Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Grow up

    Stephen Pollard
    Aug 14, 2009

    I was going to post again on the bizarre silly season story of the moment, the notion that Dan Hannan is somehow a traitor, either to his country (the Labour line) or his party (the Conservative line - which has some more merit to it, given their panic over the idea that they are anti-NHS; I wish they were).

  • Hand of history

    Marcus Dysch
    Aug 14, 2009

    I don’t want to go all Tony Blair on you, but there is something a little bit special about feeling the hand of history on your shoulder.

    Joining Baroness Ruth Deech in Krakow last week to collect her family silver – hidden away for nearly 70 years – was a remarkable privilege.

    While the trip lacked the pomp and circumstance of an official visit or a hand-over ceremony, what happened in the small flat in Mazowiecka Street, with just six people in attendance, held enough sentiment of its own to not miss a couple of politicians elbowing their way into things.

  • Another derecognised conversion

    Simon Rocker
    Aug 13, 2009

    In this week's JC, I write about why it would be difficult to reach agreement for a universally recognised standard of conversion. But as if any more evidence of the obstacles were needed, the Jerusalem Post reports another example of an Israeli Orthodox convert having her conversion invalidated by the official rabbinate.

  • School vouchers, yes please

    Stephen Pollard
    Aug 13, 2009

    Halleluyah! There's a post on Harry's Place making the progressive case for school vouchers. And quite right, too.

    I've been banging on about this since 1995, when I was Research Director of the Fabian Society. I couldn't understand why it was regarded as right-wing to want to give all parents the ability to choose their children's education. Better-off parents can write out a cheque to a private school. Surely the progressive approach is to give that power to all parents.(Now, of course, I realise that the idea that the left is somehow, by definition, more progressive than the right is simply risible. George Osborne is bang on.)

    As Milton Friedman put it:

  • Bush went soft

    Stephen Pollard
    Aug 13, 2009

    Fascinating Washington Post piece which argues that Dick Cheney felt that President Bush went soft in his second term:

    "In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him," said a
    participant in the recent gathering, describing Cheney's reply. "He
    said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he
    took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush
    had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney's
    advice. He'd showed an independence that Cheney didn't see coming. It
    was clear that Cheney's doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times --
    never apologize, never explain -- and Bush moved toward the

  • Fish or female?

    Simon Rocker
    Aug 13, 2009

    Kiryat Yam council near Haifa are apparently offering a $1million to anyone who can prove the existence of a mermaid who has reportedly been spotted frolicking off the coast of Israel. But are they ready to offer more for anyone who can answer the question that really matters - would she be kosher?

  • The Mechitzah on the Street

    Simon Rocker
    Aug 12, 2009

    That redoubtable Orthodox blogger, Honestly Frum, has this tale from Jerusalem. It begins:

    “Last year the Satmar Rebbe visited Yerushalayim for the opening of the new Satmar Yeshiva. Due to the fact that men and women were standing on the same side of the street the procession was delayed until they separated, and there was a mechitza setup on the street to facilitate the separation. In Ramat Bet Shemesh there are areas where they already have separate street sides. (I wonder what took so long). On Friday the megaphone (the “vehaya machanecha kadosh”) people went around announcing men and women should walk on opposite sides of the road during the weekend.”

    More here.

  • Ignorant myths about US healthcare

    Stephen Pollard
    Aug 12, 2009

    There's a fantastically (and unintentionally) ironic sentence in a piece on US attitudes to the NHS in today's Guardian:

    As myths and half-truths circulate, British diplomats in the US are treading a
    delicate line in correcting falsehoods while trying to stay out of a vicious
    domestic dogfight over the future of American health policy.

    For myths and half-truths one needs only look to most UK coverage of the US health system, which is full of half-baked notions, lies and distortion. Until I came to the JC, I was a health-care policy wonk. A few years ago I testified before the US Senate on healthcare in the UK and EU; I'd say that, overall, the level of knowledge of our systems amongst opinion-formers on the other side of the Atlantic is far greater than ours about theirs, so that even intelligent adults in the UK carry around with them bizarre ideas of how health care works in the US.

  • The NHS to my pregnant wife: we're not interested in you

    Stephen Pollard
    Aug 12, 2009

    I've just seen my friend Shane Frith's post on Facebook yesterday:

    Andy Burnham is a liar! He just claimed on Sky that there are no NHS waiting lists. Having just been told by the "Book & Choose" people that I could do neither as there are no appointments for two months makes Burnham yet another lying Labour twat.

    I'll be writing more about the bigger story in a few weeks, but on Monday my 36 weeks pregnant wife went to see the midwife at UCH. We were told we needed to book in for another midwife appointment this coming Monday, because for various medical reasons the baby and Mrs P need close monitoring. We wandered over to the booking area. And guess what? There are no appointments available for the next week. None. So we'll have to do without.