Thursday 30 June 2011


I was at parliament in Edinburgh today. As this was the last day of term for MSPs, when the First Minister rose to answer Annabel Goldie’s first question, which related to the FM and PM meeting, he spoke warmly of her contribution to politics in Scotland, and about how much he had enjoyed her good humoured upbraiding over the last four years. (Annabel is standing down as leader later in the year.) Mind you, although she thanked him warmly, it didn’t stop her getting stuck into him over health and education questions, nor him hitting back in a humorous manner.

Now I’m politically opposed to much that she stands for (although I was behind her drive to double the number of extra police that the last government put on the streets, among a few other things), but she is a clever woman who, somewhat adeptly, took to the idea of multi political party chambers far better than Labour leaders ever did. When a minority government came along, one that couldn’t operate at all without the co-operation of other parties, Annabel rose to the challenge and worked with the SNP to get Conservative priorities included in the legislative programme, in return for voting for the budget and the continuance of government. Personally I think that on the whole that co-operation has been to the advantage of Scotland.

Shortly after lunch I met her and had the opportunity to chat for a short while. Face to face she is charming. Quietly spoken, and with beautiful manners, she is far prettier and younger than she appears either on television or in her photographs.

I put it to her that, as polls show that she is more popular than the party she leads, was it not a mistake for her to stand down as leader. She expressed herself, modestly, somewhat doubtful that she was indeed more popular that the Tory party, but explained that she had to be thinking of the future of the party over the next 5 or 6 years and felt that the time was right for her to make way for a younger person. She spoke warmly of Alex as a dominant force in Scottish politics and was glad to have been able to take him to task over the last 4 -5 years. It was clear that on a personal level there is a deal of mutual respect and affection between them.

I’m sure she’s an avid reader of Munguin’s Republic, so I’ll thank her for the time she spent with me. I know she was busy, and I appreciated that she made the time for me.

I should say too that I become more and more proud of my own MSP, Shona Robison, who made a short speech of welcome to a group of visitors to parliament, and fielded an impromptu question and answer session. Her professionalism and her warm sense of humour, together with a down-to earth attitude, makes everyone feel at ease and enjoy sessions like these, where she speaks so knowledgeably, and with such enthusiasm, of our parliament and our country.

So thank you too, to Shona. I know that the 60 people who visited today enjoyed every moment of their trip.

Pics: Annabel Goldie and Shona Robison

Wednesday 29 June 2011


Yes, we are indeed all in this together.

Well, sort of together, in a manner of speaking, you might say, more or less. The Daily Telegraph has two stories, however, that remind us that some of us aren’t even slightly in it together.

First of all Charles of Rothsay has increased his staff by ten, from 149 – 159 full time equivalent staff, and doubled his travel expenses despite travelling fewer miles in the last year. His staff, includes an amazing 26 personal staff, presumably to squeeze his toothpaste and wash his face for him.
His income from Cornwall (part of the Crown Estates not ceded to the country in exchange for the Civil List) rose by £635,000, which on its own might have been considered to be a rather good deal, but his grants from the government... that is to say us...rose by 40%... yes, you read that right, 40%. That’s an even better deal.
And no one seems to be able to stop this man and Mrs Parker Bowles, from spending like they were the ruling monarchs of a rich first world country.

As usual the royals have trotted out a flunky to explain why the figure for travel is so much more this year than last. It appears that last year the Canadian government covered the cost of his foreign visit to Canada, whereas, on top of all the grant money and Crown Estate money we dole out, we had to pay all his foreign travel this year.

Apparently the royal wedding (that the Windsors and Middletons were going to pay for out of their own pockets) amounted to a good deal of the expense (so clearly they didn’t, and it was you and me who actually paid for it). We’d can presumably anticipate another bill hike when Harry gets hitched and heaven only knows how much the ugly sisters will cost us.

The other story which caught my eye related to the ex Deputy Director General of the BBC who was made redundant last year, and who received a payoff of, wait for it, £950,000. Yep, nearly a million to pay him off. (And he wasn’t even any good. I remember reading that we had to pay the travel expenses of the DG and his family when they came back from their holiday to deal with some minor crisis, despite this man being left in charge.)

Other payoffs at the BBC included a woman, who had served less than two years as director of marketing, communications and audiences, at a cost of £390,000 . I thought you got a week’s pay for every year you had been in the job... well that’s what “other ranks” get. So that makes her weekly wage look pretty special!

Why can’t these people see just how annoying it is to find that your wage has been frozen; your pension reduced; your pension age increased; your winter fuel allowance cut; your roads unrepaired; etc, etc, ad infinitum, while those who can get away with it, rob us blind.

We’re not all in it together some of us are in clover, and I’ll give you three guesses where the rest are...

Tuesday 28 June 2011


Trawling around the papers tonight looking for things that interested me, I came across very few stories that were worthy of much more than a few words...

I mean it’s not really that important that the Icelandic president has been to America and met Sarah Palin, for whom it appears he has nothing but admiration, but it did occur to me that the Icelanders must be pleased that the presidency is of the non-executive variety.

I also wondered at all the fuss being made over the death of Christopher Shale. No doubt a great and tragic loss to his family and friends, and a close political friend of the UK prime minister, but not a nationally known figure, so why the big news story? Of course, I guess, it’s all because his memo, fiercely critical of the Tories, had been leaked; Downing Street called him to let him know, and a little later he was dead, reportedly of a massive heart attack. No story, move along please and let the family grieve.

I was amused to hear that Basil Brush the defence blokey in London has been lecturing errant generals about what it is appropriate for them to say, and how dangerous it is to give the enemy hope by pointing out what most 10 year olds could guess; that there isn’t enough money to fund an on-going war in Libya. This will be the same Foxy fella that leaked a letter to the prime minister about cuts in MOD funding causing dire problems for the UK military, and who has given the Taliban and the Mad Mullahs of Afghanistan hope by announcing total withdrawal by 2015 (just in time for the general election?) Perhaps the long tailed one wakes up some morning and thinks... and then perhaps some mornings he just wakes up.
But then I found the story that really grabbed my attention. The tale of Happy Feet, an Emperor Penguin who got lost in Antarctica and ended washed up on Peka Peka beach in New Zealand, where despite it being winter, it was far too hot for the wee fellow. It seems he ate wet sand to keep himself cool... maybe he thought it was funny foreign snow... who knows.

Of course the wet sand and bits of stick and stone made the bird so ill that he was going to die.

But there was a happy ending, because he was discovered, taken to a zoo, and a senior surgeon from a Wellington Hospital carried out an operation on him. And now he has started on the road to recovery.

One lucky bird, and a tale to warm your heart in this cold, dreary, wet, windy summer.

Saturday 25 June 2011


Shock, horror. Hold the front page. I read with growing admiration in today’s “Metro” that Kate Middleton has recycled (that means worn for the second time) an outfit by designer Amanda Wakeley. For all the fashion experts and keen royal watchers that frequent this blog, Kate last wore the navy coloured outfit on a visit to Lancashire. Imagine wearing a designer outfit more than once... wow.

And on the subject of royals, the broke Duchess of York managed to scrape together enough of someone else’s money to afford a flash dress to attend Elton John’s charity bash. She was accompanied by the tw
o York princesses, Tubby and Goofy, fortunately this time sans chapeaux. I suppose that Andy wouldn’t be there; he’ll have important government work to do, being fortunate enough to have had his little spat with probity just as far more important news was breaking, and so still being in a job.

John Mason, MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, had a job vacancy in his office, and advertised it in the local paper. He received 978 applications. What a sad, sad situation we are in that there are nearly 1,000 applicants for one job in Shettleston.

Are you remembering that we’re all in this together...well, except Graham Stuart, MP in the East Riding of Yorkshire. He’s had the private road to his house resurfaced at no expense. The material used was excess to requirements and was supposed to be given to a local farmer, but the work of laying and rolling it is estimated to have cost the local taxpayers around £2,500. Interestingly Mr Stuart is refusing to declare the “gift” because he says the road doesn’t belong to him. I’m thinking of applying for a job like Mr Stuart’s as I’ve already broken 2 springs on my car this year because my road is worse than a third world cattle track.

A US judge has sent Conrad Black back to prison for 42 months for fraud and obstruction. He is likely to serve just 13 months because of time already served. He was convicted in 2007 of defrauding shareholders in media company Hollinger of £3.8m. He had been freed in 2010 after the US Supreme Court found an anti-corruption law unconstitutional. Awwww, wee shame. Greedy fat git.

You’d could be forgiven for imagining that the Ministry of Defence was in outer space, the number of black holes that organisation finds. Amazingly, they have just discovered another massive shortfall, and will have to make yet another £10 billion of savings. You know sometimes I wake up in the morning and I think...there’s soon going to be no one and nothing to do the fighting, and as far as I can see right now there’s no one there doing any thinking and the ones that are doing the talking are doing so out of their backsides. Then I t
hink it would be better to turn over and go back to sleep. Maybe that’s what Cameron should do.

So the second lot of tickets for the London Farce, no sorry I meant Olympics, went on sale yesterday on a first come first serve basis. And not surprisingly given the record of Lord Sir Sebastian, it was a shambles, with the site crashing. No one has ever had this kind of problem before. Why did the English Olympics choose this cack-handed way of selling tickets? Incidentally, I suppose it didn’t occur to Seb, or any of the cast of thousands, that some people without access to a computer or to the internet might have wanted to buy tickets? Nope, as long as the corporate are Ok, and the VIP roads cleared of plebs, Seb’s a happy bunny.

Pics: Graham Stuart, MP and owner of a fine private road, without potholes...lucky him. The Ministry of defence's new logo...and if it's not, it should be.

Wednesday 22 June 2011


The British Olympics Committee (BOC) has come to agreement with FIFA with regard to a “Team GB” football team playing in the London Olympic Games.

It had been a major worry that if a British Team were to play in the Olympics then FIFA might force all future World and European Cup teams to be British, thus ending the extremely generous settlement that the UK state got to have four separate national football teams.

FIFA has, however, said that the countries’ separate teams will be able to continue to play international matches separately.

There are, of course, worries about this. There are several countries which would like to put forward football teams but are not allowed to because they are seen to be integral parts of other states (Greenland comes immediately to mind, although it is much less integral to Denmark than Scotland is to the UK). Pressure may be put upon FIFA to amend the ruling. Of course the other problem about anything coming from FIFA is, how much can you trust it? As an organisation it’s not exactly a shining example of probity.

The BOC in a joint statement with the FA (that’s the English FA) said that an “historic agreement” had been reached between the governing bodies of the four home nations, paving the way for Team GB to take part. BOA chief executive and Team GB boss Andy Hunt said: “Seeing Team GB take to the pitch in 2012 will be one of the defining moments of the London Olympic Games.”

The BOA said Scots-born players would, he said, be able to take part after consulting with their clubs and the SFA. However, former SFA president George Peat said: “I am absolutely astounded they have put out this statement. I know nothing about any such agreement and we want nothing to do with this tournament.”

Stewart Reagan, the Chief Executive of the SFA said that he and his opposite numbers at the WFA and NIFA are against this and knew of no such agreement. This leads me to suppose that the Olympics Committee and the English FA must have agreed all this without any consultation with Scotland, or Wales. (As Northern Ireland is not in Great Britain, I am at a loss to know why they have been included in this.)

He said: “No discussions took place with any of us, far less has an historic agreement been reached. The associations are committed to supporting the individual home nations playing all representative football under their respective flags as independent members of FIFA and UEFA.”
Politicians have also condemned the announcement. Pete Wishart (SNP) said it was appalling and Jim Murphy (Labour) warned that any agreement coming from FIFA should be studied carefully.

Of course the players are individuals and they can, if they wish, take part in this event. There are certainly no legal restraints available to the Celtic associations. However, if they do take part, players may well find that they will from here on in play for a GB team, which, of course, given the imbalance in the size of the populations of the countries, means that, unless they are brilliant, they are most unlikely to play international football ever again!”

One thing that should be remembered is that this is Gordon Brown’s doing. He wanted a GB team and he set out to use his position to get it. If he loses Scotland its right to play as a nation, hell mend him ... and his legacy.

Pics: Stewart Reagan (SFA Chairman) and Gordon Brown (an author and semi-retired politician of dubious repute) looking a lot better than usual.

Tuesday 21 June 2011


I’m sorry to have a go at Cameron two posts in a row, but what on earth does he think he’s on telling the defence chiefs to stop sniping.

Air Chief Marshal Simon Bryant told MPs in a briefing paper, that the intensity of air operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East are placing a huge demand on both people and equipment. He went on to say that morale was low because of overwork. He said that areas of the RAF were “running hot” while the servicemen’s sense that the nation valued their efforts was being undermined by the government’s defence cuts.

And it’s not just Simon Bryant who has spoken out. Last week Admiral Mark Stanhope, who is head of the Navy, said that the current crop of commitment, ie two wars, was unsustainable past September, as Bryant has done.

So today, this illustrious and gallant prime minister, who has been to war, well never, who has not done any active service at all, said that sometimes he woke up in the morning and thought ‘you do the fighting and I’ll do the talking’. I think he’d be better served if he woke up and though... ‘I should clean my teeth and have a shower, and then I’ll work out what to have for breakfast’.

I’d say that in my political memory, which goes back as far as Mrs Thatcher, I think there has been no one less suited to being prime minister than Mr Cameron. No, Dean, not because he’s a Tory. If it were Annabel Goldie I’d feel a lot safer. And not because he went to public school either. There’s nothing wrong with that if your parents can afford it. It’s about how bloody stupid he is. It’s about how his policies have almost always come back to bite him on the bottom, and how he doesn’t seem to learn. He must be the least competent prime minister ever...even worse than Brown (and just for balance), Brown takes some beating.

However, criticising the armed forces chiefs, who are trying to fight two wars, with an ever decreasing amount of money (remember how he criticised Brown for lack of funds), an ever decreasing troop morale, and a dip stick for a leader, was the stupidest thing I’ve heard him do yet, and yet another one that will certainly come back to haunt him.

How refreshing to see to officers at that level who are prepared to put the men under their command before their pensions and their seat in the Lords.


If Mrs Thatcher is actually aware of what is going on, she must be wondering what has happened to her beloved Conservative party.

For not only is the gentleman for turning, he does it so often I wonder if he knows whether he is coming or going. I can only imagine that in the expensive carpet that no doubt covers the floor of his office, there must be a worn patch like two “U”s, stuck together end to end!

He came to power on a promise that Cabinet Ministers would be allowed to develop their own policies without the constant hand of number ten guiding their every move, something he had criticised roundly when Labour was in power. There would be no spin doctors, no Alistair Campbell figures dictating what was right and what was wrong.

Well that didn’t last long. The foot in the mouth epidemic that afflicted Labour carried well into the Tory cabinet, and soon advisers were dispatched to each department to ensure that a sensible line was taken.

Today there has been a U-turn on “intelligent sentencing” (most of which I agree with, copied as it is from Scotland). I just wonder if it is to be replaced by “daft sentencing”. I feel sorry for Ken. He should have known that letting rapists halve their sentences would go down like a lead balloon, and he should have handled it better, but the rest of his policies seem to me to be sound.

But we have had Caroline Spelman and her English forest sell off, not sell off, sell off a bit; then there was Gove and his wrong-minded withdrawal from English School Sport Partnership programmes, which tied in with the English hosting the Olympics, and the legacy thereof, only to have suddenly found £112 million which he had carelessly left at the back of a drawer, and withdrawing his withdrawal.

There was the English Health Minister’s programme for cutting school milk (who did that before? Oh yeah Thatcher the Milk Snatcher), which was reversed within minutes by no less a personage than Cameron himself!

There was the cut in forces which went too far, and about which Fox leaked his letter direct to the PM, to the press, but which, after a call to No 10 from Mrs Clinton, bit the dust.

The brave Scottish Labour-type Tory policy of a prison sentence for anyone caught carrying a knife, which was in the manifesto (which of course would have included fishermen going about their business) was also ditched, along it seems with the repeal of teh Hunting with Hounds legislation in England.

And of course the piece de résistance is the humiliating climbdown over handing the English Health Service over to GPs, most of whom didn’t want it. If only they had listenend before they acted.

In light of this, I have hope that the Finance department may soon decide that raising VAT was a wrong move, penalising the poor disproportionately, and that taking money away from the poorest pensioners (after announcing how generously their government was going to restore the link between earnings and pensions) was plain wicked. They need to look too at their policy of paying a French company by result for getting sick people off Incapacity Benefit to save money, and apparently being indifferent to the fact that some of them are dying in utter poverty while waiting for appeals to be heard.

Friday 17 June 2011


The Employment Opportunities Bill, sponsored by Christopher Chope , is due to have its second reading today.

Basically, the bill seeks to make the minimum wage negotiable between the employee and employer. In other words, an employee can sign a piece of paper which absolves the employer from the responsibility of paying the minimum wage, rather like happens with the Working Time Directive at present. There is apparently nothing in the Bill to stop an employer making it clear at interview that the successful candidate will have taken that route, although clearly it is not compulsory.

The idea of the Bill then, is to start a race for the bottom wage-wise. If this Bill passes, we might expect to see people working for £4 or £3 an hour or even less.

Mr Chope (is that an English name?), who is pictured above (fine figure of a man) has form when it comes to illiberal, I’m all right policies.

In 1986, Chope was promoted by Thatcher to a junior post at the Department of the Environment where he steered through the poll tax legislation. Chope was chairman of the Thatcherite “Conservative Way Forward”, so that tells you what kind of a bloke he is.

According to Wikipedia, in February 2009, he called for the minimum wage to be abolished. His Employment Opportunities Bill, which “would have introduced more freedom to the job market and decrease unemployment” or so he said, was backed by ten other Conservative MPs at the first reading. If I remember rightly Niko highlighted this on his blog, with the names and email addresses of the said members, and asked people to email them. I did, and only one (Philip Davis) had the good manners to reply.

Later that year, in the expenses scandal, it emerged that Chope had claimed £136,992 in parliamentary expenses in 2007/08. This included claiming £881 to repair a sofa. So he is quite happy that the lower orders should earn less than you can live on, but he thinks that he should be able to claim that kind of money for repair to one of his sofas. An OAP has to live for 2 months on that money.

On 12 March 2010, he was responsible for the blocking of a bill to protect the world's poorest countries from debt sharks use of "vulture funds", despite the Tories’ support for the bill They were furious and embarrassed at its blocking. There were only three Tories in the Chamber at the time and all three hung their heads so no one could tell who had said “Object” which scuppered the Bill. Clearly a coward too.

Chope favours capital punishment, which is fine with me, because although I don’t support it, I’d happy make an exception for a scumbag like him. There’s a lamppost somewhere with his name on it.

He’s the kind of bloke you wouldn’t rush to help if he were on fire and you were passing with a spare bucket of water; an excuse for a human.

Thursday 16 June 2011


Last month over the UK retail sales dropped by 1.4% according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The decline reduced year-on-year volume growth to 0.2% from 2.4% in April, a figure which itself was revised down from 2.8%.

The ONS blamed the series of bank holidays and the Royal Wedding, saying April’s special events had affected the figures. But they did add that consumers cutting back as a result of increasing fuel prices and uncertainty over pay and job security also had an impact.

Now I remember them telling us that the Royal Wedding would increase sales and boost the economy, even if it was only people buying loads of drink to celebrate with. What happened to that theory then?

Very worryingly, food store volumes fell by 3.5% but the value of sales rose by 1.7% per cent, with retailers raising prices by 5.3% to make up the money lost.

So much for inflation being 4.5%.

Furniture, electrical goods and DIY shops also saw volumes decline sharply, with a 6% drop in May.

To add to the woes of bad figures, car production fell by 5%, as did commercial vehicle production.

Not for the first time, ahead of the summer season of strikes, I am wondering if Mr Osborne has the foggiest idea what he is doing. Of course that does NOT mean to imply in any way that I’d like to see Balls at the financial helm. He who helped Gordon Brown, with his “Torier than Thou” economic policy of allowing banks and finance houses to do whatever it took to get rich. No, I’d like to see John Swinney in charge of finances. He’s a man who can make an English pound go a long, long way.

And yes, I know it was worldwide meltdown, except of course it wasn’t, was it? Because there are any number of countries which it seems to have missed completely, including Norway, Australia and Canada, and many more which are recovering fast from the mess they got into, including the UK government’s favourite fall guy, Iceland.

Scotland might not have missed the 2008 crash had it been independent, but under Mr Swinney it would by now be making a rapid recovery.

Wednesday 15 June 2011


You'd have thought that someone might have had the wit to check with the senior surgeon if it was alright for Camerclegg to bring his spin team into his ward.

But someone didn't and the result is a little embarrassing for his prime ministerness, and his little friend, as someone DID have the wit to film the whole lot being ordered out by said, and very angry, senior surgeon.

No wonder there is CDiff in the wards if the unclean are wandering about garnering votes.

They all do it; all parties, and I wish like hell they wouldn't. It's miserable enough to be in hospital without being used while you're there.

Thanks to Cynical Highlander for pointing this out.

Tuesday 14 June 2011


Well done, Terry Pratchett. I didn’t see the documentary, but I think that it was right of him to make it in order to highlight the fact that some people want the right to end their own lives when living becomes too much of a burden for them.

I heard this morning on the radio, bishops from the English church decrying the programme, and of course I am aware that the CofE is not the only religion that feels that way. I fully respect their views. But not everyone has the faith of these bishops that the suffering involved in slowly dying of a wasting disease, or the pain involved in some other unpalatable end, is worth it because it is God’s will.

Some of us just don’t want to suffer. Poor spirited? No I don’t think so. If you don’t have religious belief, it’s not poor spirited to want to end a life that is no longer worth living.

At hustings during the election, I heard four different politicians from four different parties come down against assisted suicide, as proposed by Margo MacDonald. I heard talk of pain management and dignified endings, but pain management doesn’t ever really work. People are left with pain, restricted in what they can do and the side effects of the analgesics can be disturbing.

I’ve heard the arguments about the distress it causes relatives. But I know I’d rather someone I loved died quickly than suffered a long undignified decline. I’ve heard that pressure from greedy relatives might be put on people to end their lives, but as long as the suicide were to be supported by independent doctors, as a genuine bringing forward of the inevitable, I can’t see that being a huge problem. We need to remember the additional suffering caused to the dying person by the knowledge of the strain that it is putting on their friends and family.

It wouldn’t be perfect, but then what is?

Death is inevitable. It comes, like it or not. People must be allowed the choice.

I’ve put a poll on the side bar =>. What do you think?


The impact of road closures and traffic restrictions, which will be necessary to guarantee that “members of the Olympic family”, that is to say VIPs, athletes and media can get across London to events on time is starting to cause consternation in the English capital.

Some of the restrictions, more extensive than had been thought, will be in place from June to mid September, despite the total span of the games being only 28 days.

The disruption has been disclosed in the course of a consultation launched by Transport for London. Plans for competitors and VIPs to be trouble free on their travels to and from events will involve:

• A 108-mile Olympic route network on which stopping will be banned;

• Deliveries to businesses (or private properties) on this network taking place between midnight and 6 am;

• 56 miles of Games Lanes, reserved for the sole use of Olympic traffic. With £200 fines for motorists and cyclists who use the Games Lanes, which will be marked with a white Games symbol;

• Banning right turns and some left turns on key routes including the Embankment and the Highway, east of Tower Hill;

• Bus routes being redrawn to accommodate the restrictions and ‘unaccommodate’ the public.

Some parts of London will be cut off as a result of the traffic curbs and buses being rerouted. This is causing consternation with elected officials representing the areas worst hit by the traffic disruption both from the London parliament and the assembly.

Business owners will have to set people on to work at night to receive deliveries, and of course companies making the deliveries will have to have their drivers work at night too. This may mean having to employ extra staff (at extra cost) to cover this, as daytime deliveries will still have to be made to businesses outside of the exclusion zone, and drivers can’t work night and day.

And have they thought about people living along this route? How about people who need to have their car for whatever reason?

Of course athletes need to be at the various stadia at the right times (although I thought that the knack was to build the accommodation as near as possible to where the events will be taking place), but I’m not sure why we have to have “zil lanes” for those and such as those. Why can’t they sit in traffic jams like the rest of us? I’ve always found that leaving early works very well in these matters.

Scottish Commonwealth Games organisers take note.

Pics: (1) The Greatest tickets on Earth? Do me a favour. Anyway they all seem to be going to dignitaries. Even Tom Daley's family couldn't get swimming tickets. They're all going to see the men's beach volleyball!! (2) Britannia. No wait a minute, isn't it Boris pretending he's Britannia?

Monday 13 June 2011


I was shaking with anger this morning as I heard the chairman of Southern Cross, Christopher Fisher, try to excuse the catastrophic mess that they are in. Directors sold off the properties to make themselves shed loads of money; properties on which they now cannot afford to pay the rents, resulting in old and vulnerable people being left in a state of despair over their futures. It appears that directors made millions by selling their shares just before these same shares took a nosedive. The care of elderly people is far too important to be left in the hands of money grubbing spivs like this lot. The governments should take the homes into public ownership. The worth of the company is nil, so there should be no compensation to the shareholders. That we treat our elderly so badly is an horrific reflection upon our society.

The Telegraph reveals that the Duchess of York is on the verge of bankruptcy, again. What on earth does that woman do with money? This time, instead of selling her husband, she has sold herself for the ridiculously low sum of £200,000 to Oprah Winfrey’s tv channel for a documentary about, yes, you guessed it, how dreadful she feels; how embarrassed she is that she let everyone down; the shame she has brought on the royal family, etc. She lives rent free in a house that we provide for her husband because he is the son of the head of state. Otherwise, she says, she would be homeless. Has she heard of council housing? On the other hand it could be said that she was married to an extremely rich man form an extremely rich family. Maybe they could bale her out with the own private money?

Another day, another announcement from David Cameron that he is stepping up Britain’s foreign aid contribution. This time it is the very worthy cause of immunisation of children against diarrhoea and pneumonia. This makes the UK the largest donor in the world (even bigger than the USA) to this cause. However, needless to say Cameron announced this at a London conference on the subject, which gave him the opportunity to do a bit of grandstanding. I’d be the first to say that these vaccinations are important. I watch reports from Africa with kids dying of preventable disease with tears streaming down my face, so I am more than sympathetic to the cause. But when will this man start thinking about spending some money in the UK. There are sick kids here too.

Shock, horror. Kate Middleton wore a dress she had worn three years ago, and a coat she had worn four years ago. Perhaps she is just like all of us? Nope. Today I wore a coat I had worn yesterday and jeans that I had worn last week and (I don’t know if any of you do this sort of thing), that I had washed and ironed myself!!!.

Looks like this will be a ‘super u-turn week’ in Westminster, with not one but four of the pesky little blighters. Benefit caps; reduction in foreign students; weekly bin emptying in England (Eric Pickles, pictured), and yes, the English NHS nutjob plans of Andrew Nutjob Lansley. If Mrs Thatcher is still able to take any of this in she must be spinning well, whatever she is in. Aye David, being prime minister isn’t all about garden parties, shaking hands with the senior partner, and making gifts that we have to borrow the money to give, and appearing with Michael Caine. A lot of people know that, but clearly you didn’t.

Saturday 11 June 2011


Happy Birthday Elizabeth, Queen of Scots.

I note you spent your official birthday in your English capital, as you always do, Trooping the Colour in London, even when the colour in question is of a Scottish regiment. I don’t suppose you ever thought that, if the regiment was Scottish, it might be nice for you to do it in your Scottish capital in front of your Scottish subjects. Just a little courtesy to families who might not be able to afford to travel to and stay in London. Not all people have loads of money and free transport.

Congratulations too, to Phil, or as we should now call him Lord High Admiral Phil, for being 90. What a nice present to get from the state to celebrate, and for the Queen to say thank you ...for ...erm, being married to her, getting to live in palaces, being able to have servants and shooting estates and cars and trains and, for a lot of the time, a yacht...

If I make it to 90 I’d like to be the Lord High Executioner, or some other Gilbert and Sullivan character...

Nice too, to see that the honours list hit its usual highs, with titles for such deserving cases as Bruce Forsyth for presenting a tea time tv show with a whole raft of bitchy men and hard looking women and getting paid cartloads of our money. Isn’t he good for 83, though, so I suppose he deserves it? And Jenni Murray who has held down a job with the BBC for 20 years, I’m told...well worth that damehood then.

Then there’s Michael Howard, whose main claims to fame are that his deputy, when at the Home Office, one Anne Widdecombe, said that there was ‘’something of the night’’ about him (I mean, how weird do you have to be before Anne Widdecombe thinks you are weird?), and the fact that he led the Tory party to a defeat against a very unpopular Labour Party, and had to resign. He becomes a Companion of Honour... HUH?

What a disgrace that honours are handed out to these people for doing their jobs, in some people’s opinions not particularly well, and a guy just home from Afghanistan with a leg or two blown off has to fight for some sort of compensatory money so that he can rebuild his life before some bastard from the DWP comes along to tell him that as he’s been claiming for a year he will get him benefits cut.

What a country.

Friday 10 June 2011


I was delighted to read that our estimable prime minister was setting up a committee of his brightest and best to defeat the Scottish Nationalists. I think he’ll need them, because so far they don’t seem to have got much right.

You see, from what I’ve seen there is an air of the left hand and the right hand singing from different hymn sheets, if you get my drift.

Michael Moore, (our much respected and well loved Liberal Democrat Secretary for Scotland, or whatever he calls himself these days, not the American satirist), says we will need two referenda to become independent; that anything organised by Scotland can only be advisory, and can carry no force of law as constitutional affairs and elections are the business of Westminster. And presumably the Westminster government would only be advised by a Holyrood referendum if it advised exactly what they wanted it to.

On the other hand, the prime minister, says that this is not so. Only one referendum for him, but that unless Alex Salmond asks the right questions, he, David Cameron, will take it over. We get to organise it but we have to do it the way England wants it.

Do what Big Brother says. Alex, or David will take away your ball.

Respect agenda, not.

There is an excellent analysis at Iain Macwhirter’s blog here, and I won’t try to equal it because I never could. Suffice to say that Mr McW ends by suggesting that the unionist team needs to up their game.

I don't think that they are capable of upping their game, especially when they seems to believe that the team that they have put together to defeat Salmond will do anything but cause resentment in Scotland. A couple of posh English boys, Cameron and Osborne, and a couple of Scots who have long since become Londoners (Gove and Fox). Oh yes, and the Liberals, who recently proved themselves so popular in Scotland.

Their brightest and best?

Just Scotland's cup of tea.

And Labour MPs who take up with the government over this matter should remember what happens to people who get into bed with Tories. Five Liberals, relegated to the back benches in Edinburgh. Even the arch right winger Tom Harris, comfortably ensconced with a large majority in his constituency should think about some of the crushing blows inflicted by Scots who dislike what the Tories are doing, and anyone who seems to be cosying up to them.

Labour Lords will be safe, of course. They have no need to worry about losing their cushy little billet. They have it until they die. But then the brighter Scots might wonder if perhaps their noblenesses maybe had a vested interest. After all, Barons ffoulkes, if we were to separate, the House of Aristos (and the cash) would no longer be open to you.

I wonder if we won't have The Archbishop of Canterbury on our side though...

Wednesday 8 June 2011


Last year members of the House of Lords were found to be cheating on their expenses.

Out of hundreds who treated expenses as a salary and put in false claims (the Noble Lord Hanningfield said, as he was being carted off to prison for getting caught, that around 85% of his peers [yes, I know] did it,) only two have gone to prison for the theft, a three have been suspended from parliament.

Nothing was ever checked in the House of Lords. Every claim was taken on “parole”. The Noble Lords and Ladies were assumed to actually be Noble. Big mistake, it seems. It turns out that blue bloods are just like ordinary people.

Something had to be done, so, rather than treat them like ordinary people in the employ of the government who have to provide a receipt for absolutely everything, the lords were given a flat rate of £300 a day for turning up. They don’t have to do anything and they seem to be able to claim travel expenses on top of that. Again, it’s all taken on the “parole” of the noble personage.

The top people’s salary review team were responsible for this new “tighter” control over thieving in high places. They said that it would be cost neutral.

Guess what... They were wrong. But they weren’t just a little wrong. No, they were wrong with style.

In the first three months of operation, compared to the same period last year, the scheme has cost a full 41% more expensive. That is to say, their Noblenesses have sconed us for almost half as much again as under the old scheme, where you will remember old Hanningfield reckoned that pretty much all of them were on the fiddle.

25 peers claimed more than £16,000 in the period from October-December 2010, (that’s £64,000 a year). Nine claimed over £17,000, and three more than £18,000.

Lord Sewel, Labour, claimed nearly £24,000, equivalent to an annual cost to the taxpayer of £96,000 a year. And remember his claims would be his take home pay. There is no tax and insurance on expenses. It’s not like a little cleaning job at Sainsbury’s.
The Earl of Courtown, an hereditary peer and Old Etonian (Conservatives) was next most expensive member at just under £19,000. He spoke in only one debate last year. That’s a lot of dosh for one short speech even from an old Etonian.

Other expenses junkies were Lord Rogan, ex-president of the Ulster Unionist Party (£18,515), Lord Bates, a Conservative ex-MP (£18,044), and Labour’s Lord Brett (£17,854).

The total bill for peers’ expenses was £5,541,450 in daily allowances, £502,982 for travel to and from Parliament, and £8,139 for postage.

So as the rest of us have got poorer, bankers treated themselves to massive salary increases for fear that their bonuses were going to be stopped; Prince Charles negotiated with Osborne a new deal for the royals which, it was said, was likely to make him Britain’s richest ever king (although why they need any more money is beyond me). Now we discover that lords got a 41% increase. Fair or

Pics: A selection of noblemen and women with very dubious records on honesty, one of which must have been expendable and we sent down as an example pour encourager les autres, maybe. More likely fed to the lions to keep the plebs happy.

Tuesday 7 June 2011


Here’s a set of random observations:

Last November electricity prices increased by 2% and gas by 9%.

In April retirement pensions increased by 4.6%, and it was announced that pensioners under 80 would lose £50 a year (or 25%) of their winter heating allowance, and those over 80 would lose £100 (or 33%).

It was announced today that in August 2011, 9 months after that last rise, electricity will increase by 10% and gas by 19%.

Pensioners get £102.15 per week to live on; with pension credit they get £137.35.

It is estimated that people on duel tariffs (electric and gas) will face a further rise of £175 a year as a result of today's announced increases.

In Scotland, last December there were snow blizzards and snow lay for around 6 weeks, meaning that some older people couldn’t get out (thus using someone else’s heat).

It has been a cold summer so far, with daytime temperatures around 12 or 13˚C on the east coast. Many pensioners have been forced to have their heating turned on, even in June.

Last year there were around 30,000 cold weather deaths in the UK.
The United Kingdom, which is responsible for these pensions, and for the reductions in benefits (which you may remember Cameron not only promised would not happen under the Tories, but vilified Labour for suggesting that they would. “I don’t often use the word ‘liar’, but today I’m going to because they [Labour] lied”), is currently engaged in two wars costing tens of millions of pounds a day, and has increased its commitment to foreign aid by £12 billion about which they tell us we should feel proud.

Shouldn’t we feel ashamed of the horrific cold-related death toll, especially given that far colder countries do so very very much better?


I was much maligned in my last article for criticising the Daily Mail’s outrage over a joke involving the words “cuts”, the Tories, and the letter “n”...and then taking down a post in which one of our readers used the actual word at which the aforementioned joke hinted.

I was criticised thus:


Sorry I didn't mean to offend. I was just trying to confirm my suspicions that blogs are really full of fart and piss. Happy to sneer at the Daily Mail for trying to defend the right to decency yet banning naughty words themselves. Quite sad. But fully predictable. Apologies again.”

Well, I did my best to explain the subtle difference in English humour between hinting at something, and saying it out loud, but to no avail, I fear.

The part, however, that made me fall about with laughter was our correspondent’s belief that the Daily Mail was standing up for “the right to decency”. Oh please.

I didn’t have to wait long for proof that the Daily Mail cares not one stuff about decency. Not only did the above picture of Lady Gaga appear in the online edition of the paper (every bit as available to young and old alike as the dead tree version), but it was joined by many others including one of her backside.

Now I have no objection to these pictures, but I’ll not be lectured in decency and the fight there for, but someone quoting that kind of paper at me.

The Daily Mail cares about money. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less.

Sunday 5 June 2011


It appears that John Major backs Mr Cameron’s intention to increase foreign aid. The ex-prime minister has endorsed the government’s announcements regarding the increase in funds going to North Africa and the Middle East. He says that our involvement in this should make us proud. What tosh, Mr Major. I’m the first to back helping people who, for all the inadequacies of funding in the UK, are a thousand times worse off than we are, because of the unhappy accident of being born in a region with an horrific climate, dangerous animals, geological faults, etc. And of course I see the advantage of helping to fund a move to democracy in the Arab-Spring countries. I’ve been to some of them. The people are warm and welcoming, friendly, fun.... and downtrodden. But why is it that one of the poorest countries in the West is paying the biggest proportion of its GDP towards this? And why are we still helping to fund countries which, it could be said, would more appropriately be sending funds to us. Go back to your cricket, John, and stop interfering.

The Daily Telegraph did a fine job of outing the thieving and the benefit cheating that was going on in the palace of Westminster. Whilst keeping a watchful eye on these people (because I’m sure that the minute the heat is off they will be at it again), it might be an idea for the paper to turn its investigative expertise to Brussels where it appears that members of the European Commission feel free to live like emperors at our expense. Trips to exotic locations. lavish dinners, gifts for guest speakers including jewellery from Tiffany’s.... and Kate Ashton, if you please, demanding a private jet so that she can pretend to be important. No, it has to stop. Only by ridiculing the situation in a reasonably serious paper, is anyone likely to take notice. (So butt out Daily Mail.)

One of the things I look forward to all week is Radio 4’s “News Quiz” (Friday 6.30 pm/Saturday 12.30 pm), so it was with some amusement that I noticed that it had made the front page of the Mail this week. It appears (I haven’t heard this week’s programme yet) that the show’s host, Sandi Toksvig, who is Danish, made a joke, approved by BBC management, which made use of “the most offensive word in the English language”. (Needless to say that in the recounting of the tale the Mail found it necessary to give the details of this offensive word not once, but twice.) She said that “the Tories put the “n” in the word “cuts”. So Sandi didn’t actually SAY this offensive word (which, after all is only a word). She actually (and this is good for a foreigner) made a very typically English seaside postcard reference. Kenneth Horn was doing it in the 50’s and Carry On was doing it in the 60s. It was Frankie Howerd and Benny Hill’s stock in trade. If she had actually said it, it would have been different... Still the story should sell a few papers to people who are dying to be shocked but too seldom have the pleasure of it. There are old people worried about whether their care home is going to close, Mail. Worry your pretty little heads about that. The Daily Mail: the paper that put “R” into “donkey”.

Talking of which, I’ve never thought it was a good idea to privatize services which should be run as public services. It never works properly. Buses are now run for the good of shareholders who wouldn’t be seen dead on one, and who, therefore, don’t give a damn about how badly they are run, as long as the dosh keeps rolling in. Care of the elderly is not a profitable business. Brits don’t want to look after their own elderly, unlike the southern Europeans who are shocked at the way we push them off into homes. But we also don’t want it to cost us a fortune. So why have all the costs PLUS a margin on top for profit? Rather like the banks, although for different reasons, we cannot allow these companies to fail, so once again we will end up taking their losses and covering their donkeys (with “r”s). When will we ever learn?

Saturday 4 June 2011


This is the music video for ''TINDERBOX'', a track from the musical “NICKED” by Richard Marsh and Natalia Scott and starring Jason Langley as Nick Clegg, Sam Hodges as David Cameron and Ross Green as Ed Miliband. If the rest of it is of this standard, it will be worth a watch, I fancy.

Wednesday 1 June 2011


I’ve made a point of never coming down on one side or the other of the climate change debate.

With respect to those who have strong views on the subject, I really believe that, unless you are a meteorologist, or some other kind of physicist with specialised knowledge, the likelihood of being able to distinguish between the seemingly learned opinions that there IS climate change and those which deny it, is small.

So, I don’t understand enough about it to have an informed opinion, and I don’t follow a particular political philosophy which would steer me in any direction.

I have few vested interests; I’m not a businessman with interest in maintaining the lowest possible costs to my company so that I can maximize profits at any cost. Neither am I one of the ecologist types that worries about butterflies flapping their wings in Brazil and causing storms over Oslo. I’m somewhere in the middle, possibly with a lazy streak that tells me that all this recycling is just too much effort.

But, even I can’t help noticing that this is the first of June, and that I’d to put on a thick skiing jacket to go out today, and even then in the sharp gusts of wind I was cold. Even I can’t ignore that last week I’d to hang on to my garden arch as winds of around 100 mph tore through my garden breaking trees and scattering the new leaves which had only appeared a couple of weeks before, as if it were autumn.

Global warming it ain’t, and that’s for sure. But some sort of climate change it appears to be, because, although this is the worst one, it seems to me that for the last 4 or 5 years, this has been the pattern. A reasonable April followed by constant wind and cold all summer.

Certainly my neighbour, who is 75 years old, said that he can’t remember any such weather in his life time.

Can you?


So was the cry we used to hear from every minister, every speech, 10 and more times . (For those of short memory, this was just before the worlds "Big" and "Society" became buzz for the first time. I know it's hard; it changes so often, but do try to keep up.

Anyway.... from the people at the very top, to the scu... I mean the people at the very bottom.

Oh yes. Government ministers were to take public transport and share cars; expenses were to be managed properly and only paid for things they were meant to be paid for; we were ALL going to take our holidays Doon the Watter, and the English would all take theirs in Brighton, Bournemouth or Birmingham.

And it didn’t last a whole week before the idiot Spellman (of Forst W-turns fame) was taking her chauffeur driven car 100 meters down the road, and some prat of a junior minister (whose name completely escapes me now) had taken a personal limo, with chauffeur, abroad, where it is not the done thing to take government cars without permission.

Trains? Buses? You have to be kidding. Not for the likes of the UK government's ministers.

And as I mentioned a few posts ago, despite subjecting himself to the indignities, no tortures, of ChavAir and O’ScallyAir, Cameron has proved, with two foreign holidays in the space of as many months, that he is well above this “holidays in Britain” malarkey designed for the proles. Remember that Cabinet Office ministers made it clear that they didn't want any further extensions to airports which carried the workers on their nasty package holidays... Nice one Olly!

Now we learn that while we have been told that there are either no rises or tiny rise, because the economy, wrecked by the rich, cannot stand it, the fat cats have been filling their boots, and how.

First there is the accusation (made by an ignoble lord) that 85% of lords use the incredibly generous expenses system as a salary, and claim regardless of whether a penny has been spent. And this week we are informed that the top bosses’ salaries were increased by 32%, and the VERY top ones by 86%. Makes your 2% look sick as a parrot, n’est-ce pas?

So you old age pensioners who have lost 25% of your heating money despite heating costs increasing by between 3 and 4 times the fiddled inflation figure; you sick people who have been stripped of your Incapacity Benefit and have to wait for up to a year for your appeal to be heard during which time you may die, as indeed some of you have done; you people who have been made redundant and find that despite paying for 30 or 40 years into the National Insurance Scheme at 10% or 11% of your salary, for just this very eventuality, you are not entitled to a sou in dole money, because your partner has a job... for now.

This is what the rich think of you: