It’s good news week …

We’ve been here before?

Decca F12241, issued September 1965, kept off top spot in the charts by the likes of the Stones (Get Off My Cloud, Yaaay! and Ken Dodd, TearsUgggh!). As Malcolm dimly recollects, the significance of the group’s name, Hedgehoppers Anonymous, was that they were RAF guys at Wittering.

MAD irony

One doubts that the RAF top brass would have encouraged lyrics like that:

It’s good news week —
Someone’s dropped a bomb somewhere,
Contaminating atmosphere,
And blackening the sky.

It’s good news week —
Someone’s found a way to give
The rotting dead a will to live,
Go on and never die.

So, how are we doing?

Thinking big, there’s an unreasonable chance of violent death, by bomb, by fire, by gun, in many areas of the Islamic world (which includes the Islam/Christianity interface in West Africa). More bombs, more guns, more deaths and even chemical weapons in Syria.

On a smaller scale, as for contaminating everywhere, London is reputedly the worst European city for air quality. As that must include Athens, it’s no small achievement. Our beloved BoJo is doing something about just that, gluing the worst to the road — but mainly in close proximity to the air-quality measuring sites:

A fresh political row has blown up over London‘s air pollution, with the capital’s 34 Labour MPs complaining that mayor Boris Johnson has been trying to hide the pollution problem by gluing particles to the road. They accuse Johnson of using pollution suppressants in front of official air quality monitors in order to bring down their readings and present a rosier picture of the air quality…

Under the mayor’s cleaning and application of dust suppressant trial, calcium magnesium acetate has been used on the Marylebone Road and Upper Thames Street, two key sites for air pollution. The chemical traps pollutant particles. The initial trial found the suppressants could reduce pollution levels by up to 14%, and in late 2011 it was announced that the programme would be extended to more than a dozen other monitoring sites.

If you can’t, or won’t cure it, resort to fraud. Good Tory ethics, there.

Present fears Are less than horrible imaginings

Though only just.

Today we had the two warlocks (well, you can’t manage the full Macbeth analogy every time) of the ConDem Treasury —

  • Gids, the putative 18th baronet and (under present dispensations) guaranteed his retirement home in the House of Lords

and

  • Beaker — doubtless equally sure of his ennoblement as Lord Badenoch of the Cairngormless Ski Lift.

And here they trot, escorted by Wing Commander Porky and the Royal Flying Piggeries display team, telling us of goodies to come.

Time to revisit the Wobblies’ Song Book:

Now, peerages are given for a reason
And that reason is simply understood:
For Chivalry, and Honesty, and Bravery
And for being so very, very good!

Oh …
Put it on the ground
Spread it all around,
Dig it with a hoe —
It’ll make your flowers grow!

Stephanie Flanders ran her rule over what was gushing forth, and was less than convinced:

Read the details of today’s guarantee scheme, and you see it has been written by an organisation determined not to take on one jot of unnecessary risk – and equally determined that private sector contractors not get a penny more than they need, even if the pennies in question are not going to show up in the public accounts.

Put it another way, it is a scheme that has been written by and for the UK Treasury.

It is unlikely to go down as another costly infrastructure fiasco. But it’s possible it won’t result in an enormous amount of new infrastructure either.

On Monday we had the other marriage-of-convenience — Cameron and Clegg — spreading future largesse across the rail network. Sadly, much of it was re-announced expenditures — how often has the Swansea electrification been mooted and then shelved?

A few pence for Copperopolis

The previous Labour government was committed to electrification back in 2009. At today’s prices, it involves the grand sum of £600M — hardly the Big Bazooka. Even more of these jam-tomorrow projects won’t start much before the next (2015?) Election.

  • Why is Wales in the same league as Albania and Moldova?
  • Because they are the three European nations without a single millimetre of electrified railway.

There is a violent ConDem U-turn here. As recently as March 2011 Hammond, then Transport Secretary was resolved against the Swansea extension:

I have received representations calling for the electrification of the Great Western main line to be extended as far west as Swansea and we have looked carefully at the arguments. The business case for electrification is heavily dependent on the frequency of service. Services between London and Swansea currently operate at a frequency of only one train an hour off-peak. There is no evidence of a pattern of demand that would be likely to lead imminently to an increase in this frequency. Consequently, I regret to have to say that there is not, at present, a viable business case for electrification of the main line between Cardiff and Swansea.

All that despite, as Maria Eagle noted in her response:

the case for electrification was previously approved by the Treasury … Anybody who has dealt with the Treasury, as we now all have, knows that the rate of return would have had to meet its tough criteria … if Swansea is not a part of the single roll-out construction programme, the Government will incur 20% additional costs to stop construction and then take it up again.

Finally (for the time being)

Politicshome gives us one further belly-laugh:

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Filed under BBC, Boris Johnson, Britain, Conservative Party policy., David Cameron, economy, Elections, folk music, George Osborne, IWW, Lib Dems, London, Nick Clegg, politics, politicshome, railways, Shakespeare, Times, Tories., Wales

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