Tag Archives: david cameron

Avaragado’s 2016 predictions

Hello again. Pull up a pixel. Dismantle that podcast. Relax your weary mince pie repository. Pay heed, oh gentle reader, for Avaragado has rattled his brain to wiggle out the earwax of foretelling and is pleased to interpret the oily runes ambiguously below.

Those of you familiar with this annual nonsense will spot a new category. I’ve retired Celebrity Deathwatch as the predictions started to come true and, quite frankly, The Medusa Touch still gives me the shivers (WHIP PAN to polystyrene rubble falling onto gurning worshippers). In its place, You’re Celebrity Fired.

Here they all are. Perhaps the rain will have stopped by this time next year. Perhaps.


  1. In the thrilling Euro referendum that I hope to god happens in 2016 so we don’t have to suffer another whole year of it, the tedious British public votes 53% to 47% (±1%) to remain in the EU.
  2. Bacon-worrier David Cameron resigns as prime minister.
  3. Hillary Clinton wins the US presidential election.
  4. 2016 is the warmest year globally on record.
  5. The Bank of England leaves interest rates at 0.5% all year.
  6. The price of oil doesn’t go above $50 a barrel all year.


  1. In the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Team GB win 20±2 gold medals in total.
  2. In the Euro 2016 football championships, England finish in the top 4.
  3. Oxford win the men’s University Boat Race.
  4. HRH Prince Ali Al Hussein is elected the next president of FIFA.
  5. Wales win the Rugby Union Six Nations.
  6. Europe retain the Ryder Cup.

Science and technology

  1. The iPhone 7 (pedants: or whatever Apple calls the next major iPhone revision) has no 3.5mm headphone jack.
  2. Apple releases a Mac with an A-branded (ARM, not Intel) processor.
  3. Google buys Signal.
  4. A major security breach at the NHS leaks hundreds of thousands of patient details.
  5. Physicists confirm the first evidence for gravitational waves.
  6. An out-of-control drone causes a major incident (eg a collision with an aircraft).


  1. To save money, the BBC decides to close BBC Four.
  2. Peter Capaldi announces he is to leave Doctor Who.
  3. Oscar for Best Picture: The Revenant.
  4. Oscar for Best Director: Ridley Scott, The Martian.
  5. Oscar for Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl.
  6. Oscar for Best Actress: Brie Larson, Room.

You’re celebrity fired

  1. Piers Morgan leaves Good Morning Britain.
  2. Marissa Meyer leaves Yahoo.
  3. Louis van Gaal leaves Manchester United.
  4. Chris Evans (not that one) leaves the role of Editor of the Daily Telegraph.
  5. Philip Hammond leaves the role of Foreign Secretary.
  6. Sir Lord Alan Sugar leaves The Apprentice.

And that, my friends, is that. I wonder if I’ll post anything else on this blog before next year’s results?


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There’s an election in four months


There’s an election in four months.

Those are the only words you need to remember. Whenever a politician drivels before an invited audience of heart-eyed acolytes or assembly line workers glazing over on company time for half an hour, just remember: there’s an election in four months (or three, or two, or one…).

Yesterday renowned cryptographer David Cameron said there should be no “means of communication” which “we cannot read”. This has been interpreted by technically literate commentators, mostly through the medium of boggle-eyed laughter, as expressing a desire to ban encryption or enforce the addition of backdoors. I’ve seen many, many tweets setting out the stupidity of such a move, and I have no desire or need to rehash them here.

Because the only thing you need to know is: there’s an election in four months.

Cameron is talking about monitoring the internet because there is an election in four months. He wants people to vote for him. He understands — better, sadly, than those tweeting about protocols and key escrow and men-in-the-middle and laptops left in taxis — that none of all that matters. He’s not talking to that audience, the tiny audience that groks the detail and the implications. He’s talking to the other 99%, who saw the attacks in Paris last week and think (thanks to Be Vigilant And Report Darkies posters) that we’re next.

Let’s imagine Cameron is elected in May with a majority. What would he actually do? We have no idea. There’s no manifesto yet, and manifestos can’t be trusted anyway. On past experience — we have almost five years of it now — his words don’t much match his deeds. I expect there’d be a series of meetings, possibly involving token techies invited as a sop to industry, and the End Terrorism Forever Bill 2017 (probably) that would emerge would contain no clauses capable of achieving any such thing.

There’s an election in four months. That’s all Cameron is worried about.

The opposition parties (I include the Lib Dems in that category for election purposes) have the same phrase in their heads. If they want to oppose Cameron on this issue — and I’m not entirely sure the Labour party does, for fear of being labelled soft on terrorism — then there is absolutely no point in talking technology. That’s preaching to the choir.

To oppose this policy they need to do two things: pursue, with great vigour and purpose, the support of younger people (beneficial side-effect: these are least likely to be slack-jawed kippers); and tell them in specific terms which apps and services Cameron thinks they shouldn’t be permitted to use without being snooped on.

Snapchat, WhatsApp, iMessage, FaceTime, Yik Yak, Rooms, Skype, etc, etc — and also Facebook and Twitter and plain old email, of course, but with less emphasis since younger people don’t use those so much. Ignore the likes of HTTPS, Tor, and all that: too confusing for the audience you’re trying to reach.

Keep it simple. Non-technical. Personal.

Avoid greyfaces and clumping hooves of rhetoric: all an utter turn-off for the audience. Don’t make it an official party video at all. You want Cassetteboy, not Saatchi, and if you don’t know who Cassetteboy is, fire yourself.

Here’s an idea off the top of my head: take one (or more) of those ubiquitous thirty-second promo videos from an app vendor’s website — you know the ones, with the indie guitar solos and the Californian hipster voiceovers — and every time a toothy blond communicates with another toothy blond, intercut video of Cameron sitting at a computer screen.

It doesn’t matter that it’s inaccurate or simplistic: so is what he’s claiming to propose.

There’s an election in four months.


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Hold the Uptrend Visiconk: Viceroy Blair succumbs to LFS

wibbly woo wibbly woo wibbly woo…

At last the great Y2K38 panic has subsided, thanks to patient years of upgrades and an unexpected asteroid in the bagging area. And now comes news long-expected: from Labour’s Space Transport House at the recently polished Aneurin Bevan Coca-Cola Moonbase (a subsidiary of Lunar Disney, incorporated in the state of Tranquility), a solemn announcement over the visiconks.

“Hashtag all,” it begins, in the new vernacular. “It is with great hashtag sadness that we omnipish the 1/5” … “following announcement. Please hold. 2/5” Then a blipvert, and then: “Viceroy Blair succumbed at last to Lunar Flange Syndrome 3/5” … “at Fanta O’Clock LMT this earthsolprebrunch. 4/5” … “Hashtag thoughts and prayers, etc in luvmems of the People’s Princessoriser. Coke is it. 5/5”

Meanwhile, deep beneath the lunar regolith at the Margaret Thatcher Pizza Hut Lunar Mining Corporation Space-Tory HQ — the “Thatch Hatch” — tributes are paid, lolspeeches are droned, but in the Homepods and the gated satellite exclusocaves there is but one refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice at that news!

A row bubbles and bursts over the spacewaves. “You disrespect a dear former leader, an old man.” “Viceroy Blair was divisive.” “He rid the world of dictators.” “He brought ruin to the land, before it became ruined.” And so on. The ancient arguments nursed again into dangerous and bitter flame beneath the pressurised twatdomes.

But as the Interplanetary Labour Party hold the balance of power, albeit in conjunction with the Lunar Independence Party, their will prevails. Many megacredits are instazapped to pay for the funeral, even though this means some go without basic necessities such as Coca-Cola. It’s not a state funeral, oh no, they insist: the Anima-Queen’s eyes buzzed red when the idea was suggested. And so it proves: the laser light extravacremanza is a slightly lighter shade of mauve, thus identifying it unambiguously as merely a ceremonial funeral. The supergun carriage travels via Tube Olive not Tube Potato, entirely different. The entrance to St Ronald’s Cathedral is lined with Chelsea Cyborgs, not the active servicedroids currently engaged in the war against Lunar Eurasia.

It is by no means a political funeral. The guest list for the service merely includes all party donors and surviving members of Blair’s cabinet, with Supreme General Overlord Omicron Mandelson telespazzing in from the Outer Worlds, and Gordon Brown sending a miniclone. Although invited in accordance with the War Crimes (Ignore Ignore) Act 2020, the Immortal Empty Soul of Henry Kissinger sends his apologies, secured as he is behind the impenetrable borders of the People’s Republic of Lunar America. By special arrangement Robodiana, sponsored by the Daily App, hovers above the plastipews scattering underage upskirt images of celebrity children as part of its immoral crusade.

In accordance with no tradition, Big Space Ben is placed in Silent Mode for the duration of the funeral service, and the Tubes are lined with the Boys in Black to facilitate appropriate mourning behaviour. Space Onions are available for an optional mandatory fee from every Coca-Cola dispenser.

These precautions do not entirely stop unauthorised rebellions, including lowered visors and retransmissions of “unbalanced” material such as the F*rty-f*ve M*n*tes speech (name obfuscated to trick the Ultra-Effectivo™ Lunar Unlimited Virgin Omnifilter). A campaign led from the deepest lava tubes of the Northern Line to propel Things Can Only Get Better to hashpos 0000001 in the bongotrends causes controversy when the LBBC decides to broadsmit only every alternate bar, intercutting with footage of Space Pope Colin II humming halluciprayers and rattling a tin from a balcony of St Peter’s Bank of Silica.

And now at last into the cathedral come the senior guests, led by the recently televoted PM Romeo Beckham and the winners of Lunar Britain’s Got Cabinet, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Maximilian Plantagenet Idaho Binge Squabbler, known to his owners as Polly T Parrot. And finally the Anima-Queen and her brood, cleansing the St Ronald’s lino of choking regolith for the ceremonial entrance of the most honoured guest, Eternal Emperor Cameron, and his little dog Gove.

Pray silence, now, for His Grace the Lord Archbishop of Tranquility, Professor Brian Cox.

…wibbly woo wibbly woo wibbly woo

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Examinations for Dummies

At today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, in response to a question about the government’s apparent plan to replace GCSEs with something like the old O Levels and CSEs, David Cameron said: “On this side of the house we think we need a rigorous system and that’s what we’re going to put in place.” And who could disagree with that?

He also, naturally, took potshots at Labour: “The tragedy is that what we inherited from the last government was a system that was being progressively dumbed down, where Britain was falling down the league tables, and GCSE questions included things like ‘How do you see the moon, is it through a telescope or a microscope?’” (Source: video on the BBC Democracy Live web site, from about 26:06, transcribed by me. I have no idea how persistent that URL will be, but Hansard will have an approximation to that text tomorrow.)

His mocking of the moon question revealed a deep ignorance of the examination system. His Education Secretary, the dangerous idiot Gove, presumably has similarly ignorant views.

What, I wonder, would they expect to see in an exam? A series of questions of equal and maximal difficulty? Presumably the correct answers to all questions would give you an A grade and thus the stamp of Tory approval, with the other grades distributed across those students who answered only some of the questions correctly. There. Easy.

But what have you learned?

You’ve learned that not all students can answer hard questions. Well, that’s not a great surprise. And in fact, for a maths or science exam with absolute right/wrong answers I’d imagine you’ve learned, to a first approximation, that a tiny number of students answer most or all questions correctly, because they’re the brightest in the class, and the rest get very few marks at all.

The reality is, you’ve learned nothing about the less able students or the mid-range students at all. You certainly haven’t learned how able anyone is. You’ve just partitioned the students between “can answer hard exam questions” and “can’t answer hard exam questions”.

This is demonstrated easily by pub quizzes. The worst quizzes consist of equally tough — or equally easy — questions. Either way you sit with your pint of orange and lemonade in grinding frustration, either writing Trotsky against every question or scribbling in the answer before the question’s finished. These quizzes frustrate the participants and serve only to make the question master look foolish.

Here’s what exams should do, which is — not coincidentally — what exams actually do.

Exams should include easy questions so students at the low-ability end of the scale can score more than zero. If you don’t do this you alienate them. You brand them as useless, as utter failures. They feel excluded and worthless. This is not good.

Exams should include questions of increasing difficulty, so you can more easily differentiate abilities. “What is a lunar eclipse?” “Give an example of a way to view the sun safely.” “Draw on the diagram the main components of a reflecting telescope.” (I have no idea whether these are real questions, or whether they’d be considered acceptable questions. They’re off the top of my head and seem to me to be in increasing difficulty. But I don’t set exams.)

And of course you need to stretch and challenge the most able students. “Give one reason why we shouldn’t fire Gove into the blazing heart of the Sun.”

GCSE: General Certificate of Secondary Education. GCE: General Certificate of Education. Exams allow students of all abilities to demonstrate their knowledge and to receive appropriate credit. They do not exist to serve only the most able students: they must be accessible to all.

Just about anyone with any knowledge of the education system could tell the Prime Minister this. The Education Secretary should be well aware already.

If they both do understand this point, then what are they really trying to do to the education system?

But if not: grade F.


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The generation gap

As we slobber before our mega-tellies laughing at gypsies or braying neon quiz shows it sometimes escapes us that we’re totes living in teh futur. We regularly eat space pills, for instance, and clamber aboard our personal UFOs for weekend breaks at Moonbase Alpha. Anti-gravity holes in the floor, the ubiquitous uppy-downies, have long replaced the jagged slashes of carpentry our comically primitive ancestors subjected themselves to for trivial vertical translation. And I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t live without my nuclear fusion podule. I keep mine in the cupboard under the— er, the cupboard beside the uppy-downy, with the spare robot parts and the Yahtzee.

Well, maybe we’re not quite there yet. But we have smartphones and the internet, and the instantaneous global communication of 140-character inanity that would’ve looked miraculous to my beflared, jazz-patterned, unbald seventies self.

Like many of a certain age, this cheeky mewling scamp annually devoured the Norris McWhirter non-fascist factorama that was the Guinness Book of Records. It was a more innocent time, a time before spurious non-record records (“most critically acclaimed seventh-generation puzzle game”), a time before full-colour illustrations, a time before graphic design. Simply column upon column of facts, cold hard facts, longest serving this and first that, perhaps accompanied by a blurry half-tone image of Roger Bannister wheezing.

I was fascinated by the simpler human records like tallest man and in particular oldest living man (I was — please prepare yourself — uninterested in the women). At that time the record-holder was a Japanese man, Shigechiyo Izumi — since expunged from the book after it was realised he’d never been seen in the same room as Clive Dunn. According to the Guinness World Records web site the current holder of the record for oldest (not living) man is Christian Mortensen, who died aged 115. Though since the relevant page claimed for some time that he was born in 1825 rather than 1882, I suspect their fact checking has gone to cock since McWhirter relocated to right-wing stats heaven.

While Izumi was still being worshipped as lord of the undead my young mind boggled that someone (allegedly) born in 1865, before even the invention of the trimphone, might still be alive at that time. The oldest living person today, in our velour spacesuit future, was born in 1896 — and there are only twenty-six people verified as born before 1900 and still going (just one of them, the youngest, British). These numbers will, alas, soon dwindle: seven have died so far this year. Within a few short years there will be nobody alive who can claim to have twice endured the tedious arguments about which year begins a century. But there are certainly some now living who will be able to make that claim, in another 88 years or so. A mere geological and by then gerontological trifle.

There should, I contend, be a hands across the centuries event while such a thing is possible. Richard Branson or David Cameron or another PR luminary should bus and stairlift in everyone born before 1900 to a great gathering at Greenwich, on the meridian, whether they want to or not, and have them mingle with confused young children and photographers. They could shoehorn it into the Olympics somehow, and have Boris Johnson or his earthly representative fly in on a sponsored zip wire. Somewhere in the mix will be a child who will see the first nano-fireworks of the twenty-second century fly and spin and footle disappointingly, from their hoverchair in an Old Folks’ Home on Ganymede, and whose weary space fingers could gesture up the holoimage of them being thrust into the face of a refugee from the nineteenth century. What a moment that would be. A dull moment, true, but a moment.

I’m sure, although the execrable Guinness web site refuses to allow me to locate it, there used to be a record along the lines of “last parental link to the eighteenth century”. Luckily the internet and the wonderful @lettersofnote Twitter feed tell me the answer: the father of Alice Grigg (1863-1970) of Kent was born to a small collection of powdered wigs in 1799. A total of 171 eventful years between the start of one generation and the end of the next.

However, and still bogglingly, there are extant grandparental links to those times. Indeed of all people the tenth president of them there United States, the lowly regarded John Tyler, who was born in 1790, has two living grandchildren. Three generations spanning almost the entire history of the country, from beginning to end (do you see what I did there?).

Compare that to today in Cameron’s Britain, where people are having grandchildren almost before puberty. January’s newborn is December’s four-greats. Generations are flashing past more quickly than Andrew Lansley at a heckling competition.

In my day you didn’t have children, you had 16K and were happy with a Jet Set Willy knock-off. Still am, come to that.


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