Tag Archives: Tories.

The brick of aspiration

Saw this (H/T Twitter) , and had a memory:



The school was having an extension built.

The reinforced glazing (yes: it was that sort of area) [❉]  had been installed, but there were still loose bricks about the site.

One evening a passing youth wanted to show his enthusiasm for state-financed education. He took a sand-faced fletton, as thus —


and chucked it at one of the windows.

Sadly, the youth must have missed the class on “angle of incidence” equals “angle of reflection”.


Our hero was straight-on to his target.

The window promptly pinged the fletton straight back.

It laid him out.

The real laugh was when the youth’s aggrieved mother tried to sue.

I can’t help wondering if that’s not a parable for the whole “Free School” business.


[❉] This is a well-constructed narrative. And here we see an example of “fore-shadowing”.

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Filed under blogging, Conservative Party policy., education, human waste, schools, social class

Rallying the troops

The Spectator has always been “on the Right”, but in its present iteration it is increasingly relaying the version as approved by Tory HQ. And more infallibly papal than the Pope.  As in this magisterium:

Things could scarcely be going better for the Conservatives. Every week seems to bring more news of the recovery. High street tills are ringing, employment is at an all-time high and Britain’s economy is growing faster than that of any major country. No wonder the Labour party’s opinion poll lead has been reduced to one vulnerable point. Two years ago, the Conservatives had almost given up hope of winning the next election. Now, it looks within their grasp — if they keep it together. And therein lies the problem.

Which leads into a plea, a demand, an injunction — nay, a commandment — for strict toeing of the party line. No more EU-line dancing.

Let’s Fisk those assumptions:

Is the “recovery” doing that well?

The City slickers may be happy in their work and bonuses; but there is precious little evidence of “trickle down”, especially in the blighted provinces, and north of Watford.

Has anyone heard the tills the length of the High Street all a-ringing?

Marks & Spencer suffered its third Christmas of declining clothing sales, increasing the scrutiny on the high street bellwether. Tesco  said UK Christmas sales fell 2.4pc like-for-likeMorrisons warned full-year profits will be toward the bottom of expectations after like-for-like sales dropped 5.6pc.

What most of us notice about the High Street is the increase in closures and voids, and infilling by charity shops.

Is Britain’s economy “growing faster than that of any major country”?

Well, provided we exclude China (+7.7%), India (+4.8%), Indonesia (+5.6%), Malaysia (+5%), Nigeria (+7.7%), Pakistan (+3.6%), the Philippines (+6.9%), Saudi Arabia (+3.1%), Singapore (+4.4%), South Korea (+3.9%), Taiwan (2.9%), and Turkey (+4.4%) from any list of “major” countries.

Oh, and news just in:

The US economy grew at a 3.2% annual rate for the final quarter of 2013, according to the country’s Commerce Department.

So, another to add to that list of not “major” countries.

The Labour party’s opinion poll lead has been reduced to one vulnerable point

Got that. But only in the ComRes telephone poll for the Independent. As Anthony Wells continues:

Populus’s Monday poll was also conducted after the 50p pledge, at roughly the same time as ComRes, and they show Labour’s lead still at seven points. Even without that, we know polls jump about from day to day, YouGov have already shown a couple of 3 point leads this month that turned out to just be normal sample variation.

Still, The Spectator has ornithological leanings, and one swallow may make its summer.

Now all that is required is:

  • the Tories not to panic about the Kippers and Faragista incursions into home territory, even when the Euro-elections go all Penny Mordaunt belly-flop for them,
  • for the disappointed and disaffected backbenchers not to go ape when the Wharton Bill finally fails,
  • for the ConDem divorce to take place painlessly and without rancour,
  • for there not to be any scandal (financial, sexual, whatever) to titillate the yellow press,
  • for Downing Street not to be even peripherally implicated in the continuing trial of Coulson and Brooks,
  • for shit not to happen during the next sixteen months …

Not asking a lot!

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Filed under Britain, Conservative family values, Daily Telegraph, polls, The Spectator, Tories.


When Malcolm’s alter-ego was a Borough Councillor, Tories had a constant (and even honourable) line on compulsory purchase: they were against it on principle.

That got in the way of many worthwhile municipal schemes, or involved extra expense to “persuade” the sellers of the needed land.

Which makes him raise a wry eye-brow when he reads this, in today’s Times (£ — page 39 of the print edition):

Landowners are entitled to compensation from shale gas companies in return for allowing drilling. If they are still opposed, companies would have to acquire the land under a compulsory purchase order, but this can take several years and would be hugely expensive.

The Times revealed last month that the shale gas industry was talking to the Government about closing the loophole.

A bit more than a “loophole”, one might feel:

  • It certainly plays fast-and-loose not just with any concept of “property”.
  • Any Conservative should recall Margaret Thatcher (in her Reagan lecture of December 1997):

A totally planned society and economy has the ability to concentrate productive capacity on some fixed objective with a reasonable degree of success; and do it better than liberal democracies. But totalitarianism can only work like this for a relatively short time, after which the waste, distortions and corruption increase intolerably.

Does that define the ConDem unquestioning support for fracking as “totalitarian”, leading to “waste, distortions and corruption”?

  • It also plays hell with language, extending mightily the metaphor of “loophole”.

Consider meaning 3 in the OED:

fig. An outlet or means of escape. Often applied to an ambiguity or omission in a statute, etc., which affords opportunity for evading its intention.

 The Times, normally so “conservative” (a capital letter C is optional there), is gung-ho for fracking. We have today a singularly-misguided second leader:

Environmental Dogma

Opposition to fracking and GM crops is anti-science and harmful to the world’s poor

That sub-heading goes missing in the on-line version, unless one clicks past the “taster”. The whole piece is a paean of praise for Owen Patterson (who is not only Environment Secretary, but about as far-to-the-right as any member of this benighted administration).

After a couple of paragraphs on GM crops, we go off on a side-track for this:

Debates over government policy on agriculture and energy are right and inevitable. They should be founded on evidence, however. The environmental groups’ campaigning is instead based on an obscurantist hostility to science itself. Mr ­Paterson is right to call it what it is.

Fracking involves blasting shale rock with water at very high pressures to release the gas. Environmental groups maintain that this activity can cause tiny earthquakes and that the toxic chemicals used in fracking may contaminate ground­water.

In practice, any seismic activity that has been produced by the fracking boom in the United States has been negligible — indeed unobservable by anyone except geologists. Contamination of the water supply is not strictly impossible, in the sense that science does not rule absolutely preclude any scenario that meets the conditions of logic.

Yet there is no evidence that any such scenario has occurred. To issue such warnings with no evidence, or even a plausible explanation by which it might occur, is irresponsible. It is not part of any scientific debate: it is baseless superstition. The benefits of fracking, conversely, in limiting the ­environmental impact of energy exploration and in diversifying Britain’s energy mix are huge.

The biggest losers as a result of the anti-science thrust of much campaigning by Greenpeace and its equivalents, however, are the one billion people still classified as hungry.

The Times‘s dismissal of the many proven unpleasantnesses and dangers of tracking is disingenuous, to say the least.

Unobservable by anyone except geologists ?

To claim that seismic activity [read: earthquakes]has been negligible — indeed unobservable by anyone except geologists is patently untrue:

New research officially confirmed that ‘fracking’ caused the set of nearly a dozen mysterious earthquakes in Ohio in 2011. 

Scientists have spent the past two years trying to explain why Youngstown, Ohio- a town where there had been now reported earthquakes before December 2010- suddenly fell victim to 109 small quakes. [The Daily Mail, 5 Sep 2013]

They started small, but On Dec. 31, 2011, at 3:05 p.m., Youngstown was stirred by a 3.9 quake. For what it’s worth, a 3.91 quake is what was produced by a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, “touted as the most powerful non-nuclear weapon ever designed.” Non-geologists might notice that one.

Not just Ohio, either:

In 2010 and 2011, there were as many as 1,000 minor earthquakes in Arkansas. And scientists believe they were caused by fracking.

Seismologists at the U.S. Geological Survey say the disposal of millions of gallons of wastewater flowback as part of the fracking process can create “micro earthquakes,” which are rarely felt, and also the rare larger seismic disruption. Scientists say that’s what happened in Greenbrier, Arkansas, where the quakes damaged homes.

Yesterday, five local residents settled for an undisclosed sum of money after suing two oil companies. Those five residents aren’t the only ones suing Chesapeake Energy and BHP Billiton. Twenty other residents are expecting to file lawsuits in Arkansas state court, according to Reuters. [The Atlantic Cities, 29 Aug 2013]

And again:

The earthquake registered a magnitude 5.7*—the largest ever recorded in Oklahoma—with its epicenter less than two miles from the Reneaus’ house, which took six months to rebuild. It injured two people, destroyed 14 homes, toppled headstones, closed schools, and was felt in 17 states. It was preceded by a 4.7 foreshock the morning prior and followed by a 4.7 aftershock… Between 1972 and 2008, the USGS recorded just a few earthquakes a year in Oklahoma. In 2008, there were more than a dozen; nearly 50 occurred in 2009. In 2010, the number exploded to more than 1,000. [Mother Jones, March-April 2013]

And yet again:

A recent wave of small earthquakes in and around the Eagle Ford formation in Texas was probably the result of extracting oil and in some cases water used for hydraulic fracturing, according to a study.

Clusters of small-magnitude seismic events between November 2009 and September 2011 were “often associated with fluid extraction,” according to the study scheduled to appear this week in the online edition of the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The study follows previous research that links earthquakes to the disposal of drilling wastewater by injecting it underground. [Bloomberg, 27 Aug 2013]

Contamination of the water supply is not strictly impossible ?

Pity the editorial writer at The Times didn’t consult the other end of the Murdoch operation, at the Wall Street Journal:

Chemicals found in a Wyoming town’s drinking water likely are associated with hydraulic fracturing, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday, raising the stakes in a debate over a drilling technique that has created a boom in natural-gas production.

The agency’s draft findings are among the first by the government to link the technique, dubbed “fracking,” with groundwater contamination. The method—injecting large volumes of water, sand and chemicals to dislodge natural gas or oil—has been criticized by environmentalists for its potential to harm water supplies, which the industry disputes …

The EPA has responded to several instances of potential fracking contamination, including in Texas and Pennsylvania. In Texas, the EPA ordered a company, Range Resources, to provide fresh drinking water to residents who said their water was contaminated. The case is the subject of a lawsuit.

The agency ordered Pennsylvania to tighten its standards related to removal of drilling wastewater and recently said it would consider nationwide standards for disposal of such water.

Let’s bring that Pennsylvania reference up to date:

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General has filed criminal charges against ExxonMobil for illegally dumping tens of thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracturing waste at a drilling site in 2010. The Exxon subsidiary, XTO Energy, had removed a plug from a wastewater tank, leading to 57,000 gallons of contaminated water spilling into the soil.

… a July study found that the closer residents live to wells used in fracking, the more likely drinking water is contaminated, with 115 of 141 wells found to contain methane. [Thinkprogress, 11 Sep 2013]

If it’s in your coffee and shower water, what about the air you breathe? —

study by researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in late 2012 reconfirmed earlier findings of high rates of methane leakage from natural gas fields that utterly vitiate any climate benefit of natural gas, even when used as an alternative to coal.

Previous findings showed leakage of 4% methane leakage over a Colorado gas field and the new findings have more than doubled that to 9%.

Gas drilling operations release airborne contaminants that can have detrimental effects on our health.  Areas where there is gas production have reported significant increases in ozone, commonly known as smog, because some of the toxic precursors to smog, such as volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides are released during the process that brings natural gas from the ground to market.  Lisa Jackson, former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admitted in an interview with National Public Radios’ Michele Norris at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June 2011, “You are going to have huge smog problems where you never had them before……These are rural areas. … There is a lot of activity around those wells and that has an impact on air quality — and we know it already.” [Catskillmountainkeeper]

Fracking sitesMoreover, in Britain, we are not talking of fracking out where there’s land, lots of land under starry skies above, as frack-off.org.uk’s map (right) shows.

Malcolm admits a personal interest here. Two of those sites are just down the road from his new home. Dart Energy have rights all the way from Easingwold, to Tadcaster, and all the way to the centre of the city of York.

Fracking Tories

In those days of Borough Councillorship, Malcolm’s alter-ego (see top of this posting) could see where the Tory side was on the matter of compulsory purchase.

Similarly, it is comforting to observe, as at the Manchester Conference, that many Tories today remain uncomfortable with George Osborne’s approach:

Chancellor George Osborne has sent a strong message to the Conservative rural heartlands, warning that he will fight any Tory backlash against fracking and saying that it would be a real tragedy if Britain allowed the shale gas energy revolution to bypass the UK.

Research conducted by Greenpeace has shown that 38 out of 62 MPs in the south have land with existing oil and gas drilling licenses – and 35 of them are Conservatives, including many cabinet ministers.

It raises the prospect that many Tory backbenchers in the run-up to the 2015 election will find themselves conflicted by the demands of the UK economy and business to exploit the reserves, and opposition from environmental groups as well as many of their anxious constituents.

ConHome and senior voices in the Tory Party have to be rounded up to keep the line.

For how long? 

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Filed under Britain, economy, gas, George Osborne, health, politics, Times, Tories., United States

Over-sold and over-spent

To hear Tory MPs yesterday (and reading Tory commentators today) it seems that David Cameron achieved a triumph in the EU budget matched only by Wellington at Waterloo.

And, of course, Frau Merkel’s parsimony (and the prospect of a tight Bundestag election later this year) had nothing to do with it.

The achievement was all Dave’s.

Except for one small detail: the EU spend (and therefore the UK’s contribution) is likely to increase.

What was agreed was a cap: the ceiling of possible EU expenditure over 2014 to 2020. As a matter of course, the expenditure is usually considerably less than the cap — a matter of, perhaps, 10% less. What has happened is the cap has been set lower, but not any commitment to spend. So the expenditure can rise closer to the nominal cap.

As a result the ceiling has been set at €908.4 billion — were expenditure by 2020 to reach that cap, the UK would be paying an extra 6.3%.

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Filed under Britain, David Cameron, Europe, Tories.

Scrapbook (1) — file under politics

This, and the next, post is Malcolm in full-on Autolycus mode, snapping up whatever ill-considered trifles others discard or mislay.

First, then, John Harris in The Guardian, with the Tory Party Losing the plot. At least that was the newsprint title: on-line it’s:

Can David Cameron see off the Tory troublemakers?

The same-sex marriage bill has opened up deep rifts between the different factions within the Tory party. So how do insiders view the crisis that threatens to engulf David Cameron?

A bit Rentoul, Questions To Which The Answer Is No, there, Malcolm feels. Still, the essay included three of those political quotations that Malcolm cherishes:

“Pretty Fanny”

…  until the arrival of Thatcher, the Tories were a party of power: pragmatic, flexible, supremely confident – and rarely moved to the extent of passion by much more than vague patriotism and a sense of their own importance … The party-at-large was more of a giant social club than a political organisation, and the people at the top often cleaved to the mindset beautifully captured by Arthur Balfour, the Tory prime minister between 1902 and 1905: “Nothing matters very much, and most things don’t matter at all.”

UnknownAt a quick guess, Harris purloined that from Geoffrey Wheatcroft, whose The Strange Death of Tory England gets mentioned elsewhere in the article. Quite why that one, of so many Balfour gems, is the most cited may be explained in that it so perfectly matches the laid-back ennui that, unfairly, typifies Edwardian England between the Boer and the Great Wars.

Dirty Dick

Harris follows that, in the very next paragraph with:

For most of the past century, it was Labour that was most often distracted by internal strife, something that prompted the senior party figure and political diarist Richard Crossman to bemoan the different ways that each of the titans of British politics responded to political difficulties. “When the Tories are in trouble,” he wrote in 1956, “they bunch together and cogger up. When we get into trouble, we start blaming each other and rushing to the press to tell them all the terrible things that somebody else has done.”

Malcolm has the faintest suspicion that Harris is inverting Andrew Marr’s 1999 article for the New Statesman, Fear and Loathing on the Left, which is where one can also find that tit-bit from Crossman’s back-bench diaries.

That one catches Malcolm’s attention, not just because of the palpable truth and bitterness it contains, but specifically with the word “cogger”. One feels it implies all false mateyness and chaps-together, a variant of “codger” — as Dickens has it:

‘You have been drinking,’ said Ralph, ‘and have not yet slept yourself sober.’

‘I haven’t been drinking YOUR health, my codger,’ replied Mr Squeers; ‘so you have nothing to do with that.’

Ralph suppressed the indignation which the schoolmaster’s altered and insolent manner awakened, and asked again why he had not sent to him. [Nicholas Nickleby]

Or it’s a bit of that school slang (Crossman was Head Boy at Winchester, and didn’t it show)  that sticks to us through life. “Cogger” is a double-edged weapon, and typically so in Crossman’s fine Italian hand. In seventeenth-century cant, it was one who cheats at dice. Later, in Ainsworth’s Latin dictionary of 1783 it was the translation for:

Palpator, a flatterer, coger, cajoler, sycophant, glozer.

Hey! Hey! LBJ!

Harris inevitably reaches the thorny topic of ConHome:

… the website-cum-movement whose figurehead is Tim Montgomerie, the man who briefly served under Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership as his chief of staff, before going on to position himself as the voice of Tory activists. It may be some measure of the febrile state of Tory politics that Montgomerie is one of the most influential Conservative voices, who torments the leadership on a regular basis. Yesterday, he was orating from the pages of the Times, arguing that the Tories were in a “fundamentally unhealthy” state, that Cameron’s modernisation project “has been conducted casually”, and that the prime minister’s political machine “has the attention span of a goldfish”.

There are only three good reasons (and they are good) for reading ConHome: Montgomerie, Paul Goodman (the ex-MP for Wycombe) and the spectacle of Tories making fools of themselves.

Harris continues:

Montgomerie is also a high-profile supporter of Johnson, whose most notable contributions to last year’s Tory party conference were a frenzied “Boris rally”, and a new website that crystallised his view of the correct Tory path, with its url reminiscent of the political satire The Thick of It: strongandcompassionate.com. What Cameron thinks of Montgomerie is not a matter of record, though his constant manoeuvrings may bring to mind what Lyndon B Johnson famously said of advisers to President Kennedy: “They may be just as intelligent as you say. But I’d feel a helluva lot better if just one of them had ever run for sheriff.

Possible error there: that one is more usually accredited to Sam Rayburn, and said to LBJ (though, of course, Johnson was quite capable of recycling it). Rayburn was the Texan Democrat who was the longest-serving Speaker of the House of Representatives. His seventeen years, over three terms, in possession of the Speaker’s gavel (as well as an intimate knowledge of the dirt under the fingernails of Texan politics) gave ample chance for his earthy wisdom to be recorded.

And next, it is hoped, to booky things …

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Filed under David Cameron, Guardian, History, Quotations, Tim Montgomerie, Tories., US politics


Malcolm was about to wax lyrical and literary on the current vogue for Richard III and Richard III. No; they’re not the same thing. One is a tragedy and the other isn’t. Oh, work it out for yourselves.

Instead, and for the time being, he was distracted by Cllr H. Phibbs (by name, by nature), the saturnine Uncle Fester of ConHome, given unnecessary added airing by the ever-expanding Harry Cole (once “Tory Bear”, now “neo-Guido”):


It does: it’s two sets of marbles. Even in these austere times, we are allowed duplication (two governing parties, two party platforms, two loads of liars …). Even as metaphors. It’s even a kind of zeugma — something else to look up and work out.

The rest of Polly Toynbee’s piece,  gets to the belly of the beast:

The gay marriage debate has uncovered a nest of bigots

Far from showing off the party’s modernity, today’s vote has brought out the Tory old guard in all its out-of-touch glory

She hits the solar plexus:

What reasonable observer would expect gay marriage to seize their passions instead? US-style culture wars have broken out – but only within the ranks of the Tory party. Deep divides exist on many social issues, but usually the other side is at least comprehensible to the majority. We can understand why a minority of people are profoundly upset by abortion, but this arcane marriage dispute is beyond the ordinary comprehension of anyone not guided by the Bible. The anti-gay brigade built their barricades but failed against civil partnership, which gave gay couples equal rights. Although marriage is no more than a mystical word, adding no new rights, fighting over that word lets homophobes again vent abhorrence at the modern world and all its filth.

As Malcolm has sought to show, the phalanx of these self-deceiving bigots is a homophobic, theocratic, fundamentalist, creationist operation, the very unchristian Christian Institute of 4 Park Road, Gosforth, and its front organisation, the Coalition for Marriage of (surprise!) 4 Park Road, Gosforth.

That the once great Tory Party (or, at least a significant proportion — and even a “thinking” element — thereof) can be manipulated by weirdos of this ilk  tells us all we need to know.

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Filed under bigotry, ConHome, Conservative family values, Guardian, Guido Fawkes, Polly Toynbee, Tories.

Marry and burn

A heart of stone is needed, not to mock the continuing havoc an eight-letter word is causing the Tory Party.

At a quick count, at toast-and-marmalade-time today, seven of the top eight (that number again!) items on ConHome Newslinks were about “marriage” — single-sex, the financial arrangements thereof, and other hokey-cokeys. There’s even one of those annoying rolling ads for the Coalition for Marriage.

From Institute to Coalition (across the hall-way)

This Coalition for Marriage deserves a moment’s attention. Its address is 5 Park Road, Gosforth. This takes us to a soul-less warehousing development on the outskirts of Newcastle — within whiffing distance of the big Greggs pasty plant across the hedge. Presumably no coincidence, it is bang next door to The Christian Institute of  Wilberforce House, 4 Park Road, Gosforth. For all the “Christian” ethos here, the “Christian Institute” seems to have a particular track record:

  • it sought to retain Thatcher’s vindictive Clause 28, discriminating against the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality;
  • it argued for an older age-of-consent in homosexual relationships;
  • it opposed Civil Partnerships;
  • it opposed single-sex adoption rights;
  • it meddled in Northern Ireland’s attempts to draw up rules on gender equality;
  • it funded a case in Islington, where a Council employee refused to work on the documentation of civil partnerships (and lost);
  • it funded the boarding-house owner who discriminated against gays(and lost).

Not surprisingly, then, the Institute has repeatedly been warned off crossing the line between “charity” and political activism.

Oh, and the Institute are New Earthers, theocrats, and bigots:

The Bible is without error not only when it speaks of salvation, its own origins, values, and religious matters, but it is also without error when it speaks of history and the cosmos. Christians must, therefore, submit to its supreme authority, both individually and corporately, in every matter of belief and conduct.

Anyone for an auto-da-fé?

The Christian Institute is strong on discipline:

The Church’s calling is to worship and serve God in the world, to proclaim and defend his truth, to exhibit his character and to demonstrate the reality of his new order.

New order … where did we come on that before? Then, in the original, was it not more correctly Neuordnung?

And also hot on punishment:

Evildoers will suffer eternal punishment. God will fully establish his kingdom when he creates a new heaven and a new earth from which evil, suffering and death will be excluded, and in which he will be glorified for ever.

Ah, yes: bring back the old ways of glorifying for ever:


A Malcolmian solution:

Ever one to be helpful, Malcolm reckons he has a way to satisfy all but the most extreme theocrat:

  • Allow whatever religious, denominational or whatever practices of human bonding to persist, but keep them at pitchfork’s length from the State;
  • Recognise only civil-marriage sand registrations of relationships to be recognised for official State needs.

In other words, do as they do in France — a civil and (should the couple wish) a religious ceremony. But only the one has the official imprimatur and it has to happen first. If the Château de Candé was good enough for an (ex-)King and Emperor, then the local Town Hall should suit anyone else.


Filed under bigotry, Britain, broken society, civil rights, ConHome, Conservative family values, Religious division, Tories.