Sunday 28 February 2010

The on-off marriage tax bribe is on again.... at least for the moment

So now it's on again... you know the on-off marriage tax break that Cameron has been wittering about and dithering over, like so many other things that the Tories have been dithering over...

After calculating the dreadful plight in which he finds himself and desperate to do something to buoy up his troops at the Spring Conference, he fell back on the old favourite. When in doubt with the Tories, promise to introduce tax breaks for getting married.

It is reckoned that it will cost in the region of £3.5 billion a year, money which, of course we don’t have. And exactly what will it do for the country?

Will some Tory please, please tell me what good will come of subsidising marriage? What will it do for Scotland? Will it bring down crime? Will it deal with immigration? Will it stop Scottish soldiers being killed in Afghanistan? Will it sort out the corruption, greed and inefficiency that is parliament, local authorities, health boards, the BBC, the banks, the whole financial system, the legal profession? Will it help to reduce the gap that Labour has made between rich and poor? Will it sort the transport system that is the laughing stock of Europe? Will it do something to improve the roads, also the laughing stock of the western world? Will it make any difference to old people being abused and maltreated in homes all over the country in order to make a profit?

Nope. It will please a few activists and prove that the Tories are still the party of traditional values, even though this policy is somewhat at odds with the notion that it’s a party that doesn’t believe in interfering with the ways that people live their lives.

The money will go largely to people who would have got married anyway; people who can afford the divorce lawyers when it all goes wrong. If it is a substantial tax break (or bribe as I prefer to call it) it will go too, to some people who will get married especially so that they can lay their hands on it. The very poorest of course will get nothing, as they don’t earn enough to pay much in the way of tax to have rebated. Some of them will stay together; some will pocket the money and get on with the business of their lives quite separately, but with an extra tenner a week in their pockets. Some pensioners with a couple of million in the bank will be bribed to stay married.

And the taxpayer will be stuffed again. Still it will be music to the ears of some of the party faithful and that's something that Cameron really needs right now.

I hope they realise that something will have to go to pay for it. I just hope it isn’t a cut in rations for the other ranks in Afghanistan.



It is beginning to look like Gordon Brown may be prime minister after the Westminster election. A poll for the Sunday Times poll puts Labour only two points behind the Tories. The YouGov poll puts the Conservatives on 37%, to Labour’s 35% for Labour.

That is estimated to give Labour 317 seats to the Tories’ 263, nine short of an overall majority that would mean Brown could be prime minister in June.

The poll comes as a hammer blow to Cameron he prepares for a keynote speech to his party’s spring conference.

In an interview to the Sunday Times he defends himself against right-wing criticism that he has modernized too much, moved too far into the centre. He says: “Some people say to me, ‘Play things safe; try to win by default. The government is in a mess.’ I say, ‘No. This is the Conservative party that is offering radical change. I’m doubling up on change’.”

Although Cameron says he is unconcerned about the collapse in Tory support, the narrowing of the lead has been dramatic. Until recently the Tories were solidly 10-points ahead, but last Sunday’s YouGov poll had the gap at 6 points, suggesting a hung parliament with the Tories the largest party.

Frighteningly, today’s poll may suggest that claims about Brown’s tantrums and bullying may have helped him. Just 28% of people believe the prime minister is a bully and 50% agree
he has a strong sense of right and wrong. (Scary. How clever is Mr Mandleson?) It also show concerns about Cameron’s Eton and Oxford background and lack of empathy with ‘ordinary’ people. Only 25% think that Cameron understands problems faced by “people like me”, compared with 35% for Brown. This may suggest that the right wingers, trying to push Cameron away from reforms, are wrong. He may need to push the Tories nearer to the ‘ordinary’ man. It also suggests that team Labour’s charm offensive on the prime minister’s being an ‘ordinary Joe’ may be working.

If the election result leaves Labour just short of an overall majority, Brown could battle on, with Labour as a minority government doing deals with smaller parties to get its legislation through parliament. That, however, is unlikely to last for long because it takes real political skill and incredible patience, and compromise to cope with a hung parliament and a minority government.

As has been shown with our own government much of the government’s legislation is lost or watered down because the opposition parties gang up to defeat you, regardless of their own views or the good of the country. The object becomes defeating the government, embarrassing the government, not running the country. It takes very mature opposition and a sense of duty to the country rather than party to make it work.

I seriously doubt if that exists at the Westminster assembly where self comes first, party second and somewhere way down the list, the voter. I favour a hung parliament because I can't bear the thought of Labour in government; I find the thought sickening...... and the Tories scare me. But Brown must not be their first minister. He's far too mad to be in charge for another 5 years.

Saturday 27 February 2010

Jack Dromey to fight Birmingham Erdington on behalf of "working people"

Well well. Here’s a surprise. Jack Dromey has been selected as a Labour candidate for the forthcoming Westminster Elections. Jack is Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman's husband, so it was a massive surprise to us all that he did so well in the selection process.

Dromey, who is also the deputy general secretary of the Unite union, has been chosen as the prospective parliamentary candidate for Birmingham Erdington.

Dromey was looking for a safe Labour seat and of course with his connections found it in the Birmingham seat, which was held by Labour at the last Westminster elections with a majority of 9,575.

He was reported to be honoured to have been chosen, although frankly I doubt if he was surprised. He said that he had been fighting battles for working people in Birmingham for 25 years. One wonders if he will continue to do so as a Labour MP. Most of the rest appear to be only vaguely aware of working people's existence.

He said: “I will serve the people of Erdington as a hardworking local MP, punching the weight of a fine constituency that has seen real progress under 13 years of Labour.” Oh Lord, don't they make you laugh? Real progress under Labour? 'Struth!

The current MP, Sion Simon, announced earlier this month that he would be standing down in order to concentrate on becoming the first elected mayor of Birmingham. Simon announced recently that he would pay back approximately £21,000 claimed to pay rent on a flat owned by his sister.

Labour never changes does it? Jobs for the boys and the husbands of the erm.... girls????


Friday 26 February 2010

Government and Judiciary relations at breaking point over torture ruling

The Times reports that relations between the government and the judiciary are at breaking point following the decision of the Court of Appeal to reinstate a judge's criticism of MI5 in a landmark torture ruling.

The judgment concerns the mistreatment in CIA custody of ex Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed, and what MI5 knew about it.

The original ruling caused outrage when it emerged that the part in which Lord Neuberger, Master of the Rolls, questioned the honesty of secret service officers, had been removed following Foreign Office interference.

Now Judge Neuberger and two colleagues have reinstated the paragraph, rewritten to focus the criticism on the individual case. They have also published the original draft text.

Alan Johnson, Home Secretary, said he was deeply disappointed by the court's decision to criticize the Security Service in that manner.

He said: "The Government respects the right of the judges to reach their own judgment. But it is also right that, where we disagree with their conclusions, we say so. The UK’s security and intelligence services do outstanding work to keep us safe against a real and continuing terrorist threat, and they do so under proper control and oversight - by ministers, the Intelligence and Security Committee, the commissioners and, where necessary, the courts."

Without going into the rights and wrongs of torture, or Guantanamo, or indeed the whole war against terror, all of which may be good material for further posts by me or other contributors, we really do need to establish something.

The government depends upon the courts and the judges to uphold the law. Many people criticize them for being out of touch, elitist, superior, wrong minded... and so on, but they are the foundation of our justice system. Therefore, when they rule against the government, based in their learned way upon the laws that the government has made, it is a bit rich for ministers to get their drawers in a twist about it.

Lawyers from the foreign office should have no part in changing rulings of the courts and when they do, they should not be overly surprised that the courts eventually get their own way.

It seems to me that the Blair-Brown government was so desperate to co-operate with the Bush-Cheney administration that they were happy to overlook the fact that prisoners were being tortured. Brits, for all their faults (including island mentality xenophobia and a general dislike of anything that isn’t Anglo-Saxon, except curries and Spanish beaches), are essentially decent people. They don’t like their governments colluding in torture and this government was at least smart enough to recognize that and lie about rendition flights and actual knowledge of torture.

They were forced to admit that they had, erm, got it wrong about the extraordinary rendition flights and to apologize. Now they would do well to do the same thing here.

They have the power to change the law if they wish. Until they do they would do well to obey what stands like most of the rest of us do.
Photos show Mr Neuberger and Guantanamo Bay in the south of Cuba.

Wednesday 24 February 2010


The European Union is largely speaking a pretty unpopular institution. I’ve met very few people who actually like it. Of course, in fairness, I’ve also met no one who understand anything about it.

I don’t either of course. It’s all so complicated, and there is so little time and so many more interesting things in life to understand, if you get my drift.

Mind you, despite all the hatered for it from all over Europe, no one in government, no one who actually would have to actually deal with the fall out of leaving Europe has ever actually proposed that we should do so.

That arch Europe hater of all times Mrs Thatcher with her trusty lieutenant Norman Tebbit, whom I bet wore union jack underwear, actually got us deeper and deeper into it despite the fact that dealing with foreigners (except English speaking ones like dear Ronnie) always made them look like they were about to vomit.

It is a point to ponder that even they never proposed a referendum on whether to stay or leave.....

For my own part, I feel that, as long as Scotland is a member of the UK, I prefer that we remain a member of the EU. Mrs Thatcher once described it as “socialism by the back door”. I suspect that the English preponderance for right wing government has been somewhat tempered by that very "backdoor socialism". And for that I am grateful as I have always been ruled from that right wing England despite not once voting for it. An independent Scotland would be unlikely to need Brussels to tell us to treat our poor, old and sick like human beings, so, when that happy day comes, I’ll be content to take economists’ advice on whether or not Scotland would be better in or out.

I’ve never been much of a fan of UKIP. Their politicians have all been rather 4th rate (not to mention strangely orange in colour). It’s as if any self respecting right winger sticks with the Conservative Party, stays on the right wing and despairs a little of the “mad rantings” of the likes of Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine and 彭定康 (Chris Patten).

But presumably members of UKIP, who despite hating Europe and everything European seem very content to take full advantage of the salaries and expenses grtanted by the hated enemy... some take rather more than full advantage... think of themselves as English gentlemen/women.

It was then, rather a surprise to see the unpleasant, ill-mannered, personal rant from Mr Farage in parliament yesterday against the new President of the Council.

Mr Van Rompuy may not be a spectacular politician in the mould of Thatcher, Obama, Gorbachev or Mandela; maybe no one in the UK had heard of him until recently (but then as a large slice of the population hasn’t heard of Gordon Brown or David Cameron either, what does that tell you?). And it’s true that Belgium is a small country, in fact a 'united kingdom', which, like our own, is hardly really united, but surely Mr Farage’s mother taught him some basic manners. You don’t say that kind of thing out loud.

What was all the more remarkable about this ill-bred outburst of bile which shamed the UK was that Farage was obliged to admit that Mr Van Rompuy was competent and capable.

It seems to me that for all his faults of being foreign, and Belgian at that, that it would be rather nice if the UK had a few politicians who could claim even one of these adjectives?

And, as an afterthought, as unspectacular as Mr Van Rompuy may be, at least he's not a war criminal, reconsiable only by his socks and shoes jhanging from the backside of Geroge W Bush. In short he's not Tony Bloody Blair.


It seems to me that often there are things going on in government, in the establishment, in business, that you can’t quite believe are true... and yet they are. The “you couldn’t make this up” tag is getting old now. People are getting used to the unbelievable, so you probably could make it up.

So it is with Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust. I listened with growing dismay and disbelief at 6 o’clock to the list of horror stories in the report of Robert Francis QC.

It found that patients "suffered horrific experiences that will haunt them and their loved ones for the rest of their lives ... There can no longer be any doubt as to the enormity of what occurred". The most basic elements of care were neglected and patients were left humiliated and sobbing. They were left in sheets soiled with urine and faeces for considerable periods of time.

There were falls suffered by patients, some of which led to serious injury; the attitude of nursing staff was well below an acceptable standard; relatives had to take bedding home to wash; there was insufficient care for patients' dignity; visitors had to remove used dressings from public areas and clean toilets themselves.

It would break the heart of most people to see their sick or elderly relative and friends in such a situation, and it set me to wonder what kind of people comprised not only the management (who in my opinion should now all be in prison), but the medical staff, the nurses, the cleaners, ambulance people and admin staff. For example, what kind of doctors work in such a situation without exploding with anger?
Some staff did report their concerns, but nothing was done. So why then didn’t they go to the police or to the local MP?

How did this situation come about? How did an organisation, funded by the tax payer, set up to make people well, become this travesty? Why were we paying people to behave like this?

Well, it seems that the answer is our old friend “Targets”. The Trust hit targets and achieved Tony Blair's elite foundation status. Bravo. But in order to do it, it was necessary to treat patients in a way that would be illegal were they farmyard animals.

The English Health Secretary said that lessons would be learned so that this could never happen again; the Prime Minister described the situation as completely unacceptable. Not enough.

I’d have said it was criminal negligence. I hope that people will bring prosecutions on the management or that at least they will never again be allowed to work in a profession caring for others

Tuesday 23 February 2010


Alistair Darling has added to the “Bully Boy Brown ” controversy by telling Sky News that people working for the prime minister tried to damage him because he told the truth about the economy. This confirms reports in Andrew Rawnsley’s book that Brown’s aides tried to undermine the chancellor after he forecast the worse economic downturn for 60 years.

In the interview Darling confirmed that No 10 worked against him. He made his “60-year” prediction in an interview he gave whilst on holiday at his croft in Scotland in the summer of 2008. Afterwards, Downing Street aides briefed journalists saying that his prediction had damaged the economy. They suggested that he should be asked to go.

“Nobody likes the sort of briefing that goes on,” Mr Darling said, “the forces of hell were unleashed”.

According to Mr Rawnsley, Brown’s friends including Charlie
Whelan and Damian McBride, then his political spokesman, started a campaign to undermine the chancellor over his interview, raising the prospect that he would be fired from his high level post.

When he was asked if he thought that McBride and Whelan had briefed against him, Mr Darling said: “Of course you have people saying things.”

Of course he was bound to add, referring to the fact that McBride was sacked over his disgraceful lying slurs of leading Tories and their wives in an email campaign last year, that his best answer for them was that he was still there and one of them was not.

Mr Darling seems a difficult man to shift. Last summer Brown planned to move him from the Treasury and replace him with his (Brown's) friend Ed Balls. But Mr Darling was not prepared to move over to let Balls take his place in one of the most powerful jobs in government. In what must be a very uneasy relationship between chancellor and prime minister the reshuffle attempt must have caused even more problems for them.

What was even more embarrassing for Brown was that his plans were an open secret. Everyone knew that Brown intended to put Balls in Number 11. Darling’s refusal to budge showed Brown to be a prime minister who had lost control of his own party, unable to allocate positions.

As Marie Joseph Eugène Sue wrote in 1841: “la vengeance se mange très bien froide”, or "revenge is a dish best eaten cold”. Mr Darling has found that as Brown struggles towards the end of his political career, plunging a little dagger in the back of your enemy, just when a helping hand is needed, is a very satisfying feeling for one who was wounded in the past.


Monday 22 February 2010


It is beginning to look like the “In the Thick of it” image we have of Whitehall (the English and Union Civil Service) is really a lot more realistic than the sedate “Yes Minister” of yesteryear.

Today, following the “Gordon Brown is a bully” allegations which have dominated the news, Peter Baume, general secretary of the First Division Association, which represents “top” people in the Civil Service alleged that bullying is rife across Whitehall and that staff had little power to respond to abuse by politicians and their special advisers.

He said he was not commenting about the Andrew Rawnsley book but confirmed that he knew of a number of cases where staff had been bullied. The victims had, he said, little option but to tolerate it or resign.

"Too often politicians have little idea about what is acceptable in a modern workplace and the behaviour of some ministers and special advisers falls short of what is acceptable on occasions," he said. "Every Government department has clear and unambiguous anti-bullying policies. In theory these should cover ministers. However, in practice no civil servant is likely to make a formal complaint against a minister. Instead, concerns about ministerial behaviour are dealt with through informal channels."

Mr Baume went on to say that if these channels failed, there was nothing the member of staff could do. (I’m not sure what he means by “informal channels”. Could it be that ministers are above the law? I’m not sure why. As Robin Day once said they are “here today and gone tomorrow” functionaries.)

David Cameron responded to the allegations of bullying by asking for an inquiry. He has suggested that Philip Mawer, who is in charge of policing the ministerial code, be asked to look into it.

However, Mr Mandelson, First Secretary, ruled out an inquiry, saying the allegations were "acquiring a slight odour" of being politically motivated.

I don’t know the politics of Andrew Rawnsley, or whether his book was politically motivated. It sure as hell will be motivated by political gain when Cameron has grabbed it and is running with it all the way to the line. But Brown and Mandleson really need to see that you can’t turn on tears for family tragedy, and follow up with tears for your dead mother, and rub your hands with glee as your opponents slip 4 points in opinion polls, and then expect that they won’t seize every opportunity to get even. To such depths has London politics sunk. But if you can’t take it don’t dish it out.

We have discover this last year just how much our MPs have been fiddling. We have seen the tip of the iceberg about how much the Lords are stealing. We are seeing what Anon calls “beeboids” are allegedly entitled to for doing a recreational job, and most recently we discovered that council chiefs are ashamed to let us know how much they pay themselves for fear of reprisals given the appalling quality of service they deliver in return.

Now we are finding that ministers treat staff like punch bags and that there are no formal way of dealing with this..

What on earth is this Union about?

You should read this article over on J Arthur MacNumpy's blog. It's spot on about the current level of political debate.


Sunday 21 February 2010


I recently received a newsletter from Newsnet Scotland, and was interested in an article on the Secretary of State for Scotland using his position to promote himself and Labour. The following quote is from the minutes of the Joint Management Board at Dover House:

"The Secretary of State is still working hard to raise and maintain his public profile and has been doing well in the media so far. He continues to look for opportunities to promote his own position and the role of the UK Government in Scotland."

I didn’t know that the Scotland Office was funded from the Scottish block grant, assuming that as it is part of the “federal” government, it would be the UK that paid for it. Surely, given that, we need to ask if these funds have been used by Murphy for the “promotion” alluded to in the minutes. This would undoubtedly violate the ministerial code which states: 'ministers must not use government resources for party political purposes'.

Newsnet also revealed that the running costs for the Scotland Office increased by 27% in 2007-2008 with staff levels increasing by over 9.5% on the previous year.

This seems an odd situation given that the role of the Scotland Office has not increased and overall the UK government has expressed a desire to downsize its staffing. It couldn’t be, could it, that Labour prefers to spend the Scottish Block Grant on staffing in its Dover House Offices in London, than have the money spent in Scotland?

Staffing levels, as reported by Newsnet and shown here in the first line, are showing a strange trend, as are costs (shown in line 2):

• 2005-6 -9.6%; 2006-7 -3.70%; 2007-8 +9.50%

• 2004-5 -10.3%; 2005-6 -0.9%; 2006-7 +1.5%; 2007-8 +27.3%

It seems that since the SNP government was elected, the cost of running Labour's Scotland Office has increased.

The SNP's Angus MacNeil said: "Since devolution the remit of the Scotland Office has shrunk but its staffing levels have mushroomed. The £7m spent on the Scotland Office annually would be much better invested in services the Scottish people actually need - not in a New Labour anti-Scotland spin machine that specialises in doing Scotland down."

However, it is the decrease in staff and costs in the Labour years in Scotland, and the increase since the SNP took over that I find difficult to understand, unless Labour's idea is to waste as much of our budget as possible.

The role of the Secretary of State, a very small one since devolution, is to promote the devolution settlement and to act as guardian of it and to promote partnership between the UK Government and the Scottish Government. Well, there’s a laugh!

It is an interesting thought that £7 million is coming out of our budget in any case, but very worrying that some of it may be used to do down our own government. In any case it needs investigation.

You can get a copy of Newsnet delivered to your mailbox here.

Saturday 20 February 2010

Gus O'Donnel obliged to tell Gordon Brown to curb his temper

Gordon Brown has had to face a series of claims by former Labour insiders that he presides over a "reign of terror" in Downing Street. The serialisation by The Observer of parts of a new book by Andrew Rawnsley are expected to cause his image further damage just as he starts to pull himself out of deep unpopularity by baring his soul and weeping about family matters during carefully scripted television interviews designed to make him appear more human.

Among incidents investigated by Rawnsley, a serious and respected journalist, were that Brown hit a member of his staff, pulled a typist from her chair when she couldn’t type fast enough for his dictation, and used four-letter words in a rant at aides, including Mervyn King, whilst at a conference in the United States. It is also reported that the Cabinet Secretary (which has a different meaning in England from here) was obliged to talk to him about the way that he dealt with staff. Gus O’Donnell told him to curb his violent outbursts after staff in Downing Street complained to him.

Channel 4 News’s journalist and presenter Krishnan Guru Murthy asked Brown if he had ever hit anyone. He replied: "Let me just say, absolutely clearly, so that there is no misunderstanding about that: I have never, never hit anybody in my life." Fine, that is quite clear, but it is a dangerous statement to make as there may well be someone who is angry enough to call him out on this.

Asked further whether he might have pushed someone, Brown said: "No, I don't do these sorts of things. Look, I was brought up - my father, I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone and I always think when you're - the heat of the moment you say things sometimes.” I’m not entirely sure what that all means but perhaps he’d like to try English, and sentences... just an idea.

He went on: "Of course you do get angry, mostly with yourself. But I'm very strong willed; I'm very determined. I think the country wants someone that will push things forward, and not allow things to be stagnant and stale, and every morning I get up with a determination to do my best for this country. Any allegations that have been made about hitting people or anything are completely untrue." Well, that’s fine. We believe you...... don’t we? No, not really. And what on earth does what the country wants have to do with that question.... why did you bring that up? We don’t want to know what you do when you get up every morning. We want to know if you push your staff around.

In the past there have been reports of the PM throwing objects, including a mobile phone. "I throw the newspapers on the floor or something like that, but please..." he said. Please what Mr Brown? Do you or don’t you throw Nokias around, and if not why are there all these people that used to work with you who say that you do? Why do they hate you so much?

Friday 19 February 2010


I was just saying the other day that, now that we have started (but not yet finished) with the House of Commons, and made a very small start on the Lords and the BBC, trying to clean away all the greed and the self serving not to mention the out and out theft of our money, we might like to make some sort of a start on local government.

I suspect that all over Scotland the councils are just dripping with duplicity and inefficiency. I bet we could save hundreds of millions of pounds and make the whole business of local government much more efficient, and centred on the council tax payer instead of officials or elected members.

So it was with some amazement that I noticed this article in the Daily Telegraph. It relates to England and Wales, but my money’s on it being just as relevant in Scotland.

The fact of the matter is that despite the London government ordering the Welsh and English local authorities to publish details of salaries of their top officers, the councils are refusing to disclose the information. They claim that the disclosures would leave their staff vulnerable to reprisals and that officers would be subjected to personalised attacks and mischief making. They have convinced the London ministers that they should only report the very top people... ones earning over £150,000 a year!!!!!

So instead of tens of thousands of workers’ salaries being published, only 114 staff, most chief executives, will have to disclose their pay.

Councils have been criticised for granting pay rises to officials at a time when householders face increasing council tax bills and, in many cases, poor quality services whilst, under Labour, bills for a typical band D property in England and Wales have more than doubled.

As I said, I’m betting the same situation pertains here. Fortunately in Scotland we have had a tax freeze since the current government came to power.

I’m not going to knock all council workers. Most of the ones at or near the bottom try hard to do a good job, hidebound by rules and regulations and unbelievable red tape, and for only moderate salaries. But as soon as anything goes wrong, they are powerless to do anything. There is nothing to do but to contact higher ranking officials. Isn't email wonderful. I have had nightmare communications with management level employees who seem to have forgotten, if they ever knew, that they are
employed by us to serve us.

Their sharp, rude, superior tones would get them the sack, were they directed at customers in the private sector.

I can’t find details on line of salaries in Scotland but last year it was revealed that in England Andrea Hill, CE of Suffolk, received £218,000, John Foster, Islington, got £210,000 and thousands of others below the most senior level are on massive salaries. Scales are likely to be much the same in Scotland. With salaries like that and index linked pensions that are breaking the country and that the rest of us could only dream about, it is high time our government did the same thing with Scottish authorities.... and had a bit more backbone than the London lot and insisted on disclosure.

They work for us. The question is, are they entitled to any more privacy than MSPs or councillors, and if so, why?


Thursday 18 February 2010


SOMETIMES YOU just have to feel sorry for David Cameron. There he is, poor man, trying to persuade the country that Tories have changed. They are no longer the callous, uncaring, devil take the hindmost party of the Thatcher years, nor are they, despite the high marginal propensity of the shadow cabinet members to have Eton and Oxford somewhere on their CV, the class ridden, snobby, superior party of times even further behind us.

No, Dave’s modern Tories (he’d call them New Conservatives if only someone else hadn’t thought of that) are cutting edge, 21st century, open-minded Co-op loving and inclusive. And then out of the woodwork, and just when you thought his likes had disappeared forever, comes dear old Nicholas Burbling Moron Winterton.

The Wintertons, for there are two of them, have a proud history of being “difficult” from a PR point of view. Nicholas is a hard right winger, pro fox hunting, gay hating, pound loving, Europe hating, and capital punishment loving who came in for criticism recently when he slapped a Labour MP on her bottom. His wife is a nasty old racist, sacked from her shadow position in 2002 for telling an unsavoury joke about throwing Pakistanis from a train, she had the Conservative Whip removed in 2004 for telling making fun of the deaths of 23 Chinese cockle pickers. She said recently that she was glad that Britain was still a white and Christian country. I trust that she didn’t include herself in that category, although she is probably white.

The two of them together perpetrated a particularly devious, underhand fiddle on housing allowances, whereby they put the flat, bought on expenses, into a Trust for their children, and then charged us rent to live in it whilst extracting from us £800 in overpaid Council Tax.

Mr Cameron called them “indefensible”. How going to Eton gives one a gift for understatement!

Dave must have been relieved, then, when they announced that they were to stand down at the election. Under the new arrangements there will be, at least for a while, not much to fiddle. I don’t know if these two facts are in any way connected.

But it seems that Nicholas has decided to embarrass the Tories one more time before he heads off to wherever boring old snobs go in retirement. He announced that it is wrong that MPs will no longer be able to claim for First Class travel.

He said "That puts us below councillors and officers of local government. They all travel first class. Majors in the army travel first class. So we are supposed to stand when there are no seats ... I'm sorry, it infuriates me."
Awwwwwwwwwwww. Poor wee thing.

Incredibly he went on to complain that standard-class passengers were a totally different type of people, who looked over one’s shoulder and made a noise and had children..... ARGH!

You can hear an interview he did with Radio 5 Live, here. It really is worth a listen if you like a good laugh.

If ever there is a way for the Tories to lose the next election then Winterton is it. Were I the chairman of the Labour Party I’d be asking him and Mrs Winterton if they wanted to do a few wee interviews.

I think it’s only fair to point out that a Conservative spokesman suggested that Winterton was “out of touch”. Out of touch? Off the planet more like.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

THE TELEVISION was on last night when the much vaunted Brits awards were being shown, and although I was actually writing a post on the Vancouver Olympics at the time, I was aware of what was going on in the background.

I’m not a telly person, indeed I only got a set recently, and it’s rarely switched on because the fabulous new digital signal is so poor that most channels are unwatchable most of the time. (Well done the BBC. Worth every cent of the £140+ licence fee. NOT)

I’ve never been keen on watching overpaid performers, who already think that they are god’s gift to humankind, getting all emotional and “oh god, oh god, I don’t know what to say” ish, when they clearly either knew there was a good chance, or were certain, they would get an award, and therefore do know exactly what to say... because they have been practising it for days.

Of course like everyone else, I’ve seen the highlights of Oscar or Bafta ceremonies on the news and been embarrassed by the tears and drama, and the thanking everyone and everything in the world, when all the time they were thinking to themselves that it was THEM and them alone who had got this bauble.

So, anyway, I come to my point. What a tawdry, second rate bunch of no-h
opers they all were. The only person with the remotest talent or a voice was Robbie Williams, and even he lost us in some mind-blowingly boring musical piece that seemed to go on for 3 months. Most of the rest of them looked like they were at a fancy dress ball and had come as bags of rags (did you see JonathonRoss?) and the ones that performed were lip synching and even at that they were flat.

This is what passes for talent in the land that produced The Beatles and The Stones, Dusty Springfield, Status Quo, Rod Stewart, Queen, Petula Clark, Marc Bolan, David Essex, Queen, Elton John, Ian Dury, The Police, Coldplay.... the list of talent is endless.

What we were treated to was a cringingly awful display of mediocrity, drunkenness and ignorance. Noel Gallagher’s idiotic and childish behaviour, and the retort from Peter Kay, on mic, that he (Gallagher) was a knobhead, reduced the whole thing to farce, but not funny farce. It was the kind of amateur entertainment you get in a down at the heal local on a karaoke night.

British pop music is something that once we could have been proud of. The 60s invasion, band pop, the new romantic movement, punk, new wave, and a second British invasion of the early 80s, have been replaced with this bunch of third raters.... So something else we used to be good at, and are now laughably bad at. How sad.


The legacy of Labour’s use of the Private Finance Initiative is estimated to cost the Scottish Government a total of £27.7 billion from 2010-11 financial year. The figure was confirmed in a parliamentary answer from SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney.

The SNP has also released figures on the annual repayments (as estimated in 2009) and the level of repayments to be made by local authorities over the next two years. SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson has branded the £27.7 billion figure a “disgraceful legacy of Labour” with the repayments being made to banks and finance firms at the same time as both Labour and the Tories propose cuts to Scotland’s budget.

Mr Gibson said: “This is the disgraceful £27.7 billion legacy that Labour has left Scotland. While the SNP is working hard to put new money into building schools, hospitals, homes and delivering public services Labour’s love of debt sees councils, the NHS and the Government being stripped of funds to make excessive repayments.

“While the SNP is building public services, Labour built debts. As we face tighter budgets in coming years as a result of Labour’s mismanagement we will be repaying billions to banks and finance firms to meet Labour’s debt legacy. All across Scotland's public sector it is not just Labour's cuts that are affecting public services but Labour's legacy as well.

“PFI repayments are now approaching the same level as Scotland’s annual budget. Labour’s refusal to recognise the problems of PFI and the better deal for taxpayers being delivered by the SNP in Government leaves them in a ludicrous position.”

Tuesday 16 February 2010


It’s been interesting reading about the events in Vancouver. The death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritahvili was a dreadful tragedy, but much else has gone wrong too. The warmest winter on record has meant that snow has had to be imported from higher ground and some events have had to be cancelled for lack of snow; there have been anti capitalist protests and protests from Vancouver citizens angry about how much money has been spent and how freedom has been restricted by the Vancouver Integrated Security Unit; the transport system has been found wanting; the home team has embarrassingly vowed to “own” the medals podium; the opening ceremony was marred by malfunctioning props. The overspend of 200% is frightening; it is expected to be decades before the city pays off its deficit. Finally there’s the worry of the vast number of cameras, security fencing and airport security which has disrupted the life of ordinary Canadians.

What does this presage for Londoners?

The first thing across my mind when it was announced that London was to host the 2010 Games was the question of security. In a post 9/11 world any large event has to be a potential target for terrorists. But if your country has been has been a leading protagonist in the Bush war against terrorism, then surely you have the security nightmare of the century on your hands.

So Londoners have a right to tight security. But there are worries that measures like spy drones, extreme stop and search and co-ordinated CCTV, introduced for the Games, may continue afterwards. Police have already been given powers by the Government to enter private houses and businesses to seize political posters during the Games. The idea of the legislation was to preserve the rights of the official advertisers of the Olympic Games (big business), but there are fears it may be used for other purposes.

Lord Sir Sebastian Coe has taken a party of 50 of his team to Vancouver to observe their games. (Why? There isn’t a single common event, and in any case would 5 not have been enough?) Perhaps he will have the opportunity to discuss these matters with the Canadian authorities and iron them out in the months to come.

The London Olympics overspend is gigantic. Tessa Jowell has promised us that the current figure of around £9.5 billion is the final amount. Some are less certain and there are rumours that any further overrun will be kept secret to spare government blushes.

The Olympics is out of hand. The need to “top” the opening and closing ceremonies of previous hosts will have to stop one day. The staging costs have become prohibitive. Cities, can be left bankrupted by the events; the legacy is frequently massive and useless stadia and massive debt.

The Games are too big, too costly, and too dangerous. It’s high time that the IOC rethought the whole concept.


Rape is a serious crime, one of the most serious. But, as lifestyles change so do attitudes and a recent poll of 1000 men and women found that over 50% believed that some of the blame in a case of rape should rest with the woman if she had not taken reasonable steps to avoid the situation which led to the assault.... this involved not going home for a drink with or sleeping in the same bed as a person whom they had just met. Strangely, I thought, the harshest critics of women were women (although this may be explained by men being afraid to admit that they would blame the woman).

As a bloke it is hard to imagine how incredibly frightening and utterly disgusting the idea of rape can be to a woman. (Yes, I know it happens to guys, but very, very rarely.) It is for this reason that most reasonable thinking people deplore rape and rapists.

It is often hard to prove rape; there are different types of it; rape by a random stranger, date rape and rape within a relationship, even marriage. Of course, normally it would take place in private, and so it may be a case of one person’s word against another. Women often fear reporting it because of the pain, humiliation, and the fact that they will have to relive and relive it if it goes to the police and to court. A rape can cause lasting damage to a victim.

Police all round the country have set up special units to deal with rape, and courts are encouraged to take it very seriously. The penalties are severe by UK standards, and the rapist may have a very hard time both in prison, and thereafter, finding himself in a situation where he is unemployable and an outcast among his family and friends.

This is why women who “cry wolf” over rapes should also be dealt with very seriously by the courts.

The case reported today in the Mail of Sarah-Jane Hilliard, 20, (pictured above) who seduced Grant Bowers (also 20 and pictured, right), and then reported their sexual encounter to the police as rape and tried to claim £7,500 from the Criminal Injuries Board is distasteful. Her story began to fall apart as it turned out that she had lied to the police. Amazingly she was given a 12 month suspended sentence for her crimes because she was “going through a difficult time, had lost her partner and some friends and had received nasty messages on Facebook from real rape victims since the incident”.

Grant, who was arrested and thrown into a police cell when Hilliard reported the imaginary “rape”, was furious at the sentence. In as much as a real rape can ruin a girl’s life, this has had a similar effect on him. He is terrified to speak to women. He is frightened to go out because there are people who believe he did it and who want revenge. Grant’s life may well be affected in the long term by this drunken girl's accusation.

Equally importantly, every time a woman makes this kind of accusation which turns out to be a tissue of lies she undermines the probability that the next girl’s story will be believed. Rape is too serious a crime for that to happen.

I hope Grant will be able to pick up his life and, in time forget that this ever happend or that he ever met Hilliard but I also hope that judges will stop feeling sorry for wicked drunken girls who try to make easy money with no thought to the consequences for others .

Monday 15 February 2010


Andrew Pierce has written a full length article in the Mail on his interview at Buckingham Palace with his namesake Andrew York.

He was entertained over sandwiches and cake in the prince’s apartments where he says neither of the Equerries was about, so Andrew served the cake himself.... Imagine.....he’s 50 and he served the cake all by himself and that was newsworthy!

Andrew (York, that is) is now the UK Ambassador for Trade and Industry. Of course, without his connections it is doubtful that a man with 20 years military experience and nothing else would have been appointed to such a role, it being more ideally suited to a person with business experience and acumen, but I suppose he has to have something to do. In that role, however, to be fair, he carried out over 600 engagements last year.

Most of the criticism of Andrew is that he prefers to use private planes, funded by us, instead of travelling by rail or train. There are also legitimate concerns about the vast amount of money that his daughters cost the state, without ever giving anything back. Recently it has been highlighted that security for them costs more that £500,000 a year, and that an apartment in St James’s Palace had to be converted, at a cost of £2.5 million for one of them.

[I’m always amused when I hear of this kind of money being spent for renovations. It was the same when the Queen Mother died and Charles got Clarence House. The state paid out £5 million for the palace to be upgraded. This painted a picture of the old QM living in some dreadful slum with damp running down the walls, like some of the pensioners in my town. Not something that I can readily imagine from a woman who insisted on fresh flowers every day in every room of her house, whether she was likely to be in it or not.]

He apparently uses the royal “we” as he describes what he does, travelling across more than 20 countries in the last year, costing the taxpayer over £140,000. But it is the personal use of the Queens helicopter which draws most criticism. He insists on using it for short hops to both official and private engagements at vast cost to the taxpayer. There is also the fact that his royal status giveshim exemption from the reaches of the FOI act for some reason unknown to me, so we don't know how much this all costs.

Yet Andy feels he is good value for money. Now, strange for a Republican blog to say, but in many ways he may be right. Whether Andy knows squat about business or not, he does have huge drawing power. People all over the world are desperate to meet a British royal, and so they turn up and show interest. If this is good for trade, then it’s good for the UK, and possibly even, on very rare occasions, for Scotland. And as the BBC and politicians show, the royals have no particular monopoly on self-important, grubby greed.

However, just as with all these other organisations, it is high time that Andy Airmiles realised that belt tightening is not just for poor people. Someone has to tell him that there are trains and cars and that private planes and helicopters are the province of his mother.... and no one else.

And as for these daughters of his, he must learn to pay for them himself. Even the most ardent royalist must realise that when ill people are being refused Disability Living Allowance and being left to moulder in their houses as cuts are implemented to pay for Labour's recession, £2.5 million to do up what is after all fabulous state housing for one 21 year old girl is just NOT ON. The article is worth a read and to be fair Andrew has some sensible things to say about other people's excesses, particularly what he feels about bankers bonuses beyond the headlines. But he must learn that cuts mean cuts everywhere, and that includes him and his family.

Sunday 14 February 2010

................................................TAXI TO SEOUL PLEASE......

There is no doubt in my mind that the purge on excesses in the House of Commons was desperately required, and this should be followed by a clamp down on the behaviour of members of the Lords, but we should not stop there.

In times of real hardship we have to look at every single thing that we can trim to reduce costs, downsize and save people money they no longer have. Traditionally of course, this has fallen disproportionately on the poor. Libraries, Community Centres, Leisure Centres, Benefits, Pensions... typical examples of cuts that have been made in the past when we have been in a mess.

But, in this new age of Freedom of Information, and an ever more demanding poor, we need to look at how we spend money a little farther up the socio-economic scale.

I was interested in an article on the salaries and expenses of the top people at the BBC. Amazingly, the number of people in the organisation being paid more than £100,000 a year has risen to 400.

I link to an article I read in the Independent, but I’ll just give you a little taste of some of the most ridiculous claims that leapt off the page at me. This is how they spend the £3.6 billion they collect from us in licence fee:

Mark Thompson, Director General, who earns £664,000 a year, has claims ranging from 57p for a parking meter to £5,616 spent through the BBC's central bookings system for a flight to Seoul. You can get return flights to Seoul with Expedia for (at the time of writing) £470. So he wasted over £5,000 of our money because he could. There was no one to say “NOOOOO”;

Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, included £38.48 for a "sympathy gift for a key presenter" and £1,254 on six nights at Sunset Boulevard Hotel in Los Angeles. Also she spent £2,392 on taxis through the BBC central bookings service and £106 through expenses. Lunch with a presenter and agent cost £161. It must be bloody hungry work at the BBC, or was that “thirsty” work;

Eric Huggers, director of future media and technology, spent £7,514.80 on a flight to Seoul last year. (He should speak to Mark, his boss, and save us all some money.) He also spent £4,984 on taxis between July and September. There were 13 fares that totalled more than £100 each. The biggest single fare was £627.37. What? Over £600 on a taxi? Was that him coming back from Korea?

These are a few of the joke expenses that you and I are paying for while pensioners, paying the licence fee, shiver and go hungry. Meanwhile the quality of programming goes down and down and down. They say over and over that they need that kind of money and they could go elsewhere in the private sector and get more.

I say that that is complete nonsense. If they could get more elsewhere then that is where they would be. They try to make us think that we are the lucky ones, getting their talent for a mere fraction of what they are worth. Besides, with advertising revenue stretched over more and more channels, and getting thinner due to recessionary cutbacks, ITV and their likes are shedding staff.

But if I’m wrong and they could indeed get more, then what I say is bye bye.... Don’t let the door hit you in the butt.


PS... What the hell is going on in Seoul that all these inordinately important people need to attend?


Despite Greeting Gordon’s Weepingate, it seems that the latest ComRes poll gives the Tories 40% to Labour’s 29% approval rating. However Cameron is having difficulty persuading voters that he is any more that a slick salesman, with 56% of those polled worry about what is underneath.

Outside the South-East of England, those who are concerned about another side to Cameron outnumber those who are not concerned by a factor of two to one. Not a good figure for a potential Prime Minister for ALL of Britain

In an attempt to widen the Tories’ appeal after a negative reaction to their plans for spending cuts, Cameron said: "The hopes you had with Labour – that Britain would become a stronger, fairer society – those hopes don't just die because Labour haven't achieved them. They're alive with us in the modern Conservative Party. So, please, have an open mind at the next election. Even if you've never voted Conservative before, think about voting for us this time... We're winning the argument on the economy and on building a fairer society. So come and join us."

Virtually the same plea made by Tony Blair to Tory voters in 1997.

But surely the 2010 election has to be won by the Tories. After 13 years of Labour government the UK is in the biggest mess in most people’s memories. Apart from bankers there are few people in the country with much to celebrate. Gordon Brown, unelected to serve as Prime Minister, must surely be one of the least popular premiers of all time. He is hapless, charmless and tasteless. And worse, for the English, he is Scottish, and for the Scots, he prefers the term North British.

As often happens in Britain, it is the ruling party which loses an election rather than the challengers who win. Given our current situation, the Tories should be at 50%. But, it appears that few, outside the South East of England, particularly like or trust what the Tories have to offer, or the person who is leading them. And who can blame them?

If Mrs Thatcher was not for turning, then in a attempt not to be like her Cameron has made a practice of spinning, in both senses of the world. Burling like a peerie, my Granny would say.

It’s going to be very tough; it’s not going to be TOO tough.
There will be savage cuts; they won’t be TOO savage.
We will give tax breaks for marriage; we’re not sure how we can manage much in the way of tax breaks for marriage, and have no idea how we can pay for them.
We will restore Scottish regiments; it would be difficult now to restore Scottish regiments.
We support Calman; there will be no constitutional change in the first 5 years; we will respect Scotland and there will be changes.
There will be a referendum on Lisbon; we can’t have a referendum on Lisbon.

These are the ones off the top of my head. It appears Cameron tries out policies and folds his tent like Boy Scout when it looks as if they will damage his chances of being Prime Minister.

We don’t need someone as weak as this at the helm in difficult times. Of course we don’t want the phone throwing, furniture wrecking, teary nut case Brown either.

What we really want is an end to this unequal union, and a full government in Edinburgh, but given that that will take longer than 4 months to achieve, could the Tories not come to their senses and throw Cameron out, and put Ken Clarke in his place?

Saturday 13 February 2010


Anyone who knows me at all would guess that I would be utterly against any vigilante action. And normally they would be right. I’ve seen too many mistakes made by people out to sort out a criminal their way, without any help from the authorities: too many stupid or maybe just very angry people, out to get their revenge. One in particular sticks in my mind many years ago, of a man beaten almost to death because he fitted perfectly the description given by a young girl who claimed that she had been raped. When it turned out that the girl had made the whole story up, the vigilantes looked a bit stupid and the poor man, very ill.

However, even I found the fact that Steven Barker, the stepfather of Baby Peter, had had boiling water thrown over him by fellow inmates at Wakefield Prison, a pretty satisfying piece of news.

According to the Mail, the boiling water, perhaps with sugar in it to make it extra painful, was hurled at Barker’s face and arms. It is speculated that he will be permanen
tly scarred. At least he can console himself that he didn't have any good looks to spoil.

One prisoner told the Mail (do prisoners in England normally give interviews to newspapers?) that Barker was reviled in the prison for what he had done, and that the guy who threw the water will now be applauded wherever he goes. He is apparently quite prepared to take the consequences of his actions. It seems, furthermore, that it is unlikely that this will be the last attack to be made on Barker’s person.

The Mail article, to which I link, has the details of Barker’s crimes against Peter. I found it too distressing to repeat them here.

I can only say to Barker that I hope it hurts like hell, and that the next time it hurts like hell too and the time after that........ As my Granny would say "Whit's guid tae gie's no ill tae tak".


What is Labour’s position today on a referendum about Scotland’s future?

Now, I may be rather confused on this, because let’s face it, it has changed so much in a short time. First, I seem to remember, it was that they didn’t want a referendum; and then suddenly Wendy, in an “I lost the plot for a second” moment, famously announced a change of plans in her “Bring it on” interview.

Don’t we all remember wee Iain Gray sputtering and stuttering through an interview on BBC, trying to explain that that was consistent with their previous views and not in fact a 179 degree change? And remember too how Wendy said that she had discussed it with Gordon, and how reports reached us that Gordon was busy filling in expenses forms for 5 new Nokias and some occasional furniture for Downing Street as a result of her “big mouth”?

Then there was a “don’t bring it on” phase when Gordon found a Nokia that still worked and reminded Wendy that HE was leader of Labour in Scotland and HE made the policy. Of course the face saver was that we couldn’t have a referendum while the country was in a r r r r r recession (there, it’s not that hard to say Gordo). It wasn’t that Labour didn’t trust the people to decide about their own future. What Wendy meant was: “bring it on sometime in the future”. At the moment it would only distract from the efforts to get the country out of the mess that it was in.

Soooooooo... it is something of a mystery to me that Labour, still insisting that we can’t have a referendum for the above reasons, has just agreed to a referendum in Wales on increased law making powers for the Cardiff Assembly, and another referendum proposed by no less a personage than Gordon Brown himself, on his new voting proposals.

The only possible reason that Labour would be backing referenda proposed in Wales and in England, and yet opposing one in Scotland, would be that Wales and England are no longer in recession and people are no longer losing jobs, and everything is just dandy.... which, even for Labour, is stretching the importance of the 0.1% growth figures recently announced.

I have another suggestion. Isn’t it more likely that Labour fears that once the Independence question is raised and aired properly; once arguments are being put forward by the two sides... the benefits of independence will be so overwhelming that there is a chance that, despite the recent figures which seem not to support this, the referendum will pass.

The arguments are good; the economics work; the scaremongering will be blasted out of the water (yes, you will still be allowed to visit your Granny in Carlisle) and most of all perhaps, the “For” argument will be put by a reasonably popular politician. Whereas the “Against” argument will be put by Gordon Brown (not the most popular or charismatic man in the country), David Cameron (whose Tories have limited support in Scotland) and Nick Clegg (whose profile is so low in Scotland as to be below radar).

One thing, however, is for sure. Once again Labour in London has left wee Iain out to dry. Just like the humiliation of Gordon’s English Labour supporting minimum pricing of alcohol, the head office has run a coach and horses through Scottish Labour’s "policies"

Friday 12 February 2010


As we draw near to the next General Election the gap between the Tories and the incumbents is dangerously close. There are those, me amongst them, who think that Cameron is light and most of the shadow cabinet even lighter. In particular I have the impression that if you didn’t nail him down, Osborne would float away.

So we seem to be faced with the choice of the current bunch of tired, idealess, failed, tainted, third raters, or a bunch of untried, tainted, lightweights. Hard choice.

Over the next few months we are going to suffer the most horrific onslaught of politicking from all of them. They will tell us lies, they will jerk our emotions. They will do what they said they would never do by using their families, and in one case already upon us, their family tragedies, to try to show what good men they are.

It will be sickening. Much of it of course will go over people’s heads. Remember that under our
system of government around ¾ of the seats in the London parliament are completely safe. They never change hands. After a while even people like me, interested in politics, will turn off. Some of it will be too sickening to watch or to listen to.

In Scotland both the Tories and Labour have told us that it is a two horse race. Either Brown of Cameron will be the next Prime Minister. The SNP, and for that matter, the Liberals are insignificant; they don’t matter.

Not true. They matter very very much. Although our political system is flawed badly (remember Blair had a HUGE majority with around 35% of the vote), it still does matter who you vote for.

I understand that the Civil Service chiefs and Buckingham Palace big wigs have been undergoing training as to how to deal with the prospect of a hung parliament. It looks, at this point very possible that that may be the outcome.

If things really are that close, then votes for the Liberals or the SNP are anything but wasted. Whilst it would be impossible (I think at least) for the SNP to form any kind of coalition with either party, the Liberals certainly could. This could make a massive difference to the way that the country is governed. But it is equally important that Scotland has a real voice in the London parliament. We must show them that we intend to be heard, and that the half hearted devolution settlement, or indeed most of what was proposed by Calman will not do. We can’t do that if we do not have a sizable SNP party in their parliament.

Over the last year the London Parliament has been disgraced by over half of its elected members stealing from us on a lax expenses system. (The unelected part has done its fair share of fiddling too, but there is nothing we can do about them.) There will be a strong temptation not to bother voting, because “they are all the same”.

But we must remember that, even if we all stay at home and the politicians’ families are the only ones to vote for them, we will get the politician with the biggest family as our representative...

Thursday 11 February 2010

The Housing Minister that over-claims for his mortgage thinks that it's for the best that some people lose their homes...

Sometimes you hear an item on the news and you think to yourself, “no... that must be a mistake, no one could be that stupid or that insensitive".

One such moment occurred today when I heard that the English housing minister John Healey (of whom I had never heard) advised that for some people repossession was the best thing. That will be the Minister for Housing in the English parliament saying that the best thing for some people would be to have their house repossessed. Amazing, no?

Healey’s comments came as figures showed that an average of 126 repossessions a day in England last year. He said, “Sometimes it is impossible for people to maintain the mortgage commitments they've got ... it may be the best thing in those circumstances.”

I thought it might be interesting to find out a little more about this rather stupid insensitive man.

According to the Daily Telegraph John Healey claimed £1,431 on MPs’ expenses to replace his own front door. (The taxpayer even picked up the £16 bill for two days’ worth of Congestion Charge payments made by his locksmith.) He also over claimed more than £2,000 for mortgage interest. He claimed parliamentary expenses for his flat in Lambeth, where he spent thousands of pounds on renovations. Healey’s mortgage interest payments stood at £691 per month in 2008, when he was also making regular claims for food, utilities, and phone bills and cleaning.

His claims in the same year included £7,612 for timber windows, £1,317 for a bed, sofa and shelving units, £95 for a swivel chair from Ikea and £25.98 for four pillows. He also claimed £129 for a television, having claimed £299 for a television two years previously.

So clearly he is a man who does not stint himself when we (including people who have since lost their homes) are paying for upgrading his property.

I wonder if he gave any thought to what he was saying, or if he just opened his big stupid mouth and let his sense of superiority do the talking for him.

How does he think that it feels for someone to lose their home? Where on earth does the stupid fool think that people go when their home is repossessed? Does he imagine that they pop down to the council and get a lovely new house from them? Does he know how many families fall apart because of this?

Is he really ministerial material? I suppose in what passes for a government, he’s pretty much an average he has completely lost touch with reality, he is insensitive, stupid and a fiddler to boot. Sounds like par for the course.


I’m not the kind of person who would normally give a second thought to the antics of the terminally untalented Katie Price. She appears to have made herself famous for ....... being famous. Someone told me that long ago, when Adam was a lad, she was a model. A model of what exactly, I’m not sure.

Anyway, suffice to say that anyone with even the meanest intelligence can see through her and the stunts she comes up with to remain famous, whether it is her on-off fight with her ex-husband, or her marriage to a cross dressing cage fighter. If she were a singer she would release an album; if she were an actress she would make a new film or appear in a new play; if she were 10 years younger she could still be a model. As it is she has nothing to offer but being salacious.

OK. That’s her business, and, I take my hat off to her, she’s damned good at it too. She must be one of the most famous people in the country, possibly abroad too. It takes a certain talent to be able to do that without having even the smallest evidence of any actual talent, if you get my meaning. Presumably all the fame has brought her wealth too. Good for her, I’ve always said, in a kind of superior way....

But, for all the tasteless things Price has done, only one has really made me sick and angry.

She has apparently given her 2 year old daughter a glam make over, the result of which can be seen above. Needless to say this will feature as part of her next money making project, a television series called “What Katie did next”. (Susan Coolidge must be turning in her grave.) The child, whose name, heaven help her, is Princess Tiaimii, appeared like this on the social network site Facebook, incurring, not surprisingly, the wrath of her father, Peter André (well known for...erm....uh.... There are sentences you wished you’d never started, aren’t there?)

Why can’t people allow their children to be children? There is something wrong about making a small adult out of a tiny child. Childhood should be magical; it should be fun; it should be about being a child. It’s unhealthy to do this and it even unhealthier to put it out on the net. And if Price, who appears to have the IQ of a snuffed out candle can’t see it, then surely one of the many men in her life might be able to tell her that it is quite simply unwholesome.

To me this nonsense makes the child look like a painted doll; an embarrassment. To a paedophile god only knows what message it sends out, and whilst Price’s children may be safe from that, she might spare a thought for the children of her “fans” for whom, Lord help us, she is a role model. Their kids might not be so safe.

If that range of thought is beyond her you really would think, wouldn’t you, that even this grim woman would care enough about her children to spare them this.

Wednesday 10 February 2010


David Miliband has failed to block disclosure of intelligence information relating to torture allegations of former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed. Three high-ranking judges dismissed his appeal against an earlier ruling that summaries of information received by the British security services from United States intelligence should be disclosed.

The decision from the Court of Appeal was hailed a resounding victory for freedom of speech by international media. However Miliband said that the ruling was causing a great deal of concern in Washington and said that he had fought to prevent the release of the information to defend the fundamental principle that intelligence shared with the UK would be protected. He said that this was essential to the relationship between the UK and the US. The treatment of Mr Mohamed went against British principles, he continued, but it was not carried out by the UK, he said.

Mr Mohamed was tortured with the knowledge of the British, while held by the CIA. Miliband said torture of prisoners violated the most basic principles of the UK, and national and international obligations. He said that there was a commitment of the government and the intelligence agencies to uphold the highest levels of conduct both for the UK and its allies.

Lawyers for Mr Mohamed and the British and international media had accused the government of seeking to suppress embarrassing and shaming evidence of Britain's involvement in torture. They said admissions by the CIA to the British security service over his ill-treatment raised the possibility of both UK and US Governments being liable to serious criminal liability for an international war crime. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said a public inquiry was now inescapable.

Lawyers for the Foreign Secretary had accused the judges of jeopardising UK – US arrangements on information sharing.

In the ruling, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said that the arguments in favour of publication of redacted information were compelling given that the case engages concepts of democratic accountability and, ultimately, the rule of law itself.

There are still people who argue that all our warring in the Middle East has made the UK streets safer. (Indeed Danny sent me this video of Tony Blair being interviewed by ex (Republican) presidential candidate Rev Mick Huckabee, in which he says just that, before launching an attack on Chilcot. How little respect he has for our procedures when there is money to be made for appearing on right wing Fox television.)

But we all know different. Britain is not safer. We have made enemies with our indiscriminate killing of Iraqis and the mess we have left their country because of poor planning, no, total lack of planning for the aftermath of the war.

We talk big about democracy in the UK; we talk about civilised behaviour and we talk about the rule of law. Indeed we talk so loudly about it that we commit troops to enforce it. But clearly none of this applies to us. We have an undemocratic country, with an unelected House of Parliament; we break international law with impunity when America tells us to; our ministers lie to parliament about rendition flights landing in the UK, our ministers take to the courts in the hopes of engaging the judges to break the law to protect the “special relationship”, which in any case is in tatters, and, although we condemn torture elsewhere, when it is our master in Washington doing the torture we turn a blind eye.

What a bunch of second raters.