...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, July 27, 2007

Day 2397: Mr Frown Stands by to Repel Borders


Sir Mr the Merciless is saying there is a one-in-six chance of a snap general election this year, but what's this…


Is that the starting pistol or is it the sound of another Conservatory fox being BLOWN AWAY? Yes, it is trigger-happy Secret Stalin, Mr Frown who was announcing the creation of a special POLICE FORCE to patrol our Borders (and other book shops) as part of his new package to extend his powers of terror. Er, against terror.

The new force will be made up of officers from the Immigration Service and the Customs and Excise.

Now this COULD BE a revival of the old KING'S CUSTOMS MEN – the sort of people who used to hunt down pirates, and whose powers are almost unlimited: they certainly don't need any namby-pamby WRITS to search your property, and indeed can ARREST police officers who get in their way. The sort of people who will shoot you and then charge you for the bullets. Their powers were never curtailed… mainly because people were too afraid of what they might do if anyone tried!

(Which, of course, is why you should always do your VAT return!)

But the Liberal Democrats' Mr Clogg has been investigating and says that this is only a "Border Force Lite" without even the powers of the police.

No, Mr Frown has a quite different plan for our protection: ROBOTS!

"The way forward is electronic screening of all passengers as they check in and out of our country at ports and airports"
said Mr Frown.

Yes, the new Border Police will be using ELECTRIC BRAIN TWEEZERS to check up on your thoughts as you try to get in or out of the country. Okay, maybe not… but it is to do with extending the use of those BIONICLE-METRIC passports and I.D.iot cards.

"Please place your face, thumb or eyeball in the receptacle provided!"
And if your biodata does not match, then you might find yourself on a flight with some nice CIA people to a completely UNEXPECTED holiday destination.

In fact, in a RARE example of "cross-party consensus", Mr Frown announced his intention to steal all of the oppositions' policies AND keep all his own policies too.

So not only shall we be having Borders police AND I.D.iot cards; we shall be allowing the use of INTERCEPT EVIDENCE in courts AND still locking people up without charge for TWICE AS LONG as the (already extended) present limit. Or possibly FOREVER, as that is another of Mr Frown's options, though apparently this will be OKAY because he will give PARLIAMENTARY as well as JUDICIAL oversight. (Which really just begs the question: what happens if parliament and judges DISAGREE? Because there'll be NOOOOO reason for politicians to interfere in the impartial judgement for populist reasons, will there?)

The government's argument is "Better SAFE than SORRY", but is that ACTUALLY TRUE?

Does it not depend on how LIKELY you are to be sorry; and how MUCH it costs to be safe – and not just in MONEY, but also in FREEDOM?

Will people be safer if you spend ten billion pounds on I.D.iot cards or on more police people?

Will people be safer from being attacked by terrorists or are we just going to have our identities stolen from the government's new database?

Will people be safer if religion and politics and philosophy can be discussed and challenged openly, or if we live in a climate of fear and oppression and sneaking on each other to the SECRET POLICE?

Will people be safer if we make them queue for hours for the security checks at airports or are we actually just creating bigger targets?

But more importantly is any of this ACTUALLY going to make us SAFE at all? Or are we just going to surrender all our freedoms and STILL be sorry?

After all, you can make yourself SAFE by locking yourself in a water-proof, shock-proof, bomb-proof, air-tight box… and that SKELETAL fellow from the DISCWORLD will STILL tap you on the shoulder.

Speaking of whom, it seems he has come calling for Mr Balloon, who is – I am SAD to say – reacting to coming third in the by-elections like all of the other failed Conservatory leaders and playing the EUROPE CARD.

This was really the first TEST of Mr Balloon to see whether he would stick to his modernising agenda or would fall back on the CORE VOTE STRATEGY that has seen the Conservatories humiliated three times in a row.

Guess which choice Mr B went with?

This of course meant walking face-first onto Mr Frown's patented "Great Clunking Fist".

"The wheels have come off the Conservatory bicycle," said Mr Frown, "it's a good job they've got a car coming along behind them!"

Which is HILARIOUS but there is a problem.

The fact that the Conservatories go to pieces at the mention of the "E" word only gives Mr Frown a FREE PASS on any European question – this is actually BAD NEWS.

Much as I am in FAVOUR of sorting out the rules that run the European Union (and they REALLY need sorting out!) I still think that the British people should be given a proper say in the matter. ESPECIALLY since we were all PROMISED a say in the matter.

The fruit-loops in UKIP and the right-wing press have for a long time been CONSPIRING to convince people that the European Union is NOT what they voted for thirty years ago and is therefore BAD. That is, obviously, a SYLLOGISM. But being faulty logic doesn't stop people buying it. And denying a referendum yet again will only breed more disaffection with Europe and the Union.

Mr Frown does not really HAVE a satisfactory answer to the question Mr Balloon put – namely, "why CAN'T we have a referendum?" (Because Mr Frown's ACTUAL answer is: "because I don't ruddy well want one – it'll make me look a proper nana!")

But if he can paint it as a sign of WEAKNESS when Mr Balloon even MENTIONS the subject, he does not NEED an answer.

How are we supposed to have a National Debate if neither side will argue properly?

So the end of term at Parliament this year seems to see both the Labour and the Conservatories slipping back into type. Mr Frown wants more powers and threatens us with "the terror"; Mr Balloon has reverted to type and tried mixing it over Europe.

And they call it Silly Season when they're NOT there!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Day 2396: Evolution of the Elephants – Let's See Those TEETH!


Scientists working on my episode of "Who Do You Think You Are" have traced my FAMILY TREE.

We have discovered some exciting and interesting facts: AFRICAN elephants and ASIAN elephants are, as you all know, all descended from a COMMON GRANDPA elephant, but apparently their nearest common ancestor – "Gramps" – must have lived something like seven-and-a-half MILLION years ago!

This is at least TWICE as long ago as when you humans' monkey-esque ancestor Australopithecus afarensis is thought to have evolved. In fact, it is about that time that the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees was living in the African jungle trees.

Which just goes to show what a GREAT and NOBLE family I come from!

Even more interesting, this article seems to suggest that Asian elephants are more closely related to FLUFFY MAMMOTHS than they are to African elephants!

(By "more closely related", evolutionary biologists – like my CHUM Professor Richard – mean "have an ancestor in common more recently". For example, humans and chimpanzees and bonobos all have an ancestor in common, but chimpanzees and bonobos have a more recent common great-great-great-etc-great-grandparent so they are more closely related to each other than they are to you!)

Mammoths were in fact NOT mammoth, but about the size of Asian elephants, so African elephants are BIGGER. Also, according to their genes, Mammoths could be brunette or even BLONDE!

I myself am of course a PLATINUM BLONDE as my many pictures show!

Only recently I was REALLY UPSET to read about a FROZEN fluffy baby mammoth who was discovered in SIBERIA!

The mammoths lived through the last ICE AGE and are thought to have survived until about five thousand years ago.

And they could have lasted even longer if your MURDEROUS ancestors hadn't EATEN THEM ALL! Yes, I have seen "Walking with Beasts"! I hope you are all PROUD of yourselves!

Still, at least SOME scientists seem to be tying to make up for this by trying to CLONE new Mammoths using FROZEN DNA. While in Russia there have been attempts to recreate the Mammoths habitat by turning part of Siberia into a "Pleistocene Park" (which is like "Jurassic Park" but with cuddly mammals instead of BERSERK DINOSAURS!)

A much more distant relative – although apparently ALSO ON THE MENU! – is the giant MASTODON, like this one that archaeologists have just dug up in Northern Greece.

This kindly, harmless herbivore with the most SPECTACULAR tuskage to be seen in the animal kingdom apparently lived between five million and ten thousand years ago… and was SERVED WITH A GOATS'-CHEESE AND YOGHURT SALAD!

Elephants clearly need some LOOKING AFTER.

So here is a NICE STORY about the Earth's largest living land animal – it is BRIAN BLESSED visiting the Millennium Elephant Sanctuary in Sri Lanka.

(You remember: the one that now comes second to my Very Fluffy Diary in Google Searches!)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Day 2395: Wet, Wet, Wet


As Mr Will has already reported, the Evening Standard decided its headline should be the HILARIOUS and NOT-AT-ALL-ALARMIST:

"Thames Floods; Prepare to FLEE!"

(Never let it be said that "The Web of Fear" was UNREALISTIC!)

As the waters rise, how have our leaders responded?

Mr Frown toured the devastation from his helicopter;

Sir Mr the Merciless returned to Hull to see what could be done to clear up after their floods;

And Mr Balloon… er… flew off to Africa leaving parts of his constituency under water.

Poor Mr Balloon, it is not like the crisis in Rwanda does not need publicising, and it is not like trade with Africa isn't a really good idea; it's not even as though Mr B didn't get his wellies on first… but if EVER there was a REALLY BAD time to stage a photo stunt in dry and sunny Africa, then THIS WAS IT.

Still, the Conservatory leader is not the only one facing STORMY WEATHER. What IS going on? Isn't global warming supposed to STOP this sort of thing?

Well, these BBC weather maps show part of the answer: our old friend, the Jet Stream, last year carrying the rains and storms north of Scotland towards Norway; this year aiming them straight at us.

Predicting the climate is difficult at the best of times; all we really know now is that it IS changing and that PEOPLE are having a BIG EFFECT. By trapping more HEAT in the system, there is more energy going around and around and so we can expect more EXTREME climate events.

The PREDICTION is that we will see DRYER summers… but more flooding in WINTER. So we should really be thinking about paying attention to the warnings.

We all pointed and stared at the Monkey in Chief when HE ignored the warnings and allowed Hurricane Katrina to obliterate New Orleans. So what's OUR excuse?

Anyway, it was raining on Saint Swithun's Day and superstitious people tell us that this is BAD NEWS – here is the map of Britain after forty days and forty nights of rain.

Does anybody have an ark?


Mr Simon has got the PICTURES that I wanted! Hooray!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Day 2393: Science Test


Daddy and I took the Internet "could you pass 8th grade science test" test.

We got B+ (by getting 23 correct answers out of 26 questions).

Mingle2 Free Online Dating - Science Quiz

This is pretty good for a seven-year-old stuffed elephant, and pretty poor for a Cambridge graduate. Isn't it Daddy!

Daddy got questions 2, 4, and 9 wrong. (And I got ALL of the other questions RIGHT!)

Q2 "This type of rock is buried deep within the earth's crust"

Daddy answered "Igneous", but the actual answer was "Metamorphic"

Igneous rock is made when molten lava cools, either on the surface after erupting from a volcano or deep underground. 95% of the Earth's crust is made up of igneous rocks, but generally covered with a thin layer of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.

Sedimentary rocks are formed from layers of sand or mud or dust laid down over hundreds and thousands of years and squashed together

Metamorphic rocks are rocks that used to be igneous or sedimentary but have been transformed by huge heat and pressure at great depths in the Earth's crusts. Shifts in the Earth's crust and erosion then lead to metamorphic rocks turning up on the surface.

So TECHNICALLY Daddy is right, since both igneous and metamorphic fit the description in the question; the question should have been less ambiguous by saying that this rock is ONLY MADE deep within the Earth's crust.

Q4 "Which form of solar radiation causes sunburn?"

Daddy answered "Infrared" but the answer was "Ultraviolet"

This is called being too clever for your own good – Daddy knew that (a) infrared radiation carries heat and (b) ultraviolet causes skin cancer and thought is was a double-bluff. More fool daddy!

Q9 "What is the name given to water loss to the atmosphere by green plants?"

Daddy answered "Evaporation" but the answer is "Transpiration".

Well, transpiration, according to the wikipedia is "…the EVAPORATION of excess water from aerial parts and of plants…" which leaves Daddy feeling slightly better since at least the process is a specific example of the one that he identified.

Actually, Daddy thought that "transpiration" referred to the entire process where water that was absorbed in the plants roots is drawn up the stem to the leaves. (Evaporation of the water at the top causes a reduced pressure at the top end of the plants internal tubes and sucks the water up. Just like a straw.) Which is why he picked "evaporation" for the actual water evaporating part of the process.

I think that Daddy deservers an A-

That is he gets two extra marks for the AMBIGUOUS questions 2 and 9 but LOSES a mark for being a SMARTY-PANTS about it!


My diaries DO seem to have been all SCRAMBLED recently but we are back up to date again now!


In reply to Mr Niles' comment... Daddy is OKAY at maths.

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Day 2392: Lord Blairimort Plays his "Get out of House of Lords Club Free" Card


So, no one will be going to gaol over the Cash-for-Coronets affair.

This came at a perfect time for Mr Frown, since it drew a line under the time of Lord Blairimort on the same day as the Ealing and Sedgefield by elections showed that Mr Frown was a WINNER in his own right.

(Only a CYNICAL READER could think that he leaked allowed the news to become known the evening of the by-election results to give the papers something else to talk about in case things went wrong for the Labour!)

This outcome is not terribly satisfactory for either the people who were accused OR for the people who thought that the probably DID IT – which probably explains the level of HYPERBOLE that both sides are employing.

For those who think that Lord Levy and chums were in it up to their perma-tanned eyebrows, the failure to attempt a prosecution smacks of "they did it but we've not got enough evidence to prove it". Hence we get cries of COVER UP and wails of WHITEWASH!

For the four people who were arrested – plus the ex-Prime Monster who wasn't – they are left without the opportunity to clear their names, their reputations besmirched because people think there's "no smoke without fire". Can you honestly put your fluffy foot on your fluffy tummy and say you could treat them as INNOCENT UNTIL PROVED GUILTY? This means we get over-excited over-the-top claims of VIRTUE and accusations of GESTAPO TACTICS and a WITCH-HUNT.

Fluffy Mr Sir Alan Sugar off the Apprentice came on the radio to say: "look, I know nothing at all about this case and I haven't looked at the evidence but my mate Lord Levy was a bit upset so you're all fired!"

Another object lesson in how NOT to react to the news came from the Labour now-ex-minister Mr Dennis the Menace McShane who was on the Newsnight Show within minutes of the story being leaked becoming known. He made himself look a complete Nargle by ranting and raving about how it was TERRIBLE TORTURE for people in the Labour to have these allegations hanging over them!

Sorry Mr the Menace, but "TERRIBLE TORTURE" involves the CIA sticking you on an INVISIBLE JET out of Heathrow and handing you over to the SAUDI SECRET POLICE no questions asked. Nor does the nagging worry that the police might find the secret documents that prove that YOU ACTUALLY DID IT really compare to the more imaginative photographic poses of the Abu Ghraib guards.

Mr the Menace also wanted us to be looking at ways to stop jumped-up little oiks from the Scottish Nasty Party having the right to – horror – write to the police asking them to investigate what PRETTY OBVIOUSLY looked like seats in the House of Lords Club being sold for ready money disguised as "loans".

As Mr James points out, though, it is not like the Labour didn't do anything wrong – on the hidden loans, they merely got off on the technicality of their offence not having been made illegal at the time they committed it.

Having a CONFUSION between what is ILLEGAL and what is WRONG seems to be quite common in this business. BBC interviewers on the subject would just keep on proceeding from the point of view: "Well, we all know that this is how political parties raise their money, and this sort of thing has gone on for hundreds of years."

Well, for hundreds of years people used to pour their SEWAGE straight into the THAMES and that was NOT VERY CLEVER either. And that caused a BIG STINK in PARLIAMENT too!

(But isn't it just TERRIBLY BRITISH to be less worried about the people who can apparently BUY POWER over us and more worried about the people who cause a FUSS complaining about it!)

SURELY this must mean that it is time to consider the two REFORMS that would put an end to this sort of blatant patronage and the corrupting influence of cash: making the House of Lords Club PROPERLY democratic and sorting out how we finance political parties.

Certainly that is what Sir Mr the Merciless has been saying.

Party funding is a TRICKY ONE.

Political Parties cost money to run – all those leaflets don't just photocopy themselves, you know – and that money has to come from somewhere.

People intrinsically dislike the idea of their tax money going into the pockets of politicians to fund them being political. Not least because most people do not seem to WANT political campaigns forced down their throats anyway!

They often say: "if they're own members can't support them then they're not worth supporting."

It seems VERY ODD, though, that loads of people ALSO complain that the two big parties are VERY NEARLY THE SAME, and yet they both seem to be able to raise shed loads of DOSH.

There are two ways to do this. One way is from the party members: membership fees, appeals, raffles, cheese and wine parties, all the usual.

The other way is to attract money from rich people… from VERY VERY rich people[*]… people who generally want a FAVOUR in return.

[*]Of course, the Labour ALSO raises money from the Trades Unions. Unions are supposed to be a way for a massed workforce to get a political voice – in negotiations with their bosses, or in negotiations with the government – by teaming up and having a few people speak for all of them. They can also pool their money so that their spokespeople can ACT like they are VERY VERY rich people, although (theoretically) in the interest of their membership.

(In the old days, Trades Unions used to offer PROTECTION for their members in return for some of their wages... there is a name for this process but it eludes me at the moment.)

The point still stands about them wanting a favour in return.

That favour could be POLITICAL: maybe a government that recognises that they have lots of money already and want to keep more of it, or some (other) ULTERIOR motives – wanting to keep gay-daddies off their busses; wanting to teach made up stories about the creation of living things; or just wanting to float Great Britain PLC… as far away from the continent of Europe as they can manage.

Or it could be a QUID-PRO-QUO sort of favour: the power of patronage – you scratch my back, I'll give you an ermine-coated-tickling-stick for yours – that is as old as the hills. In fact, "the hills" are among the things that the King used to give away in return for support from his barons. In those days, you had to do as you were told by your OVERLORD because he was the toughest in town and in he in turn would do as he was told by the OVER-OVERLORD all the way up to the king – this was a system called FEUDALISM which is Olde English for BULLYING.

So generally they are using their money to either buy something for themselves, or to buy a government with polices for themselves.

But this cannot be good for a DEMOCRATIC system – having a party owe more (in the case of loans, LITERALLY owe more!) to a SMALL number of VERY VERY rich people than it does to the LARGE number of ordinary members.

Could it be that certain VERY RICH people (or Trade Unions) only give money to the Labour and the Conservatories (or even BOTH) because they think they might win and be good for a favour later, rather that because they believe in the policies (or lack of where the Conservatories are currently concerned) of those parties?

Democracy depends on people having a wide choice of policies and picking the ones they think are the best. But this COSY SYSTEM seems to keep choices down to the minimum, which is handy for the VERY VERY rich people – they COULD place an each-way bet on the Labour and the Conservatories and whoever gets in, they would get the same policies and be owed the same favours. This is called WIN-WIN!

Which brings us back to the policy of paying for political parties from the public purse. Golly, what a lot of "P"s!

But how do you divide up the money? Say you give out cash on the basis of the parties turn out at the last election – doesn't that AUTOMATICALLY mean you are giving the biggest share to the party that is already in government. Is that really the way you want to bias the system? Or suppose you give a flat allowance to any party standing: that would be a million pounds each for the Labour, the Conservatories and the Liberal Democrats… but also for the British Nasty Party… or the "Eat at Cath's Caf" Party! Indeed, don't we have deposits for elections precisely to STOP frivolous or self-interested people abusing the political system? But how do we tell the difference between the "Save with the Woolwich" party and the "Save St Mungo's Hospital" party?

In any case, SOMEONE would have to decide which parties get what money and, whether that's the government or a commission of the "Great and Good" or even the National Lottery People, surely that is CENTRALISING control over politics: taking power AWAY from people and letting some arbitrary authority decide which parties – and which POLICIES – get talked about and voted on.

And who are we to BAN people donating to political parties if they want to, anyway?

So, wouldn't it be a BETTER ANSWER to try and make sure that party funding comes from the largest numbers of people based on their own individual preference.

You could put a VERY LOW CAP on an individual's donations: how about five-thousand pounds in any one year, with perhaps a larger limit for bequests – say one-hundred thousand pounds (because Daddy says you could invest that much for around five-thousand pounds a year in interest). That way the parties' funding depends on the BREADTH of their support and no small group of individuals can bend the party out of shape.

The other thing would be to cut down on the amounts that parties SPEND, and be much more strict about it! It seems obvious to me that you would need fewer million pound donations if you were spending fewer millions of pounds on getting elected. The OBVIOUS thing to do is to say people cannot have advertising on billboards – that would save TONS of money! Another good thing would be if all the party leaders could agree to cut down on the amount of travelling around the country in aeroplanes and battle busses that they do; that would be good for the election's CARBON FOOTPRINT too!

Anyway, no doubt Lord Blairimort will be VERY RELIEVED to have got away without a spell in the SLAMMER over this.

"Well, you known, I never doubted… that we'd have the right outcome," he said. "After all… I could always grant myself a Royal Pardon."

Now that this is over, he can get on with his new job of bringing about the APOCALYPSE as Envoy of Death to the Middle East.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Day 2394: The Madness of Conservatories


There’s a leader whose future is more in question than mine,” said Sir Mr the Merciless this morning on the BBC.

Mr Balloon is a bit rubbish. We all know that.

He has a real problem with the idea of having policies and even when he gets some he usually flip-flops on them within a few days. He had a real opportunity to bring the Conservatory Party back from the BRINK of BONKERSDOM, but has turned out to be more interested in PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES and grabbing HEADLINES than doing the real, hard work of opposing this authoritarian government.

This is NOT why the Conservatories have decided to ASSASSINATE him.

No, far from worrying that he doesn’t really believe in any of the “hug me” sound bites that he spouts… the Conservatory backbenches are worried that he doesn’t believe in any of THEIR policies EITHER.

They could PUT UP with that, so long as he was Mr WINNER. But after the row over Grandma Schools and Mr Frown’s Flounce in the opinion polls, the Conservatories are RIGHT BACK WHERE THEY STARTED.

Now the Sunday Telegraph is reporting that at least two and maybe as many as six Conservatory MPs have written to the 1922 committee calling for a vote of “No Confidence”. It is all very well the Conservatories trying to dismiss this as a “Silly Season” story, but unfortunately, the Telegraph has a QUOTE from one of them.

I felt I had to register my deep-seated dissatisfaction. I am not the only one and I know there are a number of others who are thinking of writing.
And another saying
There’s a hole at the heart of the Balloon project… MPs want to know what is at the heart of all this rebranding. The fear is that there is nothing at the heart of it.
So, Conservatory MPs are sharpening their knives once more for another bout of what Bonkers Mr Boris would describe as “[insert insult to foreign nation here]-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing”, and Mr Balloon’s plan to flee the country fly to a photo-op in Rwanda may have to be put on hold.

I think that everyone knows by now – well, everyone who isn’t a Conservatory, anyway – that this is how the story ALWAYS goes for Conservatory leaders. They start off NEW and SHINY (no, I do NOT mean Mr Vague’s head… OR Mr Drunken Swerve’s head…). They talk about being MODERATE and LISTENING to people. And then the polls get a bit STICKY. What happens next? They forget about everyone else and come up with some blisteringly regressive policy to appeal to their own obsessives.

Mr Vague’s rallying cry was: “Save the Pound! Save My Job!

Mr Drunken-Swerve said he was turning up the volume just as the party were turning out his lights.

Mr Something of the Night went with: “Are You Thinking because we sure as billy-oh aren’t!

Or, as they sing a Conservatory Party Conference…

It’s just a step to the RIGHT… and then a JUMP to the rii-ii-iiyiiyii-ight…

It’s the thought of Europe… that REALLY drives us insane!

Let’s do the TIME WARP again!
Funnily enough, the BBC have heard from Harold-Saxon-Supporter Miss Ann Widdecombe, and she said:

…there is an underlying goodwill towards Mr Balloon. He has been very successful in getting support from people who previously would not have looked at us.

But he must now pay a great deal of attention to shoring up our traditional vote.
Is it possible that Miss Widdyone really does not REALISE that the reason those people would not previously look at the Conservatories was BECAUSE the Conservatories were shoring up their traditional vote!

The foreigner/gay-daddy/hoodies/Europe-hating fruity-fruity-nut-nuts on the far right wing of politics feel alienated and isolated BECAUSE they are fruity-fruity-nut-nuts on the far right wing of politics. You can try to appeal to them OR you can try to appeal to EVERYBODY ELSE.

But if you try facing two different ways you will only look TWO FACED!

Put it another way: Mr Balloon’s ENTIRE STRATEGY is to say “We’ve changed”; an appeal to the “core vote” is a sure-fire way of saying “We HAVEN’T”.

As I have said before, Mr Balloon now has the rest of the summer to build some flood defences! We shall have to see if his foundations are substantial enough to stop him being WASHED AWAY.

Day 2390: MILLENNIUM'S MANIFESTO: Let's Build Rocket Ships


The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has warned that Great Britain needs a clear space strategy or we will risk FALLING BEHIND other countries!

Fortunately, I happen to have one about my fluffy person!

It's every child's dream: ride on the footplate of a steam train, drive a fire engine, or be an astronaut.

We shouldn't ever lose those dreams.

The aims of a British Space programme – which OBVIOUSLY should be called the British Rocket Group, and shame on you if you don't know why – should be
  • Release our natural creativity and aspirations. Get people excited about the future.
  • Encourage schools to participate in science, engineering and mathematics in the way that the Olympics is supposed to encourage them to participate in sport.
  • Benefit from the opportunities on offer, such as selling launch slots to companies and governments that want commercial (not military) satellites putting in space; the opportunities for medical research; the possibility of mining; and the other spin-off benefits of improving our technology.
  • Maximise the opportunities for gaining new knowledge, and impress upon people that knowledge and discovery are good in and of themselves.
  • Improve ourselves by, over time, shifting more and more of the resources of those companies currently devoted to making weapons into making civilian spacecraft. We shouldn't be selling so many guns to the world already, but we need to have an alternative for all those jobs.
To do this, the first aim should be to make a cheaper reliable reusable launch vehicle (one that, unlike the US Space Shuttle, does not need to be taken completely to pieces after every flight) capable of delivering a payload or passenger to orbit or the International Space Station.

The Space Shuttle is still based on 1970s technology, and the Orion replacement is, if anything, a step backwards to Apollo and away from reusability. We need a vehicle for the twenty-first century that is based on twenty-first century technology.

The project should also co-ordinate with NASA and the European, Japanese, Russian and Chinese space programmes to further the exploration of the Solar System by robotic spacecraft and to improve our ability to observe extra-Solar stars and planets.

In the medium term, we should plan for the construction of not one but several International Lunar bases (either together with the Americans or in parallel – multiple bases reduces the chance of a single catastrophic accident wiping out the entire project).

And, within say a twenty-year horizon, we should draw up plans for manned missions to colonise Mars.


Daddy Alex informs me that Wednesday the 18th of July is the 54th anniversary of the founding of the British Experimental Rocket Group!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Day 2389: To the Big Brother Mobile!


Our new Home Secretay, Ms Jacqui Spliff[*], has decided to allow the police to use road cameras to track our EVERY WAKING MOVEMENT!

This is of course only a temporary measure… until they can fit us all with GPS trackers in our HEADS to monitor everything we are THINKING too!

Ms Spliff gave us the USUAL excuse, TELLING us that this is because we are facing an "UNPRECEDENTED" threat from terrorists.

Now I thought that everyone was pretty much agreed that the lastest bunch of terrorists to crawl out of the woodwork were actually PRETTY RUBBISH. They are only "UNPRECEDENTED" in how BAD they are at exploding things, particularly when you compare them to the villains of the old IRA who regularly used to blow up large buildings like the Baltic Exchange in the City or South Quay on the Isle of Dogs. I do not mean to downplay the threat here, but we do appear to be facing people who cannot explode a car when it is ALREADY ON FIRE!

Under the circumstances do we REALLY want to be abandoning our liberty to drive where we want without the state taking a PRURIENT interest?

But ANYWAY, this document that the Home Office let slip is about giving the police powers to use the cameras to follow ANYONE they suspect of doing anything criminal. i.e. anyone who looks that them funny. So does this mean that they're going to start tracking people who break the speed limit? Double park? Commit DWB, as the Americans put it? You could find yourself a part of almost any criminal investigation just because you happened to be driving past.

And that's without mentioning those people who might have reasons to WANT a bit of privacy – say, because they are on their way to visit their CANNABIS DEALER!

[*] Yes, and so did Mr Ruth Kelly and Mr Alistair Eyebrow-hair Darling – bet you never thought THEY would be INTERESTING!

In other news, Anne the Elephant, Britain's last touring elephant, has been banned from performing.

She is reported to be "disappointed" that she will no longer be being fired from a cannon into the audience…

Who needs drugs when we have stories like this in the news!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Day 2391: Ealing Comedy


You don't HAVE to be mad to leave £8.3 million to the Conservatories

I have to admit, it was a GOOD NIGHT to be Mr Frown. The Labour managed to hold on to both of their safe seats in the by-elections, which ten years into government is easier said than done!

As Liberal Democrats I think that we must be both HAPPY and a little bit DISAPPOINTED with these results.

Congratulations, Mr Nigel!
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I am HAPPY because we came SECOND in both of them – in the north, the Conservatories came third; in the Sourth Dave Balloon's Conservatories (no relation)… also came third.

In Ealing Southall we moved into a clear second position; in Sedgefield (whatever Mr Grant Mishaps thinks) we avoided the third-party squeeze and overtook the Conservatories to establish ourselves in a good second place there too.

Clearly when it comes down to it, WHATEVER part of the country you come from, the LIBERAL DEMOCRATS are the REAL OPPOSITION.

My daddies didn't manage to take me up to Sedgefield, but I DID meet Mr Nigel, our candidate in Ealing Southall, and he was bright, enthusiastic, hard-working and a JOLLY GOOD SPORT, not above shaking hands with a fluffy baby elephant. (I am sure Mr Greg in Sedgefield was just the same.)

So I AM disappointed that they did not win.

I had thought that we were in with a OUTSIDE CHANCE – though my daddies said that it was a bit of a long shot.

Clearly, Mr Frown has learned that the BEST TRICK is to arrange to have the by-elections VERY QUICKLY, so that the Liberal Democrats do not have a chance to really get to work. The longer we have to talk to people, the more people get to hear our message, and the better we do.

Plus he has learned the Mr Blackadder lesson: if you want to win a by-elecition, get rid of Lord Blairimort before you start.

What about Mr Balloon, though? Has the BUBBLE BURST?

Conservatory responses to the results seem to range from

"Our vote share went up, but the Liberal Democrats failed to win! This is a disaster for the Liberal Democrats – finishing ahead of us just proves… er… stuff. And doing minisculely better than Mr Something of the Night just goes to show that our campaign was a success, I tell you, a SUCCESS, a TOTAL BRILLIANT SUCK-CESS!"
to the, er, less moderate

"We have FAILED in our PURITY! The GREAT SHE-GODDESS is ANGRY WITH US! Slay the pie-faced Eton milksop! Construct a GIANT WICKER THATCHER and drive the wets INTO THE FLAMES!!!"
Where did it all go wrong? Was it…

his election GURU getting caught ASTRO-TURFING!

his campaign team getting nicked FLY POSTING!

his election monitors being investigated for ILLEGALLY LEAKING POSTAL VOTES!

…or his CANDIDATE turning out to have just popped in from donating almost five grand to LORD BLAIRIMORT!

Unlike last year's by-election where the Liberal Democrats came within 700 votes of winning the SEVENTEENTH SAFEST Conservatory seat in the country, Mr Balloon cannot blame the Local Party for picking a RUBBISH CANDIDATE. No, Mr Balloon picked THIS rubbish candidate all by himself!

Choosing a famous-face local; staging the defection of six, sorry, five councilors; driving around in convoys of loud-speaker cars – none of these stunts helped, because the people of Ealing saw them for what they were. Stunts.

Just trying to match the Liberal Democrats for the NUMBER of leaflets delivered does not count as a grass roots campaign.

Proper LOCAL CAMPAIGNING means listening to the local people, finding out what they want and finding a way to deliver that.

That is why Liberal Democrats CONNECT to people.

Of course, that does mean that you have to leave the office from time to time, and spending a bit less effort OBSESSING over the Internet and trying to manipulate opinion by posting comments as a SOCK-PUPPET. Perhaps one day the day will come when the blogosphere really IS as important as we all think we are… but that's a long way off yet.

Everyone online seemed to get TERRIBLY excited about Mr Mishapps and his silly deceptions… and yet the story never broke out into the "real world". Which is a shame because "MP caught out as big fat fibber" is just the sort of story that would give us the chance to fight a by-election in a Conservatory seat if any of the deadwood press had caught him out that way.

The fact is that Conservatories can call for tough laws on identity theft and at the same time (fail miserably to) pass themselves off as someone else only because the "proper" media do not think that the Internet counts.

(You will notice that leaking fibs to a "proper" newspaper has got the police investigating them!)

Still, the school holidays are here and with the political SILLY SEASON. Mr Balloon has a month-and-a-half now to crawl out of the limelight and try and stick his wounded project back together. And you can be pretty sure that he will. He will be back in the Autumn with another new RELAUNCH – too early to tell yet whether it will be more of the same policy-free NuLabour-lite stuff or the traditional LURCH TO THE RIGHT of the Conservatory Leader-in-Trouble.

Or he COULD try and come up with some policies…

Day 2388: Harry Potter and the Side Order of Fries


What with all the organising that went into our Doctor Who party, it was Monday before my daddies were able to disguise me as a PARTICULARLY LARGE Chocolate Frog and smuggle me into the cinema in order to see the latest Harry Potter movie. I should probably mention that there are going to be great big spoilers for this film in my review today – and I would NOT take kindly to any for the final book. So, read on ONLY if you DARE!

Ms J.K. Rolling-Pin's book of "and the Order of the Phoenix" is famously a bit of a DOORSTOP, so we wondered how it would fit down into the space of a film.

There have been various strategies employed for turning Ms Rolling-Pin's books into movies: the first two movies try far too hard to fit in every possible incident and moment of spectacle from the books, resulting in a rather FLAT by-the-numbers outcome. The fourth film strips away almost everything about the school year except for the big set pieces: the three Triwizard Tournament Tasks, the Quidditch World Cup and the Yule Ball. This gives it great pace, possibly at the expense of depth. I still think that the third film is best, because it does its best to BE a film, using visual transitions, fades and wipes and the effects of the changing seasons on the Whomping Willow to show the passing of time through the year, and constantly cutting back to the huge Hogwarts Clock to clue you up that TIME is important in the story.

So how did the fifth film do? Rather well, actually.

It is a story PECULIARLY suitable to the world we live in today. The main threat to Harry this year is NOT evil Lord Voldemort, but actually the "state" (so Lord Blairimort!), in the form of the Ministry of Magic, SEIZING more and more powers (ostensibly to "protect" people) and MANIPULATING the media, here the Wizarding World's newspaper "The Daily Prophet", to rubbish dissenting voices and to blame failures on Harry's godfather, the "dangerous terrorist" Sirius Black.

A lot of the TRICKIER exposition is told through the pages of the Prophet, whirling and unfolding across the screen – ooh, we look forward to freeze-framing the DVD! – which does the double deed of trimming the running time while also reminding us of what an UNRELIABLE NARRATOR the press can be.

In the Ministry of Magic, there's a really rather marvellous poster of Mr Robert Hardy as the Minister in person, Mr Cornelius Fudge, in heroic Soviet/Big Brother pose. We first see it when Harry is brought there to face, basically the INQUISITION – boy, look at Mr Hardy's HAT! – after he and his cousin Dudley (the Dursleys are back after being sadly missing from film four!) are seized by the Dementors. Ouch! Actually, the film never explains (though the book does) just WHO sent the Dementors there in the first place – it's not hard to guess, though: she's always willing to lend Cornelius a hand, and what he doesn't know won't hurt him!

Yes, it is the fabulously named Ms Delores Umbridge, played fabulously by the fabulously named Ms Imelda Staunton. In pink. Lots of pink! Her study, lined with yucky decorative plates all with pictures of HORRIBLE KITTEN MONSTERS is ALMOST more ghastly than the punishments she metes out to Harry in there. (Daddy Alex especially loved the moment when, as Harry Ron and Hermione sneak in, one of the little horrors is seen to leave its picture-plate to go and find her!)

Mr Filch, the school's schoolchildren-hating caretaker, also gets his reward for service in several films so far, with a lot of screen time as he gleefully peppers the walls with Ms Umbridge's "Educational Decrees" and tries to trap Harry and his gang in the Room of Requirement.

And Hogwarts is clearly a SCHOOL again this year (not just a place where Harry's adventures happen), with lessons, lines, illicit Defence Against the Darks Arts practice and O.W.L. examinations. It doesn't QUITE manage to do what "and the Prisoner of Azkaban" did and capture the turning of the seasons and the passing of the school year. But that is SOOOO hard in a two or three hour movie (this one's a touch under two-hours twenty); I think that Harry Potter would be better if it was made as one of those classic thirteen-part BBC serials. Except that would probably KILL the poor young actors that they hired to play the leads!

The pressure of time does mean that a lot of the book's story is trimmed down. The story is told much more as "character notes" than developed scenes. A moment for Neville to reveal his parents' tragedy here; a moment for Professor Trelawney to be humiliated there. It doesn't spoil the flow of the movie, but it IS a bit of a shame that Fred and George's campaign of practical jokes is cut to just one splendid scene (especially since it means that Professor McGonagall's excellent passive rebellion against Ms Umbridge is lost too). A substantial subplot about Mr Weasley being attacked by Lord Voldemort's big snake is reduced to no more that a couple of scenes and, possibly more cuttingly, so is the story of Harry's ROMANCE with Ravenclaw Seeker Cho Chang.

This is perhaps the film's only BUM NOTE. In the book, Harry and Cho FANCY each other but aren't able to make a RELATIONSHIP work. That's actually rather a good lesson to explain to people who are reading.

For the film she is made into the BETRAYER of the Defence Club. EXCEPT… except with Mr Filch sitting outside the Room of Requirement trying to catch them for all that time, and Ms Umbridge blasting her way in with her BOMBARDIO spell, surely means that the bad teachers didn't NEED anyone to betray the club. And then Cho is "redeemed" by the revelation that actually she was slipped a Mickey Finn of Veritaserum[*]… It's all about giving Cho a more CINEMATIC story, but it doesn't really flow.

Nor does it help that young Harry has more screen time – and more CHEMISTRY – with lilting Luna "Loony" Lovegood. She is apparently a fan who was lucky enough to get picked for the role from an open call, but she is absolutely BRILLIANT. Sweet and ethereal and really just what Harry needs. They share a lovely scene where Harry discovers that he can see the spooky horse creatures called Thestrals. Luna explains that, like her, it is because he has seen someone die. In fact in the book, the Thestrals are introduced because Ms Umbridge locks away all the flying brooms – which is trimmed from the film so it's almost ODD that the Thestrals are kept. (ALL of the posters have Harry and his CHUMS on Brooms, don't you know!) I say ALMOST odd, because actually it is obvious that they are there FOR that character scene between Luna and Harry.

Mr Daniel Radcliffe, who has been playing Harry Potter for YEARS now – he DOES keep his clothes ON for this movie, though – is jolly good too. Harry is angry and irrational for a lot of the film, mainly through being a teenager, but also a bit because Lord Voldemort is trying to climb inside his head. Which had got to be worse than zits!

The only person who can cheer Harry up is his godfather Sirius, the aforementioned "terrorist". Mr Gary Oldman is great, capturing the difficult and many-faceted Mr Black. Like Harry he is angry and adventurous and brave and often out of sorts. And obviously he's totally DOOMED.

After all the POLITICS of the main part of the movie, the climax – which sees a great big SORCERERS' BATTLE inside the Ministry of Magic itself – comes as a WELCOME switch to straight-forward goodies versus baddies. Rather magically, the evil Death Eaters teleport sorry "apparate" in in clouds of black smoke, while the heroic Order of the Phoenix arrive in white. The battle itself is satisfying if a bit confusing – I will have to persuade my daddies to let me see it again! – and certainly LOOKS different to, er, any Jedi battle you might be thinking of. Mind you, it DOES escalate well, just like the Geonosis Battle in "Attack of the Clones", first Harry and friends chased by the Death Eaters, then the Order of the Phoenix arrive to rescue them, then Dumbledore arrives to rescue THEM! Well, no, actually, Dumbledore turns up to save Harry when Lord Voldemort is forced into showing himself, something which ultimately resolves not just the battle but the main thrust of the movie as the Minister can no longer deny the truth.

Daddy Alex has an IRONIC thought: this is an authoritarian government, acting out of FEAR, that will do ANYTHING to "protect" people… But it is the reverse of the "protection" that WE have to put up with, as the Ministry of Magic are trying to DENY the war on terror rather than PROFIT by it.

The big Dumbledore versus Voldemort fight is just what you want. Yes, that poster of the Minister gets its just desserts! The climax is one of the biggest diversions from the books, though, and again it is to do with making things CINEMATIC.

In the book, Lord V's final gambit is to try to possess Harry, taunting Dumbledore to destroy him while he's in Harry's body… except Voldemort CANNOT possess Harry because he simply does not understand that love isn't just something that is in Harry's skin but something that is in his SPIRIT. Voldemort, of course, has gone the full RHINEGOLD and foresworn love for power. So he cannot BEAR to exist within Harry and is driven away.

The film, though, makes this a MUCH BIGGER deal, full of visual effects and flashbacks. And the film makes it much more a CHOICE for Harry – Harry choosing to reject, even to pity Voldemort. Dumbledore gets the power; Harry makes the choice. This is right for both and means neither seems less important.

This time the moviemakers' decision is QUITE RIGHT. The book's explanation needs to be read to be understood; the film's version only works as a moment of drama. Each is just right for its own medium.

So it is a pretty good film, full of lots of good actors who are very generously working for the three seconds of screen time they've each been given. AND it has some things to really think about – questions of politicians and terrorists and truth. Not bad for a "kids" blockbuster!

Unfortunately, Daddy Richard now wants to see TRANSFORMERS. Cars: Hooray! Robots: Yuck!

[*]Daddy misreads Veritaserum as "Veritas Serum" - Oh no! It turns you into a dodgy orange Europhobe! he says.


Mr Simon seems to have found time over the weekend to see Harry Potter as well as coming to my party! Ooh! He has used my FAVOURITE LINE from the book as his title!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Day 2387: DOCTOR WHO: The Complete 2007 Series: You Are Not Alone


Daddy and Daddy had their annual Doctor Who marathon party today (following their annual marathon tidy up yesterday) and lots of my friends came.

We had yummy food, including fishy-shaped "Shakespeare Cod", New New York Bagels with crab paste, and Future-kinder Surprise Eggs. Not to mention three kinds of cake!

I spent most of the day on the back of my sofa, reading Mr Simon's notes for his Doctor Who book over his shoulder – though I have promised him that I will not tell my daddies ANYTHING except the joke about the pirates' names!

So, for the last time for THIS season, here are Daddy Richard's thoughts:
The buzzword for Russell T Davies' third season, and with a strong consensus, was "consistent": the quality of scripts, design, performances and direction was high and was maintained throughout the series' run, and this was seen as a marked improvement on the roller-coaster second year. If anything was surprising it was just how very, very long ago the early episodes seemed to be: several people remarking how "The Shakespeare Code" seemed not just from an earlier year, but an earlier decade. And the series built over its run, growing in depth and darkness and meaning, hitting a high gear six episodes from the end. Only "The Lazarus Experiment" was in any way unloved, generally seen as a bit of B-movie filler, but even that was redeemed by the use of key development points for the series arc.

The Saxon strand was also enjoyed greatly over last year's Torchwood arc, coming in much more naturally. Where some of the Torchwood references, particularly "The Impossible Planet" and "Fear Her", were shoehorned in just to have them there, it was felt that here Mr Saxon was mentioned more sparingly and only when it was appropriate. And he was mostly used not for just a name-check, but as part of the plot: when he was mentioned, someone tended to be taking some sort of action, revealing more about his position and power, giving a sense of the Doctor’s enemy closing in that was entirely missing from Torchwood. This added a sense of gathering menace, which was ultimately paid off when Mr Saxon turned out to be just as powerful and dangerous as the hints had suggested.

The way that the year's story arc also wove in "Gridlock" and Paul Cornell's sublime two-part "Human Nature" – both referenced in "Utopia" – was elegant and inspired. By holding back actually showing us the opened watch restoring a Time Lord from "The Family of Blood" until "Utopia" served both stories well, adding to the suspense of the former and allowing Sir Derek Jacobi brilliantly to show us the transformation with no more than shadow on his eyes and a rearrangement of facial muscles. And it's a process essentially like "possessing" an innocent human's body – something that is right for us to see the Master doing, and would be uncomfortable to see coming from the Doctor.

But also, much more than earlier years, there was a sense of repeated ideas, themes built up over the course of the season, which paid off in the climax. "Human Nature" is not just the centrepiece of the third year; it is also the defining motif of many of the surrounding episodes. Unlike the first season, which seemed to look more at humans' place in history, this is a more biological idea. DNA, and the idea of altering human DNA appears in "Evolution of the Daleks", "The Lazarus Experiment" and "Human Nature" itself. More subtly, there is the idea of using humans as a place to hide. Again, "Human Nature" but also Florence the Plasmavore in "Smith and Jones" and the Racnoss hiding in the centre of the Earth in "The Runaway Bride". Even the Macra are hiding away inside the apple of the humans' New Earth.

Add to this the idea of ancient fallen empires, and their survivors looking to rebuild, starting with the Earth. The Racnoss again – awakened by Torchwood, a throwaway line revealed – then also the Carrionites in "The Shakespeare Code", the Daleks again and we can maybe even count the Family of Blood, whose potential empire of terror is alluded to, Matron Redfern tells us, in the closing pages of John Smith's "Journal of Impossible Things".

And, as is often the case in any Russell T Davies story, religion – or at least its iconic images – is used several times. Particularly this year the idea is of Heaven and Hell and contrasting worlds above and below, whether it's the sterile dead "heaven" of the New New York Senate contrasted with the fecund if fetid lives of the motorway folk in their Macra-infested "hell" in "Gridlock", or the more blatant contrasts between the Daleks' Empire State penthouse and the people who have fallen into Hooverville.

Even "42", trivial and throwaway as it may seem, has a little time to dwell on humans' capacity for greed and thoughtlessness and our redeeming qualities of comradeship and sacrifice.

All of these ideas are present to a degree in "Last of the Time Lords". All of the memes of this season are pointing at the climactic three-parter, telling us that the Master is able to shape events around him. I've often suspected that, as a Time Lord, the Doctor has the power to… nudge the way events fall out, essentially generating happy coincidences when he needs them. Logically then the Master would have the same power and thus would be, almost uniquely, a match for the Doctor. And that does seem to be the way things work out here. The Master is, of course, the ultimate Doctor Who Mephisto – driven mad by the sound of drums, banished from Gallifrey, wherever he goes is it not hell, nor he out of it? Like the devil, he gathers lost souls – his Toclafane here are rescued from the most final Abyss. He aspires to become god; while the Doctor, though the power of human belief and a satellite network, becomes an Archangel, in order to redeem him.

And this year, everyone loved the Doctor. Almost every episode has seen David Tennant turning in a performance that is not just dazzling to watch but markedly improved over last year's. It seems clear that in the second season he was being asked to differentiate himself from Christopher Eccleston's iconic performance as the troubled ninth Doctor who was suffering from survivor guilt and a death wish. This year, with the role most securely his own, he's been able to go to that darker territory himself and tone down the more hysterical and sentimental aspects that dogged him, especially in the Doctor's relationship with Billie Piper's Rose.

Watched in sequence, it's interesting to see the way the Doctor's relationship with Martha – her "just one trip" – starts so promisingly, as her sharpness of mind and wits first attracts his attention in "Smith and Jones" and then draws him towards her in "The Shakespeare Code" and "Gridlock". And then the Daleks turn up and shatter it. He seems to decide, rightly or wrongly, that he's been kidding himself and he is at his most self-destructive again in these episodes, actually inviting death at his lowest point, and even at the end choosing to return Martha home because his hearts are broken again. It's interesting, too, that he almost seems more desperate to forge a relationship with Dalek Sec, or even Dalek Caan, than with Martha – like the Doctor, Sec is alone in the Universe; like the Doctor, Caan is the last of his kind. As participants in the Time War they are each kind-of the Doctor's equals, if opposites. And he loses them both, to his obvious despair. The prefiguring of "Last of the Time Lords" could hardly be more obvious.

And of course the series was also Martha's story. In the first year, Rose had a brilliantly strong character arc, taking her from bored teenager to goddess. The second year then seemed to struggle with what to do with her. Billie Piper leaving seems to have done the writers a real unexpected favour by letting them restart with a new companion and draw her story over the thirteen weeks, starting with her crush on the Doctor, turning to full-on unrequited love and then self-sacrificing reliable best friend in need, before finally pulling herself out of Rose's shadow by saving the world from the Master and realising that she can walk away from the Doctor. With a story that, like Rose's in the first year, is now complete it feels right, if really sad, for her to leave at the end. Freema Agyeman has been brilliant throughout the year, funny and gorgeous and just perfect for the person who holds the Doctor's hand while he puts himself back together. Goodness knows how Catherine Tate is going to follow that!

(Actually, my only regret about Donna returning next year was that I liked that she had said "no", I liked that she chose not to be a companion and that special one-off-ness that it gave her. Still, I'm looking forwards to a change of pace – my hope is that the Doctor accidentally kidnaps her in the first episode and then spends most of the year in a Tegan-like attempt to get her back home. If nothing else, it would keep them away from Wales masquerading as contemporary England for a while!)

It's something I'd said myself, but was also picked up on by our friend Nick: Russell has been bringing back the great icons of the original series, the things that everyone remembers, and bringing them back in order. So, the first Doctor faced off against the Daleks, and the first season sees the return of the Daleks. The second Doctor fought against the Cybermen (and the Daleks) and the second season saw the return of the Cybermen (and the Daleks, again). The third Doctor faced off against his new arch-rival, the Master, and so the third season sees the return of the Master.

What would that leave as the logical progression for the fourth season? The fourth Doctor was, strangely for being the one with the longest reign, far more the one for one-off enemies and monsters-of-the-week. People have talked about Silurians, or Sontarans or Ice Warriors (and let's be fair, the Martians have had a couple of Christmas references so far – in fact, an iceberg might suit them this Christmas just as much as the Sea Devils) or even Zygons, but these are really second-rung monsters, the fan favourites but without the same resonance with the public that Daleks and Cybermen achieved. Nick wants vampires, which are differently iconic, but their "War against the Time Lords" back-story has largely been borrowed to add to the Daleks (despite a mention in "The Infinite Quest")…

Davros, is probably the last big "name" left, and – alongside the Master – the fourth Doctor's only recurring villain. The other possibility, in terms of cosmic scale, would have to be the Guardians, but does a Manichean double-act really fit with Russell T Davies' new Who?

In fact, the biggest icon of the fourth Doctor's reign is… the fourth Doctor himself.

Even today, Tom Baker comes second only to the incumbent in the polls of "best Doctor", which is a huge testament to his charismatic impact on the series. The one thing that Russell hasn't done yet is a multi-Doctor story and, although McGann is probably the most obvious and much wanted choice, a Dark Dimension-esque haunting of the tenth Doctor by his fourth self couldn't fail to be "event television".

Of course, it would be nice to see the new series actually do something really new.

In spite of the quality, there's an underlying feeling that this year the series was treading water – doing the second series again, but this time getting it right. A visit to the year five-billion; a celebrity historical; a two part art-deco revival for an old foe; a grungy working-class future; and an off-beat Doctor-lite episode; it's all running the risk of becoming a bit familiar. Only the extraordinary three-parter at the end, "Last of the Time Lords", seeks to do anything new, pitching the Doctor against a proper villain who can go toe-to-toe with him, even beat him.

The echoes don't just end there.

"Evolution of the Daleks" is strongly reminiscent of "The Evil of the Daleks"; "The Lazarus Experiment" is, obviously, "The Quatermass Experiment"; "42" draws heavily on "Planet of Evil"; and "Last of the Time Lords" has more than a passing resemblance to the "Keeper of Traken" / "Logopolis" / "Castrovalva" trilogy. Goodness, even "Smith and Jones" is just "Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans" with the serial numbers filed off. This, surely, is the reason that there are Macra in "Gridlock" – this season, far more than its predecessors, is nostalgic.

Here the series runs the risk of following "The X Files" into disappearing up its own mythology.

Nick it was again who suggested that whenever there is a big clearing out of the old Who legacy, it soon comes around to being obsessed about in a fannish way. It happened in the Eighties, first when John Nathan-Turner took over and revolutionised the series, and then again when the Cartmel Masterplan kicked in to try and "bring the mystery back". The eighth Doctor novels infamously hit the reboot button (more than once, says Alex), the biggest being when they too blew up Gallifrey, and then spent years obsessing about what this actually meant for the continuum. This year, Gallifrey has ceased to be the briefly mentioned back-story and moved strongly into the foreground, with fan-pleasing moments in "The Runaway Bride", "Gridlock" and of course "Last of the Time Lords" (particularly part two, "The Sound of Drums").

That is a strong part of the season's theme, the Doctor's lost past returning to him and being lost again, but it's also a worrying sign that the series might, might, be starting to trade too much on its own history again.

One thing that is interesting is the sense of scale that the new series has, pushing back the horizon of the future to ever greater depths.

In the 1960s, "the future" meant an adventure in the twenty-first century, usually being menaced by Cybermen. Zoƫ is born in the twenty-first century; Salamander is the "enemy of the world" then.

When we get to the 1970s, "the future" has expanded to include mostly the third millennium, for the Pertwee era "Earth Empire" stories ("Colony in Space", "Frontier in Space" and "The Mutants in Space"), and probably the fourth for the Peladon stories. Under Tom Baker, particularly once Graham Williams has taken the helm, the series almost ceases to be about time travel altogether. The Doctor barely visits Earth's past at all (aside from a couple of trips in "City of Death") between "Horror of Fang Rock" and, well, "The Visitation" in his next incarnation. Alex often points out that he instead visits a variety of pseudo-histories on various Ruritanian and fairy-tale planets ranging from Ribos to Tara to Traken.

Of the 31 stories (counting "The Infinite Quest" but not the books) since the series returned, they've visited the future 12 times (not counting the 12 stories in Rose's or Martha's "present day" displaced a year in the future ever since "Aliens of London"). Two of those ("Dalek" and "Fear Her") are so close that they may as well be the present day too. Only "The Girl in the Fireplace" set in the fiftieth century and "The Infinite Quest" set in the fortieth could be said to fall into the span of future-history where the classic series spent most of its time.

Instead, the new series has looked to the four-hundredth, two-thousandth or fifty-millionth centuries, each of which get at least two visits. (Yes, they do – "The Satan Pit" and "42" are both set in the same time zone.) Now, we have pushed that even further, impossibly further, to the end of the Universe itself, and an enormous one-hundred trillion years in the future.

Not bad going for a Universe that in 1980 had "long since passed the point of collapse"; when those Logopolitans fixed it, they sure made it to stay fixed.

The downside to this timespan is that, whether it is the year two-hundred thousand, five billion or one-hundred trillion, the future all looks rather the same. I'm not so fussed about the appearance of "Big Brother" or "The Old Rugged Cross" in the future – that's just a kind of translation convention, those recognisable things standing for the actual future versions. What is more disappointing is that "The End of the World" set out to astound us, indeed it succeeded, but that ambition seems to have been slightly lost somewhere. When "The Long Game" brought us a future full of Kronk burgers and TV news then it was the flip side of the high society we'd seen in "The End of the World", but it's been all Kronk burgers ever since.

Couldn't we have something epic or at least just vast again?

And laudable as it is to keep reminding us that red people and white people and blue people and cat people are all just people, couldn't we have a story about why they are special, rather than one about why they're all just like the rest of us?

Having said all that, this series continues to do an astonishing amount of things right. It ranges in style from the allegorical to the didactic to the farcical (in a good way) seemingly able to slip from genre to genre without putting a foot wrong. Its use of colour and pace (vivid and fast) puts it leagues ahead of any other programme on British television, while its stories are more varied and engaging than a good dozen other series – and you can see them on ITV. Soap operas aside, it's virtually the strongest card in the BBC's hand (okay, inexplicably that geriatric police cardigan drama "New Tricks" often gets even better ratings), attracting critical praise and a tabloid cult following. And it draws in big name guest actors, not "stunt casting" but stars who are genuinely worth the star billing.

Russell T Davies and David Tennant are both committed to at least one more year. If it's true that Russell is going to go after year four, I hope that David will stay on another year to smooth the transition. But Doctor Who thrives on change, as Chris to David and Billie to Freema have shown. By trading on icons and archetypes, Russell has plugged the series into the nation's collective psyche in a slot next to Sherlock Holmes and King Arthur, giving it an appeal to children and grown-ups and never-grown-ups and parents and grand-parents and fluffy baby elephants all.

There are more than eight million Doctor Who fans out there; you… we are not alone.

Daddy's Doctor Who reviews will return...

Meanwhile, good luck to everyone at the by-election today!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Day 2386: Duck-filled Fatty Puss


Science has discovered that an ANCIENT MAMMAL may not be EXTINCT after all!

Although thought to be one of the most OLD-FASHIONED types of living creature, and nowadays never seen in many parts of the country, it turns out that this rare, timid beastie may actually be… considering running for Mayor of London.

Oh, and biologists have found a platypus.

The PROBLEM with Mr Boris – apart from the fact that he's succeeding a Mr Norris, meaning that the NEXT Conservatory candidate will have to be a Ms Doris – the PROBLEM is that he is EXACTLY THE SAME as the Mayor that we have got.

That is to say, each has CULTIVATED a "media personality" that is a little bit funny and a little bit ludicrous, but is entirely an ACT to cover up the real ZEALOT underneath. Both of them are autocrats; both of them think that rules are for other people.

Mr Boris's scrapes are of course LEGENDARY – and indeed he has made them a part of the persona that he wears. But in making them FUNNY, he does rather gloss over that his "LARKS" do real harm to real people: his wife, his godfather, the person Darrius Guppy allegedly wanted to beat up…

In some ways the "Boris will be Boris" approach, excusing him of being NAUGHTY because being as he is a CAD and a BOUNDER, being naughty is what you can EXPECT him to do.

Well, no actually, some of us expect CADs and BOUNDERs to get their COMEUPPANCE, not a free licence to carry on pleasing their own selfish ambitions, thank you very much.

He is sometimes described as a Libertarian – but his voting record in the House shows only moderate opposition to I.D.iot cards or the smoking ban, and a mixed record on equality for gay daddies. His strongest support has been for exploding Iraq and hunting foxes. And are we sure Britain's most COSMOPOLITAN city really WANTS a confirmed Europhobe in charge?

Confidentially, I HAVE been asked – on the Q.T. – if I should like to stand as the LIBERAL DEMOCRAT'S fluffy Mayoral candidate.

I would LOVE to be Mayor of London – this is my city, this grand, silly, chaotic, marvellous old lady on the Thames. I would introduce electric cars at weekends; lots of bicycle parking, with showers and changing rooms so that people can all bicycle to work; and free sticky buns on the London Eye.

But honestly, what sort of a contest would it be between a SOFT TOY and Ken and Barbie Boris? Being Mayor is an IMPORTANT JOB and it need to be treated as a SERIOUS and RESPONSIBLE position – that is why we should NOT lower the dignity of the contest… by including Ken and Boris!

Meanwhile "Tory Lite" candidate Tony Lit turns out to be standing in the Ealing By-Election under the party name of "Dave Balloon's Conservatories". This is presumably because he needs reminding that he's not one of "Lord Blairimort's Conservatories"!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Day 2385: The BBC, An Apology


It was quite WRONG and very MISLEADING, especially for an organisation in which we place so much TRUST, for the BBC to re-edit their footage so that her RADIANT and CELESTIAL Majesty, Mrs the Queen was made to look like a GRUMPY OLD WOMAN storming out of a photo session.

The TRUTH was so very DIFFERENT, and the BBC were forced to admit that Mrs the Queen was REALLY a GRUMPY OLD WOMAN storming INTO a photo session.

I realise that no one could fail to be MORALLY WOUNDED by this UTTER BETRAYAL, and can only APOLOGISE and hope that you forget all about it!

Actually, the question I really want answering is: “have the Sun Newspaper also issued a grovelling apology?”

After all, although this is supposed to have EMBARRASSED Mrs the Queen, really the only reason she IS embarrassed is because EVERYONE FOUND OUT about her strop thanks to the Scum printing it as a full page SPLASH in order to, basically, steal the BBC’s story.

Now it really was wrong of the editors at the BBC to change the story by putting things in the wrong order and exaggerating the events, indeed making it look like much more than it really was.

But what was the Scum’s excuse for not doing proper journalism? After all, if they HAD done it properly, they would have asked Mrs the Queen what HER SIDE of the story was before rushing into print, and the whole thing could have been dealt with privately without embarrassment.

Day 2384: Tax and Attacks


Hooray! Another RADICAL tax policy from the Liberal Democrats: let’s CUT the basic rate of tax by 4p so that bringing in a LOCAL INCOME TAX will not make anyone worse off.

(And don’t forget: not only is local income tax FAIRER, you’ll be more better off by not having to pay Council Tax as well!)

We can afford this by (1) making the Green Tax Switch – cutting your taxes AND helping save the world, and (2) closing LOOPHOLES that allow very rich people to pay tax at a LOWER rate than everyone else.

Doesn’t this all seem like a GOOD and FAIR idea?

Well, Mr Power Cable was on the radio to try and explain this GOOD NEWS and what was the question that was put to him? “Won’t there be a million people worse off?”

Look, in the first place this question is so REDUNDANT that it is almost MEANINGLESS.

ANY change that you make in the tax system, ANY AT ALL, means that some people will be worse off and some people better off. Even if you cut EVERYONE’S tax then you must cut spending to pay for it, and the people you would have spent the money on are worse off.

If, like the Liberal Democrats, you choose to be FISCALLY NEUTRAL – which apparently does NOT mean Fisking the Labour AND the Conservatory budgets equally, but in fact means raising the same amount of tax in TOTAL but changing where you get it from – then OF COURSE some people will pay a bit more and some a bit less.

To ask why your policy will make some people worse off is just like saying: “Why haven’t you cut taxes by getting money from the MAGIC MONEY TREE?”

The MEANINGFUL question is “are your changes FAIRER?”

So, Mr Power Cable should have had a much BETTER reply that “Well, that might be about right because 10% of households will be worse off if 90% are better off…” (which you have to admit was a bit LIMP!)

No, our reply needs to be the rather more ASSERTIVE: “So you think that these people should be getting a tax perk paid for them by people who are not so well off, do you?

Because we AREN’T saying that we will SQUEEZE the rich until they go “ooh!”; we are only asking them to pay THE SAME as the rest of us.

Mr Power Cable is JOLLY BRIGHT and we are QUITE RIGHT to have someone so wise and clever in charge of our money policies… but I sometimes think we would be better off sending into bat someone a bit more… BUTCH. Ms Kramer-versus-Kramer, perhaps.

Day 2383: Sun NOT linked to Global Warming!


Well that was the BBC’s rather CONFUSED headline.

I am fairly sure that the Sun DOES have something to do with warming the planet which is why we are not a FROZEN ROCK like the planet/not-a-planet Pluto.

What they ACTUALLY meant was “Climate Change Deniers Proved Wrong (AGAIN!)”

Friday, July 13, 2007

Day 2382: Hit it till it works – the Conservatory way of mending our "broken" society


Mr Iain Drunken Swerve is back, and this time it is PERSONAL!

When Dr Who's TARDIS is not working he will often THUMP it. This might get him moving again, but often has the unfortunate side-effect of taking him BACKWARDS IN TIME. Funnily enough, the Conservatories' Social Justice Policy Group seems to have a similar problem.

After the leak of his alcoholic binge-drinking policy (which revealing that the Conservatories intend to put a 7p tax on a PINT OF BINGE), now we get the full report, in which Mr IDS goes BACK to the FUTURE to play Eighties panel game "Tax the Family" (presented by Mr Robert Robinson. The resemblance to Mr Drunken Swerve is… probably a co-incidence.)

I suppose the first question we SHOULD be asking is "is society REALLY 'broken' like the Conservatories say it is?"

Because if society ISN'T really broken, then Mr Drunken Swerve's plan and Mr Balloon's promise to "mend" it are based on a FALSE PREMISE.

"Our broken society" is a SPLENDID sound-bite for the Conservatories, guaranteed to tickle all the right (and FAR right) fancies of their members. It is just an updated version of their old, old attitude of nostalgia mixed with blame for the next generation: "Kids today!" – Traditional Conservatory Values in a Modern Setting, you might say.

It's easy to back it up with SCARE STORIES too.

We have locked up EIGHTY THOUSAND people in our prisons – twice what it was before Lord Blairimort came to power – and that must mean something is wrong. We have the HIGHEST rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe, so that cannot be good. Our children our reported to be BOTTOM in a league table of happiness, and that cannot be called a success.

On the other fluffy foot, we live longer, healthier, more prosperous and better-informed lives than pretty much ever before in history.

And are those kids REALLY all that bad? Do FERAL GANGS of HOODIES roam our neighbourhoods looking for Questionable Time panels to appear on? Or is it just that our FEARS have got all out of proportion? Those fears are played upon by people like recently-retired Gollum, Nice Mr Dr Reid and his Conservatory Shadow Minister for Hanging and Flogging Mr Davis David.

Politicians are inclined to place BLAME. If they are on the LEFT then are likely to blame difficulties on a CONSPIRACY of BOSSES and ADVERTISERS to SAP our WILLS; those on the RIGHT will probably blame difficulties on LACK of MORAL FORTITUDE.

But the things that are wrong (or at least the ones that I think are wrong) in our country – the growing gap between haves and have-nots, the unacceptable levels of illiteracy that leaves people trapped in poverty, the rising tide of personal debt, the culture of working long hours for inadequate reward that robs families of together time, the cynicism and overwhelming apathy that leaves people thinking that they cannot change anything – these problems are COMPLICATED.

They are all tangled up with each other and certainly not susceptible to a PANACEA solution like "oh, if only everyone lived in nice families like they used to".

Often if people are comfortable enough, then they would rather things stayed the same rather than causing a lot of fuss and upset in order to change things, even if it is to change them for the better. Because in the end, who is to say what "BETTER" actually means? Some minister say in Whitehall or the bloke or bloke-ess who will have to do the changing?

To be fair to Mr Drunken Swerve, although he's stuck with Mr Balloon's grandiloquent language of "mending society", his actual suggestions are aimed more at the specific target of addressing performance in schools.

On the whole this is an aim that is worth PRAISING, so long as it is about the OPPORTUNITY for the kids, and not just an EXCUSE to go "Back to Bedsocks".

Mind you, Mr Paul has already pointed out that "children in married families" leads to "children do better in school" might be a bit of a FALSE ASSOCIATION.

"Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc," as Mr President Bartlet would put it.

It could be that the sort of people who have kids who do better in school are ALSO the sort of people who stay in married families, but one does not CAUSE the other.

You would not, for example, say: "all the evidence shows that if the children do better in schools then it promotes lasting marriage between their parents. Therefore, we're going to MAKE those kids do better with a tax credit for passing exams!" Well, not unless you were BARMY, anyway!

The The Today Programme invited Mr Drunken Swerve along to debate his new plans with Mr Millipede Minor who it turns out is responsible for the breakdown of society. Bet he didn't realise THAT was on his card when he said "yes" to Mr Frown last week!

Millipede Minor was challenged to say whether he thought it was better for a couple to be married rather than just to live together, and he was STUMPED! This, obviously, is because he is from the Labour and sincerely believes that the government should control everybody's lives. The Liberal answer to the question is: "IT IS NONE OF THE GOVERNMENT'S BUSINESS!"

Daddy Alex points out that the government DOES have a FINANCIAL interest in people staying in couples. This is because couples tend to LOOK AFTER each other, mutual support staving off reliance on the state benefits and the NHS.

Though we shouldn't be coming up with policy on the basis of what is most ECONOMICALLY ADVANTAGEOUS for the government, but on the basis of what is the best way that the government can serve people.

And of course that is still NOT a good reason for the government to PRESCRIBE the SORT of "family" – one mummy, one daddy, kids and Timmy the Dog – that it wants people to be in. Gay daddies, extended families, single parents, networks of aunties… people are capable of coming up with THEIR OWN kind of families and they are probably better at finding one that is right for THEM than Mr Drunken Swerve's one-size-fits-all 1950's nuclear knitting-pattern.

It is quite right that the benefit system should not PENALISE children just because their parents split up. If it did, you would risk trapping mummies (AND DADDIES!) in abusive or destructive relationships. EQUALLY though, you do not want to make people BETTER OFF by splitting because then you are actually encouraging families to break up.

You want a tax and benefit system that protects the opportunities of the children regardless of their parents' choices or mistakes.

So there MAY be some merit in Mr Drunken Swerve's suggestion that the current system needs to be fairer – but NOT in the way he suggests correcting it.

So that should be our SECOND question: will Mr Drunken Swerve's plan fix ANYTHING?

Well, his plan appears to work like this: first, hand out a large reward to people for being married as a sop to the "traditional family values" crowd; second, try to drive poor people into work through a range of punitive measures that will cut their access to benefits so that you can save the money you just spent on rewarding marriage; and third, privatise the education system.

If you want that in more DETAIL, then the key points from Mr Drunken Swerve's suggestions include:

"Married couples to be able to transfer tax allowance, worth about £20 a week, if one parent is not working, such as if one stays at home to bring up a child. Will cost £3.2bn a year"
Paid for by "savings in benefits".

…or CUTS, as those used to be called.

"Lone parents on benefits expected to work 16 hours a week when their youngest child reaches five and 30 hours a week when their youngest child reaches 11"
…thus no longer qualifying for benefits. Ah, THAT'S where those "savings" come from!

"To qualify for Job Seeker's Allowance, applicants should "be spending all their time" looking for work"
…so, not eight hours a day sleeping, then.

"Contract out welfare-to-work programmes to private firms and voluntary groups"
…or WORKHOUSES as they were called in the Victorian Age.

"Charities and parents to be allowed to set up schools free of local authority control in cases where existing schools are deemed to be failing"
…would that be the sort of "charities" that are normally called "private schools"? Or the sort of "charities" that run Creationist Christian Foundations like the Vardey City McAcademies?

"Make voluntary work part of the school curriculum"
…and in English classes we can teach the new definition of "voluntary".

"reward children who undertake community work with pop concert tickets"
…no, seriously.

How are ANY of these ideas supposed to "mend" our society?

"19th Century Solutions for 21st Century Problems," is how Liberal Democrat Mr David "He is the" Laws described them.

If our society IS broken, then it seems to me that the thing that broke it was the "Me, me, me" attitude that the Conservatories created in the Eighties and that Lord Blairimort has only continued.

And now the Conservatories want to be the "Not me, guv" party that seeks to PASS THE BUCK to charities and individuals. They are hardly a ROLE MODEL for a new COMPASSIONATE society.

What we need is a government that says we will not interfere with your successes, but we will be there to catch you if you fall. A government that INVESTS in education to RESCUE failing schools, not one that sells them off. A government that thinks we should be REHABILITATING prisoners, not just locking them up for longer and longer and longer. A government that isn't going to legislate to force every family to have 2.4 children. A government that TRUSTS people. A Liberal Democrat Government.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Day 2381: Diary of a Nobody aka Lord Blairimort versus the Truth


"Mr Alistair Campbell, are you are lying liar who tells lies?"

That was the question that seemed to have slipped Mr Humpy's mind when he was interviewing Lord Blairimort's one-time Spin-Assassin[*] Mr Alistair Henchman on the The Today Programme.

[*] no, not a "doctor"; doctors make people BETTER.

This interview was part of Mr Henchman's ADVERTISING JUNKET aimed at selling more copies of his new book: "The Secret Diary of Tom Riddle aka Lord Blairimort".

Like the magical diary in Harry Potter, Mr Henchman's book MYSTERIOUSLY absorbs all the bad news stories and regurgitates a cleverly PARTIAL version of the truth. That is PARTIAL in the sense of one-sided as well as PARTIAL in the sense of NOT "the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

This is a process that we DO NOT call "sexing up" unless we want the full farce sorry force of a judicial inquiry to come crashing down on us like a tidal wave of whitewash.

And this is PROBABLY why Mr Humpy just sat there and took it while Mr Henchman claimed loudly that the Hutton Inquiry had ENTIRELY CLEARED the government, Lord Blairimort and most importantly Mr Henchman himself of ever, ever, ever uttering an untruth.

This is of course TRUE…

Well, at least it is JUST AS TRUE as the statement: "the Joint Intelligence Committee told us, entirely of their own volition, without ANY threats or electrodes or anything, that there are absolutely definitely certainly weapons of mass destruction in Iraq capable of devastating British territory (okay, bases in Malta) within forty-five minutes."

Lord Hutton, of course, found the BBC to be the ones at fault through the expedient of limiting the terms of his inquiry to precisely thirty seconds out of an early morning interview with Andrew Gilligan in which he made an (unrepeated) off-the-cuff remark that it turned out the BBC were unable to prove AT THE TIME.

i.e. that the Prime Monster's personal hatchetman press spokesperson had intervened to make the evidence in the government's dossier a bit less equivocal and thus the case for flattening a Middle Eastern country a bit more urgent.

The facts that had emerged during the course of his noble lordship's inquiry – as seen on telly by almost everyone – that (a) there were actually NO weapons of mass destruction in Iraq making the dossier factually WRONG; (b) the original dossier from the Joint Intelligence Committee had used phrases like "may have" or "might be" where the final version said "does" and "is"; and (c) Mr Henchman was the one to make the "presentational" changes from "may have" or "might be" to "does" and "is" were all judged to be COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT because the BBC could not have proved it AT THE TIME.

Funnily enough, the public came to the conclusion that Lord Hutton was saying "the BBC are guilty even though they were right and the government are innocent even though the facts show that they are in fact guilty."

Lord Hutton will be appearing in KAFKA or possibly PANTOMIME this year.

Actually, an often OVERLOOKED detail is that there was ANOTHER dossier, the "February Dossier", the one that Mr Henchman originally published and claimed was the work of intelligence officers. But then he had to admit that this was only "true" in the sense that actually the dossier was a ten-year-old graduate thesis that had been downloaded off the internet.

However, Mr Henchman will tell you that you cannot hold this against him because it does not count as a lie since he admitted that it was a lie and therefore it isn’t one.

What Mr Henchman WILL tell you, and Lord Blairimort too and even someone like Mr John Rentoul as recently as a month ago so PERVASIVE has this INSIDIOUS MEME become, is that there have been FOUR inquiries that ALL cleared Lord Blairimort and the government of ANY wrong-doing over the illegal invasion of Iraq.

This too is TRUE…

Well, it is "true" in the same way that it is true that Lord Hutton cleared the government of ever, ever, ever lying and in the same way that it is true that the joint intelligence committee said that there absolutely were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq with no help from Mr Henchmen ever.

The "four inquiries" actually refer to inquiries conducted by:

1. The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee
2. The House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee
3. Lord Hutton, into the events surrounding the death of Doctor David Kelly
4. Lord Butler, into the intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction

First there were the two inquiries by House of Commons committees.

Remember that these were NOT independent committees: both were controlled by the Labour majority on the committee, and both were not only chaired by Labour MPs, but by Labour MPs who had demonstrated their loyalty to Lord Blairimort. Mr Donald Anderson, in particular, often appeared on radio and television defending the government's foreign policy decisions. Ms Anne Taylor is a former government Chief Whip.

1. The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee
(7 Labour MPs, 3 Conservative MPs, 1 Liberal Democrat MP; Labour Chair)

"The Decision to go to War in Iraq"

Particularly pertinent are point 15:
"We conclude that without access to the intelligence or to those who handled it,
we cannot know if it was in any respect faulty or misinterpreted"

and point 29:
"We conclude that continued refusal by Ministers to allow this committee access
to intelligence papers and personnel, on this inquiry and more generally, is
hampering it in the work which Parliament has asked it to carry out."

So it is important to remember that their final conclusion (point 33)
"Consistent with the conclusions reached elsewhere in this Report, we conclude
that Ministers did not mislead Parliament."

should be qualified by the fact that they themselves say THEY CANNOT ACTUALLY KNOW THAT, and that Ministers have prevented them from doing their job.

In addition, the committee concluded that Lord Blairimort DID, albeit inadvertently, misrepresent to, if not mislead, parliament over the second dossier (the February dossier that became known as the "dodgy" dossier). Point 22:
"We further conclude that by referring to the document on the floor of the House
as “further intelligence” the Prime Minister—who had not been informed of its
provenance, doubts about which only came to light several days later—
misrepresented its status and thus inadvertently made a bad situation worse."

And the government was roundly condemned by the committee for producing the February dossier in the first place. Point 23:
"We conclude that it is wholly unacceptable for the Government to plagiarise
work without attribution and to amend it without either highlighting the
amendments or gaining the assent of the original author. We further conclude
that it was fundamentally wrong to allow such a document to be presented to
Parliament and made widely available without ministerial oversight."

2. The House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee
(5 Labour MPs, 2 Conservative MPs, 1 Liberal Democrat MP, 1 Lord; Labour Chair)

"Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction – Intelligence and Assessments"

They begin by emphasising that they are not considering the correctness of the decision to invade (point A):
" This Report does not judge whether the decision to invade Iraq was correct. It
is the purpose of this Report to examine whether the available intelligence,
which informed the decision to invade Iraq, was adequate and properly assessed
and whether it was accurately reflected in Government publications. "

The conclusions of the report seem rather bizarre, with the benefit of hindsight of course, and can be summarised as "assuming what we thought we knew was right then the government dossiers were right".

For example, from point D:
" Based on the intelligence and the JIC Assessments that we have seen, we accept
that there was convincing intelligence that Iraq had active chemical, biological
and nuclear programmes and the capability to produce chemical and biological
weapons. Iraq was also continuing to develop ballistic missiles. All these
activities were prohibited under UNSCRs. "
Convincing the intelligence might have been, but the committee fails to address its accuracy. It was subsequently shown to be totally wrong.

Points F and G address the "45 minute claim"
" That the Iraqis could use chemical or biological battlefield weapons rapidly
had already been established in previous conflicts and the reference to the
20–45 minutes in the JIC Assessment added nothing fundamentally new to the UK’s
assessment of the Iraqi battlefield capability. Additionally, the JIC Assessment
did not precisely reflect the intelligence provided by the SIS."
" The JIC did not know precisely which munitions could be deployed from where to
where and the context of the intelligence was not included in the JIC
Assessment. This omission was then reflected in the 24 September dossier, which
we discuss later in the Report."

Which is a polite way of saying that the "45 minute claim" was overstated and not accurate.

The report goes on to list a number of important omissions and deletions that altered the presentation of the intelligence and, in their opinion, undermined the accuracy

Point J:
" Whilst the 9 September 2002 JIC Assessment was a balanced assessment of
scenarios, it did not highlight in the key judgements the uncertainties and gaps in the UK’s knowledge about the Iraqi biological and chemical weapons."

Point N:
" The use of the phrase “continued to produce chemical and biological weapons” in the foreword and the absence of detail on amounts of agents produced in the executive summary and main text could give the impression that Saddam was actively producing both chemical and biological weapons and significant amounts of agents. However, the JIC did not know what had been produced and in what quantities…"

Point O:
" Saddam was not considered a current or imminent threat to mainland UK, nor did the dossier say so. The first draft of the Prime Minister’s foreword contained the following sentence:

“The case I make is not that Saddam could launch a nuclear attack on London or another part of the UK (He could not).”

This shows that the Government recognised that the nature of the threat that Saddam posed was not directly to mainland UK. It was unfortunate that this point was removed from the published version of the foreword and not highlighted elsewhere."
Point P:
" The dossier was for public consumption and not for experienced readers of intelligence material. The 45 minutes claim, included four times, was always likely to attract attention because it was arresting detail that the public had not seen before. As the 45 minutes claim was new to its readers, the context of the intelligence and any assessment needed to be explained. The fact that it was assessed to refer to battlefield chemical and biological munitions and their movement on the battlefield, not to any other form of chemical or biological attack, should have been highlighted in the dossier. The omission of the context and assessment allowed speculation as to its exact meaning. This was unhelpful to an understanding of this issue."
Point S:
" We regard the initial failure by the MoD to disclose that some staff had put their concerns in writing to their line managers as unhelpful and potentially misleading. This is not excused by the genuine belief within the DIS that the concerns had been expressed as part of the normal lively debate that often surrounds draft JIC Assessments within the DIS. We are disturbed that after the first evidence session, which did not cover all the concerns raised by the DIS staff, the Defence Secretary decided against giving instructions for a letter to be written to us outlining the concerns."

Nevertheless, they felt able to conclude that (point L):
"…We are content that the JIC has not been subjected to political pressures, and that its independence and impartiality has not been compromised in any way. The dossier was not “sexed up” by Alastair Campbell or anyone else."

3. The Hutton Inquiry

As described above, Lord Hutton chose to interpret his terms of reference "into the circumstances of Dr David Kelly's death" to mean "why were the BBC to blame?" This meant he ignored any events that may or may not have occurred in Dr Kelly's place of work, namely a government office, or the actions of any of those people for whom Dr Kelly might have worked, namely Lord Blairimort and his government, and instead focussed on a man who… had met him.

4. The Butler Report
Lord Butler was asked to inquire into "the intelligence" that related to the decision to invade. He was specifically ruled out of looking into the role of any politician, and in particular the role of the Prime Monster in deciding that, hell, we might as well explode them anyway.

The Liberal Democrats refused to endorse the inquiry because of its ludicrously restricted terms of reference. They refused to endorse the inquiry IN ADVANCE because they examined the ludicrously restricted terms of reference and found that no meaningful conclusions could be reached by an inquiry so bound by the government.

At the time, Sir Mr the Merciless said:

"Don't you understand ... that following the public response to the Hutton report that an inquiry that excludes politicians from scrutiny is unlikely to command public confidence..."

The Conservatories joined the inquiry, signing up to the government’s ludicrously restricted terms of reference without thinking. Later they changed their minds and pulled out, complaining that the ludicrously restricted terms of reference– gasp! – looked like fixing the result.

In the end, Mr Something of the Night would famously bury himself by telling Lord Blairimort:

"The intelligence was wrong but we'd have voted for the war anyway!"

The Butler Inquiry actually reported that the intelligence had been "unreliable", which is hardly a resounding "not guilty", and Lord B himself subsequently went on record to express his mild surprise that no one had asked him if his report meant that the Prime Monster should resign. The answer would have been "yes".

The general public eventually concluded that Lord Butler had found the government guilty but had accidentally let them off the hook by expressing this in "mandarin" rather than "tabloid".

So, the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee Report cannot have cleared Lord Blairimort, because it did not address itself to the issue of whether Lord Blairimort was right or wrong to lead us to war against Iraq, nor whether he was truthful in what he told Parliament or the public.

The Hutton Report cannot have cleared Lord Blairimort, because it did not address itself to the issue of whether Lord Blairimort was right or wrong to lead us to war against Iraq, nor whether he was truthful in what he told Parliament or the public.

The Butler Report cannot have cleared Lord Blairimort, because it did not address itself to the issue of whether Lord Blairimort was right or wrong to lead us to war against Iraq, nor whether he was truthful in what he told Parliament or the public.

Only the Foreign Affairs Committee actually addressed the pertinent questions, ironically the committee that held its inquiry soonest after the war and had least access to witnesses or information. Subsequent events have cast considerable doubt over whether the FASC would have reached the same conclusions had they had access to all the information, not only the report of the Iraq Survey Group that Iraq probably had NO WMDs at the time of the invasion but also testimony of witnesses to the Hutton Inquiry.

So, remember that next time someone says that Lord Blairimort was “cleared four times”. THAT is how far you can get with the "TRUTH" from Lord Blairimort and his apologists.

The revelation in Mr Henchman's diaries that the Labour ministers like the Minister for Magical Accidents and nice Dr John Reid (whichever job he happened to be in at the time) had their doubts about invading Iraq just goes to show how FEEBLE Lord Blairimort's Cabinet were.

OBVIOUSLY, Lord Blairimort himself never had a moment of doubt. This is because Lord Blairimort is a MONOMANIAC!

Anyway, the general opinion of Mr Henchman's diary is that it is NOT VERY GOOD!

Not interesting enough to be a Wedgy Benn and not RUDE enough to be an Alan Clarke… mainly because all of the JUICY bits have been edited out. There are still SOME funny moments, though, as this list of so-called HIGHLIGHTS shows. Sort of.