Transport for London (TfL) last week owned up and made public the actual purchase price of the New Bus For London (NBfL), aka Boris Bus.
And that price, at £354,500 per vehicle, makes the NBfL around £50,000 more expensive than a comparable off-the-shelf hybrid double decker. So, despite Bozza’s promises, the NBfL will not be price competitive with alternatives.
As there are to be 600 production examples of the NBfL, this gives a premium of £30 million. Added to this is the cost of the eight prototypes, which, at £11.77 million, gives a premium over eight comparable hybrids of £9.37 million.
We cannot validate the claims for superior fuel consumption, as TfL have thus far declined to release the figures. So that’s a running premium total of £39.37 million.
For that money, Londoners could have had another 131 hybrid double deckers. And it gets worse: far from being the “greenest ever” bus, the NBfL will have to be retro-fitted with the means to enable it to meet 2014 emissions standards. So that means a further extra cost.
However, TfL would benefit if the design were to be sold to any other potential customers. What are the prospects of this? Sadly, they are precisely zero. This can be gleaned from the unwillingness of operators to take the vehicles on: uniquely for London, TfL is having to purchase them outright and then impose them on operators.
But it is in running costs that the truly scandalous scale of waste can be seen. Each NBfL requires a second crew member when its rear platform is in operation, and this has been estimated to add a cost of £62,000 per vehicle per year.
Do the math, as they say: over the 14-year lifetime of the 608-strong fleet, this will land Londoners with a whopping £527.74 million bill in total.
That’s an awfully large premium payment for Bozza’s vanity legacy.
The question begs itself as to how he has been allowed to get away with it: spraying £567 million up the wall merely for something that is “different”, “iconic”, or which may impress a few tourists.
The Fourth Estate has found itself in a state of total agreement over one subject: the lack of inclination to report the latest Sunday Times YouGov poll, which in addition to the usual popularity questions, also asked about last week’s Budget.
It also asked about press regulation.
And the responses obtained showed that the public were not just supportive of the moves last week to establish a new independent regulator underpinned by statute, but were supportive by a larger margin than previously.
That suggests all the abuse and other personal attacks by those same papers has not turned their beloved readership against the new regime the editors don’t want.
So they just decide not to report it – not even the paper that commissioned it. And when you look at the numbers, that is no surprise. Here’s the first four questions.
Do you support or oppose the proposed new press regulation system? Support 52%, Oppose 23%. By a 5 to 2 majority.
Do you think the proposed new regulation system is or is not a threat to press freedom? Is a threat 27%, is not a threat 53%. By a 2 to 1 majority.
Do you think it is right or wrong that newspapers who choose not to join the new regulator should face larger damages if they are taken to court over libel, privacy or other civil matters? Right 55%, wrong 23%. By a 5 to 2 majority.
Do you think the new system will or will not give politicians too much influence in what news the papers report? Will give too much 31%, will not 41%. By a 4 to 3 majority.
One group which has reported the poll results is Hacked Off, carrying analysis from the Media Standards Trust’s Gordon Ramsay, who wasted no time in pointing out that support for the new system of regulation has increased over the past week from 43% to 52%, and that the percentage responding that the new setup would not threaten press freedom had gone from 38 to 53 – both now commanding a majority.
Yet still the ranting continues, with swivel-eyed ranter in chief Peter Hitchens going off the end of the pier in style in the Mail On Sunday yesterday, followed by the lame blethering of Trevor Kavanagh in today’s Sun. Both keep pushing the meme that press freedom is being either threatened, or that its termination is imminent. But it’s not having the desired effect.
The public is probably getting less reliable information on this subject than any other being reported right now. But it can clearly see through the fog of falsehood and misinformation, which would suggest, once more, that the game may be up.
Last December, the Mail’s talentless churnalist Richard Littlejohn observed: “Twitter is a playground for vicious trolls and cowardly cyber-bullies who can ruin people’s lives with the most vile threats and smears” – the inference being that he and his fellow pundits are people of the purest and noblest motives who would never sink to such levels.
What you will no longer see in that column, as it has been hastily removed, is The Great Man’s comments on teacher Lucy Meadows. This is because she has just taken her own life. Ms Meadows had previously been Mr Upton, and had transitioned to live as a woman. There was no public interest whatever in this, save the prurience of our wonderful free press. And the subsequent hate mail.
Hence the papers gleefully that reported this as news. Daily Mail Shock at CofE school where Mr Upton will return after Christmas as Miss Meadows. Perhaps the Anglican church is supposed to cast such people out into eternal darkness. But they did find one parent who objected.
The Sun: Sir becomes Miss” was the typically imaginative headline from Rupe’s downmarket troops. At least they talked to a grandparent who was supportive and said it was a very brave thing to do. Sadly, the attempt by local Government staff and councillors to emphasise that this was a personal and private matter went unheeded.
Littlejohn, who as I recently observed takes his prurient interest in transsexual people as far as asking how they take a pee, went on the offensive. “He’s not only in the wrong body, he’s in the wrong job … The school shouldn’t be allowed to elevate its ‘commitment to diversity and equality’ above its duty of care to its pupils and their parents.”
And there was more.
It should be protecting pupils from some of the more, er, challenging realities of adult life, not forcing them down their throats. These are primary school children, for heaven’s sake … he isn’t entitled to project his personal problems on to impressionable young children.
Now, Lucy Meadows is dead, and those impressionable young children are having to deal with one of their teachers no longer being there, as the actions of another fearless pundit cause them to have another of those challenging realities of adult life forced down their throats.
Meanwhile, Littlejohn continues to trouser a million a year.
In the Trans Media Watch (TMW) submission to the Leveson Inquiry, there was concern about the portrayal of Trans people by parts of the media.
This blog yields to no one in its advocacy of an occasional visit to the pub for a jar of decent quality beer. But a new campaign targeting beer duty will not be getting my signature, nor my endorsement.
The reason for this is straightforward: I also cast a sceptical eye over the dubiously crafted output of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), that astroturf lobby group which claims to represent this country’s taxpayers, and is behind the beer duty campaign.
But, as Full Fact has pointed out – and they’ve cast a sceptical eye over a previous Sun beer duty campaign – the evidence behind the claim that taxation levels are at fault for the number of pub closures is not persuasive, and far less conclusive.
If there was a connection, supermarkets would not have shelf upon shelf dedicated to the stuff (which they do).
What is rather more likely is that less folks are drinking beer, and especially the mass-produced brewery conditioned variety (ie canned, keg and nitro-keg). Sales of cask conditioned beer are either holding up or increasing slightly. The cheapest watering holes in Crewe are not necessarily the most popular. They’re not the best places to have a scoop, either.
What is worse, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has
joined endorsed the campaign: perhaps its executive does not know where the TPA is coming from. Here I can be of assistance: they’re into abolishing the minimum wage, lowering the poverty line, abolishing the NHS and the BBC, trashing local bus services, and demonising the disabled, while wanting tax cuts for their rich backers.
Whereas having a pint or two down the pub is something undertaken by ordinary working people, many of whom will be in receipt of the minimum wage and tax credits, both of which the TPA is against. The overwhelming majority will use NHS services. They may watch a variety of broadcast media, but will watch and trust the BBC the most. And they are more likely to use public transport.
So they would be best advised leaving this campaign well alone.
James ‘saviour of Western civilisation’ Delingpole eagerly recycled an article from a senior advisor to the Heartland Institute back in November 2011, because it gave him the answer he wanted to hear. The subject was “Green charities”, and the article rubbishing them had appeared in the American Thinker.
Had Del Boy plucked these organisations out of thin air? Well, no he hadn’t. Heartland has recently moved on from pretending that passive smoking can’t harm people to becoming a pillar of the climate change denial movement. The American Thinker is described as a “Conservative online magazine”. The two had been cited by Del because they are as reliable to his mind as Fox News Channel.
So what was Delingpole’s verdict on “Green charities”? These were held to be “way more evil and dangerous than Exxon or the Koch Brothers”. But the climate change denial lobby does plenty of its own charity fundraising.
That has been thrown into sharp focus by the Guardian, with an article about donor trusts and the sharply increasing amount of money estimated to be passing through them en route to funding climate change denial groups.
Under US law, donations made this way can be kept secret, but it appears that one recipient is the so-called Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT).
CFACT, in turn, runs a website called Climate Depot, a repository of robustly expressed climate change denial, and here – for instance – there was a point-by-point rebuttal yesterday of anything climate related in Barack Obama’s latest State Of The Union address. This was enthusiastically trailed by Delingpole, who with customary subtlety called it a “fisking” of the President’s “eco-bollocks”.
Thus the climate change denial circle jerk in microcosm. The donor trusts also have the advantage that people like the Koch Brothers can slip the conservative and libertarian fringe a few million greenbacks this way too, and thus make it look as if they’re not really involved any more (the estimated amount of direct Koch donation more than halved between 2006 and 2010).
And this parallels the kind of non-transparent funding structure of UK organisations like the so-called Global Warming Policy Foundation, the premier British repository of climate change denialism.
This is something to think about the next time you see a conservative or libertarian lobby organisation popping up in the media claiming to be “non partisan”. He who pays the piper, and all that.
You have to hand it to the Telegraph’s Christopher Booker. He is so obsessed with the EU that there are no ends he will not go to to pretend that something that happens in one or two member states is part of a vast conspiracy that causes all laws to be handed down from that well-known marauding spaceship otherwise known as Brussels.
Booker’s latest attempt to see the hand of the EU behind every conceivable piece of legislation concerns same-sex marriage (SSM). He tells that there has not just been argument about SSM legislation in the UK, but also in France: “why, just as it was provoking the biggest Tory rebellion in decades, was it also prompting a similar row in the French National Assembly?” he queries.
The straightforward answer is that it wasn’t: the French had voted on it, approving the measure by 249 to 97, the previous week.
But this does not deter Booker, who asserts that all EU member states are going to have to fall into line by the middle of 2013, which would be interesting to see, because there is no way that this is going to happen: there won’t even be a majority by that time.
Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden have passed SSM law previously. The UK and France are passing it. Finland and Luxembourg may also do so in the near future. That makes just ten member states out of 27, and as eagle-eyed Euro watchers may have already noticed, the ten do not include Germany (or Italy, or any of the former Warsaw Pact countries).
Moreover, Booker keeps on citing the Council of Europe (CoE), but this body is totally separate from the EU, and is unable to make law. But he includes a CoE measure to “combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity” as part of his chain of supposed proof. Then the ECHR is asserted to be ready to make SSM a “human right”. If everyone passes legislation, that is.
But not every member state of either the CoE, or the EU, has done so. So Booker’s talk of “shadowy bodies” allegedly “ruling our lives” is more of his obsessional drivel speak.
Goodness only knows why the Telegraph bungs him good money to churn it out. Best get it while you can, Chris.
Having to withdraw allegations – more prosaically publish a “correction” or “clarification” – is an occupational hazard for newspapers.
But to have to back down four times in four months suggests an attack campaign that has gone seriously wrong.
No prizes for guessing that the rag in question is the Sun, and its target has been Gordon Brown.
1) Led last September by the loathsome Toby Young – whose services the paper has wisely dispensed with in the meantime – talking of “Toffs who play at being comrades”. Tobes managed not to mention that Brown’s fees for his speaking engagements do not go into his own pocket, but help fund the charitable work done by him and wife Sarah.
2) Four days after the clarification, there was another issued over an article last July that managed not to mention that Brown’s staff expenses also did not go into his own pocket. This time, the Sun was additionally persuaded to tell its readers that the former PM had renounced the Prime Ministerial pension to which he is entitled.
3) this month brought yet another “clarification”, admitting that Brown did not claim accommodation expenses when visiting London on parliamentary business. This time, there was the addition of a brass neck component, as they blamed the Tories. So that’s an admission of using a partisan single source for news items, then.
4) And it wasn’t over, even then: last week brought the fourth “clarification”, over the Sun’s story alleging that Brown’s press conference at the UN was cancelled because only one reporter turned up.
It was actually canned as he was delayed attending another meeting which was paying tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi. That’s another story they didn’t bother checking out before publishing.
On top of all that, there is the pretence they are actually bothered about getting the right story before putting the boot in: “Our journalists strive for accuracy but on occasion we make mistakes”. That’s one fresh and steaming pile of bullshit for you.
Yesterday, the appearance in the Telegraph of an article under the by-line of Jane Kelly, titled “I feel like a stranger where I live” brought a predictably Islamophobic tone to proceedings. Kelly tells how Acton Vale has changed “almost overnight” into “Acton Veil”.
But then you get to the end of the piece. And here, readers are informed that Ms Kelly “is consulting editor of the ‘Salisbury Review’”. Anyone not hearing alarm bells ringing long and loud may not have made the connection.
The Salisbury Review was founded in 1982 under the editorship of Roger Scruton, and promoted as a journal of “traditional Conservatism” of the small state variety. However, the Review also espoused the concept of voluntary repatriation for those it labelled immigrants.
But very few people read it, at least for the first two years. Then an article on race and education by headmaster Ray Honeyford was reproduced – not by accident – in the rabidly Conservative Yorkshire Post. The Honeyford Affair looked set to initially damage, but then made the career of, up and coming West Yorkshire politician Eric Pickles.
When Honeyford died last year, the Telegraph willingly reproduced his Review piece.
Put directly, the Telegraph’s staff know what the Salisbury Review is about. When they get its “consulting editor” to pen an article about what it’s like to live in an area of west London where there is a significant Muslim population, they are sure enough about the result that they disallow comments on it.
They cannot be surprised when Ms Kelly asserts “mass immigration is making reluctant racists of us all”. Nor can they be surprised at some of the characterisations used: her part of Acton “has been transformed into a giant transit camp and is home to no one”.
She whines that “most of the tills in my local shops are manned by young Muslim men who mutter into their mobiles as they are serving”. Yes, they’re bloody busy having to do several things at once. Welcome to the world of the overworked small businessman.
The Telegraph ought to be ashamed of publishing this drivel, yet it went ahead, knowing exactly what its source would write.
Leveson: EU wants power to sack journalists proclaimed the Telegraph’s point man in Brussels, Bruno Waterfield, on Tuesday.
The idea that those meddling Brussels bureaucrats were going to take control of press regulation was a dream come true for the anti-EU brigade.
Because not only is there no Leveson connection, there is also no move to give the EU power over hiring and firing of hacks: Waterfield’s talk of “setting up state regulators with draconian powers” is scaremongering baloney of the crudest kind.
So what has actually happened? Well, a “high-level group to discuss freedom and pluralism of the media across the EU” has been established.
Yes, the “freedom and pluralism” got filtered out by the Europhobes. But what has this group achieved? That question is answered by its report submitted on Monday to the European Commission (EC) [.pdf]. Note that the report has not been issued by the EC: the EC has not responded to it, so there are no proposals to implement part or all of its recommendations.
But let’s just address some of the flagrantly dishonest claims made by Waterfield in his Tel piece: there is no proposal to “rein in the press” (note that the report quotes Article 11.2 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, “the freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected”, on its first page), and nor is there any urging of “tight press regulation”, or “state regulation”.
The EC has not taken a position on the Leveson recommendations, and as these are a matter for the UK, does not intend to do so. There is no proposal to put “Brussels”, or indeed any EU body, in control of press regulation in any member state.
So what has been suggested? EC Vice President Neelie Kroes gives a hint with “Ensuring the independence of regulators across the member states and their cooperation”.
The recommendations talk of acting “to protect media freedom and pluralism”. And “The EU should raise the issue of journalistic freedom in all
international fora where human rights and democracy are discussed”. Plus the one the Tel doesn’t like: “All EU countries should have independent media councils”.
Thus the freedom of the UK press:to peddle any old rubbish it can get away with.
In 2008, an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) closed down the now infamous construction industry blacklist, issuing enforcement notices to companies shown to have been using it.
But, as with Phonehackgate, there has been remarkably selective reporting of the whole business, with many media outlets silent, and no protest from the libertarian fringe, either.
The affair has come back into the spotlight after the Liverpool Echo revealed Tuesday that more than 150 of the names on the blacklist were from Merseyside. Those men were unable to find work for many years, and to make matters worse, some of the firms who used the blacklist have been awarded, or are contenders for, public sector contracts in the region.
So why would names appear on the blacklist? Trade union activity was the main driver – the construction industry has a history of trying to exclude unions whenever and wherever it can get away with it – along with voicing concerns about health and safety issues. Those on the list were never told of its existence, let alone that they were on it. Some of the information held was irrelevant and personally intrusive.
And the fallout from blacklisting has even reached the Crossrail project, with industrial relations manager Ron Barron revealed as a former devotee of the list, and who appears to have been using it to cross-check names for his then berth. Crossrail advised later that Barron had left the project, but he was still therelate last year – four years after the list should have been withdrawn.
How important is this? Very. And anyone who claims to favour personal liberty and freedom might be expected to want to see this kind of practice expunged. But, while the usual suspects in the Fourth Estate are more than happy to rail against business regulation, constraints on motorists, and above all anything to do with Leveson, you’ll see nothing on this in the Sun, Mail, Express or Telegraph.
Moreover, those champions of freedom and liberty out on the right are similarly blind to this kind of behaviour. Freedom is A Very Wonderful Thing for them, unless it extends to the freedom to join a trade union. The silence on an obvious and deliberate restraint on attempts to become gainfully employed is also telling – so free market high principles clearly have limits.
Public sector projects where workers were blacklisted were not insignificant, either: the Olympic Park and projects including Portcullis House, the Admiralty, the Ministry of Defence’s Whitehall HQ, GCHQ, the Jubilee line and the new Wembley stadium all featured. So isn’t it time that this practice was finally stamped out and the victims properly compensated? And why is central Government so quiet on the subject?
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