Lord Mancroft has said that he was appalled by the standards of nursing he received from the NHS:
Lord Mancroft claimed that it was “a miracle” that he was still alive after his experience of filthy wards and “slipshod and lazy” nurses when he was admitted to an NHS hospital in the West Country, believed to be the Royal United Hospital in Bath.
On occasions like this, the standard defence is to adopt the fallacy of composition and pretend that the criticism was being made of the whole industry rather than just particular members of it.
Mr Cameron was swift to act. Aides said he was furious and has asked Lord Strathclyde to rebuke Lord Mancroft. His views were not shared by the Conservative Party, which knew that nurses did a fantastic job, often in difficult circumstances, a spokesman said.
Dave has clearly picked up a lot from studying Labour's modus operandi, but the public sector can still teach him a thing or two. The nurses union claims that Mancroft was bitching about the whole of the female sex!
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said Lord Mancroft’s comments were “grossly unfair on nurses across the UK” and amounted to a “sexist insult about the behaviour of British women.”
Fallacious argument aside, you would have thought they might actually investigate his claims first, before condemning him. It's not as if he's the first person to say things like this about NHS hospitals, and he'll not be the last either.
Longrider Peter Risdonhas his own NHS horror story to relate.
The NHS will never get better if we're not allowed to criticise it.
A europolicywonk called John Palmer is congratulating the EU on reforming the Common Agricultural Policy in order to boost food production.
Although governments have been reluctant to talk publicly about the looming crisis of food inflation and outright food shortages, the European commission has proved quick to make drastic changes in the management of the common agricultural policy (CAP).
It does strike me as a bit sad that when the EU fails to act like a bunch of drunken imbeciles, it's presented as a policy triumph.
Remember the BBC's Planet Relief? 24 hours of being lectured by holier-than-thou greens? It was pulled from the schedules a year into the project, when BBC planners got cold feet. They reckoned their viewers might not be too pleased at having naked propaganda shoved down their throats.
I came across some interesting developments related to this project the other day. It's a bit involved, but stick with me.
Planet Relief was the brainchild of an environmentalist called Matt Prescott. Now it's interesting in itself that an environmental campaigner appears to have been appointed to head a very large BBC project. Still more surprising is the fact that he was barely out of University when appointed to head it up.
The justification for the licence fee has always been that the BBC is objective and impartial, and yet here we have Mr Prescott brought in from outside, apparently to use public resources to promote his own (and presumably the BBC's) political views.
Now perhaps I'm leaping to conclusions. Perhaps Mr Prescott has TV experience, as well as being an environmental campaigner. Perhaps his objectivity and is unimpeachable. Let's see.
So what do we know about Matt Prescott?
His Blogger profile can be seen here. He is nothing if not prolific, with fully eleven blogs associated with him. He has a PhD in zoology from Oxford, and organised the Oxford Earth Summit. In 2005 he launched a campaign to ban incandescent bulbs and since graduating has worked for:
- Prof. Norman Myers (a British environmentalist),
- Sir Crispin Tickell,(a British diplomat, environmentalist and academic)
- Roger Harrabin,(BBC environment)
- George Monbiot, (journalist and environmentalist)
- Jon Plowman (Head of BBC comedy)
- Glenwyn Benson (Controller BBC knowledge)
Now an environmentalist working for environmentalists isn't really news, but working for the head of BBC comedy? That's a bit odd isn't it?
According to this article by Prescott himself, he was introduced to Plowman by Roger Harrabin and the Open University's Joe Smith in Cambridge "a couple of years ago". This puts it in 2006.
Now Cambridge, Roger Harrabin, and Joe Smith rang a bell with me. Harrabin and Smith run something called the Cambridge Environment and Media Forum (CEMP) which I've blogged about previously. It's funded by the BBC and is alleged to look at ways of improving reporting of environmental stories. There are some details of some of the seminars they have organised online. By looking at the lists of attendees it appears that the meeting of Prescott and Plowman may have taken place at the seminar at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge on September 14th and 15th 2006, the purpose of which was apparently to look at how non-factual program makers might include environmental and development issues in their storylines. It's worth a look at the names of those involved which reads like a list of the movers and shakers in the upper echelons of the Beeb.
We should first stand back and wonder how a fresh-faced PhD, not long out of Oxford, manages to move so rapidly through the ranks at the BBC. No sooner is he in the door than he is hob-nobbing some of the most powerful people in the BBC. But not only that, but he has also landed himself a major project to co-ordinate. It's pretty impressive stuff.
We might also wonder how Mr Prescott came to work at the BBC. Was he an employee or a consultant? If the former, was the position advertised openly, and if the latter, what particular expertise was Prescott supposed to bring in order to justify his retention.
Why, we wonder, did the allegedly objective BBC journalist Roger Harrabin invite this rather wet-behind-the-ears environmentalist to meet such important people?
Reasons for the invitation aside, the result seems to have been that Plowman, the head of BBC comedy, got right behind the Planet Relief idea. He was still supportive after it was cancelled. In Prescott's words:
Jon did his best for Planet Relief within the BBC and stuck by me after his baby was cancelled.
Prescott is also clear that Harrabin and his CEMP colleague Joe Smith (who, we note in passing, is also a non-political public servant and who also has a startling sparse publication record, according to his webpage) were also instrumental in getting the Planet Relief project off the ground:
Joe Smith (Open University) and Roger Harrabin (BBC News) [...] also played a crucial role in helping to get things off the ground a couple of years ago.
After Planet Relief was pulled, Prescott went back to campaigning - as noted above, he had launched a campaign to ban incandescent bulbs in 2005. The BBC obligingly gave him a slot on their website to promote his views, here and another one here.
Roll forward to today, and Matt's latest wheeze is E-day. This time, we are all going to switch off lights for a day and the planet will be saved. All the usual suspects are involved: Jon Plowman is on the steering committee, and among the list of people thanked for help and support are Roger Harrabin and the following BBC staff:
- Andrew Lane (BBC Weather)
- Andrew Zincke (BBC Worldwide)
- David Shukman (BBC)
- Jonathan Harvey (BBC)
- Kate Forbes (BBC)
- Mark Damazer (BBC Radio 4)
- Mark Kinver (BBC)
- Peter Barron (BBC)
- Richard Black (BBC)
- Sarah Mukherjee (BBC)
- Sophie Stafford (BBC Wildlife Magazine)
- Will Watt (BBC Worldwide)
In addition, occasional BBC correspondent Alex Kirby seems to be heavily involved.
Now, were we especially naive, we might think that all these BBC staff were giving their spare time to support Mr Prescott's campaign. But thirteen people, representing all the major arms of the BBC, is strongly suggestive that the Corporation is giving unofficial support to this campaign which is nothing if not political. Essentially, they've tried to resurrect Planet Relief on the quiet. They've done their bit puffing up E-day, with an online article from Richard Black at the start of the month and another today. They seem to be almost the only MSM outlet which seems to think E-day is news.
So where is all this heading? I don't really know, but it just doesn't look right to me. It kind of looks as if the BBC is allowing itself to be used once again as a vehicle for environmentalist propaganda.
Just another reason to privatise it.
Matt Sinclair is following E-day's progress. So far energy consumption is above normal. Even the kindest heart would find it hard not to snigger.
Dr Joanne Simpson is a very important climatologist. See for example this summary of her career:
In 1983, the American Meteorological Society bestowed on her its highest honor "the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Award" and then named her president a few years later, a notable achievement given the fact that no other woman had ever won the job. NASA, too, has weighed in with many awards and commendations, including its coveted Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award.
Having recently retired, she has announced that she is rather sceptical of the case for catastrophic global warming.
[T]he main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system. We only need to watch the weather forecasts.
It is an indictment of the state of fear in climatology that she hasn't felt able to speak out before.
Thanks are due to the Adam Smith Institute for their recent link to one of my postings. My reader figures have responded accordingly. This next post will probably scare most of them away again.
Nick Clegg has been regaling us with his thoughts on the profits made by electricity.
PENSIONERS sitting in coats, hats and scarves in their sitting rooms to keep warm. Others living the whole winter in their bedroom because they can only afford to heat a single room. Our senior citizens reduced to a choice between heating and eating.
And all the while, British Gas is raking in £1,000 of profit every minute of the day. The truth is, the only people who are cosy this winter are the companies who send us our ever-rising bills.
Statistically speaking this is a load of old cobblers. Pensioners, of course, have larger disposable incomes than pretty much anyone, although I accept that there may be exceptions.
However, Clegg is not only statistically wrong, but he's also wrong in about the profits of the utilities companies. The profits may look huge, but there is a reason for this. It's down to a quirk of accountancy which I will endeavour to explain. (With a bit of luck there might still be a couple of readers who will still come back to my humble blog after reading it through).
British companies are required by law to state their profits using the historic cost convention. That means you measure the profits on the basis of what you sold something for, less what you paid for it. This is fine for many businesses, but for a company which is experiencing fluctuating raw material prices, the effects of this rule is to make the profits fluctuate wildly. Let me demonstrate with an example.
Let's say you buy a widget for 10. It sits in inventory for a couple of months. At this point widgets cost 20 and you can therefore sell in the marketplace for 30. You report profits of 20 and Nick Clegg tells the Yorkshire Post you're a heartless capitalist, responsible for starving grannies to death.
When the market goes the other way though, things are different. You've bought another widget at 20, and again it sits in inventory for a while. But by the time you manage to sell it, raw widget prices are back down to 10. You can only sell for 15 and you've made a loss of 5 on the historic cost basis. At this point Nick Clegg would probably compound his error by writing to the Yorkshire post and demanding you receive a subsidy. He would no doubt declare that your widget business was a key part of the economy. This would obviously just underline his woeful lack of understanding about what was actually going on.
In companies dealing with this kind of marketplace, profits are rarely measured against historic cost. There is too much temptation to give margin away to customers when prices are on the up. Customers never give margin back again when prices are falling. Instead companies measure profits against replacement cost - how much does a widget cost to buy from suppliers now, at the point of sale. This essentially means that they keep two sets of books. One is used internally to measure how the company is doing (the management accounts). The other is a load of old nonsense and it's this which is sent to HM Government (the financial accounts). The former is reasonably stable, while the latter will fluctuate wildly in line with raw material prices.
What we're seeing then is either ignorance by the LibDem leader, or perhaps he's turning a blind eye to the facts so that he can wallow in a little headline grabbing.
Roger Pielke Snr has posted up the results of a survey into the opinions of bona fide climate scientists into the whole phenomenon of global warming. The actual work was performed by Fergus Brown, with the supervising team including both mainstream and more sceptical scientists.
The results were pretty much as I'd expected, and therefore seem to have been a surprise to some on the more mainstream side of the argument.
1. The largest group of respondents (45-50%) concur with the IPCC perspective as given in the 2007 Report.
2. A significant minority (15-20%), however, conclude that the IPCC understated the seriousness of the threat from human additions of CO2 .
3. A significant minority (15-20%), in contrast, conclude that the IPCC overstated the role of human additions of CO2 relative to other climate forcings.
4. Almost all respondents (at least 97%) conclude that the human addition of CO2 into the atmosphere is an important component of the climate system and has contributed to some extent in recent observed global average warming.
There is a follow up thread on Fergus Brown's blog here.
The Government should introduce a Biofuels Obligation, to stimulate a UK biofuels industry - as a lower carbon alternative to conventional transport fuels. The obligation would require that a proportion of all road transport fuels in the UK should be sourced from accredited renewable sources.
Friends of the Earth hopes that the Government will now put the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation on hold and demand a moratorium on EU biofuel targets. The real solution to Europe's rising transport emissions is better public transport, more provision for cyclists and higher standards for fuel efficiency in new cars
Chaps, has it occurred to you that you might do less harm if you just, you know, shut up?
Friends of the Earth have issued a press release today, welcoming the appointment of the Climate Change Committee by the government.
We welcome these appointments. It is clear this is going to be a serious and heavyweight committee, which is much needed if we are to keep future Governments under pressure to bring down emissions from the UK. �What is now needed is for the Climate Change Bill to be amended to ensure that this Committee can advise on a target that takes all emissions into account, including those from aviation and shipping.
Oh dear, thinks I. If FoE are in favour it's unlikely to be a good thing.
So who are these captains of science that have been drafted in to save us from the horrors of global warming? (As I write, it's bitterly cold and pouring with rain, so I could do with a little AGW right now.) The details come from 24Dash.
First up is Adair Turner, who is obviously a NuLab placeman.
Then there's Sir Brian Hoskins, a meteorologist and climatologist from the University of Reading. Among his many acheivements were a contribution to the risible Stern Report.
Lord May is the first interesting one. He's a physicist by training but carved out a career in mathematical ecology. This was followed by a second career as a professional green scaremonger, promoting major green issues from "limits to growth" right through to climate change. He's been described as a "serial alarmist", so I imagine we know what to expect from him.
Then we have Professor Jim Skea who had his first career as a director of a left-wing think tank, and is now head of the UK Energy Research Centre. He turns out to be a member of the Green Alliance, the campaigning group I mentioned in the previous post. No doubt his independence is unimpeachable.
Dr Samuel Fankhauser is an economist who contributed to the IPCC reports.
And lastly is Professor Michael Grubb, another economist, this time from the Carbon Trust. And rather interestingly, another member of the Green Alliance. I feel quite certain that, like Prof Skea, he is a man of independent thought who comes to this job with no preconceptions about conclusions he's going to reach.
The committee is described by Hilary Benn as "independent". The question is: independent of what? Most of them work in the public sector and owe their positions to government advancement. Overwhelmingly "green" in outlook, they've clearly been appointed because the government can be sure of the conclusions they're going to reach.
Last year, the esteemed Guido Fawkes published a piece about Deborah Mattinson, the dodgy pollster used by Gordon Brown to tell him he's the greatest. It went like this:
According to the front page of the Guardian Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF and the Green Alliance are claiming that the government is using Deborah Mattinson's Opinion Leader Research to distort the evidence and get the required result on nuclear power from bogus public consultations.
Which is strange, because Deborah Mattinson turns out to be a trustee of the Green Alliance. Isn't that odd?
Earlier in the week, the Times carried an article about a report on the research findings of Professor David James of the University of the West of England.
Middle-class parents obsessed with getting their children into the best schools may be wasting their time and money, academics say today.
They found that children from privileged backgrounds excelled when they were deliberately sent to inner-city comprehensives by parents opposed to private schooling.
Most of the children “performed brilliantly” at GCSE and A level and 15 per cent of those who went on to university took places at Oxford or Cambridge.
My alarm bells were set ringing by the claim that 15 percent of those who went on to university took places at Oxbridge. Why was this good performance limited to Oxbridge? Were the results for other universities similarly impressive? A classic way of lying with statistics is to subdivide your sample population until you get the answer you're looking for.
Later in the article we read that the sample population was 124 families. This would suggest no more than a couple of hundred children were assessed, so concerns about the statistical significance of the results appear to be fully justified.
The article on which the Times piece is based hasn't been published yet, but in the style so typical of modern "academics" the UWE has chosen to issue a press release and a short report on the projects findings before official publication. It's here.
From this we discover that the families and children assessed covered a range of ages. This significance of this is that only a fraction of those assessed will have actually reached university entrance age. Let's say that this was forty children. That would mean that six went on to Oxbridge. If it had have been five then it would only have been 12%.
The idea that one could make any claims based on results of this kind is a joke. That the Professor is issuing such a misleading report is really rather reprehensible. It looks more like a piece of political propaganda than real research.
Ellee Seymour notes a couple of MPs interacting online. The thoroughly "with it" representatives are John Redwood and Tom Watson, and Ellee reckons they may be the first to do so.
Ellee's commenters reckon that plaudits are due to the two technoMPs, although I can't help feeling that to congratulate Messrs Redwood and Watson for interacting using a technology which is at least ten years old now is a tad unnecessary. To misquote Chris Rock
MPs always want credit for some shit they're supposed to do....Whaddya want? A cookie? You're supposed to interact on blogs you low-expectation-having m*th*rf*ck*r!
Still, we can hope that this is the start of something beautiful. Maybe parliamentarians will actually start to debate the laws they are about to enact online. Who knows maybe some of them will even read the bills before they make their way to the lobbies.
Dizzy wonders why the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is avoiding answering the question of how much public money it paid to Capita plc (a major Labour party donor). The man in charge, Tom Watson says it's too expensive for his department to find out.
A cursory Googling reveals that the Cabinet Office's accounting system is Sun Accounts, and there seems to be an external procurement package running alongside it - from the linked document it's order processing only, which could mean that the invoice processing is done through Sun.
It's possible that there are ancillary systems in, for example, Cabinet Office quangos which is probably how the justify the "too expensive" argument.
My suggestion would be to rephrase the question as: "how much was paid to Capita plc in each of year since 2001 via (a) the Cabinet Office's Sun Accounts system and, if different (b) the e-Pop system." This should pick up the bulk of the payments, but should be a trivial query for a semi-competent IT bod to do. Say 30 mins maximum each.
Anyone fancy giving an FoI a try?