Saturday, 31 July 2010


The Tories great white elephant, rail privatisation, was dealt another hammer blow yesterday when the official rail regulator, the Crown Prosecution Service and British transport police opted to reopen investigations into whether criminal proceedings could be brought over the deaths of seven people in the Potters Bar disaster eight years ago.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), the independent safety watchdog, said it was to look again at the crash. In October 2005, the CPS said no charges of manslaughter by gross negligence could be brought.

Today's announcement came after an inquest at Letchworth, Hertforshire, found the crash had been caused by unsafe points. As part of a litany of inadequacies resulting from the hotch -potch nature of privatisation.

A spokesman for the ORR said: "We will now proceed to determine whether any criminal proceedings for health and safety offences should be brought in accordance with the work related deaths protocol." That would include detailed discussions with prosecutors and police.

The protocol exists because the CPS can only prosecute in relation to serious criminal activity, such as manslaughter, while the ORR can prosecute for health and safety offences.

A CPS spokeswoman said: "We will be looking to see whether any evidence came out of the inquest which would require us to review the decision."

The coroner said he would file a report warning of continuing potential risks to travellers, and the Department of Transport said it would consider this carefully. Judge Michael Findlay Baker QC, criticised the "indefensible" length of time families of the victims had had to wait for inquest to be held, saying they were due an apology.

More than 70 people were injured when the 12.45 King's Cross to King's Lynn train came off the rails as it approached the station, where it was not due to stop, at about 1pm on 10 May 2002.

There had been inspection and/or maintenance failures in the period before the crash, the inquest jury concluded, after a seven-week hearing.

Six passengers who died were in the fourth carriage of the train, which became detached and airborne, while the seventh victim, who had been walking nearby, was hit by debris.

The train was travelling at a legal speed – 98mph – and the driver, Gordon Gibson, was cleared of any blame.

The inquest was investigating the deaths of passengers Austen Kark, Emma Knights, Jonael Schickler, Alexander Ogunwusi, Chia Hsin Lin and Chia Chin Wu, and the pedestrian, Agnes Quinlivan.

The coroner said he would file a report under Rule 43 of the 1984 Coroners' Rules, which allows coroners to express concern that circumstances continue to create a risk of other deaths.

"Whatever the causes, the passage of over eight years from the derailment to the conclusion of the hearing of the inquest is indefensible.

"The families are due a public apology, and as the current representative of the system whose abuse has led to this delay, I offer that apology. It feels wholly inadequate, but it is all that it is within my power to do. I hope a line may begin to be drawn, and a sad and lengthy chapter in many lives may be closed."

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report released in May 2003 found that the points were poorly maintained, and this was the principal cause of the accident. The bolts that held the stretcher bars that keep the rails apart had come loose or gone missing, resulting in the points moving while the train passed over them. The points had been fully inspected on 1 May by a team working for the private railway maintenance firm Jarvis, and there had been a further visual inspection on 9 May the day before the crash, with no problems reported. However, that evening a rail worker was travelling on the line northbound and reported "lethal vibrations" on the track at Potters Bar whilst going over that same point on the track, point '2182A'. Jarvis employees did make an inspection of the points, but due to an inadequate incident reporting system, they were sent to the wrong end of the platform to check the track and points and did not find the 'loose nuts' that subsequently led to the accident.

Initially after the accident, Jarvis attempted to divert attention by claimed that the points' poor condition was due to sabotage of some sort, and that its maintenance was not to blame. However, no solid evidence of any sabotage has ever come to light. Furthermore, the HSE report found that other sets of points in the Potters Bar area showed similar (but not as serious) maintenance deficiencies, and the poor state of maintenance "probably arose from a failure to understand fully the design and safety requirements".

Further investigations by the HSE found that heavy and constant vibrations on the stretcher bars and their bolts caused them to in turn vibrate and oscillate until they literally fell off the bolt. This has since been replaced by a two-part locking nut instead of the main nut, and half-size locking nut to hold it in place

Bob Crow, the general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, described the delays as an absolute scandal, and said the verdict "confirms what we already knew – that this tragic loss of life at Potters Bar could have been avoided if safety rather than profits had been the priority on our railways back in May 2002.

"Basic failures of inspection and of maintenance, driven by the greed and fragmentation of rail privatisation, led us to Potters Bar. Those responsible for creating that lethal culture – the politicians and their business associates – will never share the pain of the victims of their gross mismanagement. They have escaped prosecution for their role in this avoidable disaster.

"Private contractors are no longer involved in the day-to-day maintenance of the nation's rail infrastructure as NR took this entire operation, involving some 15,000 people, in-house in 2004. All of the recommendations made by both the industry's own formal inquiry and the health and safety investigation have been actioned. Today, the railways are safer than they have ever been."

How well we all remember those days in the 1990s when John Major promised us all that a private railway would mean less subsidy and a better and more efficient service. The only thing we got more of were rail disasters in quick succession we got Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield and then Potters Bar. The service was widely known to have got worse, ticket prices rocketed and worst of all the private companies required a greater subsidy than British rail ever did.

The Potters Bar disaster is a damning indictment of the lunacy of the Tories drive toward private industry the last time round. God alone knows where that lunacy will lead us this time round.

Thursday, 29 July 2010


Flicking through some of the comics the other day, I came upon this hilarious story in the Mail, which I’m sure you will all enjoy.

It relates to a scene in the soap opera “Emmerdale”, a programme about which I know nothing, except that its opening music was written by Tony Hatch, a really great bloke whom I’ve met on several occasions, and who, of course, is the composer of so many international pop music successes for, amongst others, Petula Clark.

It appears that one of the families in the soap, shall we say, lacks any measure of sophistication, and on their shopping list, written on a blackboard in the kitchen, they have included along with rice, eggs and biscuits, the fact that they need to buy “pile cream” and a commonly used alternative name for ladies’ sanitary wear.

It’s interesting that the people who ‘stage’ the show, in characterising the working class characters have chosen this particular way to emphasise their background, and I'm torn about whether it was or was not necessary. I honestly don’t know if the average modern working class family would write that kind of thing on their shopping list. I’m not good with shopping lists myslef, and on the board in my kitchen I forget to write what I want, and I forget to look before I go out, rendering it a great big ‘white elephant’ rather than a ‘white board’.

What’s funny is the reaction to this particular piece of characterization. People are up in arms, because they might have to explain to their children the meaning of the said articles....

This is a programme where, as I understand it, there is bed hopping, incest, sexual impropriety, homosexuality, murder, theft, murky business dealings, etc, etc, etc.... and they let their kids watch it and worry that they have to explain pile (sic) cream.

Some people must spend their lives looking for something to complain about.


The AV referendum is already in trouble today, after claims emerged that Nick Clegg bluffed David Cameron, into offering the Lib Dems a referendum on a change to the voting system as part of the coalition. Apparently he told Dave a whopper when he implied that Labour (aka Lord Mandelson) offered AV without the need for a referendum. This has led to an absolute glut of meaningless double speak from all sides.

The suggestion in a BBC documentary is set to deepen anger on Tory benches that a referendum was ever offered, making it more likely that legislation to change the voting system will struggle to avoid a defeat in the Commons in September. So that’s the Labour party officially against it. That combined with the opposition of the Tories should sound the death knell of the whole thing before it has even got off the starters block. Which is just as well as far as I am concerned. The invidious choice between FPTP or AV was really as far as I could see no choice at all. Neither system is any way proportional and both have major faults. I had a feeling that a “No” vote would lead to Cameron claiming that the public were happy with FPTP while a “Yes” vote would lumber us with a system equally as bad. Either way the whole thing would disappear off the agenda for a generation.

On Monday, the shadow cabinet decided to vote against the bill on the referendum because it has been coupled with what Labour described yesterday as gerrymandering of constituency boundaries. What a shocking revelation, as if Labour never did anything like that in their 13 years.

Cameron described the Labour volte-face as "a descent into complete and utter opportunism", pointing out that Labour had been the only party to go into the election promising to hold a referendum on the issue. Yes but David they lost the election remember.

Rumours have frequently circulated in Tory circles that Clegg, in highly pressurised coalition talks after the election, managed to outmanoeuvre Cameron by intimating he had been offered more by Labour in parallel post-election talks than was actually the case.

Cameron was asked by Nick Robinson in a documentary – Five Days that Changed Britain, to be broadcast on BBC2 tonight – whether he misled his MPs by saying Labour would give the Lib Dems voting reform without a referendum. Cameron replied: "No, because I was absolutely certain in my own mind that was the case, and I had I think good reason to be certain. I had a number of people had told me what was, what they thought was going on and conversations that were taking place about AV without a referendum. I'd also had a conversation with Nick [Clegg] when I'd argued very vigorously that you couldn't do alternative vote without a referendum – it would be wrong."

Clegg is then asked whether it is inaccurate to say he told Cameron he could get the alternative vote without a referendum from Labour. Clegg replies: "The perception, which I think was accurate, was discussions are out and it might have been an offer that might had been made and might have been considered. In answer to your direct question – was it ever formally made to me? – no, it wasn't formally made to me."

Talk about meaningless double speak. Its a pretty sad state of affairs when a government has to trot out this kind of drivel when its less that three months old. And they think they will last five years?

Lord Mandelson, one of the chief Labour negotiators, told the Guardian last night that in the first talks between Labour and the Lib Dems negotiating teams on the Saturday after the election, "it was suggested by the Liberal Democrats that the legislation introducing AV could be passed in its entirety for the alternative vote and then possibly a validating referendum would be held. It was a very odd, curious proposal and I found it difficult to understand.

"Soon after I had a call from the editor of the Times, James Harding, and he seemed like he was acting as a mouthpiece of George Osborne, asking whether we had made that offer to the Liberal Democrats, and I said no. It would have been incredibly wrong. The idea had disappeared by the following day."

Good old Petronella Lord Voldermort, still stirring things up I see. Well I guess he has to make up plenty ground after pissing off so many people on his own side (whatever that is) with his book of revelations.

A Lib Dem spokesman confirmed last night that no offer had been made in the formal discussions between Labour and the Lib Dems, but suggestions of a big offer on constitutional reform were made through other channels.

The dispute over the origins of the coalition is not academic since some Tory MPs remain furious that a referendum was ever offered. Edward Leigh, a leading Tory rightwinger, said on Tuesday that if the AV system had been used in 1997, "the Tory Party would have been reduced to a pathetic rump of 65 MPs".

Meanwhile, Nearly 45 Tory MPs have called for the Electoral Commission to change the date of the referendum from May next year on the grounds that it should not be held on the same day as national elections in Scotland and Wales, as well as English local elections. Peter Hain, the shadow Welsh secretary, writing on the Guardian website, said: "Clegg has allowed himself to be sandbagged by his Tory partners in his otherwise laudable attempt to introduce a fairer electoral system, probably losing a once-in-a-generation opportunity for electoral reform.

"Instead of introducing a separate bill on the alternative vote referendum which would have been supported by Labour in a vote through parliament, the government has spatchcocked it together with the most blatant gerrymander of parliamentary constituency boundaries since the days of the rotten boroughs."

Talk about mixed messages, didn’t the shadow cabinet vote against that laudable aim?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


The Queen has decided to take her family on a little holiday, not this time to her own house in the peaceful Scottish countryside at Balmoral, but on a cruise around the Western Isles. This cruise used to be a regular feature of the royal family’s annual 2 month break until John Major pulled the plug on the state footing the bill for a royal yacht, and the Queen declined to pay for it herself.

This year, however, the Queen has chartered, at her own expense, a cruise ship, aptly named the ‘Hebridean Princess’, so that she can enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery of the Scottish islands. But, when I say “at her own expense”, that isn’t entirely true.

It seems that whilst the Queen and large numbers of her extended family are enjoying their break, the country is picking up a massive bill for their security, including the use of a Royal Navy warship at around £3/4 million, together with divers, MoD police launches, Scotland Yard body guards and local police. Although the cost of royal security is never divulged (the government says for security reasons; some others might say because we would be horrified at the amount), it is estimated that the cost for the 10 days is likely to be well over £1 million.

Although this blog is republican in nature, I personally have no particular grudge against the Queen. It’s not an easy job in the first place, made much more difficult by media attention, hungry for stories as trivial in nature as what she has for breakfast, and a set of selfish children and grandchildren who frequently abuse their privilege. I tend to have sympathy for her rather than anything else. She’s been lumbered with the job, like it or not, and worse, she’s been lumbered with the family from hell.

However, at this time when we are all tightening our belts, getting ready for the spending review that is to come, with reductions in spending of between 25% and 40%, a frightening amount, I wonder at the wisdom of the royal family insisting on such an expensive holiday for themselves.

Monday, 26 July 2010


Each year, coming up to April time, our place, like most others is buzzing with auditors looking over the company’s financial accounts. Every penny must be accounted for, whether it has come from government or EU, whether from Lottery Funds or from contracts with the private sector or government. Not a penny piece can be unaccounted. It’s a lot of work to make sure that the auditors can find every single receipt and it’s much to our part-time accountant’s credit that the auditors can sign off the accounts every year.

So it was with some dismay that I read today in the Independent that the Ministry of Defence's accounts were today "qualified" by the Whitehall spending watchdog after it was unable to account properly for more than £6 billion of equipment.

So, “qualified” means that they could account for all (like we can) except for £6b .... Oh well, that’s alright then. What’s £6b between friends?

But the worrying thing is it is the fourth year in succession that the National Audit Office (NAO) has “qualified” the MoD's accounts. According to the NAO despite efforts by the MoD to tackle the issue, there remain "systemic and deep-rooted" problems with its asset management system.

It seems that the problems are worse than had
been thought. In trying to track down missing equipment the team has uncovered fresh difficulties. The MoD, it seems, cannot account for the whereabouts of £5.5b of spares and other stocks; £752m of military equipment including firearms and £184m worth of Bowman radios (around 6,000). How on earth do you lose 6000 radios?

Where are all these things? Have they been stolen? Have they been sold? By or to whom? With around 90,000 Civil Servants you would have thought that a tracking system could have been installed in the MoD.

It’s high time Liam Fox found out why his accounts can’t be properly signed off. Signing the accounts off with qualifications is not good enough. it doesn't concentrate the minds of the management in quite the same way as an outright refusal, which is what would happen to a private sector company.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Who else is on the BP Merry-Go-Round?

"Oh, thank you, Senetor Menendez," said Uriah Hague, "for that remark! It is so true! Umble as I am, I know it is so true! Oh, thank you, Senator Menendez!"

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both accepted large donations from a BP employees committee, reports Campbell Gunn in "The Sunday Post".

In the donation period ending in 2008, Obama took $71,051, and Clinton $6,700 from BP staff in donations.

Well, that's an inconvenient turn up for the books.

And three out of the four senators who demanded, and got, a meeting with David Cameron last week over Lockerbie and the BP involvement into the release of Abdelbaset al Megrahi, have taken political donations from a BP staff organisation, leading to accusations of hypocrisy.
Only accusations of hypocrisy?

Oh dear, I wonder if Cameron is regretting all that sickening toadying.

And now Wee Wullie Hague has chimed in by saying that the Scottish Governments decision was “wrong and misguided” in a letter to these same Senators.

Thanks for that Wullie, but if you want to be taken for a ride in America why not try Disneyland next time and hold on to some dignity.

Senator Robert Menendez, who is chairing this week’s Senate investigation into BP’s involvement in the release of the Lockerbie bomber, received $2,000 from the oil giant’s staff committee.

In the donation cycle ending this year, two of the other senators from New York and New Jersey, where many of the bombing victims came from, and who are pressing for an investigation into the bomber’s release, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, received $750 and $250 each in donations.

The donations don’t come from the company itself but from their Political Action Committee, groups of individuals within BP who wish to donate to a particular politician or party.

A number of major oil companies that now have drilling interests in Libya: Amerada Hess, Marathon Oil, Royal Dutch Shell, Occidental Petroleum and ConocoPhillips have made donations to the US Democrats.

In 2010 employees from ConocoPhillips are registered as having made donations to House Democrats of $36,500, Senate Democrats of $17,000. Marathon Oil staff gave House Democrats $28,500, Senate Democrats $22,500.Occidental Petroleum workers made donations to House Democrats of $43,000, and Senate Democrats $14,000. Royal Dutch Shell staff gave Barack Obama $117,946, and Hillary Clinton $20,348.

If anything proves that this whole farrago is nothing less than a smoke screen to divert attention from Obama’s plunging approval rating and Democratic Senators keen to hold on to their sinecures this is it.

The fact of the matter is that the US Democrats do not want to lose control of the Senate come election time in November. To that end they and their President will do ANYTHING.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

"BROKEBACK COALITION", Chortles The Leader Of The Tory Awkward Squad!

Oh dear, the Tory/Lib Dem coalition has only taken ten weeks to get to where John Major was during the "Bastardgate" affair.

Yesterday, in unguarded comments, David Davis (the man Cameron defeated in the 2005 Tory leadership campaign and self appointed leader of the Tory awkward squad) is reported to have approvingly repeated a description of the partnership between Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as "Brokeback Coalition", which he attributed to another senior Tory.

Davis made his remarks during a boozy private lunch with former colleagues from Tate & Lyle at the Boot & Flogger wine bar in Southwark on Thursday. Sounds like just the sort of place you would find Tories!

The MP was reportedly overheard saying that Lord Ashcroft, the ex-Conservative party deputy chairman, had referred to the government as "Brokeback Coalition" – a reference to the Oscar-winning film Brokeback Mountain, about a gay relationship between two cowboys. Davis, whose remarks are disclosed in today's Financial Times, said he had been "misheard".

Lord Ashcroft, (the Tories billionaire donor and non-dom parliamentarian who duped wee Willie Hague into giving him a peerage) has been privately scathing about Cameron's general election campaign. He believes the Tory leader made a grave error in agreeing to take part in the television debates. He also shared the concerns of many frontbenchers that the main theme of the Tory election campaign – the "big society" – was too vague and was difficult to sell on the doorstep. Maybe that’s because it is such a load of old rubbish.

The FT went on to say that Davis, a former Europe minister, who recently led a successful rebellion against plans to make it more difficult for MPs to remove an unpopular government, was dismissive of Cameron's "big society". He reportedly called it "a Blairite dressing" for plans by the coalition to trim the state. But that’s what everybody else thinks as well isn’t it? Because that's what it is.

"The corollary of the big society is the smaller state. If you talk about the small state, people think you're Attila the Hun. If you talk about the big society, people think you're Mother Teresa."

Davis, who resigned from Cameron's shadow cabinet to lead a campaign against Labour plans for the detention of terror suspects without charge, told his audience he was enjoying his freedom on the backbenches.

George Osborne, the chancellor, was given faint praise. Davis said that a newspaper headline that read "Osborne delivers" should have said "Osborne promises" on the grounds that he has not delivered anything yet.

So it's not just the opposition parties that have the knives out for the coalition. Ex-grandees and erstwhile funders, it seems, also have it in for them.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Friday, 23 July 2010

The Second Fiddle Agenda and World War II

The prime minister's laughable exercise in sycophancy in the USA has reached a whole new level of idiocy. In his desperate desire to suck up to the Americans the PM has already announced that we are the monkey to the US organ grinder in the so called "special relationship".

He has been taken for a ride by US Senators up for re-election and desperate to divert their voters' attention from their own short comings, and by a US President whose satisfaction ratings are less than that of Richard Nixon at the same point in his Presidency.

So we are playing second fiddle that’s official!

And the properly elected and constituted Government of Scotland (that he has started aping Gordon Brown by calling an “executive”) was wrong in its administration of Scottish justice. And he wants to be the prime minister of the entire UK?

I think he will find that Scots are not keen on being used as a political football in his toadying tour of the USA. Of course we didn't vote Tory so he probably does not care all that much. However, last time that we had Tories (that we did not vote for) running roughshod over us, we got devolution. This time who knows?

So much for that 10 week "respect agenda". Might be a bit awkward to push Scotland away like that. The USA may have all the power and can keep his seat on the Security Council, but Scotland has even more of that worthless oil now that they have inconveniently found a whole bunch more. So doubtless we will have to pay for the recession as well.

It would seem that there is just nobody the PM won't piss off to make sure that the UK continues to “punch above its weight” on the international scene. All the better for that self important blow-hard to strut around the world pretending to be important. When in actual fact the entire world sees him as a US poodle doing tricks for scraps from their table.

And now he has trumped all that by showing that, despite the benefits of the most expensive education in the world, he does not know his arse from his armpit with regard to history. Not only do we play second fiddle to the USA at the moment but apparently we did during the Second World war and in particular in 1940! Of course the USA didn’t actually join the war until after the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, but that's a mere detail.

What a vile insult to all the UK, Commonwealth and Empire servicemen who resisted Nazi aggression from 1939-1941 (December). There we have oily Dave paying his respects at Arlington Cemetary to US dead of the second world war while trashing the memory of our own. Disgusting! What a repulsive display of a creeping quisling.

What could trump that? Well maybe if Nick Clegg got up at PMQs and said the Second World War was illegal too.

Why doesn’t David just go the whole hog and say that we have been playing second fiddle to the USA since 1776.

Thursday, 22 July 2010


The problem of MPs’ expenses just won’t go away, as rumblings on the back benches of, in particular, the Conservative party (according to this article) are showing. The new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) set up with such fervour only months ago is causing consternation as it gets things wrong, upsets people, makes mistakes, and behaves like most other organizations in their early days.

However, of course, this organization is not like any other. Its customers aren’t “ordinary people”: they are MPs. And MPs are used to deference and respect. They are not used to being messed about. The kind of mistakes that are regularly made by the Jobcentres, the Child Support Agency or the Tax Credit people is, for the first time, being visited upon MPs. And they are not happy.

Part of Cameron’s problem is that his backbenchers are not happy about so many other things. They are unhappy about the cavalier way in which he attempted to take over th
e 1922 Committee; they are unhappy that there can be no tax cuts; they are unhappy that they have to have a referendum on AV; they are unhappy that the Deputy Prime Minister is a Liberal; they are unhappy that some of their leading lights expecting their moment of glory as ministers of cabinet ministers are languishing on the back benches to make way for Liberals; they are unhappy that they are obliged to travel second class with “ordinary people”; they are unhappy about having to provide receipts like “ordinary people”, and they are unhappy that they are faced with problems usually reserved for “ordinary people”.

Some of them would like to emulate the Lords with flat rate expenses of £300 a day paid whether you spend £3 or £3000. But clearly this is a non starter, as the idea of providing MPs with money just for turning up for their work, when other people are taking pay cuts, is a big ask.

Of course it’s not jus
t the Tories who are complaining; they are just complaining the loudest. Labour members are maybe concerning themselves with whether it’s Thoroughly Modern Millie or Millie Light, based on which does the less repulsive impersonation of Blair’s accent. The Liberals are just intoxicated that their leader took Prime Minister’s Questions the other day... and expenses wasn’t an issue for any of the other parties.

But one Scots MP (so it was unlikely to be a Tory) is reported to have complained that the compliance officer hired by IPSA was an ex-fraud detective from the Met, whose presence was an implied slur on the reputation of all honourable members. Ha ha if!

Anyway, Cameron, who is faced with angry backbenchers on several fronts, is in an awkward position. He has now criticized the IPSA at a 1922 Committee meeting and in the House itself, but what can he do? He was so enthusiastically for it only a few months ago and co-operated fully with Labour in its inception. A U-turn so soon would make him look a bit of a pratt.

One cabinet minister is reported to have said that “we legislated in haste, and now we are stuffed”. (How eloquent.) Not for the first time Minister... It’s just that this is the first time that any of your lot have had to suffer the consequences of your slipshod, ill thought out, half assed legislation.

Enjoy! And don’t ask us for any sympathy.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


I’ve always been more than a little dubious at Blair’s insistence that toppling Saddam Hussein made Britain, or London, a safer place.

I can only imagine that the illegal (in that it didn’t have the backing of the UN) invasion of a sovereign state; the killing of tens of thousands of its totally innocent citizens, including children, in night after night of utter terror in the ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign conducted jointly by the US and its poodle, would have made the likelihood of a revenge attack on these countries more likely...

Especially as the reason given for this horrific invasion was to rid the country of WMDs, which were there for absolute certain, but in fact haven’t been found in the 7 years since.

The fact that the invading powers were pathetic enough to go in without the semblance of a plan for what would happen after Saddam was toppled, and that the resultant mess makes people’s lives intolerable even now, may have an added effect of disgruntlement in the Arab and Islamic worlds.

But hey, what do I know?

Well, nothing of course. For me it was a simple application of common sense. Bush and Blair together with two other nut job right wingers in the form of Silvio Berlusconi and José María Aznar López acting, as Lord Bingham described it, like ‘world vigilantes’, seemed to me to be an open invitation for revenge. As indeed it has been.

However, I feel somewhat vindicated because yesterday came (for Blair) the damning evidence of Eliza Manningham-Buller at the Chilcot Inquiry. She told the inquiry that, contrary to what Blair had said, the surge of warnings about home-grown terrorist threats after the Iraq invasion led to a 100% in MI5's budget. A fact presumably hidden from FoI requests on the grounds of national security.

Mrs Manningham-Buller said that the UK’s involvement in Iraq had radicalized a whole generation of young people who saw it, and our involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack on Islam. She added that arguably it had given Osama bin Laden his
Iraqi jihad so that he was able to move into Iraq in a way that he was not before.

I wonder why Mr Blair neglected to mention this information when he was giving his evidence to Chilcot. Did he not know, was he not briefed, did he just forget with all his money making activities to worry about....or did he just plain, old fashioned lie?

To be honest there is little satisfaction in the knowledge that I was right all the time. Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, millions more rendered homeless or injured, some horribly and irrevocably. Freedoms, including women’s rights which were widespread and liberal in Saddam’s Iraq have been rolled back and there is still no effective government.

Unlikeable though he was, Saddam was the kind of man who could keep this concoction of a country together and the blockheads got rid of him.

When will the “stupid white men” learn to keep their stupid ignorant paws off other people’s countries? Eliza Manningham-Buller for Defence Secretary!!


Before I say anything else let me make it clear that, if it is proved beyond doubt that there was collusion between the Scottish government or Kenny MacAskill, and the foul Libyan regime of the slimy chancer Qaddafi, the odious London Labour regime of Gordon Brown and his seedy lord chancellor Straw man, or the greedy, grasping, money-grabbing, BP management, then I shall tear up my SNP membership card and vote for another nationalist party.

That said, I find it hard to believe that Kenny or Alex wouldn’t be wily enough to realize that the release of the supposed Lockerbie bomber was likely to cause so much of a stir in places where it mattered, ie Washington DC, that they would have to be mentally deranged to have got involved with anything even vaguely dodgy in its respect.

Embarking on this exercise I would imagine that, had I been Kenny, I would have been aware that my every move would be scrutinized, first in Scotland by the opposition parties, then by the London politicians, not to mention by every new programme, broadsheet newspaper, and finally by the government of the USA. This, if nothing else would have encouraged me to go, not just by the book, but by every single letter of the book.

At this moment I am so angry with David Cameron that I doubt if I shall sleep tonight.

I have watched and listened with growing incredulity at the news reports of Senators wanting to summon (yes, summon, if you please) Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to appear before them, of the criticisms and demands of the USA for inquiries into how the Scottish government conducts its lawful business, of criticism from Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama, and finally of the banal utterances of David Cameron preparing for his first official visit to the Whitehouse, but whilst in England.

But what drove me over the edge was Cameron criticizing the workings of the Scottish government whilst he was in the United States. Doubtless this was done in an effort to worm his way closer into the affections of Mr Obama (and thereby sticking it to Gordon Brown, whom the president clearly disliked passionately).

Speaking at the White House, Cameron said: “It was a bad decision, it shouldn’t have been made. This was the biggest mass murderer in British history.”

There used to be a rule in politics, based on decency.

You do not criticise things at home when you are abroad. The reason for the rule was, of course, that those whom you were criticising, being thousands of miles away, would not be given an opportunity to tell their side of the story. Clearly Dave, in his desire for a pat on the head from his boss saw fit to ignore that old fashioned courtesy.

Cameron has clearly shown so shortly after announcing a respect agenda for Scotland, that he has none. We didn’t vote for him... and we are unlikely to do so in the future, so he doesn’t give a stuff about us.

So... don’t be too surprised Mr Cameron, if we don’t have much in the way of respect for you.

And just a wee word about the American senators who face re-election in a few months, and the president, who wants desperately not to lose too many seats in the Senate... You guys think of yourself as the most Christian country in the world. So, you will doubtless be aware that the Christian part of the Bible instructs individuals, in the Lord’s Prayer, to “forgive those who trespass against us” and Christians are warned in Romans 12:19 to “... avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

More or less what Kenny said actually? Just something to think about.

Please also have a look at: (strong language warning, but a brilliant post.)

and (The best Scottish politics blog ever...)


Monday, 19 July 2010


“It’s my hope and my mission that when people look back at this 5, 10-year period from 2010, they’ll say: ‘In Britain they didn’t just pay down the deficit, they didn’t just balance the books, they didn’t just get the economy moving again, they did something really exciting in their society’.”

So said the prime minister today launching his Big Society scheme in Liverpool, England.

He said that he wanted forward-thinking, entrepreneurial, community-minded people and neighbourhoods in the country to come forward and ask for freedoms, and support, to run services in their areas.

“If you’ve got an idea to make life better, if you want to improve your local area, don’t just think about it, tell us what you want to do and we will try and give you the tools to make this happen.

But there are worries that there is just no money for this project. Councils are cutting back on funding voluntary groups, and the Big Society Bank set up by Mr Cameron and funded by bank accounts which have not been touched for 15 years has only £60 million in funds, a drop in the ocean when it comes to running services.

It is also not clear how much this will cost, with dedicated Civil Servants (are there any left?) being appointed to help groups with applications for money and aiding them through the inevitable bureaucratic nightmare that funding always involves.

Additionally there are doubts as to how effective (and cost effective) some of the projects would be.

I’m also concerned that the Big Society will see money going to well organized middle class groups in leafy suburbs (the four pilot areas are leafy suburb, rural or gentrified). The scheme seems perfectly suited to people who may have time on their hands to take over the running of various and sundry parts of a council’s remit for their own benefit.

And good though this may be, it seems like it may leave behind areas desperately in need of help People with low-paid jobs and hard lives often tend to be poor in time as well as money, and my concern is that the money will find itself in the hands of those who perhaps least need it.

If Mr Cameron’s wish is to fix broke Britain with his Big Society, I fear he may have to come up with ideas that create jobs in sink estates, deal with the horrendous problem of drink and drugs which render so many people unemployed and unemployable, repair the low quality of housing and infrastructure that make life so grim for people, and encourage everyone, not just the leafy suburbs, to feel that they are part of society.

The tragedy is that today’s Britain has so little of that.

Mr Cameron’s dreams are laudable but hardly realistic. When people look back at this 5 - 10 year period they are more likely to say that, just as under Labour, the rich got richer, the poor got poorer and broken Britain got completely smashed.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


So, it seems that British national indebtedness is a wee bit bigger than we thought that it was going to be.

Actually, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) it is almost £4,000,000,000,000: about four times higher than anyone has actually admitted.

The figures show that there is likely to be a massive "intergenerational transfer”. In short today’s generation will leave a huge burden for younger people and future generations.

The debt consists among other things of the cost of public sector and state pensions, and of payments promised to private contractors under Labour’s idiotic private finance initiatives where vast amounts of money have been wasted on buildings paid for by the public that the public can't even use.

If today’s taxpayers wanted to remove the higher bills facing their children and grandchildren, they would have to pay around 30% more in tax and that's not likely to happen.

The ONS itemised the public sector's main liabilities as:

* State Retirement Pension: £1.1trn to £1.4trn
* Public sector pensions: £770bn to £1.2trn
* Private Finance Initiative contracts: £200bn
* Contingent liabilities (eg bank deposit guarantees): £500bn
* Nuclear power plant decommissioning: £45bn
* Impact of financial sector interventions: £1trn to £1.5trn

The figures propose that a realistic estimate of the public sector’s liabilities might be around four trillion pounds

According to the ONS failure to cut back now or raise taxes will leave our children with an tax burden of £200,000 each just to pay for public services which we are currently using and, to be fair, have been used by past generations.

It appears that such things such as free university education; mortgage interest relief at the highest marginal rate of income tax; property inflation with transfer of wealth from the young to the old, and free long-term care for the elderly are no longer affordable. And of course the proceeds of privatizations and demutualization and distribution of reserves of building societies are things that will never happen again.

Huge increases in the state pension and state subsidized public service pensions liability has come about because of massive increases in the number of people eligible and of course longer retirements, even if the extra years are not always spent in good health or fitness.

Life, in short, is going to get a lot harder because the baby boomers and their parents had it soft. So it looks like we can get used to more of what Camerclegg is throwing our way.

My question is why did no one see this coming? Why did the Labour Government not know that this was round the corner, and the opposition can't escape blame. Is it not their job to be holding the government to account? And what of all the senior statesmen in the House of Lords? Nothing there either?

How badly we are served by our politicians.

Is Prince William with us in the "we are all in this together" syndrome?

The Sunday Times reports today that Prince William is to cost cash strapped North Wales constabulary an estimated (remember these royal expenses are not subject to FOI, for some reason) £1.4 million in extra protection costs as a result of his decision to live in an isolated cottage rather than on the RAF base where he is doing his flight training.

Incredibly this means that the savings forced on the force will be wiped out in a stroke. The North Wales force had been told that it would have to save £1.4 million as a result of government cutbacks. This entire saving is now going to be obliterated in employing a 15 strong unit of armed officers to protect William. A cost that need not accrue if he were to live on the well protected RAF base where he is doing his three year helicopter pilots course.

The reason for William’s decision is so that he can spend more time with his girlfriend, Kate Middleton and friends. Well that is nice. I guess the people of North Wales can just do without police for the duration of Wills stay.

St James’s Palace has said that it is not unusual for officers of William’s rank to live off base. What is unusual is that “normal” officers do not need a round the clock escort of 15 armed police. Nor are their expenses, paid for by the British taxpayer, exempt from Freedom of Information Legislation.

Of course William and his brother are very keen to display a veneer of being just normal lads. But from time to time that slips and we are all made painfully aware that we are not all in this together at all. You know the sort of thing: young role models dressing up as Nazis or assaulting journalist while pissed outside night clubs or borrowing a MOD Chinook to fly through one of the most heavily protected airspace corridors in the country to take you mates to a stag party. That sort of thing.

William don’t put yourself out one iota will you. The rest of the country is in a financial pickle but you just keep on milking the state for all you are worth.

Protecting Willie’s love nest in rural Wales? Good value for money? Hardly. Cheap at twice the price? Really?

Saturday, 17 July 2010


The prime minister, David Cameron, has described Britain, in an interview with Time Magazine, as the junior partner in the special relationship between the UK and the US. The prime minister topped that by saying that Britain should not be too "needy" of America. The article was published on the eve of Mr Cameron’s first visit as prime minister to the United States.

Cameron defended the notion of the special relationship and called it "essential", but nonetheless injected a sense of hierarchy. He said: "I believe in the special relationship. I think Britain is, of course, the junior partner, but I think it is an important and long-standing relationship and I hope that we bring things to that relationship." So there you are we are America’s lickspittle: its official!

Cameron has previously said Britain was obsessed with Europe and the US. In particular, he criticised his predecessor Tony Blair's unquestioning loyalty to the US. He also said Britain must look at where its strategic interests lie, by possibly having more than one special relationship. Oh really? And how does that fit in with wee Willie Hague waiting to hear what Hilary Clinton thought of the Israeli hijacking of that aid ship before actually having an opinion? Maybe he should have employed that great Tory tactic, perfected by the last Tory PM, of hiding in a cupboard and avoiding TV cameras till he got the call. Oh and the BP phone call? Read on!

Cameron was accused of being insufficiently patriotic and has risked the wrath of many in his own party, recently for not challenging President Obama when he appeared to sanction anti-British sentiment in criticism of BP, as it struggled to get to grips with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Which it has now apparently got to the bottom of, so we can all go back to calling it a great “British” institution. Answers on a postcard for what you thought the “B” stood for in the interregnum!

The Tory blogosphere, press, blue rinse brigade and outraged of Royal Leamington Spa and Royal Tumbridge Wells were jumping up and down at that upstart Obama for referring to BP as “British”. But that was because it had done something wrong, as is always the case with these people it’s anything but British when it destroys the entire Gulf of Mexico. Despite the B historically standing for British. Doubtless if it had developed a cure for cancer or sent a man to Mars it would have been welcomed as British in spades by the same people.

The usual suspects had wanted a stern assertion of Britishness when Cameron got the call from Obama. After all we may have a special relationship (Ha!) but they are still foreigners and there is nothing the gutter press like better (it sells papers you see) than an anti-foreigner rant. Shame they didn’t get it from our spineless PM. And now he is telling Americans that we are their junior partners. And we should not expect anything back in return? And Tony Blair was unquestioningly loyal to the US and this isn’t? I feel the “H” word coming on as it does so often when referring to the Tories and their monkeys on the barrel organ of state.

"President Obama and I have a very good relationship, we get on very well," said Cameron. "Of course we will discuss BP. It is an important company, not just for Britain, but for America as well. It employs tens of thousands of people in the US, as it does in the UK."

Cameron spoke warmly of his own associations with the US. "When I think of America I think of all sorts of things. My grandfather going ashore at D-day with the Americans in support of the British and everyone working together. I also think of fantastic holidays I have had – from Florida to Texas (not the Gulf of Mexico side of course) to California. I think of American culture. It is an incredible relationship between our countries." I mean pass the sick bag or what. I’m assuming this gushing dross is intended for the American market. Certainly not cosying up to the Americans then?

Thursday, 15 July 2010


We have been told to expect a 25% reduction on all public services, excluding health care. The UK government has dictated that for England, and as a consequential, we will get 25% less money to run what we are allowed to be responsible for.

According to an article in yesterday’s Independent, that reduction will only skim the top off the massive £4,000,000,000,000 debt that has been racked up, not only by New Labour, but by a series of unaffordable decisions made over the years since the Second World War, including public sector pensions, nuclear power stations, PFI, and allowing banks to gamble with ordinary people's savings, so that they have to be rescued by the taxpayer, despite taxpayer being as broke as a completely broken thing.

In the midst of this catalogue of miserly stands the BBC, clearly blissful unaware that anything untoward is happening despite its supposedly being the best news broadcaster in the world. Oh yes, poor thing, it has to publish its top people’s expenses, but that doesn’t seem to have bothered it one tiny little bit. According to the latest figures, various BBC executives are keeping small taxi companies in a champagne and truffles lifestyle, because they’re clearly far too important to take the metro or the bus like ordinary little people.

BBC deputy director general Mark Byford spent almost £5,000 flying to South Africa for a World Cup Final visit at the weekend. He used the visit to hold meetings with bodies such as Fifa, which invited him, as well as visiting news bureaux in the region, the BBC said. Well now, there’s a surprise. He went all the way to South Africa at our expense, the very weekend that the final of the world Cup was due to take place. Coincidence probably.

What irritates me is that this bloke couldn’t fit his lardy arse into a normal seat in Tourist class, nor even a roomier seat in Business.... oh no, the big cheese had to take himself, at our expense mind you, First bloody Class, and be treated like a movie star. Furthermore while he was there he was obliged to take another First Class return flight to Kenya, again at our expense. Not sure why.. but Kenya is very nice.

The BBC's chief operating officer Caroline Thomson claimed £3,389.69 on taxis during a three-month period for the first quarter of this year. BBC controller of vision Jana Bennett claimed £2,736.02 on taxis during the claim period. And the BBC's director of future media and technology Erik Huggers made taxi claims for £2,940.98.

Where did they go? The moon?

OK, so it’s time the BBC got a drift of how things are in this sadly mismanaged country. They might try listening to their own news programmes occasionally for example (although, of course, they will only find out what is happening in the south east of England if they do.

I await the announcement that as of today the licence fee (or poll tax) of £145.50 will be reduced by £36.38, or 25%, and that the likes of Byford and that self important idiot Yentob and all the many and various other highly paid, brilliantly pensioned and ridiculously titled executives move their privileged backsides into the world. You know, the one that is round ....

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


I have just read with disbelief of an incident in Afghanistan which makes my even angrier than usual when reading of the UK’s involvement in that country.

Three British soldiers have been killed by a rogue Afghan soldier while on joint patrol in southern Helmand. This is not the first time have NATO trained Afghan personnel turned their weapons on British soldiers. In November last year 5 of our soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier in a training base. The President of Afghanistan, Mr Karzai has written to the Prime Minister to apologise.

As an aside, once again it raises questions about how much infiltration of the Afghan army there has been by the Taliban. Clearly, I suspect, a great deal. The truth of the matter is that the Afghan president, a former employee of ex-Vice President Cheney of America, is happy to have the forces of NATO in his country, but we should not necessarily infer from that that he carries the population with him. After all, despite our claims that we are there to bring democracy to the country we all know that Mr Karzai was only elected President of the country by a rigged election process, to which we have given our tacit approval, thereby implicating us in the corruption.

That we have lost another three of our lads and, according to the Telegraph’s reporting of the story, another two injured, is sickening enough. But what I find completely unbelievable is that this story is in the press, and not just the Telegraph, but I see it features in The Guardian and The Mail and the BBC too, and at the time of writing, the families had not been informed. The Telegraph actually carried the line: The families of the soldiers involved in the incident are being informed, but anyone worried about relatives serving in Afghanistan can call a special helpline on 08457 800 900, as if it were some minor incident.

For heaven’s sake surely, even in the dog eat dog world of competitive journalism, we should be able to agree as human beings rather than journalists, that not a world of deaths or injuries of lads putting their lives on the line in the forces should be reported by the press until immediate families have been informed and time for more distant members to be contacted. The newspapers involved should hang their head in shame (credit here to the Scottish papers and the Independent); and someone at the Ministry of Defence (preferably the secretary of state) should be hung out to dry over it*.

Can you just imagine how unthinkably awful it must be for someone to read this online and dial that number with shaking fingers, possibly to be held in a queue..... ?

I know that many of us do not approve of this war, but it is not the fault of the lads or even their most senior officers that we are fighting it. It was a decision taken by government and approved in parliament by a majority of members. So no matter how disapproving we are of it, let’s treat the people at the sharp end and their families with more respect.

* It did occur to me that I was criticising newspapers using this story before the families had been informed, and yet drawing attention to it myself on this blog, and that that was perhaps a little of hypocritical. The penetration of this blog, however, is so minute in comparison to the newspapers and the BBC, that I decided that that was probably paranoia more than instinctive decency.

Monday, 12 July 2010


OK, I don’t know if any of this is true, but I read it and I thought, well, honey and cinnamon can’t do any great harm and probably doesn’t taste that bad.... so if any of you suffer from any of the following... here’s your cure courtesy of Dr Tris. No money back if it’s a pile of pants though.

Honey is the only food on the planet that will not spoil or rot. However, when left in a cool dark place for a long time it will crystallize. Loosen the lid, boil some water, and sit the honey container in the hot water, turn off the heat and let it liquefy. It is then as good as it ever was.

A mixture of honey and cinnamon has a beneficial effect on many diseases. Honey can be used without any side effects.

Weekly World News, a magazine in Canada, in its issue dated 17 January,1995 gave the following list of diseases that can be cured by honey and cinnamon as researched by western scientists:

Make a paste of honey and cinnamon powder, and eat it regularly for breakfast on bread. It reduces the cholesterol in the arteries. Regular use of the above process relieves loss of breath and strengthens the heart beat.

Arthritis patients may take daily, morning and night, one cup of hot water with two spoons of honey and one small teaspoon of cinnamon powder. If taken regularly even chronic arthritis can be cured. BLADDER INFECTIONS:
Take two tablespoons of cinnamon powder and one teaspoon of honey in a glass of lukewarm water. It destroys the germs in the bladder.

Two tablespoons of honey and three teaspoons of Cinnamon Powder mixed in 16 ounces of tea water to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood by 10 percent within two hours.

Honey taken with cinnamon powder cures stomach ache and also clears stomach ulcers from the root.

Daily use of honey and cinnamon powder strengthens the immune system and protects the body from bacterial and viral attacks. Honey has various vitamins and iron in large amounts.

Cinnamon powder sprinkled on two tablespoons of honey taken before food relieves acidity and digests the heaviest of meals.

Applying honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts on the affected parts cures eczema, ringworm and all types of skin infections.

Daily in the morning one half hour before breakfast on an empty stomach, and at night before sleeping, drink honey and cinnamon powder boiled in one cup of water.

Recent studies have shown that senior citizens, who take honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts, are more alert and flexible. Half tablespoon of honey taken in a glass of water and sprinkled with cinnamon powder, taken daily after in the morning and at about 3:00 P.M. increases the vitality of the body within a week.

First thing in the morning, gargle with one teaspoon of honey and cinnamon powder mixed in hot water, so their breath stays fresh throughout the day.

Saturday, 10 July 2010


Another meeting of the General Synod; another day of naval gazing beyond credibility.

I’ve asked this before and I make no apology for asking it again, what the hell is wrong with the Church of England; the established church of the UK? (Oh yes, I know the Church of Scotland bears that nominal title in Scotland, but it is the English church which sit as of right in the UK parliament.)

Right! So here’s the deal. You would expect that when Bishops and Archbishops and clergy and layity members get together to discuss stuff, the agenda would be predominated by a review of how things were going in the nation of which they are the established church. You know, areas which might need special help; places that were, if you will, going to the Devil one way or another.

In times of economic stress that might be thought to be even more important, in order that that the established church could play a full and active role in trying to make life a little better for the poor people being specially badly hit by the misery that is being unleashed on them, and for which they are in no real way responsible.

But no. As usual the church has returned to the two subjects about which it obsesses annually and permanently, and as a result about which it knows most. Women and Gays.

I’m told that in 1938 they concerned themselves predominantly with whether the King should or should not be allowed to marry Mrs Simpson, but I can’t remember a time when they weren’t on about the old favourites.... They must all know the speeches off by heart by now.

But what happened is that the plans put forward by Rowan Williams urging a compromise over the issue of women bishops were rejected by members, including some senior bishops. So it looks like there will be a split and some of the traditionalists will leave and go to the Catholic Church and Benedict will be rejoicing at that news. All the more money for a new hat. Sophia Pangloss take note!!

Dr Jeffrey John, the openly homosexual cleric, was blocked from becoming Bishop of Southwark. So they have managed to rake up their second favourite subject as Liberals blame poor old Rowan for that too. (Incidentally isn’t it a travesty that we have to use the word “openly” about Dr John in 2010, like he had the Black Plague). The Church it seems has once again spent all day hating when it should have spent all day loving.

I’m not a member of the Church, but as I help to subsidize it through taxes, I’d like to suggest that it drag its weary bones into the world of here and now, where poverty and strife are already stalking the streets of this country and where over the next few months and years it is only likely to get worse, with some, including me, prophesying civil unrest.... possibly even pretty uncivil unrest.

The law of the land is that there must be no discrimination made in any job over the sex or sexuality of the applicant. That’s really the beginning and the end of the story.

Right! That done they should spend the rest of the weekend reflecting how and where they should deploy their not inconsiderable resources in the business of comforting and succoring the poor, just like Jesus Christ would have done. For heaven’s sake!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Tory Compassion? Yes for billionaire fraudsters but no for dubiously convicted dying terrorist

Baron Forsyth of Drumlean. (You remember him? No? He was Secretary of State for Scotland for a very short time during John Major’s premiership, a service for which he went to the English House Lords.) He's has been on the telly (see Scot Goes Pop) bumping his gums about the scandalous release of Abdelbaset Ali Al Megrahi. That's him, the baldy one, pictured on the left.

He was concerned that Megrahi who was released on compassionate grounds because he was apparently about to die, has lasted for eleven months so far. He is convinced it seems that oil interests in Libya had a lot to do with the release. So he is condemning both the SNP and Labour for apparently pandering to big business interests and subverting the rule of law and the justice system to that end. So far so good and pretty scandalous if true. The Tories would never subvert justice to the ends of big business or those rich gnomes who may or may not fund their party. Would they?

But wait a minute is the gracious Baron not a stunning hypocrite? He was Minister of State for Scotland in the Tory government of John Major which allowed the release of one Ernest Saunders. You will all remember him as the convicted fraudster, one of the Guinness four who made a shed load of money in the 1980s through dubious financial dealings and was sent to clink for 5 years for it. However, that is not his main claim to fame, that rather comes in the fact that he made medical history by being the first and only person ever to recover from Alzheimers, a condition he was diagnosed as having while in prison and which on medical evidence supplied at that time was deemed to be incurable. So he was released by a Tory Home Secretary one Kenneth Baker (him who is only remembered as being portrayed in Spitting Image as a slimy slug) after only serving ten months. But guess what he made a medically unbelievable full recovery and has so far lasted 19 years. Thats him pictured.

At least Mr Megrahi is having the decency to actually die even if the best medical treatment that Colonel Ghadaffi could buy did lengthen his life by months, he is currently still on his death bed in Tripoli. Ernest however has sufficiently recovered to be back in business acting as a consultant to Seed International Ltd, a company based in the Cayman Islands. Seed offered investments in a variety of fields including wine, property, oil and gas exploration.

Now justice ought to be blind and so should the compassion that comes with it. So no matter whether Mr Megrahi did blow up an airliner while Mr Saunders only stole a few billion and defrauded a few people here and there the compassion shown ought to be the same. The point here is Baron Forsyth is a politicking hypocrite for spouting odious verbiage like that on prime time TV when he knows full well that his own party whizzed a googly passed the justice system in not a shocking travesty of justice but a shocking travesty of compassion.

Thursday, 8 July 2010


Pensions are a vexed issue for almost all of us.

The once famous British final salary scheme has now all but disappeared thanks to Gordon Brown’s raid on the Pension Funds in the early days of his chancellorship. Although in all fairness the companies were trying it on by taking pension contribution holidays. The trouble was that the funds really were high, but, and I suppose this is the problem with an historian being the finance minister, that was unlikely to go on forever. The stock market tumbles around the world, a rise in inflation and the interest rates disappearing into the ground have meant that there is no money for final salary schemes. Thanks Brown, yet again, for some more prudence we could have done without.

Really all that remains as a final salary scheme is the government’s own scheme for MPs, Ministers, Civil Servants and other public sector workers. The government has already announced that rises in these pensions
will now be indicated by a lower measure of inflation than previously used. The existing system links pension increases to the Retail Prices Index which includes housing costs such as mortgage interest payments. But the government plans to link it to the Consumer Prices Index instead, which is typically lower, thus saving them millions of pounds.

Now Steve Webb, a pensions minister at the DWP has announced that the rises obligatory on private pensions are also to be marked down to the lower measure, thus saving the pension companies millions of pounds, but meaning that pensioners will lose out.

An expert has provided the following information about how that will affect people in receipt of pensions:

Based on current levels of RPI at 5.1% and CPI at 3.4% the average occupational pension of £1,600 a year would be worth £4,043 after 20 years if up-rated in line with RPI, but only £3,020 if up-rated in line with CPI. It means that the pensioners would have lost out on £8,120 worth of income over the 20 years.

It is estimated that this measure would reduce the collective pensions deficits of the FTSE 350’s defined benefit schemes by around £50 billon, so I can see why it would be done, but it does seem to me that people with pensions of as little as £1,600 are not the people who should be paying back the mess that the government and pension schemes have got themselves into.

On the subject of pensions there is an excellent article across at Iain Macwhirter’s place. It makes rather scary reading, but I couldn’t disagree with a word of it. (It’s great to have Iain back blogging again!)


Lords Bagri, McAlpine, Laidlaw of Rothiemay, Foster and Baroness Dunn have informed the authorities of the House of Lords that they are leaving the House in order to spend more time with their money.

This is as a result of a new requirement in this year’s Constitutional Reform and Governance Act for peers to pay tax on their worldwide earnings.

The Noble Lord and Ladyships, who are not domicile, nor pay tax in the country in which they are members of the parliament, have decided that the £300+ a day that they are entitled to as members if they attend, is simply not worth the millions they
would lose by having to pay taxes to HM Government.

Actually it probably wasn’t a huge deal for them to decide. After all, they don’t lose much. No going back to Mr Foster, or Mr McAlpine, etc, for them. Oh no. They are entitled to continue to be Lords, noble Lords indeed, and they are entitled to their coats of arms created by the Garter College of Arms when they are elevated to the House. So they can continue to jump queues and get the best table in a restaurant, but without the bothersome business of actually paying any tax. Oh well, no loss to the governance of the UK, I suspect.

Ye gads, what a bloody country.

Pictures: Norman Foster; Alistair McAlpine with Minn Hogg

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


Not a stunning start for Michael Gove, the English Education Secretary, who has apologised over errors in information released by him in the Commons about scrapping England's school building programme.

Schools that had thought their building plans saved have now been told they are being axed. The Department has apologised for the confusion and Mr Gove responded to calls for MPs on both sides of the House, and a hint from John Bercow, and went to the Commons to apologise.

He said: "I'm grateful to you (The Speaker) and to the whole House for granting me the opportunity to make this statement, and once again to unreservedly apologise."

Mistakes had been discovered in the government's list of decisions “Building Schools for the Future”, which contained details of schools where building projects would continue, be reviewed or be cancelled.

Ironically, and, as it turns out rather unfortunately, Mr Gove had accused Labour’s school renewal scheme of being inefficiently administered. His department's list of decisions, informing schools of the fate of their building plans, had 25 errors. Inefficient eh?

To his credit he came along and took the blame, accepting full responsibility for the mistakes, but somewhat spoiled the effect by saying that he had been given the wrong list by officials.

Well Michael, wee lesson for you there, and seeing as you’re Education Secretary that won’t be too hard to swallow: When the Civil Servants give you something, check it’s the right thing before you read it out to the whole country.


It was only a couple of weeks ago that I read that the Government was doing a kind of deal with the Civil Service. Don’t go on strike over the redundancies and we won’t look at the pensions you guys get.

But it seems that that deal, if it ever was on the table, will have been kicked into the long grass following the publication today of a report which suggests that these pensions have been run like some sort of unstable Ponzi scheme... and it’s you and me that is doing the paying. Paying, which is going to, according to the report, “impoverish future generations”.

Governments of both colours have bought into the scheme, because they’ve been too scared to expose it, according to the Public Sector Pensions Commission.

For decades public sector pensions have been calculated by the state using artificially high rates of interest to estimate the present cost of a pension to be paid in decades to come. The higher the rate, the lower the present contributions needed to meet those future pension costs.

But the discrepancy in the manner of calculation (done by Civil Servants....hmmmm) has been massive, actually around 100%+. Contributions have been set at 20% of a worker’s salary when the real cost of the scheme is more than 40%.

Unlike other pensions which actually have to be funded by stock market or government bond investments, these pensions are simply paid, whether the money is there or not... and it is not.

So who picks up the bill for the difference? The tax payer. You and me. Emotively the Telegraph says that it is the “private sector taxpayer who ultimately has to pay for everything that this bloated, inefficient state sector does” and elsewhere suggests, in tabloid style, that it is the “hard-working private sector taxpayer” that pays, as if the lazy ones were somehow exempt.... (Come on
Telegraph, you can do better than that!)

However, in fairness, these pensions are an insult to hard working and lazy private sector workers who have found because of falling stock market and, of course Brown’s taxation of the private sector pension schemes, that they are left with little or no pension. People whose pensions were with rogue companies, staffed by either incompetents or thieves, like Equitable Life, have lost even more to stupidity of their directors.

Today’s report calls for sweeping changes to public sector pensions without delay, citing a debt of crippling proportions to come. So, as we are all in this together, it looks like changes will have to be made to millions of pensions (including those of MPs and ministers).

However, the only unions that have any strength at all today are the public sector unions and without the Civil Service the government will not be able to carry out any of its reforms...

No wonder governments since before the war have shied away from tackling this. Let’s hope Condem and Camerclegg will have the courage to go through with it.

Sunday, 4 July 2010


Across the country tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of people could be forced to rely on food parcels because of benefit problems, as Davnik Cleggeron’s government presses ahead with its plan to slash the country's welfare bill.

Of course cutting welfare is always a good idea, and helping people back to work is something that every government should do, and to be fair, has been doing, but the best time to help people back to work is when there is some work to help them back into.

Charities that run food banks have warned this weekend of the prospect of people having to rely on third world-style food aid, and, as a person peripherally involved with such a charity, and the amazing people who actually work there, I know that this is the case. The needs have nearly doubled over the last year. The charities think that food parcels and soup kitchens will have to be arranged for maybe up to 1.5 million people who will be moved off incapacity benefit.

Around 37% of people who have been referred to this degrading “poor house style” charity have been in need because of delays and inaccuracies caused by the DWP, whose agencies are understaffed to deal with influx of people they are having to deal with and staff are untrained and disincentivized.

I have certain knowledge of people’s benefits being stopped effectively retrospectively because of delays in sending out letters. And as you can’t just walk into a job centre for help, you have to make an appointment first, sometimes weeks in advance, this may well cause problems.

Neil Coyle, director of policy for the charity Disability Alliance said: "For people to be pushed into poverty and forced to rely on food parcels to eat, something we all think of as a basic human right, is disgusting,"

Foodbanks are something that perhaps most people find an alien concept in a supposedly first world country which conducts wars all over the world and has regattas at Henley, strawberry teas at Wimbledon, and garden parties at the Palace, but there are three times as many of these organizatio
ns as there were only 2 years ago.

Another of the problems is that people with chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and ME will probably be told to go get work, move to another town, whatever, but perhaps very few employers will want to employ them, especially when there is a HUGE pool of labour freshly redundant from big business closures and civil service payoffs. They will be left with insufficient money to pay for medication out of their Job Seekers Allowance and may have to turn to crime, such as shoplifting, to make ends meet. This is what happens in third world countries where there is no or little welfare provision.

In other cases people will have to be hospitalized in an NHS already facing massive reductions in funding.

People visiting food banks are usually given supply of cheap f
ood, which includes tinned, fruit, meat and fish, and pasta, tea bags and UHT milk. A parcel for a family of four weighs roughly 20kg, and is worth around £19. Food banks, which are staffed by volunteers, rely entirely on donations from local schools, businesses and individuals. They are community-run, in conjunction with local churches, and of course in many parts of the country there is no food bank provision at all.

How much will the new nuclear deterrent cost? Oh dear. It makes you proud to be British doesn’t it.

Pics: Poverty and people raising money for Food banks: Wealth and Fancy dress parties for the super rich at Royal Ascot and Henley Regatta.