Saturday, March 26, 2016

Am I mad or is the world insane? -3 (Twitter)

I don't use Twitter a lot. However, as a Londoner, being able to follow travel tweets from the BBC and London Underground is very useful. Naturally it is only the most recent that I wish to see.

Twitter brought in a feature called "While you were away". This showcases tweets that were issued shortly after the last time you logged on and puts them ahead of the most recent. Apparently this is a feature we need, although only Twitter knows how these particular tweets are selected. As a user I am unable to remove this feature nor can I say which twitterers are those whose utterings are dearest to my heart.

The upshot is that whenever I log in I am first presented with old travel news - perhaps 12 or 18 hours old - and then, below the stuff so out-of-date it may as well be inscribed on vellum, rolled up and stored in the basement of the House of Lords, the current and useful news items that I really, actually, genuinely, do wish to see because they are bang up to date and may actually, genuinely and really affect my travel plans.

I gather that Twitter is beginning to struggle as a business. Hardly surprising if they take a clever idea then tweak it to death with features that undermine the entire point of the application - its topicality.

[update]. I have discovered that refreshing the web page makes Twitter believe you have caught up with the old stuff and it resorts everything into the correct order. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The EU Referendum 5 - A big shout from the quiet man

Much to everyone's surprise, Iain Duncan Smith resigned from his high ranking post in charge of Work and Pensions, citing differences over how to implement welfare cuts following the Budget on Wednesday. Smith, who described himself as the "quiet man" way back when he was struggling to assert himself as leader of the Conservative Party, is conventionally seen as a right-winger and disciple of the blessed Margaret. Yet he has chosen to go out in defence of welfare spending that favours some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Britain. This either
  • Marks him out as a genuine "one-nation" Tory, as distinct from the Cameron/Osborne brand of "soak the poor and pander to the rich" politics; or
  • is a cunning plan to split the party even further in advance of the EU referendum; or
  • both of the above (?)
It seems a little strange that someone opposed to membership of the EU should espouse views that chime in well with the broad strand of welfare/worker support that underpins much of EU social policy. Be that as it may, Smith did not need to resign in order to campaign for the No vote - Cabinet responsibility has already been waived in this regard. But a resignation will shake the confidence of the party in its leaders. Will this therefore strengthen the Nay-sayers? I shall watch developments with great interest.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The EU referendum 4 - Waiting for Rupert

Although he is not British and does not live here, has recently married an American and appears to love little but money, it seems that Mr. R Murdoch, owner of The Times, The Sun, great chunks of our television and as much of the rest of the world's media as he can manage, is now about to intervene in our referendum.  According to The Guardian, (a newspaper owned and managed by British citizens not by a weasel Australian who changed his nationality to comply with US laws about media ownership), Mr. Murdoch will decide which way his organ of popular opinion will go.

The editors of The Sun always used to insist that they did not shape opinion, they voiced what their readers were thinking and wanting. How strange that they are not doing so on this occasion. Perhaps the difficulty in which  they find themselves is that their readers are divided into those who want in, those who want out, those who are trying to make up their minds, those who would are waiting to see what their favourite actors/sportsmen/celebrities say and those who, when asked, will reply "European union mate? Blimey, it's bad enough with the trade unions over here" before ordering another pint and turning back to scrutinise the runners at Chepstow. So, baffled by the lack of steer from their readers, and with the Conservative party split down the middle, the poor editors, unable to make up their own minds, (poor dears, they only produce the most popular newspaper in the country; now we expect them to form reasoned arguments all on their own), are asking Dad.

Dad of course has his own problems. He wants to take control of all of UK television. He needs a friendly face at number 10 to let him in. If he backs the loser he might fail.So this is a high stakes decision for the American gentleman, who now has the chance to change the shape of the British state to suit his own short-term interests.

When I become king no person who is not a British citizen residing and domiciled here for tax purposes will be permitted to own any media outlet above a certain size. I give you my pledge.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The EU referendum 3 - Who is allowed to speak?

Grilled by MPs on a select committee, the Governor of the Bank of England expressed his views that a UK withdrawal from the EU would have worse consequences for the economy than if we remained. He then added that he was not in any way trying to influence anyone's views.

These comments have drawn a storm of protest from those who believe the UK should leave. Mr. Carney has been accused of speaking when he should, as a public official remain silent. Indeed, one MP, Mr. Rees-Mogg, has said his remarks were beneath the dignity of the Bank.

In truth, the poor man (Mr. Carney, not Mr. Rees-Mogg) was going to get it in the neck no matter what he said. Keep schtum and he will be told that he is failing in his duty, as one of the highest-placed financial experts in the country, to advise the Government and the public. Speak a view and be blasted for having partisan ideas. Put up a measured and balance argument that favours neither side and everybody will have a go at him for sitting on the fence and failing to provide leadership.

What he said is really not that objectionable. People making long-term decisions in business need a degree of certainty. Leaving the EU would create an enormous uncertainty about the future of this country. Investors would shy away, the pound would fall in value, financial markets would be shaken. Perhaps the longer-term advantages would outweigh these immediate consequences. I do not believe so, and I suspect Mr. Carney does not; Mr Rees-Mogg probably thinks a heavenly choir of angels will give everyone a bar of gold on the day we close the entrance to the Channel Tunnel and he is entitled to his opinions, but I hope his voice is drowned out.