End of season shooting

As the shooting season draws to a close, I can reflect on my own very first seasons sport and how much fun I have had.

Far from being an orgy of killing anything that flies, it has taught me more about the workings of the countryside than I imagined.   It has been enjoyable in part for the company and cameraderie and in part for the challenge of trying to shoot a moving target 40 ft up in the air moving away from you at some speed….  The adrenaline rush on a successful kill is immense and owes much to the difficulty in succeeding.

I have learned much about how to keep game, to keep them free from predators and keep them on our land (or not, but it’s a lesson for 2006).   To build and maintain a pheasant pen, to feed and water the poults and of what crop makes good cover.

And I realise, how embedded in the daily life of country folk is that which many seek to ban.   A way of life that has endured for generations: and these are not just rich folks with expensive weapons and little talent, but ordinary people who will come out for a days beating or train their dogs to pick up downed quarry.   Or whose livelyhood comes from gamekeeping or controlling predators.   The countryside has a natural equilibrium all of its own – and there’s a whole industry out there.   It may be of feudal origin, but it seems to work rather well as it is, needing no more regulation or intervention.

As the ubiquitous car stickers down our way say:   “We keep our bulls*t in the countryside:  you keep yours in Westminster”.

Hear, hear.   And here’s to a splendid summer and a good season in 2006.


Kung Hei Fat Choy to all.   Here’s hoping the year of the Dog brings you health, wealth and happiness.

The Lunar New Year dates from 2600 BC, when the Emperor Huang Ti introduced the first cycle of the zodiac.

Because of cyclical lunar dating, the first day of the year can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February. On the Chinese calendar, 2006 is Lunar Year 4703-4704. On the Western calendar, the start of the New Year falls on January 29, 2006 — The Year of the Dog.

If you were born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, or 2006 – you were born under the sign of the dog. Like the dog, you are honest and faithful to those you love, although you also can be somewhat eccentric and very stubborn at times! For dogs in 2006, any recent setbacks or obstacles can be overcome so look forward to a year in which to really shine, either personally or professionally.

Galloway: out of the frying pan and into the fire

George Galloway was evicted from the Big Brother house yesterday.   Leaving the studio to the jeers of onlookers he had been unaware of the strength of feeling against his appearance within his Constituency.

In one memorable scene (I have to say that I read it in a newspaper as I can’t bear the to watch the rubbish) he wore a read catsuit and had to pretend to lick milk from the lap of another contestant..

Cue saucers of milk, cries of Miaaaoow and trays of cat litter when he next turns up at the House.   Although, on past form, don’t expect him anytime soon.

I don’t think we’ve heard the last of him….

Sir John Cowperthwaite 1915-2006

Sir John Cowperthwaite, who died on January 21 aged 90, was Financial Secretary of Hong Kong throughout the 1960s; his extreme laissez-faire economic policies created conditions for very rapid growth, laying the foundations of the colony’s prosperity as an international business centre.

The present administration in the UK could learn much from this approach, creating a vibrant and successful economy, the foundations of which survive to this day.

Cowperthwaite was a classical free-trader in the tradition which stretched from Adam Smith to John Stuart Mill and Gladstone, rather than a modern monetarist. He was also a seasoned colonial administrator, with a strong streak of common sense. But his achievement in Hong Kong was hailed by Milton Friedman and other free-market economists as a shining example of the potency of laissez-faire when carried through to its logical conclusions in almost every aspect of government. The Right-wing American commentator PJ O’Rourke called Cowperthwaite “a master of simplicities”.

Cowperthwaite himself called his approach “positive non-intervention”. Personal taxes were kept at a maximum of 15 per cent; government borrowing was wholly unacceptable; there were no tariffs or subsidies. Red tape was so reduced that a new company could be registered with a one-page form.

Cowperthwaite believed that government should concern itself with only minimal intervention on behalf of the most needy, and should not interfere in business. In his first budget speech he said: “In the long run, the aggregate of decisions of individual businessmen, exercising individual judgment in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralised decisions of a government, and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster.”

From 1961 to 1971 Cowperthwaite exercised almost complete control of the colony’s finances under successive governors, Sir Robert Black and Sir David Trench, who were sympathetic to his philosophy and content to give him his head. Among his peers in the Hong Kong government, it was said that only Claude Burgess, the colonial secretary, could keep him in line. “His brilliance and argumentation prevailed, and he thus made policy by ruling on all items of expenditure,” said one colleague. But Cowperthwaite summed up his part in the colony’s success over the decade with some modesty: “I did very little. All I did was to try to prevent some of the things that might undo it.”

The measure of that success was a 50 per cent rise in real wages, and a two-thirds fall in the number of households in acute poverty. Exports rose by 14 per cent a year, as Hong Kong evolved from a trading post to a major regional hub and manufacturing base.

Cowperthwaite’s style was polished and amusing, but his intellect was razor sharp. Once his mind was made up on an issue, he was not to be shifted. His refusal to compromise was such that it was often said he would not have lasted five minutes in any equivalent post in the Home Civil Service. Denis Healey, as Labour’s Defence Minister, tried several times to persuade him that Hong Kong taxpayers should contribute more towards the British military presence in the colony. “I always retired hurt from my encounters with the redoubtable Financial Secretary,” he recalled.

Another aspect of Cowperthwaite’s modus operandi was a habit of holding his cards very close to his chest. When Milton Friedman asked him, in 1963, to explain the mechanism which kept the Hong Kong dollar pegged to the pound, Cowperthwaite remarked that even the management of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank (through which the peg was operated) did not understand it – “Better they shouldn’t. They would mess it up.” As for the paucity of economic statistics for the colony, Cowperthwaite explained that he resisted requests to provide any, lest they be used as ammunition by those who wanted more government intervention.

The only real constraint on him was the requirement that he should hold the colony’s credit balances in sterling. The arrangement was to cost Hong Kong dear when the chronic weakness of the British economy – shaped, it might be said, by interventionist, high-tax policies diametrically opposite to his own – forced the devaluation of the pound in 1967, resulting in a loss of some £30 million to Hong Kong’s reserves.

The unfettered Hong Kong economy took that blow in its stride, however, just as it had recovered from a crisis of confidence in local banks in 1965 and withstood the destabilising impact of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. In its annual report for 1971, the year of Cowperthwaite’s retirement, the government was able to boast that Hong Kong had become a “stable and increasingly affluent society comparable with the developed world in nearly every respect”.

If there were critics who doubted that claim, few were to be found within Hong Kong itself, where hundreds of thousands of industrious Chinese refugees were grateful for the opportunities such an open economy offered. Seen from the perspective of the British welfare state, however, Hong Kong’s social provision looked harshly inadequate. There were those who argued that the colony’s prosperity was driven by its inhabitants’ undiluted dedication to money-making, rather than by its style of government, and that a little more expenditure on education and health might have generated an ever faster growth rate.

Others pointed out that even the modest sums Cowperthwaite did allocate to these areas were regularly underspent by a wide margin: in 1970-71, for example, health services – budgeted at little more than a pound per head of population – undershot by more than a quarter.

But statistics for mortality and disease showed steady improvement, and, despite its parsimony, the government maintained an ambitious refugee rehousing programme. Cowperthwaite himself had a Gladstonian sense of obligation towards the least fortunate: he rejected the notion of tax relief on mortgage interest because it would have benefited the better-off and might have prejudiced “our maximum housing effort at the lower end of the scale”.

To the extent that he left stark gaps in Hong Kong’s social provision, the balance was partially rectified during the interventionist governorship of Sir Murray (later Lord) MacLehose in the 1970s. But Cowperthwaite’s successors in the Financial Secretary’s office adhered to his principles, funding increased public expenditure through land sales rather than from tax or borrowing.

John James Cowperthwaite was born on April 25 1915 and educated at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh. He went on to study Economics at St Andrews University and Christ’s College, Cambridge, before joining the Colonial Administrative service in Hong Kong in 1941. During the Japanese occupation he was seconded to Sierra Leone.

Returning to Hong Kong in 1945, he was asked to find ways in which the government could boost post-war economic revival; but he found the economy recovering swiftly without intervention, and took the lesson to heart.

He was appointed OBE in 1960, CMG in 1964 and knighted in 1968.

After leaving the government, Cowperthwaite was international adviser to Jardine Fleming, the Hong Kong-based investment bank, until 1981. He retired to St Andrews, where he was a member of the Royal & Ancient.

He married, in 1941, Sheila Thomson; their son, the architect Hamish Cowperthwaite, predeceased him.

From The Daily Telegraph

The whale and the watering can

It could only happen in Britain in 2006.    The story of a bottlenose whale heading up the Thames gripped the nation last week as rescuers attempted to return it to the sea.   Thousands turned out to watch and it became the lead story on the news.   (Obviously not much going on in the Big Brother house then)   Sadly, despite strenuous efforts from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue Association (BDMLRA) and a raft of volunteers, the whale died just before it was to be released back to sea.

The red watering can used in the rescue

Now the story takes a more commercial and sinister twist.   The support vehicle used by these gallant rescuers was given a parking ticket by some zealous anti-parking wasp.   Several tickets in fact.   So, in order to raise the money to pay said tickets they decided to sell the red watering can (above) on eBay.
Bids are currently up to about $11,000 and there’s still 8 days to go.   Better hurry, wouldn’t want to miss out on that bargain now would you?
What of the parking tickets?   Westiminster council have decided to waive them. And of the whales bones?   Donated to the Natural History Museum.    And the meat?  Whale burger anyone?

Asbo – the youngest

This summer, for the first time, juveniles overtook adults as recipients of the most Asbos. “I know he’s a cheeky so and so,” Susan O’Driscoll told the press after her 11-year-old son Ryan Wilkinson became the youngest-ever member of the junior Asbo club. The order was given after allegations of burglary, glue-sniffing, assaulting a seven-year-old and throwing a scooter at a packed bus in Leeds.

Leader of the Chavs

The Rt. Hon. Tony Chav….err, no, Blair.   Prime Minister.

Is it the real thing?   Or is it wax?   Hard to tell really.   Both are infinitely mouldable and able to change to suit any either eventuality or offer enhanced voter appeal.    This particular version is the latest by Madame Tussauds and is in response to our Toni’s new Respect agenda.

No prizes for guessing which way the folks at Tussauds will be voting then.