Saturday, 4 December 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 20

It's the bumper 20 you (singular) have been waiting for. This week it's

  • Wikileaks
  • The bailout of Ireland
  • Collective Cabinet Responsibility
  • Elections in St Vincent & The Grenadines
  • Intrigue - will this be the very last WATM?

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GEF Special
First the round-up of the results of the last three elections featured on WATM

For this week's election you can access the two parties' websites for the St Vincent & The Grenadines elections here:
Of course you can see more on election songs at WATM Extra.

Friday, 29 October 2010

From a correspondent: Mr P on Defence

Our correspondent, Mr P, has commented on the #19 episode of TWATMP. Very learned and here for your delectation:


As ever, you produced a most thought-provoking WATM this week. I just wanted to comment on the first item: the National Security Strategy and the SDSR.

I think the esteemed Mr Tooms was right to say this was “willing the ends and not the means”. There was no question of reducing our ambition to play a role in world affairs, but our capability to do so has been greatly reduced by the coalition’s obsession with cuts. The SDSR was primarily about cost-savings and had nothing to do with strategy. The NSS is a joke from start to finish.

The MoD procurement budget was over-committed and reductions in the number of programmes would have been required whoever was in government. However it is important to note that the size of the over-spend is not known. The Coalition keep talking about £38 billion, but the National Audit Office could only produce a range of £6 billion to £36 billion. More importantly, the Coalition – specifically the Treasury – is interested in savings that are realised now, rather than taking Labour’s approach of a slower, more considered, long-term savings programme. The problem with the Coalition’s approach is that it cuts capabilities to the bone in the short-term, so that the Treasury can rinse a few extra pounds out of defence, whilst in the long-run delayed programmes end up costing more. The Coalition is repeating the mistakes the Tories made in the 1990s. One excellent example is the replacement of Trident. By delaying the decision the Treasury realised savings of few hundred million. But is the long-run they will pay a much higher price on the build of the replacement and massive costs will be incurred in prolonging the life of the current Vanguard-class subs. By the way, I hesitate to disagree with Tooms on this, but the delay of Trident is a victory for the Lib Dems and their unilateralism-in-all-but-name approach to nuclear weapons.

Mr Page made a good point about buying things with our partners. There are potential savings here, but also potential pitfalls. Nobody will say Eurofighter or the A400M represent good value for money. The Joint Strike Fighter we’re developing with the Americans will be an amazing piece of kit but expensive nevertheless. The UK needs to maintain a sovereign capability in defence manufacture, whilst also making kit that interoperable with our allies. That won’t always be cheap.

All Defence Reviews are guess work, which is why they should be about strategy primarily, not cost savings. I would say the coalition put cuts before strategy and, as a result, have probably made some mistakes that will have serious consequences for the UK and our interests. Back in the ‘70s the military historian Sir Michael Howard said: “I am tempted indeed to declare dogmatically that whatever doctrine the Armed Forces are working on now, they have got it wrong. I am also tempted to declare that it does not matter that they have got it wrong. What does matter is the capacity to get it right quickly when the moment arrives.” The Coalition’s cuts have reduced our ability to respond to the unforeseen and reduced our standing in the world at time when new threats are emerging almost monthly. Cameron is right to say that without significant above-inflation investment post-2015 the UK will no longer be a front rank power. It remains to be seen whether, having won the election, Labour will deliver that investment.



Sunday, 24 October 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 19

Oh-so-close to #20, we're at number 19 and bring you a relatively decent take on three topics

  • The UK National Security Strategy
  • The United Nations Human Rights Council
  • Azerbaijan's parliamentary elections

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To read the National Security Strategy read this Number 10 press release or jump straight to the PDF.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 18

Hash 18 is here and we bring you three not-so-short segments:

  • The Labour leadership election
  • International train travel from the UK
  • Brazil's presidential election

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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 17

Hash 17 is hot on the heels of micro-WATM 16.1 and it's a bumper show with four segments:

  • The role of the Tea Party in Republican primaries
  • The Advertising Standards Authority
  • The UK defence review and what it means for the UK's role in the world
  • The Bosnia and Herzegovina general election

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Monday, 13 September 2010

Micro-WATM Episode 16.1

WATM gets almost professional this week, with an exclusive interview with an expert on Turkey, discussing the constitutional referendum that took place on the 12th September.

We do plan on doing more interviews, so do let us know what you think of this. Sorry if the sound quality isn't ideal - as we've commented before we do have problems in our central London studios - we've cleaned it up as much as we can.

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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 16

Just because we make a video special for #15 doesn't mean you escape a podcast. Here we are, with top topic coverage:

  • Christian Voice's Stephen Green on 4thought
  • Internet Privacy
  • Guinea's presidential election

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Want a bit more on the Christian Voice story? Here are some materials

Sunday, 29 August 2010

WATM Podcast Episode 15 Video Special

As a treat for #15 we've put together a video showing how we put together the last video. It's short, sweet and maybe, just maybe, a bit funny.
Last time on WATM TV
For those who've missed out on WATM's first video special see the whole thing here:

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 15

It's the much vaunted listeners' special! We took three of the suggestions that were sent into us for topics, sprinkled with a look at Sweden's upcoming elections and then seasoned with a cocktail. Here's the meat of the dish:

  • North Korea
  • Politics and Football
  • Cameron's foreign policy

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Quick news - the video special for 15 is coming soon - watch out for it here at

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 14

This week we cover the lamentable performance of the Deputy Prime Minister at the dispatch box and the bizarre spectacle of a British Prime Minister apologising to a US President for a company owned equally by the US and UK.

Well we would have covered these things if they'd happened when we recorded, but given this was a week ago, we actually covered this:

  • AV Vote referendum
  • Media coverage of Raoul Moat
  • Elections in the Solomon Islands

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Friday, 2 July 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 13

Nothing says sorry for #12 like a nice fresh #13. Even if we say so ourselves this is nearly up to the giddy standards set by #6.

We pour our considerably inflated sense of purpose over:

  • Kevin Rudd's deposition
  • The Tories/LibDem policy of capping immigration
  • The removal of General McCrystal
  • The Japanese election to the House of Councillors

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Saturday, 26 June 2010

The Budget: WATM responds

The WATM duo were not impressed with the first budget of the new administration. It's not that the need for fiscal retrenchment is something we argue with. It's the way it's being done that matters.

So we're trying something new. My MP is Lynne Featherstone, Minister for Equalities. I have written to her explaining my concerns. I've reproduced this letter verbatim below.

I've explained that I'm publishing this letter, and will publish her response when it comes in. You can see the original letter and copies of all supporting documents on WATM Extra, our new support site for added content.

Here is the letter as sent (the only change has been to incorporate links in the text).


I watched the budget announcement on Tuesday 22nd June and thought it would be wise to get in touch.

Much was made during the presentation by the Chancellor of this being a progressive budget. It is a great shame that this is not true, and one is left to wonder if the repetition of the word ‘progressive’ by Mr Osborne was an attempt to make something true by saying it enough times.

Part of the mystique with budgets is no doubt that the population (me included) are generally reliant on experts to be able to untangle the web of changes to taxation, benefits and government policy. It is of great value that organisations such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) exist to provide a non-partisan dissection of what the budget means. The news is, frankly, shocking.

Not being an expert with finances I will quote the IFS directly. I will point you to this document which looks at the redistributive effects of the budget (Slide 17).

The chart makes the first fact clear: This budget hits the poorest in society hardest. I believe there is an argument to be made for using expenditure rather than income to compare the effects - slide 19 does this and the results are similarly shocking. This leads me to my first question:

1. Were the Liberal Democrats aware of the net effect of this budget: that it targets the poorest disproportionately.

The second question is perhaps obvious:

2. If the answer to (1) is ‘yes’, then why did you sign up to this budget? If the answer is ‘no’ then why are you part of a coalition that puts through such changes?

Much has been written about the decision to raise VAT to 20%. We can be sure that, as a proportion of income, this hits the poorest hardest. The chancellor said that “the years of debt and spending” had made this necessary. Although this fits your narrative well, it is untrue, as the IFS have calculated - see page 2.

To summarise, the LibDem proposed increase in Income Tax bands is almost precisely offset by the VAT increase - there would be no need for the latter if it were not for the further.

3. Why did your government make this false representation?

4. Of what benefit is it to increase income tax bands if a VAT rise is required to compensate?

My final area is that of the purpose of the budget. I assume we are all in agreement that the most important thing the budget should do is return the country to sustainable and stable growth, which in turn will mean the deficit can be paid off. The Office of Budget Responsibility are an independent arm of the Treasury. Their verdict on the budget is similarly damning.

Point C18 on page 5 of the PDF explains that the effect of the budget will be to reduce growth in 2010 and 2011. It is not until 2013 that growth is forecast to outstrip the pre-budget estimates. This would appear to fly in the fact of numerous reports that the recovery is weak, including that bastion of the left-wing, the CBI.

Days before the budget they stated ‘efforts to get borrowing under control would undermine the strength of the economic recovery’. Hence my final question:

5. Do the Liberal Democrats believe that short term growth should be sacrificed to gamble for higher growth in the future? If so, why did you say the opposite to this in your election campaign?

The Labour party made a massive mistake removing the 10p tax rate. The public clamour was, rightly, deafening, and the government of the day were forced to back track. During this issue an MP made the following statement when challenged whether his party was really the party of the working class or the middle class:

“Tell that to the bottom 20 percent of earners in this country, who are now paying a higher proportion of their income in tax under Labour than the top 20 percent. It is frankly outrageous...”

The person who made this statement was Nick Clegg. Now your party has delivered a budget that hits the bottom ten percent of earners much worse than the top ten percent of earners. What happened?

Tom Page

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 12

We're here again after a disagreeably long break. Apologies as always.

Topics this week are:

  • Minority languages
  • Transport investment as the cuts come
  • A look back at great Global Election Fora of the past

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Thursday, 27 May 2010

Micro-WATM Episode 11.1

Don't fear - no long gaps between WATMs this time. We're back this week with a speedy run through of every member of the new UK Cabinet.

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Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 11

We are very much back. After the very brief (i.e. over a month) gap caused by the minor issue of a general election, the WATM Duo are back in the game.

Topics this week are:

  • What the coalition means for the LibDems future changes
  • Can the Euro keep chugging on?
  • Spending cuts for the BBC World Service
  • The musical elections in Trinidad & Tobago

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Loving those election songs?

You can download them both here:

The PNM song: We love you, So we take good care of you
The UNC song: Patrick Manning have to go

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Monday, 5 April 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 10

Number ten finally rolls into view. First, the main podcast, but make sure you look below for the extra goodies that #10 brings.


On the podcast this time we cover Nigeria, Iceland, Hungary and Sundays. Naturally there's a cocktail and some chatter. You can get it here:

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What? There's more? We've an interview with the WATM pair and a special double-cocktail video.


Cocktail special

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Sunday, 14 March 2010

Micro-WATM Episode 9.2

You lucky things. You have another bonus Micro-WATM this time on the jolly topic of Radovan Karadžić and his trial for war crimes. Enjoy.

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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Micro-WATM Episode 9.1

Dearest WATMers. This is our first single-section Micro-WATM pre-recorded while one half of the duo is away on his hols. The one and only topic of conversation in this message is the BBC and its decision to close BBC 6 Music. Hope you enjoy. As ever, send comments to Micro-WATM 9.2 will be up and at ‘em at the weekend and #10 will be on the way soon.

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Monday, 1 March 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 9

It's the ninth episode of the WATM podcast! We've worked hard to bring you something new soon after #8. This time we look at the murder of a senior Hamas figure in Dubai, the sale of arms from the US to Taiwan and the proposed tax of telephone connections to fund broadband.

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Friday, 26 February 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 8

We're back with another top and, it must be said, somewhat drunken podcast. This time it's Parliamentary Privilege, civility in politics, the Tajikistani election and a cocktail. It's one of the best yet!

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Sunday, 7 February 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 7

Bit of a gap before this, but don't worry, this week's podcast is a cracker. We tackle the media and its coverage of technology, the United Nations Human Rights Council, Bicycle hire schemes and the final stage of the Ukrainian presidential election. We cram in a cocktail and some jabbering - enjoy!

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Something better

It's easy to assume that we live now in a world of unparalleled dangers. The USSR may have collapsed, but to replace the threat of nuclear war between The USA and The Soviet Union we now have a nuclear North Korea, India, Pakistan and possibly Iran as well as a increasingly undemocratic Russia. Terrorism was the theme of the first decade of the 21st century, with terrorist attacks begetting wars begetting further terrorism.

Perhaps this plays on the ease with which our species jumps to negativity and fear. Your author hopes that amongst the destruction yet again wrought on Haiti we can take a more positive message: there is such thing as an international community.

Haiti's history is in itself depressing, but the position it found itself in when the earthquake struck was of order maintained by the United Nations Stabilisation Mission. Before the 12th January there were already peace keepers of many countries (including 125 Chinese, not a country that has always been happy to involve itself in such actions). This mission hasn't been without controversy, but let us not forget the response shown to this earthquake (and the 2004 tsunami that came before).

In 1923 an earthquake almost destroyed Tokyo. Over 100,000 died. Foreign aid did not arrive. Information was almost non-existent. Koreans, falsely accused of all manner of unpleasantness, were sought, beaten and killed.

In 1976, in Tangshan in China an earthquake killed 200,000 people. China refused to accept foreign aid. The rest of the world had nothing but reports which played down the incident to go on.

Then, in 1988, in Spitak in Armenia an earthquake struck, estimated in the end to have lead to 25,000 deaths. Armenia was part of the Soviet Union. Was this to be Tangshan all over again, with the borders closed and denials issued? Not this time. Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the USSR, asked for international assistance which quickly flooded in. The memorial in Washington DC from the people of Armenia shows the success.

Not a word of this downplays the tragedy of Haiti. It does demonstrate that the world has changed. Firemen from Britain, a field hospital from Israel, a search and rescue team from Iceland, $1m from Botswana, C-130 Hercules from Brazil. In addition, and perhaps more vital, non-governmental organisations are there and there fast. The Disasters Emergency Committee (an umbrella organisation for UK charities) was up and running fast, raising £25m in a week. $35m has been donated to the Canadian Red Cross.

Information is available. Aid distribution has had many problems, but the availability of images and reports so quickly after the earthquake have encouraged people to give, have allowed people to stay in touch, and have even allowed trapped citizens to be rescued by sending a text.

Haiti will be a mess for years to come. Its people have been battered time after time, and the lives of hundreds of thousands are dependent now on international generosity and logistical savvy. Now though, when a disaster occurs, the world does largely respond as one, and millions of people are better off for it. Never has the onlooker in another country had more of a chance to save a disaster's victims.

If you would like to donate to Médecins Sans Frontières' appeal then please click a country here: UK USA Canada

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 6

The shock may be overwhelming, but calm down - there really are two podcasts without having to wait two weeks. The WATM duo tackle alcohol pricing, China and Google and, of course, a cocktail.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

The WATM Podcast Episode 5

Podcast five is ready for the listening. This week we take on the challenges of free speech with both UK libel law and the desire by one group to protest in Wootton Bassett. We also look at ITV, elections around the world and, of course, a cocktail.
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