Friday, 29 August 2014

Douglas Carswell MP: Courage and Integrity

Amid the party liners, sycophants and time servers that sadly make up far too much of the House of Commons, Douglas Carswell MP has always been a breath of fresh air - never frightened to speak out against the consensus and never short of ground breaking ideas, notably in The Plan and The End Of Politics. I was only too pleased to review the latter here out of gratitude for his choice of my question about Greek bailouts for Prime Ministers' Questions in February 2010 when he called upon his blog readers to make suggestions.

Much has already been said about his decision to leave the Conservatives and join UKIP, and to put this to the test via a by-election. Perhaps I might just add that this may just have involved taking the principles of The End Of Politics to their logical conclusion, given the virtually unbridgeable gulf between the three main parties and those whom they purport to represent when it comes to issues such as the practical downside of EU membership? Just look at the follow up to the vacuum cleaner ban that I covered not long ago - it is now set to be followed up with an attack on high powered hairdryers, kettles, smartphones and lawnmowers, all for the purpose of fighting climate change. Did we vote for this? Will the political class do anything about it other than the square root of damn all? Guess.

One last thought. Many years ago, an eminent political figure who had just very publicly left the Tory ranks spoke of the party being lost at sea. To paraphrase in today's setting: "Until the Conservative Party has worked its passage a very long way it will not be rejoining me. I stand...where it [once] stood on all the major issues. It has got to get back there, and when it gets back there, bless my soul, there will be our old friend Douglas on the shore to welcome them." Well, it might need a Tory-UKIP pact, and the defenestration of David Cameron and George Osborne, but stranger things have happened.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The EU: It Beats as it Sweeps as it Cleans

Thwack! Another lethal product is beaten into oblivion and it’s all for our own good! Swoosh! Petty objections are swept away! Scrub! The devastating effects of climate change are cleaned up in an instant! How grateful we all are…

Now let’s get back to reality. As the EU’s ban on top rated powerful vacuum cleaners comes into force, with less than two weeks to go before companies will be prohibited from manufacturing or importing any vacuums with motors above 1,600 watts, is it likely that we will all be rejoicing at the benevolent paternalism of the likes of Marlene Holzner, the Belgian EU Commissioner named in the Telegraph article, who has already spoken in high praise of the measures that she and her kind have inflicted, evidently to help tackle climate change by cutting Europe’s energy usage?
Or will we curse this latest interference of the overzealous paternalists whose desperation to be seen to be doing something no doubt explains why they overlooked Sybil Fawlty’s specialist Mastermind subject, the Bleeding Obvious – namely that the less powerful machines will be run for longer to do the same job and will use more energy in the process?

If only we could sweep the EU away and clean up what its legislation regularly inflicts, even if giving the Commissioners a beating might be a step too far...

Friday, 8 August 2014

Obesity Epidemic: A Fatuous Phrase

“Is stoutness as big a problem as you’re making out?” “Yeah, it’s huge…”

But is it an epidemic, we may ask?

Yet another example of yesterday’s satire becoming today’s reality can be found in the Not The Nine O’Clock News ‘Stout Life’ sketch, with presenter Janny Shtrait-Pawuh interviewing George Fletcher from Proud To Be Stout, while the organiser of plump discos Reverend Tubs Wiston looked on. Little did they know that thirty years later, health experts would be gravely warning about the ‘obesity epidemic’ and how it threatens all of us…

Let’s go back to first principles. ‘Epidemic’ is one of many medical terms deriving from ancient Greek. ‘Epi’: upon, ‘demos’: people. Quite a sensible illustration of what happens when a contagious disease goes beyond a mere outbreak and descends upon a far greater section of the population than could have been expected. And just to complete the picture, the more serious ‘pandemic’ is reflected in the fact that in Socrates’ times, ‘pan’ meant ‘all’.

Here and now, there is no denying that obesity is a condition. The condition may indeed be widespread (no pun intended). Equally, the unthinking use of body mass index (BMI) formulae may have served to exaggerate its prevalence, by unfairly tarring the naturally large framed with the same brush as may be quite rightly used upon those who treat a KFC Bargain Bucket as a light personal snack between meals.

But how on earth did we ever reach the point where the World Health Organisation formally recognised obesity as a global epidemic? What a gift to those in desperate need of more research funding at the taxpayers’ expense, and to the strident voices of the nanny state calling for more regulation of food consumption and more levies on taboo products. The casual twisting of language is just insult to injury.

With all due irony, Jim from the Royle Family would almost inevitably have reacted with “obesity epidemic my arse”. A more balanced view would perhaps be to file it alongside Christmas shopping, carbon footprint and Labour government as a new entrant to the Top 10 most irritating two word phrases.