Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The fox in the henhouse

Even a cursory glance at the weekend newsstands made the picture pretty clear. The national headlines told the story. Historic triumph for Ukip, shambolic disaster for Labour.
And the figures to back that up?
Labour 2,101 council seats, up 338.
Ukip 163 seats. That's fewer than half the number Labour added to a total that was already more than 10 times what Ukip now has.
Labour now runs twice as many councils as the Tories. Ukip still runs the same number it did before. None.
Funny triumph. Strange disaster.
The real story, though – the real political firebomb – was still lurking, to be revealed only on Sunday night.
Now Ukip really can claim a historic triumph. First national election for 100 years to be won by neither Conservatives nor Labour; first to be won by a party with no Westminster MPs.
Except that this wasn't a national election. It was a European election.
And that's the crucial point.
Such success as Ukip did achieve in the council vote can be put down to the fact that the poll took place at the same time as the European one.
Most of its votes were votes AGAINST Europe, not FOR a fully privatised health service, fewer rights for working people and more tax breaks for the rich.
Perhaps ironically, it is part of a Europe-wide tide of disaffection with the Union.
The tide that saw the ultra right-wing Front National top the poll in France, while left-wing anti-austerity groups won in Greece and Spain.
Whatever Nigel Farage may claim, the fox isn't in the Westminster henhouse.
He's in no position to affect egg-production, or anything much else, in city or county hall.
But he may be about to wreak havoc among the chickens of Strasbourg and Brussels.


I'm getting to like that Chris Packham more and more.
The TV naturalist – now settled in for a three-week Springwatch stint at Minsmere – has a fine habit of speaking unpopular truths.
He delivered several in an excellent interview in last week's Radio Times.
His big point – one which needs saying loudly and often – was about the thing nearly all politicians seem to consider their most important goal. Economic growth.
“If there's one mantra that we need to break,” Packham said, “it's that economic growth is a good thing.
“It isn't. It's a recipe for global disaster.”
Just so.


Changed your password lately? You really should, you know.
What do you mean, which password?
We live in an increasingly password-protected world, and I sometimes wonder just how secure it all is.
Never mind remembering my passwords, I can't even work out exactly how many I've got.
As a freelance working regularly for three different employers, I have about a dozen directly work-related ones.
Then there are the ones for banking and online payments. If you include PINs and “memorable names” etc, that's at least another dozen.
And then there's social media, my library login, those for updating the three websites I run, and three email accounts.
Thank goodness for those “Forgotten password?” links.
There's a lot of helpful advice around about password security.
They should be at least six (or eight, or nine) characters long. They shouldn't be your name, your middle name, your mum's name or your pet's name. They shouldn't be any word found in a dictionary. They certainly shouldn't be “password” or “123456789” or “98786754321”. They should include capitals and lower-case letters, numerals and other symbols.
You shouldn't use the same one for your email, your bank account or your workstation as you use for anything else.
And you should change them regularly.
All sound advice. And yet.
When ebay announced last week that all its users' passwords had been hacked, I promptly did what we were all recommended to do. I set out to change mine.
And the first thing I discovered was that I couldn't remember what it was.
No problem. Hit “Forgotten password?”, key in your email address and a link to set a new password will be emailed to you.
Bearing in mind all of the above, this is a process I go through a lot.
But it does make alarmingly clear that however many walls you barricade yourself behind, there's always just one little doorway in.
In this case, it's the single password that gives access to your email account.
Let that get into the wrong hands and almost everything else about you – all you own, all you are – potentially goes too.
And there's another thing about that ebay hacking.
If a database containing email and physical addresses, phone numbers, birthdates – and passwords – of 128 million users was hacked “between late February and early March” how come we didn't hear about it until late May?
And how come, when we finally did hear, it was on the news, not from ebay itself?


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