Jennings at School

by Harry on August 16, 2004

Since you don’t all listen to BBC7 religiously, and since the obit for Anthony Buckeridge obviously touched a nerve for some of you, you might want to know that, contrary to my speculation, the irresponsible BBC has managed to hold onto at least one of the early Jennings recordings, and played it yesterday as a tribute to the great man. Scroll down to 09.00. It actually lasts just over 50 minutes (not 45 as the page suggests), and stars Buckeridge himself as Wilkins, and, according to the announcer, a prepubescent incarnation of the appalling Jeremy Clarkson as Atkinson. It’s wonderful, and will be archived till next Saturday.

Fantasy football

by Chris Bertram on August 16, 2004

As some of you may have noticed the new English football season is upon us. The BBC is running its “fantasy football game”: for the last time this season, and I’ll be entering as I usually do. There’s a facility to run a “mini-league”: consisting of friends, relations, enemies, critics, critical critics etc. So if any contributor, regular commenter or reader wants to join our league — the “Crooked Timberites”: — they are very welcome to do so. You have to “register”: with the BBC and choose your team first, and then email your PIN to me, the Chairman of the League, at . Those who know nothing whatsoever about football can always use the “lucky dip” facility to have the BBC computer pick a team for them. Try to register before 1230 BST on Saturday, 28 August 2004

Chavez declares victory

by Daniel on August 16, 2004

Apparently. Not yet got confirmation from the OAS and Carter Centre that the ballot met standards of honesty and probity, but it looks like Chavez has come in with a pretty thumping majority; 58% of the vote is really rather good on the massive turnout reported.

Of course there is now a fairly substantial Catch-22 situation. Part of the reason why Chavez was able to win was that in recent months he’s been throwing around money like water on social programs. He was able to do this because oil was up above $40 a barrel, generating vast profits for the state oil company. A lot of the reason why oil prices were so high was that … there was significant uncertainty about supply from Venezuela because of the impending referendum. Now that some of the uncertainty has been resolved, oil futures have already started tumbling, meaning that it’s going to be that little bit more dfficult to deliver on these promises; if I were a Venezuelan, I wouldn’t be assuming that we were out of the woods yet.

Update: Carter Centre and Organisation of American States just more or less endorsed the votes; they didn’t find evidence of serious fraud and the results more or less match what the independent observers were seeing.

School Choice Watch (UK)

by Harry on August 16, 2004

A couple of interesting position papers are available on school admissions and school choice. This one, from the right-of-centre PolicyExchange, has been up for a while. The authors give a nice quick survey of the varieties of choice scheme operating around the world (though, like many on the right, they emphasize the Swedish example a bit more than they should), and draw conclusions about what works and what doesn’t. What is interesting about this is that they are much better informed and more honest about the proimise and limitations of schemes than other voucher supporters like Chris Woodhead and Stephen Pollard: they understand, for example, that the targetted nature of the Milwaukee scheme is crucial to its political success, and also that the availability of a large, low cost, pool of providers (absent in the UK0 was necessary for it to get off the ground. They are currently working on a specifically UK-oriented proposal to which I’ll link when they’ve completed it. One of the things that is clear from it is that the Tories (presumably under the influence of Willetts) are really trying to think through the practicalities of their voucher-type proposals.

The Social Market Foundation report has been out just a week or two (why did they release it in the summer??). It’s an excellent, and well-informed, proposal about school admissions. The key, and interesting, proposals are a dramatic simplification of the admissions process; and the idea that when schools are oversubscribed they should admit by lottery (an idea I have advocated for a long time). The piece also recognises the need for built-in oversupply of places in order for the ‘market’ in places to work, an idea that the government is pretty set against (since it views ‘surplus’ places as wasteful). The government has also consistently resisted the idea of removing discretion over admissions from schools, on the grounds that it is unfeasible and would not make any difference anyway. I hope that the quirky release date of the report does not mean it will be ignored by ministers.

Leave or we’ll shoot you

by Chris Bertram on August 16, 2004

My post the other day about the Allawi government’s attack on press freedom attracted criticism from some pro-war bloggers. “From Stephen Farrell’s report in today’s London Times”:,,7374-1217933,00.html :

bq. “YOU’VE got two hours to leave or we are going to open fire at you. It’s just our orders,” said a policeman guarding the headquarters of the Najaf Governor, Adnan al-Zurfi, when myself and other journalists arrived at his office yesterday.

bq. (…)

bq. Police threatened to arrest or shoot journalists if they did not leave the city and shots were fired into the hotel housing Western and Arab reporters, which lies within a government-controlled area. The threat came even as Mr Allawi spoke at the country’s long-awaited National Conference in Baghdad, calling it “the first step on the way to democracy”.

Big media uptake

by Chris Bertram on August 16, 2004

Nick Cohen, “writing in the New Statesman”: cites “my post on John Laughland”: and his views from the other week. (Thanks to “Chris Brooke”: for letting me know.)