Ah, Tony Blair — you can’t keep a good hustler down. One minute he’s singing the praises of formaldehyde at the opening of a methanol power plant in Azerbaijan (£90,000 for a 20-minute talk), the next he’s accepting a gig ‘consulting’ in Kazakhstan. For his advice on ‘issues connected with policy and the economy’, he could reportedly make as much as £8 million a year.In May, Blair and a gang of his associates were spotted at a meeting of the Foreign Investors’ Council in Kazakhstan.
In his last months as prime minister, Gordon Brown sat down and wrote a fan letter to a young British singer-songwriter. ‘With the troubles that the country’s in financially,’ he told her, ‘you are a light at the end of the tunnel.’ Last weekend that light officially went out: Adele has suffered a career-threatening vocal cord injury and will not sing again this year. OK, so it’s impossible to prove cause and effect, but you have to wonder if the curse of Gordon Brown has struck again.
Chris Huhne wants to know why we don’t shop around more for our utilities. I’ll give him one reason. The liberalisation of utility markets has created an impression of bewildering choice, but when things go wrong you realise that there is no choice at all, just the same old creaking infrastructure, owned and operated by the legacy company of an old nationalised monopoly. In fact, in one sense, liberalisation has made things worse: with a multiplicity of companies involved, you are never quite sure who is responsible for your pipes or your wires.
As a former mental patient, I find being asked to ‘embrace my diagnosis’ far more offensive than words like ‘bonkers’Mentally ill people can be troublesome but at least the rest of the population does not have to think about them much. The system is effective in that respect. No one need know, for example, that 10 per cent of adults in Scotland are on antidepressants. The disturbed do not spread their disturbance.
‘Intergenerational fairness’ is simply the latest cover for envyTowards the end of last month, a gang of youthful policy wonks started beating up the elderly. This is something we will have to get used to. The proposal from the Intergenerational Foundation to ease over-60s out of their three- or four-bedroomed houses to make way for younger families was just the first of a series of pernicious policies the think-tank is preparing as it opens up a new front in the politics of envy.
So why do people feel compelled to start every sentence with ‘so’?We live in the Age of So. Dot Wordsworth commented on it in these pages recently, though was lost for an explanation. The phenomenon was illustrated on Radio 5 Live’s Drive programme a while back, when Peter Allen interviewed Steve Robertson of BT OpenReach about the expansion of superfast broadband. Allen: ‘What will actually happen?’
Robertson: ‘So, what will happen is that we’re either going to be taking fibre to their home or to their business.