Back in 2009, at the height of the MPs’ expenses scandal, there were plenty of hilarious, infuriating and odd examples of politicians wasting taxpayers’ money. Some have become immortal – duck houses, moat repairs, Jacqui Smith’s porn claim and so on.
Sadly, one of my favourites has largely been forgotten – the case of David Tredinnick MP, who charged the taxpayer for the software and tuition required so he could become an astrologer. No, not an astronomer like Brian Cox or the much-lamented Patrick Moore – an astrologer. Think Nostradamus, carnival sideshow con artists and newspaper horoscope columns that say things like “As the new phase of Venus enters the Cancerian optimum, consider buying a scratch card – or a second hand Vauxhall.”
I wrote about it for the TPA at the time, suggesting the public might like to email Mystic Tredinnick and request he read their future, given that they had paid for his so-called education. He didn’t take it very well, and as far as I’m aware he never did agree to give out any lottery numbers in advance – though he did later agree to pay back the money he had claimed.
This wasn’t a one-off. As well as his taxpayer-funded foray into the territory of Gypsy Rose Lee, the Member for Bosworth has also pressed the NHS to fund homeopathy, claimed that “remote healing” via telekinesis works despite the total absence of evidence and argued that surgeons and police officers should plan their work according to the cycle of the moon.
Now it has come to my attention, via The Geek Manifesto, that not only is the Parliamentary equivalent of Paul Daniels still going, but he has been elected onto the Science and Technology Select Committee. This is an MP who not only believes in just about every debunked alternative therapy going, but who openly and repeatedly places anecdotal evidence above statistical studies. The ability and the willingness to assess and weigh evidence is the foundation of science – and yet science policy will now be studied by someone who rejects the very concept of what is and is not evidence.
One of the Select Committee’s upcoming Inquiries is into the way clinical drug trials are carried out in the UK. Will the people really be best served by someone who rejects the evidential proof that homeopathy does not work?
It doesn’t take David Tredinnick’s crystal ball to see that this is a car crash waiting to happen.
Giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on 24th January, Jeremy Hunt said that:
There is a huge amount of work going on, right down to training Tube drivers to make sure that we make Tube passengers feel particularly welcome in this special period for London
I was intrigued at what kind of training was being given to Transport for London staff – possibly “striking is a pain in the backside” would be a good start? So I made a Freedom of Information request to find out the details of the course.
Almost a week later than the legal deadline, and accompanied by a threatening note claiming that I’m not allowed to publish the information they’ve sent me (which I’m ignoring for obvious reasons centred around the words “freedom” and “information”), they’ve responded.
Given that the 9,600 people they are training all work on the London Underground, I was slightly surprised to say the least that part of the course is a Powerpoint presentation (screenshot below) teaching staff where in London the Olympic venues actually are.
Shouldn’t the staff for London’s transport system already know where, err, Stratford and Wembley are located?
John Bercow has been getting about in the North in his official role as Speaker of the Commons. Today in Parliament even went with him on a trip to Newcastle recently, where his mission was to persuade people that Parliament has reformed after the expenses scandal.
As the commentary went,
“We’re now at Newcastle station, about to board a taxi to St James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United…”
A taxi? The mucking in with real people campaign seems to have fallen at the first hurdle.
For those of you who haven’t had the good fortune to visit the Toon, Central Station is – erm – two stops on the Metro from St James’ Park. For those of a healthier disposition, Google estimates it to be 13 minutes walk away:
The London Borough of Wandsworth got some flak recently (from the TPA amongst others) for the huge amount of money they spent on enforcing the smoking ban. Despite spending £207,000, there were no fines or prosecutions at all in Wandsworth in the three years since the ban came in.
How come they spent so much but achieved so little? Are they incompetent? Is the ban just unenforceable?
I’m told by a source in Wandsworth that the true reason is much more encouraging from a libertarian point of view - “the officers working on it are essentially under instructions not to catch anyone”.
If that is so, good on Wandsworth for resisting the absurdity of a blanket smoking ban, the encroachment of the nanny state on individual liberty and the obscene redefinition of private companies like pubs and restaurants as “public spaces”.
If the idea of a society that threatens people with prosecution for smoking wasn’t evidence enough, it is surely proof of the nation’s insanity that even when ignoring a ban the council apparently either felt the need or were compelled by central government to squander £200,000 on not doing anything.
It was an appalling waste of money, but spending it on actually bullying smokers and businesses would have been even worse. It is good to know that instead of Wandsworth being “Smoke Free”, it is apparently “Free to Smoke”.