Monday 30 November 2009


First Minister Alex Salmond today published the Scottish Government's White Paper - Your Scotland, Your Voice - which paves the way for the people of Scotland to be given the right to choose their constitutional future in a referendum

The SNP believes that independence delivers a new 21st century partnership of equals between Scotland and England - including giving the Scottish Government Parliament the responsibilities needed to fight recession, support jobs, and maximise the opportunities that will come with recovery.

As well as setting out the case for independence in more depth and detail than ever before, the White Paper also examines the other constitutional options open to Scotland; the status quo, the proposals of the Calman Commission on Scottish Devolution, and maximum devolution including fiscal autonomy.

First Minister Alex Salmond said:

"Following a decade of devolution and the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament, there is now a clear and consistent demand for further constitutional progress for Scotland and extending the powers of the Parliament.

"The vast majority of people want to expand the responsibilities of the Parliament, so that we have more powers to do more for Scotland - the economic recovery, the right to speak up for Scotland in Europe, and the ability to remove Trident nuclear weapons from our soil.

"The National Conversation has spearheaded that process, and engaged all those who want to move Scotland forward - both in terms of more responsibilities and a complete extension of powers with independence. It culminates in this White Paper, paving the way for a Referendum Bill early next year to give voice to the democratic demand of Scotland.

"The debate in Scottish politics is no longer between change and no change - it's about the right kind of change we seek, and the right of the people to choose their future in a free and fair referendum.

"The White Paper examines the options open to Scotland: no more powers under the status quo, a few more powers with Calman, a lot more powers through maximum devolution, and the complete extension of the powers of the Scottish Parliament with independence - the policy of the Scottish Government. This historic document sets out the case for Scottish independence with unprecedented depth and clarity.

"Popular opinion in Scotland has moved far beyond the status quo. And Calman has also been shown to fall behind the needs of the people - with the UK Government refusing to make any progress on important issues such as air weapons this side of the election, and substantial doubt as to what if anything will happen afterwards.

"This White Paper charts the route to progress for Scotland - and we are calling on people of all parties and none who want real substantive additions to the powers of the Parliament to rally to the referendum campaign. That is why we are open to including the option of such powers on the referendum ballot paper, alongside independence.

"It's time for the people to have their say on Scotland's future."

For goodness sake, why do the London parties think that they know better than us? Is it for the same reason that they refused us the right of a referendum on Lisbon?

Sunday 29 November 2009


So Des Browne is stepping down from parliament in 2010, after a 13 year career in parliament, serving as a minister in the governments of Blair and Brown.
The MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun announced his intention to stand down last night to a meeting of his constituency party.

He was for a short time both Secretary Of State for Defence and Secretary of State for Scotland and was roundly criticised for ineffectiveness in both roles. At one point he was asked how he managed to run two departments of state, particularly as the Ministry of Defence was, at the time prosecuting not one, but two wars. He replied that he looked after the Scotland office at weekends (which more or less let us know what he, and the government, thought about us here in “North Britain”). It also left me wondering when he ever had time to get any constituency work done.

He was thought by some to be a rather lightweight politician, controlled by the puppet master Blair, and later Brown. He was relieved of his ministerial responsibilities in 2008 after rumours that he was suffering from exhaustion.

He has decided to spend more time working for multilateral disarmament and conflict resolution, maybe a strange career path for a man who was in charge of two wars and voted for the renewal of Trident. His experience in conflict resolution got off to a bad start when Gordon Brown appointed him as Britain’s special envoy to Sri Lanka, without consulting the Sri Lankans. As a result the government of Sri Lanka rejected his appointment. Gordon, in his haste, had perhaps forgotten that the days of Empire were over and that the Sri Lankans aren’t any longer obliged to take whatever we throw their way.

Oh well. Another 'honourable gentleman' leaving the sinking ship that is the London Labour Party... and indeed the London parliament.

Doubtless, someone, some place, some time will miss him. Probably.

Saturday 28 November 2009


Details of Brooke's claims, and his two houses

I suppose it must be handy after a hard day at the Lords to only have to travel three miles to your townhouse in London, one which you have owned for 23 years and where you are on the electoral list.

So it came as a bit of a surprise to me... well, only a very little bit of a surprise, I admit... to discover that the Noble Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, actually doesn’t count his London home as his first residence. Nope, amazingly His Lordship instead regards his first home as being in Brighton. This is even more astounding when you consider that his wife works as a community director of Battersea nursery school and that he has his company directorships listed from his Battersea address. Why, I kept on asking myself, did he then tell the House of Lords' expenses department that his main home was on the south coast of England? Then it came to me in a flash.

£140,000. That’s it. For that is what he has charged us for him to stay overnight in his own home all these years. It’s just as well we have a broad back, isn’t it? Just as well that, as a country, we have money to burn. Just as well we’re not trying to cut back on anything like benefits, pensions and Territorial Army, isn’t it? Just as well we're not looking at big redundancies in the Civil Service so that we can save money.

His Lordship says that he has done nothing wrong, don't they always? He is entitled to claim these expenses. He says that he lives in Brighton for seven months of the year and as such is allowed to claim his overnight allowances when he has to be in London. But my point is that he has had his London home for more than 20 years. The allowance is for peers to claim hotel expenses when they are overnighting in London due to Lord’s business. It was never designed so that people could charge the taxpayer for staying overnight in their own home.

The noble Baron was in the news earlier this year when it came to light that he had failed to declare £36,000 a year earnings from management consultancy with a company when dealing in the House with matters concerning their clients’ interests. He resigned from the consultancy in the aftermath of these revelations.

For some all this might be acceptable behaviour, but for a man who has spent his life as a trade unionist and a keen advocate of financial moderation, it really shows a moral compass stuck at self interest.

Shame on you, your Lordship.

Friday 27 November 2009


Some considerable time ago it came to light that Nigel Griffiths MP thought that, rather than spend Remembrance Sunday remembering troops, some of whom his party had sent to war in the first place, he would spend it in a dalliance with a “lady” other than his wife, in his office in Westminster, in a state of Bacchanalian oblivion, not to mention undress. Then, upon questioning he would deny the whole thing and give the excuse that he was so drunk that he could remember nothing of it, despite the fact that he managed to upload photographs of the whole rather sordid goings on to his computer. Strange, you might think.

Oh well, anyway, I took the trouble at that time to drop Mr Griffiths an email telling him more or less, in moderate language, what I thought of him. (The moderateness of the language precluded my telling him exactly what I thought of him, unaware as I was at the time of that charming Mandelsonian turn of phrase “chump”.)

I waited for some time for a reply from Mr Griffiths, maybe a contrite little note saying how sorry he was that he had let the people of Scotland down. Surprisingly, none was forthcoming.

However, a few weeks later, you can imagine my surprise and delight when I noticed in my inbox a missive from the said Mr Griffiths. Unfortunately, said missive made no mentions of any wrong doing, or any breaking of members’ codes of behaviour, or any drunkenness, debauchery or indeed of lying. Instead Mr Griffiths asked me if I would care to support him and the Prime Minister, his friend, in some objective or other. I did not care to support Mr Griffiths, any more than I cared to support his "friend", and wrote back telling him so, and reminding him of the reason for my original email. Needless to say, again I got no reply, but at least no further exhortations to support were received.

That is, until this week, when I received not one, but two emails updating me on what a wonderful and busy MP he had been. I suspect he may have had a pang of guilt around this time of year!

I was wondering if anyone knew of any way to ensure that my pc is never again subjected to the indignity of an email from this lowlife.


I have just been reading about the report commissioned by the Irish Government into the scandal of the Roman Catholic Church in Dublin. The report blames four Archbishops and a host of lower clergy for covering up clerical abuse, both physical and sexual, of children over the years between 1975 and 2004.

Perhaps worst of all, it blames the Garda Siochana, the Irish police, for covering the crimes that were reported to them, and leaving the Church to deal with the offenders in their own way. Amazingly, the Church’s remedy was simply to move the offending priest elsewhere to start all over again. It seems that the Garda felt that priests were above the law because they were The Church, and so they carried on their evil protected by the law. Crimes reported to them by children and parents were simply referred to the Church authorities.... and from there ignored.

The report concluded that the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church and the preservation of its assets was more important than justice for its victims.

The Irish Justice Minister, Dermot Ahern, has promised that there will be no hiding place for the perpetrators of the crimes. Justice, he said, has been delayed, but will not be denied. Hopefully the Church will be giving every co-operation to trace the priests who were guilty and who are still alive. But I wait to see if this will actually happen. They had, it seems, tried to take out insurance against the claims which might arise from this abuse. It might have been better for them just to stop the abuse, rather than insure against its financial cost.

It seems to me that it unhealthy for the Church or its clergy in any country to be above the law, as it was, and they were, in Ireland. The untold damage that has been done to children may yet manifest itself in further disturbed behaviour.

When will the authorities at the very top of the Church, I mean the ones in the Vatican, act to stamp out this vile behaviour?

Thursday 26 November 2009


It’s Thanksgiving Day in America and in Canada. This day, some say, originates in the early 1600s in the Plymouth Plantation, as the above illustration suggests. It has been celebrated over the US since 1863, becoming a Federal Holiday in 1941. Originally religious in origin, thanking God for the successful gathering in of the harvest, and another year’s food secured, it has, over the years, become a secular holiday, enjoyed by the whole population (and not just those engaged in agriculture). Traditionally the National Turkey Federation has presented a turkey to the President of the United States, but since 1989, in the Presidency of Bush the Elder, the turkey has been pardoned, as shown in this video sent on to me by Danny, 1st Earl of the Ozarks.

Amazing how these things get started. One pardon by President Bush Senior, and now it's a tradition.

Anyway, to all Americans and Canadians, have a great holiday. Happy Thanksgiving Day.

Tuesday 24 November 2009


Seat of the Scottish Head of State

Isn’t it about time we began talking about what a future independent Scotland should be like? Math Campbell made the point well in his excellent article:

There are many vexed questions that will need to be considered. Will we use the pound? Will we be in NATO? What voting system will we use? And so on. Perhaps in future polls we will ask some of these questions and others as Math suggests. I thought that, as the name of the blog suggests a republican agenda, it might be an idea to start with the question of whether an independent Scotland should be a republic or a monarchy.

The choices in the poll are:

A republic with a non executive president along the style of India, Ireland, Germany or Iceland, where the incumbent has no political power and acts only in a ceremonial role;

A republic along the French, American, South African, Pakistani, style where the president has executive power;

A monarchy shared with the UK, where Elizabeth I, is head of state, followed by her successors, ie Prince Charles, then William, etc as in other Commonwealth countries;

A monarchy where the King/Queen invited to take the throne is a current member of the UK royal, Princess Anne, Princess Alexandra, Prince William, etc;

A monarchy with an invited King/Queen from another source, eg, another royal house in Europe or elsewhere, or from amongst the population of Scotland.

Of course there are other possibilities, but not ones likely to be of interest in a modern western society.

So, I’m asking the readers of the blog to give some mature reflection to the question (it is one that we will have to face at some time in the future), and to vote!

(This article, and the accompanying poll is a collaboration between Munguin and Tris.)

Monday 23 November 2009


Once again, it seems, Mrs Thatcher has been invited to Downing Street by Gordon Brown.

In a photo opportunity that one must assume was arranged to please the voters of southern England rather than those of his own North Britain, Mr Brown once again stood on the doorstep of Number 10 with the Baroness: The Iron Lady and the Tin Man.

The occasion was the unveiling of the portrait that Mr Brown commissioned of his heroine for the stairway of the prime minister’s official London residence. The honour is immense considering that normally only photographs to 20th century prime ministers are hung in Downing Street, the exceptions being David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. She is also thought to be the first living prime minister to have a portrait hung there. Mr Brown was applauded warmly when he praised Thatcher’s determination and resolution, by an audience of her friends and colleagues from her period in office together with David Cameron. He continued, and this from a sometime Scotsman, and a Labour one at that: "You were a great leader and I want to thank you for the great service you gave to our country". Obviously Brown meant it when he said he was a North Britishman.

This is not Mrs Thatcher’s first visit to Downing Street since Mr Brown took over as prime minister in 2007. Shortly after his appointment he invited the baroness to take tea, and presented her with a tea service, a sensible use of money as doubtless it was just what she needed. She was later invited to Chequers, the prime ministers country estate to take luncheon. It is also rumoured that Brown has put in place plans to give her a state funeral, an honour normally reserved for monarchs.

Clearly Mr Brown and Mrs Thatcher enjoy a touching closeness. I hope that the SNP will use photographs of these two together in the election campaign which has already started, to remind the people of Scotland who Mr Brown’s friends are.

Sunday 22 November 2009


According to Scotland on Sunday, not a phrase you’ll be used to reading in this blog, a Robert Gordon University lecturer is under investigation for using his blog to call the Secretary of State for Scotland a four letter word.

The lecturer is Wardog, one of my favourite blog authors, who has, as a result of the repercussions from the incident, decided to close his blog because of its effect on his career and family. It is now, as he pointed out in his last post, an ex blog.

It appears that he also accused Mr Murphy of pushing his way to the front in a photograph so that he could get his face on television. Now whether he actually pushed his way to the front or not, he certainly was just behind Mr Brown, which was a pretty good place for the most junior and unimportant cabinet minister of all.

The article gives Wardog’s full name, however I won’t do that here, nor will I link the SoS’s article. We knew him as Wardog and that’s fine for me and I won’t sully this blog with a link to that ‘paper’.

Murphy had also complained about what he called a “cybernat campaign” of disparaging comments about Labour’s win in the Glasgow North East by-election. I’ve read and indeed contributed to the discussions on this win, including mentioning the large number of postal votes and the fact that the number of votes for the Socialist Labour Party fell from around 4,050 to around 50, mindful of the fact that in the last election there was no “Labour” candidate, Martin standing only as The Speaker.

The rights and wrongs of these things in a democracy are surely fair game for discussion. Whilst Wardog’s choice of language would not be mine, I feel that he had every right to use it as he saw fit. After all, it’s what people are saying in one-to-one discussion, in pubs, shops, buses, wherever. In my opinion it is not in any way the same sort of thing as when Matthew Marr used the same word to describe Alex Salmond at the Herald’s Politician of the Year Awards two years ago. Marr was an employee of the Labour Party, specifically of the leader of the Labour Group in the Scottish Parliament, and as such had a certain responsibility to represent the party. Wardog is not a member of any party and was speaking for himself alone. That’s called freedom of speech.

We need to make sure that we get across the message that we do not want to live in a Scotland that in any way resembles the East Germany of 25 years ago. We must be free to say what we want, within reason, and that includes calling Cabinet Ministers by four letter words. Wardog was not asking us to rise to arms, he was not suggesting rebellion. He merely wrote his opinion of Jim Murphy. Brown may want us to have no freedoms in the United Kingdom. We must not let this happen in Scotland.

Wardog, I’ll miss your blog. It was intelligent and amusing. I hope that in the fullness of time you will return. Jim Murphy and the Labour Party will not have done themselves any good by this. Nor, I suspect will the dying Scotland on Sunday which has, needless to say, withheld the right to comment on this article. Bravo SoS!

Saturday 21 November 2009

“Are we then preparing for possible military action in Iraq, Prime Minister?” "NO"

Secret papers leaked to The Sunday Telegraph show that Tony Blair lied to parliament and the British people over the Iraq war.

He insisted throughout 2002 that no military action was being contemplated, whereas in fact the decision had been taken (probably by George W Bush) in February of that year for a full-scale invasion and for regime change. Needless to say, the need to conceal this information from parliament and from all but a tiny number of officials meant that the planning was, to put it mildly, constrained. As a result, the invasion was under-resourced and lacking in cohesion, which caused significant risk to troops and critical failure in the post war period.

According to the Telegraph, some troops went to war with as little as five bullets, some had to deploy on civilian aircraft carrying their kit as hand luggage. Needless to say some troops had their weapons confiscated by the airport security staff. No. I’m not making it up, and I doubt very much that The Sunday Telegraph is either. Noddy and Toytown are two words that come readily to mind. Shameful and diabolical are two others, perhaps more appropriate.

The operation was so badly planned that commanders noted that the communications system stopped working around midday, because of the heat, and somewhere in the desert was found a container load of skis... yes SKIS!

The papers leaked to The Sunday Telegraph include transcripts of interviews with Army Officers in which they vent their frustration with Ministers and Whitehall Officials. They are revealed on the eve of the Chilcot Inquiry into the war and its aftermath.

It seems to me that it will be rather difficult to whitewash this one as effectively as has been done with so many things in the past. I urge everyone to give the full article a read as there is a great deal more than I have mentioned above, particularly concerning the lack of planning for a post war strategy.

The disrespect that this government has shown to parliament, to the people, but worst of all to our troops is astounding. For that, if for nothing else, they must be removed at the next election.


According to my reading of an article in The Sunday Times, Mr Brown’s senior Cabinet is in total meltdown phase as Peter Mandleson is begging to be made Foreign Secretary. Apparently it is his lifelong ambition to follow in his grandfather Herbert Morrison’s steps and take charge, even if ever so briefly, of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Of course that leaves the small problem of what to do with David Miliband, the current holder of the post. Peter had (it is rumoured) been promised the post if David went to Europe as High Representative but, of course, that never happened. Mandleson would have liked that job himself (and indeed lobbied Brown for a nomination), but Brown wanted him in England, close to him, well, running the country for him actually.

Mandleson, whom Brown would do well to remember is not a man to be crossed, believes that it is too late now for there to be any coup d’etat in Cabinet and that the Prime Minister is safe as leader until the General Election. However, poor old Brown also has a problem with his (other) right hand man, Ed Balls, who wants to be Chancellor, in that Alistair Darling, who is Chancellor, doesn’t want to give it up. None of these people would be happy with the demotion to Business Secretary. It is the current incumbent, rather than the title, that is the de facto Deputy Prime Minister.

The Times states that neither Miliband nor Darling know anything of this little intrigue, although, it seem to me that, if either of them reads The Times or Munguin’s Republic that’s out of date information.

It makes you wonder sometimes why anyone in their right mind would want to be Prime Minister... Oh, wait a minute.... right mind????

Friday 20 November 2009


Congratulations to John Swinney on winning the Herald’s coveted Scottish Politician of the Year Award and the Donald Dewar Debater of the Year, sponsored by eaga.

The judges praised in particular his handling of the economy, which won him the title against last year’s winner Nicola Sturgeon, and Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill.

Referring to Mr MacAskill’s decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, Donald Martin, editor-in-chief of the Herald & Times Group, ¬conceded that many thought his conduct in taking this very difficult decision might have earned him the top award.

“However, in his own words, it was a quasi-judicial decision so not entirely political,” said Mr Martin. “His record on other issues such as licensing and his comments over prisoners who had absconded also weakened the case for him.

“John Swinney, on the other hand, has handled a very difficult brief in the teeth of the ¬recession really well and thoroughly deserved to be named Scotland’s Politician of the Year.” (Herald).

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting John Swinney briefly in his office in parliament. Although he was busy, he took time to chat with me and make me feel welcome.

So, not only is John a consummate politician and a superb debater, he is also a really nice guy.

Congratulations Mr Swinney.

Thursday 19 November 2009


Well, it turned out indeed to be anyone but Blair. The new President of the European Council, and it is right to stress that, for he is not President of Europe, is to be the Belgian Prime Minister, Mr Van Rompuy, as many suspected it would be.

Mr Van Rumpoy is an economist, who was chosen to be a quiet man. It appears that it was agreed that the new president must not be seen to overshadow the heads of government of the states of Europe. (This alone would have let Blair out, as he would have made it his business to overshadow Prime Minisers, Presidents, Grand Dukes, Queens and Kings.) It is thought that this election reflects the countries’ desire to limit the amount of power to be given to, or taken by, the Council. His appointment will mean that there will be more continuity in the work of the Council which, prior to this, was chaired on 6 monthly rotating basis, by the heads of government of member states.

The other full time post, that of High Representative for Foreign Affairs, (why High, why not just Representative?) will be taken by an English Baroness, Lady Ashton, who again seems to have been chosen for the lack of likelihood that she will overshadow the Ministers of Foreign Affairs from the individual states or indeed anyone else, including the tea lady. She has never held elected office, has no experience of diplomacy and is considered to be light weight at best. Others have described her as a disaster. Ashton was sent out to Brussels to replace Peter Mandleson as trade Commissioner last year. An appointment from the Lords was seen as necessary as Brown did not want to risk a by-election.

It seems that the worries of those who thought that the initiative in foreign affairs would be taken out of the hands of the likes of David Miliband and handed to a “supremo” in Brussels appear to have been quelled. It is unlikely that this novice will take any more than a back seat in any foreign affairs matters.

Looking at the photograph of them together there, I think that they were chosen to frighten the mice.


At last! It seems that the police have decided to pass their files on 3 noble Lords and 3 honourable members to the Crown Prosecution Service, the English equivalent of the Procurator Fiscal. It is expected that a decision on whether to prosecute or not will be made by England’s top prosecutor, Keir Starmer in January, well in advance of the General Election.

The three peers are: Lord Clark of Hampstead, a former Labour Party chairman, who apparently has admitted a “terrible mistake” by claiming overnight expenses when he was in fact going home, or staying with friends (How can you make a mistake over that; didn’t he know where he was staying?); Lady Uddin, who lived in London but claimed that her main home was an unfurnished flat in Maidstone, thus netting over £100,000; and Lord Hanningfield, who also managed to claim £100,000 for overnight stays, when in fact he went home to Essex in a chauffeur driven car provided by the taxpayer, in his role as chairman of Essex County Council. How confused must he have been after a hard day’s work in the bar, sorry, I mean the Lords?

The honourable members are: Elliot Morley, who claimed for a mortgage he didn’t have; David Chaytor, who did the same; and our own Jim Devine, of dubious shelves and even more dubious rewiring fame.

Police appear to have ruled out taking any action over flipping of houses, or avoidance of Capital Gains Tax, which seems incredibly generous of them, given that millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money was lost. It seems, however, that the Inland Revenue is looking into 27 (only 27?) claims for items not considered to be vital in the carrying out of parliamentary duties, with a view to charging 40% tax on their value. One can only imagine that this must include the duck house and the moat cleaning, not to mention the bath plug. I’m sure small businessmen will be delighted at this new, much more generous regime over small matters of tax irregularities.

It is good to hear that some investigations are being carried out, but bad to hear that there are so few. It was also disappointing to hear that no legislation would be introduced to deal with MPs’ expenses in the parliamentary year to come. I would have thought that, given the shortness of legislative time, the importance to the reputation, both here and abroad, of the so-called mother of parliaments, and the public’s obvious fury, Brown might have thought it prudent to include this in yesterday’s speech. New MPs in a new parliament in June of 2010 must start with a clean slate and a new system that we can have some faith in. What do you think are the chances of that?
Update: According to the BBC's World at One, Christopher Kelly has put pressure on the Prime Minister to ensure that legislation is introduced to enact the recommendations in his report. In one of their swiftest U-turns yet, Downing Street seems to have agreed that this may well be done. I wonder!

Wednesday 18 November 2009


"What is the point of this Government? What else has he got to do? This is the shortest Queen's Speech since 1997. They have run out of money, they have run out of time, they have run out of ideas and we have just seen from the Prime Minister they have run out of courage as well."

So said David Cameron after the Queen delivered the Speech from the Throne today. What indeed David?

Apparently the centre piece of the legislative programme, which in itself is a bit of a farce on the basis that only 30 days of legislative work in the House of Lords exists between now and the last possible date of the next election, is an obligation to halve the government’s massive deficit, without there being any actual means by which this may be achieved.

Lord Mandleson, who seems to be the de facto Prime Minister these days, explains, with a straight face, that the legislation will enshrine in law a duty upon this and future governments to act in a fiscally responsible manner. Yeah, honestly, he said it with a straight face. He also indicated that taxes would have to rise to pay off the huge debt. No? Surely not?

So, we are all going to have to pay out more of our hard earned cash, leaving us with less to spend, in order that the likes of the Royal Bank of Scotland can continue to refuse to lend us our own money and continue pay its executives massive bonuses. Up until now, of course, it has all been a bit pie in the sky. We have known that the banks had been irresponsible and that they were paying themselves massive amounts in bonuses and that we had had to give them unimaginable amounts of money, but we weren’t personally feeling the pinch for it. Well, get ready to.

Hilariously after a stall of many years, there is to be some further movement in constitutional reform. You see, in the midst of the crisis that we find ourselves in, we are going to be able to find parliamentary time to allow Life Peers to renounce their titles. Not very important you might think, until you remember that one such Lord is a certain Peter Mandleson who might wish to stand for parliament. Well, we can’t have mere law getting in the way of the career of Peter Mandleson.

Truly, this republican felt sorry for Her Majesty today, having to get all dressed up in a long frock at 10 o’clock in the morning, put that huge crown on her head and read out that self serving drivel.

Tuesday 17 November 2009


I’ve just read, over on the Ranting Penguin blog, something that I completely missed on Sunday, and which has left me totally speechless, not to mention incandescent with anger.

According to The Times, there are civil servants from the Ministry of Defence working over in Afghanistan. Fair enough, there are soldiers out there in Afghanistan, and there must be back up ancillary work that requires an administrator to do it. And so it is right that we have a group of civil servants out there. The civil servants work at army bases, and may accompany Ministers in walk abouts, but they volunteer for the job, they are not deployed in the front line, and none has been killed in Afghanistan.

Now we come to the bit that might be considered to be rather strange.... OK, strange is not the right word.

A junior infantry man, on a six month tour of Afghanistan will receive a boost to his wage for undertaking the dangerous and difficult work that he will encounter out there. Good, I hear you say. No complaint there. On his £16,681 annual salary, he will receive something in the order of £580 a month as a bonus. On the other hand, a junior civil servant gets a bonus of..... wait for it.......£6,750 a month on top of his salary.

Alan Johnson defended the bonuses that the civil servants get (it seems that Mr Aintworth was unavailable (or too stupid) for comment), saying they did difficult and dangerous work.

Does the Home Secretary know what soldiers do?

(Sorry I couldn't get the links to work.... don't know why)

Monday 16 November 2009


Life just goes on getting better and better in this country, doesn’t it?

Despite the fact that we are told there is no inflation at all and that our money in building society and bank accounts earns no interest to speak of, it’s interesting that the cost of petrol in the UK has risen by 26% over the last year. In short it costs a quarter more to fill up your tank than it did last year.

Petrol is expected to reach £1.10 a litre before Christmas, an astounding £5. 0s. 0d a gallon for those who prefer old money and imperial measures. The blame is being laid on the increased cost of oil and the falling value of the pound (thank you Gordon).

The amazing thing is that, the last time that petrol cost this much, the cost of crude oil was $100 a barrel; at the moment it has remained between $75-$80 a barrel, prompting criticism that oil companies are fast to raise prices when the cost of crude goes up, but slow to reduce them when it comes down.

Interestingly BP has just announced bumper quarterly profits, during this recession, of £3 billion, a rise of 60% on the previous quarter. I wonder if the two are connected.

As if all of that wasn’t enough to put a damper on your evening, the VAT reduction that Darling introduced last year in a desperate attempt to encourage Christmas spending, will disappear in early January, adding on average £1.50 to a tank of petrol.

I find that strange in an oil rich country. One of the benefits of the union, I guess.

Sunday 15 November 2009


I received this information by email this morning. I am reproducing it in full from the Newsnet mail. It is yet another example of how the BBC makes misleading statements about the SNP. Even when forced to apologise they seem to manage to do so in a quiet and backhanded way. Hopefully Newsnet will get an answer as to why the apology was not broadcast, although the misleading, well actually lying, statement was.

BBC Apologises To SNP Minister

Newsnet Scotland can reveal that the BBC have been forced to issue a personal apology to senior SNP MSP Alex Neil after an item broadcast on Sunday 18th October attributed views to the SNP Minister that he had not expressed.

The BBC’s Catriona Renton (above), filming at the SNP conference in Inverness, had claimed on BBC Scotland’s Politics Show that Mr Neil had confirmed the SNP’s desire to see David Cameron become the Prime Minister at the next general election. The recorded interview with Mr Neil that followed Ms Renton’s claim contained no such confirmation.

A source close to Mr Neil explained that the MSP had subsequently complained to the BBC and had received an apology. However, there was a feeling of frustration that, unlike the inaccurate broadcast which came in the midst of the Glasgow North East by-election campaign, the BBC had refused to broadcast the apology.

Catriona Renton is a former Glasgow Labour Councillor, who represented Kelvindale before being ousted by the LibDems in 2003. Ms Renton went on to represent Labour in both the 2003 Holyrood elections and the 2004 European elections.

Ms Renton’s background is steeped in politics having worked for an MEP in Brussels as part of her Oxford University course. Her first job after graduating was working for ex Labour MP Dennis Canavan.

Catriona Renton was recruited by BBC Scotland's parliamentary unit in 2006, where John Boothman, husband of Labour MSP and ex-Health Minister Susan Deacon, was a senior producer.

Questions will surely be asked as to why someone with such recent and very close links to the Labour party in Scotland has been allowed such a high profile platform within BBC Scotland’s political department and whether her professional judgement may have been compromised.

Newsnet Scotland has contacted the BBC for an explanation of why the apology was not broadcast and what editorial control was exercised over Ms Renton’s inaccurate statement....the BBC have yet to respond.

Update: I have been advised that my original picture was not of Ms Renton. I have been unable to verify whether it was or not. It certainly masqueraded as such on Google Images. If it was not then I apologise. I have withdrawn it and replaced it with another image, again purporting to be of her. As I have no idea what she looks like, I can only hope that I have got it right this time. There, that's how you do it BBC!

Saturday 14 November 2009


Petula meeting fans on a recent visit to Paris

Petula Clark has been around a long time, and for as long as I can remember, she’s been a part of my musical life. She started singing when she was around 5 or 6 at local talent shows, and had her first professional engagement singing with a band at the age of 7 in the escalator hall of Benthalls department store in London. She was “discovered” by the BBC in 1942, around the time of her 10th birthday, and went on to become a child star on the radio and in Rank Organisation films throughout the 40s, and as a teenager in the 50s.

When the bottom fell out of the British film business in the 1950s because television and American films between them had made them redundant, Petula concentrated on her singing career. She became a tv and radio star and indeed had a few hit records. But she had problems shaking off the “little girl” image she had picked up during the war and in the years just after. Older people wanted her to stay “Our Pet”, because the idea that she was growing up also signalled the approach of middle age for them. The teenagers of the 1950s wanted American Rock and Roll, not British copies. As she said herself, she was nowhere. But Petula was a trooper and she kept on singing and touring and waiting for something to happen........

Then one night in 1957 she was engaged to sing at the Paris Olympia on bill of European talent to mark the launch of a new Europe-wide music radio station. She had a stinking cold and could barely speak a word and yet she went out on stage, sang three songs, badly (according to her account of the evening), and in English, although she did attempt a “bonsoir”. Somehow (Petula reckons she will never understand why) she brought the house down. The Parisians loved the little English girl with her strange idea of what to wear and her typically British nasal cold. The next day the Paris newspapers were full of “La petite anglaise”, disregarding the big French stars who had topped the bill.

She was dragged somewhat unwillingly to the offices of Disques Vogue, a French recording company and, long story short, there she met a man, Claude Wolffe, who was to become her manager, and later husband. She hadn’t wanted to have a career in France but Claude persuaded her otherwise. She moved in with him and started to learn French. In France, with none of the baggage of childhood stardom, she was able to be the pop singer she longed to be, and not only in France but all over the French speaking nations of the world, topping the charts in Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Canada, African countries and the Middle East too. Her fame spread to other Continental countries and soon she was recording in Spanish, German and Italian as well. Although she continued to have hits like ‘Sailor’, ‘Romeo’ and ‘My Friend the Sea’ in Britain, the main thrust of her work was in French. She even, on a couple of occasions, entered the British charts with French songs.

But soon that was to change too. In 1964, Tony Hatch, who, as her A&R man, was responsible for her recordings, was writing a song based on his first visit to New York. He thought it would be suitable for the Drifters. But on a visit to Paris to rehearse some new French songs (none of which she liked), he played her the music for it. She loved it and told him she wanted some lyrics. Three weeks later “Downtown” hit the charts in the UK and America, and another new career opened up for Britain's 'Pet' and France's 'Petite Anglaise'. Riding on the so-called “British pop invasion” of the 60s, Petula Clark became a huge success in America too with hit after hit in the charts both there and all over the English speaking world, including back home in the UK.

Of course eventually, as they do, the stream of hits dried up, but Pet carried on working. Las Vegas, Hollywood, and in time, the West End and Broadway made her a bigger and bigger star throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Now in what some might call semi retirement in Geneva (and most other people would call a hectic schedule), Petula continues to tour all over the world with her concert act which includes some of the old hits and new songs too. She works tirelessly for charities and as a UN ambassador. She continues to record and write, and she holds records for the longest chart career with new material, having charted first in 1954 and most recently in the UK with “Petula Clark, Then and Now” in 2008, but having an even more recent entry (2009) in the Belgian chart.

I was lucky enough to meet this amazing woman some years ago when she was touring. (A mate of mine is one of her record producers and writers.) She is as charming and lovely as her songs. An international star with an ‘ordinariness’ you would find hard to believe, a crisp dry and self deprecating sense of humour and the ability to make you think that the conversation you are having with her is all about you, and not at all about her.

In Edinburgh a few years ago, at the Festival Theatre, she invited me to step up and sing a bit of “Downtown” with her. I suppose it’s a bit like singing ‘New York, New York’ with Sinatra, or ‘Imagine’ with John Lennon. An awesome experience that I’ll never forget.

The world is a better place for having Petula Clark and her music in it. November 15 is her birthday. Happy birthday or bon anniversaire, Petula. May you have many, many more.

Petula at a recent concert.....


When, back in May, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the then Rt Hon Michael Martin MP was forced to resign, and a new Speaker was elected, we were promised a new broom attitude. No nonsense would be tolerated after what most people could agree was the inauspicious Speakership and humiliating removal of Martin.

So after what most people would describe as an unsatisfactory election, with Labour voting for the Tory that Tories love to hate, we got Mr Bercow. Was this the new broom we were promised?

Well, as far as expenses go, it would seem not. One of Mr Bercow’s first jobs was to appoint himself a “special advisor” (at £107,000 a year), whose job it is “to raise his personal profile”. As fellow blogger
Tory Outcast asks... what for? He’s not there to have a personal profile. He’s there to be Speaker. Mr Bercow also seems to have ruled out any kind of retribution for the house flippers of the Duck Parliament. (In one way, not surprisingly since he is one himself; but in another way very surprisingly since there are two inquiries and a commission dealing with that issue, not to mention the law!)

New FOI revelations show that Mr Bercow has spent, in the first 6 months of his tenure of the office, £45,000 on doing up his grace and favour pad, Speaker’s House, despite the fact that Mr Martin spent a king's ransom on it. Apparently within days of his election his wife was sending emails saying that the wallpaper was very “boardroomish”, and demanding a bigger television and a dvd player for the children.

Hello, I thought: Could you not have bought one of your own? I mean just because you are living at our expense doesn’t mean you can’t make some sort of contribution. (In most cases when people are in state-owned housing, decorating it to their taste is their job.) Bring your own telly for the kids, don't expect us to buy them one; maybe you could bring your own clothes too?

Mr Bercow also spent £3,600 on a visit to Rome to attend the G8 Speaker’s’ Conference... what the hell is that for? In what way does this conference benefit the taxpayer? Still, Rome is nice, no one could deny that.

So! As usual with Westminster, we were cheated. Nothing is too good for the Bercows. We thought that change was the order of the day, and we were wrong. Same old, same old from Mr and Mrs Bercow. I wonder how quickly he can be got rid of?

Thursday 12 November 2009


Well today is by-election day. Remember, way back in the mists of time, well May, wasn’t it, when the Speaker resigned because the Commons had lost confidence in him... the first time for three hundred years... because he had been fiddling his expenses and encouraging an atmosphere where others could do the same?

It took a long time and much backbench muttering but eventually the party leaders, led by Nick Clegg, turned on him, he was disgraced and he had to go.

So very quietly they sent him packing to the Lords, where there was much muttering about him bringing Their Lordships’ House into disrepute, but where in reality, there are so many other thieving old gits that another one won’t be noticed. And they did nothing about replacing the man in the Commons, on the basis presumably that they didn't have enough volunteers to fill in all the Mickey Souris and Donald Canard postal votes.

Well, today, having seen (I read somewhere) an increase of 4,000 applications for said postal votes, Glasgow North East goes to the polls. After 70 odd years of Labour domination, it is one of the most deprived areas of Scotland, indeed of Europe.

It comes at the bottom in just about every single possible indicator, as you can see from this information copied from Mr Burton's excellent The Universality of Cheese blog.

School leavers with no qualifications - 300 per cent higher than the Scottish average.

Teenage pregnancies – 60 per cent higher

Deaths from lung cancer – 94 per cent higher

Heart disease – 40 per cent higher

Folk on income support – 130 per cent higher than the national average

Unemployment rate – 140 per cent higher.

Looking at the photograph above, it makes you wonder, when you consider that, until May of this year, the most powerful commoner in the land, The Speaker of Her Majesty's House of Commons was their MP. There is no doubt at all in my mind that he could have got things done. When he spoke people listened. He wasn't just a little unimportant MP that civil servants treated with disdain. He was MR SPEAKER. No one wanted to be on the wrong side of him. If he asked, he got.

Instead he used his huge power and influence to line his nest, and that of his taxi loving wife and of his children and grandchildren. He claimed expenses that he had no right to and he used his enormous power to block investigations into all MPs' expenses, including spending vast amounts of taxpayers' money to ensure that taxpayers would remain in the dark about MPs' tastes for all that is expensive.

He misused the power that he could have used to make life better for people in his constituency.

Today the voters of this benighted place go to the polls.... and in all probablility they will vote Labour, because, after 70 years of there being a Labour MP in that area, they still think that Labour is the party for people like them.... Oh well....

There are some more photographs here. This is Labour’s legacy.

Wednesday 11 November 2009


Today’s unemployment figures are horrific.

A total of 2.5 million people are counted as unemployed and the number of people who are "economically inactive", ie on long term sickness benefits, looking after a relative (and saving nursing home places), or who have simply given up looking for work (many of them claiming nothing at all, living off their partners’ earnings) has reached an astonishing 21% of the available population, or 8 million souls. The number of jobs available, according to the Office for National Statistics is just over 420,000. So all those who are shouting for people to get off their lazy backsides and look for work should be aware that what they are demanding is an impossibility. There are an incredibly small number of jobs for an incredibly large number of “economically inactive” people.

That’s a proud record for Labour to have as it limps towards a General Election. And that’s certainly not as bad as it will get in the near future. The banks, for example, are promising further job losses, with over 8000 notified this week alone, but yet to take effect.

Mr Cameron (it's not unreasonable to assume that he will be the next Prime Minister) will face a mammoth task in his first few years of government, trying desperately to find work that people can apply for. Because no amount of talking tough about people on benefit can hide that fact that 8 million people out of work does not go readily into 420,000 vacancies. Tough talking in this case only really pleases the non thinker who believes that if the unwashed just got off their backsides and did a decent day’s work the all would be right with the world, but totally disregards how this might be brought about.

Mr Cameron’s economic team may have many ideas about how to get Britain working again but I’m not sure where he will get 7 ¾ million jobs from.

I’ve worked for years with people who are unemployed, both with Jobcentre and with private companies trying to help people into work, and I can tell you without doubt that unemployment is a tragedy. It ruins lives, tears families apart and causes untold misery. The great bulk of unemployed people want a job. Yes, some of them are unreasonable in their demands, and some of them wouldn’t work if their granny’s life depended on it, but that’s a very small proportion.

Huge numbers are unfit for work because of drug and drink habits, low educational attainments, low intellectual abilities, or a string of dependent children. There are other barriers to getting people into employment, but the biggest of all is the lack of jobs.

In my opinion, given the problems that will face Mr Cameron in trying to make good his promises, he must concentrate on the young. Youth unemployment, that of people between the ages of 16 and 24 is close to 1 million, a record high of nearly 20% of that age group.

It is this age group who must be found work. Of course my solutions wouldn’t be of interest to Mr Cameron, because they involve public expenditure. Finding work for people by building an infrastructure suitable to the 21st century, training young people in trades as they go, building railways, roads, public housing to replace the failed and totally unaffordable private housing, improving public transport and trying to bring Britain up to the standard in these things of other northern European countries is how I would create that employment. In itself it would soak up large numbers, who, instead of claiming benefits would have wages, which, being young, they would spend, creating more work. Yep, it’s a well worn idea. Nothing original there!

I know that won’t be Mr Cameron’s way, given his politics, and I respect that, but, what I know for sure is that he cannot allow a million young people to be idle. If he does they may well be idle for the rest of their lives.

Monday 9 November 2009


Ms Laing and Ms Starkey, two of the women concerned for their safety

On Friday of last week I mentioned that a junior minister at the Department of Work and Pensions had pointed out that, without the right to claim on expenses for a cleaner, women would not be able to take up jobs as MPs. I mentioned the patently obvious fact that there was no difference between an MP and any other worker, and I drew the conclusion that what, in effect, this woman was saying was that NO WOMAN would be able to take ANY job, unless their employer paid for a cleaner: a rather strange and somewhat impracticable notion for a minister in the Department of WORK and Pensions to come up with.

Today, according to
The Daily Telegraph
, a group of female MPs have said that reforms proposed by Christopher Kelly will put female MPs at risk of sexual assault. This particular claim is based on the proposal that second homes allowance should only be available to MPs who live a certain distance from the Commons, meaning that some MPs may have a little farther to travel after work. It is only fair to Kelly to mention at this point that he said that taxi fares could be claimed when the House sat late, in place of the allowance, as that would be much cheaper.

Several of the group are, apparently, people whose expenses have come in from criticism in the past and they come from both Tory and Labour benches. Isn’t it strange how these people can work together in perfect harmony when it involves them getting their grasping little trotters on some more of our cash?

Once again, I cannot for a minute assume that these women think that MPs should be different from anyone else, and if they feel that the streets of Britain are so full of sexual perverts that none of them is safe out alone after dark (even in a taxi cab paid for by the tax payer), they must be proposing that ALL women who work should be provided by their employers with a second home allowance so that they can live right next to their place of employment. I’d suggest that this is another rather impracticable proposal given the current financial meltdown situation.

These women who seem to feel that they are being treated unfairly might like to remember that attacks (albeit rarely sexual ones) are perpetrated on men as well as women, and they might want to speak to the Home Secretary about doing something about the Law and Order issues that they have such problems with.

OK, so that was all a bit of a joke. Let’s get down to the truth. These women have a car park that they can use for free under the House of Commons. Additionally, to suit different life choices, they are being offered taxis at our expense, door to door. (I’m sure we could arrange to vet the taxi company to ensure that there are no perverts on its staff, although that company might respond by asking for a similar check on the MPs.) The truth is that they are not in the least worried about being attacked. What they are worried about is no longer being allowed to buy a second home cheap, have it done up at our expense as a second home, and then sell it on at a massive profit, having carefully flipped it to make sure that it no longer attracts any Capital Gains Tax.

I don’t know how many of you feel as angry as I do about these people who just won’t give it up, while the rest of us cope with the results of the recession that they have overseen. They need to remember that we sent them to parliament to look after OUR interests. They seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time looking after their own!!

Sunday 8 November 2009


Gogarburn: Head office of RBS

I listened to an interview with the chief executive of RBS, on the Today Programme the other day, as a further £25 billion of our tax pounds was deposited in it.

It was literally unbelievable. I was pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t still dreaming. The need for the bonuses was an absolute, according to Mr Hester, despite that fact that they are being paid by our taxes; taxes of people who earn a tiny fraction of what the bonus is, to people who are effectively civil servants and not very good ones at that. “We have to pay competitive bonuses or they will go elsewhere “, he whined, over and over.

There was no question of negotiation; no humility about the fact that we are paying bonuses to executives of a bank which has lost so much money, and continues to lose so much money that most ordinary people can't begin to comprehend the figures. They mean nothing to us.

It was Alice in Wonderland stuff from a bank that made the biggest loss in history. “We have to keep our good people.”

WHAT BLOODY GOOD PEOPLE? I was shouting at the radio. The ones that lost so much money that no one in the world knows how much it will come to in the end? Those good people?

At the same time I read about the reduction in the Scottish block grant of around £3 billion over three years. The cutting of expenditure in Scotland, is a tiny fraction of the money being poured into RBS, and, along with a downward spiral of unemployment, more poverty, and more unemployment, it will cause untold grief to some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland.

Old people's care doesn't just employ carers, it cares for old people. Old people will have to be kept in hospital, and take up beds sick people might have used. Free school meals don't just employ dinner ladies; they may be the only meals that some poor hungry kids get.

Reduced price prescriptions have meant that more people, handed a script with 3 or 4 medicines on, may not have had to choose which ones they can afford.

Untold misery will come from these decisions.

But we can't have bankers going without their Porches, can we? Apparently not.

I wonder if this reduction in spending isn't some sort of punishment to the Scottish people for voting SNP and for continuing to think that they are doing a good job.

Is this Brown's way of saying ... this is what you get if you don't vote Labour?

In the amount of money that they are chucking at banks, three billion is such a tiny sum that no one would notice it. But we should have known. It was a mistake to humiliate Gordon Brown, and now we must pay.

Saturday 7 November 2009


Lord Falkland's wife's aunt's home

It wouldn’t be the weekend if there wasn’t a nice wee story about another upper class fraudster with a housing benefit story to tell. This one is, at least in some ways, slightly different from the rest.

So far we have covered the stories of Life Peers, little men and women who have managed, by hook or by crook, to get themselves a seat in the Lords and pinch a pot of money from us. There are those who have blamed it all on letting little oinks into the Upper House. Real aristos wouldn’t do that sort of thing, they said .

Well, just to prove that little theory wrong, meet The Fifteenth Viscount Falkland, one of 90 hereditary peers still sitting in the Lords. And this time not a Labour or Conservative, but Liberal Democrat peer. He’s had a fine little number going on for a good while now.

It seems that despite living in Clapham, he has registered as his main home, a two bedroom oast house in Kent which, wait for it, he doesn’t even own! By doing this, he has neatly managed to avail himself of an estimated £200,000 of our tax pounds.

Lucius Edward William Plantagenet Cary (nice name) has been claiming this money for at least a decade. He and his wife bought their London House in 1990 with no mortgage and both are on the electoral role there, and use it as an address for their company directorships. Neighbours say they are rarely away.

Neighbours at the oast house, which is actually owned by the Viscountess’s aunt, have never heard of them, or seen them.

It refreshing that the not terribly Noble Lord says quite openly that he doesn’t live there, but that it was in the rules that he could do it. “I didn’t do it to make the money”, he says. “I did it to meet the expenses of my life. I don’t have any other income.”

Awwwwwwwwwwwww! Poor wee scone. Has he forgotten about the directorships?

Here’s my advice to Your Lordship. Go to the Department of Work and Pensions, tell them that you are now 74 years old and that you want your state pension. They will arrange a payment of around £100 a week for you to say thank you for working all these years. If you're lucky and budget carefully you may be able to feed yourself and keep warm, although the odds are against it. But it’s good enough for other people, so why would it not be good enough for you?

Friday 6 November 2009


Helen Goodman

Sometimes, when you are reading a newspaper, you rub your eyes and stare at the screen just to make sure that you haven’t misread; you check to make sure it’s not April first, and then you pinch yourself and..... yes... you remember that you’re living in the UK.... that is La La Land.

Today we have the story of poor wee Helen Goodman, a junior minister of sorts at the Dept of Work and Pensions. She has announced to the world that unless women are allowed to claim for cleaners on their expenses they will not be able to come into politics. (Note to jobcentre staff: Don’t try to force unemployed females into vacancies that don’t have a cleaner on expenses.)

Ms Goodman has suggested, according to
the Daily Mail, that Kelly’s proposals are sexist because women do most of the cleaning, then she rattles on with a bundle of complaints about how unfair it all is, before she admits that she hasn’t actually read all of the report. How’s that, a minister of the crown mouthing off before she’s read the report?

Goodman, who is married with two children, claims £84 a month for cleaning on top of her £92,000+ salary.

Now maybe I’m a bit dim, but the way I see it, we all have to sort our lives out the way we can best live them. Within a family group we have different chores that we see to, because, no matter how high and mighty we are we still need to eat, sleep, wash, clean up and various other things, on top of doing our job. So, in lots of families where two parents are working, they share the cleaning duties, maybe with the kids or granny or grandad. If someone says that they cannot do their job properly (specially with a £90,000 salary) unless they have a cleaner on expenses, I would think maybe they should think about another career.

I also have to assume that Ms Goodman wouldn't be so selfish as to assume that the perk of cleaner should only apply to female MPs. I'm guessing that what she is suggesting is that all women who work should be able to put a cleaner on their expenses. As a minister at the Dept of Work and pensions, she may want to rethink that policy somewhat, or at lest run it by Yvette.

By the way Ms Goodman is not exactly a stranger to expenses scandal. Although she has only been an MP since 2005 she has managed to rack up a couple of indiscretions so far: renting a holiday cottage at £519 and submitting hotel bills for a period prior to her even being an MP.

Even for a Westminster trougher, that’s pushing the boat out.

Thursday 5 November 2009


This is Amanda Hyett. She is accused of defrauding the Dept of Work and Pensions and her local council of £35,885.27 in Income Support, Council Tax and Housing Benefit.

Before I go any further it is probably right to mention that Ms Hyett is the sister of the Karen Matthew’s ex-lover. (You may remember that Karen Matthews hatched a plot to raise money by arranging for her daughter to be kidnapped.) However Ms Hyett was not involved in, or certainly was not charged with, any part in that crime.

Right, so I’m pretty certain we could all agree that the whole lot of them are thoroughly unpleasant people, but what the rest of her family has been up to has, or should have, no connection to her own crimes.

Simply, she has stolen the sum of £35,885.27 from us. She has been released on bail while pre-sentence reports are prepared but the Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier, warned her that the fact that she is on bail should not be considered to be any indication that she will not receive a custodial sentence.

Now compare her situation with that of Jacqui Smith, ex Home Secretary, who, by her own admission should not have claimed her housing benefit to the tune of £116,000. Hyatt’s theft is rather small beer in comparison. However Smith got away with standing up in parliament and apologising to her fellow MPs, many of them in the same situation as she is. Consider also the case of the ex-Minister in the Department of Work and Pensions who claimed, albeit a lesser sum, for his parents’ house. He, too, only had to make a grovelling apology and repay the sum of £13,837.

Can anyone suggest a reason for the difference in the treatment of these people?

Wednesday 4 November 2009


I’m at a loss to understand why the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland telephoned the President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to congratulate him on his appointment.

From my reading of it Hamid Karzai has the position of president because his regime is so corrupt that his opponent in the presidential runoff, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew from the process. The first ballot had been “characterized by lack of security, low voter turnout and widespread ballot stuffing, intimidation, and other electoral fraud” (Wikipedia). There had also been a considerable number of deaths in the violence caused by the election, including the deaths of British soldiers.

Apparently Dr Abdullah realized that the second ballot had little hope of producing a different result and withdrew in order to save lives that would be lost were he to pursue further his hopes of becoming president.

Within hours of this corrupt man taking his place as president of a country for which our troops are providing security, Brown was on the phone to him. Contrast that with the fact that the phone at Bute House has still never rung with a congratulatory word for the First Minister of this country two and a bit years after he took office. Fortunately for Alex Salmond any kind of backing from Mr Brown is about the last thing he (or indeed anyone else ....ask Tony Blair...) needs.

Tuesday 3 November 2009


I’ve just watched a video from Youtube as featured on Scunnert Nation.
I think everyone should have a look. It’s what Mr Griffin was trying not to let us know when he attempted to appear like a reasonable and sensible politician (?!?) on his Question Time appearance.

The video is of Wembley High Street. The commentator a BNP member from South Wales, talking about how it is no longer his country, because there are a lot of Asian people walking about on the street. A good deal of the footage concentrates on an area right outside a mosque.

Apart from the colour of the people’s skin, what else do we see in the video? Well we see a lot of signs up warning you that the road has no markings and we see shops and bus stops and all the other stuff you’d expect to see in a busy part of the English capital.

What do we not see? Well loads of things obviously, but what I particularly noticed was that there was no one fighting, no one drunk, no one begging and no one vomiting in the gutter.

It just seemed like a normal, decent, not terribly unpleasant shopping area with lots of little shops.

The commentary, for the first part in English, is about how it’s not “our” country any more. (That’s not something I feel in particular because, in my view, it was never my country.) The second part, when our intrepid reporter gets out of the car is delivered in Welsh (with subtitles). Clearly he’s not so intrepid that he wants to make blatant racist remarks in English surrounded by people who can understand him. (Yes, that’s right, they may think that the immigrants don’t speak English, but they are not prepared to put it to the test.)

Now, the BNP may have some reasonable points to make about the failure of immigration policies of the London government, but when, as here, the commentary sinks to the level of talking about people going out in their pyjamas, the other points that they make become tainted with the ignorance that that kind of comment displays.

I urge you to go to Scunnert’s blog and watch the video.

PS. Our commentator makes several remarks about the iconic status of Wembley, and he notes that it is the home of British football. He maybe hasn’t heard of English Football, Scottish Football or even Welsh Football. Strange that. Another piece of crass ignorance!

Monday 2 November 2009


Perhaps you will remember that a few weeks ago I related the story of a certain Mr Wilshire, MP for Spelthorne in England who had, contrary to Commons’ regulations, paid his expenses into a company which he and his partner owned. You may also remember that, busy man that he is, he forgot to register the company for tax purposes, or National Insurance purposes, and, I suppose in the way that these things go, the silly old sausage completely forgot to pay any of these taxes that the rest of us are burdened with. I’m sure I won’t have to remind you that his partner had some sort of animal nesting in her hair, which may account for some of their forgetfulness.

You may also remember that according to his version of the tale, he decided that he had let people down and so he decided to stand down as the MP. Not right away, you understand (thereby losing a fat parcel of goodies), but, he was so ashamed he decided to stay on till next May.

Of course the official version was somewhat different. It went like this: the Tory Chief Whip had him in and told him he was a bit of an old disgrace and just the sort of chap that gave the Conservatives a bad name, so Dave the leader had decided that he would have to go. Oh well, it was close and it’s easy to mix these things up.

So now Mr Wilshire has, on Commons stationery, and using Commons prepaid envelopes (so as not to dig into any of that profit he was making), written a 2-page letter to every single Spelthorne constituent explaining his side of the debacle. Wasn’t that kind of him?

I won’t bother you with all the trivial details of the letter, in fact I don’t even know them all, but the Daily Telegraph thought this was a particularly interesting part of the narrative, and I agree.

Mr Wilshire wrote: “The witch hunt against MPs in general will undermine democracy. It will weaken parliament - handing yet more power to governments. Branding a whole group of people as undesirables led to Hitler's gas chambers.”

I think that in the first part of that statement he’s kinda mixed things up a little. It’s the fact that so many MPs turned out to be nothing better than cheap little benefit cheats that has undermined parliament and thus democracy. Indeed the so-called witch-hunt has probably strengthened what little democracy we have left. The second half of the statement is beneath contempt. To compare what is happening to MPs with the holocaust death camps is below the level that we expect even from the likes of Wilshire.

It is a travesty that this odious little man is allowed to continue in his post as MP, on his salary of around £63,000 and make insulting statements on our stationery and deliver them at our expense.


Subrosa has brought to our attention this morning that Members of the Scottish parliament are to be allowed by the Scottish Parliament's Corporate Body to charge the cost of poppy wreaths to their expenses if they representing Holyrood when laying them.

Technically, of course, you could say that if you are doing a job on behalf of your employer then the materials you need to do the job should be provided by that employer. But, as Subrosa points out the poppy wreaths cost only around £16. There is cheapness, a tawdriness, about the idea of laying a wreath and rushing off to collect expenses for doing it.

Mindful that MSPs’ salaries are in the order of £53,000, a site more than most of the rest of us earn, I think that MSPs should think very carefully about their own fortunate position before they make that claim.

The people we are commemorating with these poppy wreaths gave a very great deal more than £16.

I am happy to add my voice to Subrosa’s appeal for the MSPs to pay for their own wreath or wreaths.

Sunday 1 November 2009


I’m indebted to the Ranting Penguin for pointing out a peer on the fiddle who had escaped my notice, so here’s another story of greed among the top drawer people.

It seems that Lord Morris of Manchester, for that is the name of the fine looking fellow above, has managed to sting us for £100,000 by saying that a small house in Manchester is his family home, despite having had a family home in London for the past 27 years and more... and despite the fact that none of the neighbours at his Manchester pad have never seen him. Yes, you guessed it. It’s that handy £174 a night allowance with no receipts for peers who live outside the English capital..... AGAIN.

He maintains that no one has seen him because he lives at the back of the house. Ah well, that would explain why he’s never seen in the street or at the shops or anywhere else around the house; never been seen arriving or leaving. On the other hand the Noble Lord’s son, Stephen, who lives in Leeds, has been seen at the home. (He must have been living at the front of the house.) Apparently he uses the house when he comes to Manchester to watch football. Strangely the telephone bill for that address is in his name.

How the upper classes live, eh? They get their telephone accounts in the name of their offspring because they sometimes come to watch football.

Lord Morris says that it’s a wonderful place for him because it is only 600 yards from where his mother was born and three-quarters of a mile from where he, his noble self was born.

Oh well, that’s alright then your Lordship. That makes it worth us forking out £100,000 for it.