JG's blog

Poll result

The usually decisive Picking Losers readers have been split by last week's poll.  Rather aptly really, given the fault lines running through the Tory party.  Maybe this is just their problem - there are just too many different types of Tory now.  Maybe bgprior's idea that the Tory party should split is the only solution.  Read the entry again if you get a chance - the option was simplified for the purposes of the poll, hence it may not have scored as highly as it might.

The Olympic sum of money

The public accounts committee has criticised the government for seriously underestimating the cost of the London 2012 Olympics.  They have said that better management of the construction project is required if the cost is not to spiral higher than £9.3bn. It also expresses concern about the legacy use of the Olympic Park venues in Stratford, east London, and the drain of National Lottery cash from other good causes.

29 graduates for every job

I posted the other day criticising the government for setting a target for 50% of school leavers to head on to university. Not only does it dumb down the standards and achievements of the universities, but it simply isn't wanted by business. We are creating a generation of graduates qualified to do absolutely nothing. The Times today reports that there are twenty nine graduates for every degree-level job in the market. Proctor & Gamble claim they have 100 graduate applicants per job.

The cause of the world's problems isn't rich families of Chelsea after all, it is the rear end of a cow

I love it when a story like this comes along. Partly because it really upsets all the enviro-scaremongerers who seem happier to hear that the world is doomed rather than hear some balance to the debate. It turns out that cows and sheep and doing more damage to the environment than 4x4s or "Chelsea Tractors". Actually, this isn't new news at all, but the green nutters wouldn't want anyone to know this, because Chelsea tractors are evil.

Back to Basics

The Tory crackpot policy machine has been given another crank over the weekend - this time by someone called Iain Duncan-Smith (I hadn't heard of him either). The Tory's latest battle against society is the plight of binge drinking. The Tory’s social justice policy group, headed by this Iain Duncan Smith chap, will today recommend a sharp increase in alcohol prices to reduce consumption. That will go down well with the electorate, then. IDS said that there is “almost an alcohol epidemic in Britain, particularly amongst youngsters”. Almost?! That bad, eh?

Betty Williams you grass!

What is it with our MPs? They are happy to impose laws on the rest of us, but seem to think that they are above actually abiding by them themselves. Take the smoking ban. I think you know where this is going... the 11.05 from Paddington to Plymouth last Friday morning to be precise. Good old Charles Kennedy - or “chat show Charlie” - was caught red handed having a cigarette on the First Great Western service. When I first heard this I thought poor guy - but good on him.

The industry that keeps on giving

Not everything on Picking Losers is about the bad side of government. For example, here is a heart warming tale of giving and kindness from the corporate hospitality boxes at Wimbledon. Spotted this week, lurking behind a bowl of strawberries and through the bubbling fizz of a champagne glass, was a Mr Jim Campbell. Jim who? You may ask. Jim Campbell. Mr Campbell is the civil servant in charge of regulating Britain's oil and gas industry, including responsibility for pollution and oil spills. So what? You may continue to ask.

The end is nigh for Johnson

Alan Johnson, aka the Fonz, has officially started the NHS game. He said yesterday "The reality on the ground is that there is a gloomy mood. There has been an awful lot of change in a short period. Staff feel overwhelmed by it. They feel it all flowed down from Whitehall." This is a moment I feared, but I'm afraid Mr Johnson, today is the start of the end of your credible political career, such is the suicidal nature of the DoH and its demand to make credible MPs spout absolute crap.

And the award for incompetence goes to...

A quick tale of an award winning government agency for you.  I haven't mentioned the Child Support Agency for a time and yet incredibly it has just won an award.  Of sorts.  The Child Support Agency has been condemned by MPs as “one of the greatest public administration disasters of all time”.  Now that, ladies and gentlemen, in a world of NHS IT systems and the Home Office, is truly a remarkable achievement.  So how have they won this dubious accolade?  Well, I will run you through just a few of its acts of incompetence to demonstrate:

The stick or the carrot?

The carrot or the stick?  Tax or tax relief?  Which is the best way to tackle climate change?  Well, not surprisingly, business would rather take the carrot.  So much so, in fact, that a report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers suggests that the current disjointed array of government policies aimed at tackling carbon emissions are simply ineffective.  A massive 71% of industry respondents to the scheme claimed that their behaviour had been changed.  But almost half said that Government policy and economic instruments - taxes, duties, the climate-change levy and investment allowances - are "no

Advanced education isn't for everyone

Why is this government obsessed with educating everyone to first class honours degree standard?  Apart from it being of little use to the nation as a whole if everyone was educated to nuclear physicist standard, have they actually sat back and thought that maybe some people aren't that interested in advance or further education and want to get out and do start earning some money?  The Rathbone and the Nuffield Foundation, an education charity, have issued a warning in response to the government plans to introduce compulsory education for all 16-18 year olds. 

To reuse or not reuse?

You probably haven't heard of the Waste and Resources Action Programme - or WRAP as they are cleverly known. But, on top of giving the public the deeply philosophical question of what came first: the name "Waste and Resources Action Programme" or the acronym "WRAP", it has also blessed the Great British public with its Real Nappy Campaign. The aim of this campaign was to encourage parents to use reusable nappies instead of causing waste (for want of a better word) by using disposable nappies. How very noble indeed.

Yet more tales of NHS waste

The main problem with the government claiming they are "investing" in the NHS three times as much money as the Tories did is that the NHS is still a complete shambles.  Actually what they are saying, to spin the story another way, is that the government is wasting three times as much money on the NHS as the Tories did pre-1997.  It isn't any wonder that they are spending so much either, when you consider this - yet another tale of waste; this time from the Welsh Assembly.  The Welsh Conservatives have exposed that £34.6m of public money set aside for frontline health care

Failure is not an option. Really - you can't fail.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) - they really do have a quango for everything -  recommended this year in a letter to the former Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, that the A* grade should only go to students who get 90 per cent. An A grade is awarded for 80 per cent.  This is off the back of pass rates rising every year for the past 23 years.

Jowell to report directly to Brown. I wonder why...?

Still no official word on what the Ministers for the regions are actually meant to do. Bgprior has had a stab at it here - how very cynical. And probably right. They will just be another layer of government to shift the blame around so no-one really knows who is in charge or responsible. Other speculation, from Iain Dale’s site, has been that they will be regional propaganda officers.

Who said crime doesn't pay?

A couple of days ago I said the two worst departments to get your hands on as a Secretary of State have to be the Department of Health and the new Ministry of Justice. Well, in the first full day, what a surprise but it is the DoH and MofJ that are in the Picking Losers' firing line. And boy this one is cracker. You could not make this one up. Jack Straw, welcome to the fiasco that is known as the rather Orwellian sounding Ministry of Justice.

New Government, same old MTAS

Good bye Tony. Hello Gordon. Cabinet reshuffle. The Miliband brothers. Jacqui Smith. DCSF. DIUS. DBERR. Car bomb found in the West End. Spice girls reforming. It's been a busy 24 hours or so. So busy in fact, then what better day to "bury” some bad news? Well an old favourite (or not) hasn't slipped under the Picking Losers' radar. The online Modern Training Application Service (MTAS) is still haunting young doctors and the Department of Health even though it was dead and buried (or not) way back in April. Welcome to your first day in office Mr Johnson.