Message still not getting through

One of the (many) nails in the coffin of the last government was their continued obsession with the state keeping a close eye on everything that people did. The ID database wasn’t popular because of it, laws that encouraged councils to spy on applicants for school places weren’t popular, CCTV creeping into everything was getting unpopular, and one of the things that annoyed people about speed cameras was that they were being recorded all the time.

True, the bigger thing that annoyed people about speed cameras was that people kept getting fines for speeding when the road was perfectly safe, but the constant surveillance didn’t help.

So, how to get beyond that, and move to a place where they’re electable again? Simples: more of the same.

The new shadow transport minister has suggested that the country’s network of average speed cameras could be used to monitor and reward careful drivers with prizes, cheaper car tax, or by deducting penalty points from their licence.

Conscious that her party was perceived as anti-motorist when in government, Angela Eagle suggested such uses for the cameras “might make people understand there is a point to [them]” she told The Daily Telegraph.

“The speed cameras are capturing the data, the speed and number plates of the cars that go through,” she said.

“I have seen lately this idea actually if you were to use the information you get from them to have a lottery, have a draw of those who drive under the speed limit.

“There is an incentive for good behaviour which is perhaps better psychologically than a disincentive for bad behaviour.”

It’s nice that she emphasises just what is being recorded1 and then makes the mental leap that surely everyone must love the watchful stare of Nanny as she hovers over your shoulder checking that you’re not being naughty…

1 – although she seems to have neglected to mention the times and locations, both of which are very useful in drawing up a nice database of the movements of everyone in the land…

Times, they’ve changed

Back when I were a young lad, there was a simple distinction between the two main UK parties. The Tories were all for economic freedom but were big on very strong police powers. Labour couldn’t understand economic freedom but used to be against giving too much power to the police.

How times have changed; the Tories are raising VAT and Labour disappeared into a fog of Big Brotherism. To me it looks like both parties have pilfered the worst aspects of the opposition while keeping hold of their original bad habits, so we end up with two parties both wanting more control over the economy and both wanting people locked up for any reason possible.

And it’s not just locking up that they like, they also like making it easier to lock people up. Like, fer instance, taking DNA from everyone in an entire city to rule out involvement in one murder.

MURDER squad detectives were last night under pressure to order a mass DNA screening to flush out Joanna Yeates’s killer.

An MP led the call for all men living in the same city as the landscape architect to give saliva samples to the police as their investigation makes slow progress. Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, said the need to catch Joanna’s killer overrides the questions of intrusion and invasion of privacy in a mass screening.

Three things:

  1. No, it doesn’t – casting such a wide net is entirely unjustified.
  2. British police have shown repeatedly that they cannot be trusted with DNA that they should have destroyed, so volunteering to give them any isn’t exactly smart.
  3. There has been no news from police that they are hunting for a male suspect, has there? Yet this MP is only encouraging the DNA testing of men. Either she knows something we don’t (which she shouldn’t about an ongoing investigation) or she’s just assuming that only men could be doing such a thing.

I’d like to hear from Ms McCarthy about her reasons for this. Does she know more than the rest of us; is she revealing too much about an ongoing investigation than she should; or is she just a rampant sexist? The public need to know…

Excellent comparisons

Since September 11th, we’ve all been ‘protected’ by enhanced security at airports. And several ludicrous plots later, that security has only gotten worse.

And since I’ve always flown quite a bit between London and NI, I’ve often had to enjoy the pleasures of this security. This has included lots of the usual queuing, regular pat-downs, and even half hearted comments about getting arrested.

Of course, it’s not even the UK that insists on the worst flights. Back in 2003, I got to go through the usual UK security, and then the extra security mandated by the US before boarding a flight to Washington. That was pretty invasive.

Recent experience in Germany has been pretty sensible, given the stupid rules they work within. Special ire is reserved for the French, who seem to quite like picking on very elderly and infirm people in wheelchairs while ignoring more likely people.

But go to somewhere like Morocco, and the security is pretty sensible. And if you go all the way to Malaysia, the security is excellent. More like what they had at Aldergrove back before the ceasefires than the monstrosity that is called security there these days1. Liquids? No problem. An occasional bit of metal? It’ll do…

But, as always, the US gets the final word in security. And boy, do they enjoy that privilege. Numpties.

1 – yes, at the hight of the Troubles over here, security was much lighter than it is now. And I’d wager that it was probably more effective too.

Feckin’ idiots

With horrible predictability, just days after I complained about security theatre, there was another act and even a little local spin on it.

Which was just marvellous. Given that this weekend was one I spent in Norn Iron(1), it meant that TLW & I got caught up in the inevitable theatrical response to a threat. To whit: extra intensive screening. Not of the sort that results in shoes being taken off, but of the sort that required every third bag to be rechecked through the X-ray machine and then hand searched and then X-rayed again.

Guess whose bag counted?

So, TLW got through and I did not. I got to wait while the security staff did their thing (walked slowly, searched slowly, kicked bags about) until it was my turn. After the second X-ray the very friendly, highly polite(2) security lady strolled over to me and said, in no uncertain terms, that there was an aerosol in my bag.

No there isn’t. There’s an empty glass container that was a wedding present, but there’s no aerosol.

Of course, she couldn’t accept this (which I understand, obviously) and so the actual search began. Going back to the time when I did door a lot, I started opening the bag and went to remove things but she insisted on doing things herself(3), including lifting out a small package wrapped in a napkin.

That’s a bun, says I.

Don’t say that, you say that you could get arrested, says she.

What? It’s a bun, a cake.

Oh, OK then.

At this point, I’m seeing the funny side (because if I didn’t I’d be saying sarcastic things or actually trying to get her to arrest me and see what happens) but TLW was unamused…

The rest of the search went a bit quicker after that, and as it happens the only things we’ve learned are:

  1. Security theatre is alive and well;
  2. Aldergrove security is more of a joke than most;
  3. A bun is apparently threatening enough to warrant arrest; and
  4. The carrying of wedding presents is a very suspicious activity.

Again: this nonsense is getting to piss me off. So much so that we’re seriously looking at the possibility of driving/ferrying for the next trip to the auld sod.

(1) – speaking of which, hello to Mr ‘Wulf, who I bumped into in an airport.

(2) – Hint: may contain traces of lie, but any serious attempt to charactarise the lady in question would risk invoking Godwin’s Law.

(3) – Hah, fool. You done picked up my dirty boxer shorts.

What an excellent idea

If you were a government that liked to write laws quickly (also: badly), and you didn’t want to make the effort to write proper laws in the future, what would you do if people kept making money by using the fookin’ mahoosive loopholes in your laws?

Simple: you’d try and make people sign binding pledges to obey the spirit of the law, rather than the actual law.

Hence Gordon Brown & co came up with the governments code of taxing conduct for banks, which banks were supposed to sign up to to prevent tax avoidance. You know, tax avoidance. The entirely legal way to arrange your financial matters to minimise your losses to the tax man. It may be legal, but G Brown didn’t like it being legal, and didn’t have the brains to make it illegal, so he went down this route.

However, it seems that banks without a government representative on their boards want nothing to do with it. And I make them right on that.

However, the new government disagrees, and seems to way to coerce said non-compliant banks into agreeing to it. Lets hope that he doesn’t succeed.

Ding dong, the shit is dead

Say what you like about the recent shenanigans in politics, but if one good thing comes of it then they’ll be doing quite well.

And what is this? They’re talking the talk already?

Identity cards will be scrapped under plans announced by the new Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government.

Their abolition is among measures the parties have agreed to reverse what they say was “the substantial erosion” of civil liberties in recent years.

Other proposals include reforms to the DNA database, tighter regulation of CCTV and a review of libel laws.

Huzzah. Kill the ID card, kill the database behind it, and then make a start on all the other ‘death by a thousand cuts’ measures that Labour have put in place over the last thirteen years. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up with a government that leaves us freer at the end of their term than we were at the start of it. Not that I’m holding my breath, these are politicians we’re talking about…

I like the speed that the IPS is moving at, by the way. Their site now contains the following announcement:

Both Parties that now form the new Government stated in their manifestos that they will cancel Identity Cards and the National Identity Register. We will announce in due course how this will be achieved. Applications can continue to be made for ID cards but we would advise anyone thinking of applying to wait for further announcements.

Until Parliament agrees otherwise, identity cards remain valid and as such can still be used as an identity document and for travel within Europe. We will update you with further information as soon as we have it.

Most excellent, sez I. Is it too early for a celebratory drink, d’ya think?

It’s not working, is it?

Lucky, lucky Londoners. The poor little kids of the capital, who are in desperate need of alcohol and cigarettes, are being given the chance to get ID cards to prove that they are who they say they are.

Young people in London are getting the chance to get their hands on an ID card, the lucky so-and-sos.

The next stage of the Home Office’s attempts to get the cards accepted is to target those privacy-disregarding, Facebook-obsessed youths in the capital. People aged between 16 and 24 years old who hold a current or recently expired passport can apply for a card from 8 February.

Because they don’t think that kids who have passports will want to show them, and will instead queue up to pay for the privilege of joining a lot of excited people from Manchester and get national identity cards. All 1,300 of them.

Something less than a rip-roaring success, yes?

Also, I think it’s quite ironic that the government is encouraging drinking on one hand, and complaining about the damage of drinking on the other…


I’ve often been accused of being a cynic. But I’m clearly not cynical enough.

Back when the security theatre really kicked off at airports, with the stupid plastic bags and the enforced removal of shoes for no discernible reason, I thought that it’d be back to a semblance of business as usual within a few weeks; there was no way that people would put up with the new arrangements for long and there was nowhere for the airports to put the enlarged security areas.

As it happens, I was wrong. We, as a species, are clearly more sheeplike than I’d considered. And airports are more than happy to significantly redesign themselves to take into account the theatre.

In fact, all the enhanced measures that do nothing but reduce the enjoyment of travelling have become the norm. And with all the work done at airports, there’ll be no reason for any future sensible government1 to get rid other than it being the right thing to do. And we know how governments like reducing regulation and security just because it’s the right thing to do…

So, normalisation has occurred. It’s just that we’re the ones that have had to change our definition of normal, instead of rational thinking telling the world what should be normal. Which is shit.

1 – although it’s not like there’s any sensible government on the horizon, is there…

Well, duh

Shocking new today:

The Human Genetics Commission (HGC) wants the police given new guidance to regulate when it is appropriate to take a sample of DNA.

It also said it had evidence police had made arrests just to get people on the database, a claim police chiefs denied.

Of course police chiefs denied it; they’re too busy saying they’ll quit if politicians get control over the police, and acting exactly as politicians tell them to in changing us from citizens to suspects.

It’s pretty clear when you look at the numbers that the increasing size of the DNA database shows that many more people are being arrested than are being charged. There are millions of records on it, and hundreds of thousands of children’s DNA are in there too. Have all of them been suspected of a crime, or have a proportion of them merely been standing nearby and offered the authorities an opportunity to grab their DNA?

I’ll wager that there’ll be nothing written down, but that most forces have an understanding that increasing the number of records on the database is good for them. And we all know that what’s good for the police, what makes life easier for the police, is in our interest. Right?

Here we go again

It’s that time of year again, where the government puts forth how much they plan to screw us this year. By making an octogenarian tell us.

Fiscal Responsibility Bill – put into law promise to halve deficit
Financial Services and Business Bill – clamp down on bonuses for bankers taking too many risks
The Flood and Water Management Bill – give councils powers to prevent floods
Social Care Bill – neediest elderly to get home care
Policing, Crime and Private Security Bill – DNA of more sex offenders added to database
Energy Bill – give Ofgem more powers to keep prices down
Bribery Bill – make it offence to bribe foreign officials and for business to fail to prevent bribery
Digital Economy Bill – set up fund to bring in universal broadband by 2012
Cluster Munitions Prohibition Bill – ratify international ban on cluster bombs

Surprisingly, most of those don’t make my blood boil. Because they’re presented in nice, sterilised form. What they mean:

Fiscal Responsibility Bill – put into law promise to halve deficit
A way for G Brown to say he’s being tough on cutting the deficit. But expect it so late in the Parliament that his government hasn’t a chance to implement any of it – they’ll just pass that burden onto whichever lucky sod wins the election.

Financial Services and Business Bill – clamp down on bonuses for bankers taking too many risks
And expect may sub clauses on people who earn more than the lefties think is fair.

The Flood and Water Management Bill – give councils powers to prevent floods
So local planners – among the most despised people in the entire world, almost as bad as bankers – will get more power. Hurrah.

Social Care Bill – neediest elderly to get home care
Yes, that’s a fine sentiment. But how much extra paperwork for all involved will there be, how many more random commissions and quangos will administer it?

Policing, Crime and Private Security Bill – DNA of more sex offenders added to database
Because the world’s biggest DNA database just ain’t big enough…

Energy Bill – give Ofgem more powers to keep prices down
.. by making realities of international trade just not apply to the UK, one assumes.

Bribery Bill – make it offence to bribe foreign officials and for business to fail to prevent bribery
Note that the burden will now be on private companies to prove their innocence here, rather than the state to prove any wrongdoing. That’s nice.

Digital Economy Bill – set up fund to bring in universal broadband by 2012
Things that the government don’t seem to realise: most of the people who don’t have broadband now, just don’t want it Leave them alone.

Cluster Munitions Prohibition Bill – ratify international ban on cluster bombs
Why? Surely you could just not use them unless you really need to? I don’t understand this trend for banning perfectly sensible weapons just because some countries can’t be trusted with them. The kind of country that uses them the worst will still use them – they’re hardly that worried about international disapproval, are they?

So, there we go. Yet another Queens Speech. Yet another list of future rodgerings. I hope you’re all looking forward to it!

Not how I remember it

Do you recall all that fuss about reclassifying cannabis a while back? One of the few liberal things that the government of Blair had done (downgrading cannabis to a Class C drug) was then undone by Brown. Who has never knowingly done a liberal act in his life.

I remember at the time thinking that it was nothing more than Gordon’s version of puritanism at work, what with him not being a scientist and consistently dismissing the opinion of scientists when the decision was made. Seems I’m not the only one.

The row over the reclassification of cannabis has been reignited after the government’s chief drug adviser accused ministers of “distorting” the evidence.

Professor David Nutt, who heads the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, says it does not cause major health problems.

He accused ex-home secretary Jacqui Smith, who reclassified the drug, of “devaluing” scientific research.

So far, so sensible. But wait, there’s more:

Public concern over the links between high-strength cannabis, known as skunk, and mental illness led the government to reclassify cannabis to Class B from C last year.

Hold on a minute, that isn’t how I recall it. I must have forgotten the massive criminalise cannabis marches and the talking heads demanding stiffer penalties.

Oh wait, no, I didn’t forget. That just didn’t happen. The concern was driven by government and by government’s fake charities, and by one or two newspapers. It was not taken up by the public and it was not driven by scientific opinion. It was governmental concern, and that was it.

But the BBC doesn’t seem to think that the government and the public can be treated as different things. Funny, that.

Full disclosure: don’t use, never have, can’t be bothered. But the principle doesn’t change if you smoke dope or don’t – it’s still a nonsense to have it criminalised.

Oh, Peter. Peter, peter, peter

Peter Hain: what a cock.

The BBC could face legal action over British National Party leader Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, Welsh Secretary Peter Hain has warned.

The show is due to feature Mr Griffin, Justice Secretary Jack Straw and Tory and Lib Dem panellists on 22 October.

But Mr Hain has written to BBC director general Mark Thompson arguing the BNP was “an unlawful body” following a court ruling on its membership policy.

Mr Hain, back in his day, was a strong opponent of the disgusting practice of apartheid. And his opposition was sensible, if some of his aims were not. But now, when he’s relatively close to power, he’s become blinkered. He now supports using the full power of the state to quench the views of the minority (in this case, a horrible racialist minority). The BNP has some election success behind them, largely because of the ineptitude of the ruling party, and now a member of that ruling party is trying to say that they are ‘unpersons’.

Not the way to go about it. How about getting Labour to stop pandering to the extreme right on immigration and instead making the case for immigration head on. Those of us who have shifted into England from elsewhere aren’t exactly ruining the country; definitely less so than some of those who were born here and claim to be acting it the country’s best interest. Make that case properly, and the BNP will wither. Keep talking about ‘British jobs for British workers’ and scaring people about those nasty brown folk moving in, and the BNP will flourish.

And banning them will just make them the victims, and we know how the English love an underdog…

Too late, too late, will be the cry…

…. when the man with your freedoms has passed you by.

And in the latest incarnation of freedom stealing that the population is just waking up to, we’re all guilty until … urm, until circumstances that are yet to be finalised have been met.

The last 24 hours have seen a flurry of news articles about the imminent arrival of the Independent Safeguarding Authority and their shiny new vetting database. The Indie reports that the scheme is likely to cost the public £170m.

On the BBC’s Today programme this morning, veteran radio inquisitor John Humphrys barbecued civil servant John O’Brien over the rationale behind the database. Was this not, he asked on several occasions, turning every adult into a suspected criminal: is this not the state deciding who is fit to have contact with children?

I like the numbers that el Reg came up with: up to 16,000,000 people will need to pass these checks before getting a job. That’s a stupidly high proportion of the working population, and it’s all going to be subject to the random fluctuations of a large and unresponsive government system.

That’s not at all scary, is it? Because any very large system is subject to very large errors, and these errors will result in people losing their livelihoods and their reputation, because of suspicions being incorrectly put against them decades ago.

Lives will be ruined. And not one child will be protected. And countless millions will be wasted.

But action will look like it’s being taken, and that’s all the government cares about…

The great circle jerk continues

The national ID card scheme: a perfect example of a solution without a problem. At least from the point of view of the citizen, there is nothing that it’s needed for and only downsides to it. Like all that “being reduced to a number” and “handing over guardianship of your identity to someone else”. Oh, and the bit about “not trusting this shower of political bastards as far as you could throw them, let alone the next unknown lot”.

But our political masters want ID cards, for reasons unknown. As do elements of the Home Office, probably because it makes life easier for cops if the more law abiding can be safely reduced to numbers and statistics, while the really bad folks won’t have ID cards and can therefore be ignored.

Because they want these cards, and because we don’t, they keep having to come up with solutions. Originally, they were to stop terrorism in its tracks, but that was shown to be a lie seven seconds after the claim was made when it was pointed out that Spain has a national ID card and still has terrorism. Then it was identity theft that was to be banished, but that waas shown to be a bit of a paper tiger, and the controls on the ID card were shown to be stupidly easy to beat.

So now all the claims are about how it will be easier to interact with the state. And funnily enough, those interactions are getting less easy and more delayed, just in time to say that an ID card would improved them. What fun.

Millions could be asked to provide ID card and fingerprint data to get a job under new systems being developed by the Home Office following a collapse in the accuracy of background checks.

News of the plans emerged in the response to a Register Freedom of Information Act request to the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). Today campaigners warned it could be used to help impose ID cards through the back door.

Remember: the CRB is another thing like the ID card. It was introduced by this government in a cack handed manner, and won’t solve any problems because it works from flawed data. Also, it erases the concept of presumed innocence and once again says that only the state can provide a proper judgement of character. A concept that is so beyond laughable I just wept a little.

Saying that having the ID cards would make it easier to get your CRB check is like saying that having one leg broken would make it easier for people to catch you to break your other leg: it ignores the rather basic assumption that leg breakage is a bad thing, and something to be avoided.

But the circular arguments (that ID cards will solve problems that the people who want us to have ID cards keep creating) will go on, I fear. Because those arguments are all that they have left.

Clearly he’s not been paying attention

I’ve been sitting here for twenty minutes or so, trying to think of a single recent government idea that hasn’t been stupidly anti-freedom to some extent.

Nope. Can’t think of a single one.

But clearly some folk just haven’t got that message. They haven’t noticed it.

Internet service providers (ISPs) have reacted with anger to new proposals on how to tackle internet piracy.

The government is proposing a tougher stance which would include cutting off repeat offenders from the net.

UK ISP Talk Talk said the recommendations were likely to “breach fundamental rights” and would not work.

Breech fundamental rights? Of course they do, that’s pretty much how you can tell it’s a brain fart from Brown or Mandeson. Ditto for not working.

Another quote from that article that tickled me, this time from a random Tory talking head:

“Personally I am on his [Lord Mandleson] side; peer-to-peer sharing is the greatest threat to our creative industries,”

Well, he managed to get the cause and the caused there, but not in the way he meant it. Over-regulation, as embodied by the mindset of Lord Mandleson, is the biggest threat to the UK’s creative industries. And its non-creative industries. To be honest, the service sector isn’t exactly safe from his little ways of screwing things up…

A good start…

What do you know? High profile, loud and potentially very powerful people who have wrongly found their way onto the DNA database can get themselves removed.

Well done, Mr Green.

Now, if you just remember this particular inconvience when you get to the top table after the next election, and ensure that the damn thing gets cut way back for the rest of us, that’d be fantastic. Because as it stands, the police and the Home Office seem to think that just about everybody in the land should be on it. And that just ain’t acceptable.

Well done the PSNI

I am on record as thinking that the developing vetting database is a very bad idea, and it’s moving us from a place where we presume innocence to a place where all are guilty until they prove (through the wonders of bureaucracy) that they are not a threat.

Which is a very bad thing. Especially since the bureaucracy that is going to be doing the proving is working with datasets that are fundamentally flawed.

However, trust the Norn Irish to be leagues ahead when it comes to such flaws.

In 2008, he [Sir Ian Magee, investigating the implementation of the flawed response to the dodgy Soham inqury recommendations] reported there were “only limited links” between the Police National Computer (PNC) in GB and Northern Ireland police information.

It meant that only information relating to sex offences and some other very serious offences in Northern Ireland was put on to PNC.

They forgot a bit there. They should have said It meant that only information relating to sex offences and some other very serious offences in Northern Ireland was put on to PNC as is just and proper.

For it is not important that lesser crimes are on the PNC for this vetting scheme – the point was that sexual offenders and other serious offenders are the people that the vetting is supposed to stop. Why worry about lesser offences if they’re not going to be, at some point, barring people from being on the trusted list. And then who decides what minor offences stop you from getting one of the 11.6 million jobs that will eventually require vetting?

In short: they’re talking shit, and the PSNI isn’t (yet) playing ball with them. For which they get a pat on the back.

Manoeuvring the deck chairs

Isn’t it hilarious that the government are spending so much time and effort on a doomed project like the ID card? It’s never going to be taken up, but they’re still worrying about Norn Iron-ifying it.

People in NI who identify themselves as Irish will be issued with a different version of the ID card which the Government is planning to introduce.

The Home Office said the scheme must “recognise identity rights” as laid out in the Belfast Agreement.

That means Irish nationals living in NI will be issued with a “personal ID card” rather than a national ID card.

Have a wee read of that; to me it sounds like they think that people who in no way think of themselves as UK citizens will be so desperate to have a UK Identity Card that they’ll settle for one without any of the supposed benefits.

Wishful thinking much?

However, I think that it’s a wonderful new get out clause for those of us willing to forsake our UKish passports should an ID card become compulsorily linked to said passport. Well done, Mr Johnson. You (inadvertently) did a good thing. Your first in your current post, if I recall correctly…

Well, there’s a surprise

What are the odds? The government gives itself (and it’s local government pals) a new power, gets caught abusing said power, gets a slap on the wrist, and then a year later is still misbehaving.

Local authorities in England are still spying on suspected minor offenders despite being banned from doing so by law, an official report has warned.

Since 2003 they have only been able to use undercover methods against those suspected of breaking criminal law.

If councils are breaking the law, then they need to be punished. At least heavy fines, but preferably prison time for the people who are continually authorising this practice, and for those carrying it out.

But the bigger lesson is this: once government has this power, it is never going to give it up. And the use of said power will become more and more widespread, because that’s what always happens with draconian powers that are brought in.

So, the moral of the story? Don’t let people get these types of power in the first place. It’s the only way to restrict their use at all.

Movable goalposts

Poverty is not a good thing. I can only guess this, since I’m not in poverty. I don’t think I ever have been; I’ve never been hungry and I’ve never had to forgo the basics of life because I haven’t had the money.

I have had to borrow money from people to cover till payday; I’ve taken a second job to ensure that I had a few quid for things that I wanted to buy. And I’ve certainly earned, for a while at least, under 60% of the average wage.

Here’s the thing, apparently that means I’ve been in poverty. Because that figure – 60% of the average wage – is something that the government is planning to lumber all future governments with.

Ministers are making it a legal duty for the government, local authorities and other organisations to help to end child poverty across the UK.

A new bill being published later will make it a duty to support families so that child poverty is eradicated by 2020, the goal set by Tony Blair.

The eradication of poverty is a wonderfully worthy aim, but the eradication of poverty by this definition is never going to be achievable. Some people will always earn more than the average, and some will earn less. That’s the point of an average, fer feck’s sake. To say that benefits, policies and good wishes can change the definition of an average is stupid. And to make every government department and charitable organisation bend over backwards to eradicate a basic reality of statistics is pointless.

Furthermore, how would you explain that definition of poverty to someone in the depths of sub-Saharan Africa? They may earn the average local wage, but not be able to get drinking water; how are they going to deal with the idea that someone with a car, a roof over their head, a job and running water is living in poverty?

It’s a careless metric, and it’s a poor one at that. And using it as the basis for massive state action without any more rationale behind it is bloody daft.