Saturday, 18 April 2015

In Politics You Need to be Lucky

Time I think for another digression whilst we wait for confirmation that the CRC owners have at last cottoned-on that they have indeed bitten off more than they can comfortably chew.

'If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal' so the saying goes and of course here in the UK we have a particularly crap electoral system that hasn't a hope in hell of delivering representation that comes anywhere near the true wishes of the people. But then we have the Liberal Democrats to thank for screwing up our one-and-possibly-only chance of electoral reform when they chose the wrong system to hold a referendum on.

And whilst on the subject of the Lib Dems, I'm absolutely clear that they and odious Nick Clegg must be punished for facilitating the demolition of the Probation Service. Of course he doesn't look too worried about a possible 'meltdown', despite breaking numerous promises, because he knows full well that the system he was too inept to change will in all probability carry on propping-up his party's share of the seats, if not the share of the vote. 

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Despite this, many of us may hope to see Clegg unseated in Sheffield, but smug bastard that he is, he knows full well that the anti-Clegg vote will be split between any number of hapless also-rans, thus ensuring he's quite likely to get returned. As I say, our system is crap and the unspoken but unpalatable truth is that for 90% of us, it's a complete waste of time putting a cross on a piece of paper.

Of course we can't speak of this for fear of frightening the horses and putting even more impressionable young people off from voting, but the reality is that most seats are 'safe' with not a cat in hell's chance of unseating some odious or uninspiring loyal party supporter, no matter how crap a job they do. 

For those who are unsure whether they reside in a constituency where voting is a waste of time or not, just count up how much party literature has been delivered along with the pizza menus. If the answer is close to zero, then your sitting MP and party has an important message for you 'I can happily do without your vote as shed loads of your neighbours vote me/us in every time'. 

The other parties have an important message for you as well 'It's a forgone conclusion round here and we're just going through the motions in order to provide a bit of training for our aspiring wannabees before we find them a safe seat'. But to add insult to injury and help bolster the illusion of a democratic process, one free leaflet from each party will be sent out, but paid for out of public not party funds. Our laughably-called Elected Representatives really do know how to take the piss.

Now I'm fortunate to live in a constituency where the sitting MP is likely to be unseated, but of course due to our crap electoral system and the rise of parties like the Greens and UKIP, they are just as likely to hang on because the opposition will be nicely split and thus pose no great threat at all. Labour is a close second as evidenced from the last general election, but could be robbed by a plethora of candidates with no hope of winning. 

I can't believe how 'tactical voting' is just never discussed nowadays, just like the Barnett Formula, because the big parties fear such loose talk would indeed scare the horses and upset the apple cart. It is completely unacceptable that Nicola Sturgeon feels she can hold the rest of the UK to ransom and just grins when Nigel Farage is the only politician who dares to mention that the free prescriptions and lack of university fees in Scotland is only possible because they are paid for by the rest of the UK under the Barnett Formula. 

Having said all this, the beauty of this election is that the outcome is pretty much unknown. Labour have all but given up on Scotland and will join the Tories in losing virtually all their seats to the SNP. We know there will be no party with overall control and deals will have to be struck between some unlikely bedfellows. We know politicians frequently break their promises and it's entirely possible that Barnett is revisited, no matter what was promised in order to swing the Independence Referendum in Scotland. 

I think we all know the Tory party is really the nasty party and the staggering numbers of people accessing Food Banks and suffering Benefit sanctions helps provide the evidence. Equally, the number of people forced to endure zero-hour contracts puts the recent 'glowing' emloyment figures into context, despite Iain Duncan Smith's valiant attempt to have them rebranded as 'flexible' contracts. And the Tories wonder why so many hate them and that the election isn't going well for them?  

Many commentators are beginning to notice that the Tories are getting worried that the message on the economy is not getting through, just as Ed Miliband is beginning to look more confident and possibly even Prime Ministerial. David Cameron is going to find it increasingly hard to shake off the charge that he dare not debate face-to-face with him and the signs are that, despite what buttons he pushes, nothing seems to be working in winning over the Electorate.

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Which brings me on to the strange phenomenon of 'cross-dressing'. Whilst Ed has been ensuring that Labour can't be accused of making lots of unfunded spending promises, the Tories have suddenly started promising lots of goodies without explaining where the money is coming from. The assumption is that it's just old-fashioned election bribery, but dear readers, I think there's another explanation and they definitely don't want you to know about it! 

Politics is as much about luck as anything and there is a silver bullet that could potentially nail the austerity question, fund public services, cure the debt burden and in one fell swoop give a massive boost to Labour by proving there really is another way. The story broke only a few weeks ago, but quickly forgotten as the caravan moved on, and that's just the way the Tories want to keep it. But it explains the sudden talk of Tory largess, together with Ed's rather more relaxed look of late. 

What the hell is it Jim? 

Why, we've struck oil!!     
A small British oil company has found a bonanza of potentially billions of barrels of oil beneath a field near London’s Gatwick Airport. The only problem is how much of the oil is accessible.
UK Oil and Gas Investments (UKOG) said April 9 that 3,000 feet of exploratory drilling at Wytch Farm in the Weald Basin, a rural area just north of the airport, discovered a “world-class potential resource.” The area is now referred to as “Britain’s Dallas.” It was the deepest well dug in the region in three decades.
“We think we’ve found a very significant discovery here, probably the largest [onshore well in the UK] in the last 30 years, and we think it has national significance,” UKOG CEO Stephen Sanderson told the BBC.
UKOG said an analysis of the deposit, called Horse Hill-1, shows it may contain up to 158 million barrels of oil per square mile, indicating that the entire well may hold as much as 100 billion barrels of oil, 10 times larger than previous estimates. The Weald Basin rivals the entire oil reserves of Kuwait, which sits over 101.5 billion barrels of crude. And the site may prove to be more productive – and easier to work – than North Sea wells, from which Britain has produced about 42 million barrels in the past 40 years. The North Sea is a leading source of oil for Britain, but has become less productive in the past 15 years.
"The Weald Basin rivals the entire oil reserves of Kuwait" - blimey, I bet this news might even wipe the smile off Nicola Sturgeon's face!


For those interested in following the oil story, believe in conspiracies or are just plain suspicious, amazingly, shortly after the initial statement from UKOG, another clarifying statement was issued and this story appeared in the Independent:-

Gatwick oil discovery: UKOG issues climbdown as black gold boom 'sounds too good to be true'

An oil boom may not be about to turn the area around Gatwick airport into the Dallas of southern England after all, despite excited announcements just last week that as many as 100 billion barrels of black gold may be lying beneath the fields of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire.

While experts were quick to cast doubt on the scale of the forecast, the small oil company involved was forced by the London Stock Exchange to make revised predictions.

The company said its estimate for the 3,500 square-mile Weald had been based upon limited exploration from a single well in a very small section of the overall basin – the 55 square mile Horse Hill licence that makes up a tiny fraction of the overall Weald basin. As a result, it was not in a position to make a forecast for the basin as a whole where the rock formations vary considerably depending on the area.

“The company has not undertaken work outside of its licence areas sufficient to comment on the possible oil in place [for] the weald basin,” the company said in a statement.

This is what John Ward of The Slog says:-

Although called the CEO of UKOG, Mr Sanderson is not on the Board, as such: in other words, he has no power. He’s got the title at UKOG, I’d imagine, because he has an outstanding record of both finding oil, and estimating what it’s worth.

With over three decades of experience under his belt, Sanderson can list several notable coups in his career: He was the key player in discovering the huge Norwegian Smørbukk-Midgard field complex for ARCO (now BP); and over time, he’s spearheaded and managed the successful appraisal of oil and gas fields in the North Sea, Netherlands and Algeria. He has an appraisal and exploration track record in excess of 170 fields with asset values of up to $7 Billion on average.

So Stephen Sanderson is no slouch. In fact, on hiring the bloke last January, David Lenigas, UKOG’s Chairman, commented: “Having been the author of the technical appraisal of our recent Horse Hill discovery in the Weald Basin, Stephen will add significant technical and commercial strength to the Company’s management team here in the UK.”

But on this occasion, he appears to have mispoken: when he said “world class find”, he meant to say “worthless find”.

To be exact, the Board on which he does not sit said that the company had “not undertaken work…sufficient to comment”. But Mr Sanderson, I have established, did not announce the revised estimate of the energy find to the media without the Board’s approval.

So why the sudden change of heart? Did Downing Street panic that the gaff might be about to blow on the destruction of its austerity and fracking rationales?


  1. You attack Nick Clegg for damaging probation??????????????? Clegg didn't do this CHIS GRAYLING did. I am not sure why the vitriol against Clegg - sure he's made mistakes but the blame for the probation fiasco belongs solely to Grayling and the Tories.

    1. The lib Dems Clegg are tories . Same coalition same view .

    2. Grayling is not all that important. He didn't devise anything, he was just put in position because he is psychopathic enough to push it through. Once they are done with the criminal justice system he will be moved on to another derpartment. Clegg and Cameron are the leaders and they must be held responsible.

    3. Anon at 09:15 You have an interesting view of history - it was the Lib Dems who insisted on the split between NPS and CRC's and actively encouraged all the crap about £46 in their pocket. Oh and Nick Clegg knew fuck all about Probation and was more than happy to go back on his warm words about us when in bed with the Tories. That's why there's vitriol my friend.

    4. Mr Brown, I'm curious as to where your evidence is that Nick Clegg was the political individual solely responsible for the demise of the probation service. Nothing I have seen or read even hints at such a stance and everything I've seen and read lays the blame for the debacle clearly at the feet of Grayling who is 100% to blame for TR. Remember that we had no TR when Ken Clarke was SSJ and Clegg was DP then. TR only came about when Grayling took office.

    5. Anon 15:42 A very reliable inside source who confirmed that during early coalition negotiations the Tories wanted to privatise the whole Probation Service, but Nick Clegg refused. In order to get any Lib Dem support, the wheeze of the split was hatched in order to 'protect the public' and all the £46 in your pocket bollocks was hatched.

      It was a deal right from the beginning at the insistence of Nick Clegg who happily tore up his previous pledge to the wonderful Probation Service. Many feel that it's the split that created the chaos and without it there might have been a more successful campaign against the whole thing.

  2. I agree. Clegg out. He is to blame for TR.

  3. Please let us not forget the role played by "neutral" civil servants in all of this clusterfuck. The Daily ChainMail in 2012 had this opinion piece about Madame Guillotine:

    "How permanent is a Permanent Secretary? In the case of Ursula Brennan at the MoD, the answer is twenty months. In a fortnight she clears her desk and goes back to the Ministry of Justice.
    She was appointed in November 2010; before that she was the MoD’s 2nd Permanent Secretary – for just twenty-four months. The announcement on the increasingly Orwellian MoD website says that 'during her time she has been a key driver in reforming and reshaping Defence so that the Department can continue to take on future challenges'.
    Let me put it another way: 'As 2nd Permanent Secretary she was one of the key diggers of the £38bn black hole in the Defence budget.'
    Her valedictory message to Ministry of Truth – I mean MoD – civil servants reads: 'I have been proud to lead the MoD as its Permanent Secretary and Accounting Officer through a period of remarkable change.'
    Let me suggest what that message ought to have been – in 'Oldspeak': 'I am deeply embarrassed at not having done my duty as Permanent Secretary in allowing Dr Liam Fox to have irregular contacts with Mr Adam Werrity, leading to the resignation of the Secretary of State, and I apologise to all those civil servants and servicemen who are being made redundant because of the shortcomings of the defence management board in allowing the department to go bankrupt.'
    But 'Oldspeak' would be unlikely to lead to a new job, would it not?
    The Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, writes:
    'I congratulate Ursula Brennan on her appointment at the MOJ and wish her every success in the future. She has achieved a great deal in the MOD at a very challenging time and has provided excellent support to me and my predecessor.'"

    And now she has had oversight of TR, with redundancies aplenty to come in CRCs and (alleged oil strike pending) NPS. And for this she "earned an honorary Doctorate of Civil Law from her alma mater. In 2013, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath, for public service, in Queen Elizabeth's New Year Honours" (From Wikipedia). Perhaps in the same way a modern footballer "earns" a penalty?

  4. Wish we had a Nicola Sturgeon to vote for. What a breath of fresh air. Leanne Wood too.

  5. At first I was wondrin' who wrote this post. It appears to be Jim himself. What a disappointment then the embitter and petty jibes at the SNP. For info, despite all the Daily Mail style boo-hooing about the Barnett formula, England never subsidised any other country in its miserable existence. Perhaps a clue as to why the indepence badwagon just keeps growing. "McAnon"

  6. Are you kiddin??? As a Scot I am honest enough to recognise the Barnett formula does give Scotland more £per head than other parts of UK, you can not deny this....and yes my family in Scotland get free prescriptions and my niece and nephew pay no university fees whereas my kids pay £9000 each 'cos wenow live in England.All of that is true.

    1. Yes, but its hardly the whole story is it? Are you just being disingenuous or do you really not get that? Barnett concerns monetary allocations, not actual respurces contributed. Scotland had been subsidising rest of uk to tune of 5-7billion p. a. since late 70's. And the prescription/ uni fees issue is to do with the choices the Scottish parliament made in allocating resources. It is NOT an English subsidy. "McAnon"

    2. yup I know - stop being so offensive ! Fact is Barnett formula ensures more £per head north of the border...yup FACT. Please let's not get into the 'look what the English have done to Scots since the dawn of time' list.....a fellow Scot

    3. Scotland gets £1200 per head more under Barnett, but, in the wider picture, contributes £1700 per head more! Some subsidy! "Fact!" PS- hint- putting something in BLOCK CAPITALS doesnt make it a "fact", it just makes you sound SHOUTY.

    4. shouty perhaps but you sound awfie thrawn and I feel a wee bit patronised, giving up this blog for a bit.....just feeling like a Scots Nat keeps stompin on mae heed
      Orkney lass

    5. I'm not going to rise to the "cybernat" bait. That's been done to death by the unionists in the last few years. For the record,I am not a "scots nat", I'm a supporter of independence; not the same thing. My concerns about the original blog remain, and remain unaddressed. The "subsidy junkie" myth is not only offensive, its potentially downright dangerous. The Daily Mail and the Sun are on the case big time, stirring up resentments. I was genuinely shocked to see comments like that on this blog. As for the stuff about "completely unacceptable..for Sturgeon to hold the rest of the UK to ransom", you'd need a whole seperate blog to detail everything that's wrong with that one

    6. Most of the material being debated during this election is based on spurious data and misrepresented 'truths'. For instance, having Scotland 'hold the rest of the UK to ransom' denies the fact that England has done this for centuries.. The media drives the agenda on the basis of its need to sell papers and the politicians seek to manipulate the media as much as they are able. The real issues get lost.

    7. Context is everything. The media loathe context because it gets in the way of a good story. Most of us are uncomfortable with context bcause it means we have to rxamine ourselves. I watched a Scottish Parliament debate not so long back & was impressed. Lots of point scoring, lots of disagreement BUT intelligent debate, no public schoolboy mooing. I spend a lot of time over the wall and delight in the straightforwardness of those I spend time with. It feels uncomplicated. La Sturgeon impresses me, as did Salmond (whats with all the fish?). And I am regarded by most who know me as slightly pompous, reasonably well-off, and very English. Context is everything.

  7. I'd put money on Clegg losing for one reason. Shortly after tuition fees were trebled, trebled don't forget, BBC Question Time was broadcast from Clegg's constituency. Clegg didn't appear and the rage was tangible. A woman who worked at a local University said that pre-election they couldn't keep Clegg off of campus as he was milking photo ops with students, signing the Lib Dem 'pledge' to abolish fees. Every student will have parents and family who will remember this absolute treachery. We all seethe at broken promises but when they treble a debt that will be a millstone round your neck for decades, that 'pledge' will be to Clegg what the Iraq war is to Blair. Tony.

  8. Who cares if the tories win. We've been privatised already so it won't effect us!!!!

    1. You are joking aren't you? I can't always tell! Just in case you are serious: there will be the police service, social services and NPS to be privatised for starters, plus getting rid of Human Rights Act.

    2. You're right!

    3. On behalf of a third party:-

      In response to 14:11 - Hello, is this "Who cares if the Tories win. We've been privatised already so it won't affect us - Discuss????"

      If the Tories are re-elected the neo liberal approach is designed to continues with its unrelenting assault on the Welfare State, which will have huge implications for the vast majority of us. I would urge you to read the full article published in the Guardian on 15th April 2015, entitled 'The Tories will reduce UK Public Spending to Estonian Levels'. Here is a taster:

      "In the main parties’ election manifestos published this week, public spending is still public enemy number one. The Conservatives insist that a further £12bn in cuts to the welfare budget must be found over the course of the next parliament. If it isn’t, they warn, then the hordes of so-called skivers who receive unemployment benefit, child support, or disability benefits will keep draining Britain dry.

      George Osborne’s publicly declared wish to cut further could involve far deeper cuts than are shown here for 2019. Given the trajectory that the chancellor has already chosen, and the head of steam built up by the coalition, it is possible to envisage more of the NHS being privatised, more selling off of what remains of state housing, more redundancies in the civil service, and for social workers and nurses. There are ever-deeper cuts to make if your mantra is that a smaller state is always good."

    4. Good response, trouble is labour aren't much better. They're chanting the same mantra. Remember all that stuff about "dont talk to racists, dont talk to fascists"? Perhaps its time to extend it to exclude neoliberals as well.