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Steve Horgan
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One of the problems of everyone having a PC on their desktop is that the naive then consider themselves to be IT experts. They completely fail to understand both the infrastructure that underpins their own little network entry point and the fact that industrial sized IT does not operate on the same rules as the stuff you find in PC world. As a result, you get silly comments like the one above. Aside from that, we have also seen very poor decision-making on large-scale government IT projects by people operating under similar delusions. The City is a nexus of IT infrastructure and financial expertise that would be very difficult to replicate elsewhere. People have tried you know. Oh, and if we are going to wave supposed qualifications: IT Architect for a large UK Bank, Fellow of the British Computer Society.
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Polls show a consistent 70% belief in God in the UK, and much of the remainder is at least agnostic. I thought atheists were all about evidence? Clearly not.
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David Cameron did exactly the right thing. He resisted what would have been a very bad deal for our country. In the event, the unreasonable approach from the other EU leaders made his choice almost inevitable, but he still had to do what no other British Prime Minister has never done before and use the veto. There would have been some pressure to back down, and avoid the supposed horror of being 'isolated', but our national interest was clear and we had the leadership that the country demanded at this critical time. There will be trouble ahead, of course. Labour will make some silly schoolboy arguments, and some Liberal Democrats will be unable to bring themselves to back the Prime Minister. However, I would hope that Conservatives would give David Cameron the credit for being the leader that we needed him to be.
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John makes the central point about this entire crisis. The euro was sold on the basis that it would bring prosperity; instead it has only brought austerity for many nations. Worse, there is no apparent way out for countries like Greece, Ireland and Italy. In the current situation such nations can only conform to German economic policy and hope for the odd EU handout. If that means that they become the permanent poor south of Europe then there is almost nothing that they can do, save to remake their entire economies over the very long term. The question is why would any population agree to be poor for decades? That answer, very simply, is that they wouldn't.
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And yet your UKIP has failed to capitalise on their favourite, or more or less only, issue becoming a major and continuing news story. Farage has barely made the news media and the UKIP policy on the current crisis appears to be that we should just leave the EU immediately. Because this is basically bonkers, even if you want to leave the EU it is still a complex matter, and bacause this represents absolutely nothing new and nothing that relates to the immediate situation no one cares. In fact the UKIP reaction to something that should have been a great opportunity for them perfectly illustrates the difference between a pressure group and a political party.
Toggle Commented Dec 7, 2011 on Beware of the dark arts at thetorydiary
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If the proposed treaty change has a very direct impact on the UK then we must have a referendum. In fact, this is the law, brought in by the current government. If the proposed treaty change does not have such impact then we don't. Given the crisis in Europe and the effect on UK jobs and prosperity if this is not resolved, we cannot afford to insist on a referendum just to keep everyone happy in the Conservative Party. I would rather have a referendum, and I would campaign for one if what was proposed really affected the UK directly, but I am not going to bang on about principle when the cost may be people who vote for me ending up on the dole queue. I will say though that at this point I cannot see the Merkel plan working. Her proposals would seem to run into constitutional court problems in her own country, and would automatically trigger referenda in a number of other countries. That is if she can persuade other nations to a massive mandatory loss of sovereignty from subjecting their budgets to very serious loss of control. So, all of the questions about UK referendums may be moot anyway. I would commend the Prime Minister's comment piece in the Times by the way.
Toggle Commented Dec 7, 2011 on Beware of the dark arts at thetorydiary
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'I do not doubt that the objectives of this policy are laudable' Most people would indeed regard faster and better medical research and increasing the efficiency of the Health Service by actually understanding the patient population better as laudable. Against this the author of the article failed to explain exactly what he was concerned about. He also failed to evidence his anecdote about people not telling GPs about medical conditions becaus of privacy concerns. Something that, frankly, beggars belief. It is certainly possible for things to go wrong in data management, but it is not inevitable. Over-stating potential impacts does not help either. This is an innovative and welcome government announcement, and deserves a more constructive response than this
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The key factor is Councillors per head of population. In general the UK has a very high number of electors to Councillors by international standards, and there is no doubt that part-time Councillors find it very difficult to meet the workload of representing very large wards. The other other factor is reducing the talent pool available to fill Executive Councillor positions. Now I know that even saying this is likely to prompt a degree of sarcasm and derision based on the perceived performance of Local Authorities, but can I beg for a modicum of comment sense. The simple facts are that Executive Councillors an Committee Chairmen have very real power to over their communities and are often responsible for very large budgets and numbers of staff. There are good reasons why comparable posts in the private sector are subject to high standards and often lengthy and painful recruitment processes. In a Local Council you have got the administration Councillors to choose from for these very important posts and that is that. If you can't fill all of the posts with reasonably effective people then it is the whole community that eventually suffers. Or do people actually think that sub-standard direction is they way forward for the public sector? For example, we have 29 administration Councillors in Basildon to chose from for 8 Cabinet Members, including the Leader, and a number of other quite critical Committee Chairmanships. Now, we are quite fortunate that within that talent pool we have way more than enough very capable people, but the Stroud proposal is to reduce the entire Council to basically that number. So, the Administration will usually have fewer Councillors than that to chose from. The points about increasing the power of non-elected officials are very well made by the way. Fewer Councillors and less able Executive Councillors is absolutely the way to reduce democratic checks and balances over Council decision-making. I honestly don't know what the situation is on the ground is Stroud, but my speculation is thus: the existing leadership feel perfectly comfortable and are confident that they would stay in charge without having all of those pesky backbenchers. They think that a simplistic policy like this will connect with the electorate, especially as they won't bother to explain the downsides. The strategic problems will only accumulate over time, probably after they have retired, and so let's roll it out for the next election and not bother with what happens a few years down the line. However, there is a difference with playing politics and community leadership. Someone in Stroud needs a bit of a lesson on this.
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The technical solution is not to allow corporate data to be held locally. Instead, data is stored centrally and accessed via what is called a virtual machine that can run on a laptop, but the data never leaves the corporate core. Obviously, this required a network connection of some sort, but for offline working in this context it is possible to have an encrypted temporary storage that disappears as soon as a network connection is made. The huge advantages of this are that laptops don't have any significant or accessible data on them if they are lost. Moreover it allows the virtual machine to be run on any configured hardware, which includes laptops owned by the user as opposed to the organisation. So, this ends the odd situation where people have better hardware for personal use then their employers can provide. Virtual machines also run at the speed of the central computing core, which is often much faster than is possible on a laptop, so performance is often better. To conclude, the technology is catching up with this issue, but data privacy and data loss does remain a problem. The question for legislators is how much they must reflect the state of technology in law. Certainly, there will be fewer technical excuses for egregious breaches of data security in the future.
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Which train station, we have 5? There are no flats next to the Sporting Village at all, never mind new build and the flats next to Office World are 20-30% larger and much better equipped than you would have seen during the boom. Like I said, drivel.
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That is just drivel. In fact, I defy you to tell me where these 'tiny flats' are. If you knew anything about the current property market you would know that the only things that are selling at the moment are family homes and large, well-designed flats. There is currently a shortage of buyers and those that are buying are demanding quality over the sort of stuff that was put up at the height of the housing boom. All of the recent planning applications for housing in Basildon have been for either family homes or larger flats. While Basildon certainly has some educational problems, there is certainly housing being built or planned within catchment of some very good schools indeed. I suggest that you brush up on your knowledge of Basildon's geography. I do understand though that if you don't know Basildon and are relying on your updates from one rather cynical local campaigner that you might have a rather skewed view of our Borough.
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Why not give the Planning or Regeneration Departments of the place that you are interested in a call? Here in Basildon we certainly know the land we have for development. The newly released government land is another matter, but again there is nothing to stop you obtaining land ownership information from the HCA or other bodies in the places you are interested in and talking to them on that basis. This is does require some work on your part, of course and is distinct from a situation where the Local Authority or government department actively markets land. The problem with that is that putting a proper Planning Brief together costs quite a bit and doing one for every piece of land available takes time and effort, and cannot happen overnight for large land portfolio. Again, here in Basildon, we have numerous housing projects underway so this can be done efficiently on a Local Authority basis.
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For the reasons already very well expressed in the article and the comments this was a very good move. Labour, on the other hand is all over the place on this one. The sale price is reasonable and the non-cash benefits to the NW are very important. More banking competition is also a good thing. Their bleating is just silly, and cuts across public opinion. Wrong and poor politics, two for two.
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During World War 2 we faced national extinction. Even then we didn't torture; Churchill vetoed it. It is possible to interrogate effectively without fingernail-yanking, we know because we did it throughout the war, when many lives were routinely at stake. However, torture is effective, if the torturers do enough of it to be skilled. The comforting liberal idea that torture somehow doesn't work would have caused great amusement to the SS-Gestapo for example. Bottom line is that this is a moral question and Churchill had it right. So does Hague..
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Jill, you may have noticed that the EU is in the process of imploding. While I agree that the repatriation of powers is a good thing, actually a great thing, at the moment I am unsure what the shape of the thing we get the powers back from will be. I don't think you know either. David Cameron's priority in the short term must be to prevent a collapse of the euro currency. This is not because of any love for the thing, which has played out more or less exactly as predicted by the bulk of the Conservative Party. It is simply because we don't want our people to suffer through a European financial meltdown because of the effect on jobs and exports right here. The best solution is for the ECB to become the lender of last resort for the euro, which is what the British government is calling for. Unfortunately, the Germans appear to be balking at that, apparently preferring to remake the eurozone instead of providing a central bank to stand behind a currency, which is how every other one on the planet actually works. So, either the Franco-German axis ditches the Southern EU countries from the euro, or they promote the ECB. In either case the EU is profoundly changed. Then we can talk about getting our fisheries and employment powers back.
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You clearly don't know what the word 'mug' means. Or have ever been in a punch-up in a pub for that matter.
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And some Conservative Councils never went over to biweekly collections in the first place. Here in Basildon we collect both material for recycling and residual rubbish weekly. So, we have a recycling rate of over 50% and the Borough looks and smells clean even in midsummer. That people might get used to a worse alternative is irrelevant, unless you live in Cllr. Shaw's world of course. His attitude is what you get when Councillor's forget that they are community representatives and start acting like local authority managers instead.
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Can I ask, out of genuine interest, what you know about the subject? There is actually no precedent for the Dale Farm Clearance operation in terms of scale, but evidence that you have planned policing operations at the largest scale would be acceptable for example. Of course, the Council operational planning has been peer-reviewed by two relevant and entirely separate organisations, but I am sure that you can show equal competence in the field or you would not have been so crass as to comment as you did.
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The casual arrogance of this post is unbelievable. You clearly know nothing about the situation at Dale Farm, but feel that you can pontificate about it as if this was just a matter of political philosophy. For your information Dale Farm does have neighbours, in fact there is a whole other community involved in the form of the adjacent village of Cray's Hill. Never heard of them? Of course you haven't. The poor people there have seen huge degradation in their quality of life since the largest Traveller site in Europe suddenly appeared on their doorsteps, not least the collapse of the educational standards of the village school. Then there is the simple fact that Dale Farm, even apart from being an illegal Green Belt development, fails just about every standard for Traveller sites in terms of basic services, sewage for example. In fact the closest comparison is slum housing with rent paid to an absentee landlord. Oh, you didn't think all of the Travellers were freeholders owning their own plots did you? I could also mention that the Travellers at Dale Farm after having put the Council to years of time, trouble and expense in trying to enforce the law very generously told us they would leave for a mere £3m. This for a patch of land that was last valued at £30k. Basildon has the largest number of legal Traveller sites per hectare in England. We have no problem with Travellers in general. We do have a problem, however, with anyone who performs a huge illegal development in the Green Belt, builds what is effectively an instant slum, wrecks one of our established communities and then follows it up with attempted extortion.
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Good for you. As I have posted elsewhere, it is essential that potential candidates have relevant experience in both the fields of law enforcement and politics. That is far more important that sterile discussions about membership of political parties. As if a useless non-party member would be better than an experienced and competent member of a poltical party! You are dead right about Police Authorities of course. It is something of a scandal that such demonstrably useless bodies have been allowed to persist for so long. Their special pleading against their own abolition has been the most effective thing that they have ever done.
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We should certainly run party candidates, with the proviso that that the candidates must have the appropriate stature for this new role. In the case that someone with that stature cannot be found then we should consider supporting a non-party candidate, who we feel supports Conservative values. What we should not do is either put forward unsuitable candidates wholly on the basis that they are a Conservative or utterly rule out good potential candidates on the grounds that they are members of the Conservative Party. What would we want them to do? Resign the party in order to serve the wider Conservative interest? That would be crackers. I am a long-standing local, and reasonably senior, politician in Essex for example, but I would not dream of putting myself forward for this role. Why? Because I have no relevant experience whatsoever. Ideally, we would like people such as senior criminal lawyers, experienced magistrates, or retired senior police officers, who also have political experience as well. The latter is very important. This is not a managerial role, rather a representative one and someone unskilled in representing people on complex issues, especially as there is no time for on-the-job training, is likely to make a hash of it. One last thing, there is a lot of ignorance in the comments on how political parties work. It is certainly not the case in the Conservative Party that the leadership says 'jump' and everyone else say 'how high?'. In Basildon the Conservative administration is expected to run our show, and if we have an issue with central government, and sometimes we do, then we talk about it, not instantly obey their every whim. No one of the right stature who takes the role of Police Commissioner is simply going to be told what to do anyway, at least not if they are a Conservative. Labour and the Liberal Democrats I don't know about, but I would be surprised if the culture there is much different.
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Labour should have made a clean break with their past on the economy. We know David Miliband wanted to do exactly this from his leaked speech that would have been given had he been elected Labour's leader. In the short term it would have been painful, but it would have allowed that party to start rebuilding credibility on this critical issue. It would also have allowed revelations like Darling's to be treated as history. As it is they have kept themselves shackled to their policies when they were in government, and the main reason for that is Balls. Because they have made him Shadow Chancellor and because he was so key in Brown's economic approach having him there means they cannot admit that they were wrong. Balls doesn’t appear to be physically able to admit when he is wrong anyway. So, instead Labour have to pretend that the last government's running of the economy was perfect and to strain credibility by further by pretending that every cut in the current government’s spending is wrong, despite the principle of cutting spending being sort of correct. Ed should sack Balls, he hasn't laid a glove on Osborne anyway, find someone else and admit Labour's mistakes on the economy in government. Then they can develop something resembling a coherent policy. Otherwise this critical issue will be a millstone around their necks all of the way to the next election. Actually, that doesn’t sound too bad to me.
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For information... http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2011/06/17/358044/italian-air-force-chief-details-libyan-operations.html The key passage is: "We have been and are deploying almost the complete range of operational assets at our disposal," said Lt Gen Giuseppe Bernardis.
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Italy not involved? Where do you think that the airbases that NATO is flying out of are situated? Maps are wonderful things. As for post-war Libya, the country has a relatively low population and abundant oil, so long term financial aid will not be necessary. They may need some expertise though. Given that this action was via NATO and the UN and nothing to do with the EU then I thought you would be happy.
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There are pretty standard techniques in politics when you don't want anything to happen. One is to seek to widen whatever the issue is until it becomes too broad to be addressed. So, let's link the riots to bankers and MPs expenses or better yet the morals of our entire society. Then argue that unless you fix all of that you can't or shouldn't do anything. This is pretty much Miliband's approach, and that of many commentators on the left, and a few on the right. You see it sounds all grown-up and the voice of wisdom, when in reality it is an abdication of any practical measures. In this case it means having a high-level debate about public morality while dismissing any other measure as 'knee-jerk'. Let's leave our estates under the control of criminal gangs and don't make any practical policing and criminal justice changes while we let the leader writer's pontificate. It's a recipe for people in leafy suburbs or nice detached cottages to feel good about themselves because they aren’t just condemning the criminals who torched our city centres. Of course, while they are off being mature those same inner cities have to deal with criminal thugs who are effectively being protected by the people for whom extended debate is a substitute for action. In fact, these are people who actually hold those who advocate action with contempt. This approach melds into the second great way to make sure that nothing changes, which is to hold a public enquiry, Miliband's second great idea. So, everything is put on hold until the enquiry reports, which typically takes a year or two. Then the measures that it proposes may or may not be adopted. Meanwhile on the ground nothing changes, which is, of course, what certain people want. It is one thing for a fool like Miliband to adopt a policy of doing nothing. After all, anything else would mean confronting his own prejudices that families don't matter and that the only issue is how much public money is thrown at a problem. I do find it depressing when those on the right start to ape his language, as if dealing with financial regulation will help the family living next door to a bunch of 'gangstas' on one of our inner-city estates. To those people I simply say that the majority of the public are simply not interested in your hot air and want the primary problems of criminals and gangs dealt with. If you don't understand that then you need to get out more.
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