Observations from the Labour Party Conference 4: how secure is university funding after today?

The Labour Party Conference today coincides with Brighton University’s “Freshers’ Pub Crawl”.  Several thousand scantily-clad and inebriated freshers have converged on Odeon Cinema adjacent to the Brighton Centre.  The armed Police are looking nervous: what if they surge towards the security cordon? An ambulance has had to be called to a delegate overcome by the expanses of bare flesh heat.  Ed Balls sweeps by with his entourage and looks scandalised.

Will he be talking to Lord Peter Mandelson to suggest some candidates for cuts in University funding?

Now isn’t that sweet: computer hackers like their holidays too…..

Apparently, computer hackers are human beings too.

A new survey of computer hackers has found that hackers like to go on holiday during the summer months, but warns that they will be particularly active over Christmas and New Year.  Apparently, even though company IT security managers are likely to be on holiday during the summer months, hackers also like to go away then.  And for them the best time to target companies is over the winter holidays.  Of the hackers surveyed 56% said that Christmas was the best time to do some serious hacking into corporate systems, while 25% favoured New Year’s Eve.

Mayor Boris Johnson should follow Mayor Bloomberg’s lead and ban smoking outside as well as in

Mayor Boris Johnson has been in New York on an arduous fact-finding mission meeting his counterpart Mayor Bloomberg.  I hope he took the opportunity to discuss the proposal that New York’s smoking ban inside buildings should be extended outside as well – with a view to adopting a similar approach in London.

There is no doubt that the ban on smoking in workplaces, restaurants, bars and inside places of entertainment has been hugely beneficial to the health of both smokers and non-smokers alike.

However, the cloud of toxic smoke outside buildings, on pavements and in the so-called open air, as unreformed addicts puff away is now more and more noticeable as one becomes increasingly used to the relative purity of the air inside buildings.

It would be deeply unfortunate if New York succeeds in making its city more attractive by extending the smoking ban as envisaged.  London cannot be allowed to lag behind on this.  I trust that Mayor Johnson will not allow London’s competitive position to be eroded.  Do your duty Boris.

Why the postal dispute is a lose-lose for all concerned

Like most Londoners I have suffered an erratic postal service (or to be accurate: an even-more-erratic-than-usual postal service) as a result of the current dispute in the Royal Mail.  This has been inconvenient, but not as devastating for me as it apparently has been for Barbara Ellen, the Observer columnist, who writes movingly about the traumas of getting the invitations out for her daughter’s birthday party (and I thought some of my writing was self-indulgent).

However, once you have got over the urge to vomit, Barbara Ellen illustrates the dilemma for the postal workers.  The reason that the Royal Mail management wants to change working practices is because fewer and fewer important communications are being sent by post.  We all rely more and more on email, texts and the telephone.  Important documents are increasingly couriered.  The current dispute will make all of this worse, as people discover they can manage without using the postal service at all or – perhaps not even realising that there is a dispute going on – forsake the service because it appears even more unreliable.

The postal workers’ campaign is designed to remind us all how much we value our universal postal service and to force the Royal Mail management not to proceed with the changes in working practices.  The danger for them, as Barbara Ellen demonstrates, is that more people will give up on the post and that even the changes being pursued by the management will not save the service.  And the danger for the rest of us is that we really will lose the postal service, which although we may use it less than we used to, is still vital for many people.

The anti-curse of Harris: David Tyler to become Chairman of Sainsburys

I see that David Tyler, currently Chairman of Logica CMG, is to become Chairman of Sainsburys.

In 1974, David Tyler and I stood against each other for the Presidency of the Cambridge Union.  I won.

I don’t think I have seen him for 35 years.  But it is good to see that the “Anti-curse of Harris” is still potent: those who cross me always do well for themselves.

I am delighted for him and what I know of his business career suggests he is an excellent choice for Sainsburys.

When I mentioned it to my wife, she said: “I always knew you made the wrong career choice.”