Thursday 29 April 2010

Gordon Brown tells supporters: “shut the f*ck up”

Well it wasn't that bad. Gordon Brown made a bit of a mistake and apologised - good for him. I have a soft spot for our Prime Minister; I could never vote for the party, I have a long held dislike for socialism that I really should explain one day, but I recognise a man with principles. I wish I could say the same for his support.

Watching the Twitter stream yesterday was both a fascination and a confirmation. After the gaffe there was a wave of ludicrously vitriolic sentiment directed against the PM. I confess I joined in but since he's on record with some UKIP-like nonsense of his own he was a difficult target to ignore. After a few hours we saw a counter strike but it was a confused and messy affair. The sensible part attempted to move the subject on; there are more serious issues such as a massive budget deficit and some pretty savage cuts in public services on the cards. Unfortunately for the Labour party, and fortunately for their opponents, they were outnumbered by a spiteful element that decided the best form of defence is attack; thus for mentioning the topic of immigration Gillian Duffy remained "a bigot" and their leader was chided for apologising.
You can't say anything about the immigrants because you're saying that you're ... but all these eastern European what are coming in, where are they flocking from?
I don't particularly care for the language, it betrays a level of ignorance, but I'm struggling to see that it deserved such malice - to me it shows an uneducated woman attempting to grapple with a subject she feels important, who pauses as if to realise her words could be misconstrued. In the same rambling conversation the life-long Labour supporter also said:
We had it drummed in when I was a child with mine ... it was education, health service and looking after the people who are vulnerable.
Surely such a person should be brought in and shown the huge contribution that immigration has made and will continue to make to our country? Unhappily for Labour the antagonistic faction of their support would much rather have a fight; in doing so they exhibit that socialist characteristic of loving the romantic portrayal of the working class whilst not much caring for the reality. It turns out there are some supporters Gordon needs to slap down after all.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

From a kingdom of gold to one of rust and iron

It's a sense of déjà-vu listening to the Government nowadays; things may be bad they tell us, but they'd be a lot worse had we been under a Conservative government. This argument is of course bollocks for the simple reason that there wasn't a Conservative government. We might as well argue that the economy would be in a lot better state had the banks decided not to play Russian roulette with our money - but they did and now we don't have any. It's a line advanced every time a ruinous regime feels power slipping away. The Conservatives under John Major tried invoking memories of the 1970's; they failed partly I suspect because people couldn't remember just how bad the 1970's were – and they were awful – but mostly because it was irrelevant.

Ten years ago Gordon Brown ignored repeated warnings over selling a large part of Britain's gold reserves; this resulted in a loss to the tax payer conservatively estimated at £5 billion. We cannot know what the opposition might have done; we only know what the then Chancellor, now Prime Minister, did do.

The basic equation amounts to a Labour government that wrecked the British economy versus a Conservative opposition who had they been in power may have made the same mistakes. This in turn means they may have done things differently. They may have decided not to appoint the then head of HBOS, James Crosby, to the Financial Services Authority - the organization supposedly responsible for the regulation of the financial services industry. James Crosby, lest we forget, is the man who sacked his head of Group Regulatory Risk for doing his job - pointing out that the company was taking too many risks. Four years later HBOS collapsed, was bought out by Lloyds and found responsible for annual losses of £10 billion.

It will likely prove the biggest boom and bust in most people's memories with cuts tougher than those implemented in the 1980's. Not long after the general election public services will be cut and over the course of the next parliament tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of jobs in the public sector will be lost. Some might argue, and with some justification, that this readjustment is long overdue. In the fourth quarter of 2009 for example, despite being in the middle of our worst economic crisis for decades, employment in the public sector [pdf] increased by 7,000 to 6 million; compare this to employment in the private sector which decreased by 61,000 in the same period. When Tony Blair became Prime Minister he tripled the number of people working at Number 10 Downing Street so these figures shouldn't really come as a surprise - but they still shock me. We live in a country where more than one in four of the workforce is employed in the public sector and where public spending now accounts for more than 50% of our gross earnings .

Let's say that no one could have prevented the recession; the question is could the country have been better prepared? Could the Labour government have avoided selling assets at such a loss? Could it have ensured proper governance of the financial sector? Could it have avoided indulging in clearly unsustainable levels of public spending? The answer to all of these questions is obvious. To suggest that the opposition would have done the same or hark back to a long ago past is irrelevant and tired. 'We failed but they would have been worse' is a defence as bankrupt as their legacy and on May the 6th we should make them pay.

Sunday 4 April 2010

Twenty over five

You can never have enough handbags
This was my explanation to Little Miss R as wife took us on a fourth lap of the John Lewis Tula circuit. That’s the price you pay for getting to do anything you want. We spent longer doing “a quick bit of shopping” than we did at the cinema and that can’t be right; especially since shopping is inherently dangerous for the sleeping partner. If you’re a coward like me you have a stock of non-committal answers to the never ending stream of questions on the subject of “what do you think”; as if I’m going to fall for that.

No, I needed to be back with my GPS - who’d have thought you could spend fifty pounds on something cheap and tacky that turns out to be so much more? Never mind that I knew the way home, I just like being ordered around and there was a whole library of cheap television waiting for me at home.

I have a BT Vision box. From this it can be surmised I'm either astute in my television viewing, I find Rupert Murdoch's continual and cynical undermining of the BBC repulsive or I'm too tight to cough up for Sky. One cool service with BT is the large number of programmes 'on demand'; programming you stream over the net. BT uses your phone line whilst Virgin Media have a similar service over cable. I'm in awe that it works so well.

Thus I've been able to watch 20 episodes of The Office in less than five days - isn't technology wonderful? One day I had a crush on Pam, the next, somewhat disturbingly it was Angela and no doubt it’ll soon be Dwight;I mean, who wouldn't? From this it can be surmised I'm either astute in my television viewing, I need to get out more or I'm too tight to cough up for the cinema.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Send in the clown

man spinning plates
Many years ago I found myself looking at a performance issue with a new version of software. Re-written from the ground up and in a newer version of the language, it was running much slower than the component it replaced. It turned out the problem wasn't the code but the interaction between the client and server process. With only a single thread of execution (it was that long ago) a disproportionate amount of time was spent with the client requesting and the server providing 'progress updates'. The change from significantly slower to significantly faster performance was achieved with the alteration of a single line; the client process would request a 'progress update' once every five seconds, rather than 20 times every second.

Over a dozen years later and I'm at it again, only this time I'm the 'single thread of execution' and the numerous task reminders popping up on my screen are the work I'm keeping in the air whilst I carefully inch forward; either that or an elaborate April fool. I feel a circus act, not entirely sure why, but certain I must.