The right response, in a long winded way

Some might expect me to be talking about the Lewisham hospital shenanigans, wherein one branch of the state has sued another branch of the state to ensure that the state keeps spending money it hasn’t got on things that need to be shaken up. Yes, I think that Lewisham should be kept open, for both selfish (it’s my closest hospital) and non-selfish (IMO, it’s clinically better than the one that was to be saved at Lewisham’s expense) reasons. But I disagree fundamentally with the idea that the courts were the place to sort this, and I almost hope that the decision is overturned on appeal, because the precedent is very very nasty.

But this post isn’t about that; this post is about a local pub’s shenanigans.

The background from last November was this: the owner of a building in Catford wanted to end the lease of their tenant (a successful and popular bar) and turn it into flats and a shop. The tenants didn’t like this at all (fair enough), and created a bit of a public fuss (again, fair enough) and campaigned for the council to block any change of use for the building (bloody out of order). This then worked, because there’s nothing Lewisham council like more than extending their business into places where it shouldn’t be, for e.g. what a property owner chooses to use his business premises for. So the owner was left with a building that could only be used as a pub because the tenants convinced the council to make it so.

This displeased me, and I wrote about it last year:

The landlord is now left with a building that can’t be anything but a pub. But the tenants in it are clearly a bunch of twats. So what I’d do in his position is get rid of the tenants and bring in new ones to run a pub.

Fast forward to this week:

THE Catford Bridge Tavern pub – saved from being turned into a supermarket and later voted the best in south east London – is being sold off.

Company Antic say the landlord has agreed to sell the building to another pub company.

Max Alderman from Antic said: “The building was always for sale and we were trying to buy it.

“We thought we had an agreement but the landlord has decided to sell it to someone else.”

Fair play to the landlord, I think. Because if it was me, the last person I’d sell it to would be the one who bullied me by bringing the state to the argument and lowering the value of the property.

I’m sad to see what was by all accounts a brilliant pub have to shut. But I’m not sad to see the people who took the steps they did lose out in the end.

And now, the end has come

Last month, I wrote a bit about a campaign to make the landlord of a local pub keep it open.

Said campaign succeeded in some of its aims, and the council put a stop to any plans to put a shop in the premises. But the campaign really failed, because the current management of the pub were then unceremoniously told to shut the doors by the landlord anyway.

Here’s another one of those moments where I put myself at odds to the conventional wisdom of the area: in this, I’m with the landlord.

The landlord owns the building, and one of his tenants has organised the council to tell him what he can do with said building. It’s not really an interesting building, so there’s no justification for listing it. Other than the people who don’t own it don’t like with the owner wants to do with it. So these tenants have used the bullying of the state to reduce the value of the property for their own selfish aims.

The landlord is now left with a building that can’t be anything but a pub. But the tenants in it are clearly a bunch of twats. So what I’d do in his position is get rid of the tenants and bring in new ones to run a pub.

It’s a shame; Antic (the company that managed the pub, and were credited with turning it around) seemed like a decent bunch of people, and they’d done good work with several pubs nearby. I’m really not inclined to go and spend money in any of their other pubs now.

Sad tendencies

It is a simple fact that areas like the one I live in a a very deep red on any electoral map; in my particular part of London the only competition that Labour have is from the left (from a group whose name is so stupid I can’t even bring myself to type it). And that means that the general refrain once anything happens is that one arm of the state should ride to the rescue.

Case in point: a nearby pub is apparently under threat of closure; apparently the landlord has applied for planning permission to turn it into flats. Which is a crying shame, in my opinion – the area needs more decent pubs.

So I’m all for saving it. But what pisses me off is the way that people are talking about trying to save it: from local blogs, to the local MP, to the current people who run the pub, they’re all doing the same thing. Demanding that the council stop any planning application to change the use of the building. Hell, the main information page for the campaign lists seven ways that people can apparently help. In order, they are:

  1. Email the council planning office
  2. Email the local MP
  3. Email the local mayor
  4. Sign the petition (to be sent to the council planning office)
  5. Email the local paper
  6. Write to the landlord
  7. Email the campaign with some support

Seven ways to help, and four of them are directly trying to get the state to stop the landlord having any say over how he uses his property. Only the fifth is really a sensible way to go about it: try and convince the landlord to keep the pub in place. Or, even better, get the people that run the pub to make a sensible offer and bloody buy the place off him…

You wanna think it through a bit more, Dr Hume?

How’s this for a fantastic brainfart: ignore geography in independence referenda.

Well, that’s not what he thinks he’s saying, but it’s what it amounts to.

People with an Ulster Scots background should be allowed to vote in Scotland’s independence referendum, a senior Orange Order member has said.

Dr David Hume said Ulster Scots had played a key role in Scottish history.

“We are stakeholders as well. Surely a decision such as this should not ignore our input?” he said.

So, anyone who decides they should be a stakeholder should be given a vote in the future Scottish independence referendum. What of other referenda in the future? What, say, the of the eleventy billion US citizens who claim Irish descent and would likely vote to get rid of the border? Or even the dozens of millions of English citizens who would rapidly vote to be rid of both bothersome celtic lands?

Or is it just people from outside the countries in question who’d vote in favour of keeping the Union that should be given these special votes?

Confusing ideals and ideas

There’s a lovely little article on the BBC about American thoughts on income inequality, that clearly thinks that its definition of a better world is very very clever and solves every problem.

“a just society is a society that if you knew everything about it, you’d be willing to enter it in a random place”. And it’s really a beautiful definition.

He called it a veil of ignorance, because if you’re very wealthy, you might want the wealthy people to have lots of money and the poor to have very little; and if you are very poor, you might want the poor to have more money and the wealthy to have less.

But in Rawls’ definition, you don’t know where you’ll end up, you have to consider all the different options and therefore you have to think about what is good for society as a whole.

Oh, that is very clever. It’s basically saying that the only just distribution is one where everything is quite level and everyone has the same, because using the theory of a veil of ignorance, the only way for people to be happy is for there to be no difference in what each part of the distribution has.

Of course, it fails to take a great many things into account. Human nature for one; the simple concepts of risk and reward for another.

It says that ‘even’ lots of Americans want things to be equal and fair. What it doesn’t say is that ‘even’ Americans realise that there is absolutely no way to combine such a place and reality. And pretending otherwise is just fucking stupid.

But it sounds fair, and beneficial, and well meaning. And it has the advantage of making people who argue against it appear to be unfair, and malicious, and all round evil. When really people who point out that it’s stupid are just like the little kid, pointing out that the new clothes are suspiciously light on ‘existence’…

That’s not a calculator

Every year when the Budget comes along, the web is taken over with high quality calculators, which are fun and let you know exactly how badly you’re going to get screwed come the new tax year. It’s not a pleasant thing to know, but it is useful.

So I was intrigued to see that your mate and mine, Ken Livingstone, had brought out a calculator of his own. Being a curious sort, I went and had a little look. And what I found was not a calculator but a slogan generator. Admit to travelling by train and you get told Every fare payer can save an average £250 every year for four years through Ken’s 7% fares reduction pledge. Admit that your household pays energy bills and you are reassured You can save an average of £120 every year for four years through the all-London bulk energy purchase scheme.

Here’s the thing: I don’t believe that first slogan – the idea that an ambitious politician like Boris Johnson is sitting on a billion pound pot going into an election and has increased fares instead is ludicrous. And I don’t credit that second one either; I’m too much of a free-marketer to think that a state sponsored buying group is anything other than a bad idea. In short, it’s not a calculator. And I don’t believe it’s just a slogan generator – it’s a bullshit generator.

That said, I don’t think that any of the candidates are much use. Just that each and every one of them are more use than Ken.


Yesterday, as you may know, there was a fairly large (pointless strike. It didn’t seem to have the desired effect; the country struggled on and lots of people lost a days pay. The world continued to turn.

But you’d think that such a thing would still be the main news item on the national news, wouldn’t you. And it is, generally. The BBC front page is all about it; as are the local stations and the grown-up BBC radio stations.

Not so Newsbeat on Radio1. No, news-for-spanners has spent the time concentrating instead on calls for state regulation of hairdressers

Priorities are brilliant there, guys. Plus, state regulation of non-essential industries is to be filed under NOT ON YOUR FUCKING NELLIE. We don’t want a licensing system for hairdressers; it’s the first step towards government control of scissors and nobody wants that…

And others should reflect as well

Ah, Norn Iron politicians and their need to talk bullshit.

The latest example: Mr Poots, of the DHSSPS.

The Health Minister Edwin Poots has said the Executive is determined to introduce new legislation to raise the minimum price per unit of alcohol.

Mr Poots told the Politics Show:”I am aware of one supermarket in the run up to Christmas not last year, the previous year, having a £20m loss leader on alcohol.

“I do think supermarkets really do need to reflect on where they sit in society.

“We shouldn’t have to intervene, but the irresponsibility of supermarkets and others is causing a situation where we do.”

Supermarkets should, indeed, reflect on where they sit in society. From what I can see, they only sell things to people if said people want to buy them. They do not sell things that the customer doesn’t want, and they don’t take away any money that the customer doesn’t give to them voluntarily.

Whereas the Northern Ireland Executive, and politicians in general, give people things they don’t want (in the form of services like intimidation and red tape), and take a chunk of money from people that never wanted to hand it over in the first place.

I put it to you, Mr Poots, that perhaps you should reflect on your position in society…

Bloody local newspapers

I’ve long been a fan of dogs, and I’ve long been a non-fan of stupid laws. Which means that I have fairly strong feelings towards the Dangerous Dogs Act, which is both a bad/stupid law in an of itself, and bad because of the way it treats dogs and their owners.

But worse that said stupid law is the way that people try and tell you that it’s bad because it’s not stupid enough. Like my local free newspaper, the Lewisham & Catford edition of the News Shopper. Which is currently running a really annoying campaign called SHOP A DOG.

News Shopper is running a series of features on dangerous dogs and we need YOUR help to get the law changed to make our parks and neighbourhoods safer for everyone.

SHOP A DOG is News Shopper’s new campaign to bring justice to the victims of dog attacks and help prevent further maulings across south-east London and north Kent.

According to NHS statistics, at least 163 people have been injured by dogs in the News Shopper area in the last two years, leaving some victims with horrific wounds while many irresponsible dog owners have got off scott free.


Don’t get me wrong; being attacked by a dog cannot be a good thing. But pressing for new laws is not the answer; the last dangerous dog around here was dealt with entirely legally: it ended up being shot repeatedly with a shotgun. If the law allows the police to shoot dogs that they have contained within a house in a residential street, I suspect that the law is probably tough enough.

But the News Shopper doesn’t end with wanting a harsher law, they want the following:

- Increase the sentence for owning a banned dog – in line with carrying a knife.

– Extend the law to include dog attacks on private land – therefore protecting workers such as postmen and carers.

– Increase the prison sentences for owners convicted of allowing their dog to attack humans.

– Force all Staffordshire Bull Terriers to wear a muzzle in public.

– Simplify the court process so that banned dogs can be destroyed immediately.

Shall I deal with those one by one?

  1. Part the first, the rules for carrying knives are ridiculous, so calling for other laws to match them marks you out as a bit of a fool. Part the second, the definition of a banned dog is so lax as to require a dog suspected of being banned to be investigated by experts, which can’t be done on the spot. So, twice foolish. Plus, dog racism. Me no likee.
  2. You can fuck off with extending the [bad] law to cover my dog on my premises. As a responsible dog owner, I take responsibility for my dog, but extending the law would require me to keep my dog muzzled in my own damn house.
  3. Increasing the prison sentence for allowing a dog to attack a human? Again, fuck off – if it’s serious and intentional, then the laws are plenty harsh and go all the way up to murder.
  4. I don’t like people who get down on Staffies. Considering how popular they are (they make up probably a third of the dogs I see on my morning walk), five attacks by them over three years in an area with a population of over a million is not justification for a new law. Especially when the damn News Shopper article says that 163 people have been injured by dogs in the last two years in the same area; that’s not exactly a massive percentage caused by SBTs, is it?
  5. Simplify the court process to allow all banned dogs to be destroyed immediately. Awesome. You have some instant test to prove that a dog is of a banned breed? You have a way of bringing the dog back to life if a mistake is made? Or are you going to compensate the owner in a sensible way? If the News Shopper is confused, might I refer them to the (still in force) Clause 29 of the Magna Carta.

In short, I think that each and every aim of their campaign is either stupid, abhorrent, or both. So I condemn their paper to being used for bedding for my beloved pooch. Which is not, by law, a Staffie, so she’ll be fine.

Fuck you, News Shopper.

Dear parts of Norn Iron

Grow the fuck up, please.

Two senior Ulster Unionists, including the leader Tom Elliot, are to face disciplinary proceedings within the Orange Order for attending the funeral of murdered police constable Ronan Kerr.

[T]he lodge, St Simon’s Church Total Abstinence LOL 821 from Sandy Row, has made formal complaints to the county lodges of Mr Elliott and Mr Kennedy in Fermanagh and Armagh.

It is understood the lodge alleges the two men “should have known better.”

Jaysus Christo on a bike. I’m all for a bit of tradition, and I’m all for people standing up for what they believe in. But some twazzock starting disciplinary proceedings because someone else in their club went to a funeral? Grow up, please. It’s just silly.

So unfair

At the weekend, I visited a mate in a fairly remote part of the world. Shite was talked, beer was drunk, and dogs were compared. All well and good.

But what bothers me is this: I live in the biggest city in the country, and allegedly one of the finer cities of the world. He lives on a small island with approximately one percentage point of the population. I live in a road with thousands of people, he lives on a country lane with a few dozen houses along the length of it.

And which of us has a closer pub? Not me, because of some crusading food 100 years ago who covenanted the entire area against the evils of the demon drink. Bugger that he is.

Things change when you have a dog

Not too long ago, the presence of the urban fox round these parts was only a little problem. They caused some noise, yes, but it was outside and could be ignored by those of us with two legs.

Now, however, there is a four-legs in the house. And the recent increase in foxy-screaming (or barking, howling, whatever it is they do) has sent our poor four-legs a bit potty. Barking is only entertaining when it’s outside and not during the hours of darkness – not when it’s inside at 0030 when you’re due to get up at six.

So, does anyone know of a hunt local to South East London that would be keen on bagging a few little foxies? I’ll meet their reasonable expenses if it means I get to have a good nights sleep and the little buggers stop shitting on my lawn…

The things we do for family

I’m on record as being an avowed non-fan of the girly giggle. The same holds for the girly squeal and the girly “ohmigod” chorus.

Which is why I was less than enthralled to be attending Legally Blond: The Musical. I had no say in the matter; the choice was my sisters and since she was the one graduating we couldn’t really argue.

Dear Lord: it was crap. No only did it largely feature girly squeals and giggles, they had an actual ohmigod chorus. And a song called ohmigod. And more pink than I ever wanted to see.

No wonder most of the men in the place were busy pouring beer down their throats at almost scary rates. It’s the only way to keep sane when surrounded by people deliberately singing so much crap so shrilly…

When in doubt, BAN IT

My feeling on the banning of things is quite simple: don’t do it, or at least have an exceedingly good reason for doing it.

Ban, for example, people building nuclear explosives. Ban street gangs having RPGs. Ban murderers from working with machine guns. That sort of thing.

What you don’t do is ban things because the press don’t like it; for me this holds for most narcotics, and doubly so for this Mephedrone stuff that has been so exercising the papers in the last few weeks.

The government’s chief drugs adviser has strongly indicated the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will recommend mephedrone be banned.

Professor Les Iversen said he expected the panel would make a recommendation to the home secretary next Monday.

He said he believed mephedrone was “harmful” and hinted that it should be categorised as a Class B drug.

He believes it to be harmful? Well, that’s just dandy. It’s nice that he’s able to speak so definitively about a topic that he hasn’t actually got any evidence to back up.

But it’s OK, he’s meant to talk like that. It’s people jumping on the bandwagon like the Right Honourable Keith Vaz that really annoy me. Mr Vaz who knows so much about it that he could say this:

“We just think the delay is most unsatisfactory given the dangers that are inherent [in taking mephedrone]”

Inherent, you say? Based upon what? Pharmacological experience and evidence based studies? Or your own track record of talking shit and urging bans for no reason?

Grrr. Calls to ban things get me annoyed. They should clearly be banned for the good of my blood pressure…


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…

The price you pay

The advantage of being single is that you don’t have to compromise; you do pretty much what you want, you do it when you want, you don’t do anything that you don’t want.

This is a wonderful thing; it’s only when you find someone that is worth making compromises for that it becomes second best. And when you have that someone, then compromises happen, and it’s a price worth paying.

It was in this light that I went to see New Moon at the weekend.

For the record, the film itself was pretty shit. The plot was predictable and childish, the visuals were disappointing, thon girl needs to learn that acting sexy doesn’t equate to pretending to be breathless, and the special effects were insultingly bad. The entire movie was made for young girls and people who were once young girls, and they didn’t do the usual thing of making a couple of token nods towards other demographics to make their stay in the room bearable.

But that’s not the point; that’s what I expected and that’s what I signed up for. What I didn’t expect, and what made the trip the worst 2 hours I’ve spent in a cinema, was the audience. oohing and aahing; screaming, clapping every other minute. I honest to God that I wanted to leave, drag TLF out with me, lock the doors and then fill the room with some form of venomous animals.

So the film was bad, but it was made abysmal by the people watching it with me.

Except for TLF, of course, for whom I watched it, and for whom I’d watched it many more times if needbe. But the compromises go both ways, and the poor girl will be watching of my choice soon enough…

In some ways good, in others very bad

The news that a learn’d judge has decided that eco-mentalism is a religion both entertains and terrifies me.

When Rupert Dickinson, the chief executive of one of Britain’s biggest property firms, left his BlackBerry behind in London while on a business trip to Ireland, he simply ordered one of his staff to get on a plane and deliver the device to him.

For Dickinson’s then head of sustainability, Tim Nicholson, the errand was much more than an executive indulgence: it embodied the contempt with which his boss treated his deep philosophical beliefs about climate change.

In a significant decision today , a judge found Nicholson’s views on the environment were so deeply held that they were entitled to the same protection as religious convictions, and ruled that an employment tribunal should hear his claim that he was sacked because of his beliefs.

Entertains, because it shows that eco-mentalism isn’t based upon logic or science, but on a deeply held belief in something beyond logic or science. In the Holy Word of St Al Gore of Tennessee, and the Devine Moddeling of Goddard. In a consistently vague set of claims that change when the science proves them wrong, but only enough that the exact bit that was proven wrong isn’t referred to again. A house built on sand, where every grain of sand examined thus far has been proven unsuitable for building anything on, but the housebuilders refuse to draw from that the conclusion that the rest of the sand might just be the same.

And that tickles the hell out of me.

Of course, it also terrifies me. Because now people who just refuse to do their jobs can hide behind their mentalism. And it’ll likely spread:

Camilla Palmer, of Leigh Day and Co, said it opened doors for an even wider category of deeply held beliefs, such as feminism, vegetarianism or humanism. “It’s a great decision. Why should it only be religions which are protected?”

Well, there may be a debate as to whether religions should be protected. But I would suggest that the definition should be restricted to something that has a wide enough following and a significant length of history, otherwise cults and craziness would be included. And otherwise mentalists of all stripes will go into jobs, cry their religion and hope to close down places. Places like butchers and farms, if Ms Palmer is on the ball about vegetarianism.

And that would truly be terrifying.

And now, you will give the right answer

As you’d expect, I’m pretty livid about the fact that the EU is making Ireland vote again on Lisbon. It’s disgraceful that a supposedly democratic organisation is unwilling to take the only democratically offered opinion on its Treaty, and is ensuring that said Treaty is voted on again (and again, and again) until the stupid electorate gives the opinion that the EU wants to hear.

However, I’m even more livid that the Irish are likely to vote yes. They did this on Nice, as well, and that was a fucking stupid precedent to set. There are many honest, simple and sensible reasons to vote against that, and changing the national mind just showed Brussels that it could be done.

Likewise, there are a great many reasons to vote no again this time round. My top three, based not on the actual document but on the way that the document is being pushed, are:

  • The text is still unread by the vast majority of people, and not understood by most of those who have read it. When it doubt, if you can’t understand the text of a new law and those who wrote the new law won’t explain it properly, vote against.
  • The EU specifically structured the Treaty to avoid referenda in the countries of Europe, because they knew that some of them would be likely to reject it. Why? Is it because they knew it’d be unpopular, or because they knew that it wasn’t needed?
  • Being asked again, like a naughty schoolchild, is insulting. Tell them to fuck off, and take the answer they’re given, not the answer they want.

Please, Irish folk – say no. It was the right answer then, and it’s the right answer no.

This has been a plea, not on behalf of any political party, but on behalf of the 750 million other EU citizens that were denied a vote on this treaty, because our leaders were scared of what we’d say…

Told ya so

It’s been quite a few years since I prophesied that, having won in the fight against tobacco, the medical establishment would turn its attention towards alcohol.

And pretty much every week since, they’ve done exactly that.

There should be a ban on all alcohol advertising, including sports and music sponsorship, doctors say.

The British Medical Association said the crackdown on marketing was needed, along with an end to cut-price deals, to stop rising rates of consumption.

Doctors said action was essential as alcohol was now one of the leading causes of early death and disability.

The BMA then goes on to lie:

“The BMA is not anti-alcohol. As doctors our focus is to ensure that individuals drink sensible so they do not put their health and lives in danger.”

Why is that a lie? Because the BMA want there to be only one side to the tale; they want those that oppose to be alcohol to be the only ones to be able to speak to the public. Those of us that a) enjoy alcohol and b) see alcohol advertising as one of the few entertaining genres of advertising out there will be sorely disappointed if we expect to hear any voices that agree with us.

And once they’ve done that, once they’ve silenced their opponents, it will be easier to ban drinking in more situations. And then we’ll be as ostracised as smokers.

On a related note, recently I’ve been walking past an ad from Drinkaware twice a day, which mentions that alcohol has been “distorting reality since 10,000 BC”. Which is a fantastic claim. What amuses me greatly is that Nanny thinks she can overcome this 12,000 year history of humans enjoying alcohol with some bitchy whining and a ban on advertising. Good luck with that, bitch. And even if you do go the whole hog, pretty much every knows someone who could operate a still in times of emergency. Bring back the poteen home-distilling industry, that’s what I say…