# Datasets:guardian_authorship

Languages: en
Dataset Preview
author (class label)topic (class label)article (string)
0 (catherinebennett)
0 (Politics)
0 (catherinebennett)
0 (Politics)
0 (catherinebennett)
0 (Politics)
0 (catherinebennett)
0 (Politics)
0 (catherinebennett)
0 (Politics)
0 (catherinebennett)
0 (Politics)
0 (catherinebennett)
0 (Politics)
0 (catherinebennett)
0 (Politics)
0 (catherinebennett)
0 (Politics)
Have we all gone mad? Even madder, that is, than our leader, who is now widely considered to be at best "rambling" (Correlli Barnett), at worst, a "plausible psychopath" (Prospect, The New Statesman)? Even madder than Blair's enemy, the no less totally doolally Clare Short? Yet more raving bonkers than Blair's potential successor, the "psychologically flawed" Gordon Brown (diagnosis, courtesy Dr A Campbell)? Still more barking than the "disturbed and dangerous" (Mail on Sunday) Campbell himself, who presides, according to one mental health professional, over a Downing Street "on the verge of a classic trauma syndrome"? We have. Difficult as it is to keep up with developments in the fastmoving world of amateur psychiatry, there seems to be a general agreement that one of the very maddest things anyone could possibly do, during this period of intense disillusion with Blair, is conclude that it might be an idea to replace him with someone else. Rebuking dissidents for their silliness last weekend, the Observer's Andrew Rawnsley said it "makes you wonder who most needs a session in the psychiatrist's chair". Supposing he is right and to go off Blair is to be insane, it is quite worrying, isn't it? Voter on couch: Doctor, doctor - I don't think I'd vote for Blair again. Am I going mad?" Doctor: "Yes." If the prime minister were not himself a signatory to the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Changing Minds campaign, with its ambition to combat "inaccurate representation, in the media and elsewhere, based on stigmatising attitudes and stereotypes ('nutter', 'psycho', 'schizo')...", we might anticipate real problems in finding adequate beds and medication for the thousands of people who will not forgive Blair for making monkeys of them. Even contented Blairites who concede that such disaffection need not, by itself, indicate progressive mental debility, are apt to dismiss any talk of replacing Blair as sheer folly. "Why try to change the most successful leader in the Labour party's history?", as David Blunkett put it recently. So often and so confidently does this claim trip off his supporters' tongues that one tends to forget that Harold Wilson won four elections to Blair's two. And that if Blair has won bigger majorities, the latter was achieved after the smallest turnout since 1918. Moreover, if the "most successful" claim can, according to certain parameters, be justified, what does it actually mean? That Blair will therefore always be identified as successful, no matter how low his former supporters hold him in esteem? That he can never be held responsible for any subsequent mistakes, however grievous, or for the capital he has failed to make from all this unprecedented success? That he can do no wrong? If I understand Blunkett's defence of Blair, past political success is now taken to confer life-long immunity from failure or competition. Because he ditched Clause 4 and secured a minimum wage, Blair has earned the right to more reverential treatment than, say, Churchill enjoyed after winning the war, or Margaret Thatcher received from her colleagues, having also made her party seemingly unassailable. One recalls that even the achievements of Caesar were not enough to mollify Brutus and co; rather as Suetonius put it, "his other actions and words so turn the scale, that it is thought that he abused his power and was justly slain." Given that Blair's critics are only discussing replacing him one day, rather than stabbing him to death in the capitol, it is hard to understand the pre-emptively Mark Antony-ish tone of his allies, with their accusations of lunacy: "O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason... " Would Blair be so heroic a loss? Would we, after he had gone, find ourselves pining for his dashing band of cronies, or wishing his successor could also go round bestriding the narrow world like a Colossus, or yearning for a figure who cared for us so much that his voice often cracked with emotion? Perhaps we would. The more one attempts to understand why, no matter how much Blair might disappoint, the prospect of his departure from the political scene should be so unbearable, the more this fear of losing him seems an unwholesome but not altogether surprising response to his own cult of personality. Urged, repeatedly, to believe in Blair's self-belief and dedication, we have dutifully put our faith in him. Although doubters cannot, in the absence of much political theory beyond "what works", be called heretics, they can be made to feel like traitors, Judases and ingrates. What would we be without him? Maybe, just as children are meant to heed Hilaire Belloc's admonition - "And always keep a-hold of Nurse, for fear of finding something worse" - we are simply anxious about being led by someone who is not Blair, the saviour of his party. My own solution, when either sentimentality or fear of the unknown strikes in this way, is to remember how smartly Blair has evicted individuals, from Peter Mandelson to Derry Irvine, the penultimate lord chancellor, in whom he himself has been disappointed. Without a doubt, whoever finally succeeds Blair will be more boring. He, or she, could hardly cut so handsome a figure, be so proficient at acting or believe, so sincerely, in a semi-spiritual mission to reforge the nation's destiny (exact details TBC). Is it completely mad, however, to think they might be as good, or even better, at housekeeping?<BR><BR><B>Jeffrey's preposterous taste </B><BR><BR>Although, for the most part, Jeffrey Archer's second batch of prison diaries simply confirm what was obvious from the first instalment - that his sentence did nothing but aggravate his existing self-importance - there is, however, one detail which may be of interest to any art historians who have been tempted, over the years, to believe his lagship's oft-repeated claims to be a connoisseur. <BR><BR>Having heard, from a fellow prisoner, a drug-dealer, that paintings by his Colombian countryman, Fernando Botero might become available to the right person at a knock-down price, Archer is keen as ever to make a deal. <BR><BR>Any work by Botero will do, although Archer becomes very excited when he finally receives a photograph of a painting called The Card Players, featuring a particularly massive naked bum, and proceeds to bid $400,000 for it from his cell, without further inspection. He notes, with satisfaction, that "prices may be shaky after the September 11 atrocities, which happened just over a week ago". <BR><BR>Alas, even with Osama's help, prices are not low enough for Archer and his bid fails. Although he is unlikely, without the help of the drug runner, to be able to afford any other work by Botero (an artist neatly described by Brian Sewell as "the preposterous Colombian-Mexican-Parisian whose inflated balloon figures some giants of the art market take seriously as art") the story will no doubt inspire other dealers to whom it may suggest that the way to awaken Archer's covetousness is not so much the appearance of any work of art, nor its provenance, but stealthy allusions to the dodges and low cunning necessary to get his hands on it. 0 (catherinebennett) 0 (Politics) The Daily Mail despairs of Cherie Blair. True, even when the woman passed for semi-rational, it never had much time for her, but in the past week, dismayed by her appetite for the manifestly bogus, the paper has focused repeatedly on what an editorial called her "lack of judgment". Lynda Lee-Potter diagnosed her as "gullible, bordering on the cranky when it comes to alternative medicine, homeopathy, gurus and the power of crystals and rocks". And in a special investigation of this gullible borderline crank "the Weird World of Cherie" went into disdainful detail about her allegedly "increasing" dependence on a Dorking-based medium called Sylvia. "The fact that the prime minister's wife faxes questions to the spirit world is at best bizarre, but at worst deeply worrying," wrote Paul Harris. "What's she going to ask them? Should we go to war with Iraq? It is rather an unusual way to organise your future." It most certainly is. But no more so, perhaps, than the Daily Mail's own enthusiasm for another purveyor of occult intelligence, one Michael Drosnin, author of a pre-millennium bestseller called The Bible Code. Throughout the week, alongside bulletins from the weird world of Cherie, the Mail has been treating its readers to lengthy extracts from Drosnin's sequel, Bible Code 2: The Countdown, in which the author rounds up a few scary predictions he forgot to mention earlier. For him, as for so many other professional purveyors of doom, September 11 came as thrilling confirmation that the Apocalypse is - hadn't they told us so all along? - a conflagration just waiting to happen. "All the evidence seems to suggest that the globe will be in a state of perpetual conflict until the year 2006... " His threats concluded yesterday with the clinching revelation that the bible code is the work of visiting aliens, who "arrived here on Earth in a spacecraft". It is thanks to them, the Daily Mail presumably believes, that Drosnin is now able to share the warnings of al-Qaida's activities which he discovered in the aftermath of 9/11. "First, the Bible Code predicted the attacks on the Twin Towers", it trumpeted on Monday's front page, alongside a handy aide memoire: a mugshot of Bin Laden. "Now, it warns of nuclear war. Dare we ignore this message?" Ooh, I don't know. As Harris puts it, it does seem "rather an unusual way to organise your future". Like Cherie, whose relationship with her medium is described as "decidedly long-term", the Daily Mail's reliance on Drosnin and his team of gifted aliens goes back a while, to 1997, when it serialised his first, highly successful attempt to use the bible codes to cash in on premillennial tension. His technique, borrowed from a devout Israeli mathematician, is to search for names "hidden" in the Bible, using a computer to try out equidistant letter sequences. It may be, the Torah being so very long, that it contains a lot of interesting stuff about Lynda Lee-Potter or Alan Partridge, but being a serious person, Drosnin stuck to searching for politicians. When he searched for Yitzhak Rabin, for instance, the name duly surfaced, with the letters spaced 4,772 characters apart. Once the letters have been arranged on a grid, in whatever direction - upwards, diagonally, backwards - turns out to be most rewarding, bible code experts then search the surrounding text for phrases or words that might offer added prophetic meaning. Clinton, for instance, could be made to appear near "hidden secret, lover of maidservant". Drosnin was exultant. "That's as close as the Old Testament gets to 'young female intern'. Rabin, on the other hand, could be made to intersect with the Hebrew words "a murderer who murders". Thus it is Drosnin's boast to have predicted Rabin's murder. His prediction of Netanyahu's assassination is less often advertised. Trying to locate the exact date of Armageddon, back in 1997, proved equally tricky. "There is no way to know whether the code is predicting a war in 2000 or 2006," he decided. "The year 2000 is encoded twice, but 2006 is mathematically the best match." Can't be too careful, eh? Defending this codswallop back in 1997, Drosnin said: "When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I'll believe them. An enterprising Australian computer scientist called Brendan McKay promptly used the bible codes technique on Moby Dick to find the names of a variety of assassinated prime ministers, including Indira Gandhi, Rene Moawad, Abraham Lincoln and Yitzhak Rabin. Sadly, a search of Moby Dick also predicted Michael Drosnin's own death, by a nail through the heart: "Mr Drosnin will be killed either in Cairo or Athens. Probably both places will play a part, but our skills in reading the secret codes are not yet advanced enough to say more." In 1999, McKay also co-authored a comprehensive repudiation of the bible codes in the journal Statistical Science. "A brief summary of the result of our very extensive investigation", he writes, "is that all the alleged scientific evidence for the codes is bunk." A view resoundingly endorsed in a "Mathematicians' Statement on the Bible Codes", available on the net, in which scores of academics, including John Allen Paulos, agree that "the almost unanimous opinion of those in the scientific world who have studied the question is that the theory is without foundation." The pages of the Daily Mail, however, inhabit a quite different, Cherie-style universe, whose laws allow for Drosnin's many critics to be blithely ignored or baselessly discredited. "Many people scoffed," says the paper, "until they saw the astonishing array of modern events spelled out in the ancient Hebrew letters." With Drosnin also rewriting the past - "the case for the code has just kept getting stronger" - many of the Mail's more gullible readers may now be considering cashing in their endowment policies. For unless Drosnin can locate the aliens' code from its resting place under the Dead Sea, it seems that our lives will probably end horribly in 2006. Photographs of Bin Laden, gas masks and burning towers offer a few, surpassingly tasteless hints of what we can expect. Maybe a nuclear holocaust, Drosnin speculates, or "a plague that could kill one-third of the world's population". Hard to say. Whatever it is, only he knows where the aliens left the key "to unlock the code and see our entire future", but the King of Jordan won't let him investigate! "Time is running out - fast... " Is it? Crikey. If consulting the dead were not such a deplorably gullible and cranky thing to do, one might almost be tempted to get a second opinion from Cherie's spirit guide in Dorking. Does Sylvia accept inquiries from the general public, as well as the prime minister's wife? If so, I have two questions. Should we go to war with Iraq? And can we believe anything we read in the Daily Mail? 1 (georgemonbiot) 0 (Politics) Saturday is the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. The nuclear powers are commemorating it in their own special way: by seeking to ensure that the experiment is repeated.As Robin Cook showed in his column last week, the British government appears to have decided to replace our Trident nuclear weapons, without consulting parliament or informing the public. It could be worse than he thinks. He pointed out that the atomic weapons establishment at Aldermaston has been re-equipped to build a new generation of bombs. But when this news was first leaked in 2002 a spokesman for the plant insisted the equipment was being installed not to replace Trident but to build either mini-nukes or warheads that could be used on cruise missiles.If this is true it means the government is replacing Trident and developing a new category of boil-in-the-bag weapons. As if to ensure we got the point, Geoff Hoon, then the defence secretary, announced before the leak that Britain would be prepared to use small nukes in a pre-emptive strike against a non-nuclear state. This put us in the hallowed company of North Korea.The Times, helpful as ever, explains why Trident should be replaced. "A decision to leave the club of nuclear powers," it says, "would diminish Britain's international standing and influence." This is true, and it accounts for why almost everyone wants the bomb. Two weeks ago, on concluding their new nuclear treaty, George Bush and the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh announced that "international institutions must fully reflect changes in the global scenario that have taken place since 1945. The president reiterated his view that international institutions are going to have to adapt to reflect India's central and growing role." This translates as follows: "Now that India has the bomb it should join the UN security council."It is because nuclear weapons confer power and status on the states that possess them that the non-proliferation treaty, of which the UK was a founding signatory, determines two things: that the non-nuclear powers should not acquire nuclear weapons, and that the nuclear powers should "pursue negotiations in good faith on ... general and complete disarmament". Blair has unilaterally decided to rip it up.But in helping to wreck the treaty we are only keeping up with our friends across the water. In May the US government launched a systematic assault on the agreement. The summit in New York was supposed to strengthen it, but the US, led by John Bolton - the undersecretary for arms control (someone had a good laugh over that one) - refused even to allow the other nations to draw up an agenda for discussion. The talks collapsed, and the treaty may now be all but dead. Needless to say, Bolton has been promoted: to the post of US ambassador to the UN. Yesterday Bush pushed his nomination through by means of a "recess appointment": an undemocratic power that allows him to override Congress when its members are on holiday.Bush wanted to destroy the treaty because it couldn't be reconciled with his new plans. Last month the Senate approved an initial$4m for research into a "robust nuclear earth penetrator" (RNEP). This is a bomb with a yield about 10 times that of the Hiroshima device, designed to blow up underground bunkers that might contain weapons of mass destruction. (You've spotted the contradiction.) Congress rejected funding for it in November, but Bush twisted enough arms this year to get it restarted. You see what a wonderful world he inhabits when you discover that the RNEP idea was conceived in 1991 as a means of dealing with Saddam Hussein's biological and chemical weapons. Saddam is pacing his cell, but the Bushites, like the Japanese soldiers lost in Malaysia, march on. To pursue his war against the phantom of the phantom of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, Bush has destroyed the treaty that prevents the use of real ones.It gets worse. Last year Congress allocated funding for something called the "reliable replacement warhead". The government's story is that the existing warheads might be deteriorating. When they show signs of ageing they can be dismantled and rebuilt to a "safer and more reliable" design. It's a pretty feeble excuse for building a new generation of nukes, but it worked. The development of the new bombs probably means the US will also breach the comprehensive test ban treaty - so we can kiss goodbye to another means of preventing proliferation.But the biggest disaster was Bush's meeting with Manmohan Singh a fortnight ago. India is one of three states that possess nuclear weapons and refuse to sign the non-proliferation treaty (NPT). The treaty says India should be denied access to civil nuclear materials. But on July 18 Bush announced that "as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology, India should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states". He would "work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India" and "seek agreement from Congress to adjust US laws and policies". Four months before the meeting the US lifted its south Asian arms embargo, selling Pakistan a fleet of F-16 aircraft, capable of a carrying a wide range of missiles, and India an anti-missile system. As a business plan, it's hard to fault.Here then is how it works. If you acquire the bomb and threaten to use it you will qualify for American exceptionalism by proxy. Could there be a greater incentive for proliferation?The implications have not been lost on other states. "India is looking after its own national interests," a spokesman for the Iranian government complained on Wednesday. "We cannot criticise them for this. But what the Americans are doing is a double standard. On the one hand they are depriving an NPT member from having peaceful technology, but at the same time they are cooperating with India, which is not a member of the NPT." North Korea (and this is the only good news around at the moment) is currently in its second week of talks with the US. While the Bush administration is doing the right thing by engaging with Pyongyang, the lesson is pretty clear. You could sketch it out as a Venn diagram. If you have oil and aren't developing a bomb (Iraq) you get invaded. If you have oil and are developing a bomb (Iran) you get threatened with invasion, but it probably won't happen. If you don't have oil, but have the bomb, the US representative will fly to your country and open negotiations.The world of George Bush's imagination comes into being by government decree. As a result of his tail-chasing paranoia, assisted by Tony Blair's cowardice and Manmohan Singh's opportunism, the global restraint on the development of nuclear weapons has, in effect, been destroyed in a few months. The world could now be more vulnerable to the consequences of proliferation than it has been for 35 years. Thanks to Bush and Blair, we might not go out with a whimper after all.
1 (georgemonbiot)
0 (Politics)
1 (georgemonbiot)
0 (Politics)
1 (georgemonbiot)
0 (Politics)
1 (georgemonbiot)
0 (Politics)
1 (georgemonbiot)
0 (Politics)
2 (hugoyoung)
0 (Politics)
2 (hugoyoung)
0 (Politics)
2 (hugoyoung)
0 (Politics)
2 (hugoyoung)
0 (Politics)
2 (hugoyoung)
0 (Politics)
2 (hugoyoung)
0 (Politics)
2 (hugoyoung)
0 (Politics)
2 (hugoyoung)
0 (Politics)
3 (jonathanfreedland)
0 (Politics)
3 (jonathanfreedland)
0 (Politics)
3 (jonathanfreedland)
0 (Politics)
3 (jonathanfreedland)
0 (Politics)
3 (jonathanfreedland)
0 (Politics)
3 (jonathanfreedland)
0 (Politics)
3 (jonathanfreedland)
0 (Politics)
3 (jonathanfreedland)
0 (Politics)
3 (jonathanfreedland)
0 (Politics)
4 (martinkettle)
0 (Politics)
4 (martinkettle)
0 (Politics)
4 (martinkettle)
0 (Politics)
4 (martinkettle)
0 (Politics)
4 (martinkettle)
0 (Politics)
4 (martinkettle)
0 (Politics)
4 (martinkettle)
0 (Politics)
5 (maryriddell)
0 (Politics)
5 (maryriddell)
0 (Politics)
5 (maryriddell)
0 (Politics)
5 (maryriddell)
0 (Politics)
5 (maryriddell)
0 (Politics)
5 (maryriddell)
0 (Politics)
By the time Posh Spice admitted that her lip ring was a fake, the piercing parlours of Britain had been inundated by imitators. 'She is a real cow,' said one hole-punched acolyte. 'She must have known fans would copy her.' Of course. Every time Posh's husband has some new variant personal topiary, a cloned army turns out with Mohican haircuts or half an eyebrow. Who knows better than the Beckhams that we are the most susceptible nation on earth? The Government, for one. A policy consultant to the Department of Health claims that EastEnders and Coronation Street have replaced the State as the main source of sex education for children. Simultaneously, Tony Blair is being urged by liberal commentators to borrow his thinking on teenage pregnancy and lone parents from more dubious sources. Bill Clinton's tough love is working, according to two US think-tanks. Compulsion and welfare withdrawal have wrought a miracle. Fewer teenagers get pregnant. More single mothers go out to work. Left-wing Jeremiahs predicting misery and poverty have been proved wrong. Except they haven't. The think-tank findings, like Clinton's initiative, are nothing new. We have known for some time that the US cut its welfare bill by $9 billion between 1992 and 1998. That period showed a 40 per cent reduction in those claiming benefit, and the number of lone parents working rose from 44 to 57 per cent. We also know the dire trends underpinning the headline results. Coercion and a five-year lifetime limit on claiming welfare meant that the poorest were left to sink. Of the supposed success stories, almost half of those who found work earned less than they got on benefit. Two-thirds of welfare-leavers in Wisconsin lived below the US poverty line. A moral climate in which parents go on Oprah to renounce their 'welfare mother' status as if they are kicking heroin has no resonance in Britain. Nor is there much appetite for a system that forces mothers to return to live with hostile parents or violent partners as the alternative to destitution. But, beyond all that, there is no crisis here. As One Parent Families points out, lone parent families have stabilised at around 1.7 million. Teenage pregnancies are the lowest since 1994. The divorce rate is falling. Big problems remain, but the statistics do not invite panic, let alone a return to a sterile quest to manipulate social behaviour by economic whip-cracking. The debate over whether such tactics could work was held and lost in the Eighties. And yet, curiously, the new American research has not been questioned here. Its findings, whiskery and disturbing, have been greeted effusively. Blair is being chivvied to abandon his crusade to eliminate child poverty in favour of compulsion, cruelty and creating a new caste of the destitute. Why are we suddenly so gullible? The answer goes wider than social policy. Increasingly, we are trapped in a copycat culture that seeps into almost every area of life. Everyone, the theory goes, does everything better than us. We can't boil an egg unless Delia shows us how, or paint the spare bedroom in any shade of emulsion lacking the Carol Smillie imprimatur, or pull up a weed without first consulting Charlie Dimmock's breasts. A Radio Times survey last week claimed that more than one in two Britons does not necessarily need human contact but feels lonely if deprived of a television role model. Private reliance on the views and the guidance of strangers, however, is mild compared with the filching habit of the magpies in the public domain. Like a snoopy neighbour wanting the loan of a cup of sugar, the Government is continually on the borrow from next door. Required items for the national begging bowl this week include the following: 1. More foreign doctors and nurses, as usual. Plus French and German hospital beds for sprightly South-East dwellers. Sick and elderly northerners must continue, usefully, to clog up the waiting-lists that Alan Milburn needs as the chief rationing tool for an inadequate health service. 2. Some teachers. Lightly qualified Australian back-packers welcome, along with graduates from Africa and India. This, as the head of VSO has said, is not recruitment. It is looting by a country terrifyingly bereft of its own resources and ideas. Globalisation means a homogenised world of Starbucks, Gap and sponsored Labour Party conference events run like a Big Mac franchise, but that does not fully explain the deadweight of British dependency. Even last week's Zagat guide survey claiming that London is better than Paris for eating out fell short of an all-out endorsement of Britishness. Eight of the 10 highest-ranked restaurants are French-based. By way of reciprocity, the French are mad for Bottom and Ab Fab, all of which show the British as sad and manic losers. The reason that the copy movie, Absolument Fabuleux, has just bombed in French cinemas is partly because a self-confident nation can't emulate the savage self-satire engendered by a country undergoing a nervous collapse. The flipside of our insecurity is always bombast. We may see ourselves as Blair's 'new internationalists', imbued with chicken tikka massala multiculturalism, but the media mood is for xenophobia. Off go our football fans, a Union Jack-draped yobocracy encouraged to view the Germans as sausage-chomping towel tyrants. In come euro notes and we are invited to pity those who must forgo the Queen and Sir Edward Elgar for ugly modernity. The message is that we are too individualistic and our culture too distinctive ever to bow to bland uniformity. If only. We are the Arthur Daley of the planet, engaged in a global rip-off campaign that extends from pizza toppings to maths teachers. It isn't quite, as Samuel Johnson said, that almost all absurdity of conduct arises 'from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble'. The additional problem is that we steal the wrong things from the wrong people. Gordon Brown, a Class A raider, quite usefully poached American schemes ranging from the Roosevelt-style New Deal to the tax breaks that created the US enterprise explosion of the Nineties as central planks of his policy. More dubiously, Jack Straw got his 'three strikes and you're out' automatic minimum sentences from the States. Labour politicians have bought US policy like trans-atlantic shoppers stockpiling tights from Bloomingdales. But the sprees for fresh ideas are less rewarding now, and when a good one does emerge, notably Bob Kiley's Tube plan, the Chancellor insists, perversely, on a botched alternative. Copying is fine, but we need new, European icons. Germany demonstrates why proper status for teachers is the only answer to our schools crisis. France shows what a better health service can do. Holland suggests the wisdom, stubbornly rejected by us, of vaccinating against a foot-and-mouth epidemic. Our railways crumble, tourism slumps and even the body-piercing industry has been dealt a nasty blow by Posh. We are forced to import our teachers and export our sick. When we need new ideas so fast, the only answer is to abandon we-know-best smugness and beef up our copycat culture. The time has come for kleptomania. 5 (maryriddell) 0 (Politics) Babies and elections have always been, in the jargon of the moment, contiguous. This time round, there is a difference. Now babymania can jump species. Phoenix the calf, an emblem of Disney cuteness among mountains of scorched flesh, gets the livestock cull curtailed. Less flamboyantly, the 750,000 human infants born every year in Britain also score a victory. Each will soon have a dowry of 250 apiece, rising to 500 for the poorest. With three further top-ups of 100 and a government promise to match any family contributions, the least well-off 18-year-olds should end up with a modest nest egg, courtesy of the four fairy godfathers of government. David Blunkett is the political driver for the Child Trust Fund, successfully piloted in the US over the past decade and imported by the left-wing think tank, the IPPR. Alistair Darling is also keen on asset-building. An ominous silence hung over the Treasury when baby bonds were first mooted before Gordon Brown eventually proclaimed himself in favour of a plan designed to ensure that every newborn will enter the world with the word 'Prudence' practically stamped on his or her brow. As for Tony Blair, this idea had everything. To the Right, it offered the camphorous odour of Thatcher's mothballed credo of a property-owning democracy. Baby-bonders would, in the Tory view, be the spiritual heirs to the Sids who snapped up shares and council houses. To the Left, it bore the equally comforting whiff of progressive universalism. While the scheme's foundation, on the shaky faultline where Beveridge and neo-liberalism collide, rendered it acceptable to almost all, the plan has a special resonance for Blair. In his 1999 conference speech, he described two babies, side by side in the labour ward and destined, if he had his wish, to live in a meritocratic society where all began life on an equal footing. Baby bonds match the policy to the dream. Better still, a scheme costing a modest 1 billion a year offers a branding unbuyable even by a government that splurges 62 million on three months' worth of advertising. This, the subtext reads, is an administration that loves poor children. And still, our child poverty rate is the third highest in the industrialised world: 100,000 more children were plunged into hardship during the first two years of the Blair government. Although changes to tax and benefits have reversed that trend, more than three million children will remain below the breadline at the election. Of those, 600,000 of them could have been removed from income poverty if the 2.4bn forgone by last year's cut in the basic tax rate had been used to increase benefits. Regressive taxes on cigarettes and petrol continue to clobber the poor, as does the Social Fund. The Social Security Select Committee recently reported that the fund, a model of Dickensian parsimony, exacerbates child poverty because parents cannot afford to repay crisis loans for items such as fridges and cookers. So far, the Government has resisted subsequent calls for a review. As ever, the children of poor households continue to do worse at school and to get the worst-paid jobs, or none. By their late teens, that damage may be irreversible. Certainly the notion that 18-year-olds will emerge from a chrysalis of poverty into fully formed trustafarians, ready to spend with care (rather than to squander their money on drugs and drink as their rich-list equivalents tend to) seems unproven. Nor are parents struggling to buy food and shoes likely to be sustained by the knowledge that their children are custodians of untouchable funds worth several thousand pounds. Perhaps such caveats count for little against a suspicion that approval from those debarred by extreme poverty from saving, including the seven out of 10 lone parents who currently have no back-up funds at all, is not the applause Labour most desires. Despite last week's volte-face allowing more generous parental leave, women of all backgrounds remain sceptical of a government perceived to have done too little on childcare provision and flexible working hours. So how helpful to have news programmes full of vox pops involving wards full of new 'mums' (not a father in sight, even on politically correct Channel 4 News ) offering warm plaudits to Blair's largesse. Though it would be cynical to accuse the Government of blatantly touting for votes among those impressed by its drive towards child equality, there is no doubt that some remain more equal than others. One minute, the Government is offering Hans Christian Andersen fairytale outcomes, in which all must have equal prospects. In the next, it sketches cautionary tales worthy of a Hoffman or a Belloc, on what must happen to those corrupted by the forces of exclusion. Slap a curfew or a school exclusion order on them. March 'yobs' to cashpoints or incarcerate them in one of our scandalous young offenders' institutions to rot or, if especially unlucky, to die. Tony Blair's latest wheeze, to reward non-offending teenagers in high crime areas with vouchers for CDs or trainers, looks either like a belated balance of carrot to stick or the feeblest of pre-election gimmicks. It may also be a sign that Blair, an expert on wayward adolescents and infant innocents alike, has a Dr Spockish urge to treat the nation's children as his own. The trouble is that parenting is a haphazard, emotional affair, whereas politics is structured and calculating. Conflate the two and the upshot is the liberal press gurgling over Blair's plans while the Daily Telegraph, simultaneously, infers the extinction of the welfare state and the advent of a US-style residuum. The suspicion is that Blair is bowing to the perception that the views of Left and Right must, like the rich child and the poor, be equally indulged. In addition, political entrail-reading usefully magnifies the scope of what's really on offer. Baby bonds, and an allied savings scheme for poor adults, are a valuable gesture, but a tiny one. Suggesting that they are the foundation of a DIY society is as unrealistic as hoping to buy Chatsworth with Green Shield stamps. Last week, Blair's personal think tank filled in the gaps on an anti-poverty strategy. The Performance and Innovation Unit urged him to increase income and inheritance tax and end the middle-class stranglehold on getting the best education. A meritocratic society depended, it said, on high social mobility and the absence of any association between class and opportunity. Such truisms bear repetition in a week when Blair plans to stick to his 1997 pledge not to put up income tax while his 'People's Peers', a Gilbert and Sullivan array of toffery, make the notion of democratic appointments look risible. As for baby bonds, the enthusiasm of its reception should make Labour bolder and less disingenuous. Though the sketch is vague and the budget small, we would love it to work. But voters also know that children's lives cannot be transformed unless direct taxes rise. Blair should flesh out his trust plan, reform the Social Fund, step up the crusade to end child poverty by 2020 and concede that notions of forging equality on the cheap belong in the realm of storks and gooseberry bushes. 5 (maryriddell) 0 (Politics) Robin cook likes a curry. I remember sitting opposite him in the Foreign Office canteen one lunchtime, watching him demolish a pile of tweed-coloured slurry draped over a gaudy heap of pilau rice. Personal preference may have informed his decision to spurn the Chinese takeaway (its image dented by foot and mouth) or the doner kebab (never a winner with the River Cafe set) and single out, during his speech to the Social Market Foundation, chicken tikka massala as a 'true British national dish'. How right Mr Cook is. There is something quintessentially British about the diner who piles out of the pub, 10 pints of lager to the wind, in search of an Indian meal to fortify him against a night of aggro. Nothing conjures up some aspects of our national culture more effectively than tanked-up, Union Jack-flapping soccer fans belting out the 1998 World Cup anthem of 'Vindaloo'. Even at the genteel end of the market, the flock wallpaper and acid lighting of the average high-street Indian takeaway evoke exhausting hours and low pay for its staff rather than get-ahead vibrancy. Cook might have been on safer ground if he had stipulated stuffed crust pizza or pot noodles as our culinary emblem of multiculturalism. Alternatively, he could have recalled that politicians seeking to unfurl a vision of a certain type of Britain rarely sound convincing, whether their theme is cricket on the village green and spinsters cycling to Communion or an ode to an onion bhaji. Still, in some ways, the Baldwin of Brick Lane was successful. Given the febrile mood of the Opposition, all antidotes to racism are welcome. As a bonus, Cook's catchy way into the race debate provoked predictable and gravy-curdling wrath from beef Wellington fans incensed by his statement that there was no such thing as an 'ethnically pure' British race. Smoking out racism, in the Tory party and its supporters, would be more rewarding, but for the fact that the cheerleaders for Anglo-Saxon purity are so pathetic. John Townend was unknown before his recent anti-immigrant speech. Sir Richard Body, author of the xenophobically titled book, England For the English , exudes as much Powellite menace as Peter Rabbit. James Cran and Eric Forth, opponents of the Commission for Racial Equality's code of electoral conduct, hardly add up to Jorg Haider and Jean-Marie Le Pen. Michael Portillo, the most senior non-signatory, is not a racist but a tactically- brilliant Judas whose gesture will endear him to all those Tories who cannot decide whether William Hague or the bossy CRE appals them more. Hague is not a racist either. He is something almost worse, an opportunist who decided that it would be useful to mimic one. Hence his 'foreign land' speech, his authorisation of a leaflet on 'bogus asylum-seekers' and his swipe against the Macpherson Report. Some time ago, Andrew Lansley, the former Tory election strategist, told this newspaper that 'immigration played particularly well in the tabloids in the 1992 general election' and 'has more potential to hurt'. Now the pain is all Hague's. His attempt to be both asylum-seekers' scourge and immigrants' champion looks as fake as Lansley's assertion that his leader never played the race card. Of course he did, but so has Cook; not through his message but by his omissions. In particular, his cosy, curry-house scenario seemed oddly pitched in the week when white and Asian communities in the north of England went to war. Whatever racial unrest exists in Britain today is less a product of Tory rants than of the reality of life in Britain under a Labour administration which, as the Foreign Secretary did not say, has too often been a poor deliverer on issues involving race. Foot-dragging over the promised review of the iniquitous voucher scheme for asylum-seekers continues. The wider policy shambles has prompted the Council of Europe to castigate Britain for its treatment of migrants. While Hague might have been even harsher, the measure must be outcome, not intent. Cook, like all his senior colleagues, is a committed anti-racist. Personal credo does not, however, entitle him or any of them to paint a vista of a wish-list Utopia and pass it off as the real thing. Modern Britain, however tolerant and well-integrated, is far from a frictionless haven. As Ofsted discovered last year, the failure gap between Afro-Caribbean and Pakistani pupils and their white counterparts is nearly double that of a decade ago. Students from ethnic minorities have a much lower chance of getting a job than white graduates. In one recent week on BBC2, the only non-white faces in the channel's top 10 programmes (combined viewing figures of 33 million) were those of cartoon characters in The Simpsons. While government cannot be held responsible for who joins Charlie Dimmock on Ground Force , there is, in areas it can influence, too great a mismatch between rhetoric and results. Despite the eagerness by Jack Straw and the Metropolitan police commissioner to apply the findings of Sir William Macpherson, old tensions reappear as the second anniversary of the report approaches. In Bradford last week, a fight at a Hindu wedding erupted into a car-burning, window-smashing, battle between white and Asian youths which echoed the devastating 1995 riot. In Oldham, the tribal battles between young Bangladeshi and Pakistani men have mutated into a new delineation of aggression. According to police, more than half of the 572 racist attacks recorded in the town during the last year have been against whites. However the battle lines are drawn, the causes remain a constant dirge of unemployment, overcrowding and bleak futures. An exponential rise in the nationwide reporting of racist crime, up by 107 per cent over 12 months, no longer looks like Macpherson-inspired openness. It looks like more racist crime. That is not to criticise Sir William or those who seek to implement his recommendations. It is to say that there is a vast, unbridged gulf between semantics and solutions. Presentationally the Government (asylum-seekers apart) has been a model of correctness, but signatures on CRE declarations and benedictions to Macpherson are the easy bits. They are also camouflage on the uncomfortable reality that, at a time when racial harmony is lauded and the economy is strong, too little has been achieved. The conditions that create inner-city brawlers and school failures are also the complex issues of economic and social polarisation that fail to interest the Tories. The measure of their cynicism is that both Hague and Portillo have now, in different ways, mortgaged race issues to personal ambition. As for the Government, Robin Cook's vision of a multicultural nation sitting down to break poppadoms together does not quite reflect a landscape in which teachers, police officers, politicians and the judiciary remain disproportionately white. A Conservative Party that shows no sign of being in a position to ensure that such unfairness prevails looks less worrying than the prospect of a second-term government failing to alchemise its wishes on racial equality into results. Squandered influence is always more dangerous than none. 6 (nickcohen) 0 (Politics) Yesterday, about 300 hunts were roaming Britain. If you saw one, you may have wondered if parliament truly had banned hunting with dogs a year ago. Almost everything would have looked as it had always done. Perhaps a few of the hunters would have set off early to lay a trail and one of them could have been carrying a falcon. But the riders would still have charged over the fields and their dogs would still have chased any fox that crossed their path.The anti-hunting law that aroused so much passion is now producing contempt and indifference. Only one hunt has closed and hunters behave as if the 700 hours of parliamentary debate that preceded the ban was so much wasted breath. Those of us who weren't caught up by the passions of either side are seeing the obvious flaw in the legislation work itself out.The difficulty was always that the anti-hunters weren't trying to protect foxes, but punish a particular type of hunter: the caricature Tory toff with a red coat and redder face. As foxes go for lambs and chickens, parliament couldn't declare them a protected species and be done with it. So today, a farmer can still shoot or snare a fox, but if he goes after it with more than two dogs, the police will arrest him. That's the theory. In practice, the police have arrested hardly anyone.Lord knows, I find the class hatred behind the hunting of the hunters easy to understand. Britain is the only rich country not to have had a modern revolution. In France, America, even Ireland, hunting arouses no great opposition because the aristocracy's estates were broken up in the 18th and 19th centuries, or were never there in the first place, in the case of America.The typical continental smallholding, with a few acres on which the owner can do as he or she pleases, is a rarity here. This land is not our land but the property of great families or the Forestry Commission and the National Trust. Naturally, its owners are resented. I also understand how after 18 years of Conservative rule, Labour MPs wanted to get their own back on the Tories and, indeed, on Tony Blair, who had made them to give up so much they held dear. Nevertheless, their vengeance is looking futile: a pretence that the parliamentary Labour party could still fight a war Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair had won. The MPs who forced through the ban are starting to resemble an old drunk pretending to be tough by flailing his fists in the air.Because their leglisation would not and could not protect foxes per se, hunters are exploiting all kinds of loopholes. As there is no ancient hatred of falconry in Britain, parliament allowed falconers to set off with an unlimited number of dogs to flush out mammals for birds of prey to swoop on. All right, said the hunts, we'll take a falcon with us.The law says the police have to prove that hunters intended to set their dogs on a fox, otherwise they would have to prosecute a pet owner whose dogs bolted in the country and killed a fox. All right, said the hunts, we will lay a trail for the hounds to follow and if they run off after a fox, we can say our intention was to have a drag hunt, not a fox hunt.The current issue of Horse & Hound contains an interview with one Graham Sirl, who says he despises the League Against Cruel Sports and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for running a lavish campaign that has now produced 'absolutely zero'.No surprise that Horse & Hound should condemn the ban as an absurd waste of parliament's time, you might think. And it wouldn't be surprising if Graham Sirl wasn't a former chief officer of the League Against Cruel Sports. He's not alone in giving up on the cause he once championed.In the past decade, the league has lost two chief executives, two chairmen, one treasurer and one regional head. All of them concluded that an effective ban would lead to the slaughter of foxes by farmers with guns who no longer wanted to keep them alive for the hunts to chase. I cannot think of another protest group that has seen so many of its officers go over to the other side. It is as if senior staff of Greenpeace regularly joined the board of Texaco.The people who are at the league, for the time being at any rate, told me they expected the police to collect evidence that the hunts are intentionally breaking the law and bring prosecutions soon. If they don't, their ban will join Margaret Thatcher's prohibition of the promotion of homosexuality and Jack Straw's curfews for children in that list of fatuous legislation that was designed to make vocal minorities feel good and succeeded only in bringing the law into disrepute.<b> A good man done down by ideology</b>It has long been the case that universities which depend on free speech have contained too many intellectuals who are ready to censor and howl down others. The forced resignation of Larry Summers as president of Harvard, however, takes the treason of the clerks to a new level.His critics hounded him out for being a sexist who believed that nature had made men better engineers and physicists than women. Even the BBC reported last week that he faced a second no-confidence vote because he had said women had less 'intrinsic aptitude' than men for science.He said nothing of the sort. What he did do, in January last year, was go into a long and complicated discussion about why there were more men than women at the very top in maths and physics. He was talking about the few thousand people in the world who understand, say, string theory and wondering aloud if nature or nurture accounted for the sexual imbalance.Maybe nature matters at the highest levels, or maybe breaks for childbirth and social pressures that push young women away from studying science fully explain the difference. Even if he got the emphasis wrong, it ought to a legitimate area for debate. But his enemies didn't want inquiries of any sort. They spun his remarks and pretended he had said that any woman mathematician or physicist had less intrinsic aptitude for science than a bloke in the pub, which is clearly nonsense.That their campaign was successful throws a little light on the cowardly response to the threats against Danish cartoonists from murderous tyrants and religious fruitcakes. When the intellectuals whose livelihoods depend on free thought won't stand up for it, why shouldn't editors and governments follow their lead and abase themselves before fanatics?<b>Oh Huhne, my hero</b>Who can save Britain from her many troubles? We need a leader who is strong and brave and can see through problems with X-ray vision.For years, Chris Huhne roared round London in his company BMW as if it were a Bondmobile with lead-free petrol.Last week, he suggested another comparison when he told the Mirror that his mother, Ann Murray, was an actress who had played Clark Kent's mother in one of the Superman movies.He was 'rather vague about which of the Superman films she was in,' the Mirror noted, and I couldn't find one with an Ann Murray in the cast list.On no account should this apparent lapse stop the Liberal Democrats making Huhne their leader. He may not be able to play the superhero, but he is shaping up to be a fine comic turn. 6 (nickcohen) 0 (Politics) I know your New Year's Day will not be complete until you have heard my predictions for 2006, so let me put you out of your misery. David Cameron's bubble will burst when the public realises he's a PR man flogging a shabby brand. Tony Blair will stay Prime Minister after a crash in the property market triggers a classic deflationary spiral that shreds Gordon Brown's reputation for fiscal competence.There will be a few jolly diversions from mass unemployment. Margaret Drabble and the Archbishop of Canterbury will stun literary London and the General Synod of the Church of England when they appear on I'm a Celebrity... In sport, Laughing Boy will delight the bookies when he comes in at 100-1 to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Meanwhile in America, Congress will impeach George W Bush after he...I could go on. As I write, I'm aware that all around me, my colleagues are going on. Read the comment pages of the newspapers or listen to radio presenters giving soft interviews to their fellow journalists and a fair chunk of what you will get is Mystic Meggery. It is hard enough to find out what has happened or is happening, and yet a cocksure media devote an unwarranted amount of time to announcing what will happen.We are not alone. Interest rates and fiscal policy are determined by the Bank of England's and Treasury's economic forecasts. Clairvoyants in the City direct their investors' money to companies that are themselves predicting what new lines will sell. The lives of British troops depend on predictions of the likely behaviour of Baathist and al-Qaeda terrorists. Forecasting is the motor which drives politics, economics, foreign policy and industry, while our private happiness can be determined by predictions on whether he or she will say 'yes' if we ask for a date.The mania for prophesy is easy to explain. You have to make guesses about the future to know what to do in the present. The same magical status the Romans gave the keepers of the sacred chickens goes to those who make a career out of it, so there is a strong incentive to pretend you have second sight.But here is something harder to understand. I know a lot about British politics and have only a passing interest in racing. The odds are, however, that I am more likely to get the winner of the Gold Cup right than foresee who will be in Downing Street next Christmas. Actually, it could be worse than that. My political predictions may be more reliable if I made random guesses than if I sat down and drew on my expertise.I can at least foretell my failings with confidence because of a remarkable study by Professor Philip E Tetlock of Berkeley University in California. Expert Political Judgment has been 20 years in the making. He began work in the Cold War when the future of the human race depended on predictions about how the Soviet Union would behave. Liberals lambasted Ronald Reagan for upping the pressure on the communists and warned that his arms race would lead to nuclear annihilation.Not so, as it turned out. Soviet power collapsed. Conservative hawks would have had every right to be satisfied had they not completely failed to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union because they refused to take Mikhail Gorbachov's reforms seriously.Tetlock finished his work during the Iraq crisis in which intelligence agencies failed to predict that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction worthy of the name. Liberal doves would have had every reason to be satisfied had not they completely failed to predict the success of the Iraqi elections.Over the decades in between, 284 experts in academia, government, think tanks and the media helped by giving him 83,361 forecasts not only on the future of the Soviet Union and American policy in the Gulf, but also on dozens of other public policy issues. They covered everything from the likelihood of Pakistan and North Korea obtaining nuclear weapons to whether Aids or refugee movements would create a humanitarian crisis; from how technology firms would perform in the dotcom bubble to whether countries would abide by their Kyoto commitments to limit greenhouse gases.Tetlock's research reached a blunt conclusion. A chimpanzee throwing darts at a dartboard with a selection of answers pinned to it was more likely to get it right than an eminent professor or distinguished pundit. Indeed, the more eminent the experts, the more likely they were to be wrong. Knowing a little was often better than knowing a lot, and specialisation in the minutiae of a subject was subject to the law of diminishing returns. Because experts invested so much energy in attaining knowledge, they could not accept thoughts that contradicted what they had learnt and staked their reputations on.To prove his point, Tetlock tells the story of students at Yale who had to guess where a laboratory rat would find food in maze. The rat won by a comfortable margin because the answer was stupidly simple. Pride handicapped the humans. The setters of their test made sure that none of the complicated mathematical formulas they had acquired could explain where the food was likely to be.The worst forecasters were those who appeared most often in the media. As anyone who has been on television knows, it fosters a manic egotism. Otherwise well-balanced people are filled with bombastic certainty - 'David Cameron's bubble will burst' - and make spectacular forecasts that please the producers by grabbing the attention of channel-hopping viewers - 'the property market will crash', 'the Archbishop of Canterbury will appear on I'm a Celebrity'.Beyond egotism and pride lies political bias. People who hated Ronald Reagan and George W Bush predicted their policies would lead to disaster, just as those who hated the Soviet Union and Baathist Iraq predicted that all would be well. I think that submerged bias explains the popularity of prophesy among civil servants, academics and broadcasters. They have professional obligations to be neutral. They can get round them by pretending to be time travellers who go to the future and impartially report on the calamities that will befall the world if their partisan views are ignored.Tetlock dismisses the comforting notion that public life is 'a marketplace of ideas', in which the peddlers of daft predictions are exposed as frauds or fools. The market does not work because large parts of the audience want comfort rather than truth. For instance, I have a deep and just possibly irrational dislike of PRs - and Tories, now I come to think of it. Those among you who share it won't turn on me if David Cameron is a winner. On the contrary, you might well turn on me if I accurately predict that he will be Prime Minister in 2009.The above makes Tetlock sound like a bog-standard postmodernist who believes that there is no possibility of finding objective truth. He hasn't ended up in the mire of relativism because, among his experts, was a minority whose predictions were good. In Isaiah Berlin's division of intellectuals between the darting foxes who 'know many little things' and the solid ideological hedgehogs who 'know one big thing well', Tetlock says the foxes won hands down.Like a stopped clock, the ideologues may occasionally be right, and the foxes could end up baffled if they darted about too frantically. Overall, however, it was forecasters who drew 'from an eclectic array of traditions and accepted ambiguity and contradiction as inevitable features of life' who performed well.With lives and livelihoods at stake, his findings are worth noticing. Tetlock offers three pieces of advice to politicians and others who must decide if a prediction is likely to be true. First, civil servants, academics, spies and - may the Good Lord protect and preserve us - journalists should be judged by the accuracy of their previous forecasts. Second, an audience should ask itself how well a prophet's beliefs reflect observable reality. Finally, it should check that the prophet updates his or her beliefs in response to new evidence.His last recommendation is the most important in my view. 'When the facts change, I change my mind,' said JM Keynes. My only good piece of advice for 2006 is you shouldn't listen to those who don't. 6 (nickcohen) 0 (Politics) The scandal of the moment is that Sir Mark Thatcher was arrested in Cape Town and is helping police with their inquiries into allegations that he helped finance a plot to overthrow the dictator of a miserable West African state which has no obvious attractions to the sons of Tory leaders other than enormous oil reserves. Among the alleged co-conspirators are Simon Mann, a mercenary and an old boy of Eton, Sandhurst and the SAS; David Hart, another old Etonian and one of the most ruthless operators of the Thatcher years; and Ely Calil, a British-based Lebanese tycoon who makes his money from the West African oil trade. As The Observer reported, Peter Mandelson, twice-sacked minister and EU commissioner, rented a flat from Calil. It was in Holland Park, a part of London so expensive I don't need to waste time describing where it is because you can never afford to live there. Mandelson had been forced to move to Calil's apartment after the press revealed that he had used a private loan from a fellow minister, Geoffrey Robinson, to buy his previous home in Notting Hill, another part of London you may as well forget about. Mandelson and the Lebanese oil baron have a common friend in James Palumbo, the upper-class owner of the Ministry of Sound who made tens of millions by slumming it in the pop business. While Mandelson was in Holland Park, he was forced to offer one of his many resignations after he was accused of lobbying on behalf of the billionaire Hinduja brothers, who were at the time up to their necks in the biggest arms scandal in the history of independent India. No one suggests that Mandelson has anything to do with the alleged African conspiracy. What's telling is that he has been mixing with very rich men, be they the friends of the Thatcher family, sprigs of the Palumbo family or the brothers from the Hinduja family. These are odd circles to find a Labour minister in. Let me put it to Labour readers like this: if you were invited to these people's parties, would you want to go? The scandal before the last scandal was the gossip about David Blunkett's love life. If he had behaved like a decent Labour politician and had an affair with the chairwoman of his constituency's Unison branch, it would have been a private matter. But after so many years of stealing Tory policies, New Labour has moved on to stealing Tory wives. His liaison was with Kimberly Fortier, the American publisher of the right-wing Spectator . Fortier set up home in Britain with her husband, the publisher of Vogue, in a 2 million town house in Mayfair, yet another of those central London districts you can't afford to think about. Blunkett had a romantic retreat on the Chatsworth estate of Deborah 'Debo' Mitford, the dowager Duchess of Devonshire, who, I should add in mitigation, was one of the few Mitford sisters who wasn't actually a Nazi. Again there is a jolting sense of dislocation. Blunkett constantly plays the prolier-than-thou card against anyone who questions his attacks on civil liberties. His opponents are Hampstead bleeding-hearts, he bellows. Guardian -reading girls' blouses who don't know what hard men forged in the furnaces of Sheffield must do to clear the mean streets of crime. But when his day's work is over, he dismisses bourgeois Hampstead as too common for his refined tastes and heads up-market to the aristocratic attractions of Mayfair and Chatsworth; to parties at the Spectator and dinners with Barbara Amiel. He shows no signs of worry that the company he keeps may mark him as a stonking humbug. Before the last two scandals, there was the one about Tony Blair choosing to accept a free holiday from Silvio Berlusconi, a billionaire who has bought the Italian media and politics as a job lot. Before that there were Lakshmi Mittal, Enron, Arthur Andersen, Ecclestone. The common thread is money: old money, new money, funny money - and the peculiar individuals who get and spend it. You had better get used to seeing politicians partying with money in all its guises. Learning to love the rich may soon become the only way for politicians to survive. Last week the Electoral Commission released its latest report on party political funding. Quite rightly there was a great deal of interest in the coincidence of Paul Drayson, a biotechnology entrepreneur, giving 500,000 to New Labour six weeks after New Labour made him a life peer. But focusing on the details of one case misses the wider trend: British public life is increasingly dependent on the grace and favour of the super-rich. Such has been the accumulation of wealth at the top, the parties no longer have a financial need for mass memberships. Dr Peter Facey, director of the New Politics Network, a think-tank which monitors the cash flows, adds that for all the talk of the corporate takeover of government, they don't need corporations' money either. Donations from big business have, in fact, all but disappeared. The rich are now so rich they no longer have to go to the trouble of persuading directors and shareholders to authorise a payment from company funds when they can pay it from the petty cash. In the last three months of 2003, for instance, Labour received 4.1 million. About 1.85m came from its traditional source, the trade unions, which can't donate without the approval of their members. The union contribution was matched by the personal presents of three men - Sir Christopher Ondaatje CBE, Lord Paul Hamlyn and William Haughey OBE - who gave 1.83m between them. Sir Christopher alone handed over 1m. Donations of this size aren't always dubious. Try as the media might, we haven't been able to find anyone with a bad word to say about Ondaatje. He's just a rich man who thinks that Tony Blair is an excellent Prime Minister and wants to help him fight elections. But you don't have to go back into the dealings around Ecclestone, Mittal and the rest to realise that the overall effect of the rise of the plutocracy is pernicious, even when it manifests itself in the amiable form of Ondaatje. Last week's figures showed that the UK Independence Party received more money than the Liberal Democrats in the run-up to June's European elections. Its good fortune wasn't the result of a surge in membership, but because a Yorkshire businessman, Paul Sykes, gave Ukip 715,000. Suppose that as well as hating Europe, Sykes despised gays and loathed fox hunters. Would Ukip's leaders and members dare risk losing his money by drawing-up a manifesto which was for homosexual equality and for fox hunting? Maybe they would, but it isn't over-cynical to believe Sykes has bought himself a party which would never dare cross him. It isn't just Ukip. Iain Duncan Smith's fate was sealed when Stuart Wheeler, the Conservative's biggest donor, said he wouldn't give a penny more to the party. When Duncan Smith was duly fired and Howard took over, the spread-betting tycoon opened his wallet and gave another 500,000. The Tories are no longer dependent on the support of business as a whole, but of one businessman, Wheeler, and a handful of like-minded tycoons. Think of how many raffles and discos ordinary party members would have to organise to raise Wheeler's 500,000, Sykes' 715,000 or Ondaatje's 1m. The result is a vicious circle. The big donors' big cheques go to the parties' headquarters in London. They strengthen the power of the centre, weaken local workers and fuel public suspicion of influence peddling. Party members sense their irrelevance. They drop out of politics and leave their parties more dependent on the big cheques from the big donors. Next month the Electoral Commission will offer its proposals for reform. I hope they suggest cutting the cost of politics by banning billboard advertising and offering all kinds of incentives to politicians to seek small donations from ordinary citizens. I hope they're ruthlessly radical because at the moment we're looking at a future where public life will inevitably be run by an ever-shrinking coterie. The Mandelsons and the Blunketts hang around the rich because they want to. Their successors may hang around the rich because they have to. 6 (nickcohen) 0 (Politics) Just before the Leicester South by-election on 15 July a flier was slipped under the windscreen wipers of cars in the constituency. It showed a picture of Parmjit Singh Gill, the Liberal Democrat candidate, shaking the hand of one Stephanie Dearden. She looked odd, like a man: indeed, the flier told us, she once was a man. It announced in bold capitals that Singh Gill had joined the Liberal Democrats for GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL and TRANSGENDER Action. Underneath it quoted Ms Dearden as saying: 'I was born in 1956, and as a child growing up, I knew I was different than everyone else. As I got older I realised I was a woman trapped inside the wrong body ... I underwent a full sex change operation in 2002.' No one knows who put the leaflet out. It may have been a rival party. It may have been a freelance queer-basher who got his angry thrills by monitoring obscure trans-gender websites. But the message to working-class voters was that the Liberal Democrats were a bunch of weirdoes who hung out with lady-boys and shemales - an appeal to prejudice which echoes much of modern political propaganda. It's no secret who put out leaflets during the by-election held on the same day in Birmingham Hodge Hill which followed a West Midlands tradition of gutter politicians appealing to xenophobia. In 1964 the Tories secured a shock victory in Birmingham Smethwick with the catchy slogan of 'If you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Labour'. In his 1968 'Rivers of Blood' speech to members of the West Midlands Conservative Political Centre, Enoch Powell attempted to turn the white working class from Labour by telling them that 'in 15 or 20 years' time the black man will have the upper hand over the white man'. It worked. Not only did he incite the mass beating of blacks and Asians, but Powell's racism helped the Tories win West Midland marginals and with them the 1970 general election. Before the 1997 election, Andrew Lansley, a Tory minister and born-again Christian, declared that immigration had hurt Labour in the past and has 'more potential to hurt' in the future. Nicholas Budgen, a wizened Powellite, took him at his word and tried to stop Labour taking Powell's old seat of Wolverhampton South West seat by running on an anti-wog ticket. Rather marvellously, he lost. And, equally marvellously, Tony Blair declared in his speech to the 2000 Labour Party Conference that he wanted nothing to do with such squalid politics. 'I know asylum is a problem and we are trying to deal with it, but if people want me to go out and exploit the asylum issue for reasons of race that we all know about, then vote for the other man because I will not do it.' But that was in 2000. In 2004, when it risked seeing the Liberals take Birmingham Hodge Hill, Labour reshuffled the pack and played the race card which had been played against it so many times before. Liam Byrne, the Labour candidate, told the voters, 'I know that people here are worried about fraudulent asylum claims and illegal immigration. Yet the Lib Dems ignore what people say. They ignore what local people really want. The Lib Dems want to keep giving welfare benefits to failed asylum seekers. They voted for this in Parliament on 1 March 2004. They want your money -and mine - to go to failed asylum seekers.' Labour didn't mention that the disputed measure was a plan to take the children of asylum seekers from their parents and put them into care, which Michael Howard had denounced as 'despicable'. The leaflet implied that Byrne was a comrade of the working class rather than a former City slicker who made his pile as an accountant at Andersons Consulting and a banker at NM Rothschild. 'I know what you want,' he cried. 'Someone who is tough and on your side. Someone who wants the same as you. And I do. I want to push my new baby's buggy along the road without having to face a gang of youths spitting and swearing.' Who would want that? But I suspect that the babies of former employees of Rothschilds don't have to endure too many tours of the Birmingham slums. In Fairness, the Liberal Democrats often provoke their opponents into going over the top. They pose as saints while fighting campaigns which are as dirty as anything Labour or the Tories can manage - often dirtier. They shift their shape depending on which constituency they're contesting. Are they right or left? Pro-privatisation or anti? For the overthrow of Saddam Hussein if the weapons inspectors had been given more time, or against?Answers to these questions have more to do with geography than ideology. For the duration of a campaign, the Liberal Democrats are whatever a contested constituency wants them to be.Thus in Hodge Hill, a Lib Dem leaflet sent to predominantly Muslim wards featured a picture of Charles Kennedy surrounded by Asians. The same leaflet was pushed through the doors of predominantly white wards, but only after a quick bout of ethnic cleansing at the printers had removed all trace of the brown faces.And, as I'm incessantly told, it's true that the right-thinking, left-leaning middle classes need to think carefully before dismissing New Labour's crime and asylum policies as stunts used by the powerful to con the powerless into voting for them. (They still are, but we'll leave that for another day.)Crime rates may have collapsed, but the sale of council houses has meant that some of the nastiest families in the country are concentrated in the remaining estates. Asylum seekers, like prisoners released on licence and the mentally ill being cared for in the 'community', are also sent to the poorest neighbourhoods least able to cope with them.But when all the caveats have been made, having a rich man rouse popular passions by posing as a commoner helped Labour hang on to Hodge Hill, and is a sign of what's to come. You can expect a lot more in the Byrne style in the run-up to the election.The Hartlepool by-election will come first. The Tories are out of it, as they are out of most things, and once again Labour isn't fighting the Lib Dems on its impressive economic record. Instead it's following the pattern of Hodge Hill and accusing its rivals of being soft on drugs, soft on pornography, soft on teen gangs and soft on crack houses. Typical of the guff was Labour's claim that the Lib Dem lawyer candidate had made 'excuses for junkies', because she had once represented heroin addicts in court.Barristers have to take whatever cases are allocated to them. By Labour's logic Cherie Blair is a supporter of the poll tax because she once represented councils seeking to extract money from protestors who couldn't or wouldn't pay.I shouldn't have to add that raising prejudices by banging on about crime and race are the desperate strategies of right-wing parties with their backs to the wall, and you might have expected an uprising from within the Labour ranks.But where is a principled opposition to come from? From the Labour left? At the time of the Hodge Hill election Ken Livingstone was embracing as a comrade Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a 'moderate' Muslim leader, whose Islam Online website supports the murder of Israeli civilians because 'on the hour of judgment, Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them'; describes homosexuality as an 'evil and unnatural practice', which can only be stopped when Islamic society is cleansed of its 'perverted elements'; says rape victims must carry a portion of the guilt if they dress 'immodestly'; and advises that a husband may beat his wife 'lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts'.The new Respect Party, which boldly proclaims itself to be a left-wing alternative to Labour, is as willing to ally with religious barbarism and the enemies of the Enlightenment as Livingstone, and is led by George Galloway, a man who flew to Baghdad to greet a fascist dictator with: 'Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.'These are paradoxical times. The Conservative Party is nowhere, but conservative ideas are everywhere, not least on a left whose manic skid to the far right makes the slipperiness of the Liberal Democrats and the willingness of Labour to betray its principles appear modest changes of position in comparison. 6 (nickcohen) 0 (Politics) Every summer the graduates of Britain's universities decide what to do with their lives. As in previous years, thousands will have rejected the ideals of public service and the excitement of setting-up their own businesses and decided instead to fill the gaps in the ranks of Britain's 250,000 accountants.Britain has as many as the rest of the EU put together, and it's easy to see why. There's no state-guaranteed monopoly for engineers, factory workers, call-centre girls, small businessmen or women, computer programmers, inventors or any other wealth-creating trade. Indeed, when the working population's jobs head east they are told in thunderous voices that their sloth is being deservedly punished by the wrathful gods of the marketplace. But auditing can't go east. Every institution in Britain has to have its books audited by a member of one of the British accountancy associations.In theory they are the police officers of finance, forever on the lookout fraud and gross incompetence. In practice they differ from the police in one respect. Detectives are not allowed to sell 'extra services' to potential criminals. They might think twice before breaking up an international cocaine-smuggling racket if their force relied on that same ring for a large slice of its income. No similar pettifogging concerns about conflicts of interest constrain the accountancy racket. Accountants are free to sell advice on how to install IT or avoid taxes to the very managers they are meant to be policing on behalf of pension funds and employees. If they blow the whistle, they might lose the contracts, so the whistle has a tendency to stay in the pocket. It shouldn't be a surprise to learn that British accountants make a comfortable living. Management Today found that the average annual pay packet of British accountants in 2001 came to$117,000 (82,000), which was way ahead of their nearest rivals in Europe, the Swiss, who struggled to get by on $73,000 (51,000). Thrusting graduates have always aimed to hack their way to the top of one of the 'Big Four' accountancy firms - PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst &amp; Young, KPMG or Deloitte - which dominate the global and British markets. The most ambitious will hope one day to emulate Mike Rake, the head of KPMG, who last year received a 45 per cent pay rise to take his salary to 2.4 million. 'What do you spend it on?' a reporter from the Sunday Times asked. 'Sixteen polo ponies,' Rake replied.In the past, Rake and his colleagues were partners who had unlimited liability for their partnership's debts. Like the Lloyd's names, they put everything they owned on the line, and their exposure must have caused the odd sleepless nights. Auditors had approved the accounts of Robert Maxwell, Polly Peck, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Enron, WorldCom, Equitable Life and many another grotesquely mismanaged company. Until New Labour came to power the threat that Rake and his fellow partners might be sued for presiding over a disaster should have troubled even the self-confident head of KPMG. Everything, the pied--terre in London, the home in Henley-on-Thames, the villa in Spain and the 16 polo ponies, could have gone. The example of Arthur Andersen provided a terrible warning. The Big Four were once the Big Five until Andersen approved the accounts of Enron and WorldCom and earned the imperishable distinction of failing to notice that the first and second biggest frauds in human history were going on under its nose. Andersen went bust because, understandably, no reputable organisation would go near it. The Bush administration reacted by making it all but impossible for auditors to sell other services to clients in the United States. What if Parliament was to enforce the same regulations here? If Enron wasn't bad enough, what of the policy holders of Equitable Life who are suing Ernst &amp; Young for several billion for their failure to warn that the mutual was heading towards a financial calamity? I don't know if Rake suffers from panic attacks. If he does, he will at least be able to reassure himself on one point: however calamitously the accountancy giants audit British business, his polo ponies will be safe. As this column has noted before, the most striking vice of New Labour is not its friendship with business - all modern governments have to make friends with business - but its anxiety to acquaint itself with the most notorious capitalists: the Mittals, the Hindujas, the Murdochs and, now I think of it, the Arthur Andersens. The Tories had banned Andersen from receiving government contracts after its perennially myopic auditors had failed to spot that tax-payers money was disappearing by the boot load from the DeLorean car plant in Belfast. Andersen responded by sucking-up to New Labour and waiting for a change of regime. Patricia Hewitt was hired by its consulting arm. Andersen's services were offered free of charge to Labour when it was in Opposition. When Tony Blair won the 1997 election, the unpleasantness about DeLorean was tidied away and government contracts began to flow Andersen's way again. In 2000, the government bowed to a long campaign by the accountancy giants and limited their liability. Partners could protect themselves by changing their partnership into a limited company. Better still, they could still be partners and retain all the tax advantages and freedom from public scrutiny partnerships brought until they were successfully sued - when they would be able to claim the immunities of the directors of limited companies. The personal assets of the partners - the pads in Chelsea, the piles in the Chilterns - couldn't be seized by bailiffs whatever alternative they choose. The old wisdom about never giving into bullies has held true. The Big Four weren't satisfied with the government's gracious treatment and upped their demands. With personal liability gone, they now want a cap on the damages their firms can be required to pay for negligence or fraud. If they don't get it, they warn that one of their number could go bust. The Big Four would become the Big Three and the group would offer an even less competitive service to the business world. As Rake put it, business 'can't afford to lose another accountancy firm'. From inside the City the apparently outrageous demand for benefit of the clergy for accountants makes a kind of sense. What, after all, are the Big Four worth? Their offices in central London should be fetch a fair price, and photocopiers, computer terminals and the rest. But what was the main asset, the unlimited liability of the partners to meet debts, was removed by an obliging Labour government. A successful action by Equitable Life against Ernst &amp; Young could close it down because Ernst &amp; Young may no longer have the assets to redress the claims of the victims of its alleged ineptitude.Needless to say, Patricia Hewitt's Department of Trade and Industry has been convinced and is all for going along with the Big Four's demands for lame duck accountants to be protected as an endangered species. But the rest of us may wonder that if claims for damages against accountancy firms can be capped, why shouldn't claims against any other business capped? Or claims against trade unions? Or hospitals? Or you? Or me? What incentive will there be for auditors to improve on their lamentable record if they receive fresh privileges? If they are hired by another Maxwell, why should they be any more concerned now about protecting pensioners from penury than they were in the 1980s?These columns normally end with a lament about the general worthlessness of New Labour's unprincipled ninnies. But for once there's a faint whiff of hope in the air. Last week the Office of Fair Trading said words to the effect that the Big Four should stop taking the mickey. Meanwhile institutional investors are lobbying against auditors being placed beyond the full reach of the law. According to rumour, they've been joined by Gordon Brown's Treasury. If the rumour is true, then delegates preparing for the Labour Party Conference should consider asking the Chancellor to overcome his notorious politeness and put Ms Hewitt in her place. The Labour Party wasn't founded to create a Milton Friedman world of socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor; where Mike Rake keeps his polo ponies while savers with Equitable Life lose their pensions. 6 (nickcohen) 0 (Politics) With the Hutton Report due in weeks and Blair's future in the balance, it has never been more important to stay abreast of the news. Traditionally, the editor either instructs newsagents not to sell the paper to readers who score 10 or below in the annual quiz, or, if he's in a bad mood, persuades David Blunkett to intern them in Belmarsh. Not this year. He recognises that it's been all but impossible to keep up in 2003 and believes that anyone who has kept up deserves a medal. He is therefore delighted to announce that he has OBEs for the first 25 readers to get all the answers right. (They can be returned, at no cost to sender, within 10 days, if you are not fully satisfied with any aspect of local, national or international politics.) <B>The End of Tony Blair?</B> <B> 1</B> While Downing Street was compiling its dossier on Iraq's 'region-threatening' arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, which Blair aide asked Alastair Campbell, 'Alastair, what will be the headline in the Standard [London Evening Standard] on the day of publication?' <B> 2</B> Which newspaper had the headline '45 Minutes From Attack' on the day of the dossier's publication? <B> 3</B> Months after a war in which Saddam didn't fire chemical weapons in 45 minutes (or 45 hours or 45 days for that matter), who said he was confident the claim that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction ready to fire in 45 minutes 'was accurate and that the use made of it was entirely consistent with the original report'? <B> 4</B> Why was this worrying? <B> 5</B> Who admitted he knew that his government's claim that Saddam could launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes referred only to battlefield shells, not long-range weapons that might spread destruction across the Middle East and even hit British bases in Cyprus as the press reported? <B> 6</B> Why on earth didn't he try to correct what was an honest error on the press's part and stop the public being misled? <B> 7</B> Tony Blair said that 'people know Europe needs America, and I believe America needs Europe too'. Who dismissed the idea and revealed the true balance of power in the 'special relationship' when he said that if Britain pulled out of the war 'there are workarounds' and the US had the forces to go into Iraq on its own? <B> 8</B> Who said in July he had played no part in the naming of David Kelly? <B> 9</B> According to Sir Kevin Tebbit, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, who chaired the meeting where the decision to leak Dr Kelly's name was taken? <B> 10</B> On 27 June, who told Alastair Campbell: 'You well know that it is a matter of principle for us not to reveal our sources'? <B> 11</B> On 14 July, who privately told a Liberal Democrat member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee that Dr Kelly had been the source of 'my colleague Susan Watts, science editor of Newsnight '? <B> 12</B> On 15 July, when he was asked by the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee what lessons he had learned, whose last words in public were: 'Never to talk to a journalist again, I think'? <B>The Death of Anti-Fascism</B> <B> 13</B> Which scientist showed he couldn't spot the difference between fascism and a fast-food restaurant when he told the Independent that to say the overthrow of a fascist regime justified war was the logical equivalent of saying that 'improvement in children's diet' justified blowing-up McDonald's? <B> 14</B> Which scientist avoided that category error when he told the Guardian that 'Saddam destroyed our lives and not the lives of people sitting comfortably in England. What he means to us Iraqis is completely different from what he means to you. You can't begin to understand. I was eight years old when Saddam came to power, and now I am 43. I feel that my life has been stolen from me.' <B> 15</B> Which impersonator of Tony Blair, acclaimed by critics and public alike for his national television shows which attacked Blair's subservience to Bush, said he was fighting the PM's 'moral imperialism'? <B> 16</B> Which impersonator of Saddam Hussein, who was banned from Iraqi television, said of the death squad sent to assassinate him: 'Fortunately the guys were all arrested [by Kurdish freedom fighters]. They were found carrying a list. All our names were on it'? <B> 17</B> <ul>They read good books, and quote,<br> but never learn a language other than the scream of rocket-burn. <br> Our straighter talk is drowned but ironclad: <br> elections, money, empire, oil and Dad. </ul>Which poet wrote the above in 'Causa Belli' in January, as Her Majesty's armed forces prepared for battle? <B> 18</B> In April, as Saddam fled from Baghdad, which poet brought up a cause of the conflict missed by his English colleague and wrote these prescient lines in his 'Runaway President'? <ul>O runaway president <br> Listen just once in your life <br> If you have escaped the trap this time <br> I can assure you it will not be for long <br> Even this temporary safety is misleading <br> It is deadlier if you think about it <br> Fear will suck dry your red cells <br> And sooner rather than later <br> You will waste away <br> First you lose interest in your appearance <br> Then you will find no need to shave <br> And like exposed garbage you will start to stink </ul> <B> 19</B> Which playwright, who wept buckets for the victims of a genocidal regime when Saddam was a de facto ally of Britain and America in the 1980s, wrote in 2003? <ul> Dear President Bush, <br> I'm sure you'll be having a nice little tea party with your fellow war criminal, Tony Blair. Please wash the cucumber sandwiches down with a glass of blood, with my compliments. </ul> <B> 20</B> Who said? <ul> Where are these friends now? Regrettably, many are denouncing a war that would liberate Iraq. Like those [in power] who shunned us in the Eighties, some of our former friends find the martyrdom of the Iraqi people to be an irritant. They avert their eyes from the grisly truth of our suffering, while claiming concern at the human cost of war. </ul> <B> Business as usual </B> <B> 21</B> Who described Charles Kennedy's proposal to fund universities by taxing the rich rather than the young as 'completely unfair'? <B> 22</B> Which Canadian tycoon said in his 1993 autobiography that he had ignored the 'deafening chorus of scandalised self-righteousness' from 'faddish groupies' and Ontario's 'yuppie-ridden lumpen proletariat' and sacked shop workers from a store he owned because 'a minority [had] since time immemorial, stolen more each year than the profit attributable to the shareholders'? <B> 23 </B> In 2003, which Canadian tycoon was the subject of an American Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into allegations that he used shareholders' money to fund 19 million of unauthorised executive payments, a monthly tab at Le Cirque 2000 restaurant in New York, an apartment in Park Avenue, New York, an 11-bedroom mansion in Kensington, a butler, a chef, a chauffeur, a maid and a vintage Rolls-Royce? <B> 24</B> Who, after writing in 'Bought and Sold' that... <ul> The ancestors would turn graves <br>Those poor black folk that once were slaves would wonder <br>How our souls were sold <br>And check our strategies, <br>The empire strikes back and waves <br>Tamed warriors bow on parades <br>When they have done what they've been told <br>They get their OBEs </ul>... was offered an OBE? <B> 25</B> After he had refused it on many grounds, not least that the Civil Service clearly hadn't read his poems, who then returned her MBE as a protest against the Government's treatment of asylum-seekers, the Iraq war and the behaviour of the House of Windsor (while conceding that the honours lists included 'little people - nurses, community activists, dinner ladies - for whom such recognition is priceless')? <B> 26</B> Who then wrote to the press saying that she may return her OBE because 'the idea of a vainglorious parade [for the victorious England rugby team] is exclusive of the whole ethnic-minority population of this island and redolent of Anglo-Saxon imperialism'? <B> 27</B> Is it socially acceptable for anyone other than 'little people' to accept an honour? <B> Tiebreaker </B> <B> 28</B> Who was Iain Duncan Smith? <br><br> <b>Answers</b> <B> 1</B> Jonathan Powell <br><B> 2</B> The Standard <br> <b>3</b> Sir Richard Dearlove <br><B> 4</B> He's the head of MI6 <br><B> 5</B> Geoff Hoon <br><B> 6</B> Because 'my experience is that, generally speaking, newspapers are resistant to corrections' <br><B> 7</B> Donald Rumsfeld <br><B> 8</B> Tony Blair <br><B> 9</B> Tony Blair <br><B> 10</B> Richard Sambrook, director of BBC News <br><B> 11</B> Andrew Gilligan, BBC defence correspondent <br><B> 12</B> Dr David Kelly, BBC source <br><B> 13</B> Professor Richard Dawkins, University of Oxford <br><B> 14</B> Dr Mohamed Ahmed Salih, University of Baghdad <br><B> 15</B> Rory Bremner <br><B> 16</B> Mahir Hassan Rashid <br><B> 17</B> Andrew Motion, Her Majesty's poet laureate <br><B> 18</B> Salah Niazi, Iraqi poet, who can be read via www.opendemocracy.net <br><B> 19</B> Harold Pinter <br><B> 20</B> Barham Salih, Kurdish socialist leader <br><B> 21</B> Tony Blair <br><B> 22</B> Conrad Black <br><B> 23</B> Conrad Black <br><B> 24</B> Benjamin Zephaniah, poet <br><B> 25</B> Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, pundit <br><B> 26</B> Elsie Owusu, architect. (Only she was thinking nothing of the sort. The letter was a forgery) <br><B> 27</B> No it is not <br><B> 28 </B> Leader of the British Conservative Party (2001-03) 6 (nickcohen) 0 (Politics) As the stock market crash makes comparisons with 1929 seem too plausible for comfort, the Government has acted decisively. It doesn't want to protect the owners of pensions and endowments, who have seen their savings slashed. Rather, it wants to shield the 'Big Four' accountancy conglomerates, which presided over the frauds and manias of the speculative bubble, from the consequences of their actions. A few weeks ago, Patricia Hewitt slipped out a remarkable parliamentary answer. The Government was considering sheltering auditors from being sued for negligence, she said. The details had yet to be sorted out, but a review of company law would limit auditors' liability. Accountancy Age added that Hewitt had capitulated after a lobbying campaign by the Big Four - PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Deloitte &amp; Touche and Ernst &amp; Young - had 'won sympathy' in Whitehall. A cap of somewhere between 100 million and 200m on their liability was on the way. It is perhaps worth pausing to consider how impervious the political class is to a world it no longer understands. Like all bubbles, the 'New Economy' dementia of the late 1990s was powered by the perverse belief that it was profitable to buy dotcom and telecom shares, even when you knew their long-term value was likely to be nothing. But, as the collapse of Enron and WorldCom showed, fraud played its part in whacking up the price of worthless companies. Arthur Andersen was the auditor in both cases. By a weird coincidence, Hewitt was employed by Andersen before New Labour came to power. She won't be able to go back there when she's finally thrown out of politics - robbed American investors have sued Andersen out of existence. However, she can still help the rest of the City. Even before she announced she would grant accountants privileges not available to other institutions, Hewitt had made it clear that she wouldn't tackle the brazen conflict of interest at the heart of auditing. Because auditors can sell valuable ser vices to companies, including advice on how to dodge the taxes the rest of us must pay, they have a compelling incentive to keep senior managers sweet by failing to alert the public to crime in the boardroom. Investigations into the corporations at the heart of the crash have shown that turning a blind eye to fraud wasn't a one-off offence committed by lightheaded auditors in the madness of the late 1990s: it was a systemic policy. As early as 1987, dealers in Enron's New York office were betting on the future price of oil without protecting themselves with hedges in case their gambles backfired. They also set up shell corporations in Panama. These created phantom deals which impressed Wall Street and produced healthy earnings for Enron, on paper at any rate. Large bonuses flowed to the traders in recognition of their good work. The managers in Houston didn't realise that the deals were phony, but did notice that company money was disappearing into the traders' pockets. Kenneth Lay, the Enron boss, refused to fire his thieving employees. 'I have decided not to terminate these people,' he said. 'I need their earnings.' The traders stayed on and committed Enron to supplying tens of millions of barrels of oil it didn't have. The company was stuck in an unsustainable position. If its rivals had found out, they could have wrecked Enron by forcing up prices. With luck and phenomenal bluffing, the management escaped bankruptcy by a whisker, although it was compelled to make an$85m charge against earnings in 1987. Far from learning caution from the near-death experience, Lay learned that the paper profits which impressed shareholders and bankers could be inflated or, let's face it, invented. He avoided the unpleasantness calling in the police would have brought. An Enron accountant who saw Lay stick by his crooked colleagues told Vanity Fair : 'It was obvious to us and to Arthur Andersen that [the traders] had opened fraudulent bank accounts, and we felt that they were going to con tinue to manipulate transactions.' Lay wasn't bothered. He was 'a guy who put earnings before scruples rather than reacting to the dishonesty right in front of him'. One of the reasons why your investments keep going down is that auditors didn't nip fraud in the bud. If they had, the fees from other services, and the possibility of switching jobs and joining the firms they were meant to police, would have disappeared. They don't need to worry about serving the public interest by doing their work honestly. Their sole fear is they may join Arthur Andersen in the corporate graveyard if investors sue them for gross negligence. Hewitt is determined to save them from that terrible fate and, in doing so, is proving that New Labour is well to the Right of the Tories and the Bush administration. You can't turn on the radio without hearing wails about the compensation culture. Lawyers shake billions out of the NHS each year and government departments are punished for insisting that civil servants should have the good manners to be tidily dressed when they meet the unemployed. Hewitt won't limit their liability. The nearest she can come to a justification for giving benefit of clergy to the City is that there will be a cartel if another accounting giant is destroyed by its crimes. She ignores the fact that the Big Four already is a cartel. A reputable system of financial management would require it to be broken up by ending the accounting conglomerates' conflict of interest. If auditors were banned from selling extras to managers, the firms would have to be split into separate auditing and financial services companies. Rather than tackle a quasi-monopoly, Hewitt is strengthening it. In the United States, the regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission have already rejected attempts by British accountants to limit their liability for false statements. Investors who believed what the Big Four said were entitled to sue if the accounts turned out be fraudulent or misleading. Even Bush's corporate-powered America has its limits, it seems. In Britain, there are none. The accountancy cartel badgered Ministers for years to grant it the favour of capping its liabilities. Prem Sikka, professor of accountancy at Essex University, said it lobbied the Tories, but found that they were a tougher proposition than New Labour. In 1996, the Law Commission said: 'We can find no principled arguments for a "capping" system... it cuts across a principle that a wrongdoer should compensate the plaintiff for loss.' So it does. And with so many people facing such large losses, you do have to wonder why the Government is desperate to protect the profession which helped get us into this mess in the first place. <B>It is not only David Irving who denies the Holocaust</B>The ease with which 'a racist, a Holocaust denier and a falsifier of history' can prevent the public reading books which expose him as a racist, a Holocaust denier and a falsifier of history continues to be a wonder of the English libel law. Last year, I reported on the strange career of Telling Lies About Hitler by Richard J. Evans. The professor of modern history at Cambridge University had produced an account of the libel action David Irving brought against Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt, the author of Denying the Holocaust. Irving's attempt to ban the book and win a fortune in damages was a crushing failure. Mr Justice Gray ruled that he was a racist, a Holocaust denier and so on. The way appeared clear for readers to learn how fraudulent history prospered. Among the many lies Evans dissected was how Irving inflated the death toll from the RAF's bombing of Dresden tenfold 30 years ago. The fake figure is quoted to this day. Four publishers promised to produce the detective story, but pulled out for fear that Irving would sue. Their terror was absurd. What little reputation Irving had before the trial was destroyed by the judgment. He can't sue because he has no reputation to lose. The mere threat of a libel action was enough, however, to turn the fine liberals of literary London into censors. The story seemed to have a happy ending when Verso, a small Left-wing house agreed to release the book. Six thousand copies were sold, and you can still buy it in good book shops. But not on amazon.co.uk. The online dealer boasts that it provides 1.5 million titles. Nazi works are among them. Yet Amazon has dropped Evans's attack on a man who fabricated in the Nazi interest. As it stands, the law of libel allows booksellers to be sued, as well as publishers and authors. It's as if telephone companies could be taken to court for slanders that their phone lines carry. Given this authoritarian provision, I would have a touch of sympathy for Amazon if it hadn't told Professor Evans's publishers that it put the protection of its shareholders' wallets before freedom of speech and freedom of publication.
6 (nickcohen)
0 (Politics)
6 (nickcohen)
0 (Politics)
6 (nickcohen)
0 (Politics)
Many parents wonder about the point of having children. They burn up your money, sleep and social life, and then blame you for all their problems. In politics, however, children are a source of perpetual joy. They must be seen and heard at every opportunity. In 1993, Michael Howard found that children were just what he needed to prevent the young Tony Blair outflanking the Tory government on the Right. The parents of children as young as 10 would be fined, and in extreme cases jailed, if their sprogs didn't comply with court orders, the tough Home Secretary announced. Alun Michael, Labour's Home Affairs spokesman, condemned Howard's plans as 'unworkable and pathetic'. But in the jailing of parents as in so much else New Labour proved it could be flexible. In the run-up to the 1997 election, Jack Straw promised that 'parental supervision orders' would be imposed on the parents of children who played truant. Failure to comply would lead to a spell in the slammer. Howard matched him word for word. Once in power, New Labour announced fines and possible prison sentences for parents in November 1997. It did so again in September 1999. And in March 2000. And in October 2000. And in this year's Queen's Speech. None of these schemes will ever amount to much because the courts have the sense to realise that jailing parents often means sending children into council care - which short of shooting the dears is about the worst thing you can do to them. But nothing stops this Government. Even though the Queen's Speech was scarcely a month old, Charles Clarke tried to divert attention from the Cherie affair last week by announcing - but, of course - the fining and jailing of parents. The media treated it as a serious and novel measure. What with one thing and another in the past fortnight, journalists have given the impression of being cynical brutes. In truth, we are drooling innocents with the memories of goldfish with learning difficulties.
7 (peterpreston)
0 (Politics)
7 (peterpreston)
0 (Politics)
7 (peterpreston)
0 (Politics)
7 (peterpreston)
0 (Politics)
7 (peterpreston)
0 (Politics)
7 (peterpreston)
0 (Politics)
7 (peterpreston)
0 (Politics)
7 (peterpreston)
0 (Politics)
7 (peterpreston)
0 (Politics)
7 (peterpreston)
0 (Politics)
8 (pollytoynbee)
0 (Politics)
8 (pollytoynbee)
0 (Politics)
8 (pollytoynbee)
0 (Politics)
8 (pollytoynbee)
0 (Politics)
8 (pollytoynbee)
0 (Politics)
8 (pollytoynbee)
0 (Politics)
8 (pollytoynbee)
0 (Politics)
8 (pollytoynbee)
0 (Politics)
8 (pollytoynbee)
0 (Politics)
8 (pollytoynbee)
0 (Politics)
9 (royhattersley)
0 (Politics)
9 (royhattersley)
0 (Politics)
9 (royhattersley)
0 (Politics)
9 (royhattersley)
0 (Politics)
9 (royhattersley)
0 (Politics)
9 (royhattersley)
0 (Politics)
9 (royhattersley)
0 (Politics)
9 (royhattersley)
0 (Politics)
9 (royhattersley)
0 (Politics)
9 (royhattersley)
0 (Politics)
10 (simonhoggart)
0 (Politics)
10 (simonhoggart)
0 (Politics)
10 (simonhoggart)
0 (Politics)
10 (simonhoggart)
0 (Politics)
10 (simonhoggart)
0 (Politics)
10 (simonhoggart)
0 (Politics)
10 (simonhoggart)
0 (Politics)
It was our first chance to see David Miliband in action after Hillary Clinton's confession of if not love, then of a deep and profound attraction. In an interview with American Vogue, the US secretary of state came over all Mills &amp; Boon. "If you saw him," she said, "it would be a big crush. I mean, he is so vibrant, vital, attractive, smart! He's a really good guy, and he's so young!" You can say that again. The foreign secretary is 18 years her junior. That makes her what is known these days as a "cougar", an older woman who preys on younger men. (I think I know the origin of this curious term, but it isn't very nice, and I would not dare repeat it in the Guardian.) So Mr Miliband must feel a lot more welcome in Foggy Bottom, Washington, than he does in the Commons. The only woman facing him in the chamber today was Anne Main (C, St Albans) and she is a mere seven years older than him. A puma perhaps, or a lynx. And in any case she didn't exactly look smitten. Nor did Sir Peter Tapsell, the Man Who Warned the World About Afghanistan. He too was clearly not suffering from a crush. As Mr Miliband spoke, Sir Peter's expression ranged from sceptical to cynical, from disbelief to scorn. Finally he rose to intervene with a pair of questions designed to upend our deliciously vibrant foreign secretary through his own superior knowledge of the North-West Frontier and associated hell holes. We learned how the Taliban were once supported only by the Pashtun. Now they were being driven into the Swat Valley and Baluchistan! You could almost see that vital, smart brain thinking: "I've heard of them. They were on the news!" But he thought too soon. Sir Peter, never to be out-manoeuvred in the Great Game went on, "which are an immense distance away from the Durand frontier!" What possible answer can there be to that? It was a magnificent example of one-upmanship, a meeting between Stephen Potter, Flashman and Google Earth. Mr Miliband had no reply, and moved swiftly on to the Israel/Palestine question and something he called "the Clinton parameters". Well, I thought, I've never heard them called that before. It turned out that he was referring to the gorgeous, pouting Hillary's husband, who showed the world his parameters back in 2000. Disappointing. Then William Hague rose and enjoyed himself hugely over the appointment of "Cathy Ashton", as he claimed Gordon Brown's third choice as EU high representative. Why, he said, the foreign secretary had been tempted by the job, for all the right reasons including "his belief that the prime minister will soon be gone". Peter Mandelson had also been put forward. Ministers would have a chance to deny this, but instead "an icy stillness" rose from the front bench. This would not just be a case of a rat leaving the sinking ship, but the lord high admiral himself departing "though we are reluctant to suggest new titles, because he might adopt them". The Labour front bench collapsed in laughter. There is little love lost there.
10 (simonhoggart)
0 (Politics)
10 (simonhoggart)
0 (Politics)
10 (simonhoggart)
0 (Politics)
11 (willhutton)
0 (Politics)
11 (willhutton)
0 (Politics)
The emerging consensus on Tony Blair is that he was a successful to very successful prime minister who made one fatal mistake - Iraq. He should never have allowed his Christian conscience and his anxiety to stand by America to trump the fact that he never got the second UN resolution for which he had fought in order to justify the invasion. He should have stood back and allowed the US to invade by itself. If he had he might still be looking forward to many more years of power today.But that decision had another, more fateful impact: it has made the west's dealings with China much more difficult. In the long run, the character of the Chinese state and whether it abides by the protocols of international law are going to have a much greater impact on the world than Islamist terror, which has been the focus of so much of Blair and Bush's efforts.As it is, China only just stays within the carapace of international law. Its cheap loans to African dictatorships undermine western efforts to promote better government; its desire to secure long-term oil supplies from Iran means it protects the Tehran regime in the United Nations, and it shoots down its own weather satellite without notifying the international community beforehand.This is all within its ambit as a sovereign state - as is its refusal to sign the Kyoto protocol on climate change. But as China grows ever more powerful, it will matter more and more that it accepts the framework of international law. Blair has many achievements to his name. In my view, one of the longest lasting will be the invention of a "liberal labour" tradition - the mirror image of liberal conservatism, and just as big a vote winner. However, it is not just Iraq that sits on the debit side of the ledger; there is the green light that his foreign policy gave China, an authoritarian, one-party state, to behave in the same unilateral way as the US and UK.
End of preview (truncated to 100 rows)

# Dataset Card for "guardian_authorship"

### Dataset Summary

A dataset cross-topic authorship attribution. The dataset is provided by Stamatatos 2013. 1- The cross-topic scenarios are based on Table-4 in Stamatatos 2017 (Ex. cross_topic_1 => row 1:P S U&W ). 2- The cross-genre scenarios are based on Table-5 in the same paper. (Ex. cross_genre_1 => row 1:B P S&U&W).

3- The same-topic/genre scenario is created by grouping all the datasts as follows. For ex., to use same_topic and split the data 60-40 use: train_ds = load_dataset('guardian_authorship', name="cross_topic_<<#>>", split='train[:60%]+validation[:60%]+test[:60%]') tests_ds = load_dataset('guardian_authorship', name="cross_topic_<<#>>", split='train[-40%:]+validation[-40%:]+test[-40%:]')

IMPORTANT: train+validation+test[:60%] will generate the wrong splits becasue the data is imbalanced

## Dataset Structure

### Data Instances

#### cross_genre_1

• Size of the generated dataset: 2.61 MB
• Total amount of disk used: 5.57 MB

An example of 'train' looks as follows.

{
"article": "File 1a\n",
"author": 0,
"topic": 4
}


#### cross_genre_2

• Size of the generated dataset: 2.61 MB
• Total amount of disk used: 5.57 MB

An example of 'validation' looks as follows.

{
"article": "File 1a\n",
"author": 0,
"topic": 1
}


#### cross_genre_3

• Size of the generated dataset: 2.61 MB
• Total amount of disk used: 5.57 MB

An example of 'validation' looks as follows.

{
"article": "File 1a\n",
"author": 0,
"topic": 2
}


#### cross_genre_4

• Size of the generated dataset: 2.61 MB
• Total amount of disk used: 5.57 MB

An example of 'validation' looks as follows.

{
"article": "File 1a\n",
"author": 0,
"topic": 3
}


#### cross_topic_1

• Size of the generated dataset: 2.23 MB
• Total amount of disk used: 5.18 MB

An example of 'validation' looks as follows.

{
"article": "File 1a\n",
"author": 0,
"topic": 1
}


### Data Fields

The data fields are the same among all splits.

#### cross_genre_1

• author: a classification label, with possible values including catherinebennett (0), georgemonbiot (1), hugoyoung (2), jonathanfreedland (3), martinkettle (4).
• topic: a classification label, with possible values including Politics (0), Society (1), UK (2), World (3), Books (4).
• article: a string feature.

#### cross_genre_2

• author: a classification label, with possible values including catherinebennett (0), georgemonbiot (1), hugoyoung (2), jonathanfreedland (3), martinkettle (4).
• topic: a classification label, with possible values including Politics (0), Society (1), UK (2), World (3), Books (4).
• article: a string feature.

#### cross_genre_3

• author: a classification label, with possible values including catherinebennett (0), georgemonbiot (1), hugoyoung (2), jonathanfreedland (3), martinkettle (4).
• topic: a classification label, with possible values including Politics (0), Society (1), UK (2), World (3), Books (4).
• article: a string feature.

#### cross_genre_4

• author: a classification label, with possible values including catherinebennett (0), georgemonbiot (1), hugoyoung (2), jonathanfreedland (3), martinkettle (4).
• topic: a classification label, with possible values including Politics (0), Society (1), UK (2), World (3), Books (4).
• article: a string feature.

#### cross_topic_1

• author: a classification label, with possible values including catherinebennett (0), georgemonbiot (1), hugoyoung (2), jonathanfreedland (3), martinkettle (4).
• topic: a classification label, with possible values including Politics (0), Society (1), UK (2), World (3), Books (4).
• article: a string feature.

### Data Splits

name train validation test
cross_genre_1 63 112 269
cross_genre_2 63 62 319
cross_genre_3 63 90 291
cross_genre_4 63 117 264
cross_topic_1 112 62 207

## Considerations for Using the Data

### Citation Information

@article{article,
author = {Stamatatos, Efstathios},
year = {2013},
month = {01},
pages = {421-439},
title = {On the robustness of authorship attribution based on character n-gram features},
volume = {21},
journal = {Journal of Law and Policy}
}

@inproceedings{stamatatos2017authorship,
author={Stamatatos, Efstathios},
booktitle={Proc. of the 15th Conf. of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics},
volume={1}
pages={1138--1149},
year={2017}
}


### Contributions

Thanks to @thomwolf, @eltoto1219, @malikaltakrori for adding this dataset.