Monthly Archives: September 2013

To be filed under “What rats won’t do”


Angela Knight was Tory MP for Erewash (that’s Ilkeston and district) in the ’90s. Given the heave-ho! by an ungrateful electorate in 1997, she found a role shilling for the banks, and arguing the case for as little regulation  as was credible. Then came the banking crash.

Even then she was a game lass.

To the end,

  • even after the Bank of International Settlements and the WSJ were getting antsy,
  • after New York Fed President Timothy F. Geithner had gone on record to the Bnk of England that all was far from well,
  • when the worms were crawling out of the cupboard,

she was propounding that:

that Libor could be trusted as “a reliable benchmark.”

Such ingratitude!

Not uncoincidentally Angela was soon out of the CEO chair at the BBA.

Oooh! Angie baby! You’re a special lady!

You can’t keep a good girl down.

With a single bound, last year, she was free from the British Bankers’ Association to become boss at Energy UK, the energy industry trade body. 

So now she’s doing the smear jobs on Ed Miliband, as the energy cartel’s own Chicken Little:

Chicken Little Sky Falling

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Filed under advertising., Angela Knight, banking, Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., Ed Miliband, films, foot and mouth disease, gas, Mervyn King, politics, Tories.

The search for a douce euphemism


The Bedroom Tax is:

  • a tax specifically-imposed on the less-privileged in our society: effectively a selective Poll Tax;
  • it relates to a count of “bedrooms” (as currently legally defined) in social housing;
  • an ad-man’s wet dream of a memorable slogan — note how it fits the mouth, has emphatic initial consonants (a plosive and a dental, since you didn’t ask) and a spitting final fricative.


  • the shorthand definition is relevant, accurate;


  • so hurtful, its mealy-mouthed Tory instigators require its tone be tailored, tonsured, buffed, puffed, glossed and glozed.

A Malcolmian mutter:

In the mouth and the ear, the usage is given effect because of its neat stressed-unstressed-stressed trisyllabic rhythm. Malcolm’s classical education reminds him this is the “cretic” metrical foot, which — as the wikipedia entry reminds us — is a natural for “advertising slogans and adages”.

Too late with the stable door

First circumlocution was David Cameron’s alliterative but “clunky” “spare room subsidy”.

Run “spare-room subsidy” through the parsing mincer, and we get:

  • a plodding spondee (two stressed syllables) then the cretic. Five syllables instead of the more natural and graspable three;
  • a hissing triple-“s”: itself adding a quite unpleasant alliteration;
  • an abstract and officialese “subsidy” instead of the more-easily understood (and detested) “tax”.
  • It is inaccurate. After all, the tax applies , not to “spare rooms”, but only and specifically to bedrooms.

Malcolm happily defers to professional wordsmith, James Kirkup, for the reason why Cameron and his paid cohorts sought to change the name:

OK, it’s something you’d expect a political writer to say, but in politics, words matter. What you call something — and what others call it — can have enormous significance.

Remember the Community Charge? Of course not: it became the Poll Tax, a rather different proposition. Remember the billions that Labour spent on the public sector? For many years, that spending was successfully described as “investment”; even ministers in today’s government are prone to that sort of lexical massaging when they want to cast spending in a positive light.

So the verbal row over withdrawing some money from some people in social housing who have more bedrooms than permanent occupants matters. In Whitehall, this is called an under-occupancy penalty, or sometimes an under-occupancy measure …

Notice the deft misuse of terms: “under-occupancy”, “penalty”, “measure”: in this abomination of language, a spade no longer a spade, but dignified into “a horticultural appliance”.

It doesn’t work, does it? 

Despite endless repetitions, enforced upon arm-twisted sub-editors of the Tory Press and — even, heaven help us — at the BBC, the harsh truth and the natural term term kept creeping through.

Well, the Tory cunning linguists are having another go, and reviving “under-occupancy penalty“.  This time at “Lord” Ashcroft’s It won’t work — nine syllables rather than three, two abstracts and nothing for the ear or the memory to grab onto.

You see, the problem with these shape-shifting circumlocutions and periphrases is — they aren’t Orwellian enough:

Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.

Even as we muse, we can be assured Grant Shapps (Grade A in CDT at O-level, or perhaps not) is applying his Great Intellect, and casting yet another calculating eye at the problem.

The all-seeing Grant Shapps

The all-seeing Grant Shapps

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Filed under advertising., Conservative family values, David Cameron, James Kirkup, Labour Party, politics, Quotations, social class, Tories.

Now, that’s a surprise!

Or, stating the bleedin’ obvious.

From the:


And here it comes:

September 18, 2013

Employers and Public Favor Graduates Who Can Communicate, Survey Finds

By Dan Berrett


Americans adults and employers want colleges to produce graduates who can think critically and creatively, and can communicate orally and in writing, according to the results of a public-opinion survey released by Northeastern University here on Tuesday.

Now, consider any possible alternative to those propositions …

Perhaps we should now revisit John Henry Newman’s Idea of a University, which begins:

If I were asked to describe as briefly and popularly as I could, what a University was, I should draw my answer from its ancient designation of a Studium Generale, or “School of Universal Learning.” This description implies the assemblage of strangers from all parts in one spot;—from all parts; else, how will you find professors and students for every department of knowledge? and in one spot; else, how can there be any school at all? Accordingly, in its simple and rudimental form, it is a school of knowledge of every kind, consisting of teachers and learners from every quarter. Many things are requisite to complete and satisfy the idea embodied in this description; but such as this a University seems to be in its essence, a place for the communication and circulation of thought, by means of personal intercourse, through a wide extent of country.

Note the requisites:

  • learning (and that “Universal”, rather than a mere grind-factory in one specific discipline);
  • teachers;
  • communication and circulation of thought.

And the greatest of these is the last.

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Filed under culture, education, Quotations

How coincidental!

Opinion polls are slippery things. They have an amazing ability to mirror the inclinations of the commissioner. Thus the various pollsters are currently reporting either a massive lead for the “No” faction in the Scottish referendum — or, in a different version, an effective dead-heat.

Nobody will know which is the more indicative, at least until this time next year. By which point, of course, all previous samplings will be historical and forgotten by all except nerds.

So to this:

BREAKING: YouGov/Sun poll tonight – Tories and Labour neck and neck, tied on 36% each. UKIP 12%, LD 10%. Lab lost 14 point lead over a year.

Anthony Wells prudently subscribes;

I will obviously add all my usual caveats about any unusual poll – sure, it could be that the Tories have actually caught up with Labour after a couple of polls showing the lead down to three or four points… but just as likely that it’s just a bit of an outlier. It’s the trend that counts, so keep an eye over the next few days to see if there are more very small (or absent) Labour leads…

Even so, just before the Labour Conference,such a narrowing would seem a trifle … err … convenient.

Of all sources, Peter Oborne in (better believe it!) the Torygraph takes a more positive view of Miliband than most. His headline alone would put palpitations into the blue-rinses:

Ed Miliband is proving himself to be a brave and adroit leader

If Mr Miliband is remembered for nothing else, his stand on Syria changed the course of history

Oborne identifies two main “enemies” for Miliband:

His predicament can only be grasped once it is realised that he has two sets of very formidable enemies, linked but capable of operating independently. The first is the Murdoch newspaper empire, which will never forgive Mr Miliband’s pre-emptive strike in the phone-hacking affair.

Mr Miliband’s second set of enemies consists of Tony Blair and his followers. They did not much like his stance on phone-hacking, but their true concerns lie elsewhere. The Blairites cannot forgive Ed Miliband for defeating his brother David, Mr Blair’s chosen successor. Nor can they forgive his connection with Gordon Brown. Today’s Blairite attacks on Mr Miliband are thus a continuation of the bitter Blair/Brown feud.

Which deserves to be born in mind, when we reflect that both  the YouGov/Sun poll and the excitable Mr Newton Dunn are in the employ of Rupert Murdoch.

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Filed under Daily Telegraph, Ed Miliband, Labour Party, Murdoch, politics, polls, Tories., ukpollingreport

Engaging gears

The legendary Norfolk tool-box contains just two items:

  • a club-hammer to get the thing moving;
  • binder-twine to stop it.

Similarly, Malcolm started his morning by up-dating iTunes to 11.1 (rather pointless, since he doesn’t use the radio facility). Then he cranked up:

First, Alan Price to hammer the juices into flow:

Then Canteloube to tie down a sense of proportion:

Well, it seemed to work for him.

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Filed under Music, Norfolk, Uncategorized

Obedience to government gone mad

The BBC website has this headline:

Labour ‘would axe spare room subsidy’ says Jackie Baillie

That logically means a Labour government would persist in the iniquitous policy of fining tenants for their accommodation.

In fact, as the story seems to say, the exact opposite is the case. A Labour government would recognise the tax on a spare room is vicious and distorts how we run social housing in all kinds of ways:

A UK Labour government would abolish the spare room subsidy, the party’s Scottish welfare spokeswoman has said.

Jackie Baillie told BBC Radio Scotland an announcement on the issue would be made soon.

Labour’s policy on cuts to housing benefit for people with unused spare rooms has not yet been clearly set out.

Ms Baillie’s comments came ahead of two rallies in Glasgow against the new subsidy, which critics have labelled the “bedroom tax”.

Speaking on the Good Morning Scotland programme, she said: “We are very clear. Labour rejected this approach when it was put to them in government, for social landlords. We have campaigned for its abolition.

“Yes we will abolish it. My understanding is that you can expect an announcement relatively soon.”

Suddenly we see that the BBC, in accepting the Grant Shapps spin for the headline, has generated a total hames of any meaning.

The Northern Drift

What interest Malcolm is how even the most conservative (and you can have that with or with out a capital “C”) media are recognising just how bad an imposition the bedroom tax is.

Twice in the last few days, the Yorkshire Post (and they don’t come much more conservative than that) has had a bite out of the tax.

The first Malcolm saw was a screaming headline:

Bedroom tax ‘will tear rural societies apart’

The explanation of that make considerable sense:

The desperate shortage of affordable housing in villages and hamlets throughout Yorkshire and rural England means low-paid workers and families will be forced to uproot from their communities and move many miles to find what the Government now deems to be appropriate-sized homes, according to Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE).

Housing experts, charity bosses and senior backbench MPs in Yorkshire all backed the report, and called on the Government to offer an exemption for people living rural areas from the controversial withdrawal of what Ministers term the “spare room subsidy”.

“The ‘bedroom tax’ takes no account of the challenges rural tenants face,” said ACRE chief executive Janice Banks. “It is yet another example of the ‘rural penalty’ paid by countryside communities.”

That decodes into something far, far worse than any Tory propagandist has been prepared to admit. Even if the bedroom tax could work in Hackney, it simply cannot do so in Hampsthwaite, Hebden or Horsehouse. If the aim is to price the tenant out of oversized accommodation, where else is there nearby for them to go? The small flat or one-up, one-down cottage no longer exists — and where it does, it probably sports a second-homer’s Volvo or Range Rover at weekends.

Back to the Yorkshire Post, and we find a later story, which refers to the urban tenant’s problems:

Families affected by the so-called “bedroom tax” and other welfare reforms could be forced to wait more than 10 years for a suitable home, a council has warned.

The same Yorkshire authority, which has to slash £48m from its budget over the next two years, is also facing a potential shortfall in rentpayments of £2.8m a year as the true impact of austerity and the Government’s welfare reforms is laid bare.

Of those tenants not previously in arrears prior to the introduction of the bedroom tax, or under-occupancy penalty – which sees cuts to housing benefit for tenants deemed to have spare rooms – less than half (45 per cent) in Hull, have paid the 14 to 25 per cent contribution they have lost.

The Labour-led city council – which has now received more than 53,000 calls to a benefits advice hotline set up in April – is also warning of increased homelessness and says that even basic services may be cut or disappear all together.

About 4,500 working age tenants in the city are affected by the bedroom tax, while 3,000 households live in overcrowded council accommodation, and 2,600 are “under-occupying” and require a one-bedroom property.

A different context, but essentially the same story: whence goes the tenant penalised for that extra room? We simply have not, and do not build the required homes. The speculative builder provides for the aspiring family — which means a surplus of three-bedders for sale in burgeoning new estates. The dispossessed (and often elderly) tenants would need property close to amenities, transport and their roots — which amounts to the home they have occupied for years, even decades.

Rabid lunacy

Lest anyone feel the Yorkshire Post has gained a grasp on realities, there’s always its frothing commentator, Bill Carmichael (the clothed-capped Mini-Me of Littlejohn) to reassure the saloon-bar closet fascist:

We are well into September now and the silly season should be over, but some news organisations are still running daft stories that normally only see the light of day in the dog days of August.

Take the front page splash in the left-wing Guardian this week about a UN inspector who has demanded our government scrap the so-called “bedroom tax” because it infringes the human rights of tenants.

This was deemed more important than the threat of World War III in the Middle East, or the meltdown of Barack Obama’s credibility in the US, or the TUC conference at home.

The BBC’s flagship Today programme, which does little more these days than read out stories from the Guardian, repeated the tale almost word for word.

So who is this UN special rapporteur on housing who has made these devastating criticisms? Step forward Raquel Rolnik, an academic and former housing minister from Brazil and a leading member of the far left Workers’ Party, which allies itself to the brutal communist dictatorship in Cuba.

How many clichés, political and journalistic, there? Let me count the daze!

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Filed under broken society, Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., politics, prejudice, Tories., working class, Yorkshire

The Joy of FreeSat

Yes, much of the time it’s Bruce’s count overwhelmed by cyber-shopping:

Then again …

Switch on.

Get the last quarter at Ravenhill: Glasgow Warriors heroically taking Ulster, 13-12. On BBC Alba (should have tried further down the numbers for BBC2 Northern Ireland — possibly got it in Ulster Scots).

Fine camera-work.

Very nice passing and ball-in-hand.

Terrific three-quarter co-ordination.

A last twitch try and conversion Marvellous stuff.

Then to discover that the Gaelic for “try” seems to be “try”.

As for a “major position” is  …


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Filed under BBC, Belfast, Rugby, Scotland