Thursday, October 11, 2007

The People Deserve a Better System of Government.


In the last few weeks we have seen the blackest, dirtiest and most unwholesome picture of our parliamentary democracy. We have seen a new Prime Minister, uncertain on his feat, pulling cheap political tricks. We have watched as the leader of the opposition sneered and jeered and howled "liar" in everyway he could get away with. We have watched the leader of the third party leap up and down in indignation like a bizarre jack-in-a-box. And the rest of the political establishment have just lobbed detritus at each other like chimpanzees at a tea party.

And this unedifying spectacle has been refereed and egged on by a blood thirsty press, wallowing in the fallout of every carefully placed political bomb and jibe. None of this is new; our political system, in all its ancient glory is perfectly set up for such playground squabbles, the deliverance of not political servitude but bully-boy war mongering that echoes the worst of "Tom Browns School Days", "If.." and "Grange Hill."

And we, the voters, the paymasters, the supposed inheritors of this once great democracy, can only watch, ignored by the players, as they use our schools and hospitals and fields as their weapons, our taxes as their war chests and our country as their personalised battle field.

It is time for a change.

Our political system has changed little in the last few hundred years. Although legislation has broadened the qualification of those that can stand for parliament, and indeed those that can vote, once through the hallowed gates into the so-called Commons, a change comes over all that removes them from the common place to another world. A world of privilege, opportunity, and nepotism that is unrecognisable even to the old world school tie of now nearly defunct City institutions.

In this secluded village two systems attempt to work together. On the one hand, the work of committees supported by all parties yet reporting to the government; on the other a medieval tournament of division that is held together with threats and bribes and scandal by vicious whip touting sergeants.

The electorate, the proletariat, the merchants and the landowners, have little real insight to this world. For all that it is televised and recorded; it is kept on quiet sub channels and away from those who might just need some sort of guide to what the hell is actually going on. But where it is brought to the mainstream public consciousness, it is first edited and regurgitated using personal agendas and bias as a sauce, to be served up as a pie fight with the blood thirsty howls of the barbarian as its leader.

This is the system designed by our forefathers in a day when the general public, the great unwashed, were not supposed to see the mechanics, were supposed to be happy with their lot and would have little interest in anything but the result. The press of that day reflected the system with detailed analysis from the Thunderer and its peers and nothing much in the rags; very similar to today in many ways.

Except now something has changed. The politicians have noticed that while for the last hundred years they have been sneering and jeering the people who pay their salaries have simply lost interest. The voter feels disenfranchised. When and if they do vote many will just vote as they have always done, a very few will vote actually based on what is happening locally, and the rest will vote based on the last snippet of news or brash headline from a scheming, conniving editor, doing the bid of his or her power hungry Magnet. The rest simply don’t vote at all, and that can be half of them.

One need that has been identified by politicians is for more regional representation. But their solution, not wholly welcomed by society, is to add additional regional layers of government. At what cost? And would we see more time and money wasting arguments coming from these new assemblies? It is a typically political and impractical solution to, however, a very real problem.

Can this be Changed?

The short answer is probably no, simply because the very people that have to ratify any change are the people who are benefiting most out of our current system. Billy Bragg, pop star, occasional poet of the people and voracious campaigner for a changed second chamber, has found this out the hard way. Whether you agree or not with the fine details of his idea for electoral reform of the Lords, most, I think, would agree with the aspiration of his campaign. And yet, despite much publicity and momentum, real change in the House of Lords is still many moons away.

But that does not mean that an attempt should not be made. This is our country, our way of life, we should be sure that the system that underpins they way in which decisions are made actually produces well founded ideas propped up by knowledge and expertise that is grounded in good sense and research. The current system, by its very gladiatorial nature, seems to produce good policy by accident rather than design, if it produces anything worth while at all.

But any change has to be not only in the way things are organised, but in the very culture of the system. It is pointless changing the committee system if before any reports or recommendations the ability of free thought is taken away from participants on the grounds of party loyalty. It is crazy making rules that ensure that we have the most representative parliament - male and female, Asian and Caucasian and African, Jew and Gentile and Muslim (and atheist?), gay and straight, single and married - if when this stew pot of people take their seats they merge into an ugly parody of colours: Blue and Yellow and Red. It is daft to elect a politician on the grounds of their support for a local institution if their party then has a national agenda against such support. And it is pure madness for a politician in opposition to come up with an "urgent policy" if then they are to say that no one else can pursue it because they are in a different party; for instance the one actually in government and able to do something.

I watched David Cameron today look at Gordon Brown as if he was something nasty on the sole of his shoe; behaviour of the kind that would have earned me a smack from my Conservative supporting mother when I was young. And yet, both he and Gordon Brown purport to be highly intelligent men both capable of taking on the reigns of government and making something of this country. How? By sneering? By ridicule?

My initial reaction was that it was a pity that Guy Fawkes did not get the job done back in the 17th century. But I realised that this debased system was creating a worse problem than two school boys poking at each others eyes. Because, where politicians have talents, have strong ideas and a sense of duty, their abilities are being wasted by a system that does not allow them to have considered opinion. And challenge, when it comes, is either from others wrapped up in the same system or from the media who really do not care a damn for the future of the country; that is not their job. So the challenge is as meaningless as the original idea.

Take the report by Iain Duncan Smith on our "broken society." The report, on the face of it, has contributions from many worthy contributors. But it fails at the last hurdle because any conclusions it makes (and it makes many) are tailored to fit the reader; those tried and tested blue-rinse Tories. So the report calls society "broken" when, despite high crime figures, the actual percentage of brokenness is small enough that most people would never have noticed had not the report told them about it. And the report decides that it is the fact of getting married that stabilises a family, when it is probably as accurate to say that it is stable people that tend to get married. So much work, so many words, so many contributions, yet the summery is but the meanderings of a political junkie and based little in reality.

I repeat; it is time for a change.

Tearing down the Temple and Starting Again

The Houses of Parliament are a quite stunning complex of buildings; one of the largest parliaments in the world they are dripping with history, despite the fact that much of it really isn’t that old. In 1834 a fire caused by burning outmoded tally sticks in a stove, burned most of it down. After much public debate the chambers that we know today were constructed. The design seems to owe much to the jousting tournaments of yore when supporters of the two competitors were ranged on opposite sides of the fray. It makes for fantastic pictures, but maybe not for such good governance.

In most democratic governmental chambers around the world the layout is more in the round, with even the leader of the parliament sitting in a nonexclusive position. Indeed, when the frighteningly expensive Scottish Parliament was built in recent times this was the design approach taken. With a few exceptions, this design leads to a less confrontational style of debate. Less confrontation means more constructive debate, it is as simple as that.

And to further prevent the creation of psychological barriers, MPs would sit not grouped by party but by region. Not only would this, to a certain extent, "split friends up" like at school, but would encourage regional representation. If the MP sitting next to you has a problem with his or her area, then this problem may well also affect you. Whatever party the two of you are from, it would not be difficult to see how you may end up clubbing together. This is good representation and goes some way to addressing the lack of representation of regional issues.

I believe it is time for a new Parliament building, though I would hesitate letting a world class architect anywhere near it. Parliament is meant to be for the people, so this building should be, ideally, designed by the people and commissioned by the people, and at a cost that the people are prepared to pay.

Offices would be without status; all politicians would get exactly the same size private office; functional, clean, simple and neat. The offices may also be arranged by region as we have arranged the seating in the chamber.

Committee rooms would all radiate from the central chamber to remind members that it is the central chamber that carries the decision, not nefarious deals done in side rooms.

With the exception of dealing with security matters, doors would be of glass, there would be no locks, no restrictions, no barriers. All business conducted within these parliamentary walls would be open to scrutiny at all times by all people; though I concede that private rooms would be needed when dealing with sensitive issues concerning members of the public. But use of these would be to strict rules.

Canteens would be healthy, simple and open to the public. Members of Parliament are meant to be representatives of the people, not above the people. If they are having their space paid for by the people, they get to share it with the people.

Over all, the design should not just promote a culture of cooperation and equality, but should shout its intention to the world so that the public never forgets why it is as it is, and never stop reminding MPs of how they should be.

Changing the Rules of Engagement

Gordon Brown, in his first few days as Prime Minister, said he wanted to create a new politics and a new government. He wanted a government of the Talents, and he would not be restricted by party lines as from where he got those talents. In some small ways he has done this, but I doubt that he has achieved it to the extent that he would have wished.

The trouble lies with how our party system is governed. A political party is meant to be, in my near unreachable, idealistic world, a collection of people that are drawn together by common ideas on how a country can be made a better place. However, in reality, a political party is a tribe bound by common ideological principles that bear little relation to what is possible or practical or would be any good for anybody, let alone the entire population. I believe that historically Labour has suffered more from this malaise than other parties, but not exclusively.

In this tribal system any policy has to be judged as worthy against an ideological test. Basically, does it fit with what we believe, comrades? If a policy does not fit, then it is discarded even though it may have been the perfect solution. Strangely, Tony Blair was the oddity in that he really didn’t care whether a policy fitted comfortably with his party or not to the extent that he more or less changed the name of the party to fit the new policies. This was rather refreshing. Though it is arguable whether the policies he followed actually had any useful merit, the one thing they were not was tied down by a straight jacket sown by zealots.

In a truly democratic system, any one should be able to bring an idea to the table. To a small extent we have that now in the form of a private members bill. Unfortunately, since these often do not have the support of the major, or even minor, parties, they seldom see the light of day; hunting being the one exception.

Let us take the subject of climate change. The major political parties have been commissioning reports left right and centre to prove their green credentials. However, once they have their conclusive report it is then squeezed into a natty policy suit and presented as "the urgent thing we must do about climate change - if we ever get into power that is." Of course, the government of the day is unwilling to take up any part of the oppositions report, even if it has merit, because, well, they are the opposition!

And the opposition, should the government take any ideas, will use it as an excuse to call the government a thief and a charlatan.

This makes you wonder how much ANY politician actually cares about Climate Change. Or is it just another vehicle to catch votes at the next election?

In our new system, all politicians would have equal opportunity to bring forth policy ideas. The government’s job would be to take these on board and decide, through debate and vote, which will actually make up the business of the next parliament. There are probably a thousand potential pitfalls in this as I have laid it out, but there has to be a better way than the idea strangling one we have now.

Communicating with the Outside World

Life blood to any politician is exposure. And I doubt any system we could design would remove that need. However, how that communication is managed, and how the press fit in, needs some serious rethinking.

The most obvious case is the rules that should govern Government Announcements. Although I understand the need for information to be given to Parliament, it is also essential that it is given to the people - they are the paymasters - and given directly, not second hand via friendly newspaper editor.

Not just the government, but politicians in general must make their primary responsibility to the chamber and its machinery. It would be made illegal for a politician to make any comment for publication where their name is not firmly attached and they subsequently can make themselves available for scrutiny in the chamber. We really must see an end to "unnamed government source." It is probably the single most disenfranchising statement a journalist can make. "I know who said it, but I am not telling you!"

ALL government announcements, as a point of law, MUST be made formally to the chamber in the first instance, and immediately followed up by a detailed explanation to a publicly distributed news release - a sort of government funded newspaper and website combination but without any editorial comment, etcetera. This must happen BEFORE any interviews with the all important independent press.

And, talking of the press, in so much as it will be illegal for a politician to brief "off the record" so any organisation publicising such briefings would also be committing an offence. It the press wants to print scandal, fine, but the scandal will have to have a name.

Politicians say they are eager to "reconnect" with the electorate. But their actions do not reflect this intent. So we need to force them to reconnect by putting the electorate FIRST in any communication or consultation.

And in debate we must also force politicians to clean up their act. If Gordon Brown says that he wants to have a window tax to fund housing projects, I do not want to hear what David Cameron thinks of Gordon Brown. If Cameron agrees, I want to hear that. If he disagrees, I want an alternative. Too often, in this country, the only noise to come out of a politician’s mouth is their personal opinion of their adversary. We are fed up of this static that blinds the system. Our mothers had it right when they said, "It you have nothing useful to say, say nothing." About time our MPs started taking that advice. The speaker of the house must have the power to stop a politician who does not contribute to a debate in such a way as to positively forward a good idea. In practice that means much of Prime Minister’s Questions would be in trouble.

Regulating the privileged few

MPs and member of the Lords were until the mid-nineties self regulated. After that point the rules of conduct, of privilege and of standards have been regulated by an independent Committee on Standards in Public Life. However, this committee, though independent of government has been criticised for being subject to pressure from Parliament. In 2002 Elizabeth Filkin resigned as commissioner after a whispering campaign. She had upset many well connected committee members and MPs after her investigations of several high profile members on both sides of the house, including John Reid and William Hague.,,614633,00.html

In our brave new world, an independent panel selected from people who have no connection to the MPs (so most of the public) would have complete control of what MPs can or cannot do. This would need to be a robust organisation with powers to investigate individual allegations of misconduct and prosecute, challenge and sanction where appropriate. Its responsibility would also include the second chamber (the House of Lords currently has no appointed Standards Commissioner). I suspect some of the rules that would come about would be things like:

An MP is an employee of the state and is not allowed to moonlight in any other paid job.
An MP may not sit as a company director or be a partner in any organisation or hold any office in any private or public company.
An MP may not be a consultant to any organisation, company or charity whether such consultancy attracts enumeration or not.
MPs salaries may only be increased inline with inflation.
MPs constituency offices and employees will be supplied by the state and cannot be paid for through the expenses system

This would probably result in a considerable loss of income for some MPs. If they were unhappy over this, the question would have to be asked whether they became an MP out of duty or for reward. If it transpires to be the latter then it is arguable that they are an inappropriate candidate as a Member of Parliament. It has been argued before that if you do not pay MPs substantial amounts that you do not attract the best candidates. Bearing in mind that an MPs job is not administrative and does not require high level managerial expertise (that is the role of the well paid top civil servants) then I would think this argument fails to hold water. And if in the process we reduce the number of QCs who become members of parliament, who are better suited to adversarial games than honest discourse, then that would be no great loss.

Lobbying is another area where the rules allow MPs and lobbyists to abuse and misuse the system, such as it is. We need to change the way lobbying is carried out by making it official and available to all. Any company, organisation or individual who wished to lobby parliament has to first work with their local MP. They have to apply to the MP directly and are not allowed to employ a lobbying company. The MP is duty bound to help them with their request and not put up barriers to their request being put forward.

The actual lobbying is done by the MP publicly in front of the relevant committee. Lobbying is not a matter for private communication. Because it would be made illegal for any money or favours to change hands, a private person or small charity should have equal power to lobby as a massive multinational.

The other often major bone of contention is in the registry of members interests. This lists MPs earnings outside of their salary and things like investments in companies, especially where those companies may have any involvement in government. It is not practical to ask someone to sell everything if they wish to become an MP, but they need to be divorced from at least some of their interests and have the carrot of independent earnings removed from temptation. A friend of mine ran a small but successful radio production company for many years. He was then asked to head up a department full time at the BBC, an offer to good to miss. However, as part of the deal he had to agree to either close his production company or hand it over to someone else and play no further part in it. It was seen as a corporate conflict of interests. This is common in the wider world, and the same criteria should be applied to MPs. In practice, this would mean Kenneth Clarke could not be a board member at British American Tobacco and an MP at the same time.

Of course, it would be unfair to prevent MPs from doing local engagements like charity auctions, speaking and so on. However, as these would be seen as part of their job they will doubtless be happy to do these on a voluntary basis.

Certain aspects of the job like foreign jollies have already been tightened up, but there are still gaps in the system where an MP forks out money and then claims it back as expenses. This has previously brought claims of nepotism as one or other MP has employed a member of their family for a nice fat sum paid for out of the national purse. If additional expenditure was managed directly by the parliamentary accountant’s office (so they pay salaries for MPs and assistants and rent for the office etcetera) then the MPs would have much less room for sneaky manoeuvres.

The Honours System

The origin of most honours systems lies in patronage to a monarch, and ours is no different. Lords were given titles and land either because they had done something for the crown or were going to do something, like give it money. It is the oddity of the recent "Cash for Honours" scandal,,1972222,00.html that what they were investigating was the very thing the system was set up for in the first place.

Today, however, there is no place for such an archaic system, but I do believe that society needs to honour their own in some fashion. I would therefore propose that the entire honours system be removed from our governmental system in entirety and placed back in the hands of the Monarchy.

Since our Monarch has no direct political influence or motive (I would suspect that she has had little great approval for any recent governments) there would be no political corruption possible. The Monarch, as part of her role, would then appoint a wide ranging committee to control nominations for awards. We would keep the titles and awards as they are since they are familiar and respected by the public. But they would no longer hold any political patronage.

Without the creation of political "Lords" we lose the present system that floats the House of Lords. And that is therefore next on the list.

A New Second Chamber

I feel at this point I should shut up and just hand over to Billy Bragg Although his idea is far form perfect, at least he has had one, which is more that most have managed.

A second chamber, sometimes called a Revising Chamber, has always been a bone of contention. The arguments against it being elected is that is just becomes a clone of the first chamber and nothing much is achieved. The argument against it being appointed is that it becomes corrupted by nepotism and favour.

However, I feel these arguments only have any validity within the present governmental system. If that system is changed, these arguments no longer present a problem.

Appointing a second chamber is always tempting because of the ability to cherry pick the most talented who would not otherwise consider going through the duress of an election. But the problem is that this is always someone else’s appointment, not yours, and how can you trust another’s motives? And who gets to appoint in the first place? The government or Monarchy? We are back where we started. In addition, you only get part timers this way.

I lean towards a completely elected chamber. However, I would be interested in examining the case of a "Chamber of Independents." This assumes that party affiliations (taking the whip) are disallowed. You cannot stand either as an official member of a party or by being supported by a party. You must be independent.

This second chamber would be much smaller than our new Commons, and the members would be elected on a regional basis. Apart from not having a party, these members would also not have the same kind of constituency responsibilities as MPs; their regions would simply be too large. But they would have area offices with staff so that they are well versed in local issues and with the local council.

This would be a full time role with full time attendance expected; either in the second chamber or their local office. All members of our Chamber of Independents would be expected to scrutinise policy as it came up from the Commons Chamber and any previous expertise would be used as appropriate. Medical Doctors would expect to find themselves sitting on health committees, for instance.

I would give these now hard working Independents an additional responsibility. Since they are regionally elected, they would become ambassadors for their Local Council to the parliament. They would not have an active part to play in local level politics, but when the council needs representation and advocacy at parliamentary level, the Independent would be the person called upon.

Making Votes Count

Much of this essay has been spent, in one way or another, in an attempt to reconnect our system of governance with the people who commission it. And indeed to make the public realise that they are the commissioners of our government, not it’s subjects.

But I cannot in truth address this issue without bringing up the thorny matter of Proportional Representation. The debate has moved significantly since I was young with PR being adopted in parts of our system, for instance both the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have some elements of PR.

It is felt by some, the Liberal Democrats in particular, that PR is the curative for our lack lustre voting record. However, voting numbers have been falling all over Europe, most of which uses one PR system or another. But it does engender cooperation and I feel that as long as people still feel that they are being represented locally and regionally, can still get hold of their MP and have them work for them, then the advantages of a system or PR would outweigh the disadvantages. But I am no expert here and am willing to hear the various arguments for the various systems. I can say, though, that I think time is called for our head to head, first past the post system.

I want my vote to have meant something.


What I propose here is not some carefully worked out plan, for I do not have the tools to engage in such an enterprise, and is without doubt full of holes. It is instead a gut instinct approach to what I think is a very real problem: our parliamentary system is quite simply inappropriate for our society. It has probably been inappropriate for some considerable time and it is doing us no favours.

Politicians from all sides would argue that it must be fine for look how much stronger our country is now compared with 20 years ago. But I would argue that the country has become stronger despite the politics not in spite of it. I do not deny that our government has achieved some important goals; the minimum wage and independence for the Bank of England in recent times, and legislation to attempt to depoliticise the Unions from the previous government. But it is also true that where there is success, politicians will take credit and where there is failure politicians will be quick to blame someone else.

We cannot change human nature. Politics is, has always been and always will be attractive to those with a large ego and the arrogance to support it. But what we can change is the system that allows them to get away with it.

We need a system that not only makes the politician accountable to parliament but to the electorate. A system that is so open, and where its rules are so well publicised that there really is no where for the opportunistic MP to hide.

The public are the ultimate employers. Through elections we hire and fire. But so often we vote globally rather than regionally, so that we retain the bad MP in favor of our preferred party. A change of system could change that; could mean that MPs have to work closely together as a matter of course, and in a way that is both seen and understood by the public.

Finally, a word about the Forth Estate: The Press (or media).

The press have become part of the political establishment. They argue that they are representing the public. Andrew Neil has said that directly on This Week on the BBC. But he fails to appreciate that we do not want him to represent us. We did not elect him, have little in common with him and certainly do not empathize with him. Journalists are monumentally unqualified as representatives as they are so often slaves to their corporate masters’ agendas, or their own small Westminster village mentality.

A new parliamentary system that is not only far more open but is highly communicative and able to be scrutinised by the public will go a small ways to surgically removing the media bunion from its backside. And perhaps the press can go back to doing what they should be doing - reporting the news rather than creating it.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, said Bert Lance in 1977. Except it is broken, and we are paying for it. About time it got fixed.



Monday, September 24, 2007

A New Home for the New Diary?

The Rat has moved and taken up residence with the bear and the boar!


Come and see me at my new home here.

  • News Articles
  • The New Diary of a Nobody
  • A Rat's Tale
  • Reviews
  • Food and recipes from the Bear
  • Music
  • Cartoons

So much more than I could ever squeeze into this little cage and with a lovely new design. It's a real home for Boars!


Recent articles include:


The Bear is putting up some of his FAMOUS RECIPES:

What more could you want?

Come and JOIN THE FUN!



Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Nobody is moving

Just a quick note to say that this blog has not been forgotten, it is moving.

I am currently building a quite over complicated affair with a thingy called Joomla that will have all kinds of wonderful things!

First of all it will have news sections that I can use for just straight commenting and reporting.

It will also have a recipe section, because food it so important, don't you think?

And of course it will have the continuing New Diary of a Nobody.

But why am I doing this?

Well, I started writing the New Diary of a Nobody as a diary, with one paw in the modern world, and yet one eye very firmly fixed on Mr Pooter, the original Nobody Diarist. But I became distracted and the diary forgot to be a diary and just became a list of comments.

The new site will, I hope, rectify this by separating current affairs and my not always wonderfully charitable comments about them, and the Diary, which is and should really be about what confronts one over breakfast.

So, I am programming away, and when I am ready I will post an address.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The world of the sad little git

Today I have received a little deluge of comments from one sad little hopeless git.

He, for I assume it is a he, has found my quiet little blog and decided not to comment on what I have said, but to simply insult me.

I do not know this person
I doubt he knows me.

He strikes me as someone who would never dare say these things to my face.

In one post, he says he is doing this because he is bored at work. He should feel himself lucky - I doubt he would have work if this attitude of his were better known.

I do not understand this type of person.

It is similar to the kind of people who write viruses for computers and then giggle Beavis and Butthead style to themselves as they see peoples machines and sometimes even livelihoods eaten away.

Or the spotty little sad chap in school who drops nasty little notes into some girls locker. Then hides behind a tree to see if he can glimpse her knickers.

Or the kids that throws mud at an old ladies window, because somehow frightening the living daylights out of her is seen as funny.

Ian Duncan Smith talks much of a Broken Society and blames, unfairly, the role of unmarried and single parent families.

Maybe he would be better to focus on why there are so many nasty little people like this person flinging insults at me. Maybe he can find one of the Tory's famous islands to put them all on.

But then they would have to get on with each other, and that they would find impossible.

The Internet has become a haven for such people. They can hide behind it, be anonymous, giggle till they drool at the wave of sickness they spread.

But the one thing I can guarantee - they don't boast to their mummies about what they did in work today.

All bets are off then!

Brown reviews casinos

Diary Entry for Wednesday, 11th July 2007

It seems that our Green may have been saved a fate worse than death! I and the other residents had been most disturbed that one of the houses at the far end was planning to open a roulette and craps room.

In our quiet little backwater this seemed most inappropriate. Dear Mrs Benedict was the fist to denounce the plan. She is a staunch Catholic, but errs further to St Francis than the mainstream of that era. Although she has a most noble home, gloriously bedecked with tasteful objet d'art, she is in constant state of guilt over the sin of personal possession. That being the case, you need only imagine her views on gambling of any kind - especially formalised!

Mrs Peach was the second to foray. She bashed on my door to announce the fact of the project. This was a scandal, the good lady announced from the very depth of her magnificent girth, and the post mistress would have been most upset by the news, had they not already closed the post office.

There was another side to the argument. The far end of the green is less affluent than our end round the monument. It leads onto our regrettably decaying shopping high street and establishments such as the football pub complete with large vulgar TV screen. IT was being promoted that this establishment would provide colour and gayety to the area, jobs for the unemployed, and bring money in.

This is where I started getting very confused. For I have, on occasion, been forced to spend an evening in such establishments around the world. My experience is that they are often built in the cheaper, areas of cities to save money. That the local economy benefits in no way whatsoever since the casino also offers accommodation, restaurants, shops, entertainment - anything and everything to keep people indoors. And that the only gayety that is provided is some pretty garish bright lights.

And of course, the one set of people who cannot afford to go to the casino are those that live next door.

Now, legislation as it stands, means that the establishment cannot open, but my local Labour MP assures me that there is a great demand for it and so they are changing the law. Great demand from whom? Everybody, apparently. And she proved it by showing me a piece of paper. Sure enough, it said "every body want a casino in the Green." And it was signed by Ricardo Castilliano (Sicily & Las Vegas) Ltd. Independent researchers.

Well, that was that. It was researched - though all in the green were a little confused that nobody had actually asked them.

Now, you can probably understand my relief when the First Lord of the Treasury stood up today and more or less said, to hell with that idea and sat down again. Actually he announced a review, but you could see the outcome of the review all over his face.

I think I might grow to like this First Lord!



See also Nick Robinsons Post

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As long as he has nice teeth

A lazy day today. It is not that I have nothing to do, it is just that I have little will to do it with. This is a common malaise; not just common to me, but common to all that use eclectic thinking as a way of life.

The most prominent of these types are the politicians and the media who together strive to lead/control our world as much as practically possible without getting shot.

Nick Robinson today has posted a short and neat article about Political Cross Dressing. He is referring to the issues of housing, education, health and welfare and how the two main parties of conceit, the Tories and Labour, seem to be unclear as to which colours they are wearing for which issue.

He is concerned, it appears, that there is worry within the Brown camp that the Boy David has stolen the moralistic high ground.

It is an interesting issue this. When does the practicality of running an institution such as a country become a fight for ideals rather than useful action? Nick points us helpfully to an article by the Guardian's Jonathan Freeland.  Jonathan is discussing the US political climate and argues, with some good reason, that US voters want their politicians to achieve things for their lives, but they want them achieved through heart-appealing rhetoric, rather than to be sold to them with statistics, tables and ven diagrams.

I have sympathy with that attitude; a friend of mine's mother once noted that she would vote for the man who had the nicest teeth. Actually, this is not such a whimsical ambition. It was not so much the nice smile as looking for the type of person who would care about having a nice smile. Any woman of a certain age will remember her mother liking a particular suitor for his neat and tidy dress sense. It was seen as a sign of success, of stability, of intelligence.

Likewise in politics, an MP or Senator who is seen to have an emotional bond with an issue can be, at least in the short term, more convincing a champion of that issue than someone who demonstrates a solid technical understanding of how it works.

However, I think this only works so far, and perhaps not as far in this country than in the US; despite my friend's mother's fixation on dentistry.  

Therefore, it may be a little premature for people to condemn our new First Lord, just because he is number orientated. Because the politics of passion is more complicated than simple speech making or crying in the right places. Blair got this one right - almost instinctively. While he was seen as being passionate about any subject, he ensured just enough grasp of the figures for people to feel he had a real grasp of the subject. Remember here that little criticism of Blair stuck prior to the Iraq war. Since the war, many people have decided that since he got that wrong, every thing else MUST be wrong. The logic is appalling, but there is nothing logical about politics; well, not if the press have any say in the matter.

And this is a good place to bring in the press. In Jonathan Freeland's piece he cites the book "The Political Brain" by Drew Western. Western spends pages and his psychology background, to explain that the political brain is an emotional brain. Well, we kind of know that! (I refer you to the dentures once again.) But this assumes that people only react using their political brain. He tested people by confronting them with political speeches; those that hit home most were the ones that appealed to the emotional receptors in our brain. However, people don't just think of politics when confronted with speech making. If you are cueing in hospital your political brain may crave for a solution, but your pragmatic brain would rather an answer to "how long will I have to wait."

And it is this second approach that, I believe, better describes peoples day to day aspiration need from the political establishment.

So, they may warm to David Cameron's tirade against the Broken Society, but when they need a house, they will love Gordon Brown for saying he will build a house exactly "here."

Davis Cameron has taken on Blair's impassioned role - but it is not the only major role in politics. The Son of the Manse with his pragmatic approach can also fulfil the nations need, but with one proviso - will the media, who love a passionate battle, let him?


Nobody Tags: , , ,

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Daily Mail Incites Hatred

Standing in a queue at my local supermarket is a pain, but it does afford one the opportunity to gaze at the headlines of the various national newspapers.

Distance means that I cannot read the whole article, just the headline, and so it is a good test as to a headlines intent.

Following the Conviction of the four cowardly idiots yesterday for the attempted bombings of 21st July last year, the Daily Mail ran a headline making a massive deal over the fact that the terrorists were refugees on benefits.

So what?

What is important is that they were 4 criminally minded thugs who wanted to kill innocent people. Who cares where they came from?

99.9% of vicious nasty crime in this country is caused by home grown, white, British thick heads. Racists attacks are caused mostly by British Nationals.

Now, I know that the Daily Mail is simply xenophobic and nationalistic. And I know they never feel more pleased with themselves than when they are hating someone, but do they really think that by inferring that the problem here is that the convicted were refugees is really going to help anything?

No. It will just increase divisions, turn more ignorant white nationalists to organizations like the BNP, and make life worse for everyone.

Yep. I have no problems in saying that the Daily Mail incited hatred.

Don't we have a law against that yet?


Grumpy Nobody

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Up Sticks and rush to save the Queen!

The old carbuncle, my dear housekeeper Mrs Bi-Monthly, decided this morning to turn the household into an over chlorinated public bath. Or at least that is how it felt to my embattled nasal passages.

The result of this campaign was that I resigned myself to find quarters elsewhere in the city. First stop would be to St James and lean on the favour of my Club's Doorman. However, my untimely arrival seemed to have put the gentle soul's nose out of joint as he was having some of the brass work re-guilded.

commons-gallery Next stop, therefore,  was to the Commons, and a restful loiter in the Gallery above the chamber. If you have not been there I would recommend a visit. It give a magnificent view of the commons and as long as there is nothing major happening is a good place to relax while the business chatters on below.

Not this day, however. Three things occurred. Firstly the new Prime Minister decided he would flex his ample vocal muscles to the delight or otherwise of the assembled. Secondly, he decided to rewrite, or at least write, the constitution on the spot. And thirdly, he did not have the foresight to brief the hacks, so the whole flaming crew from paper and TV were packed into the gallery desperately trying to remember their shorthand.

To be fair, the new First Lord of the Treasury had some interesting things to say. You may wade through it here.

But a quick summery might be put at returning, or bringing, more power to the common man. Hmmm. So that would be away from the Monarchy then? The Royal Prerogative, perhaps? That will make a few of the old Lords Jittery down at the club! I didn't think that GB was a republican, but with phrases like Bill of Rights and WRITTEN constitution knocking around, and passing more powers to the commoners, and a threatened statement about the future of the Lords before the Holidays - well who knows?

Worrying times indeed!

However the reactions of the Tories and the Lib Dems brought things down to earth. Quite a lot of what Brown said you would think would find favour - especially with Ming the Meaningless, and even with the Boy David, when in his more liberal mood.

But no - faced with the possibility that Brown might just find favour with the British People, they upped drawbridges and just accused him of having blood on his hands.

Well, they obviously want change then!

All in all, a most disquieting day. I am not sure what I fear most. The Old Carbuncles spring clean at home, or the First Lords hosing down of the constitution in the commons.



Monday, July 02, 2007

Monday's child is full of woe!

Diary Entry for Monday the 2nd of July

Sunday dawned wet and feverish, which is somewhat off putting when one considers that the date hailed it as the first of July. I remember a time when July greeted us with sparkling mornings as the dew was lifted from the grass by the breaking sun, warm lunches and long evenings. This July, however, is thoroughly anti-Wimbledon, for those who still partake of that ancient sport of Lawn Racquet Tennis.

However, I who am thoroughly bored of grunting and groaning athletes headed for the cultural challenges of the Waddesdon Manor Art Dance and Drama festival. Hundreds of over eager youngsters tapping and whinnying and over acting them selves to oblivion. One of them belongs to my household, so I went along with well practiced cheery face to enjoy the happenings.

For some reason, the day decided to keep the wetting to a minimum, and we managed to watch most of what was required while remaining mostly dry. And jolly good it was too!

It is an interesting affair. A goodly entrance fee ensures that although the performances may be many moons away from professionalism, the staging and equipment is first class and run by professionals. At least, when mistakes were made they came through the speaker systems with a clarity and precision the like of which is a treat for a school performer, if a little painful for the less than doting members of the audience.

Returning home, and I decided to treat the family to one of my little fish suppers: baby clams cooked in a fennel and tomato soup, grilled fillets of salmon, calamari, grilled tiger prawns and a bowl full of soft rice with courgette and red capsicum.

Eventually I find my way onto the Internet to survey the weekends events. The normal mix, some dreadful flooding and the odd political note was almost completely drowned out by the continuing attempts by people to blow us all up.

This is really quite upsetting and bewildering - why should they want to blow up some kids in a nightclub? Or a family on their way to holiday?

Oh, I understand that baffoons like Gorgeous Galloway think that it all our fault, and that Lord Ahmed thinks we should just go around saying sorry to everyone, and perhaps start worshipping his god to be on the safe side, but personally I think all that is a load of baloney!

I really don't think our current stack of radicals and terrorists are doing this because we have upset them. They are doing this because they don't like us. They don't like the way we can laugh at anything, including them. They don't like the fact that we protect gay rights. They don't like that we think women as equals to men. And they really hate the fact that some of us simply do not believe in their god at all.

This is not especially a Muslim thing - there are Christian idiots out there who hate the same things. It is a fanatics thing, and this world does not need fanatics, of any shape or belief. The BBC today asked how safe do you feel in the UK? MY sole comment was simply we did not run from the IRA, we won't run from this lot either; it is business as usual.

Talking of the BBC, I noticed that a bit of my blog ended up on Nick Robinsons blog under "blogs linking here." I better start saying nice things about him! No, give me just a minute, I'll think of something ...




Sunday, July 01, 2007

Smoking - It's a dogs life!


Welcome to the Dog Inn, Ewyas Harold, Herefordshire, which is, apparently, the last bastion of the great, smelly English smoker.

For it's Landlord, a certain Anthony Blows, supporter of the daft UK Independence party, contributor to The Big Debate web site (current postings, erm about 9) and server of fillet steak and onion rings (do people really still do that to fillet steak?), has decided that he is in a mood to defy the smoking ban that came in today across England.

At a potential £2500 fine a go, this is no mean thing to decide. But he is being supported by the rather disgraceful Freedom 2 Choose lot, an outfit of bad losers who really can't get their heads round the fact that they have, umm, lost.

Mr Blows is quite verbose on the subject, according to Auntie:

"I'm doing it for the simple reason that this is my home. My wife and I work 200 hours a week in this pub. It's private property and there's no way they can stop us doing it.

"Pubs have been smoking for goodness knows how long and you just can't do that. It's been brought in on the back of a pack of lies."

A pack of lies? Let us try that again: A pack of lies. And which pack of lies would that be? The one that says that 600 lives could be saved each year across the country? Or the one that says all those people who are dying of smoking related diseases caused through other people's smoke are just delusional? 

Or perhaps Mr Blows believes that this is a freedom of speech issue? Well okay, I defend his right to make a fool over himself about lung cancer and it's incredibly strong links to passive smoking, but I do not defend his right to blow smoke in my face while he is doing it.

To help him along, I hive stolen a few links from Wikipedia's very informative article:

The Dog In is a very pretty, if empty, little pub, going by the photos on Tony Blow's website, and I am sure it would be a very popular place to visit.

But I wonder how many people don't go there because it is a very smoky environment?

Others have also been busy. Anthony Worrel-Tompson has hosted a dinner for his FOREST friends, an organization magnanimously supported by the tobacco industry.

Apparently, the Director for the Institute of Ideas (which sounds a pretty bad idea in the first place), one Claire Fox will say the ban is sign of our "small minded times."

"These new modern puritans demonise our behavior and preach illiberalism."

That would be the 80% of the English public who back the plan, then. That would be 48 million people to your, well, one. You lose!

Look guys, let's face it. You have been blowing smoke in our faces without giving a damn for several hundred years. I know, I was a selfish smoker too, once. Now it is the turn of the people who think you can take your silly little arguments and shove them right up Worrel-Thompsons back side!



Please note, if any sad people from Forest or Freedom 2 Choose, or their daft, mislead supporters want to comment on this tirade - don't bother. Since I believe that you all now resemble the primary school bully who has been turned on by the rest of the school, I will take teachers advice and simply ignore you.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Five Carcasses of Mutton anyone?


Diary Entry for 28th June 2007

It has been a long day. I have to have walked at least thirty miles, going by the worn carpet between my desk and the telephone. Thirty miles of anguish, thirty miles of expectation, and what do I get?

Well, bugger all, to be honest.

Mr Brown says that he will be looking for Talent. He says that he needs to broaden government to ensure the best of ideas. He says that he will work across the political guide.

The Spice GirlsAnd to that end, this old rat has been pacing, and willing, and gnashing the old teeth waiting for the phone to ring. And did it? Nope.

Talking of talent, or not as the case may be, it appears that 5 ancient lambs are off on a world tour. Fabulous. That should brighten up my day about as fast as a stale pork pie. So one of my erstwhile contemporaries called to ask would I be indulging in any tickets. I asked the usual questions:

  • Have they had singling lessons?
  • Has Victoria realized that pouting makes her look like she is about to throw up?
  • Has Baby spice discovered that boring does not equate to stardom?
  • Has Mel C discovered anything at all?
  • Please tell me that Gerry has gotten rid of that Union Flag dress!
  • And what has Mel B does with her locks?

If the answer to any of the first 4 is no, forget it.

As Graham Norton pointed out, reunions only happen when Solo careers have gone ... oh, we see.

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The Rat gets up to date

rat-dressed-upWell, tail at the ready, this old rat has just installed Windows Live Writer.

I was a touch nervous as I really don't like anything MSN flavored normally, and in fact have MSN blocked on my router.

But I have installed it and am trying it right now!

So paws crossed, eyes shut and tail firmly clenched ...




"pant pant pant"

Er ... I will be back shortly! Tags: ,

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ah, the racists nibble back!

Diary Addendum - 26th June 2007, about half past seven.

Some 18 months ago I wrote a short post about a bigoted little site called Majority rights, or some such. It basically said they were a horde of puerile gits and we should ignore them.

Much to my surprise, today someone posted a comment to this very old article. It read:

Dismissing opposing ideas as "racist" or "against human rights" is easy and callous, but regrettably all too common. Perhaps you discourage your readers from visiting the site lest they agree with some of the arguements made? Best to put your head in the sand and not participate in a debate - why, you might be persuaded that you're wrong. And we wouldn't want that now would we? (I have left his spelling mistakes)

Now this person is either part of that rather horrific little enterprise, or just a cowardly, sad little fellow; for all their wonderful words, they had not the guts to put their name, even a nick-name to the comment.

So I have rejected the comment (as it would have been buried many posts ago and out of people's gaze) and put it here so we can all giggle at it in our own, wonderfully multicultural time.

You see, unlike with many subjects where there are more than one justifiable argument, with racism there is no justifiable argument - it is hideous, destructive and full of loathing and bigotry, however it is presented.

Oh, come on, if I am not allowed to be nasty to racists who try and cover up their paranoia and fear of other cultures behind so-called learned texts about sick ideas like "Ethnic Racial Interests", then who can I be nasty to?

All together now - laugh at the bigots!


It's a Sheep!

Just rushing by, and really can't stay long!

It appears that one of the more garrulous Tory Darlings, one Mr. Quentin Davies has finally gotten fed up with Boy Cameron and has done a flying leap across the house to join the Labour benches.

A Europhile by nature, this precocious individual has had an unremarkable career in the diplomatic service, followed by hi-jinx with industry and finally ended up in a Tory safe seat in 1987.

Since then he has held several posts under Thatcher and was a member of the treasury select committee. In opposition he had a front bench cushion with Bill Hague speaking on Social Security (as one of the richest of the house he is well versed on that!) then he did Northern Ireland with IDS and International Select Committee with Dracula. During this time he and one of his shepherds got fined for mistreating sheep, whatever that means.

One way or another he has quite a lot of experience and, as we all know, Och Aye Brown is head-hunting.

Still, interesting to see how he fits in.

In his parting shot to the Boy he said: "Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything ... Although you have many positive qualities you have three, superficiality, unreliability and an apparent lack of any clear convictions, which in my view ought to exclude you from the position of national leadership to which you aspire and which it is the presumed purpose of the Conservative Party to achieve." Ouch!

Toodle pip!


And Baaaaaa!

Quentin Davies

Get Rich Quick Scheme for Young Victoria

Diary entry for Monday, 25th June 2007

It seems that the world of celebrity has never been in better shape. As I write these very words, little skinny Victoria (Beckham, by marriage) is running to the bank with a little windfall gained from Star Magazine. (Sorry, it is a Google cached page as they are off-line at moment)

It appears that the ignoble tome published some article where a crew member mumbled that VB could be “full of herself and not very nice.” Now, although all of us at one time or another have probably suffered far worse slurs than this, when you are such a little wall flower, like our Victoria, these comments really cut to the core.

It is all that thing about image, I suppose. It has become frightenly important in society these days. Time was that image was all about who your father or mother was. Riches were not so much earned as passed on, and the magazines were respecting of the people that filled their pages, and therefore justified the cover price.

Mind you, most celebrities of that time did hunt on a weekend, and magazine editors were all too aware that there is a fine line between guest and prey, if you get my drift.

Of course, times have changed, and it is now the celebrities who are wary of the editors. This is fine for those who have come from nowhere to fill that job vacancy of “being famous.” But for those born to it, it has become most tiresome. Many of the traditional celebrity families have gone into business, shoved the stately pile into the trusting hands of The Trust or English Heritage, and are far more likely to be found parking their Yacht in lesser know ports like Puerto Andrax than getting fleeced by the paparazzi outside of some club. Not all succeed, though. One royal prince has made a couple of errs in that direction and as for certain Heiresses, especially to hotel chains, well, this is what happens when the parents have no notion as to when and how to debut their daughter. She ends up doing it herself all over the internet!

Back to Little Mrs Beckham, I can’t really see her causing over much trouble, except if she got panicky. Many years ago, when the Spice Girls first launched their debut single, they came into the studio to record a syndicated radio interview. While they were there, we also asked them to record some A Cappella little idents for various DJs – the resulting flattery would help get the interview played. A little wobbly on their platform heels, they did an okay job – nothing so bad that a bit of reverberation wouldn’t sort out. And since Mel B had been performing in Cabaret in Blackpool for several years already, I kept her voice strongly out the front.

As for Victoria, however, initially I thought she hadn’t been singing the level was so low. But a little fiddling and I realised she was there – bless her, but I think the girl was nervous.

Remember, these were early days for this lot, and despite their brashness and bravado, and desperately trying to live up to the “girl power” image their management had dreamed up for them, they hadn’t yet come across many knackered old sound engineers like me, who tended to keep proceedings going at an almighty pace, and has an unfortunately good ear and hatred of using Auto Tune.

They did okay in the end. None of them are stunning singers or musicians or actresses or beauties or anything else really. But together they were a bit of fun – and sometimes that is all that is needed.

So, Little Victoria, go and bank the money and tell the nasty little magazine to go and stick it’s head in a bucket!


Friday, June 22, 2007

Wet voting papers at dawn!

Diary entry for Friday, 22nd June 2007

I can get very miserable at times. It takes a certain combination of unnecessary lumps in my life to achieve the state, but on occasions, a little like an obscure alignment of planets, things come together and I feel heaped upon!

The first one is tiredness. This I get in random amounts with no basis on the amount that I have had in sleep the night before. It is very computer orientated – or should I type “oriented” as lazy people do these days? Back in earlier eras, the quill was a very important form of communication. It had a certain method about it that brought the mind in line with the paper, or papyrus if you are that old, long before the need arose to start with the words.

First one picked ones feather – not too fresh, unless you enjoy being chased by next door’s prize goose. Next involved a gentle settling into ones favoured writing chair. Now, out with the knife, and a thoroughly therapeutic trimming of the above feather. Lay down the cut and split quill at the neat groove at the top of the lectern, and take from within blotter, ink and paper – always in alphabetical order!

Pour a little ink, not too much, into the ink well (expertly polished by the man, or course) straighten the paper, lift the quill, ink it and begin.

To be honest, by the time that rigmarole had been completed one had more or less written the piece in your head and the process of writing might as well have been copying.

Today however, I pressed the W on my computer and empty and hungry page leapt before my eyes. The machine might as well have yelled WRITE at me as it did so. Oh, the pressure of having to be so immediate is quite exhausting!

The next planet in my unhappy constellation is Europe. It is that time again. That yearly ritual when we bang heads in Brussels trying to make the Great European Experiment finally work, while trying not to remember that the real reason for this is to stop us Euros from shooting each other. Don’t mention the war, is the mantra. Someone forgot to tell the Poles, however, and they wanted to pilfer some votes from the Germans in return for having so many of their population killed in 1939 onwards. Well, that brought on winter a little more rapidly than expected!

This outing they are trying to get Europe to work with the efficiency of a single country without it actually looking like a single country. Because if it does look like a single country no one will want it.

It is like a family. Aunts, Uncles, Cousins – they all get a lot nicer when they go back to their OWN homes on boxing day, don’t you think?

Trouble is, Europe is one big country really, and always has been – at least since we out-bred, or wiped out, the Neanderthals, or whatever we did to them. You can tell we are – we like beating each other up way too much to be just occasional friends. We just have to be related!

A miserable alignment, I find needs a minimum of three sad planets. In reality, if it has any more one would rarely notice: after the first three one is far too busy being miserable.

Michael Portillo: The Future of the RightThird on my list is Michael “Twinkle Toes” Portillo. (Pron: Poor Tee Yo, or not, as the case may be)

Twinkle Toes, named for his ability to gently hop from one position to another, gives us the outpourings of his mind on a regular basis in the London Times. Being a foreigner really, his take on anything European can be more educated that most – well, at least until he tries to assimilate that into British Politics.

He should know that us Foreigners are genetically incapable of understanding the Anglo Saxon version of how to get on with their European Brothers. Therefore it is almost completely pointless to try.

But try, Twinkle Toes does.

I include this little offering:

“Most voters care little about Europe. They do not like it much and they do not want Britain to be drawn in deeper. They might once have been scared into accepting the euro, but Britain has held aloof since it was created and they can see that we have prospered. If the new constitutional treaty - whatever it contains - were put to the vote, it would probably perish.

“Voters are not obsessive. Obsession is a condition that affects politicians only. Obsession creates a gulf between politicians and their public because it reveals them to be other-worldly. Cameron needs to keep his obsessive’s under wraps.”

M. Portillo

Oh, Michael, dearest Michael! It is not that they don’t care, or understand, they have just been told what to think for so long that they have forgotten to think for themselves!
Hurumph! Do I believe that? No. But Borosso, the President of the wretched European Commission does – and he has the influence of a falling elephant, so that means something.
So, I am miserable. And I am hot. And I really want to compose something meaningful, but I can’t even get through chopsticks without reading the score. How useless am I this day?
I think I shall go into a corner and chew on the end of my tale.

Nobody (And feeling like it)

Monday, June 18, 2007

WE chose who’s honoured, not you!

Diary entry for Monday, 18th June 2007

It is that delicious time in June when all hard working civil servants run down the school corridors, anxiously cueing up at the school notice board to get the end of year results.

Who will be ringing the bells with their new gong? Will Chiverly-Morris get his bath orders? Has Jiggery-Spitell got an M or an O?

This year it appears I have been disappointed again. It would seem that my book about how The Prophet was a nice man really simply did not upset enough people. Even my publisher, who may or may not have forgotten to publish it.

Sir Salman RushdieHowever, that Rushdie fellow may be not so impressed with his prize. Because, by a calamitous oversight by the Prime Ministers office, someone forgot to consult the Pakistani Government to rubber stamp the final list. Had they remembered this necessity, dear Salman may have missed out on not only a Knighthood, but the possible necessity of going back into hiding.

One has to remember, you see, that there is a large part of this world who believes that they have the right to tell the rest of us what to think and believe; how to behave and which laws to follow. And surprisingly, that is not always the Americans.

Lord AhmedIn this case it also includes the Labour Peer Lard Ahmed. While conceding on News 24 that he never got round to burning Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses”, he did leave the impression that knighting one of the countries best writers was a mistake and that perhaps letting him publish in the first place was also a mistake, free speech being so important and everything. His free speech not ours, apparently. He also said that there are loads of great writers out there who should have been honoured instead who did not insult a religion.

Perhaps he would be thinking of Michael Palin, CBE, for his script for Life of Brian. He’s a good writer. And I rather enjoyed Life of Brian.

Maybe he thinks we shouldn’t have offered a knighthood to Alan Bennett. After all, being gay is an effrontery to Islam and Christianity. I certainly doubt that I will be offered by favoured Gong after this. Since I am an Atheist and think all religions stink like a dung heap.

So, all in all, between Lord Ahmed and the ridiculous minister of religion in Pakistan and, for that matter the Pakistani foreign minister, my enjoyment of the Birthday Honours has been thoroughly squashed – well that and the fact that I appear to have dropped off the list again ….


Friday, June 15, 2007

Supermarket Chuckle

Side note: 15/06/07

Oh, what a wheeze! With copious amounts of rain falling on our green and pleasant, erm, green, I took to following a little paper trail. I fancied a visit to the Internet homestead of the British Retail Consortium, which as far as I can tell is the mouthpiece of Tescos. I only say this for whenever I hear their representative, Dr. Kevin Hawkins (Safeways), speak on TV or the wireless, they are always defending Tescos.

They are also the brains behind the almost completely indecipherable nutritional info that they have used rather than the delightful little traffic light system that the noble Food Standards Agency recommended after a thorough 2 year study. (But then the food standards agency doesn't have Tesco as its leading member.)

Anyway, while on the website I noted a section about myths in the retail industry. One of these is, apparently, that small, local and totally independent shops are being driven out of business by the big chains and the out of towners. The BRC completely rebuff the All-Party report from 2006, calling it badly argued. They said that their figures didn't add up as if the independent sector reduced as the report claimed that there would be no one left by 2015. However. the BRC forget to tell you that as old shops close, new ones do open - even if they are hounded out by artificially high rents caused by the chains being prepared to offer more money.

Instead, the BRC suggest that one reads the more credible and balanced report by the totally independent, international think tank and registered charity, the IGD. (Who?) Well, I went to find out who this acclaimed and noble body was.

The answer was in the list of trustees for the organisation:

Name Title Company
Mr I Bacon Chief Executive, Sugars, Europe Tate & Lyle Sugars Europe
Mr D Blackhurst Trading Director Food ASDA Stores Ltd
Mr M Coupe Trading Director Sainsbury's Ltd
Mr A Garden General Manager - Western Europe Procter & Gamble AG
Mr C Hutchison Vice President, Europe Wilkinson Sword Ltd
Mr P Kelly Group Corporate Affairs Director Compass Group plc
Mr D Kittmer UK Finance Director, Petcare Masterfoods (Division of Mars UK Ltd)
Mr S Newiss FIGD Vice President, Global Customers, KIC Kraft Food
Garry Price Chief Financial Officer, UK & Ireland H J Heinz Co Ltd
Mr V Robinson Director of Sales Nestlé UK Ltd
Mr T Smith Sales Director Unilever Bestfoods UK
Mr D Turner Chief Executive Officer One Stop Stores Ltd (Tesco)

Obviously, a robust and totally independent body



PS: The tactic during interviews that the BRC have taken against the traffic light system is to make people think that there would be one traffic light (red, green or amber) for the whole of the packaging. In reality, each of the main areas of fat, salt, sugar, etc are traffic lighted. So you might have a red for salt, green for sugar, amber for fat. Clever huh? Read THIS article to get a clear picture.