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Wednesday 31 December 2014

Katie Hopkins Insults Her Own Bosses

The Murdoch Sun likes to portray rent-a-rant Katie Hopkins as someone who is “just telling it like it is”. It is, after all, what she says on her Twitter bio. But whether those in charge at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun are quite so well-disposed to Ms Hopkins after her latest bad taste attempt at self-promotion remains to be seen, given that she has insulted her editor, and her proprietor’s heritage, as well as all Scots.
Pauline Cafferkey, a nurse who had volunteered to work with Save The Children to help treat victims of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, had flown to Glasgow via Casablanca and London’s Heathrow airport. She had not tested positive for any symptoms of the disease at Heathrow, but had felt feverish and was admitted to hospital in Glasgow before being transferred to London’s Royal Free Hospital.
The Royal Free has a specialist unit where Ebola patients can be treated in isolation; this was where Will Pooley was treated and made a full recovery. None of this appeared to matter to Ms Hopkins, who went in with both feet yesterday: “Little sweaty Jocks, sending us Ebola bombs in the form of sweaty Glaswegians just isn’t cricket. Scottish NHS sucks” she ranted aimlessly. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here.

One, Pauline Cafferkey hails from Fife - she is not a Glaswegian. But two, David Dinsmore, who edits the Sun, the paper where Ms Hopkins has a column, most certainly is from the city. And that’s before the uncaring abuse of those who quite literally risk their lives to help those unfortunate countries where Ebola has taken hold. Katie, just to show that she was deaf to such niceties, promptly doubled down.
Glaswegian Ebola patient moved to London’s Royal Free Hospital. Not so independent when it matters most are we jocksville?” she sneered. Once again, Ms Cafferkey is not Glaswegian - this has proved a difficult one for Ms Hopkins - and urgent medical issues like this transcend petty nationalism. Why does Ms Hopkins think all those nurses and doctors volunteered to help in Sierra Leone?

Still, she wasn’t insulting anyone who mattered, was she? Well, yes she was: apart from Dinsmore, as anyone who followed the Scottish referendum campaign will have known, Rupert Murdoch’s forebears hail from a place in Scotland called Rosehearty. So she’s dissed Creepy Uncle Rupe’s family too. On top of that, her campaign to demonise the overweight has landed her with several complaints to the Police.
She doesn’t quite get the seriousness of this: “Reported for hate crime by a chubster? Give me a break” she sniffed earlier. It wasn’t the only Police complaint: she’s been reported for the Ebola Tweets. But then, Ms Hopkins has previous when it comes to insulting Scots: she had to apologise after joking about Scots’ life expectancy just hours after the Glasgow helicopter crash last year.

Best apologise quickly this time Katie - Rupe and the Police might take a dim view.

Blair Intervention Over-Inflated Again

Whenever a former Labour leader makes any comment, it is picked over by the right-leaning press for ways in which it can be used to pass adverse comment on Mil The Younger. So when Tone gave an interview to The Economist, this was immediately used to suggest that Blair has forecast that Young Dave and his jolly good chaps will win next May because Labour is now irredeemably left-wing.
However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, the content of Tone’s remarks has needed rather a lot of creative spin applying to support the headlines that have already been written. Consider this from the Telegraph: Blair “said that May’s general election risks becoming one in which a ‘traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result’” [my emphasis].

Here’s another excerpt from Tone’s interview: “I am still very much New Labour and Ed would not describe himself in that way, so there is obviously a difference there … I am convinced the Labour Party succeeds best when it is in the centre ground”. So how does that stand up the headline “Tony Blair: Ed Miliband will not win the general election because of lurch to the left”? Hint: it doesn’t.

The problem here is twofold: first, there is a need for papers like the Tel to reassure their often deeply traditionalist and conservative readers that they need not worry about all those rotten lefties getting their hands on the levers of power, and second, Blair, as the Tel’s James Kirkup correctly deduces, is the master in couching his comments in terms which can be interpreted in more than one way.
That means the press has to be yet more creative, and the Mail has brought us whoppers such as “In the interview, Mr Blair rejected the analysis made by senior Labour figures that the financial crisis means British voters want a more Left-wing government” and the magnificently dishonest “Labour’s lead in the polls has evaporated this year. It is now neck-and-neck with the Tories”.

Over at the Tel, the spin is slightly different: “Although Labour has a narrow lead over the Conservatives in most opinion polls, some Labour politicians are worried that lead will not survive ever more intensive Conservative attacks on Mr Miliband’s credibility in run-up to the election”. This “narrow or non-existent” poll lead was 5%, 2% and 4% in three successive YouGov polls before Christmas (HERE, HERE and HERE).

The sad reality for those backing the Tories is that this attack is so desperate that allegedly quality papers like the Tel have resorted to the “look at him eating that bacon sandwich” line, because what they have from the Blair speech is not enough on its own to sufficiently frighten those readers who fear the rotten lefties, nor to reassure those wanting to be told that it will all be alright on that May night.

Blair will not influence the General Election. This is not easy for the press to comprehend.

Mail Rail Attack Overreach

Following the news that Network Rail (NR) CEO Mark Carne would not now be taking any bonus payment for 2014, after the Christmas engineering work overruns and the shambles that was Finsbury Park on Saturday, the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his obedient hackery at the Daily Mail were clearly emboldened into believing their campaign of outrage meant they were The Ones Wot Won It.
Who's calling me a f***ing hypocrite, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

So they have returned to the fray today in an effort to discredit not just those who, as NR is now on the Government’s books, work in the public sector, but also those who run the companies that, in turn, have rail franchises as part of their business portfolio. This is a most ambitious campaign, and there is no easy way to break the news to Dacre and his attack doggies: they may as well save their breath.

Why that might be is all too obvious from the Mail’s brief profile of the CEOs they are targeting: these include Rudiger Grube of Deutsche Bahn, Guillaume Pepy of Keolis, and former CEOs Bert Meerstadt of Nederlandse Spoorwegen and Jay Walder of MTR Corporation in Hong Kong. They are all foreign-owned and run companies. The  Germans and French are not about to pay any attention to the Daily Mail.

Of the others listed in the attempt to shame them, Martin Griffiths of Stagecoach, Tim O’Toole of FirstGroup, David Brown of Go-Ahead and Dean Finch of National Express Group are answerable not to the taxpayer, but to their own boards of directors and shareholders. Plus, something the Mail manages not to tell its readers, they oversee other businesses, like all those bus operations that the Mail isn’t fussed about reforming.

Isn’t there anyone in the list who is in the public sector and who can be manoeuvred into the firing line? Michael Holden of Directly Operated Railways, the public company that runs East Coast, is only around until March, because the franchise has been awarded to a joint venture of Stagecoach and Virgin, and his salary of £237k is hardly in the King’s ransom category. But there is always Peter Hendy of TfL.

Hendy has overseen not just the running of the Underground, but also the shambles of the resignalling project for what are called the Sub-Surface Lines (SSLs), the Metropolitan, Circle, District and Hammersmith and City. And he’s backed the New Bus for London, the overweight, unreliable, overpriced Boris Bus that is mainly being rolled out without the much-trailed “hop on, hop off” facility.

But targeting Hendy might need the Mail to do some proper investigative journalism, so the Dacre doggies may not be up to the task. In any case, they would be hamstrung by the knowledge that, when it comes to fat cats, their own editor is the fattest of all. Paul Dacre’s “remuneration package” for last year dwarfs all of the examples shown in the Mail article, coming in at around £2.4 million. Do as the Mail says, not as it does.

What did Stanley Baldwin say about “power without responsibility”? No change there, then.

Tuesday 30 December 2014

CityLink - The Questions Keep Coming

The rank stench emanating from the collapse of parcel delivery firm CityLink is not going away any time soon, as news emerges that only underscores the callous disregard of Better Capital and its hypocrite of a boss Jon Moulton, who wants as much austerity as is possible for any Government to dispense, except when it comes to tapping the same Government to make redundancy payments.
Moulton - not convincing anyone

As I’ve previously noted, Better Capital has not written off its £40 million investment in CityLink, which, being in the form of loans, makes it a “secured creditor”. This means it is first in the queue for any funds which are recovered as parts of the business are sold off following its liquidation. Moulton and his merry men expect to get £20 million back, which is impressing all those who will get nothing not at all.

Yes, the sub-contracted van drivers, who haven’t been paid for the work they did this month, will end up with nothing, except the bills for running those liveried vans. And we still don’t know what Better Capital may have taken out of CityLink in the 20 months it owned the business. The Guardian has told thatThe majority of the company’s properties and vans are thought to be leased”, but we still don’t know the detail.

What was owned, rather than leased, when CityLink was sold by former owner Rentokil in April last year for £1, needs to be compared to what is owned, or leased, now. Any properties that were sold and then leased back during Better Capital’s tenure mean assets stripped out of the business. And, for Moulton and his pals, they mean that any sob stories about being out of pocket would be so much bullshit.

What’s more, there won’t be a rescue: “The RMT union has urged the business secretary, Vince Cable, to rescue the company but Moulton said the Department for Business was aware of City Link’s collapse before Christmas and did not request a meeting to discuss its future. It had proved impossible to save City Link, he said, stressing that the company’s directors would have been guilty of a criminal offence had they not filed for insolvency when it became clear ‘a couple of days before Christmas’ that the firm would collapse”.

No surprise that Moulton, who has given to the Tories in the past but is now backing UKIP, blaming the Government, but now look at his next punt: “He estimated the company needed an injection of about £100m to turn it around”. So what was his company doing putting no more than 40% of that amount in last year?

And, as I pointed out previously, CityLink’s only accounts from Better Capital’s tenure, those for last year, show an annual loss of less than £13 million. In the period from April, this would have meant a pro-rata amount of less than £10 million. Are we expected to believe that Better Capital were such lousy bosses that another £30 million was lost this year before anyone realised? Pull the other one.

Someone is not being totally honest about what has happened to CityLink.

Mail Rail Disruption Fail

After the deserved awarding of the Team Shambles award to Network Rail (NR) for their uniquely inept display in handling the overrunning engineering work at London’s King’s Cross terminus, and the chaotic scenes at Finsbury Park, has come the inevitable media kicking. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, at least one paper has not bothered to do its research before kicking.
To no surprise at all, the name in this particular frame is the Daily Mail, where the excess of pundits at the expense of proper investigative journalists is always likely to show up in a lack of factual knowledge. “SHAME OF RAIL CHAOS FAT CATthunders the headline, but then it all goes wrong as readers are then told “Signalmen using FLAGS to control 125mph trains”. And, as the man said, there’s more.

Passengers forced to stand from London to Edinburgh” screams the headline. These Mail hacks don’t travel by East Coast very often, do they? Rising passenger numbers, a finite number of trains, engineering works restricting the number of trains yet further, and that busy although brief period after the Christmas shutdown, produces an all-too-predictable outcome. But do they have a point with the flag signalling?

Well, no they don’t. If there is a problem with the lineside signalling, NR have a number of alternatives. They could just stop running - not desirable, especially after the Finsbury Park business - or implement the slow but safe practice caught on camera. The potential speed of the trains is irrelevant: many modern cars can pull 125mph, albeit not legally, but no-one would get so worked up at being directed by a Police officer’s hand signals.
King's Cross station, London

Surely, though, the Mail has a point when it tells “And guess where £675k-a-year boss is … at his holiday cottage in Cornwall”? Up to a point: no doubt, had Mark Carne turned up wearing his hi-vis, the more easily swayed media outlets would have, if not praised him, at least not kicked him so hard. But, unless he is actually needed to supervise the work trackside, there is no point in his being in the vicinity.

But what the heck, the Mail has pundits, and so pundits dispensing a little more ignorance is the solution. Up to the plate today has stepped unfunny and talentless churnalist Richard Littlejohn to whine “Newspapers and TV bulletins were full of graphic images of stranded rail passengers herded like cattle from London's King's Cross mainline terminal to Finsbury Park station”. Really?

Nobody was “herded” from King’s Cross to Finsbury Park. Had Dicky Windbag been a little closer to the action than his mansion in the comfortable Florida enclave of Vero Beach, he would have known that most passengers made their own way there. NR did not distinguish itself, but that is no excuse for the Mail to, once again, make it all up as it goes along, displaying the usual contempt for those minor things called facts.

Come on Mail hacks, you can do better than this. Except for Littlejohn, of course.

Monday 29 December 2014

Guido Fawked - Jewish Hypocrisy

Once again, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have shown that others should do as they say, rather than as they do, as they have once again gone after Sayeeda Warsi, but not because she is a follower of The Prophet, oh no. The reason for the latest attempted kicking is to suggest “Perhaps Baroness Warsi’s New Year’s resolution should be to think before tweeting about ‘Jews’”.
Celebrate Christmas with the Unprincipled Bigots

And what, O Great Guido, has she done that may be less than proper? “The noble and principled former ‘Senior Minister of State’ has made series of bizarre claims about the ‘British Jewish community’ and ‘British Jews’ this morning”. What is so wrong with that, Fawkes folks? Baroness Warsi had asserted that some in the Jewish community stopped talking to her after she resigned her cabinet post earlier this year.

Cue the Fawkes spin: “Just one problem: contrary to Warsi’s accusation, the Board of Deputies did reach out to her after she resigned, and it was actually the Baroness who ignored them”. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. Warsi did not make any such accusation against the Board of Deputies. And when it comes to making suggestions of anti-Semitism, the Fawkes rabble are in a very difficult position.

As I’ve noted previously, the Holocaust Chronicle shows that during the 1930s there were a number of portrayals of Jews as “puppet masters”, with those they thus controlled therefore mere marionettes. This was also confirmed by the Fawkes rabble when they launched an attack on Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell, although Bell had deliberately used glove puppets and not marionettes.

Now look at a recent Simon Carr “sketch”, which asserts that Ed Miliband “dances at the despatch box like a spastic marionette”, following that with talking of his “convulsive string master taking another swig of the meths”. Quite apart from the barrel-scraping abuse of “spastic”, there is a clear instance of anti-Semitism – from a blog that likes to pretend it is hot on anti-Semitism.
It gets worse: Staines will have known full well that Carr had a tendency to this kind of behaviour, yet still gave him a job. Take this sketch from March 2011: “Over here we have the tall, well-dressed captain of the Upper Blues, popular with the grown-ups, easy way about him with the younger boys. And over there, that specimen is the head of the Lower Reds with the ears, teeth, and peculiar mouth”.
Do go on: “Not exactly swarthy, but not what you'd call properly English either. Something rum about him”. And what, Simon, would you have meant by that? Something Middle Eastern, perhaps? As inDisney could use him as a model for a villainous vizier in the Arabian Nights. Do you get him up in the morning by rubbing his lamp?” Swarthy. Not properly English. Rum. Perhaps Middle Eastern.
Employers of rabid anti-Semite call out others for anti-Semitism. Another fine mess.

Mail Danniella Westbrook Fail

Privacy. A word to strike fear into the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. Privacy is something to which nobody is entitled - unless, as Rich Peppiatt discovered, you edit the Daily Mail. Dacre’s privacy is sacrosanct, and not even the creator of One Rogue Reporter got close (for those of a sensitive disposition, be warned that Rich’s assault on Fortress Dacre featured a large dildo). 
What's f***ing wrong with publishing photos taken by following vulnerable single women, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

So far, so hypocritical, given the Mail’s tendency to stick its bugle wherever it sodding well likes, but there is also slanting and selectivity to go with the flagrant breach of privacy, and all this has come together in a totally unnecessary piece about former EastEnders actor Danniella Westbrook, who has not only fallen on hard times, but visited a JobCentre. You think that’s not news? You’re dead right, but this is the Mail we’re talking about.

The Dacre hacks have excused their actions by pleading that the Sunday People ran something on Ms Westbrook. This is used to justify the use of every Pap photo they can lay their hands on, right down to being able to see the front page of the leaflet she picked up while in the JobCentre, and the make of handbag she was holding. Yes, she “was toting a Mulberry bag over one arm, estimated to be worth around £1,500”.

And what intercoursing relevance does that have to her current status? Can one use a less-then-new Mulberry bag as negotiable currency round the local Aldi? One can’t? So it’s utterly irrelevant to mention it, unless of course you subscribe to the Mail’s leering hackery, who have also told readers that “Danniella, 41, was dressed demurely in a long-sleeved black dress, which she paired with opaque tights and leather boots”.

Er, hello, this too is irrelevant. At least there isn’t a “Mail fashion finder” at the end of the article so readers know where to buy whatever has just been leered over. And still there is no conceivable public interest defence for this exercise. None at all. Zero. Zilch. Not a sausage. Bugger all. Unless, perhaps, someone is trying to suggest that Ms Westbrook is committing some kind of dishonest act by visiting the JobCentre.

And, d’you know, the Dacre doggies appear to be doing just that: “It is not known whether or not she is claiming benefits, but Jobseeker's Allowance should give her a sum of up to £72.40 a week”. Was she claiming JSA, or indeed any benefit? The Mail doesn’t know, it just applies the smear anyway. Oh, and Ms Westbrook “was carrying a leaflet entitled 'Support with arranging child maintenance’”.

Ho yus. Had the Mail bothered to research that one, they would have found that needing this leaflet (see HERE) is a normal activity for someone who is separated, but has children. Doesn’t the Mail have one count on which it can nab her? Oh, hang on a minute - “Just last week, she was spotted searching for a new home in the Liverpool neighbourhood of Walton”. Oh well, that’s bang to rights, innit?

This is a truly desperate and pathetic hatchet job. No change there, then.

CityLink - It Stinks

The ruckus over collapsed parcel delivery firm CityLink shows no sign of dying down, although it’s coming clear that Jon Moulton and his merry men at Better Capital have put their collective heads well below the parapet, knowing only too well that, should they do otherwise, they’re all too likely to get them shot off. CityLink, we are now informed, was so insolvent that there is no money to make redundancy payments
Jon Moulton ... more questions

Have a think about that. How, it has to be asked, did the firm manage to keep that state of affairs so quiet right up to Christmas week? While pondering yet another question that Moulton and his pals won’t be rushing to answer any time soon, there is also the warning of what may happen to parcels still on hand, as the Telegraph has told: “Thousands of customers face a rush to reclaim stranded parcels from City Link before they are sent back or possibly destroyed”.

Wait, what? “The fate of uncollected mail ‘will be discussed and agreed with City Link’s customers’ as the company is wound up, but it refused to rule out destroying any packages that are not claimed by the sender or recipient … The administrators said the depot doors would only stay open for ‘a short period of time’”.

It gets worse: “individual customers and recipients and small businesses face having to track down their undelivered parcels themselves. In a statement, [Ernst and Young] said it is ‘currently evaluating the number of parcels with the company and discussing arrangements to return parcels to customers’ … They urged buyers and intended recipients to retrieve their parcels ‘as soon as possible on or after Dec 29’”.

The impression is given that somebody wants CityLink to be rolled up and finished with an undue amount of haste. And one item from the Guardian’s report following the announcement that the firm had gone into administration should be remembered, and remembered well: “Better Capital has already written down its £40m investment in City Link to £20m”. So is there still £20 million available, or isn’t there?

And if there is £20 million still there, why isn’t it being used to make those redundancy payments? This is where the whole thing begins to smell very ripe indeed. The Tel reveals that “The administrators said City Link executives knew in late November that the company was in trouble and put in place a ‘turnaround plan’ that ultimately failed”. They didn’t give that plan much chance to succeed, then.

With only a month between putting in place the “turnaround plan” and the point “By December 22 [when] the company had begun paying off suppliers and subcontractors and attempting to run down the number of packages it was holding”, that is not a credible explanation. You don’t give a business four weeks to turn itself around. But you might give it four weeks to ready itself to be wound up.

The questions keep on mounting up. And Jon Moulton is nowhere to be seen.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Don’t Menshn Boots On The Ground

Whether or not people across the EU and USA want their countries to go off on another Middle East adventure – and right now, despite the best efforts of ISIS, or whatever they’re calling themselves this week, they mostly don’t – there are still those in the punditerati urging more military involvement, especially if someone else has to go and put their own boots on the ground.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

And, as those unwise enough to shell out good money for the Murdoch Sun today now know, that means (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch, who has penned a furious, yet so ill-informed that it is ineffectual, rant titled “Squaddies Versus ISIS Scumbags”. She wants to see ground troops sent to Iraq, because, well, only then will ISIS see the light and run off in the other direction.

To soften readers up, she tells “We’re jaded to the many faces of Islamist terror – the plane bombs of al-Qaeda, the rockets of Hamas, Boko Haram’s kidnapped schoolgirls and the latest, worst example, the Taliban’s slaughter of the children at school”. Sadly, sending ground troops to Iraq would have zero effect on any of those, as none of them originated in that area.

But she’s got an excuse: “Isis trumps them all in the World Series of evil [we don’t have a World Series in the UK, Ms M] and we’re doing precious little”. Do go on: “Obama’s initial air strikes have crumbled into nothing because we fear putting boots on the ground, yet women and children are openly sold as sex slaves in front of our eyes”. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here.
One, if women and children being sold as sex slaves had been splashed across the news bulletins, I’d have seen it by now, and I haven’t, which suggests a teensy bit of Mensch exaggeration. And two, there are antediluvian attitudes taken to women and children all over the planet, but that is not generally something over which the West is prepared to engage in a ground war.

Yet on Ms Mensch rambles, chiding Barack Obama as a “pacifist President” and asserting “Obama has a duty to rescue this [captured Jordanian] pilot or avenge him in such a way that it wipes al-Baghdadi and his baby-raping buddies off the face of the earth. And when that longed-for day comes, I hope Britain joins in”.

Note that anything has to be done unilaterally by the Prez, and that it is therefore down to him what happens, whatever the nationality of those involved. Conveniently, this allows her to avoid criticising Young Dave, a most fortunate outcome so close to a General Election. What is also fortunate is that Ms Mensch has nothing to do with the UK or US involvement in the Middle East.

It should not be forgotten that her political soulmates are the ones who messed up Iraq in the first place. If Obama ignores her, he is probably doing something right.

Unions – The Mallory Factor

When the so-called Trade Union Reform Campaign (TURC) sprang up, with its pretence of ending a subsidy that only existed in the minds of anti-Union right-wingers, some in the Union movement may have wondered where those behind this now-defunct body got their inspiration. As with so many of The New Conservatism’s ideas, this can be traced back to the USA.
Mallory Factor - union-demonising inspiration for the new right

Of those involved with the TURC, Mark Clarke, Andre Walker, and the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole all enjoyed some kind of association with the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF). When the body which co-founder Donal Blaney likes to style the “Conservative Madrasahad its tenth anniversary conference last year, they welcomed a so-called “Conservative Philanthropist” called Mallory Factor.

A “Conservative Philanthropist”? Isn’t that rather a contradiction in terms? Well, when it comes to dispensing his particular pearls of wisdom, Factor is generosity personified. And, although mainstream media does not often feature his presence, he appears in ideologically like-minded Stateside publications, and is a regular guest on Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).

And Factor is hot not just on Unions, but especially on public sector ones. “Today’s Democratic Party is a subsidiary of the labor movement” he proclaims (this translates easily into a UK version recognisable to anyone who reads the Sun or Mail). He also asserts that “government unions control America and rob taxpayers blind”. Government is “run by government-employee union bosses who spend billions on politics and expect their client politicians to do their bidding”.

In an interview in the right-wing Washington Times, Factor agrees with his interviewer that “The political power of labor unions is based on corruption and thuggery”. To no surprise, voter ID fraud is also, in Factor land, only practised by those who support the Dems. And then there is health care reform.

Yes, Unions are behind the worst excesses here too, if you believe Mallory Factor, who makes creative assertions such asTo solidify union support, Obama agreed to a seven year moratorium on taxing the famed Cadillac health care plans that many union members receive—which increased the cost of Obamacare by $120 billion”. Yes, someone is getting a “Cadillac health care plan” – and you’re not.

This is the kind of “someone’s getting something at your expense” tactic used so widely by the UK tabloid press. But when it comes from an honoured guest to a YBF gathering, that gives it a legitimacy which the “Conservative Madrasa’s” devotees take into their battle against an enemy that is, in reality, nothing more subversive than ordinary working people coming together to better their situation.

Remember his name: Mallory Factor is influential, but he’s not a very nice person.

Finsbury Park – You Were Warned

Amid a hail of adverse publicity – that is, more adverse than usual for this time of the year – there is one thing that no Network Rail (NR) spokesman can avoid, and that is that The Railway fouled up royally yesterday. Engineering works over-running is not uncommon – stuff happens – but the fall-back service put in place for those intending to travel out of London’s Kings’ Cross terminus went badly wrong.
King's Cross - closed yesterday

As it became clear that it would not be possible to reopen the line all the way into Kings’ Cross, it was decided to run a limited service into and out of Finsbury Park station, which is only a mile and a half away, and easily reached both by London’s buses, and the Victoria and Piccadilly tube lines. What could possibly go wrong with that? Well, rather a lot could go wrong, and it did just that in short order.

The numbers of passengers wanting to travel quickly overwhelmed the capacity of the station: the subway beneath the platforms could not cope with those coming from arriving trains, and those wanting to join trains about to depart, at once. The relatively narrow platforms were unable to cope with passenger numbers. So the station was closed for passengers’ own safety.
Finsbury Park, Platform 1 - a bit narrow

This exposed three shortcomings: one, the initial planning was inadequate, with nobody seeing the obvious – that Finsbury Park is not up to handling crowds. Second, NR did not get anyone onto the scene who was able to sort matters. And third, the passing of information was, let us not drive this one around the houses for too long, total crap. NR was deservedly awarded the Team Shambles prize.

But, d’you know what, the Finsbury Park crush should have come as no surprise, given recent concerns about crowding during upgrade works. Last year, warnings were given over “delays”, and the station had to be closed on at least one occasion. This year, more upgrade work began, and there were more warnings of congestion. On top of that are the potential numbers using main line trains.
Finsbury Park, Platform 2 - not much better

East Coast’s trainsets can take well over 500 passengers. And, although Finsbury Park’s main line platforms get busy with commuter traffic, trains do not normally start and end their journeys there. Those hundreds of passengers all coming at once, meeting hundreds coming the other way, the crush in the subway, the narrow platforms, all came together yesterday.

Yet NR managed not to see the obvious until the station had been closed, and even then, there was nobody calling the shots “on the ground”. Someone should have been doing their “what if” preparations, and that someone did not do them. Nor did that someone check out what facilities Finsbury Park had for travellers with special needs – or, as it turned out, did not have.

NR cannot blame anyone else for yesterday’s mess. Must try harder, folks.

Top Six – December 28

So what’s hot, and what’s not, in the past week’s blogging? Here are the six most popular posts on Zelo Street for the past seven days, counting down in reverse order, because, well, I have to be out and about later. So there.
6 Happy Christmas Scrooge Dacre Now on a “remuneration package” worth £2.4 million a year, not caring about the less well off, working Christmas Day and wanting his staff to do the same – behold the modern day Scrooge, editing the Daily Mail.

5 New Tony Benn Smear Is Bunk The latest rubbish to be peddled by former Soviet agent Oleg Gordievsky proves the old and very obvious adage – dead men don’t sue.

4 Tory Madrasa Co-Founder Jailed Ben Pickering co-founded the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF) in 2003, with Donal Blaney and Greg Smith. Now he’s been given a six-year sentence for conspiracy to defraud. So the YBF has been erasing all trace of his involvement – not with total success.

3 Guido Fawked – No God On His Card Either The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have been carping at others’ Christmas cards for being “Godless”. Their own offering was no better. Another fine mess.

2 Murdochs Behaving Badly Labour MP Tom Watson was sniffed at when he made his “You must be the first mafia boss in history who didn't know he was running a criminal enterprise” to Murdoch Junior. But he was right on the money, as both recent and past examples of Rupe’s chosen son’s behaviour have shown.

1 CityLink And Asset Stripping Better Capital supremo Jon Moulton has questions to answer over exactly what he and his pals did with the parcel delivery firm from the time they bought it for £1 to putting it into administration over Christmas.

And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!

Saturday 27 December 2014

Mail Boxing Day Sales Hypocrisy

Nothing has exemplified better the tendency of the Daily Mail to play both sides of the field than the latest crop of articles on The Sales. Despite all the copy expended over so-called “Black Friday” and all the other pre-Christmas offers, there was plenty of effort put into covering the Boxing Day rush, because, well, it’s cheap filling for a slow news period, and it’s traditional, innit?
What's f***ing wrong with telling readers to blow money they haven't got, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

Hedging their bets magnificently, Mail hacks told “Record Boxing Day sales as bargain hunters 'blow £3BILLION' – but stormy weather and rise of online shopping bring quietest High Streets in years”. Do we have photos of those allegedly “quietest High Streets”? Well, just one, Buchanan Street in Glasgow, a city that has been affected by last week’s horrific bin lorry crash that killed six people.

So Glasgow has good reason to be quieter. The Mail’s own photos show that London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and even Cheltenham were anything but. So why are so many people turning out at extremely silly hours? Perhaps they are being tempted by what they read on media news sites.

Sites like the one telling, in a headline published at 2248 hours on December 25, “The bargains you can't afford to miss: With hundreds off designer handbags and 20% off iPhone5s, let the sales begin! Great savings on Mulberry, Stella McCartney and Jimmy Choo handbags as well as luxury beauty bargains ... But also amazing offers on winter essentials for the children and bits for the home and kitchen”.

There was more: “With the joy of unwrapping presents on Christmas morning gone for another year, it's time to grab a bargain on Boxing Day. This year, there are unbelievable offers in stores and online, with hundreds of pounds knocked off the price of designer handbags, flat screen televisions and Apple iPhone5s. But as well as treating yourself to some post-Christmas pick-me-up gifts, there are plenty of amazing deals on bits for the home and kitchen and winter essentials and toys for the children.  Here are the best of the bargains you simply can't afford to miss”.

To no surprise at all, the hype is all coming from the same paper that then reported on the crowds early the following morning – yes, this too was published by the Mail. Granted, website details were given, but, human nature being what it is, many would have been tempted to be there just in case bargains ran out.

And in case you didn’t get the first prompt to go out and spend something, there has been a follow-up article today, backed up by a patently ludicrous piece titledSmart ways to survive the sales! Only carry £50 notes. Never shop with a rumbling tum. And always take a man with you”. You could, of course, survive the sales much more easily by ignoring the Mail and staying put at home.

The hypocrisy is another good reason to ignore the Mail. No surprise there, then.

Citylink And Asset Stripping

Parcel delivery firm Citylink went into administration over Christmas. In order to save money, its bosses didn’t bother telling workers and sub-contractors, leaving such trivia to the media and Trades Unions. Then focus shifted to owner Better Capital, run by Jon Moulton, and by this morning the phrase “asset stripping” was being freely circulated. There is good reason for this.
Questions: Jon Moulton

Citylink was sold by previous owners Rentokil to Moulton’s merry men in April last year for £1. Better Capital would invest £40 million. Administrator Ernst and Young partner Hunter Kelly told that Citylink had “all but used up Better Capital’s £40m investment”, but this one has already unravelled. The Guardian noted “Better Capital has already written down its £40m investment in City Link to £20m”.

Why should that be? Ah well. The only accounts filed under Better Capital’s tenure show Citylink losing money at less than £13 million a year in 2013, and there had been more economy measures since. Those accounts also show a headcount of 5,822 employees, rather more than the 2,727 of this week’s headlines. This is partly because many van drivers had been replaced by sub-contractors.

Those sub-contractors had to pay for their own vans and will have no claim as regards redundancy money. Then there is the allegation of moving “valuable property assets out into a separate company”. This could only have been achieved if the sale from Rentokil included assets like the depot hubs. Did it? At least one of those, near Warrington, was being leased earlier this year.

Sale and leaseback of depots is not new: it was one of the stock tools used by the late Edward Stobart to speed expansion of the Eddie Stobart empire. The difference there was that the proceeds of the sale went into expansion. There has been no expansion of Citylink. Were the larger commercial vehicles also subject to a sale and leaseback at Citylink? That, too, would have yielded significant funds.

Were vans transferred to sub-contractors? If so, how much did the sale yield? The same question applies if those vans were otherwise offloaded. Why was there no sign of trouble, with the company’s operations director telling “City Link had one of its most successful peak periods in 2013 and we are looking forward to an even busier and more successful one in 2014”?

And, Jon Moulton, when you’ve fielded all of that, pray tell why Citylink was put into administration just a week before the end of its current accounting period. What would those accounts have told that someone may prefer that we were not told? My suspicion is that Moulton, not one to spray money up the wall, may even have pulled the plug in time to ensure he and his pals come out of this with a tidy profit.

It’s the kind of asset stripping that would have made even Victor Matthews blush.

New Tony Benn Smear Is Bunk

The Daily Mail, under the editorship of both David English and the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, has consistently held a number of left-wing politicians in contempt, and none more so than Tony Benn, who died this year. So it is no surprise at all to see an end of year hatchet job appearing in the Mail, partly lifted from the Telegraph, the conduit of choice for UK spooks.
Tony Benn

To his followers, he was a political giant who kept the red flag flying to the end. To his detractors, he was the most dangerous man in parliament, who sought to turn Britain into an outpost of the Eastern Bloc and in the process almost destroyed the Labour Partytells Matthew Holehouse in the Tel, which has no relevance to the story that his paper is trying to tell.

The real story, such as it is, is that Soviet-era defector Oleg Gordievsky claims – on a personal basis, and without any backup from either the Russians, or security agencies in the UK – that Benn was “too ‘stupid’ to be recruited as an agent ... too left wing for the Soviet Union”. There is the usual smearing: Benn visited Soviet-era Moscow several times, and also visited the Russian embassy.

The Mail quotes Gordievsky as saying that “During a 1983 meeting with Soviet ambassador Viktor Popov, Mr Gordievsky was told to be aware of Benn who was considered 'not truthful'. Mr Gordievsky said: 'He was an unnecessary simpleton, who told left-wing fairytales and falsified stories’”. So, as Gordievsky is the only source for this hokum, it is only fair to examine his record for honesty.

Back in 1995, the Times, acting on Gordievsky’s information, alleged that former Labour leader Michael Foot had been a KGB agent. Foot sued for libel. He won substantial damages, mainly because the paper’s single source was unable to stand up his claims. Gordievsky met the Tel’s credulous Charles Moore after Foot’s death, and span him a tale about how the Soviets paid Foot.

Knowing the old adage that “dead men don’t sue”, Moore was suitably emboldened: “Why did the former Labour leader take money from Moscow for years, asks Charles Moore” trumpets the headline. He then goes on to smear other dead men, notably former union leader Jack Jones. And, by the most fortunate of coincidences, Gordievsky also reinforces one other right-wing prejudice.

He helpfully referred to the BBC, in a letter to the Telegraph, as “The Red Service”, claiming “Just listen with attention to the ideological nuances on Radio 4, BBC television, and the BBC World Service, and you will realise that communism is not a dying creed”. That is just what right-leaning papers want to hear. So is the smear of Tony Benn. And it comes from someone adept in attracting libel actions.

It’s only a pity that there is so little appetite for real news. No change there, then.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Tis The Season

And so we come to that point on Christmas Eve when Zelo Street winds down for a well-earned break (look, I’ve decided it’s well-earned, and that’s who does the writing round here, so that’s that). There will be no posts Christmas Day or Boxing Day, which will come as good news to those whose behaviour provides such a rich seam of material for each day’s blogposts.
I’ll be spending the next two and a half days getting some relaxation and, all things being equal, enjoying a convivial Christmas. Hopefully all those reading will be able to do something similar. Just make sure nobody is filming when you’ve spent too long in the Rub-A-Dub and become Elephant’s Trunk and Mozart as a reault – as happened to one of my favourite subjects last week.

So all that’s left is to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Have a good one.

Happy Christmas Scrooge Dacre

In Flat Earth News, his go-to book on the workings of the press, Nick Davies observed of the Daily Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor Paul Dacre that “Dacre works long hours, so everybody else works long hours. He works Christmas Day, so they do too (There was a famous row one Christmas when Dacre swore furiously at a journalist who had dared to go out for lunch)”.
What the f***'s wrong with sitting on a pile of money, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

So the Vagina Monologue is eminently well qualified for the attribute “Scrooge”. And, like the Dickens original, he is well practiced in accumulating money while begrudging a decent living to others. The only change from A Christmas Carol is that Dacre hates a more selective part of the population: migrants, the poor, anyone of liberal view, ethnic minorities, and even the disabled.

And, while his paper has been kicking anyone it can find who does not have the money to fight back, Dacre has been trousering yet More And Bigger Paycheques For The Benefit Of Himself Personally Now. As the Guardian has noted, “Paul Dacre’s pay and bonus package soared by 25% during 2014, taking the total remuneration of Britain’s best-paid newspaper editor to £2.4m”.

How much? Brucie says higher: “The editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Mail Online received an extra £1m this year – double his usual £500,000 annual salary supplement – on top of basic salary and fees of £1.38m”. Half a million quid is a mere “supplement”? Well, no: a whole million is a mere “supplement” this year. And, as the man said, there’s more.

Along with £34,000 in taxable benefits – including a company car with taxable value of £15,000, car allowance of £10,000, fuel benefit of £6,500, and medical benefits of about £3,000 – this pushed his total remuneration for the year up to £2.41m, up from £1.84m in 2013”. And someone drives him around: no behind-the-wheel stress for him. Private healthcare is thrown in, too.

Then, while his paper is putting the boot into anyone and everyone benefiting from EU farm subsidies – even the Royals – Dacre is trousering hundreds of thousands of pounds of them for his Scottish estate. And no doubt the Mail will be against the proposed Mansion Tax, given Dacre has a place in Belgravia (equals expensive) and a Home Counties pile (probably ditto).

The really sad thing, though, is that, unlike Dickens’ book, there will be no spirits of Christmas past, present and future visiting the Vagina Monologue. There will be no pang of consciousness to shake the certainty underpinning his boiling anger at a world in which young people enjoy themselves, different races and nationalities come together in harmony, and fewer and fewer want to hate their neighbour.

So sad to be alone in so many ways this Christmas. But it’s his own choice.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Tory Madrasa Co-Founder Jailed

The Mail’s headlineFilm producer who directed movie called 'How to Get Away With Murder' is jailed for masterminding £5million mortgage scam” last week might not have seemed too close to the world of politics. But the piece also noted Ben Pickering “had also been a prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party in Swansea, South Wales in 2000”.
That wasn’t the end of his Conservative credentials. Pickering was one of the three co-founders of the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF), the self-styled “Conservative Madrasa”, along with Donal Blaney and Greg Smith. The YBF carries out training for Tory activists, and many of its alumni have gone on to greater things, although sadly their attempts to get into Parliament have not gone so well.

As the Mail told, “Pickering, who has produced a series of crime thrillers, lined his pockets after making fake mortgage applications. But he ended up in court over the scam after admitting conspiracy to defraud and was today jailed for six years. Judge Keith Thomas told him: 'These offences were fuelled not by economic necessity, but by greed’”. So what does the YBF have to say about that?

Well, the YBF has nothing at all to say about it. Blaney is rather more keen – understandably – in promoting YBF events, and the group’s attempt to appropriate the word “sound”. Yes, that’ll win them friends on Merseyside, or maybe not. The YBF website tells anyone who wants to know that it “was co-founded in July 2003 by Donal Blaney and Greg Smith”.
The Daily Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor would no doubt approve of such selective disclosure. But there is plenty of evidence to connect Pickering to the YBF, whatever the group’s efforts. For instance, Tory MEP Timothy Kirkhope still has an item live on his website with a photo of himself with Pickering, who was described at the time as the YBF’s “Executive Director”.

Charity Vault tells thatThe Young Britons’ Foundation was co-founded in July 2003 by Donal Blaney, Greg Smith and Ben Pickering” [my emphasis]. Pickering’s connection to the YBF was on show when he contributed “A youth wing fit for purpose” to ConHome in 2006, although the full version of the article is proving elusive. And then there is the evidence still available over at the YBF site.
Oh look, there is still a photo of Pickering, with the YBF logo, and both now preserved for posterity on Zelo Street. So much for the efforts to dissociate themselves from that embarrassing co-founder who is now doing a six stretch for conspiracy to defraud. I’m sure, though, that this was just One Rogue Co-Founder, and that the YBF has not incubated any further bad behaviour.

It would be horribly embarrassing to the YBF and their Tory pals if it had done, mind.

Guido Fawked – No God On His Card Either

[Update at end of post]

I noted recently that the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have passed adverse comment on others’ Christmas cards, on the grounds that they are “Godless”. The Great Guido professes to be a most pious individual, which will surprise any of those who know that Staines and any known deity are not exactly on the same page.
Fart in Lift Inquiry suffers serious blow

Previously, the Fawkes blog toldMerry Clegg-mas – DPM’s Card”, showing Clegg and wife Miriam Gonz├ílez Dur├íntez. Despite the holly and other Christmas decorations, along with the greeting “Merry Christmas”, Staines concluded that this offering was “Godless”. Young Dave’s offering, featuring Chelsea Pensioners and shot outside 10 Downing Street, was also given the thumbs-down.

Mil The Younger fared no better: his card, also featuring wife Justine Thornton and sons Daniel and Samuel, was again judged to beGodless”, despite the card showing the children, with their parents’ help, making, er, their own Christmas cards. So what is The Great Guido’s idea of an acceptable Christmas card? You lucky people are about to find out just that.
Viewers may wish to look away now

Yes, here it is, the Fawkes blog’s offering to all those expectant recipients, and anyone else unfortunate enough to find one landing on the doormat. And, to no surprise at all, it features neither God, a modicum of taste, and precious little to connect it with Christmas. The most striking feature is the choice of clothing. One has to hope that no money changed hands.

But then, Staines and his pals are Loadsamoney personified, so they are daft enough to pay to look like even bigger clowns that they do already. The exhibition of vanity extends to Staines, the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, and newly anointed teaboy Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham all preparing to take selfies, although Staines appears to have noticed that his phone doesn’t have a wide angle lens.

Yes, it’s interesting that, while Wickham is wearing his outfit in order not to look like a streak of piss, Staines is wearing his in an – unsuccessful – attempt not to look like a corpulent slob. But there still isn’t anything remotely godly about the exercise. So that’s another slice of rank hypocrisy to go with all the others peddled by the Fawkes rabble. It’s just another boring exercise in self-promotion.

If only there was anything worth promoting, eh lads? Another fine mess, once again.

[UPDATE 27 December 1515 hours: admitting that the card was indeed their handiwork, the Fawkes rabble posted on it - well after a day after it was featured on Zelo Street.

Almost as an afterthought on Christmas Eve, The Great Guido told readers at 1700 hours that day of the "Worst Godless Christmas Card Of All". So they were more than a day late on their own card.

"You're either in front of Guido, or behind", eh lads? Once more, Zelo Street is well ahead of the Fawkes folks. Another fine mess]