Making a dummy out of Bush

I READ in The Independent that many of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s supporters turned up at a rally yesterday “with effigies of Mr Bush”.

Now, am I the only person who finds this a bit odd? Am I alone in being unaware of Iran’s thriving papier mâché industry?

Mind you, they’d probably sell more of them if they weren’t so combustible. Every time I see one on TV, it’s caught fire and the owner’s looking pretty peeved (I assume they’re quite expensive).

Can I suggest to The Tehran Effigy Company (“We make ’em, you burn ’em!”) that instead of soaking them in petrol before they go in the shop window, they instead fill them with sweeties or something? That would make for a much nicer day out and everyone could go home afterwards in a much better mood.


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Filed under International, Whimsy

Teething trouble

And another thing...A SLIGHT hiccup has developed in the great “Let’s Get A New Blog Design” epic.

The automatic divert from this site to the new one won’t now kick in until later on today. The new site, however, should be going live round about now. Visit it by clicking here, and let me know what you think (although, if you don’t like it, tough, ‘cos I’m not changing it back now).

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Filed under Blogging

Fingers crossed…

THIS SITE will be offline from about nine tonight until seven tomorrow morning.

The new site will have a new address:, but you should be redirected if you try to find this site. Please bear with us if there are hiccups. Those of you using Internet Explorer 6 in particular could have some problems viewing the new site, but we’re trying to minimise difficulties as much as possible.

That’s it for, then.

Thank you and goodnight.


Filed under Blogging

The ex-Islamist, the million pounds grant and the big-mouthed Minister

IF YOU haven’t already read The Islamist by Ed Husain, then I recommend you do so.

It tells the very true and moving story of a British-born Muslim and his recruitment into – and subsequent disillusionment with –  the radical Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir. It offers a fascinating insight into the Islamist, as well as the Muslim, mindset in the UK. Husain is painfully honest about his experiences; I physically winced at the part where he describes encouraging fellow Muslims to celebrate the events of 9/11, and his confusion when he was reprimanded by those same people.

Now Husain and another former Islamist, Maajid Nawaz, a former political prisoner in Egypt, have formed the Quilliam Foundation, aimed at combating the Islamist tendency in the UK. Only an ex-Islamist can effectively fight the current ones, the logic goes.

Government grants of nearly a million pounds have been put at the foundation’s disposal, whcih seems to have irked some, not least The Times and an unnamed government minister who, hiding, inevitably, behind the shield of anonymity, described the giving of the money as “outrageous”. He (let’s assume it’s a “he”) also warned that Britain is becoming home to “the ex-Islamist industry.”

Well, we can only hope. Or would he prefer for us to be home to the Islamist industry?

Once again, we are revealed as a nation obsessed with the cost of everything and the value of nothing. The Times reports its supposition that the two directors of the Quilliam Foundation are receiving salaries of “about £85,000”. The same report states that its offices have no sign, for security reasons, but doesn’t make the logical link that if people are doing dangerous work to protect other people, they should be finacially rewarded.

I had a discussion recently where I told a friend that Islamism represented the greatest threat to our nation. “No,” he replied, “global warming is the biggest threat to our nation.”

Not sure those aboard any of the Underground trains on 7 July 2005, or any of their friends or relatives, would necessarily agree with that.

The Quilliam Foundation will produce its first report soon. It may well do some vital work on behalf of our country. If it results in saving lives, these government grants can be considered money well spent.  If it doesn’t deliver the goods, then we can always try another approach. But for crying out loud, can we just for once see past the headlines and the salary figures, past the snide little comments about “state of the art computers” (“Golly! They’re using up to date IT? Outrageous!”) and plush offices and judge such organisations on results? Or would that be too logical for our talkative ministerial colleague?

Presumably, the fact of the awarding of these grants suggests that the Quilliam Foundation has the support of the government. That being the case, maybe the minister in question should shut his mouth and get back to supporting the government.


Filed under Government, Society

‘UK gloom risks clouding real picture’

THAT’S not my headline, incidentally, but the FT’s.

Any politician who dares suggest that the country isn’t doomed (particularly if he or she’s a minister) gets pilloried for a fool. But since I am not a minister, and since I’m used to being pilloried, can I recommend this article, which paints a fairly balanced, though still depressing, picture of our economic prospects. 

Nevertheless, it contains this interesting, previously overlooked morsel:

Economists expect household disposable income to grow this year at 1.4 per cent, twice last year’s level and almost 50 times faster than in 2007.

Although investors demand higher yields on government debt than in Germany, they are more willing to hold UK government and corporate paper than they were in October. The trade position is improving and with oil prices falling, a fiscal stimulus and substantial state support for banking, Britain is about to enjoy the most powerful fillip the economy has seen.

I accept the argument made in a previous thread that it’s not always fair to accuse someone of “talking down the economy” just because he points out an unwelcome fact. Similarly, it’s absurd that anyone who suggests the UK is not going bankrupt and that we will, at some point, emerge from the other side of the downturn, is an out-of-touch, demented loon.


Filed under Economy, Media

What’s sauce for the goose…

WATCHING Newsnight this evening it became clear that in the next few weeks, President Obama will embark on (a) a rescue plan for America’s banks, and (b) a massive stimulus package for the economy.

Since America’s economic problems are similar to our own, and the prospective remedies similar to those already carried out here, can we expect David Cameron to welcome the American rescue package(s) with the same derisive scorn with which he greeted Britain’s?

Perhaps not the most auspicious start to a relationship with a president Do-Nothing is pathetically desperate to emulate. But it would certainly confirm Obama’s initial, instinctive view of him as “a lightweight”.


Filed under Barack Obama, David Cameron, Economy, United States

‘Obama, Obama, Obama! Out, out out!’

TOM Watson’s latest Twitter reports that a banner displayed by a protester in Parliament Square carries the legend: “Obama imperialist war monger”.


I mean, just how pathetic can these people be? As Carolyn was channel hopping this evening she came across Celebrity Big Brother (see what lengths I’ll go to to make sure you don’t think I’m actually watching it?) and even Tommy “the trot” Sheridan was applauding Obama at the end of his inaugural speech.

But anti-Americanism runs deep in the so-called left wing in this country. In 1980 and 1981 I was an active member of CND, three years before I joined the Labour Party. I attended a number of meetings at which President Reagan was regularly attacked and vilified and where the Soviet Union was portrayed as an innocent victim of the Cold War. 

Clearly, for some, the Cold War never ended. Or even worse: the wrong side won.


Filed under Barack Obama, Parliament, Politics