Tuesday 28 December 2010

Separated at birth?

Has anyone else noticed the remarkable similarity between LibDem Vince Cable, beleaguered Secretary of State for Business, and Conservative Brian Coleman, Barnet Cabinet Member for canap├ęs?

Both have a highly inflated ego and sense of self importance.

Both have a reputation for indiscretion and opening mouth before engaging brain.

Both allow their prejudices to interfere with the smooth running of their departments. Coleman’s contempt of the Fire Brigades Union held up negotiations over revised working practices, whilst Cable’s undisguised hatred of Rupert Murdoch was incompatible with his quasi-judicial role to rule on the proposed News International/BSkyB merger.

Neither men allow principles to stand in the way of holding down a public position carrying a high salary. Coleman opposes high density housing but has consistently voted for it in Council. Cable opposes university tuition fees but actually introduced the Bill which will treble them to £9,000.

Perhaps this is a coalition of equals after all?

Children's book funding fiasco

Read all about it here.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Another bloody repeat!

Don’t Call Me Dave extends the compliments of the season to all of his readers.

Not The Barnet Times is now closing down for the festive season, although DCMD will continue posting on his other blog, Verbum Sapienti.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Christmas Repeats

Every Christmas it’s the same - nothing but repeats on the telly. In honour of this festive tradition, Don’t Call Me Dave is proud to repeat one of his most popular video clips from last year.

Friday 17 December 2010

Mr Bumble in a pickle

A key aspect of the Government’s new Localism Bill is to transfer power from the centre back to the people. In theory, a welcome and long overdue proposal. In reality, all that will happen is that power is devolved from Westminster bureaucrats to Town Hall bureaucrats. We, the people, won’t get a look in. As Mr Reasonable points out today, Barnet Council will try every trick in the book to avoid any democratic scrutiny by the electorate.

The Localism Bill is being promoted by Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Local Government. For him to allow inept local authorities to have even greater powers without making them more accountable to the people they are supposed to serve, proves that politicians care more about platitudes and sound bites than real genuine democracy.

Thursday 16 December 2010

£100 million. The real cost of BT Vital Vision?

As astute readers will have noticed, Don’t Call Me Dave has been blogging more frequently of late, despite having retired several times. He previously stated that he did not wish to comment about Barnet Council any further; partly because of his studies, partly because he felt there was nothing more he could usefully add to the debate, but also because the Borough is more than adequately represented in the blogosphere. Mr Reasonable, for example, has recently exposed some breathtaking incompetence by the council in its reporting of the costs of the Future Shape project (or whatever it is called this week).

But DCMD has been alerted to a report in The Grauniad regarding a matter he has written about previously which is of material concern to local taxpayers. It has been alleged that Suffolk County Council overspent by £100 million on its outsourcing contract with British Telecom and ignored repeated warnings from its former head of supplier relationship management, Michael Gower.

In 2009, Suffolk’s Chief Executive Andrea Hill twice accepted hospitality from BT to attend their Vital Vision ‘conference’ in America and Gower alleges that she personally blocked his attempt to change the contract as costs spiralled out of control.

Readers will recall that former Barnet Council leader Mike Freer also flew off to America with BT at a cost of over £5,000 to taxpayers. Freer, who is now the MP for Finchley & Golders Green, cheekily tried to claim that he had been awarded an MBA for attending this junket conference. Not wishing to be left out, Leo Boland, Barnet’s former Chief Executive now running the shop at the GLA for a mere £215,000 a year, also treated himself to this little jolly at our expense.

The decision to spend Barnet taxpayers’ money attending Vital Vision was never scrutinised by councillors. Freer was given ‘permission’ to go by the unelected Chief Executive. Boland, who went the year after Freer, didn’t need permission from anyone because nobody in the council had the cojones to question any of his decisions. Neither Freer nor Boland produced any public report explaining what, if anything, they learnt from these conferences, why it was necessary for both of them to attend or how their attendance benefited taxpayers.

In a further twist to the tale, Suffolk council currently employs Max Wide as director of organisational change, on secondment from BT. Wide was previously working at Barnet in a similar role, also on secondment from BT. It begs the question just how much time he spends working for his employer and how much in councils which just happen to have high value BT contracts?

DCMD wonders if Mr Wide has ever worked on secondment at Liverpool City Council who would, according to the Gruaniad article, be £23 million a year better off if they scrapped their £70 million per annum contract with BT.

All Barnet’s contracts with BT must now be independently scrutinised to ensure that everything is above board and that the council is receiving best value for money. As the council professes to believe in openness and accountability, DCMD trusts that his forthcoming FOI request for details of its BT contracts will be answered swiftly and fully. Anything less will simply increase speculation that the process for awarding high value contracts is rotten to the core.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Can we have the one with the banana?

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Stupid Boy Ed Miliband explained why he thinks David Cameron does not understand the views of ordinary voters: “Because he’s a Tory.”

Well that’s a really mature and constructive comment from the leader of the only major political party to officially have no policies.

Is it too late to have the more sensible Miliband at the helm?

MPs know what they are talking about

MPs have criticised as “unacceptable” the salary package for Andy Duncan, Chief Executive of Channel Four, which last year amounted to £1.5 million.

These are the same MPs who, for years, robbed the taxpayer blind for completely fictitious allowance claims.

Whilst this looks like a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, when it comes to ‘unacceptable’ pay, perhaps we should bow to ‘honourable’ members' superior knowledge and expertise?

We are all Thatcher’s children

Two weeks ago, the leader of the Opposition, Teddy Miliband, accused the Prime Minister of being a child of Thatcher. David Cameron replied that he would rather be a child of Thatcher than a son of Brown.

According to the annual British Social Attitudes report, Britain is now a more Thatcherite nation than when the Blessed Margaret was Prime Minister. After 13 years under Labour rule, many adults now believe that economic inequality is down to “individual laziness on the one hand and hard work on the other.”

Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly in light of the above, the research also showed strong support for increased public spending on health and education - the latter about to be slashed the new Government.

Cue the usual anti-Thatcher Socialist drivel from the usual suspects.

Sunday 12 December 2010

F.A. no better than F.I.F.A.

At the risk of upsetting patriotic readers, Don’t Call Me Dave was pleased that England did not win the right to host the World Cup in 2018. It is not that he thinks we couldn’t do a good job, because patently we could. Nor does it have anything to do with cost, because the support for football in this country almost ensures we would run the contest at a profit.

It is simply that we had no business taking part in the bidding process. Panorama and the Sunday Times both exposed corruption within F.I.F.A. but the F.A. is no paragon of virtue. It is neither democratic nor accountable in any shape or form to the hundreds of thousands of ordinary football fans who fund this archaic organisation from the money they pay week in and week out to watch their favourite team.

It has been reported that England have now cancelled a friendly game in Thailand which had been agreed in order to secure the vote of the Thai F.A. Boris Johnson has withdrawn hospitality previously offered to Sebb Blatter for the Olympics. How can we complain about corruption within F.I.F.A. when we are not averse to making grubby deals of our own?

The simple truth is that the F.A. is stuffed full of crusty old farts who seem to be rather partial to all the corporate hospitality that goes with the job. Football is of secondary importance to them. They knew full well what F.I.F.A. was like and yet they were willing to play them at their game - until it all went tits up. It is far too late for the F.A. to now adopt the moral high ground and we should never even considered submitting a bid knowing that the system was rotten.

We blew £15 million on a bid which had absolutely no chance of winning. Just think what a difference that amount of money could have made to schools football?

Our country has been humiliated through the deluded vanity of a bunch of self-serving troglodytes. If we want to reclaim the game for its real supporters, fans should boycott International games until all the ruling bodies get their houses in order. Until then, it is time to say F.O. to the F.A.

Saturday 11 December 2010

War & Peace

Don’t Call Me Dave has received an e-mail suggesting that his support for the students in their campaign against the increase in tuition fees is support for the violence which has accompanied the demonstrations. Such a suggestion is completely unfounded. DCMD does not condone violence in any shape or form and has written previously to that effect.

It was deeply depressing to see pictures of Charlie Gilmour climbing the Cenotaph and the Royal car being attacked. Such scenes only serve to demonise all students, notwithstanding that the majority were intent only on peaceful protest. Thanks to the actions of a few mindless idiots, the Government now occupies the moral high ground in the eyes of many of the public.

Under the last Labour Government, the rules relating to demonstrations were drastically altered to the detriment of peaceful protestors and recent events are likely to see them tightened further.

Organisers need to plan better in future to minimise the likelihood of trouble makers hijacking demonstrations for their own nefarious aims. Likewise, the Police need to develop better tactics so that miscreants can be swiftly identified and removed from the scene without affecting peaceful demonstrators and innocent bystanders. The process of containment known as kettling herds and confines the innocent and guilty together with no means of escape. Such a tactic causes panic and increases the risk of innocent people being hurt.

This country has a proud history of peaceful protest and the Police are, more often than not, able to control proceedings without interfering with the demonstrators’ rights. That a small minority break the law is not a reason to curb the rights of the majority. The Police simply have to improve their intelligence and tactics. It is not in anyone’s interest if the younger generation grows up resenting the Police instead of respecting and trusting them.

We don't need no education

The Government’s argument for increasing tuition fees and reducing the education budget has been made entirely on economic grounds. The budget deficit has to be reduced and nothing else matters. But despite the perilous state of the nation’s finances, the health budget has been ring-fenced, as well as the overseas aid budget. Clearly education is not considered as important.

This is the root cause of the problem with higher education in this country, in that society does not value it as being as beneficial as other countries do.

Americans see education as a life-long journey and, indeed, DCMD’s American friends are always interested in knowing how he is getting on with his university course and want to know what texts he is studying. The response of his British friends has generally been along the lines of “What do you want to do that for?”

As many readers know, DCMD runs a successful business. He won’t be able to use his degree (assuming he graduates!) to try and gain promotion, but the idea of improving himself just for the sake of it seems to be a concept lost on many of his contemporaries. DCMD’s late grandfather read history books into his 90s and his mother graduated only last year with a Masters degree at the age of….well it would be rude to say! The day we stop learning is the day we stop living.

DCMD is a huge fan of the journalist Simon Heffer, both of his masterful style of writing and his incisive political wit. But on the subject of tuition fees, Heffer is completely wrong. He talks of education being a privilege, whereas DCMD considers it to be a right. It is true that you do not need a degree to operate the checkout tills at Tesco, but if the checkout operators wish to improve themselves through higher education, we should welcome their decision and encourage their aspirations. To suggest that only certain people should go to university is a type of educational apartheid that we should consign to the history books.

There is enormous snobbery attached to the education system. Former polytechnics are considered to be inferior to “real” universities and people with “real” degrees are always complaining about the proliferation of so-called “Mickey Mouse” degrees. An arts degree does not qualify a student to carry out brain surgery but if it turns students into better people, who is to say that that is not a socially desirable outcome?

We do need more doctors, engineers and scientists, but that should not be to the exclusion of everything else. DCMD acknowledges that society will not benefit from him gaining an English degree - he will be far too old to do anything with it - and there is a case to be made that he should pay more of the cost, notwithstanding that he would have been entitled to a fully taxpayer funded education when he left school 30 years ago. But the majority of younger students will be able to use their degrees, even if not directly, and there is a quantifiable benefit to society in that.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has developed a well earned reputation for buffoonery, but on the matter of restoring Latin education he is 100% correct. DCMD studied Latin to ‘O’ Level standard and can still recite the whole of “Show me the way to go home” in Latin which he was once able to put to practical use!

In its leader column yesterday, the Daily Telegraph suggested that the alternative to raising tuition fees was to load the cost on to taxpayers who do not benefit from a university education. This was an entirely false premise because society as a whole benefits from a highly educated workforce. Given that we don’t manufacture very much any more, we will be dependent upon a knowledge based economy for our future prosperity.

Nobody disputes the need to reduce the deficit but students did not cause this recession, yet they are being asked to suffer the consequences and pay for the profligacy of others. The government should cut waste and bureaucracy before mortgaging our children’s future without their consent.

DCMD despairs of the politicians and bean counters who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Students are right to be fearful for the future of higher education, but it is the whole of society which will lose out.

Friday 10 December 2010

Lies, damned lies and politicians

Don’t Call Me Dave has just watched Boy Wonder Ed Miliband on the news criticising the Liberal Democrats for breaking their election pledge over tuition fees. He said that this kind of action damages trust in politics.

Is this the same Ed Miliband whose party promised not to introduce tuition fees in their 2001 manifesto only to do so three years later? Or promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in the 2005 campaign only to renege on that pledge as well?

The simple truth is this: politicians are all just opportunistic hypocrites, and nothing short of a revolution will rid us of the cancer which is destroying our country.

Maggie & The Knights of the Round Table

A 14th century painting of Margaret Thatcher, known as the Rochefoucauld Grail, sold for £2.4 million at Sotheby’s this week. Click to enlarge image.

Thursday 9 December 2010

The Party's Over

Today marks the end of the Liberal Democrats as a serious political party - assuming that they were ever thus.

In the Commons vote on tuition fees this evening, some LibDems will vote for the increase, some will vote against and some will abstain. All things to all people.

You cannot be considered a credible political party if you cannot make up your mind on a matter of such national importance.

The problem for the LibDems is that they are so used to being in opposition, they never actually considered the possibility that they might have to honour their promises.

If Nick Clegg had any principles, he would resign. But the way he reneged on his personal manifesto pledge proves that he has none. He sold his soul for a ministerial car and a red box.

It is hard to imagine anything other than total electoral wipe-out for the LibDems at the next election and that can only benefit the Labour Party.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Happy December!

As posted on Verbum Sapienti blog

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all … and a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2011, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make England great, (not to imply that England is necessarily greater than any other), and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee.


(By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.)

Saturday 4 December 2010

Gordon is a moron!

Brian Gordon, Tory councillor for Hale Ward, has exceeded DCMD’s low expectations of him with a typically ignorant letter to the Barnet Times criticising the student protests against the increase in tuition fees.

Perhaps Cllr Gordon was hoping that his letter would detract attention from the hypocrisy of the Conservative Party which bitterly opposed tuition fees when introduced by former Prime Minister Tony B Liar, only to triple them once in office.

Nobody disputes that the country is almost bankrupt thanks to Gordon Brown’s insane financial mismanagement of the economy but, as Whitney Houston put it so eloquently, children are our future. We should teach them well and let them lead the way out of recession.

Education is a right, not a privilege, and to save money by putting up tuition fees or reducing the education budget is a false economy. Given that we don’t actually make anything in this country anymore, our future prosperity lies in a skills based economy. Perhaps this is a concept that Cllr Gordon, who receives £25,930 per annum in allowances from the taxpayer, is unable to grasp.

One thing can be said with 100% certainty. Students did not cause this recession, yet they are being asked to suffer the consequences and pay for the profligacy of others. It is their futures we have mortgaged without seeking their consent. In a free and democratic society, we should welcome peaceful protest and it is to the students’ credit that they recognise the iniquity of the Government’s policy. There is not a shred of evidence that any of the recent troubles were caused by Barnet Sixth Formers.

Brian Gordon complains about “a lack of natural respect for authority.” Given that the council, of which he is a member, lost £30 million of taxpayers’ money in dodgy Icelandic investments, overspent £11 million on the Aerodrome Road bridge project, and brought ridicule on the Borough with the recent Allowancegate scandal, it is not entirely clear on what basis Cllr Gordon thinks he is entitled to any respect from students, or anyone else.