Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cash and politicians

Funny how history repeats itself. In the mid 1990s the Conservative Party had been in power for over 15 years. It was running out of the drive to govern that characterises parties in their opposition years and in the early years of government. It was beset by scandals in which the disdain of certain ministers and members of parliament for normal standards of morality was clear. The prevailing attitude exuded by some was that "We are the natural party of government and we can do what we like. We are the law". When Labour won its landslide victory in 1997 there was a sense of a radical change in the political atmosphere. A party obsessed with money and the casual destruction of the common property of the country (e.g. the railways) was out. The incomers were unsullied and uncorrupted. 

Or so we thought.

Now, with the expenses scandal (that covers all parties), with the astonishing perfidy of Tony Blair in taking this country to war in order to get rich personally on the US lecture circuit and through dubious political contacts (for no other explanation of the facts seems to fit) and with the news this week that some ex-ministers are hawking their favours to any lobbyist with a few thousand pounds to spare, we are close to stepping back 13 years. Then, the word "sleaze" was shorthand for the corruption of the Tories. Now it seems that the "new" Labour party is falling headlong into the same trap. And it really is the same trap. Cash for questions then, cash for lobbying now. Exposure by investigate journalists. Suspension of the offenders from their parties. The questions left hanging in the air over everyone else.

Britain is not a corrupt country. I have been driving for more than 40 years and have never once been stopped by the police in circumstances where a bribe would let me go freely on my way, Actually I have only ever been stopped twice, once when they were stopping everyone who looked young to ask if they were driving their own car, once when an alert officer spotted that my MG sports car lacked a road tax disc (I was racing up the M4 at all of 60mph with the roof down and it had blown off the windscreen). But I digress. 

We are lucky to have a fundamentally sound civil service and a free press. Our politicians sell themselves for amounts that would be considered pathetically small in some countries. Yet corruption is still corruption and they will pay for it at the next election. All we can say with certainty is that if Cameron's lot get in for a period of more than 10 years then we can expect another round of scandals around the year 2022. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dept. of Snappy Replies

Arriving at Waterloo station this morning, I was at the ticket barrier when I overheard the man next to me inquire of a station attendant "What is the quickest way to High Barnet?"

Suppressing the urge to say "Helicopter" I moved away.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pre-election musings

Five years ago this blog blazed a trail in investigative reporting, bringing the British General Election campaign into sharp relief on your computer screen, mercilessly exposing the hype and the spin, cutting away the layers of waffle to reach the juicy meaty content of the underlying issues. [do waffles have meaty content? Researcher!: Ed] It all started here. Now it is about to start up all over again. Last time the timing of the election was in doubt until it was announced. This year, we know the last date that the election may legally be held and therefore the race is on. This blog pledges that it will, once more, be the eyes and ears of the people in the quest for truth. [mmm, pretty good stuff: Ed]

From the commuting viewpoint all is quiet. There are no election posters in the streets, nor are vans driving around with loudspeakers on the roof announcing "Vote for crackle crackle". No handbills have been delivered. Nobody has phoned me or Mrs. Commuter to ask our opinions. Well, what the hell, the spring weather is here, the trains are running on time, why spoil it all with a bit of politics?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ill on a train, again

Tonight there are "severe delays" on the Met and Circle and District and Hammersmith, due to a person "taken ill on a train" at Great Portland Street. I've written about this phenomenon of tube train operations before and am still confused. If someone is ill, surely you get them off the train as soon as possible. There are first aid facilities and trained staff at each station. Why should the, undoubtedly regrettable, illness of a passenger create severe delays? Minor delays perhaps. But this smacks more of a knee-jerk reaction by the Line Controllers. What? - someone has lightly bruised their upper arm on a seat support?! – help, panic, cancel all trains, close the barriers, update the website, and where did I put that headless chicken mask?

update: I wrote the forgoing just before leaving for home. When I reached Baker Street the announcement had changed. Now it was "a fatality" that had caused the problem. Well this makes the delays totally understandable, of course. And now we know that "ill" means "dead" in Tubespeak.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blogger for Word reborn

Once upon a time I raved about an add-on for Word, called Blogger for Word. It linked a Word document directly to Blogger. Then Google withdrew it and a dark cloud enveloped my heart [poetic rubbish: Ed]. But that is all in the past for I have discovered that in Office 2007 you can link directly to Blogger (and other blogging sites). And this posting is written in Word 2007 and has been posted automatically.
Isn't technology wonderful?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Why a poll?

You may be wondering what the poll on the top right is all about. Nothing, really. A couple of years ago I tried to put up a poll and it failed to appear no matter what options were tried. Today I had another go and lo! it has appeared. You don't need to take any notice of it. [don't suppose they would anyway: Ed]
Update: the poll has been removed. It was, by my standards anyway, an outstanding success and proof that the interactive nature of the internet is changing social relations beyond recognition. Three votes were recorded. I account for two of them.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Three in a row

Jubbly was screwed this morning and a huge number of people were waiting at Wembley Park when the Met I was on arrived. That in itself is unusual (er, the crowd on the platform, not the trivial fact of my arrival which is something I do every working day) but it is not what I want to write about today. For earlier, waiting (as is my wont) at Ruislip Manor for the self-same Met, I watched three Piccadillys go eastwards between 8:30 and 8:35. Now one is normal. Two in a row can happen (and indeed was in the regular timetable until a few years ago). But three?

In earlier times 'twould have been seen as an evil omen, young sir, and a warning of great consequence to them as would take notice in these dark days (or perhaps those dark days as we have slipped into a past tense). It would presage the death of kings and the onset of plague. Today, I guess it presages no service on the Jubilee and the pound falling like a stone against the US dollar. Such indeed are the times in which we live. [so what?: Ed]