Archives for category: Government
Off to town again and a wonderful education on the way.

I have a table seat and am joined by two “ladies” as I later discover they’re referred to by our local council. They’re actually two very driven new mum’s. To call them mums-net types would seem to me to be mislabelling them, doing them a disservice and being patronising all at the same time. They are formidable mothers who quite simply are on a mission to get something done. A very specific something. To build and operate a school for their community.

Perhaps I should go back to the beginning and explain….

Mrs G and I used to live in Brockworth. It’s a village in Gloucestershire that has three reasonably well known claims to fame. 1) The home of Cheese-Rolling on Cooper’s Hill. 2) The playground (in his youth) of the now world famous actor/writer and nerd, Simon Pegg and finally ..3) The invention of the Jet engine took place here under the guidance of the genius that was Frank Whittle.

Of the three, the most pertinent to our tale is the third, for long after the second world war and Mr Whittle’s jet engine genius-ness, the airfield that he used during the development of his now common-place device fell into dis-repair. Time passed, weeds grew and generally not an awful lot happened to the large strip of concrete fenced off from the main road opposite the grotty pub (sorry, but it is grotty) The Victoria.

Somewhen in the last 10 or 15 years, while the housing market was on the up, bits of the land became very interesting to the type of company that like to develop small trading estates and out of town industrial parks that aren’t excessively industrial but do allow for massive warehouses. Wincanton distribution have been out there for quite a while (I’m sure you’ve seen their trucks on the Motorway) and then a large part of the Gloucester sorting office moved out there. There’s an insurance company, a technology company, part of the NHS and a wine distributor. All well and good. It’s also nicely situated for Motorway access and there has been a road bridge over the M5 for a very long time, but until recently the bridge came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the old airfield with no connection into the village itself.

And then about 5 or 6 years ago, the developers finally got a green light and a decent size housing estate began appearing on top of the airfield which is now never to be seen again.

A very substantial Tesco’s arrived and then a Gym, a TravelLodge (well you have to, apparently) and a new pub (The Whittle) in memory of Frank. All of this to service the huge numbers of houses in an area now known as “Cooper’s Edge”. Great stuff. All well and good. Everybody’s happy.

Ah…. Wait a minute….. Hundreds of houses means hundreds of family’s means hundreds of kids means a school is required. Oh… Hmmmm…. And a housing market slump, and no plan of any great consequence and a small group of mums with no school for their kids.

You see where this is going?

These two mums have spent the last three years making it happen, and they seem to me to be pretty much unstoppable. There isn’t anything they haven’t yet overcome. They’ve successfully mobilised their community and now have plans which have been approved and a builder all set to go.

Best of all it’s absolutely nothing to do with the coalition government’s “Big Society”. One of the recently appointed local MPs did try very briefly to suggest that his party’s policies might have helped enable their superbly executed work, but a local resident who knew the truth soon put him right via the local paper. “Get back in yer box” seems to sum it up nicely.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure some elements of TBS are almost a good idea, but to take these “Ladies” hard work and pass it off as something you’ve “enabled” is as low as a… Well, its as low as a politician. Ah. Yes. Good point. Well quite.

Anyway, their race is far from over, but they seem not to worry and are all guns blazing for the next challenge that the project presents, whatever that may be.

Right now they’re working on a community centre (well a temporary one), the fixtures, fittings and colour schemes for the school, library systems, ICT, staff rooms and classrooms, nurturing their own children, holding down full time jobs AND maintaing husbands. And we all know how demanding that lot is.

I’m seriously impressed and won’t be at all surprised when women like these, up and down the country are putting the world to rights and shaming the rest of us into fixing the country properly with far less interference from local government, council and central government who quite frankly wouldn’t know what to do with a mother and baby in their boardroom and that’s before they realise that the mothers are explaining to them how to do their jobs.

Which leads me on to “what can I do?”. Their spot isn’t even in my community anymore. I don’t have kids of school attending age and even though the senior Balls are involved in schooling, I’m not.

However, there might be an angle. Starfleet might have something in the form of corporate citizenship and doing smart and clever things for the community. For now, investigations are afoot. I’ve made no promises, but if comes to it, I’ll willingly pick up a paint brush at the very least – should that be required to get the job done.

My hat is off to them. You can find out more about the sterling work that the two J’s (“we’re joined at the hip” or so they told me) have done and continue to do here:

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Even if the government try their damndest to tell us otherwise, they are, quite frankly, wrong!.  Tax is Taxing, in fact, it’s a right royal pain in the harris!  

It appears to the man on the Clapham omnibus, the man on the number 10 bus, the layman, Joe & Joanna Public or whoever you wish to generalise the tax paying nation of britain as, that the key problem with Tax paying/collection is it’s complexity.  If you want everyone to pay a bill, make it simple and they’ll pay it. Make it complicated and they might pay it, but you might not be able to tell if they did or they didn’t without spending a huge amount of time (and time is money) trying to figure out what they actually did.

Of course, historically, there may well be a very good reason for the Tax system being so insanely complicated that it’s becoming unmanageable. After all, I have no doubt there have been plenty of high earning ministers who are happy to hang on to their income rather than contribute to the public coffers and interestingly it’s not illegal to avoid paying tax, its only illegal not to pay tax should you be supposed to do so. Not much of a loophole there then!

I hate the system because of it’s complexity, but right now, I love the system because of it’s complexity. It’s become apparent that the government have done something wrong with the way they’ve been allocating Tax codes over the past 2 years. I’ve had a look at my previous payslips and P60’s and guess what?…   Sure enough I’ve had a different tax code every year for the past three years which is interesting when you consider that my job hasn’t changed and neither has my salary during that period.

Something is amiss.

As a result, I’ve spent some time trawling through the HM Revenue & Customs documentation here and having run some numbers through the Tax calculator here, it seems I’m owed some money back. WooHoo!!!  A call the to the revenue man and if all is well, a cheque will be in the post. I’ve calculated a saving of around £400.  If I can keep up this level of income I could give up the day job…. oh… hang on… that’s not quite how it works is it?

Before I rush off looking for interesting and inventive ways to spend this new found wealth, I think we’re long overdue a bit of the old geek talk that is really what I started all this blogging for in the first place. So there’s two particular items I’d like to draw your attention to.

Quora and Kindle. I know, it sounds like I’m talking some foreign language and there’s a whole other post waiting to be written about product naming conventions, but for the time being I can assure you that I’m still using english…mostly.

I’m sure an awful lot of you will have heard of a Kindle by now. It’s the “e-reader” that sell. If you’re still lost, think of an iPod for books and if you still haven’t got it, it’s like a book that’s connected to the Internet so that you can change the contents of it into any book that’s available. 

See and download the full gallery on posterous

Mrs Ball senior had her birthday in November and Mrs G and I got her a Kindle which hopefully she’s now downloading books onto and reading them like a good ‘un. I’ve installed the Kindle software on the iPad too, and in fact, it’s won me over. Better than iBooks (keep trying Apple) just because of it’s synchronisation facilities. I can read a few pages on my phone while I’m sat on the bus, and then when I get home I can pick up my iPad and open the same book at the exact spot I’d reached while I was on the bus, thanks to the “whispersync” technology that they’ve deployed.  It also means if I sat in front of my Mac (or PC for those that still haven’t figured out that old problem) I can do exactly the same. It’s clever stuff.

This leads me onto another quick VAT wheeze…. books. I love em, what with them being VAT free and full of interesting things to read and all. So I’m not happy that for some insane reason, digital editions of books have VAT applied to them… I mean “How the Flaming Fudge did that happen!!??”.  However, there is a wealth of old books that are available for free on the kindle (other devices are available and are very good too). Keep your eyes peeled for the classics if you’re that way inclined.

One feature of the actual kindle as opposed to the software versions that can be downloaded onto all the other hardware platforms, is the text to speech facility. On a real kindle, it’s an awesome addition making the need to purchase audio books (for those to lazy to read, or wishing to look cool on the tube with headphones and not a book) irrelevant. Sadly this functionality doesn’t work on the other devices as yet, but I’m sure it’ll come eventually. Overall, my opinion of Kindle-ing (I’m not sure that’s a real word, but it’s ‘coming to a dictionary near you’ soon no doubt) is “Highly Recommended”, especially with this: The Hanging Shed, which was a joyous little read and the first of many that I’ll be reading via this technology.

Now, to Quora which is an online knowledge market. (It’s a what-now? -Ed).

The word itself is another “non-word” (see Google or Yahoo) which has been canibalised from words such as “Quorum” (the number of members of a group or organization required to be present to transact business legally, usually a majority or a particularly chosen group), “Quor” – (of which) and probably a dash of “Enquire” – (to seek information by questioning). What it is, is a website for you to ask questions:

It’s a sort of cross between “Twitter” and “Yahoo Answers” and to be honest, the best way for you to understand it, is to go and use it. It’s organised into groups and people, and if you know the answer to a question posted there, then feel free to share the answer. This is, after all how we move the wealth of human knowledge forward.  

Having said that, if you answer questions that you don’t know the answer too, it’s also how we can move the wealth of human knowledge backwards as well. Case in point: – Nuff Said.

And there it is for today. Onwards and upwards into more starfleetedness. I can only hope that reports like this prove to be true for all of us. I’m not holding my breath.

Take care and chin up.



This post originally appeared here: Posterous

After my VAT ramblings and ravings yesterday, I very carelessly forgot to put my orange box back in the pile of oddments in the garage. So this morning finds me tripping over the damn thing, climbing on board and spouting on again.

Here I am carrying on where I left off.

….and another thing…. If austerity measures are good enough for the government, then they’re good enough for me!! I mean they should be concentrating on the tax evaders rather than penalising the tax payers, but two can play at that game. It’s now become my mission to re-examine every single expenditure I have and to reduce it where possible to see what can be saved without reducing my quality of living. This might be fun, and who knows we might both learn something.

My largest outgoing is a mortgage. Right now I can’t do much about this. It’s fixed rate and the redemption fee makes remortgaging prohibitive. It is actually my one biggest bug bear with the entire financial crisis. Interest rates are at an all time low and I’m saddled with almost 6%. On the plus side, I’ve only got another 6 months until the fixed period ends so you can expect interest rates to climb significantly by then. It’s just my luck.

Next item I’m going to tackle is the TV package. I’m a Sky World HD subscriber. Not so many moons ago this used to cost about 40 quid a month. Now with HD and our new friend “Mr 20% VA feckin T” thats climbed to in excess of £60 per month. It’s got to go. Obviously freeview is an option and is in fact what we have in the rest of the house (only having sky in the living room) but after much deliberation and research the answer for me is Freesat+ HD.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

The outlay in cost is going to be around £300, for a Humax Foxsat HD PVR but the saving is my Sky subscription fee every month. So 5 months will see it pay for itself, which means the real question is what’s the impact on the service itself? Over the last couple of months I’ve been paying close attention to what we watch which has helped me gauge what we need and it turns out that the impact to our viewing habits is almost nil, and in one case is actually improved.

Sky have over 30 HD channels and god knows how many other SD channels, but we regularly still only watch the major 5. Occasionally we dip into the sport, or movies, but generally speaking the Sky offerings themselves are pretty much neglected.

The beauty of the Freesat solution is what is can do that Sky can’t or simply will not. Sky are very possessive about content, even when it’s not theirs. With the Freesat box you can plug in external USB storage and copy recordings off the box for manipulation via a whole host of video editing applications. Furthermore, freesat now supports the BBC iPlayer, a beautiful piece of software that allows you to go back and watch any of the last 7 days BBC TV content on-demand, as well as a few other choice bits off BBC output. In the near future it will also have the ITV Player and 4OD which are essentially the same service but for both ITV and Channel 4.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

These services use the same front end interface for integration, but their content is delivered via your local broadband connection via a LAN connection on the back of the box. Yet more goodness awaits just around the corner with the launch of yet more HD channels beyond BBC One HD and ITV1 HD. The only downside I can see is the loss of 4HD which often has very watchable content and Sky News HD for when I want a more “News of the World” take on whatever is going on out there.

Of course, there is a little known (because Sky don’t really want you to know about it) offering from BskyB which enables you to watch all the “free-to-air” channels available on the platform. You need to have a free sky viewing card, which costs a mere £25. Sounds ideal doesn’t it? But there’s a catch. If you want to be able to record anything, you need a Sky+ subscription and that’s a tenner a month. Equally, you can’t move any of these recordings anywhere else. Seems stupid.

Put simply switching to FreeSat HD+ is a bit of a no-brainer and why I haven’t done it sooner is beyond me.

So that’s going to save me £720 per year and I’ve been making active noises about Amazon vouchers for birthday presents to help me fund the initial outlay for the box. Looking for a win-win situation here.

So what’s next to get the chop ??…. ah… my Tax Burden…. Tune in tomorrow. 🙂

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Happy New Year… right that’s that. I won’t be mentioning it again now. It’s all done with. Other than to say I trust you all enjoyed yours with merriment and all that that implies.

Now it’s back to reality with a serious bump. Be warned, I’ve dug an old orange box out of the back of the garage, and I’m about to turn it upside down and hop on top for a bit of a rant….

Over the last 12 months fuel costs in the UK have gone up by around 15 pence per litre. On January the 1st we had a fuel duty increase of 0.76 pence and todays VAT rise means a further 3 pence per litre. This brings the average price for a litre of fuel to around £1.26 (approximately £70 for a full tank). What’s worrying is that we don’t seem to care and I suspect this has a lot to do with the lack of understanding by Joe & Joanna Public as to how this figure is arrived at.

The cost of petrol (& Diesel, there’s not much difference anymore), the actual product, is more like 40p per litre, so whats the other 85p ? The retailer makes around 5p per litre and the remaining 80p Is straight in the governments pocket. That’s just over 20p in VAT and around 60p in duty.

The duty alone is more than the actual product!!!??!

In 1995 the government had 39.4p out of the 54p per litre (73%). By 2000 this had risen to 58.6p of the 76.2p (77%).

Now I’m reading rumors of further price increases being hidden under the cover of the VAT increase by unscrupulous traders who just seem intent on making a miserable situation even worse by being greedy b@5****s.

The BBC reported this gem today:

<>The VAT rise may spur a broader increase in the price of goods, according to a survey of 200 senior managers by accountancy group KPMG.

It has claimed that many retailers are planning to use the tax rise to “mask” more extensive price increases.

It said 60% of retailers and consumer product manufacturers planned to increase their prices over and above the VAT rise.<>

As a nation, consumerism via retail fuels our economy. Without it nothing will work quite properly. Or at least that is what we are taught to believe and I’m quite sure that on many levels it’s true. However, our all new shiny hybrid government seem hell bent on some pretty major social experimentation in the name of saving money. As a result, we’re going to have a phenomenal year or total meltdown. I’m not sure I can call it either way just yet.

I reckon the best advice I can suggest would be to keep your eyes peeled and count your pennies. The high street have been backed into a corner and it looks like they’re going to turn nasty.

It could be a fight to the death and as consumers, we’ll only take so much before it all just becomes too much.

This post originally appeared here: Posterous
OK, So politics have got my attention again. Here is how I see it and feel free to shoot me down in flames if you think I’m missing something key but as the dude says: “That’s..just like…your opinion man.”

During the run up to the General Election earlier this year, there is absolutely no denying that the Liberal Democrats, as led by Nick Clegg said that they would NOT make cuts in Education and would not put up tuition fees.  Party Policy was signed up to by members of the party and scrapping tuition fees would be a goal. 

The election happened and the result was a “Coalition” government. Now it seems that this is a fact that is conveniently forgotten by the media in an attempt to drum up some sort of drama. Vince Cable is the Secretary of State and as such, delivery of the policy is his responsibility. His words on newsnight last night as usual made very interesting hearing and an awful lot of common sense.

“We had a coalition agreement, we’re implementing that coalition agreement. We knew that it wasn’t going to be possible to deliver the pre-election commitment on tuition fees. We had a challenge that we responded to, which was to enact policies which contribute to reducing this massive government deficit while finding other ways of providing funding for universities to keep up world class standards and to change the system we inherited from Labour of graduate contributions to make it more progressive and more related to peoples ability to pay. We’ve done those things and in very difficult circumstances I think I’ve delivered a better policy”

“In an ideal world we’d be spending lots of money and I’d be father Christmas and everything would be free. We’re not in an ideal world, we’re in a very very tough financial environment in which in universities as in other bits of the economy, very difficult painful cuts are having to be made.”

“I supported my parties policies, but when we entered the coalition we had to make compromises and we did make compromises. The Tories had to drop some of their favourite policies, we had to compromise on others. We knew that the tuition fee issue was going to be a very difficult one but we agreed that we would try to make the system better and fairer, which is what we’ve done.”

“We’re in government. We’re having to make tough choices.”

“We didn’t carry all of the party with us, we did have a substantial number of my colleagues voted against it. We knew when we went into government that this was probably going to be one of the most difficult challenges we’d have to face. My job, as the Secretary odd State, I inherited a system based on tuition fees that were almost certainly going to rise substantially….The last labour government was fully committed to making very deep cuts in my department concerned with universities. Tuition fees were going to rise under the Brown report. My job was to try to make the system fairer, better and that’s what I’ve been working on with my colleagues for the last six months.”

“We haven’t failed at all. The first test we had was joining the coalition and it was a difficult test because we entered into government, if you may remember the context. The country needed stable government, there was a financial emergency, the country wanted parties to work together in the national interest and the first big test we made was entering into that coalition, accepting compromises on things that we believed in and were very committed to, and the tuition fee policy is one of those.”

“I think actually well be significantly stronger having been through this very difficult process. We’ve met together several times in the last few days to debate with eachother how we should deal with this. People have strong views but we are still colleagues, we’re going to work together sa a team. There is no permanent division. We’re going to put this behind us. All of my colleagues are now fully committed to the coalition government including those who voted against it.”

Kirsty Young interjected with this: “What about the assertion that this will actually be good for poor students because poor students in poor families are debt averse and what you are essentially doing is condemning them to decades of debt and that will put a lot of them off going to university”

And Vince continued….

“I think that is absolutely wrong and i think it will be proved to be wrong. We built into this policy a whole series of commitments which mean that that will not happen. First of all, Low income graduates will not pay any contributions. We’ve lifted the threshold to 21,000. If people graduate, they’re in a low income, they take time off to have a family, they’re unemployed, they don’t pay. it is a more progressive system. large numbers of people will not have to pay the full contribution. Roughly half will not have to pay because it’s linked to peoples ability to pay. This is not debt in a commercial sense. The student loan scheme is not a commercial scheme. People who want to borrow mortgages for example are not effected by it in anyway. And we’re also helping people from Low income families in other ways. The scholarship scheme will help with that. We’ve increased the availability of grants for people when they study at university. The system is made considerably more progressive than it was and that was acknowledged by the institute of fiscal studies this morning.”

Just out of interest, how many countries in the world provide higher education for free?? If we had a single party government, say a lib dem government that had promised not to alter education fees, then I’d be rioting to, but the power is not sat with those who made the promises. It is instead shared across an unholy alliance…..

co·a·li·tion  [koh-uhlishuh n]
1. a combination or alliance, especially a temporary one between persons, factions, states, etc.
2. a union into one body or mass; fusion.

When I see kids saying they are from the ‘Slums of London’ and suggesting if they don’t get EMA they’ll have to do drugs deals, my heart sinks.

Have you ever tried shouting at a horse? I have. It’s a pointless exercise, they don’t listen.

Other fun and games that the students thought would help their cause included:

  • Setting fire to the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square
  • Smashing shop windows on Oxford Street
  • Vandalising statues, include Winston Churchill’s in Parliament Square
  • A sit-in at the National Gallery (I’ve sat in the National Gallery. It’s very nice)

What a bunch of idiots.  In the LSE the students are sitting in, and are going nowhere.  Sorry????  Have these kids not been paying attention?.

Students believe seminars are overcrowded and they’re not getting the quality of education that they’re expecting. Could that be because the universities themselves are overcrowded? Is a university education now considered to be a right? Surely it’s something that should be earned.

There’s been much noise over the last ten or fifteen years that GCSE’s are easier than O-Levels. So kids are no coming out of school with straight A’s and expecting to go to higher education. Kids aren’t allowed to fail anymore. They just move the goalposts, not least because the schools get better government funding based on their high levels of good quality results.  Somethings not right here.

20 years ago, I would guesstimate that only the top 10% went on to higher education. Now it seems it’s only the bottom 20% that don’t. Please note, these aren’t actual figures, they’re just how it feels from my point of view.

As for rioting students attacking the heir to the throne and complaining that the police have horses!? Well that just beggars belief. What are they complaining about? They have daytime television… Dickinson’s Real Deal, Jeremy Kyle, Midsummer Murders, Quincy & Countdown to name but five.  Yes, I had to look them up, because I, like the rest of us, live in the real world and have to work for a living instead of drinking my student loan and laying in bed. Any sense of sympathy with individuals being violent towards the police force, is instantly defenistrated. Totally unacceptable and looses what little support I have for them.

OK, OK, I know I’m generalising, and that some students actually are trying to learn something and to better themselves and the country as a whole. It is very unfair to lump them all together, and that is not my intention and in fact I apologise unreservedly to those students that are taking their education seriously. But just how many really are serious about it?

The top 10% maybe?  Sounds about right doesn’t it?….


This post originally appeared here: Posterous
It appears the French aren’t very happy about having to work past the age of 60. In fact, they’re so upset about the prospect, that they’ve downed tools and the majority of the country appears to have gone on strike.

Ahhh. Clever. See what they’ve done there? Even if they do have to work until they’re 62, by protesting for long enough they could get two years off, and therefore not actually work as long as they’re being expected to. 
(Photo via Reuters)

But why are they being asked by their government to work for a further two years? 

In the UK we weren’t consulted  on the subject but from October next year employers would not be allowed to dismiss staff because they had reached the age of 65. We’re being told that it’s to deal with the deep financial crisis that the World economy finds itself in. Frankly I doubt that such a financial crisis even exists. In fact a more plausible story is thus:

A couple of large banks made some very bad decisions based on the fact that they’d told their shareholders to expect a constant stream of growth. The banks themselves had forgotten the rule that they happily jam down everybody else’s throats. Namely, “The value of your” anything-you-care-to-mention “can go down as well as up”. If they’d told their shareholders to expect no, or better yet just moderate, growth then the banks wouldn’t have been motivated to over extend their borrowing and then panic when they couldn’t afford to meet their responsibilities. 

In the real world, the solution to this is for these bad businesses to go bust.  But in the twisted financial world of high finance and big bankers entwined with expense extracting politicians that’s not how it worked out. Instead the government used our money (acquired from us via taxation and set aside for retirement funds) to lend to these failing banks to meet their responsibilities. 

That leaves the government in the sticky situation of having robbed Peter to pay Paul and now having to get that money back from somewhere. So they’ve sold “shares” in the government (in the form of bonds) back to the banks (who have bought them with the money the government has lent them) which presumably in time, the banks will then sell again – to us most likely – to get the money back again.

What’s all this got to do with Marge’s Birthday??  

Well, the people (in France) on strike that can apply pressure to the government are government department employees. The likes of power/electricity workers for example.  In the UK during the 1980’s, Marge Thatcher made it her mission to get rid of many of the nationalised industries the country had. Power generation in the form of British Gas is just one example. and then on top of that she systematically destroyed the Union’s. The Miner’s strikes are a bleak reminder of the times. If Maggie hadn’t done that, would the UK be on strike to protest against the way the UK Government have been treating it’s citizen’s of late?

I suspect the answer is no. After all, that’s not really the British way of doing things. We are after all is said and done, far more reserved and stiff upper lipped than the french and their students. Ultimately this is probably a bad thing.

You have to love the fact that while today is Maggie’s Birthday, everyone in the world is watching the rescue of the Miner’s in Chile.
(photo via the BBC)

A final thought – not everything that Maggie did was a bad thing – just the disassembly of the will of the people may not have been her greatest hour.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

A good friend of mine once asked me “What’s the difference between ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Iron Woman’ ?

It’s an easy question to answer for those that know anything about it. ‘Iron Man’ is a Superhero, while ‘Iron Woman’ is an instruction. And so, it is with this in mind, that I’ve concluded that it’s good to be the font of all useless knowledge. For example, If I shared the prior information with Mrs G, then it would also be fortuitous that I am aware of the fact that a single person in the UK needs a gross income of at least £14,400 in 2010 to live to an acceptable standard. You see my point ? This also explains why it’s so important to keep abreast of the news & current affairs.

According to “Larger-than-Life” Eric Pickles (I’m trying to be nice here – stop tittering), I could probably earn about £14k from a council “non-job” such as ‘cheerleading development officer’ or ‘communications waste strategy officer’. But then he is the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, which sounds a bit like a non-job in itself. I can’t quite explain why, but I don’t really trust the bloke. He makes me think, if you looked up “Fat Cat” in a dictionary, you’d see his picture. I’m sure I’m doing him a huge disservice, so I can but apologise, not least because I actually agree with what he’s saying (these roles shouldn’t exist), although I don’t agree with his defence of the first-past-the-post voting system and his belief that it results in stable government.

I’m all for cutting government spending – after all, I’ve been close enough to see it and there is no doubt that some of it isn’t quite right. But this task should be fairly straight forward as anyone who’s keeping up with the news today will know. I’m pretty sure there must be an app for that… after all, there’s plenty of unemployed people with iPhones according to the government. Stop paying them so much benefit and they might have to work for a living!! I shouldn’t generalise, but have we as a nation got the money to waste on these things:

The most expensive application was a proposed Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) app that provides “a masterclass for changing your wheel”.
Documents seen by the BBC reveal that the DVLA Motoring Masterclass app would cost £40,000 and would also work out fuel mileage, act as a hazard light and track RAC patrols.

Changing your wheel!!!! To be fair to the developers, 40k may be about the going rate – but it’s not how much that’s the problem – it’s the validity of the requirement. FFS!!!!

Walking briskly away from the politics – because it’s really not good for my blood pressure….
I need something calming… deep breaths…. rainbows!!! just the ticket….Don’t you just love it when people react unexpectedly to perfectly normal explainable phenomenon…

….and then when other people see it and use “Auto-Tune” on it….

OK, I think I’ve calmed down now. Lets go back and have a look at other news…

The James Dyson awards are coming up and hot tip for a winner is motorised shoes. Oh for heavens sake. Do your legs not work ?? I’m forecasting a huge increase in ankle related traffic accidents if these things ever make it to market.

More fun stuff: Have you ever written a review for a product on the amazon website ? You should, there’s just so much fun to be had with it. I’m sure you’ve seen the “Mountain Men’s Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve T-Shirt”, but have you read the review ?? Awesomness awaits you:
and for 10 more of the same, take a look at this entry from odd. Fun times.

OK, so last news story of the day, and it’s a belter:

A “big budget” porn film was shot in a London hospital when it hired out one of its wards to a film company.The movie generated “substantial income” for the hospital, Tory MP Penny Mordaunt said.

But wait for it, here’s the best bit:

“Although I cannot claim to have seen the final picture – as I understand, these things are no longer claimable on parliamentary expenses – it was a big-budget affair and generated substantial income for the hospital. But apart from cheering up a few of the in-patients, it cannot be said to be contributing to the objectives of the primary care trust.”

NHS Kensington and Chelsea said: “We can confirm this incident occurred some time prior to 2002 under a predecessor organisation’s management and prior to the formation of PCTs.”

Deep Breaths… count to 10…. Rainbows….

Some people have no conscious of what goes on in the rest of the world. I’m not bemoaning these “individuals” but I do worry for the rest of us when such uniqueness invades the day-to-day drudgery of those that have important topical issues to wrestle with. Let me enlighten you by way of an example.

I am engaged on a fairly simple project (one of a plethora) on board the enterprise. The project manager is clearly an “individual” having planned a lengthy conference call requiring much concentration at… wait for it….. 3pm on Wednesday!!. I may have over reacted somewhat when the PM asked if that would be acceptable. “You are joking aren’t you!?” was the response I gave. “Do you not know what is happening at 3pm on Wednesday!!?” A tad harsh on my part to be fair. I back peddled and made light of it as much as I dared without sounding like a complete buffoon. (A challenge as you can imagine). Regardless, it would appear that the call will go on and as a direct result of this individualistic behaviour, England will once again be knocked out of the World Cup and we will have to endure another 4 years of harping on about 1966. Sorry lads – I can’t be there to cheer you on – I have to be on the phone. I mean, really…. is that acceptable?

In other news, daughter is onto her third shift as a proper copper. Now, every time I hear a siren in the distance, I wonder if that’s her whizzing off to something exciting. It would be a worry, but I know she can handle herself since she’s had the correct training and has plenty of support. To be honest, I really wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her when she’s all kitted up now and she’s over the moon with the whole thing. If she’s happy, we’re all happy. This morning she was up at the crack of dawn to go on an operation. She could tell me, but then she’d have to kill me, so no doubt we’ll find out in the fullness of time. I think it’s the rush hour traffic and ANPR cameras, so I’m walking if I have to go out.

Yesterdays iOS4 upgrade went without a hitch for me. Just past 6pm UK Time iTunes downloaded the package and off it went. The whole process took about 25 minutes, although after I disconnected and then later reconnected to iTunes, it had to rebuild my photo library on the phone to support the new faces & places features. These features already existed for me via iPhoto on my desktop, but it’s great that they’ve gone mobile too.

Without doubt the best features are task switching and folders. My apps were getting out of control, but all much neater now. There are loads of other little tweaks as well which all add up to a very useful and beautifully executed piece of kit. Hopefully I’ll find out how fast it is on the new A4 processor on Thursday – but that will all depend on stock.

Today brings us the joys of an emergency budget.  What could be finer on a nice warm summers day that to have your finances ripped to shreds by what appears to be an 25 year old snob in a suit ?  OK I may be exaggerating slightly, and perhaps he’s only 20 – who cares?

I hear this morning though that there’s actually going to be an increase in income tax threshold of £1000. What’s been leaked so far are the following:

  • An increase in airport departure levies from November, increasing the tax for a family of four on a long-haul flight to £300.
  • Cuts and freezes to welfare benefits to save £4bn-£5bn a year.
  • A rise in capital gains tax from the present 18%, but with exemptions for savers and entrepreneurs.
  • Cuts in corporation tax to boost the private sector.
  • A small VAT increase from the present 17.5%, which could be delayed until next year.
  • An increase in the income tax threshold, a key Lib Dem policy, saving lower and middle earners around £200 a year and encouraging benefit claimants into work.
  • Big cuts to Labour’s child tax credits, costing some families as much as £545 a year.

All in all this may not be as painful for me as I’d first thought, but I won’t know for sure until after the Noon to 2.30pm announcement. No doubt the BBC will have a budget tool on their website that can help you analyse the pain. They’ve already got one to help decide what you would cut if you were in the chancellor’s shoes. What would You Cut

Finally – didn’t North Korea do well? I think we should all be concerned for the welfare of that team knowing the regime that they come from. To be fair they are a team with a great sense of decency which can clearly be seen by looking at theirs stats so far.  They may only have scored one goal and let in nine, but they’ve only committed 11 fouls, the lowest of the entire tournament. The next closest being Spain and Serbia both with 15.

Spain seem to have redeemed themselves somewhat with a 2-0 victory over Honduras, but they’ve still got some football to play – as have the rest of us. Two thirds of the way through the group stages now and it is beginning to get interesting.  Come on Engerlund!!!  Even if I can’t support you tomorrow, at least I can rant and rave about it on here 😦

Now I’m sure you read my earlier post regarding the fact that England has spoken and if not, well shame on you. You really need to understand how this “Great” Britain works or not as the case may be. Regardless, last evening was spent spining out an excellent diatribe on the way things are done in this country and the way things should be done. In short, we put the world (more importantly, the country) to rights… This really is deep stuff for three blokes having a beer, but then all the biggest problems are traditionally solved in this way.

It all comes down to human rights and what should (and shouldn’t) the state control that directly effects us members of the public. So clearly we need some changes and as such I would like to present the WTC Manifesto (while not completed yet, it is the first principles of a Manifesto at least) which I can assure you we will be passing on to the members of parliament for the new coalition with the sole intention of inclusion in their future plans for old man England.

1. Services
I’m certain that most people would agree there are certain services that are essential to human existence. Things like the provision of water, energy and food for example. These services are things that (in our bright new coalition -ConDemNation-) should be provided by the state. Today the state provides us with medical (NHS), security (Police & Military), education (Schools & some universities), Entertainment & News (BBC) and the Post Office. Of these how many are provided well?

In the WTC’s view (and I’m sure most people of any common sense) the answer is one, namely the BBC.

First of all, let me share with you the logic that has drawn these conclusions. The BBC is an institution that is highly respected the world over. In the face of commercial competition from the likes of ITV, Channel 4 and Sky (in the UK alone) it has managed to successfully compete and moreover “up it’s game” to a level that the commercial stations can still only aspire to. It has done this through funding that is mostly publicly supplied, although it is important to note that it does have a smaller percentage of commercial income as a result of sales of some of it’s output.

Surely when a semi-nationalised business such as this does so well, then shouldn’t it be held up as a paragon of virtue in the quagmire that is commercialism. ?? ie: If the BBC can get it right, what the hell is going wrong with …. ??

Let’s be clear, the BBC isn’t a fully nationalised institution and neither is it a fully commercial institution. It is a hybrid and for this reason it works. So what happens if we apply the same logic to the other services that we believe the Government should be running ?

1a. Power
The commercial power providers in the UK need to have a certain amount of Nationalised control re-imposed upon them. Forget about everyone having a smart meter to see how much they’re consuming, that is putting the cart before the horse (and it is in the coalition manifesto). Use that money to help provide everyone in the country with a solar panel or windmill for micro-energy generation. This in itself would create an entire business and should show the way to England becoming the world leader in micro-engegy generation. So we propose the Ministry of Energy should be taking this bull squarely by the horns and bringing the commercial energy providers back in line with what the people should have a “right” to and not what these enterprises shareholders want. ie: Clean and Cheap energy, not Dirty and expensive dividends. Why aren’t we taking a leaf out of NYC’s book and applying this logic to the whole country??

1b. Water
This one is a bit tougher, but it suffers similar problems in it’s charging mechanisms. The fact that we’re charged for the delivery of water and the taking away of water seems to be flawed, but we agree that we’d need to look further into the issues before we can set a firm policy on the subject although it is clear that shareholders influence is too strong when water is a basic need.

1c. Food
Anyone will tell you the supermarkets have too much control and influence over what we eat in this country. From the BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free) deals that encourage us to buy stuff we don’t need and either eat it and get fat, or throw it away and load up the landfill sites to the importation of asparagus from Peru under the guise of providing more choice for the consumer which is actually just damaging the environment by flying the stuff over 6000 miles. They are clearly out of control and some government influence could save us a small fortune. Not least in the NHS which is going to be overburdened by fatties in no time at this rate.

So those are the Services that aren’t government controlled, but should be at some level. Bear in mind that the method we’re suggesting using is a hybrid Government controlled/Commercial model. What about the ones that are government controlled that shouldn’t be…

Well I’ve blathered on about it enough for today – but it’s an ongoing agenda item for the suddenly serious WTC, so you can expect views on semi-Privatisation of the existing services in a future blog entry.

At least we don’t have to worry about Schrödinger’s Japanese Snow Monkey which was a source of mental backflips for me & some of my co-workers, briefly yesterday. The cat died having been left in the box without food for too long.

I thought I’d finished with the political posts, but those gist in whitehall have actually got me engaged in this stuff now.  Life may never be the same again. Clearly I haven’t seen it all and actually the world’s a better place than I thought.

It turns out that the Con-Lib coalition (Some might say the “Con-Dem Nation” – Ho Ho Ho – Ed.) negotiations document, which lists all the agreements they’ve reached has been publish and seven pages of damn fine reading it makes too. Enjoy… or fume a your leisure:

Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition negotiations 

Agreements reached 
11 May 2010

This document sets out agreements reached between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on a range of issues. These are the issues that needed to be resolved between us in order for us to work together as a strong and stable government. It will be followed in due course by a final Coalition Agreement, covering the full range of policy and including foreign, defence and domestic policy issues not covered in this document.

1. Deficit Reduction
The parties agree that deficit reduction and continuing to ensure economic recovery is the most urgent issue facing Britain. We have therefore agreed that there will need to be:

  • a significantly accelerated reduction in the structural deficit over the course of a Parliament, with the main burden of deficit reduction borne by reduced spending rather than increased taxes;
  • arrangements that will protect those on low incomes from the effect of public sector pay constraint and other spending constraints; and
  • protection of jobs by stopping Labour’s proposed jobs tax.

The parties agree that a plan for deficit reduction should be set out in an emergency budget within 50 days of the signing of any agreement; the parties note that the credibility of a plan on deficit reduction depends on its long-term deliverability, not just the depth of immediate cuts. New forecasts of growth and borrowing should be made by an independent Office for Budget Responsibility for this emergency budget.

The parties agree that modest cuts of £6 billion to non-front line services can be made within the financial year 2010-11, subject to advice from the Treasury and the Bank of England on their feasibility and advisability. Some proportion of these savings can be used to support jobs, for example through the cancelling of some backdated demands for business rates. Other policies upon which we are agreed will further support job creation and green investment, such as work programmes for the unemployed and a green deal for energy efficiency investment.

The parties agree that reductions can be made to the Child Trust Fund and tax credits for higher earners.

2. Spending Review – NHS, Schools and a Fairer Society
The parties agree that a full Spending Review should be held, reporting this Autumn, following a fully consultative process involving all tiers of government and the private sector.

The parties agree that funding for the NHS should increase in real terms in each year of the Parliament, while recognising the impact this decision would have on other departments. The target of spending 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid will also remain in place.

We will fund a significant premium for disadvantaged pupils from outside the schools budget by reductions in spending elsewhere.

The parties commit to holding a full Strategic Security and Defence Review alongside the Spending Review with strong involvement of the Treasury.

The Government will be committed to the maintenance of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and have agreed that the renewal of Trident should be scrutinised to ensure value for money. Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives. We will immediately play a strong role in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, and press for continued progress on multilateral disarmament.

The parties commit to establishing an independent commission to review the long term affordability of public sector pensions, while protecting accrued rights.

We will restore the earnings link for the basic state pension from April 2011 with a “triple guarantee” that pensions are raised by the higher of earnings, prices or 2.5%, as proposed by the Liberal Democrats.

3. Tax Measures
The parties agree that the personal allowance for income tax should be increased in order to help lower and middle income earners. We agree to announce in the first Budget a substantial increase in the personal allowance from April 2011, with the benefits focused on those with lower and middle incomes. This will be funded with the money that would have been used to pay for the increase in Employee National Insurance thresholds proposed by the Conservatives, as well as revenues from increases in Capital Gains Tax rates for non-business assets as described below. The increase in Employer National Insurance thresholds proposed by the Conservatives will go ahead in order to stop Labour’s jobs tax. We also agree to a longer term policy objective of further increasing the personal allowance to £10,000, making further real terms steps each year towards this objective.

We agree that this should take priority over other tax cuts, including cuts to Inheritance Tax. We also agree that provision will be made for Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain on budget resolutions to introduce transferable tax allowances for married couples without prejudice to this coalition agreement.

The parties agree that a switch should be made to a per-plane, rather than per-passenger duty; a proportion of any increased revenues over time will be used to help fund increases in the personal allowance.

We further agree to seek a detailed agreement on taxing non-business capital gains at rates similar or close to those applied to income, with generous exemptions for entrepreneurial business activities.

The parties agree that tackling tax avoidance is essential for the new government, and that all efforts will be made to do so, including detailed development of Liberal Democrat proposals.

4. Banking Reform
The parties agree that reform to the banking system is essential to avoid a repeat of Labour’s financial crisis, to promote a competitive economy, to sustain the recovery and to protect and sustain jobs.

We agree that a banking levy will be introduced. We will seek a detailed agreement on implementation.

We agree to bring forward detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services sector; in developing these proposals, we will ensure they are effective in reducing risk.

We agree to bring forward detailed proposals to foster diversity, promote mutuals and create a more competitive banking industry.

We agree that ensuring the flow of credit to viable SMEs is essential for supporting growth and should be a core priority for a new government, and we will work together to develop effective proposals to do so. This will include consideration of both a major loan guarantee scheme and the use of net lending targets for the nationalised banks.

The parties wish to reduce systemic risk in the banking system and will establish an independent commission to investigate the complex issue of separating retail and investment banking in a sustainable way; while recognising that this would take time to get right, the commission will be given an initial time frame of one year to report.

The parties agree that the regulatory system needs reform to avoid a repeat of Labour’s financial crisis. We agree to bring forward proposals to give the Bank of England control of macro-prudential regulation and oversight of micro-prudential regulation.

The parties also agree to rule out joining the European Single Currency during the duration of this agreement.

5. Immigration
We have agreed that there should be an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. We will consider jointly the mechanism for implementing the limit. We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

6. Political Reform
The parties agree to the establishment of five year fixed-term parliaments. A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government will put a binding motion before the House of Commons in the first days following this agreement stating that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015. Following this motion, legislation will be brought forward to make provision for fixed term parliaments of five years. This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour.

The parties will bring forward a Referendum Bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the Alternative Vote in the event of a positive result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies. Both parties will whip their Parliamentary Parties in both Houses to support a simple majority referendum on the Alternative Vote, without prejudice to the positions parties will take during such a referendum.

The parties will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP was found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents.

We agree to establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motions by December 2010. It is likely that this bill will advocate single long terms of office. It is
also likely there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.

The parties will bring forward the proposals of the Wright Committee for reform to the House of Commons in full – starting with the proposed committee for management of programmed business and including government business within its scope by the third year of the Parliament.

The parties agree to reduce electoral fraud by speeding up the implementation of individual voter registration.

We have agreed to establish a commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question’.

The parties agree to the implementation of the Calman Commission proposals and the offer of a referendum on further Welsh devolution.

The parties will tackle lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists. We also agree to pursue a detailed agreement on limiting donations and reforming party funding in order to remove big money from politics.

The parties will promote the radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups. This will include a full review of local government finance.

7. Pensions and Welfare
The parties agree to phase out the default retirement age and hold a review to set the date at which the state pension age starts to rise to 66, although it will not be sooner than 2016 for men and 2020 for women. We agree to end the rules requiring compulsory annuitisation at 75.

We agree to implement the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman’s recommendation to make fair and transparent payments to Equitable Life policy holders, through an independent payment scheme, for their relative loss as a consequence of regulatory failure.

The parties agree to end all existing welfare to work programmes and to create a single welfare to work programme to help all unemployed people get back into work.

We agree that Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants facing the most significant barriers to work should be referred to the aforementioned newly created welfare to work programme immediately, not after 12 months as is currently the case. We agree that Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants aged under 25 should be referred to the programme after a maximum of six months.

The parties agree to realign contracts with welfare to work service providers to reflect more closely the results they achieve in getting people back into work.

We agree that the funding mechanism used by government to finance welfare to work programmes should be reformed to reflect the fact that initial investment delivers later savings in lower benefit expenditure.

We agree that receipt of benefits for those able to work should be conditional on the willingness to work.

8. Education 
We agree to promote the reform of schools in order to ensure:

  • that new providers can enter the state school system in response to parental demand; 
  • that all schools have greater freedom over curriculum; and, 
  • that all schools are held properly accountable.

Higher education
We await Lord Browne’s final report into higher education funding, and will judge its proposals against the need to:

  • increase social mobility; 
  • take into account the impact on student debt; 
  • ensure a properly funded university sector; 
  • improve the quality of teaching; 
  • advance scholarship; and, 
  • attract a higher proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

If the response of the Government to Lord Browne’s report is one that Liberal Democrats cannot accept, then arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote.

9. Relations with the EU
We agree that the British Government will be a positive participant in the European Union, playing a strong and positive role with our partners, with the goal of ensuring that all the nations of Europe are equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century: global competitiveness, global warming and global poverty.

We agree that there should be no further transfer of sovereignty or powers over the course of the next Parliament. We will examine the balance of the EU’s existing competences and will, in particular, work to limit the application of the Working Time Directive in the United Kingdom.

We agree that we will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any proposed future Treaty that transferred areas of power, or competences, would be subject to a referendum on that Treaty – a ‘referendum lock’. We will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that the use of any passerelle would require primary legislation.

We will examine the case for a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill to make it clear that ultimate authority remains with Parliament.

We agree that Britain will not join or prepare to join the Euro in this Parliament.

We agree that we will strongly defend the UK’s national interests in the forthcoming EU budget negotiations and that the EU budget should only focus on those areas where the EU can add value.

We agree that we will press for the European Parliament only to have one seat, in Brussels.

We agree that we will approach forthcoming legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case by case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting Britain’s civil liberties and
preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system. Britain will not participate in the establishment of any European Public Prosecutor.

10. Civil liberties
The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.

This will include:

  • A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.
  • The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.
  • Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.
  • The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
  • Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database. 
  • The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury. 
  • The restoration of rights to non-violent protest. 
  • The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech. 
  • Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation. 
  • Further regulation of CCTV. 
  • Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason. 
  • A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

11. Environment
The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for a low carbon and eco-friendly economy, including:

  • The establishment of a smart grid and the roll-out of smart meters.
  • The full establishment of feed-in tariff systems in electricity – as well as the maintenance of banded ROCs.
  • Measures to promote a huge increase in energy from waste through anaerobic digestion. – The creation of a green investment bank. 
  • The provision of home energy improvement paid for by the savings from lower energy bills. 
  • Retention of energy performance certificates while scrapping HIPs. 
  • Measures to encourage marine energy.
  • The establishment of an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power stations being built unless they are equipped with sufficient CCS to meet the emissions performance standard.
  • The establishment of a high-speed rail network.
  • The cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow.
  • The refusal of additional runways at Gatwick and Stansted.
  • The replacement of the Air Passenger Duty with a per flight duty.
  • The provision of a floor price for carbon, as well as efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits.
  • Measures to make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence.
  • Measures to promote green spaces and wildlife corridors in order to halt the loss of habitats and restore biodiversity.
  • Mandating a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
  • Continuation of the present Government’s proposals for public sector investment in CCS technology for four coal-fired power stations; and a specific commitment to reduce central government carbon emissions by 10 per cent within 12 months.
  • We are agreed that we would seek to increase the target for energy from renewable sources, subject to the advice of the Climate Change Committee.

Liberal Democrats have long opposed any new nuclear construction. Conservatives, by contrast, are committed to allowing the replacement of existing nuclear power stations provided they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects (under a new national planning statement) and provided also that they receive no public subsidy.

We have agreed a process that will allow Liberal Democrats to maintain their opposition to nuclear power while permitting the government to bring forward the national planning statement for ratification by Parliament so that new nuclear construction becomes possible.

This process will involve:

  • the government completing the drafting of a national planning statement and putting it before Parliament;
  • specific agreement that a Liberal Democrat spokesman will speak against the planning statement, but that Liberal Democrat MPs will abstain; and
  • clarity that this will not be regarded as an issue of confidence.

So there it is….   If they all do what they say they will do, this could actually be a stroke of genius within UK politics. So far, I’m impressed. It’s all there to loose. At least they’re keeping their sense of humor… so far…