Britblog Round Up 257: Investigative Alzheimers and other provincial stories…

Okay, this week it is Slugger’s turn to host the Brit Blog Round up, a peripatetic event that circulates a whole bunch of different blogs in and around the UK… And we are kicking off with some of the local controversy arising from those now fabled (in the Northern Irish blogosphere anyway) informal talks at the ancestral pile of the 7th Marquess of Salisbury (in Hertfordshire of all places…) – Jeff Peel reckons the news that three Tory candidates in the greater Belfast are stepping down should be a warning sign that all is not well with the curiously ill-defined Tory Ulster Unionist alliance…

– And Bobballs thinks our own Brian Walker was talking balls yesterday when he blogged an Observer article (which was competently fisked by the Tories’ North Down candidate) on the subject and accused the Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey of ‘shafting’ three Tory party candidates… (Regardless of these speculations, the creative ambiguity of the Cameron Empey relationship is in danger of turning into an unnecessarily nasty house fire…)

– And speaking of creative ambiguity, Paul Dixon has a nicely literate and concise piece on the great deceiver for peace (and war) himself, Tony Blair:

In a recent interview, Blair argued that the emergence of political parties in Iraq that cross the sectarian divide is paving the way for a more sustainable peace. In Northern Ireland, the most sectarian parties are now triumphant and devolution is precarious.

– Right, so, erm, back to the UK Mainland (UnSluggerites duck: that’s non PC for John Bull’s other other island), Andrew reckons the Tories are scared of UKIP, given the scale of the campaign against UKIP’s anti Burkha… See the GuyNews ‘sting’ on Lord Pearson…

– And the Ur Liberal blogger Jonathan wonders just what the lewd Victorians would have made of the Burkha

– James Higham puts a marker down for the Albion Alliance (never heard of them? Just follow James’ copious links!!)

– And James’ colleague Ian puts another marker for what he sees as ‘Tory PR bollocks’ over a private members bill by Douglas Carswell, which Ian reckons is an attempt to shut the stable door after the Lisbon horse has well and truly bolted

– Matt’s spied a new service for keeping a proverbial eye on your local MP

– Mark Thompson, my second favourite Lib Dem blogger, reckons the Tories have two primary weak points going into the May election: raising the IHT threshold to £1 million (which he thinks will be easy to isolate as a tax cut for the rich when the truth is we will all get soaked if the budget deficits are to be cut in the double quick time of the current Tory poster campaign); and their promise to provide tax benefits for those who marry…

– David Keen, soon to be newly-wed welcomes the latter, and has some considered thoughts of his own… He points to Demos’ Character Inquiry as a source for related thinking on the matter

– Classics Professor at Newnham College, Cambridge Mary Beard accuses Gordon Brown of sloganising on social mobility and that slogans are barely worth a damn if they are not structured around actionable arguments…

…the real questions are twofold. First: HOW are we going to deliver on the promise of social mobility? The usual answer of ‘blame Oxbridge for our ills and interfere with the well thought out system of university admissions in the (false) name of fairness’ won’t do.

The second is even more important, and usually neglected: namely, how are we going to manage the downward social mobility of some that must inevitably be the consequence of upward social mobility for others — unless (on our current system) we imagine a period of unparalleled economic growth combined with the import of an underclass (with no upwardly mobile prospects) to do the shitty jobs that are left unfilled. All social progress has losers as well as winners. It is often, and probably correctly said, that the increase in numbers of women students at Cambridge in the 1980s (which, needless to say, I wholly support) came at the expense of working class boys (which I deplore).

– And speaking of fairness, Laurie Penny wants to know just what social goods Labour’s Employment and Support Allowance has provided:

After nearly a year of ESA, the government still cannot say how many people this brutal and dazzlingly expensive system has helped back into work, but it can say for sure that 44,000 people are currently waiting for the results of their appeals, costing the taxpayer additional millions.

– Given the prominence of rape and child abuse in the local Irish news in the last few weeks, this timely post from Hannah Mudge is a useful corrective to some of the political neuralgia around the reporting of how one local political party has historically dealt with the issue of rape and child sex abuse:

As long as the press continues to cover rape cases in a way which suggests the majority of allegations are made up and that the victim is often to blame for the violence against her, public attitudes towards victims will never change. If the media parrots certain views often enough they come to be taken as gospel and all too quickly, the first reaction to rape being mentioned is that ‘most women make it up anyway’. I’ve heard it among people I know when I’ve explained what Reclaim the Night is all about or when I’ve brought up conviction rates. Comments from people I wouldn’t have down as rape apologists and misogynists, nevertheless there’s nothing that satisfies some people more than a rape allegation proved untrue.

– Anthony McIntyre is less than impressed with the BBC on last week’s big story that never was. And he believes they were not the only ones who came up short:

Rendered anaemic by the plague of the peace process which has suffocated all its vital signs it now flounders in the same news league as the doddering old Irish Times. The once proud paper of record just about manages to shuffle along in an advanced state of senility and timidity seemingly terrified of dropping any clangers about the peace process. Clumped together, BBC Northern Ireland and the Old Lady of D’Olier Street make a rare pair. Debilitated by investigative Alzheimer’s each forgets what it came for when they arrive on the door to ask the probing question.

– Jim Jepps in London notes however that fear of crime is a problem largely of perception, but it detracts from rather adds to quality of life:

…the solution to crime is a strong community that looks after each other. The fear of crime, where people look on each other with suspicion, undermines that leaving everyone more vulnerable. The only long term solution to social problems is a more social society.

– Chris comments on the stock market falls after word emerged that President Obama’s is minded to back ‘old man Volcker’s idea (profile here) that a new regulatory regime should separate big banks from their proprietary trading (aka, ‘corporate spread betting based on intimate knowledge of their clients financial interests’) arms. He concludes:

Stock markets have acted as if the leftist critique of banks is correct. In marking down bank stocks, they seem to believe that traders don’t possess great stand-alone skills but make money only thanks to the good fortune of having a big bank behind them. They also seem to think that banks have for years captured the state and used it for their own purposes.

– Alex Evans has a bizarre play by play account of just one minor scene of the diplomatic chaos in Copenhagen

– Molly has a nicely laconic blog review of how the IMF, World Bank and the WTO messed up our post war world

– The Wartime Housewife suffers from seething boiling road resentment

– Backwatersman is quietly seething too at Simon Cowell and the choice of a particular REM song for an appeal for Haiti

– LondonLee on the scary dreams of children and what inspires them

– Strange old cove John Betjeman, as is the weirdly complex geography of the London villages… Diamond Geezer has both wrapped up together nicely:

And, with the morning villas sliding by,
They felt so sure on their electric trip
That Youth and Progress were in partnership.

– And out to the west in Perivale, there’s a 1930s factory of the most enduring presence

– More in the way of literature from Elizabeth Chadwick… from medieval times, it’s all about a cat:

…a full lecherous beast in youth, swift, pliant, and merry, and leapeth and reseth on everything that is to fore him: and is led by a straw, and playeth therewith: and is a right heavy beast in age and full sleepy, and lieth slyly in wait for mice: and is aware where they be more by smell than by sight, and hunteth and reseth on them in privy places: and when he taketh a mouse, he playeth therewith, and eateth him after the play.

– If you’ve not been through it here’s a slice (err, no pun intended) of real life as it is lived through the messy miracle of giving birth (WARNING: not for the squeamish!), or that bloody birth plan was useless

– And afterwards, Earthenwitch considers the problem of not passing your problems to the next generation

– Those Anglicans are not afraid of blogging (as readers of the righteous Paddy Anglican blog will know), the Bishop of Huntingdon interviews Jenny Kartupelis who’s just been appointed to a new panel of experts to advise the UK Secretary of State for Communities, John Denham, on faith matters.

– And finally at The Wardman Wire, Carl Gardner mounts a defence of secularism

Next week’s Roundup will be hosted by Susanne. Rota details and a complete archive may be found at the Britblog Central website. As ever, nominations (and as you can see they don’t have to obsess, as we tend to, on politics) should be sent to britblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

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