I can say with absolute certainty, that I’m not the only person in the UK that thinks, who every time he sees our idiot home secretary on the TV, or even hears her name, that thinks ‘Fuck off, Jacqui Smith’. In fact, I suspect we’re in the majority.

Her latest idiocy involves the most recent example in a string of data losses by her department of sensitive data. Our Jacqui apparently feels it’s “completely unsatisfactory”. No shit, Sherlock.

According to the BBC:

Ms Smith said the government had held the data securely but PA Consulting appeared to have downloaded it, contrary to the rules of its contract.

Well here’s a thought: if ‘PA Consulting’ (no doubt one of the huge array of private companies that New Labour have brought in to take over work that was traditionally done by Civil Servants – you know, who had some semblance or responsibility and understanding of confidentiality) were able to download it, in spite of their not actually being allowed to, then, Ms Smith, it can’t have been held very securely, can it?

Yet again, someone else is to blame. Not the people who hired these jokers, not the people who let private companies have not just confidential data they were suppose to have, but data they weren’t even supposed to be allowed to have.

And the whiny one, who’s supposedly the home secretary of a left-wing government, states that they are currently

“reviewing the terms of that contract and other contracts”.

Great. Hooray. So this is a commercial, contractual question is it. Not civil rights or government responsibility. It’s about people not delivering what they bid to do.

Fuck off, Jacqui Smith, and let the grown ups have a go.

(PS: Your first name’s pretty stupid too.)

Apologies from a break from posting. I’ve been on holiday, and then returned to a silly season that was just too silly to be able to say anything sensible about. I was hoping it would get less silly, but instead it’s just gone quiet on the political scene. So perhaps it’s time to turn to the big question for British progressives – the Miliband question. And more specifically, not just will Miliband get the premiership of the Labour party, but the more important question of whether this would be a good thing.

Long answer short: I’m inclined to think it would be.

I don’t think Gordon Brown is a bad prime minister, or at least not the disaster that people are claiming. Okay, so he’s made some bad choices – nearly calling an election (though I’m inclined to think his mistake was believing the polls which said he could win it, and thinking about calling the election, rather than chickening out. Obviously the Tories would enjoy a bounce when they announced their election bribes), selling off the gold reserves at a low value, etc. – but none of these has been a major issue. The one big mistake, in my mind, was the 42 day detention fiasco, not least because it probably burnt what little support he had left from the grassroots. Ultimately, and I’ve said this before, I think the Labour party’s woes are mostly Tony’s idiotic mistakes come home to roost – by the end he was a far worse prime minister than Gordon will ever prove to be. At least Gordie isn’t killing thousands of people.

I’m also willing to suppose that events could save things for Labour. If there is a major event that allows Gordon to stand ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with President Obama, the glow might well rub off. If the economy takes an upturn with a new positive outlook among the world population (go with me here), things might well turn around. Hell, the Olympic golds will surely have gained him a couple of points. But, failing some major event, I think the Labour party’s had it at the next election. They can hope for a hung parliament, I guess.

So, failing events, what do they need? It’s back to Obama again: they need a new voice, someone photogenic to rally round. Who’ll cry for change, won’t be an Eton-educated toff like Cameron (and, of course, Boris Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson) and give the party a new edge. New Labour was supposed to mark a move away from politics as normal (as the Americans would put it), and Cameron would be a step back. If they are going to prove that a Labour man is Tony’s true successor (not something that’s necessarily the case, mind), they need to reinforce this idea that Cameron aint it.

So Miliband? I’ve no love lost for him – he’s an arch-Blairite, was wrong on Iraq, has relatively little experience and will probably love ID cards, longer detention, testing, part-privatisation, etc.. But if Labour are to have any hope, I reckon he’ll be their best. A line to be drawn under the past few years; a line to be drawn in the sand; a line of succession that might, just might, allow the Labour party to rule another day, and open the opportunity for someone with much better Leftist credentials to be the next PM. Cameron sure as hell won’t.

So on reading this article on the BBC News site, we learn the rather disturbing news that, stopping short of a fully elected upper chamber for the British parliament, Labour wants to retain the bishops as members of the House of Lords. So let me get this straight: appointing leading doctors, lawyers, humanitarians, etc., is a bad thing, but keeping bigotted, women-hating, gay-hating, discriminatory fantasy-worshipping loonies in a position to influence our lives is a good thing?

Here’s a secret about me: I’m actually occasionally a fan of the Lords. I think it’s obvious that having people who aren’t looking over their shoulder at the next election as they vote is a very good thing, and (except for selling Peerages) I’m actually not so averse to the idea that we elevate the great and the good, if we can come up with a good system of doing it. Obviously letting the previously elected politicians make the decision about how they want to pack the upper house doesn’t work. But nor does making it an elected chamber except for the extra-special-super-duper evil bastards that represent an ever diminishing, and certainly irrelevant religious sect.

Not much more to say: I’m just pretty furious…

I’m not sure what I find more ridiculous. That registrar Lillian Ladele has won her case for discrimination because she bigottedly believed that her fundamentalist religious beliefs were being infringed when she decided she didn’t want to respect the law and perform civil partnership ceremonies as part of her role – or the cartwheels supposedly right-minded people have been performing in order to argue that there’s a genuine moral conundrum at stake. (Never mind, as many commentators have pointed out, that she didn’t mind marrying couples living in sin, or divorcees, or, in fact, presiding over sham ‘marriages’ not performed in churches.)

Thing is, there is no difficulty in unravelling the morality at stake. Here’s a quick nudge in the right direction: there’s a difference between beliefs and actions. That should seem obvious to most sensible people, and, in fact, it is. Which is why it’s so bizarre that people seem to think we can’t really tell what side of the debate we should be on, if we’re anti-discrimination and all that.

Was it Mill who said that the limit of our liberty was before our hand connected with someone else’s face (to paraphrase)? I.e., it’s all well and good being free to do what you like, but it’s fairly obvious that when your actions have an impact on someone else, other people’s rights are at issue.

Nobody has suggested that Ladele should be forcibly prevented front being allowed to believe what she wants – that would be an action. But when she takes an action to the detriment of others, that’s where the question of discrimination comes in. This is how we avoid arbitrary problems with someone having random beliefs. People are entitled to their own delusions, and there’s no way that the law could stop them (until we have devices to read your mind) – what the law does regulate is how people act.

So when Ladele takes an action, refusing to provide a service which Islington council – her employer – is required by law to offer, it can be claimed (in this case correctly) that she has discriminated against a group illegally. When she asks the same employer to respect an arbitrary thought pattern, and ignore her actions because she tells them she has this thought pattern (which we’re to take on trust, because, again, we can’t read minds) this can’t be discrimination. Because it’s not an action involved, it’s a belief.

Ironically, of course, had the council forced her to provide civil partnerships, and respected her ‘freedom of expression’ to tell the couples they were sinful and doomed, it seems clear they could sack her for performing her job badly, by ruining the happy days of couples she was supposed to be celebrating. I’m going to have to try sitting in the corner next week at work, and refusing to do what I’ve been asked, because of some fantasy I have in my mind. I’ll say I’m a nonjulyworkist and that if they tell me to work they’ll be discriminating. I reckon I can get a hefty payoff.

What do you think?

I’ve never really understood the connection between two seemingly disparate uses of the word ‘cynical’. One is to mean ‘overly sceptical’, e.g. ‘he was cynical about his own ability to win at chess’; the second is too mean ‘purely politically manipulative’, as in ‘cutting fuel duty was a cynical political move’. Perhaps someone could explain the connection to me?

What makes me think of this is Boris’ decision to scrap the £25 Congestion Charge on the most polluting vehicles. I’m sure he doesn’t really care at all about the environment or climate change, nor air pollution or Londoners health, but I also don’t think he cares much about their wallets. Clearly the only reason for him to bother, and to bother (re-)announcing this now, is to remove a little of the heat and focus generated by Ray Lewis’ forced resignation, and of course Boris’ dubious decision to scrap the enquiry into it. It seems a ‘cynical political’ move, in an attempt to make us look the other way, and love the dumb blond again after yet again failing to manage a whole month in power without a major scandal or two.

Apparently people who bought low emission cars to avoid the C-Charge ‘feel cheated’ (well, according to The London Paper, so presumably it’s actually only the staffer that they pay to write the Letters column who feels cheated) at the simultaneous abandonment of toll-free access to central London for their nifty electric vehicles. These people are idiots. There, I’ve said it. Not just because they’ll obviously be saving money anyway, with sky-high oil prices, that will only get worse. Not just because potentially, their motives might be considered better if they had bought the car to, say, save the ailing planet and not destroy the habitable ecosphere for their children. But also because nobody in their right mind drives into central London, which is always a traffic-ridden, not-designed-for-hundreds-of-thousands-of-cars mess.

Okay, so maybe they’ve just got a screw loose.

Am I the only one fed up with the media analysing Labour’s current woes as all down to one man? And not just getting that analysis wrong (it’s obviously many factors) but picking the wrong guy to pin the blame on!

As a recent poll for the Guardian shows Labour fully 20 points behind the Conservatives, it appears the media is laying all the blame at Brown’s feet. Sure, he’s had a few missteps, but I just can’t see how he’s more to blame than another guy. And no, I don’t mean Cameron (which is not to say he’s done an astounding job – is that a pejorative adjective? – at rebranding the Tories): I mean Blair.

It’s surely became clear to anyone and everyone that in the last of the Blair years that Labour weren’t going to win the next election. A number of external factors didn’t help – the economic downturn for example. But the main factors would have sunk Labour regardless of external influences: things like the disastrous Iraq War (remember that), the Cash for Honours Scandal, and just the general sleazy descent into faith-based Bush-loving gun-toting stazi-imitating fascism.

I suppose it’s arguable that they wouldn’t be 20 points behind, but it’s also arguable that they would be doing even worse if Blair had stayed a second longer. Brown was the only person up for the job, with nobody else wanting to step into the breach to lose the next election. So he can hardly be blame for continuing along the path laid out by Blair(ism), on occasion reeling it in, and I’m sure on occasion pushing even further into the abyss. Those (supposedly) calling for Blair to make a return are missing the essential anti-Blair hatred (and no, that isn’t too strong a word, nor do I think it inappropriate) that drove Labour into ground. And it’s a little pathetic for them to delight in the party’s electoral collapse as proof that Blair was Labour’s saviour, and that without him at the helm we’ve doomed. I wouldn’t expect anything less!

I find this totally outrageous:

Heinz has withdrawn its Deli Mayo TV ad that featured two men sharing a kiss and apologised to viewers after the advertising regulator received about 200 complaints that it was offensive and inappropriate.

Quite apart from the fact that there would obviously be nothing wrong with an advert featuring a gay or lesbian couple (NEWSFLASH: Gay people buy mayonnaise too!), the whole point of the advert is that ‘mum’ has been replaced with a Gen-u-ine Noo York deli man – i.e. (and this isn’t some complicated foray into televisual narrative technique) Heinz mayo makes your sandwich taste like it came from the deli. With all the associate calories. Not only are the people complaining exhibiting a ridiculous degree of homophobia, but their brains are too pea-sized to be able to understand what’s going on in a thirty second ad. Why on earth are we pandering to these people?

Apparently (and isn’t it always the way), it’s all about the children:

Other complaints include that the ad was “unsuitable to be seen by children” and that it raised the difficult problem of parents having to discuss the issue of same-sex relationships with younger viewers.

The Guardian, presumably trying to be polite to these idiots, separates the above from the below with as many column inches as humanly possible:

The Heinz TV ad carried an “ex-kids” restriction, meaning it cannot be shown in or around children’s programming, because Heinz Deli Mayo falls foul of Ofcom’s TV ad restrictions relating to products that are high in fat, salt and sugar.

NEWSFLASH TWO: Your kids didn’t grow up in the fifties (or, if they did, it’s a little bit late to have the sex-talk with them). They don’t harbour disgusting prejudices like you do. They know what same-sex relationships are, and regardless if they want one for themselves, they support other people’s right to go out with who they want. They probably also aren’t disgusted by interracial kisses, and might even believe a woman has a right to go out with a man who (shock!) isn’t older than her.

In fact, of course, given that the ‘joke’ at the end of the ad is that the two men kiss (ha ha! Men kissing!?!?), arguably it’s gay liberals that should be up in arms about the ad. Luckily we’re not so fragile and thin-skinned as gay-hater-from-Tunbridge-Wells.

Update: You can let Heinz know your thoughts about their decision by calling their ‘Customer Care’ line on 0800 528 575. Just be sure to remember that the person answering the phone won’t be the one who made the decision, so try to be as polite, clear and succinct as possible. Alternatively, you can email them at consumer.contact@uk.hjheinz.com or write them a good old letter and send it to:

Consumer Contact
H J Heinz Co Ltd
Springs Road
Kitt Green
Wigan
Lancs
WN5 0JL

Okay. Since I won’t be able to keep up the facade for very long anyway, I might as well admit that James McGrath seems a nasty piece of work, and that I can’t deny I’m glad he is no longer in any position (we hope) to affect our city-life. But I still feel he deserves our support.

To quote the Independent:

Boris Johnson faced embarrassment when a key aide resigned after calling for black critics of the Mayor of London to return to the Caribbean.

Mr Johnson said last night he accepted the resignation with regret and insisted his departing Australian-born aide was not racist.

Why on earth don’t I think he’s been treated fairly? Quite simple, and repeat five times: The current London Mayor is a racist. Go on Boris, sue me for saying it. For the plaintiff, you’ve got ‘I sacked a guy when he said my critics should go home’. For the defence, I’ve got ‘watermelon smiles’ and ‘piccaninnies’.

And that’s the outrageous part of this: whilst McGrath is out on the street, his racist boss – who one might assume had a conversation or two with the guy before employing him, in which he might have gathered a notion or two about his views – is living it up in city hall. How pathetic. How scape-goating.

We shouldn’t consider it coincidence that McGrath happened to have similar views to Boris when he was hired, and in spite of its make-over (papering-over?) I reckon anyone who banks on the Tory party as the embodiment of welcoming equality is severely deluded. If McGrath was the kinda-guy-Boris-likes-to-have-around, you’ve got to assume his only crime was getting caught. I just can’t see Boris sacking someone for being racist any more than Gordon sacking someone for liking part-privatisation. It’s in their blood.

File in the ‘theoretical democracy isn’t a silver bullet’ department the news that Morgan Tsvangirai has pulled out of the Zimbabwean elections, ensuring victory for Robert Mugabe, in a poll that has long since looked dodgy at best, clearly fixed at worst. I suspect the worst.

From BBC News:

Mr Tsvangirai said there was no point running when elections would not be free and fair and “the outcome is determined by… Mugabe himself”.

He called on the global community to step in to prevent “genocide”.

But the ruling Zanu-PF said Mr Tsvangirai had taken the decision to avoid “humiliation” in the poll.

We have to assume that he’s betting this will be the final push needed for international observers / statesmen to step in and step up for democracy. Sadly, the events of the last seven years have given the impression that the only way for countries to get involved in another’s domestic affairs is to invade and occupy. But it’s diplomatic intervention that’s vital now – particularly led by African leaders, who would have a much more powerful impact that the West. There’s a well-worn suggestion that African leaders take any attempt by the West to meddle as a return to colonialism – but with democracy spreading across the continent, every leader needs to stand up for the principles they say they stand for.

And there we go again – I’m lecturing…

I can’t quite get my head round exactly what Shami Chakrabarti – who I am usually in total awe of for her constantly being on the right side of every argument – is trying to achieve in her latest campaign. Namely, her campaign to wring an apology out of a Labour minister this week (even if it takes a court case to force the issue).

It’s not because I don’t think there are many Labour ministers who certainly ought to be extending heartful apologies not just to Chakrabarti, but to the whole of Britain, for their wrong-headed lurch to the right / authoritarian-control-freak-side. And when I saw the headlines, I thought this must be what prompted the latest flurry of press releases. But instead, as we learn from The Guardian:

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, today threatened to sue culture secretary Andy Burnham over a comment he made linking her to David Davis.

She described it as a “smear” and said she would take him to court if he did not apologise for the remark, which he made in an interview with Progress magazine about her links with the former shadow home secretary.

Come on! Whilst I agree that the thought of hooking up with David Davis is pretty hideous – and you can probably sue purely for having the image placed in your mind – I’m sure Chakrabarti has heard far worse in her time. Which is why I really can’t fathom what has pushed her into this action, let alone what she hopes to achieve. There’s currently bigger fish to fry, with the worse attack on our liberty (for the defence of which Liberty-with-a-capital-‘L’ exists) is gaining ground, and surely she should be expending all her energy in fighting that.

Perhaps fearing the battle is lost she’s returning whatever volleys she can. Who knows. But for once, I don’t think Shami Chakrabarti has her priorities straight.