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This Blogging Month: March

This month, given that I’ve had a week off, one would have expected that the stats would be down on previous months. But this is, apparently, not the case. Not only have we had the biggest number of hits in the site’s history (over 70,000), we’ve also had a record number of unique visitors. On top of that, we’ve reached the very signficant milestone of half-a-million hits since the launch of sjhoward.co.uk in July 2003. Despite this, we’ve not recorded a huge turnover: Just a 3% profit this month, thanks to our Google advertising and Amazon referrals: This could well be due to the fact that I haven’t written as many review this month, but I’m not about to change what I write just to fit in with the advertising model for the site.

I’ve sorted out the Comments feature which had gone somewhat awry: You can now actually leave comments without them disappearing into cyberspace. It was all down to me creating some kind of endless moderation loop. Oops. But, as I said, it’s all sorted now. You may also have noticed that the visitor counter got stuck and was eventually removed. I think it had trouble with counting tens-of-thousands of you! I’ll try and find a suitable replacement and get it up and running, but unitl then you can continue to get stats updates in these monthly posts.

You’ll have noticed that the archives are ordered back the way they used to be: Monthly archives are in chronological order, and the post categories are in reverse chronological order, so that you see the most recent post in a given category first. I hope that this seems logical to you, as it seems that way to me. You will also now find a complete index of all posts on one handy page – just click ‘Full Index’ in the archives column to the left.

So not many changes this month, but that’s to be expected as the lastest incarnation of the site finally beds down. And that, I suppose, is March.

This post was filed under: Site Updates.

To Lie and Lie Again

I said I’d love FactCheck. Talk about multiple lies from the Labour party:

I notice that the Conservatives are offering £50 a week to help with childcare. A couple of months ago they were getting headlines for offering £150 a week, so there has already been a huge cut in the help they are offering families for childcare

So said Patricia Hewitt on Breakfast. The only problem being that the Conservatives never promised £150 in the first place. So does our Trade and Industry Secretary walk off with her tail between her legs. Erm, not exactly…

In November, the Tory offer was £150 a week to mothers to stay at home. Today we learn that the Tories have backtracked on this and will only offer £50 a week. It is clear the Tories cannot afford the £150 a week because of their commitment to cut £35bn from public spending

That was Alan “I’ll do anything to win” Milburn, writing in The Grauniad. As much as Labour would like it otherwise, repeating a lie does not suddenly make it true. But you’ve got to give them credit for perseverence:

At a press conference after her BBC appearance on Easter Monday, Ms Hewitt was challenged about the claim by a journalist who accused her of mixing up maternity pay and childcare allowances. The female reporter said: “You have said the Tories have obviously cut their pledge on childcare. They have not. That is a cheap shot as far as I can see.”

But Ms Hewitt refused to admit she was wrong.

She said: “If you go back to the headlines at the time of the Conservative briefing a couple of months ago, what you will see is very clear headlines, that they persuaded people to write, saying £150 a week for childcare – that has now come down to £50 a week for childcare.”

But, you see, FactCheck did go back to the headlines at the time of the Conservative briefing:

FactCheck went back to the press cuttings relating to the Tory proposals in November and the coverage made it very clear the £150 payment related to maternity pay and not help with childcare costs.

So she’s trying to weasel her way out of blatant lying by – erm – lying some more. Go Pat!

The official party response to this much-repeated lie?

We would accept that after they [the Conservatives] had done their press conference that particular claim is not something that we are going to continue to make. We will not continue to make that claim

So they’re not going to admit they were wrong, nor apologise for lying. But then, what more could we expect from Labour?

This post was filed under: Election 2005.

Show me the New Money!

FactCheck is on the case very quickly about Ruth Kelly’s promised £280m worth of ‘new money’ for school meals. Which was very kind of her, and somewhat convenient with Mr Oliver on Mr Blair’s doorstep.

But the truth will out, and usually quite quickly in an election campaign, so no-one was really surprised when Mr Blair later admitted

Of course it is part of the education budget, but it is still new in the sense that this is money now specifically allocated to school meals.

So does this make it new money? Short answer – no. They’re playing that age-old game of announcing the same money again and again. They’ve announced the education budget, and now they announce a subsidiary of that, claiming that it’s new money. As far as I can see, ‘new’ money is money that has not previously been announced.

But, of course, if I announce ‘I will spend a whopping £2 on fruit today’, and then another day announce ‘I have £1 of new money to increase the apple budget’, most people would take away the message that I’m going to spend £3, which is good for the election campaign when the opposition announce that they are only going to spend £2. But, of course, we would both be spending only £2, it’s just that I’ve announced my apples budget separately from my fruits budget, and so made the whole thing look like it’s worth more than it really is.

But then, isn’t that Labour policy through-and-through?

This post was filed under: Election 2005.

Please stop calling us Tories, say Tories

The Tories don’t want to be called that anymore, according to a letter by Michael Salter to all the major television channels. I think that’s pretty understandable. No doubt, the less favourable press (the Guardian included) will have tried to cast this as the Tories ditching their extensive history, and trying to appear ‘modern and funky’. But I doubt that’s what the issue really is: They’re just asking to be called by their party name. There’s little use in the Average Joe saying ‘I really like the Tories’ if they are then confused when voting to find that there is no ‘Tory’ candidate on the list.

I think that this measure is somewhat futile, especially since the news channels are always wanting ever-shorter headlines for their slugs (ITV and Sky) or astons (BBC News 24), and ‘Conservatives’ doesn’t fit the bill nearly as well as ‘Tories’. But it certainly makes sense to ask to be called by their proper name, and maybe it will reduce some of the ‘Tory’ references after all. Good luck to them.

This post was filed under: Election 2005.

Royal Mail says size matters in new charges

The cost of sending a book weighing more than 450 grammes first class could be cut from £1.50 to 85p as long as the package is less than 25mm thick but the price of sending light but awkwardly-shaped items such as posters could soar.

This seems like a very sensible move. After all, it must cost more to try and deal with a huge poster tube than with thick book. It cost me over £7 to send a book the other day, and it did occur to me that it’d only actually take up a very small space in a Royal Mail van, and it seems sensible for prices to be reformed to reflect this. For the first time in a long time, I think the Royal Mail are making the right move.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

BBC rejects Springer complaints

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

Plagiariser gets her comeupance

Some people would say that stories like that of Laura Krishna are cruel and unnecessary (indeed, some of the people commenting on that post appear to think so), but if these cases help in the fight against internet plagiarism then it can only be good news… though it’s not something that I’d do, personally, and perhaps it was not helpful to paste her full name and university on the internet, since this can only lead to over-zealous netizens causing undue unhappiness. Laura’s saga continues here, and ends here.

Update: 17th April 2006
It’s a little over a year since I posted this, but anyway…
The pages have moved, so I’ve updated the links above. Also, since the above was posted, A Week of Kindness have done three further follow-ups: Here, here, and here. Hope this helps someone!

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous.


This is an excellent idea – an independent website which will check the facts spouted by the politicians between now and the general election. Perhaps it will encourage our party leaders to be more honest in their speeches, instead of making false claims in order to scare voters into voting for them above the opposition parties. Perhaps it will mean that the leaders can no longer hide from the truth about their past performance behind some dodgily compiled selective statistics. Perhaps it will even stop the politicians from telling outright lies.

This is one site that’s going straight into my bookmark list (and this site’s sidebar), and I imagine I’ll be commenting on it quite often over the coming weeks… Right now, if you want some more background on the service, check out this Guardian article.

This post was filed under: Election 2005.

Tomato attack on Priminister

Harry Meade accepted an ill-spelt Public Order Act fixed penalty notice from the Metropolitan Police stating: “You threw a tomato at the Priminister (sic)”

It’s good to know that we’ve got such highly trained and skilled police officers protecting us from the terrors of tomato attacks. Personally, I think that Harry was probably wrong to accept the order, and should have contested it since he never threw anything at anybody known as the Priminister. But then, judging the level of intelligence demonstrated by Mr Meade through his actions and description of them, perhaps he never realised there was any mistake:

We spotted him (Mr Blair) pulling up in a black saloon at the back door. I managed to fire off two tomatoes and they hit the door frame of the building, splattering his suit with juice and seeds, which he brushed off. He looked very hacked off

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

Labour wants GPs to treat diabetes, arthritis and asthma

GPs will provide a wider range of services, taking in areas which were once the preserve of traditional hospital care under government plans unveiled today.

This seems like an excellent idea, given how many GPs we have sitting around doing nothing. When I phone my GP, he practically begs me to come down because he’s bored out of his brain.

But seriously, how does John ‘Attack Dog’ Reid really expect to be able to squeeze even more people into the GP queue, especially when he’s busy encouraging GPs to aboloish their appointment systems? People with chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) inevitably need regular care, which lends itself to an appointment system, not the “phone-up-on-the-day” system that Reid is advocating for GP Practices in order to meet his waiting list targets.

At the same time as announcing a whole raft of new responsibilities for GPs to take on, he’s also announcing

I want to free up our GPs to be all they can be in providing services of a wider range, more conveniently, to patients.

And don’t forget today’s other NHS story:

The NHS is failing to provide adequate family doctor services for patients needing emergency care outside of normal office hours, it emerged today.

So, to summarise, we don’t have enough GPs to go around. Labour’s way of fixing this is to force a whole new set of responsibilities and patients onto GPs, hence freeing them up to provide better services more conveniently to patients.

And Labour say the Conservatives’ plans don’t add up.

This post was filed under: Election 2005.

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