Hamilton out. Wheeler in.

We were talking about Stuart Wheeler and Neil Hamilton. It looks like Nigel Farage won – Hamilton has been given the bum’s rush and Wheeler is still paying the bills at ‘Kipper Towers.

Mr Hamilton mended fences with the leadership after it dropped its investigation into his expenses, although he has been told he will not be given a seat to fight at the election.

This rapprochement has paved the way for Mr Wheeler to re-enter the fray at a key time for the otherwise cash-strapped party.

Nice try, Hammo. It’s interesting that once Farage had demonstrated he was willing to call Wheeler’s bluff, there was obviously no point for Wheeler in cutting off the money just out of spite.

Also, nice chart:


It’s always bloody property developers, isn’t it?

Three political predictions

The Staggers‘ MAY 2015 dedicated election blog is rapidly shaping up to be important reading. Here’s a post of theirs that points out that there has been no big change in the polls in England and Wales. Instead, what has changed is Scotland, with the surge in SNP support since the autumn.

In other words, Labour has lost at least a point because of Scotland, and maybe closer to 1.5 percentage points. That accounts for most of Labour’s dip in national polls since summer’s end.

You read it here first.

If you look at the Ipsos-MORI poll (the green triangle on the chart), about 11 per cent of the weighted total sample is Scottish. Therefore, the 39 percentage point uplift in the SNP share of vote they picked up in the November political monitor translates to 4.3 percentage points of national voting intention.

There’s even a nice chart and all. Meanwhile, on the subject of Scottish politics, I argued that the only chance of EVEL actually happening would be if the Tories watered it down enough that Labour could accept it as a washup item. Not surprisingly, the upshot has been a no-deal, but was anyone expecting to find out that rejecting it was worth something close to a commitment from the SNP?

Further on, the LSE election blog takes up something I blogged a while ago. Is personal approval important in British general elections? The answer is that 10 points of approval count for about 2.3 points of national VI.

A decline in a leader’s personal net approval rating of 10 points, is associated with a decrease in vote share of only 2.3 percentage points

Also, at least going by Jack Blumenau’s chart, most of this effect is accounted for by exactly two data points:


Those would be the 1983 and 1997 general elections. So if you’re as popular as Tony Blair in 1997, or as hated as John Major was in that year, or riding as big a khaki wave as Thatcher in 1983, you might be able to win through personal popularity.

A more sophisticated version of something I made earlier

A nice tweet:

Let’s have a closer look at that right-hand map, because it’s a real beauty.


There are people. Where the people are, that’s the important bit. You usually find them near the water or the oil or the roads they tend to build between them. Like this post from last summer. That had a map in it too. Mmm, maps.

Screenshot from 2014-08-17 15:58:12

Looking ahead to the #defenduss 60-day consultation

So USS. It strikes me that this was, in the end, a total and avoidable mess and the UCU should take a lot of responsibility.

The only way to find out what was going on was to check a friend of a friend’s facebook page. The only campaign resources were, well, whatever you came up with. The tactics were hopeless – the marking boycott never had strong support in the school I’m best informed about and not really anywhere else, and it had a number of real flaws, notably that only a handful of individuals were actually involved at any one time and that the timing meant most students wouldn’t be affected. The negotiating team seems to have been overawed by the issues involved and poorly prepared.

Further, the stand-down over Christmas seems to have been a bad idea, losing whatever momentum the campaign had built up. In part this was just going to be imposed by the Christmas break itself, but the problem is that it wasn’t a credible proposition to call everyone out again, and therefore it didn’t support the negotiators effectively. To be honest we might have done better as an amorphous online mob, but of course a lot of the work here is being done by UCU’s failure.

So now we’re stuck with the mad-headed scheme to hedge poor returns on gilts by buying yet more gilts, the gender and other problems of a CRB scheme, no answers about the AVCs, and a weakened union.

Mike Otsuka points out that the statutory 60-day consultation on USS should open in mid-March, and will work something like this, so it’s not exactly true that it’s all over but the shouting.

This is important, as it seems there is still some give about the length of the recovery period and therefore the annual wedge of money involved, the fate of the AVCs and added years, the management of the defined-contribution element, and the all-crucial valuation.

One thing the UCU did achieve was a commitment, for what it’s worth, that the USS benefits and contribution rates would be revised again if the finances improved significantly. This means it is well worth while keeping the valuation issue alive, and keeping the claim on any future improvement this represents alive.

Your ration of campaign material, therefore, is here, in a rather technical piece of Mike’s. The key issue is that Test 1 must die.

OK, that’s the long-term element. What about the short-term? Well, voting is now open for the UCU national executive committee, until Friday 27th February. (If you’ve not got a ballot, make a fuss, because the organisation sucks!) The UCU Left recommendations are here – I don’t warrant for them in any way (for example, does anyone believe they’ll reopen the dispute?), but the first step is always to chuck the bums out.

Bad picker

What is it with David Cameron and appointments? Back in March 2012 I made the point that he keeps phoning a friend, and getting back the name of a good criminal, bungler, or crank.

We’ve had Steve Hilton and his brilliant ideas, before he failed-up into a better paid gig in California. He recommended Emma Harrison and A4e, before they ended up being prosecuted for fraud. Rohan Silva did some trendy dad stuff and failed-up into a better paying gig with a VC fund. Michael Gove recommended both Andy Coulson, before he was convicted, and that eugenics nutter he made an education SPAD. Cameron made Liam Fox defence secretary, and he brought with him the incredible fraud-cum-security-vortex Adam Werritty as a defence SPAD. His government needed someone of absolutely unimpeachable integrity to lead an inquiry into paedophile networks. They found somebody who was conflicted-out because they were related to the prime suspect, and then they replaced her with somebody who was conflicted-out because she was a personal friend of the prime suspect. If I’ve missed anyone, please add in the comments.

Boris Johnson’s appointments are, if anything, worse. And the wankercade twats on. Now it’s the trade minister. You might say it’s quite possible that the CEO of HSBC wouldn’t have any detailed knowledge of individual client accounts in the Geneva branch, but Stephen Green was actually on the board of the HSBC private bank in Switzerland, HSBC Private Banking Holdings (Suisse) SA, at the relevant time.

a short post about candidate selection

A list of constituencies the Tories have written off as lost has been leaked. Here are the first three candidates.

Ben Adams – Stoke-on-Trent North
Bim Afolami – Lewisham Deptford
Festus Akinbusoye – West Ham

I don’t think we need look very far for an explanation?

#rugbyleague – back to promotion and relegation with #visionaryjohn

Opening the tube for the new Rugby League season, here’s a BBC Radio Leeds programme about the long and awkward process of getting back to a league structure with promotion and relegation rather than more or less dodgy “franchising” or “licensing” processes.

That said, I still can’t really believe the new setup, what with the two-phase league and all. And changes to the league structure always work the same way – 32 men and Kath Hetherington sit around a table and argue until they can’t bear to sit in the same room any more, and then Keighley lose out.

However, the bloke the T&A calls Visionary John Kear seems to think it can work, and he probably ought to know.

Visionary John Kear. I can’t get over that. Great coach and all, but if you told him you had a vision he’d surely tell you to see a doctor. I can see some potential for a new nickname, though. “Everyone look busy, here’s Visionary John”. Or just “How do, Viz?” for those who know him especially well.

most cash looks pretty flat to me

We were talking about glib cliché solutions. Here, we have the prime minister.

“No-one wants their child to go to a failing school and no-one wants to them to go to a coasting school either,” said Mr Cameron.

“‘Just enough’ is not good enough. That means no more sink schools and no more ‘bog standard’ schools either.

Blah, the same old crap they all come out with ever since Chris “probably wouldn’t get away with that these days” Woodhead invented incompetent teachers all those years ago. The BBC initially trailed the story as “Cameron’s war on mediocrity” before presumably realising they were about to kill satire. The actual content here seems to be the invention of a new category, “coasting schools”, that might be gifted to landlords (that’s “academies”).

Also, this:

Setting out his party’s education policy, the prime minister said funding per pupil would not be cut and would provide a further £7bn for places for rising numbers of pupils….On funding, the prime minister promised to protect “flat cash” per pupil spending, which would not increase in line with inflation.

That is to say, it’s a cut. It’s not a cut, it’s flat cash. Sorry. A community charge. Sorry. A spare room subsidy. Sorry. It’s not a cupboard, it’s a small room!

Just the man for a war on mediocrity.

#simpleplan: two news items

A bit of Simple Plan news. I was out on the March for Homes at the weekend, and I’m afraid nobody had a SIMPLE PLAN NOW banner, mainly because I didn’t make one, although some Germans did ask me if I was an “expert on the housing crisis”. That said, it was a pretty decent demo for an absolutely horrible day, and I am rather proud to find out I’ve now been on a march with Max Levitas. And why not chant BORIS OUT BORIS OUT BORIS BORIS BORIS BORIS OUT!

Anyway, here we go, from the FT. 48 local authorities have created a company to issue municipal bonds jointly, reckoning that they can raise money substantially more cheaply than they can get it from the Public Works Loan Board. This is of course a key element of the plan.

Screenshot from 2015-02-02 11:54:42

Through algorithmic serendipity, the FT‘s sidebar on the story was this.

London faces surfeit of expensive new homes…Most of the new homes being built are two-bedroom apartments in high-rise towers and many are being sold to “unsophisticated” foreign investors, said Charlie Ellingworth, the founder of Property Vision.

“It is unlikely that investors are going to see the sort of yields that they have been led to expect,” Mr Ellingworth warned. “The pool of buyers may extend to the whole of China, but the pool of tenants is pretty static.”

The owner of a £1m, two-bed flat would need to charge £30,000 to £40,000 a year in rent in order to make a gross return on their money of 3 to 4 per cent, Mr Ellingworth said. “There are not many people in London who can afford that.”

There’s no reason why it has to stay a £1m flat if nobody wants to pay the rent…obviously, municipalising the minigarchs would be a dear do, but at least we’re getting the machinery in place.

Errr…Tesco. Yes. That must be it. Do I get a biscuit?

So we blogged about the abject failure of privatisers Circle and Hinchingbrooke hospital, the one where they boasted of using tills like the ones in Argos:

And whilst waiting in A&E, an unusually high number of patients (double the national average) left before being seen, fed up of waiting – and presumably unimpressed by the waiting-management computer system Circle had boasted was modelled on the Argos tills. (Circle’s senior management team had been hired from Argos, Avon, Faberge, Tesco and fashion-website Asos, bragged Ali Parsa in an article entitled “Government should not be running hospitals”).

Today, the Torygraph runs this wet fart:

To save the NHS, copy supermarkets….Up and down the country, at self-operated check-outs, you do what the store used to pay people to do. It is called ‘the customer adding value to the business’.

Again with the tills. Can these people really be so impressed by self-service tills? Don’t a lot of people – especially that sort of nimby boomer type – profess to hate them? Doesn’t the Torygraph itself regularly whine about them? Yes, yes, it does.

It gets worse, though.

In most A&Es, figuring out what drugs a confused, elderly patient is taking involves guesswork or a battery of tests. The simple solution would be for the hospital doctor to interrogate the patient’s GP record from a computer in a hospital. Alas, mostly, it can’t be done. Systems don’t talk to each other.

You mean we need some sort of programme for IT in the NHS, on a national basis? Like a really big database? We could call it the NHS National Programme for IT. Hmm. I wonder if the paper ever wrote about that? Yes, yes, yes, it did but it didn’t seem to like it much. Apparently it was a farce, chaos, Stalinist, misleading patients, a disaster, and abandoned. All of those were true, I should point out.

These people just blab out the same tired bollocks about supermarkets as if it was true, interesting, or new, even after the project ended up in a smoking hole in the ground, and even after Tesco itself’s humiliation.

The depressing thing is that Roy Lilley (relation? I don’t know) could do better than this glib drivel. He seems to be a Tory councillor who was on the board of an NHS trust some time before the great flood (well, 1991 to 1995), but he also wrote this vicious rip on Andrew Lansley’s NHS Chaos Act, for the Socialist Health Association of all things.

He recommended that the PFI contracts should be bought out and all NHS trusts chip in to share the cost, that the internal market should go and NHS Scotland should be asked for advice about how to replace it, community health councils should be re-created, and the Department of Health should take over the mission of the national commissioning board directly. I can’t see anything to disagree with there.