Monday, November 30, 2015

NByNW Diary: Beating Drums

Monday 30th November
Drums. Drums in the deep.
Today, drums in the deep for Jeremy Corbyn. He walked in confident into his Shadow Cabinet meeting. After all, he had received a 3-to-1 measure of support from party members and was sure that the mood had swung behind him.
But he thought this was about the debate over the war. He was wrong.
Shadow Cabinet Members both for and against airstrikes said that they thought that the leadership could not impose its will on this, taking particular ire against the Labour Leader’s infamous letter on Friday – whilst internal party discussions were ongoing.
According to The New Statesman, Corbyn was adamant until he realised that Hilary Benn would retire to the backbenches to voice his support for strikes, and that significant numbers of his Shadow Cabinet would perform their own strike by refusing to leave the room until he relented and gave them not only a free vote, but also leave Labour’s official position unaltered.
Corbyn foiled by a sit-in protest. Even he must see the irony, but he must also know that his assassins are just waiting and waiting and waiting for Corbyn’s very own Ides of March.
Drums in the deep too for Labour in general. None of them comes out well from this, and on Thursday they face a by-election in Oldham. They are still favourites to win but with a majority down from nearly 14,000 to just 2,000. It is easy to just blame it on Corbyn, but this sort of division and adolescent infighting from all sides in the party surely have not helped their electability.
Finally, drums in the deep for war. At least, that would be the dramatic way to conclude this. The truth is that not just a war but war upon wars have been raging for years now. Nor are we seemingly about to join it. We already have. We are potentially about to expand our operation from Iraq to Syria. This is not the crucial moment but a prequel to it.
The drums in the deep shall beat for a good while longer yet.

More content from North by North Westminster is abundant. Below is a story on Philip Hammond's extraordinary excuse for accepting a gift some £1,810 above the government limit.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

NByNW Diary: Should Corbyn Stay or Should He Go If He Decides Not To Rock the Casbahs?

Friday 27th November
I’m going to get some letter paper headed up with “It’s been another bad day for Labour”. It seems increasingly useful. After all, no-one can claim that Labour have had a good day, but there’s cacophonous squabbling over whose fault that is.
Here’s what’s happened.
Yesterday, after the Prime Minister’s statement on Syria, the Shadow Cabinet went to go and discuss the matter. There was a split in the opinion. Which was fine. It was decided that a decision would be taken on Monday through the Shadow Cabinet and the Parliamentary Labour Party. So far so good.
Then, Hilary Benn went out and said that there was a “compelling” case for strikes. Two hours later, Jeremy Corbyn wrote a letter to Labour MPs saying that he could not support the strikes because he does not think that they can assist our security.
Cue outrage against Corbyn from Labour MPs, describing this as an attempt to whip up fervour amongst the grassroots pressure group Momentum, in order to scare Labour MPs into voting against their consciences but with the leadership.
Very odd this. It appears that it was wrong of Corbyn to express his opposition, but it was fine for Benn to express his support. Whilst private discussions are ongoing, both men were ill-advised.
Labour Party Members are furious. After all, 6 out of 10 of them voted for this man and they are tired of the Parliamentary Party constantly sniping at him. Furthermore, Labour Party Members are 2 to 1 against the strikes, according to YouGov. Surely, Labour MPs should take this into account?
Ah, but they also need to take into account their constituents, and the same YouGov Poll says that the general public are 2 to 1 in favour of the strikes.
It is a fraught situation, but, nevertheless, the Labour Party looks shambolic, childish and petulant.
Just to throw yet another spanner in the works, Corbynista and the world’s newest campaigner for mental health awareness, Ken Livingstone, was on Question Time, where he said that Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq killed 52 Londoners in the 7/7 bombings, and he repeated the bombers’ justification that they only murdered because of Iraq.
Whether or not he has got a point doesn’t matter much because, so far as it goes now, we are at the highest level of risk anyway and have prevented 7 terrorist attacks this year. Iraq did make us a greater target for terrorist attacks, but the bullseye that conflict brought on us has never gone away.
Still, why shouldn’t Ken bring up the past? After all, it’s where he lives.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

NByNW Diary: Beware of Simplicity in the Syria Debate

Thursday 26th November
This is a rather serious entry. It is also rather long, so for ease it is in sections. The first concerns the events of the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament on Syria this morning. The second analyses the strategy. The third looks at where this leaves us.

1. The Prime Minister’s Statement
One of the reasons for my lack of levity, is that there doesn’t seem to be much to mock. Today, in many ways, saw the Commons at its best. Normally when the Prime Minister is before the House there is the braying and roaring and besuited hooliganism that makes this diarist, as well as countless others, despair. Not so today.
Today, the Prime Minister made his statement on strategy in Syria, as he builds up for a vote to extend our airstrikes against ISIS from their current mission in Iraq. He spoke eloquently and carefully. There was no bombast, but a frank assessment of the matter at hand and of our ability to deal with it. He proposes that we join the coalition currently bombing ISIS military targets (arms depots, training facilities, oil plants, oil convoys etc.), but has confirmed that no western ground forces will go in (because that doesn’t seem to have gone well in the past). He hopes that a grand coalition can be born out of the myriad forces in conflict in Syria. As for legality, the advice is never published, but the recent UN Resolution 2249 authorises “all necessary measures” to defeat ISIS.
In response, Jeremy Corbyn asked seven pertinent questions. The Prime Minister answered them in a yes/no style, with further elaboration on each point. Angus Robertson of the SNP took a stronger stance against the proposed strikes, but argued his case and reiterated key concerns. He said the SNP will not, at present, vote to support airstrikes.
The session was filled with wisdom and concern, and for a few hours in the morning the frequent cynicism that I feel towards our democratic institution faded.

2. Where are the Flaws in the Strategy?
There can be no doubt, as all of the aforementioned leaders said, that the threat is real and that the suffering is too terrible to ignore. That creates the sense that something must be done but, as Yes Minister fans know, this leads to the danger of politician’s logic:
1. Something must be done.
      2. This is something.
      3. Therefore, I must do it.
Mr Corbyn and Mr Roberston are very right to be cautious, and they raise key issues. Even if these airstrikes are to be meticulously targeted on ISIS’ considerable military organisation, they would at best leave a vacuum in a politically turbulent area. It is not clear what ground forces would be able to secure a military victory, and no ideological consensus there to provide fertile soil for a victory of hearts and minds.
Nevertheless, Mr Cameron is equally right to follow his conscience and make his case. If something must be done, then to do nothing is such a horrific abnegation of responsibility that it should leave us with yet more shame on top of that we have accrued so far this century.
There is likely to be a vote soon – possibly next week – and it seems probable that the airstrikes will be authorised. Mr Cameron still has questions to answer about the long-term strategy, but those who are asking the questions must also seek for alternative answers. It is not enough to find the holes in this road. You have to fill them. Given the immense complexity of this situation, it will require people on all sides to work together.

3. Where Does This Leave Us?
In recent weeks, I have read opinions that describe the proposed intervention as simply us “wanting to play with the big boys”. This seems to be very far from the truth when thousands are being slaughtered in Syria and Iraq, and the threat travels overseas into museums, bars, music venues and more. It is worth saying again, the threat is real – not just to us, but to millions of others. If you care about the migrants who have fled across seas and continents, then you must equally care about those left behind.
We are wary. We are understandably wary. As a country, we are racked with guilt and anger over our obvious and dreadful errors in recent decades. Of course we do not want to repeat them. To his credit, Mr Cameron cites that recent history – even his own mistakes in Libya – and claims to be a student of them. Let us hope that he truly is.
However, many fear that this is just another instance of us sticking our oars into troubled waters only to make them more troubled still. Perhaps so. That is why this kind of scrutiny and debate must be celebrated and not scorned. We can never be certain about anything. All we can do is respectfully listen to all sides and humbly seek as much information as we can.
But, beware of misinformation. Beware of catchy memes. Beware of “facts” that get retweeted a thousand times.
For instance, on today’s Daily Politics, Lindsey German of Stop The War claimed that ISIS was being given arms by Saudi Arabia. It seems to chime with our fears and reservations of the Saudis. It is immensely plausible, and is within a 140 character limit. However, Next to her was Malcolm Chalmers, Director of the respected think tank on such things, the Royal United Services Institute. He had heard of no such evidence, nor could she actually provide it.
None of this grave situation is simple. Therefore, above all, beware simplicity.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NByNW Diary: Osborne's Devil is in His Detail

Wednesday 25th November
In essence, George Osborne’s Spending Review was like one of those ads on the radio. It’s trying to sell you the Orgasma-tron 4000, which promises untold realms of utopian hedonism, and then the voiceover quickly rattles through the smallprint, practically whispering the words: “Pleasure may go up or down. Terms and conditions apply. Batteries not included.”
Certainly, there will be cuts in departmental spending, but police budgets will be maintained, health budgets will be increased, housing budgets will be increased, schools are being given budget breaks, and the headline is that the dreaded Tax Credit cuts will now not happen. Everything seems to be rosier.
But, as ever with Osborne, the devil is in the detail. Those who were going to lose out on Tax Credits will still lose the same amount by the end of the decade with the introduction of Universal Credit. It’s all a question of swinging the axe slower. We wait for the bespectacled analysts to rake through the smallprint.
Nevertheless, that left Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell in an awkward position. Responding to Financial Statements is the hardest job in British politics. You have no advanced sight of the statement, and it’s made all the harder when you have a cough, and your opponent has pulled the rug from under you.
What you shouldn’t do if you are trying to gain public trust on the economy from a far-left position is quote any controversial Communists in support of your assessment. One can imagine the nightmare scenario of McDonnell standing at the despatch box, pulling out a copy of the Little Red Book and quoting Chairman Mao.
Well, there’s no need to imagine. You can watch McDonnell's Mao McNuggets now on YouTube. Again and again.
Frequent readers have often thought that some of my inventions are real, or sometimes that something I have reported is a conjuring from my imagination. After witnessing that, even I’m not sure where the line is anymore.

More NbyNW content is available, including this story on The Labour Moderates' Secret Code to Bring Down Corbyn:
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Thursday, November 19, 2015

The North by North Westminster Diary: Does anyone come out well from the Junior Doctors' Strike?

Thursday 19th November
It has become apparent that health policy is a murky and intriguing world.
After the election, the bastard Tory Government and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt felt mandated to introduce a seven-day NHS, as mortality rates at the weekend are considerably higher than those during the week and they wanted to rectify this – the murderous villains. Furthermore, they followed up a promise to invest upwards of £8bn pounds in the health service so that Simon Stephens, Chief Executive of NHS England, could impose his plan to “save the NHS”.
Unfortunately, as a consequence of all this, a new contract for Junior Doctors was introduced, and its details were controversial. Basically, if you were a JD, you could be expected to work for up to 15 hours as your normal working time, Monday-Saturday. There were worries about the quality of service that this quantity of hours would provide, and about morale within the NHS. Furthermore, when the Government invited the British Medical Association to talks over the new contract, they were told that 22 out of the 23 points were non-negotiable. Which was Jeremy being a classic Hunt, and served to alienate the BMA.
Nevertheless, the BMA did some spinning of its own. Before any figures were announced, they posted a calculator on their website announcing that members would see their pay reduced by 30%. A claim for which they had no evidence. And when the Department of Health did issue figures, they also put out a guarantee that any individual’s pay would not go down, apart from those who are already working unsafe levels of overtime – one of the doctors’ concerns about the new contract.
No matter though, and the BMA issued a ballot on strike action. At the eleventh hour, the Health Secretary announced a new contract offer with a headline grabbing 11% increase to the basic rate of pay and invited the BMA to come to the table for talks; and offer which they refused. A phrase comes to mind involving horses, stable doors and bolting.
Now we have the results with 98% of those balloted supporting a strike which can only impact one group of people: patients. Jeremy Hunt is, at present, refusing to go to talks at the conciliatory service ACAS.
So, here we are. The Health Secretary has been stubborn and evasive. The BMA has been economic with the truth and evasive. There maybe a genuine wish to protect the sick from both sides, and both may want a better health service. But rather than meet in the middle, both appear to have dug in their heels and now patients from the 1st December can expect a lower quality of care – and it won’t even be a weekend.
One thing does seem to be clear in this murky and intriguing world: nobody is really coming out well from this.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

NByNW Diary: Don't Be Rude to Ken Livingstone - He'll Insult Entire Sections of Society

Wednesday 18th November
Today, Labour’s National Executive Committee has decided to appoint former Mayor of London and newt-fancier (no, really – he is) Ken Livingstone to be the joint head of the party’s policy review on Defence, alongside the Shadow Defence Secretary Maria Eagle.
This seems like a definite attempt to ensure that the anti-Trident camp are given as big a voice as possible, and as such it caused a bit of stir.
Kevan Jones MP, who served as a Defence Minister in the Labour government, told PoliticsHome: “I’m not sure Ken knows anything about Defence. It will only damage our credibility amongst those that do and who care about defence.”
To which Livingstone responded: “I think he might need some psychiatric help. He’s obviously very depressed and disturbed. He should pop off and see his GP before he makes these offensive comments.”
Which was inappropriate both generally and specifically. Generally because there is a widespread effort – not least from Jeremy Corbyn – to change attitudes towards mental health, and specifically because Kevan Jones actually has been very depressed, and opened up about this in 2012.
A lot of people were naturally upset, and Mr Jones expressed his offense at the comments.
To which, Mr Livingstone refused to apologise, saying that he grew up in South London where “If someone’s rude to you, you are rude back.” Always a good idea to try and defuse a situation by citing the moral system of a teenager but, given that he grew up in the 50s, I suppose we can just be thankful that he didn’t grow up in the Bronx, where if someone was rude to you, you'd pop a cap in their ass.
With further outcry, Ken finally gave into the pressure:

Given that he refused to apologise at 12.30pm, and then volte-faced at 2pm, we can assume that Jeremy did a lot of insisting over a post-PMQs lunch by peering over his glasses and waiting for Ken to stop behaving like an unthinking adolescent.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The North by North Westminster Diary: Rambo Trump Wants to Fight Fire with Oil Fires

Tuesday 17th November
The number of people who have crowbarred the horrific events of the weekend to fit their own prejudices just grows and grows in a frankly sickening display.
Today, I would like to focus on Donald Trump. His initial reaction to the news from Paris was all too predictable: “Oh, there’s been an attack involving guns. Just goes to show that everyone should have guns.”
Well, John Rambo, let’s consider this particular case. If everyone had had firearms, the terrorists would not have been able to gun down as many people as they did, but only if ordinary people had had the calm and the aim to not shoot at the suicide vests the attackers were wearing. And if the terrorists hadn’t just detonated their bombs. Which they probably would have done because they would have known they would have been shot.
Even if that hadn’t happened, the armed police might not have been able to respond as quickly as they did because they would have been spread about town dealing with all of the firearms incidents and killings which happen when there’s no gun control. On the basis of American figures, there would be 54 firearms deaths and injuries across France every day.
All of which leaves us with one conclusion – loads of people would still have died, and more would be dying as a matter of course. So, well done Donald: another hole got out of by digging it deeper.
Rambo then moved onto military strategy to combat IS, and he suggested that, because IS makes a lot of its considerable wealth through oil, that he would “bomb the shit” out of the oil camps, and then send in the Marines and take the crude.
Well, here Donald has put his finger on an actual strategic issue. The revenue from ISIS’ oil is vast and it goes toward funding terrorism, war and human trafficking. That’s why the Coalition has been bombing the oil refineries, though no-one has suggested going in and grabbing the black gold.
Here's the problem - it didn't work. They bombed the refineries, and what did IS do? They sent the unrefined oil ahead to other refineries. To remove the problem of the oil, you have to destroy it. Which you would do if you "bombed the shit out of it" with incendiary bombs. Which, as anyone who’s studied fire safety knows, would destroy quite a lot of the oil. Try using it or selling it then, you Gordon-Gekko-jackass.
My problem is the sheer, hollow-headed idiocy of suggesting a policy that hasn't worked as if it's a new idea, and then coming up with a Machiavellian scheme to make money out of it which doesn't work because he hasn't read an elementary science textbook.
He isn't some moustache-twirling, or indeed wig-adjusting, super-villain. He's a total berk with a psychology so warped that Freud and Jung would have to get help in order to psycho-analyse him.
My problem is that he's so jaw-droppingly inept and inappropriate for the important job for which he is applying.

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Listen to our rebuttal of Katie Hopkins' response to the Paris Attacks below.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The North by North Westminster Diary: Compassion and Unity - Not Division

Monday 16th November

The diary takes the form of a short podcast today with Jack Blackburn, Ben Mepsted and Tristan Rogers discussing the terrible events in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad. In particular, they focus on an article written by Katie Hopkins the day after the Paris attack with which they took issue. You can listen to it below.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The North by North Westminster Diary: Cameron goes à la Modi

Friday 13th November
Another week, another visit from a controversial national leader. First it was the Chinese President Xi Jinping, then it was the Egyptian President Sisi, and now it is the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.
Now, one thing unites all of these people. When it comes to human rights, they are notable – and by “notable”, I mean “not able”. Mr Modi, for instance, whipped up an anti-Islamist fervour whilst he was Chief Minister of Gujarat, which led to riots that caused the deaths of at least 1,000 people. When asked whether he had any regret, he said his feelings were akin to those of a passenger in a car that had just run over a puppy.
Another thing which unites all of those leaders’ countries is that we trade with them. A lot. Jobs and investment here depend on our relationships with those countries. It is somewhat tricky, but the sheer quantity of these visits is very unsettling.
At least Mr Modi is democratically elected, which makes it a little easier – largely on the grounds that he has a large chance of being booted out in the near-future.
In an attempt to distract from some recent bad election results, Mr Modi is holding a rally at Wembley Stadium – à la One Direction. The event will also be attended by that Harry-Styles-esque heartthrob, David Cameron.
It’s one thing to have a diplomatic relationship with this man. It’s one thing to trade with him. It is quite another to go along to one of the largest stadiums in the land and play the political equivalent of Guitar Hero with him. Still – at least he’ll look preposterous.


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Thursday, November 12, 2015

The North by North Westminster Diary: Storm Abigail "A Desperate Attempt to Make British Weather Sound Badass"

Thursday 12th November
It must have happened at some kind of meteorological conference.
A bunch of weather forecasters from the Met Office were sat on a table next to some flash Americans who were talking about their experiences covering Hurricane This and Hurricane That, and then mocking their British and Irish counterparts for having to talk about light drizzle the whole time.
So, they hit the whiskey and come up with an idea.
“Let’s give our storms names! You know, like they do. That’ll make our weather sound much more badass.”
And that is why, this morning, we’re hearing a lot about Storm Abigail. Which is just a regular storm, with some amber weather warnings. Except now, it all sounds very serious, and Carol Kirkwood is telling me how we’re all going to be “affected” by Storm Abigail, and the inevitable happened on The Today Programme when a climate change campaigner called it “Hurricane Abigail”.
The thing is, it won’t change anything for the meteorologists at the convention, because they’ll be talking about Storm Barry or Storm Cheryl, and then the Yankees will say “Well, this year’s hurricane caused $10bn worth of damage. How much did Storm Derek cause?”
“Errr… well the post office was shut and there were no fresh catches at the fishmongers in time for the weekend.”


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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The North by North Westminster Diary: A Mr D. Cameron of Witney, Oxfordshire, "upset about cuts"

Wednesday 11th November
Much to cover today.
Firstly, prospective Prime Minister Boris Johnson has gone to the Middle East and has had to cut his visit short because of security concerns he caused. So his list of credentials for the top job just get longer and longer.
He insulted people who support a boycott of Israeli goods, calling them a "bunch of corduroy-jacketed lefties". I wonder who he meant. Perhaps he wasn’t being targeted by Hezbollah but by angry Corbynistas.
Speaking of Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition is joining the Privy Council today a full month earlier than David Cameron managed, which is just typical of the tardy, unpatriotic shirker that Jez is.
Furthermore, last night he told his Shadow Cabinet that he expected more discipline, which some of them found a bitter pill to swallow as Mr Corbyn is the record-holder for acts of ill-discipline against the Labour whip. It’s a bit like being told to clean-up your sport by the All-Russia Athletics Association.
And speaking of wilful blindness, David Cameron has got into a row with the leader of his local council because they appear to be having to make swingeing cuts to their budget and services.
In other news, the Dark Lord Sauron has complained to the Mordor council about the number of orcs that appear to be in his postcode, and cannot understand how it has anything to do with his policies.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The North by North Westminster Diary: Cameron's Renegotiation Dragged from Obscurity to Vagueness

Tuesday 10th November
The EU renegotiation has hitherto been something akin to David Cameron’s imaginary friend. But no longer, for today it came crashing into a nascent reality with the Prime Minister’s letter on the subject to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk.
It opens with: “Thank you for inviting me to write setting out the areas where I am seeking reforms to address the concerns of the British people over our membership of the European Union.”
This broadly translates as: “You bastard. I was trying to keep this as vague as possible.”
He goes to highlight some key, vital and, most importantly of all, broadly achievable areas of reform, and it is that last point that has so upset the Tory Eurosceptics.
They are led by Sir William Cash – a man who appears to think that satisfaction is for lesser beings and that having something to complain about is a basic human right.
He doesn’t think that Cameron has gone anywhere near far enough, and he basically wanted half-a-century and more’s worth of European treaties to be torn up because one little island has one big party which can’t pull itself together.
Had he written the letter it would have gone broadly like this:
“What ho, foreigner!
May I just remind you of the following:
Agincourt, Trafalgar, Waterloo, Two World Wars, One World Cup.
So just piss off and leave us with our cod and stop giving it to bloody Spaniards.
Yours disgruntledly,
It’s not that the Eurosecptics don’t have a point. It’s just that when they do, nobody cares.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

The North by North Westminster Diary: Thatcher Memorabilia is All the Rage

Thursday 5th November
In these times of strife and discord, it is important that we focus on the real issues that affect modern Britons. Unless you're the editor of The Daily Telegraph and you've run out of pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge.

Perhaps that is why, this week, they have focussed on the V&A not taking a dead woman's clothes. The question is: did they refuse to take them on the grounds that they're not Oxfam, or did they refuse on the grounds that the dead woman in question was Mrs Thatcher?

Now, I know what you Guardian readers out there are thinking: why would anyone want to accept the clothes of Satan's priestess? Well, you have to understand that Telegraph readers view her as a modern day angel who gives Mother Teresa a run for her money. Readers of The Times couldn't care less, and readers of The Independent just really want to talk about climate change for two hours before breakfast.

Anyway, the new chairman of the V&A, Nicholas Coleridge, has described his "stupefied surprise" at the story, and added "there has been no turning down of her clothes at all", which seems like very lacklustre laundering.

The clothes go up for auction shortly, and maybe some of them will be bought by the proposed Thatcher Museum. Well informed sources claim that, at this museum, you will be able to deliver the "No! No! No!" speech from a replica despatch box, ride around in a tank whilst wearing a scarf, and relive the Brighton Bomb. And - I promise you - I've only made one of those up.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The North by North Westminster Diary: Carry On Junior Doctor?

Wednesday 4th November
It’s all a little overwhelming.
Today, Jeremy Hunt has released a revised version of the new contract for junior doctors, and it’s a classic piece of “the Tories giveth, and the Tories taketh away”. For instance, it contains an 11% pay rise, but it also has pay cuts for unsociable hours.
The issue has been rolling on since the election, and with particular focus on the new definition of sociable hours as being from 7am to 10pm – the kind of working day which leaves time for you to dash home, have a quick drink and then take your anger and frustration out on those around you as you put another brick in the wall of your inevitable marital breakup.
It also raises concerns about patient safety, with the possibility that they would be treated by “zombie doctors”. However, the definition of normal hours on a Saturday has been changed to from 7am to 7pm, and the Care Quality Commission has been asked to ensure that junior doctors will not be overworked.
Regardless, the BMA isn’t having any of it and are refusing to go the negotiating table. This morning, Dr Johann Malawana from the BMA didn’t so much explain the logic behind this (they don’t think it’ll be an actual negotiation and want a guarantee that the contract will not just be imposed). He seemed to simply repeat “it’s megaphone diplomacy” several times. Which was banal. Some Junior Docs on twitter were much more direct.
It’s just a bit murky. There seems to be politicking and manipulations going on everywhere, and I for one don’t know what to think. I mean, instinctively I want to trust the junior doctors because… well, they’re doctors. I like trusting doctors. As soon as I stop trusting doctors, I go on the internet and convince myself that I’ve got diphtheria*. And, instinctively, I don’t trust Jeremy Hunt because… well, he’s Jeremy Hunt.
But this new offer seems to deal with some concerns, but the BMA seem cross that this has even happened and it came across like an angry teenager shouting “Not talking to you!”
Besides, the whole thing is probably a distraction from the fact that Theresa May is now giving police and intelligence officers the power to look at your last year’s worth of browsing data. Which seems a little scary.
I shall now go and watch old episodes of The Bill, so that if I am arrested they’ll be able to see how it’s done.

*I don’t have diphtheria.**

**I think.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The North by North Westminster Diary: Cameron's Syria Plan Bombs

Tuesday 3rd November
Bit of a mishmash today.
Firstly, David Cameron has received a bit of a setback to his plan to bomb Syria. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee has released a report on the issue which has come up with the controversial position that if you are going to drop explosives onto a foreign country then you really should know what your objective actually is. Bomber Harris would be turning in his grave.
Furthermore, the Committee raises questions about the legality of any military involvement. So the plans are possibly illegal and probably going to make things worse than: a combination which is known in Committee circles as “the Iraq diagnosis.”
Secondly, wounded-weasel and stunt double for an Imperial officer in Star Wars, George Osborne, has been in Germany doing some light-diplomacy and going out for an Italian. He’s so continental. We still have no idea which way he’s going to campaign in the EU referendum. If only there was some kind of clue.
Finally, there is the news that Jeremy Corbyn will not be addressing the CBI, thereby missing a chance to make his case to business leaders. Presumably that’s due to one of those prior commitments he so often has. A Republican rally perhaps? Or maybe the Stop the War coalition is having a smoothie night to celebrate the Foreign Affairs Select Committee’s report?

In fairness, Cameron doesn’t address the TUC Conference, but that’s probably for the best. Let me put it this way: you can’t imagine Corbyn getting literally lynched at the CBI, whereas the PM would probably be turned into porcine feed so that a pig might actually enjoy having bits of Cameron put into its mouth.

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Monday, November 2, 2015

The North by North Westminster Diary - Labour's Queen Beyond the Wall Begins to Regret Experiment with Democracy

Monday 2nd November
There’s trouble for the new Labour leader.
No, not that one. The other one.
I’m referring to Kezia Dugdale, Labour’s Queen Beyond the Wall, who today is dealing with the irony that, having successfully campaigned for Scottish Labour to have greater independence from the national party, Scottish Labour is now, in return, trying to get greater independence from her.
It all boiled down to a vote at conference on the thermonuclear thorn in Labour’s side, Trident. Ms Dugdale had urged caution, arguing for disarmament on a multilateral rather than unilateral basis. However, Scottish Labour voted overwhelmingly for the abolition of Trident, which now means that the Labour Party’s leader in Scotland has a different position from her party, which has the same position as the national leader, who has a different position from a large amount of his parliamentary party, all of whom are waiting on the national party who, as it stands, has no position at all.
Confused? Well, welcome to the contemporary Labour movement. And we haven’t even mentioned the divides in the unions, though their internal debate is easier to explain. It goes like this:
Union Member #1: Having a nuclear deterrent is a commitment to having the capability to obliterate entire cities and wiping out millions of people. That’s morally reprehensible.
Union Member #2: Yes. I agree. But… jobs?
Union Member #1: We’re talking about nuclear holocaust.
Union Member #2: Yes, which probably won’t happen. So, my question is: jobs?
Union Member #1: Dead people!
Union Member #2: Yes, yes, yes. But… jobs?
It’s the classic dilemma of the left. There is a policy which seems to be utterly morally reprehensible when we all want to join arms and sing the Red Flag, but if we were to change it we would cause sizeable unemployment for hard-working people on the lower end of the pay scale. It’s very much a lose-lose, and that’s before we talk in detail about whether the deterrent works or not.

Perhaps this is why Labour is outsourcing decision making to the ordinary members. It just seems like a lot of hard work.

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