Friday, 24 October 2008

This All Blacks thing seems to be taking off

We've been inundated with media requests as a result of the threat by the New Zealand RFU to sue us for using the name Cornish All Blacks. We've also had many messages of support.

As well as a story in the Sun (can't link, it crashes my computer still), we've been in the Mail, Telegraph and on the Beeb as well as interviews with various outlets in New Zealand (which our Club President loved as they all had to be done at about 4am). Their attitude is particularly telling describing the NZ RFU as being completely OTT.

The stupidity of Tesco

This story, and my own experiences lead me to think that Tesco are being ridiculous when it comes to interpreting the law as regards underage alcohol sales.

In the linked story, a 39 year old mother is not allowed to buy a bottle of vodka because her 13 year old son is woth her. Twenty minutes later, her husband goes to buy the drink (which is for them, not the child) and is also refused.

I have had a similar experience when I was buying beer in Tescos and someone I was with was asked for ID. When they could not produce it, I was refused service. In this case, the person was 22.

I am fully in favour of proper enforcement of the law on underage sales, but this is ridiculous. If taken to a perfectly logical extreme, the couple in the linked story should not be allowed to buy alcohol for another 9 years because it might be for their children.

And yet the law is also confused. It is perfectly legal for parents to give alcohol to their children at home. Indeed, many argue it is perfectly sensible for parents to teach children about safe alcohol consumption in this way. So how to define the difference between buying alcohol for them and giving some to them? Is there a set proportion defined in law?

Whatever happens, Tesco need to get their act together if they don't want to lose more customers.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

We're being sued by New Zealand

Apparently Launceston Rugby Football Club (I do their press and photography on a voluntary basis) are being sued by New Zealand!

It all stems from the use of the words 'All Blacks'.

LRFC have been known as the Cornish All Blacks since they were formed in 1948.
In those days of austerity, finding complete matching sets of rugby kit was very difficult and expensive. The players of the newly formed club therefore sought to produce matching kit from whatever was available. Some players took other kits and dyed them to a uniform colour and black was the easiest to match. Others made kit out of blackout curtains. The nickname Cornish All Blacks was coined at that time and has been the nickname of the club ever since. I have yet to come across anyone who has mistaken the two teams but the New Zealand RFU are objecting to LRFC's move to trademark the 'Cornish All Blacks' name to stop people from counterfeiting our kit. They have threatened to sue us.

It's interesting to note that the New Zealand national team became known as the ‘New Zealand All Blacks’ during a tour to the UK and a match in Cornwall when a pressman mistakenly referred to the visitors as the ‘All Blacks’ rather than the intended ‘All Backs’ in reference to all their points being scored by their back division.

The Cornish All Blacks are a community based club in Cornwall who play in National Division 2. As part of our activities, we work in schools and community groups around the County to build the profile of rugby and to develop new talent. We are also keen to raise funding for our chosen charity – Cancer Research UK - and our away kit this season is all pink. We believe that our activities in this area may be threatened if we are no longer allowed to use the nickname Cornish All Blacks as many hundreds of replica kits which raise thousands of pounds for charity will have to be disposed of.

It's really disappointing that we have not had any direct contact on this matter from the New Zealand RFU and we believe that, should they get in contact with us, they will soon appreciate that we are no commercial threat to them whatsoever. In order to show our goodwill towards the New Zealand RFU, we would welcome the New Zealand national team down to Polson Bridge at any time for match.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Celebs and their 'habits' - perhaps double standards from the Beeb?

There was concern this morning about the appearance by Atomic Kitten singer (and face of Iceland) Kerry Katona on ITV's This Morning programme. (link is BBC story about it)

Katona was repeatedly asked by host Philip Schofield about her slurred speech.

A week ago, Jonathan Ross interviewed actor Colin Farrell on his Friday night show. Farrell looked to me as though he was as high as a kite, twitching and jumping and failing to keep up his end of the conversation.

Whilst the BBC seems happy to run 'news' stories questioning whether ITV should have allowed Katona to appear in the state she was, they seem not to have noticed Farrell's appearance.

The new MORI poll and why it doesn't make sense

Lib Dem Voice a few days ago assessed the crop of polls and argued that the ICM poll that had the Lib Dems on 21% was more accurate than those that had us on the mid teens. All based on sound psephological reasons, natch.

I'm now going to have a dig at the MORI poll out today which shows a 13% swing between Labour and Conservatives. Last month - Tory 52, Labour 24. This month - Tory 45, Labour 30. As PB argues - still a massive Tory lead, but a huge shift.

The reason why there should be such a shift is sort of understandable. A month ago Labour was in no end of turmoil. Brown had not yet has his successful conference and he had yet to usurp Sarkozy and the Swedes as the man with the plan for saving the world. So perfectly normal that people should change their minds you would think.

But here is what is bothering me. The MORI polling method includes just people who are certain to vote. To my mind, that would tend to narrow down the number of switchers. People who are less certain to vote, so my argument goes, are more likely to be flexible about which party to support and more likely to persuasion by political fortunes. Sure, there will be some for whom the civic duty of voting is absolute, but I feel there are many more who are certain to vote because they are certain they will always vote for a certain party.

Which brings me onto my biggest gripe with pollsters. Their refusal ever to say sorry. Every poll they have ever carried out is right, they will argue. You and I know that this cannot be right. Polls on the same day point to wildly different vote shares. Yet the pollsters, even in retrospect, will argue that their own poll showed what people were thinking at the time (no possibility of discovering the truth of course).

Of course the methodology suggests that 95% of polls should be accurate to within 3% (depending on sample size, but this figure is based on the usual size of just over a thousand). That means that one in twenty will be out by more than 3%. They are 'rogue polls'. Yet to ever infer that a particular poll might be a rogue is to invite threats of legal action (I know, I've been there). Yet you will never hear pollsters admitting which of their polls might have fallen into this category. Even when you look back the accumulated polls of all firms stretching back over a considerable period and see an unexplained outlier. Nope, says the pollster, that was wht people were thinking at the time. They just changed their minds straight after.

I'm not, of course, suggesting that the current or previous MORI polls are rogues. But it would be nice occasionally to hear pollsters admitting which they got wrong.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The questions Lembit DOESN'T have to answer

James Graham's anti-Lembit crusade is becoming a bit silly.

So you don't think he is the best person to become Lib Dem President. Ok - your opinion.

So you want to write (occasionally) amusing stories on the ineptness of the start of his campaign. Once again, fair enough.

But it is perhaps a little over the top to castigate the man for failing to answer your questions.

First - the questions aren't exactly neutrally phrased. And Lembit could probably expect that the answers would be brutally fisked. Solution - don't offer up ammunition.

Second - you have shown you're not entirely pro Lembit. You don't have to be, of course, but I can think of far better things for Team Lembit to do with their time than spend it answering your questions.

I'm not on anyone's campaign team and haven't publicly declared who I have voted for (and I won't). I happen the think that any of the three candidates could offer something positive. I'm not really in a position to bemoan negative campaigning, but I do get a ittle hacked off with a blog which is becoming more hatchet job than anything else as regards the Presidential election.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Just supposing... (Conspiracy theory of the week - Mandelson edition)

Guido, in his blog about Peter Mandelson being interviewed by Sophie Raworth, set me thinking.

What if Gordon Brown has not buried the hatchet with Mandelson?

What if he has not brought the twice resigned Prince of Darkness back into the Cabinet because of his desperate need to appeal to Blairites, his need to have the best talents and biggest names on board and a desire to have Mandy in place for the election campaign?

What if, instead, the move is actually part of a very clever revenge plot?

Mandelson has resigned twice from the Cabinet already, both times for 'scandals'. He is hardly in a position to resign again and keep any credibility whatsoever (yeah, I know that's what people thought last time but bear with me). And if he did resign again then he could hardly expect Brown to give him an important job overseas like his mate Tony did. And Cameron is even less likely.

So Mandelson is in a bit of a parlous position. Just the sort of position that Brown wants him to be in. Let's call that position 'The Stocks'. Why? Well what happened to people in the Stocks? People threw all sorts of shit at them. That's what. And I nominate Gordo and his proxies as those with the biggest piles of shit that they need to get rid of. So why not chuck them at the bloke in the stocks who you all detest anyway - no matter that he is supposedly on your side.

Actually, I don't think Brown is positively aiming to get Mandy to resign - at least not immediately - but he won't shed too many tears if and when he does go. 'Couldn't cut it' will be the refrain. But while Mandelson is there, then he is bound by collective responsibility and he'll have to take the flak for all that is going wrong with the business world.

Note that Brown is trying to separate the economy from business. The economy was doing perfectly fine, masterminded by the greatest brains in the world. People were enjoying the good times with their wealth (on paper) skyrocketing because of the house price inflation bubble. Why, even people north of Watford were benefitting to some degree. But those nasty business people - short sellers and bonus culture bankers, particularly in the USA - ruined it for everybody.

So the rescue plan from the world's saviour shows that our PM is back to his economic brilliant best (never mind that the rest of the world calls it the Sarkozy plan and it actually originated in Sweden). And all the continuing problems are to ba associated with 'business' and laid squarely at the door of the Business Secretary to answer.

Just supposing

Sunday, 19 October 2008

The far too rough Stephen Fry

Just been watching the second programme in the series featuring Stephen Fry's trip round the USA. I agree with others that it is disappointing. Not bad, simply incredibly frustrating. The entire series is only going to be a few episodes and so some states, even the interesting ones, are being dismissed in just four or five minutes.

The people, like last week's hunters in New Hampshire and this week's dancing gigolos in Florida are fun and deserve far more space to show themselves off.

And just how rough did Mr Fry look today?

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Jennie fisks the Presidential manifestos

Big thumbs up to the Yorsher Gob for her fisking of the Presidential manifestos (although she refuses to call them that).

Read he effort here

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Cornwall Council loses £5m in Landsbanki

Like a number of authorities, Cornwall Council has invested some money in Landsbanki, the Icelandic Bank that has either gone bust or gone into receivership depending on who you listen to.

It now appears that as 'informed investors' local authorities will not have their deposits guaranteed in the same way that individuals will. So Cornwall is set to possibly lose £5 million and other counciles the same or more.

Should Cornwall and other authorities be putting money into banks like Landsbanki?

Well, they should certainly be putting their money somewhere. They get huge amounts of council tax money and government funding paid to them and it then trickles out through the course of the year. Far better to put it in the bank earning interest than stuff it under the proverbial mattress.

They should also be looking to earn a decent return rather than simply settling for the lowest rate of interest on the high street. But here is the crux. With higher rates of return comes an element of risk. I suppose, at least theoreticlly, they could play with these funds on the money markets. But the risk that they might lose the lot and not be able to pay for services is clearly one that no sensible council could take.

Ironically, it is by spreading the risk through putting the funds into a range of different financial institutions that they opened themselves up to this loss.

But equally, if they had put all their money in one particular high street bank - HBOS - then they could be seen as playing safe and yet still lose the lot.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

All together now

Geta ÉG hafa minn peningar bak

June elections

Local Government Minister John Healey has just told the Commons that there will be no local elections in May, they will be in June to coincide with the Euro vote instead. Apparently it is to avoid voter fatigue and to cut costs.

I have a real problem with this decision for a number of reasons:

- I think democracy is worth paying for. The Government's view that all money must be scrimped and saved is wrong-headed. Sure, let's cut back on un-necessary spending, but it is worth spending a few extra quid on ballot safety, for example. It is also worth paying to avoid...

- Voter confusion. If you combine Euro and local elections onto the same day then what messages are people going to receive about the campaign? Through their doors they may receive a modicum of Euro literature and quite a bit of local election stuff, but only if they live in a target ward. The TV and radio will only be talking about the Euro polls and so the debate will be on the duo of misleading subjects - straight bananas and a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (a treaty that is already dead as other have pointed out). I would like to see people voting on the basis of the elections that are actually happening. This is difficult enough when many people just want to give Brown a kicking, but almost impossible when UKIP - who are likely to stand virtually no local election candidates - are part of every debate and there is no reference to local polls. In Cornwall, we will have elections for the new Unitary Council. These are going to be tricky enough (for both voters and parties) without being muddled with the EU elections.

- Extended terms. I'm a believer in fixed term parliaments. I am also therefore in favour of fixed council terms. The ability of the Government to mess around with polling days at a whim (this is NOT the same as the foot and mouth postponement) runs contrary to that principle.

- By moving local election date to June, they appear to dismiss local elections as being of minor importance. This appears especially to be the case for County (and unitary) elections. County councils have not taken priority in terms of elections for the past 15 years. On every occasion since then the Government has decided that the General Election should fall on the same day. Fair enough in those cases because we do not have fixed terms Parliaments. But to arbitrarily subjugate the County elections yet again makes a mockery of these polls. It's a silly point, but did they ever think about the possibility of asking the EU to bring forward the Euro-polls?

- This decision will allow developers and others to get away with murder. It is bad enough during normal elections, but in early April the County and all six district councils will simply cease to be. The new Unitary Authority in Cornwall will take over responsibility with no democratic control. Canny developers and licensees will time their applications so that the Council will have to make a decision when there can be no oversight by elected people. The default option for the council officers will have to be to allow anything dubious or risk huge costs awards from the courts. Although not likely to be hit by this hiatus, there are set to be applications in the near future for a speedway track in Bodmin and for vast developments in Newquay (as well as the potential for lap-dancing applications). I'm not saying any of these are necessarily good or bad, but they should have democratic oversight.

It's a bad decision and the Liberal Democrats should vote against it.

Dodgy photo use - courtesy of the BBC

So, the BBC website wants to illustrate a story about a Qantas airliner which has made an emergency landing.

They have a picture on file of a Qantas jet, but how to make it more dramatic?

Easy. Crop the picture so you just have the tail section with the distinctive kangaroo and then tilt it so it looks like the jet has crash landed.

The only giveaway is the building in the background which also appears to be on a dramatic slope.

Get your act together Auntie.

(As readers will know, I only use photos here which I have taken or which I have specific permission to publish. As this is a case of direct critique, the use is justified under copyright law)

Breaking News: The EU rebels are back

According to the BBC, the three Lib Dem MPs who voted against Nick Clegg's line on the EU referendum have won back front bench posts.

Tim Farron, Alistair Carmichael and David Heath all fell out with the Party line when they were told to abstain on the EU referendum vote but voted in favour of a referendum - alongside 12 of their colleagues. They were forced to resign from the shadow cabinet as a result.

With the recent cabinet changes announced by Gordon Brown, this gave Nick Clegg the chance to reshuffle his team. Steve Webb has moved to cover the new Energy and Climate Changeministry and Tim Farron takes on the farming and Environment brief. Alistair Carmichael returns to voer Scotland and Northern Ireland and David Heath will head up a new Commission on Privacy - presumably looking at ID cards, data loss and so on.

In other changes, Sarah Teather moves from BERR to Housing - superficially perhaps a demotion, but Housing is a key campaigning area for the Party whereas BERR is not - especially when you are always having to play second fiddle to Vince. So I reckon she has gone up in the world (insert height related joke here). John Thurso will take over the Business brief.

I have to say that I am very glad that this has happened. I declare an interest in that I have been a friend of Tim Farron since long before he became an MP and think that he will rise far in the Party (so long as he holds off those pesky Tories).

Friday, 3 October 2008

Mystic Nick does it again

Nick Robinson assured us all yesterday that the reshuffle would merely be minor tinkering and finding someone to replace Ruth Kelly.

Nice one Nick. Your reputation is safe.

Hat-tip Gavin Whenman

Brown admits - I'm a terrible PM

Ok, so he didn't actually say that. But having to turn back to the old guard, including the uber-Blairite Peter Mandelson, cannot really be read any other way.

Some will see this reshuffle as shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic. My view is that he wants to prove that the overall situation is so bad that it is not his fault that the Economy is going down the tubes. By bringing in the likes of Beckett and Mandelson he is aiming to show that even the Blairites could do no better. One question is - did he try to convince Prezza to come back?

One line from Des Browne that stands out is this (quote from the BBC):

Mr Browne is to leave the government, the BBC has learned. He was offered another job but he felt it would be an insult to the armed forces to leave as defence secretary but take another job.
Hmm. Nice spin but perhaps the armed forces are delighted to see the back of yet another Defence Secretary who failed to provide them with the vision and the quipment to allow them to do their job properly. To be sacked from the Defence job - even if offered another - is a comdenation of the individual and not of the services. I really don't think they would have viewed it as worse if he had taken whatever role was offered to him.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Good riddance

Not going to add much to my earlier posts about Sir Ian Blair. But London should be a far better and safer place without him in charge of policing the capital.

Is it bye-bye for Blair?

According to the BBC, a statement is due this afternoon on the future of Sir Ian Blair, Met Police Commissioner and the most senior (and useless) copper in the UK. Apparently it is on the issue of paying a close friend from public funds to advise him.

Apparently this might be serious enough to see him suspended (we will wait with bated breath). But your force refusing to investigate arson, burglary, theft, muggings, threats of rape and so on is not. Neither is officers running round the streets shooting unarmed and innocent by-standers.

Beggars can't be choosers. So long as he goes.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Do the Tories really believe that the Police should be able to shoot first and never answer questions?

A big hat tip to Anthony Hook for drawing our attention to Dominic Grieve's speech to Tory conference.

What Grieve appears to say is that the Police should not have had to face a Health and Safety prosecution for the de Menezes case.

In a way, I agree. I think that the use of Health and Safety law appears a bit desperate when you are dealing with something as serious as the killing by the State of a completely innocent man. I would far rather see the prosecution of the officers who pulled the triggers if they are culpable or (as appears more the case here) the prosecution of Police Commanders personally for negligence.

The 'breach of Health and Safety' route was clearly not seen as a major failure by the Met as absolutely no-one has had to go as a result of their guilty verdict. It is quite clear that they see this matter as nothing serious.

(However, as they also appear to feel that burglary, theft, threats of rape, assault and arson are not serious enough to be worth investigating it's a wonder we bother with them at all.)

So I think that the Health and Safety prosecution route should be changed.

But I suspect that Mr Grieve has other reasons for wishing to see a change in the system. I imagine that his piece of populist rubbish was actually seeking to make the case for not subjecting the Police to any of the controls of the law where they can bring the word 'terrorism' into play.

After all, if you are innocent, you have nothing to worry about, have you?

Geek question

Can anybody explain why the Sun website always crashes Firefox on my computer? (Am running sh*tty-Vista)?

Tried to go from Stephen's Linlithgow Journal to his link to the Sun story about Lembit and, as ever, it crashed.

All help appreciated