from newspapers, or claiming credit for something someone else is doing. Then there is the cost of that expensive central London office space to consider.

Yes, if I were a TPA donor, I’d be wanting to know why the organisation needed so many bodies for so little end product, although it is pleasing to think of all those rich and greedy backers spraying their money up the wall in the vain hope that the TPA will somehow cause their tax bills to fall. The public sector has nothing on them when it comes to poor value for money.

What you will not read in the papers today. Nice non-job if you can get it.

Uber – The Turn Of The Screw

Out there on the right, car and passenger matching service Uber is seen in an unquestioningly positive light: typical is Mark Wallace, former stalwart of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, who has journeyed via the IoD to ConHome. “[Uber] Drivers work for themselves under better conditions with a better income” he proudly declared, although the name of the comparator was not given.
But then, Wallace and his fellow Clever People Who Talk Loudly In Restaurants have been seduced into believing such ideas, without bothering to examine just where the real power in this enterprise lies. And where it lies is not with the drivers, as those Stateside are starting to find out. Without any collective bargaining ability, they have to do what they are damn well told.

Uber gets into price wars; it therefore lowers prices. Driver earnings take the hit. As to insurance requirements, the New Yorker notedin San Francisco, for instance, taxi operators have to provide a million dollars of liability coverage for their cars at all times; Uber, until recently, covered vehicles only when they held a passenger. But Uber, and companies like it, argue that they’re completely different”.
Behold the belief system of the right ...

Yes, Uber claims that it is different, that it should not play by the same rules, and that it should therefore not be subject to all those inconvenient fuddy-duddy olde-worlde regulations. So Uber has recruited the likes of David Plouffe, former advisor to the first Obama presidential campaign. His job will “include lobbying the government to come up with policies that are more favorable to Uber’s interests in the first place”.

But note that the talk here is of Uber, not its drivers, and that should surprise nobody: the little guys at the sharp end are mere cannon fodder. This was demonstrated when “an Uber driver hit and killed a six-year-old girl in San Francisco. The driver’s Uber app was turned on, but he wasn’t carrying a passenger, so Uber said that he, and not the company, should be held responsible”.
... along with their inverted view of corporates

That driver may not have thought about such a scenario when he signed up. But you can bet your bottom dollar that Uber and its lawyers did. All those drivers are a mere means to an end, as Plouffe’s first task is to help launch the Uber API, to enable the integration of hotel chains, airlines, restaurants, and travel advisors. Oh, and Starbucks, of course. All this benefits the multi-billion dollar corporate.

To comprehend what Uber is about, its aggressive stance, and determination to have rules and regulations re-drafted to suit Itself Personally Now, the last people to consult are the unfortunate drivers. As he and his pals continue to back the corporate Goliath against the one-man and one-woman Davids who drive black cabs around London, perhaps Mark Wallace will understand the reality of the situation.

It is an understanding some of us have already grasped.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Mail Labour Dirty Tricks Exposed

What is noticeable over at Northcliffe House is the tendency to blame someone else when they get called out for being less than totally honest with the Miliband team. Take, for example, “Senior Miliband aide in 'Northerners are backward' storm over replacing elderly male MPs with young women”, by the Mail On Sunday’s less than totally savoury political editor Simon Walters.
He's still up there in the polls, Mail people

What’s this about? “A senior aide to Ed Miliband called Northerners ‘backward’ over choosing women MPs in a blazing row with a Labour veteran, it was claimed last night. Anna Yearley, the Labour leader’s political secretary and ‘fixer’, is said to have made the remark in an argument over moves to replace Northern male Labour MPs with younger, female ones”. Quote marks, “it was claimed”, and “is said to have”.

Walters is taking advantage of supposed claims by soon-to-retire MP Austin Mitchell, who has represented Great Grimsby for the last 37 years, and whose majority in 2010 shrank from more than 7,500 to just over 700. Mitchell, who some of us of A Certain Age remember as a presenter of Yorkshire TV’s evening news magazine programme Calendar, has been increasingly off-message of late.
Mitchell is doubly useful to the Mail here: first, he is cited as the source for the claims made about Ms Yearley, and then, when the paper concedes “The furore took a further turn last night after Labour denied Ms Yearley had made the comment”, they dump on him, even though Ms Yearley said “Story about me in Mail On Sunday totally untrue. I did not say the words attributed to me”.

In other words, she is not blaming Mitchell, but the Mail is: “Labour in threat to sue its own MP in row over 'backward Northerners': Veteran clashes with Ed's woman ‘fixer’ over call for female lists ... Labour threatens to sue Austin Mitchell over Anna Yearley comment”. Meanwhile, Ms Yearley is confirming that “I have denied it. I absolutely did not say that”. So what is going on?
While Austin Mitchell may have used a little creative retelling of his own – there appears to have been a full and frank discussion between him and Ms Yearley – the real story is that the Mail has broadened its campaign to undermine Miliband from mere abuse – which, it is belatedly realising, is not working – to deriding the way that Parliamentary candidates are chosen, particularly the drive to elect more women.

In this, they roped in Mitchell, whose whimsy of last week was upgraded yesterday to the “backward” claim, which, for Labour heartlands across the north of England, is potential dynamite. Walters and his bosses know this: the calculation is that, even if Labour takes legal action, enough mud will have stuck to dent the party’s poll ratings. So they make the claims against Ms Yearley, then hide behind Mitchell.

They should apologise. But they won’t, and it will get dirtier in the next few months.