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Monday 30 June 2014

Rolf Harris – Littlejohn Wrong Again

The expertise with which the Daily Mail’s unfunny and tedious churnalist Richard Littlejohn tells his readers to “look over there” has returned to bite him this afternoon, as The Sage Of Vero Beach has been caught trivialising historic sex offences which have turned out to be anything but trivial. Dicky Windbag has, into the bargain, questioned Police tactics, and got that wrong too.
Rolf Harris, Guv? Bleedin' foreign migrant, innit?!?

We’ve been here before and we’ll be back here again. It’s the same old song every time a terrorist atrocity strikes at the heart of Britainhe ranted in May last year, before going on about investigations into phone hacking. “Yet what thanks did [Police] get? They got monstered for failing to prioritise allegations that some journalists may have been listening to Ulrika Jonsson’s mobile phone voicemails”.

And off he goes: “At last count there were 130 detectives investigating phone-hacking and assorted misdemeanours, and another 30 working on an inquiry into who leaked details of ‘Plebgate’ to The Sun. Not to mention all those feeling the collars of ageing celebrities accused of ‘historic’ sex crimes”. And who might these alleged offences have involved, Dicky Boy?

I wonder if those Met officers swanning round Australia interviewing women who claim to have been touched up by Rolf Harris four decades ago could have been better deployed on anti-terrorist surveillance duties in South London” he mused, before checking that the superior Stateside sparkling wine was on ice and the pool temperature was sufficient for his afternoon dip.

Then he returned to the subject of He Who Tied His Kangaroo Down the following August, as he talked ofageing TV celebrities were being rounded up by the Jimmy Savile squad, sometimes on the flimsiest of pretexts ... [those] such as ... Rolf Harris are in legal limbo, neither charged nor able to clear their names”. Then he attempts to trivialise the investigation into Harris.

Harris was re-arrested this month. Officers have even travelled to Australia trawling for victims after one 43-year-old woman claimed to have been assaulted by Harris when she was a teenager. Nice work if you can get it, Sarge”. So there you have it: “trawling for victims ... swanning around Australia ... four decades ago”. Yeah, because of that, Lee Rigby got murdered!

No word yet from Dicky Windbag on the latest news: “The veteran entertainer and artist Rolf Harris is facing prison after being found guilty of indecent assault following a trial in which he was portrayed as a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character who used his celebrity status to grope and abuse young women and girls”. Guilty on twelve counts of indecent assault. Littlejohn’s excuse note should be worth reading.

Is that what he’s writing just now, readers? Can you tell what it is yet?

Hammersmith – Tories Signal Dirty Fight

The Labour Party has been emailing the news that Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith since 2010, has been reselected to defend the seat next year. “The serving MP achieved a clean sweep, with all branches, affiliates and party forums that participated in the ballot voting for Andy to take on the Conservatives in 2015” they tell. There is a good reason for this display.
Local Tories dislike their Labour opponents intensely; they dislike Slaughter yet more. This is because, despite Pa Broon’s unpopularity in 2010, he held off a strong challenge from Shaun Bailey – a sound bloke who The Blue Team were lucky to have on board – and is hardworking and popular. Added to this is the loss of Hammersmith and Fulham council in local elections last month.

Moreover, the Tories had already selected their candidate for next year’s contest, as was revealed at Conservative Home by Harry Phibbs (he does? No surprise there) last December. Charlie Dewhirst (good Yorkshire name) is a councillor in Ravenscourt Park ward alongside Phibbs, who, following the pleasantries, tells us what kind of contest can be expected by accusing Slaughter of dishonesty.

So it’s going to be dirty, as befits the Hammersmith and Fulham disciples of The New Conservatism. And Phibbs comes as close as he can bear to admitting the Tories have little chance of victory: “For the Conservatives to gain Hammersmith at the next election will certainly be a challenge”. Any positives? “The opening of the West London Free School”. Maybe not, Hal, see HERE.

Yes, Free Schools are not the great electoral asset he might have imagined. What might also count against Dewhirst is that he “has worked on plans to replace the Hammersmith Flyover with a tunnel”. That scheme, as I noted back in March, was a non-starter, unless the cost estimates were revised substantially upwards and significant parts of West London real estate demolished.

And Phibbs’ claims of dishonesty don’t stand up to scrutiny well: “At the last election Labour put out leaflets to council tenants claiming the Conservatives would move them to Barking and Dagenham”. Hal, the only reason we didn’t find out the reality of that one is that your party were turfed out before the scheme that would have displaced them (West Kensington and Gibbs Green “redevelopment”) went ahead.

The Dewhirst candidacy has also not got off to a good start, having been declared on the premises of that West London Free School that isn’t as popular as Phibbs thought. So when he concludes “There will certainly be a lively 18 months coming up in Hammersmith politics. After which, Charlie Dewhirst will make an excellent MP for the constituency”, he leaves open the possibility of the most likely outcome.

Whatever his suitability, Dewhirst ain’t going to get elected. End of story.

Toby Young – Nobody Likes Him, We Don’t Care

The loathsome Toby Young is in a terrible quandary: Free Schools, it seems, are not as popular as he, and no doubt his great hero Michael “Oiky” Gove, would have us believe. What is causing this disturbance in the Tory Education Force? Perhaps it is all down to Himself Personally Now: “Do people really hate free schools – or do they just hate me?” he muses as he wrestles with, er, nobody else.
Still stuck in the Weinbunker, Tobes?

To tackle this dilemma, Tobes does what comes naturally: he shoots the messenger, and then trowels on his adherence to Olbermann’s Dictum (“the right exists in a perpetual state of victimhood”). His attention was drawn to the negative view of Free Schools by Mike Smithson of Political Betting fame, so he dismisses him as “a left-wing gadfly”. Stay classy, Tobes.

Then he thinks aloud how those wonderful Free Schools can have attracted such negative publicity, given how popular he thinks they are. Tobes clearly needs his memory refreshing, so let me provide three examples: King’s Priory School on Tyneside mired in creationism allegations, and King’s Science Academy in Bradford getting its head teacher arrested on fraud charges are two.

And then there is Parkfield Free School in Bournemouth, or rather soon not to be in Bournemouth, as it’s moving to the Airport, which is well out of town. But Tobes can point to his own West London Free School (WLFS). Or can he? Just how wonderful WLFS is can be seen from a number of posts on Zelo Street recently (see HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE).

So it should be no surprise that public perception of Free Schools has been decidedly negative. Whatever is Tobes to do? Simples. He can turn it into a sob story: it’s all a personal attack on poor ol’ him. “The first question I asked was: ‘Is it me?’ I’ve spent four years relentlessly promoting free schools – I’ve helped set up three – and I clearly haven’t been doing a good job” he muses.

Well, it’s rather obvious that Tobes hasn’t been doing a good job when you look at what has gone off on his watch as WLFS, but, as the man said, there’s more: “Has my obnoxious personality doomed the policy? When I was at Oxford I described myself as having ‘negative charisma’ – I only had to walk across a crowded room in which I knew nobody and nobody knew me and already I’d made ten enemies”.

Tobes’ deeply unpleasant nature undoubtedly has something to do with it: perhaps he could cut down on farting in crowded spaces. After all, it wasn’t a real one in the Revenge Of The Pink Panther lift scene. But seriously, there is a very good reason why the public has a negative impression of Free Schools, and that is because they are perceived as an enormous waste of public money.

With many facing a decline in their living standards, that’s not good enough.

Sunday 29 June 2014

Don’t Menshn Peter Jukes

Crowdfunding. Some people find it difficult to talk about. Others find it difficult to do. And one person who finds both concepts less than straightforward, if only out of misguided loyalty to Rupert Murdoch and her trolling obsession, is (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch, who has decided to go after writer Peter Jukes, whose crime has been to live-Tweet the Hacking Trial.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

In order to allow him to accomplish this task, Peter, who is a freelance journalist who must meet all his outgoings, including paying the mortgage, from earnings, turned to the crowdfunding tool Indiegogo. Many people contributed: some as little as £5, others into three figures. All their names, provided they wanted them to be known, are displayed on the site. So are amounts, although some are not disclosed.
Ms Mensch has taken issue with campaigning group Hacked Off having contributed. She missed someone called Adam Boulton, and another person by the name of Rupert Murdoch, as well as missing me, but then, most people tend to. That more than 90% of Peter’s funding did not come from Hacked Off is not allowed to enter: for Ms Mensch, she can now claim bias (for whatever reason).
The Mensch massive attack did not get off to an auspicious start: “‘Hacked Off sponsored my Tweets while I pretended to be impartial and a journalist’ is a great quote. Do use it” she leered, but missed Peter’s Twitter handle and so he never saw it. The stupidity was compounded by her not understanding how crowdfunding works: no condition can be attached to payments.
So funding via Indiegogo is not, repeat not, repeat NOT tied sponsorship. It can’t be withdrawn if the recipient does something that displeases the donor, for instance. But Louise was not listening: “‘I list Hacked Off’ does not absolve your bias, sponsored Tweeter pretending to be a journalist” she ventured, unaware that Peter does not need to pretend to be a journalist – he is one already. Unlike her.
And, as will be apparent, every time she had a go at him, someone jumped in and reminded her of her debt to Uncle Rupe, such as when she snarked “‘Peter claimed to be impartial while sponsored by Hacked Off’ has a ring to it”. What part of “Indiegogo funding is not tied sponsorship” does she not understand? The whole lot, by the look of it. And, as the man said, there’s more.
Claiming that Peter had admitted her accusation (he hadn’t) she wibbled “You claimed impartiality while Hacked Off sponsored you? And here’s a transparent list of people who sponsored me”, pretending nobody did so, while, once again, the first Tweeter to add their opinion mentioned Murdoch.  The combination of wilfulness and stupidity was as consistent as it was tedious. And it had only one effect.

Sales of Peter’s forthcoming book Beyond Contempt have increased as a result.

Free Schools – Empty Places And Dodgy Deals

Education Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove continues his unswerving support of the Free Schools programme, despite the continuing stream of less than favourable news about them. And one feature of the new schools that keeps on cropping up is their popularity – or, in rather a lot of cases, the lack of it. This has proved as true in the West Midlands as it has in the North East.
Yes, "Oiky", problems with your programme

Two of the government's new free schools in north-east England have filled fewer than two-thirds of their pupil places, according to new figures ... Ingleby Manor Free School, in Stockton, and Durham Free School have both failed to hit their recruitment targetstold the BBC, which was being generous: they would have been correct to say “fewer than 60%”. The usual excuses were made.

Ingleby Manor's principal David Willard said he thought demand would increase once parents saw the ‘wonderful provision’ being offered”. And how wonderful might that be, exactly? “[Ingleby Manor] will open in September in a converted unit on an industrial estate, before moving to a permanent site by the end of 2015”. Colour me unimpressed, but “Jam by the end of next year” is seriously unimpressive.

Things are worse in the West Midlands, where the Government has pulled the plug on one under-subscribed Free School: “An inner city Birmingham free school and college, set up with the support of Aston Villa, has had its funding suddenly withdrawn by Government just months after opening for the first time”. Kajans Hospitality and Catering Studio College was aimed at 14 to 18 year olds.

In any case, it won’t be welcoming a second year’s intake in September: the DfE spelt out why. “We ... have repeatedly made clear that there were concerns about the school’s viability due to low pupil numbers. Unfortunately Kajan’s was unable to recruit enough students in its second year”. But at least there were no raised eyebrows over finances, a feature of other free schools around the country.

This brings us to the Chester suburb of Hoole, where “Oiky” Gove and Stephen Mosley, who does MP impressions, have been extolling the virtues of St Martin’s Academy, a primary Free School that has just opened. As Private Eye has noted, “The founders of a new Free School near Chester paid their own companies more than £100,000 out of school funds before it even opened last September”.

And how much in the way of funds had been garnered by then? “The school’s income had at that point consisted of a £220,000 start-up grant and a £40,000 IT capital grant from the Education Funding Authority”. I’m sure those running St Martin’s will be able to furnish a suitably convincing explanation if “Oiky” requires one. But the impression left by the Eye article is not a good one.

Meanwhile, the Free Schools programme is still £1 billion over budget.

Miliband Bashing – It’s Not Working

[Update at end of post]

The Sunday Times, which has long ceased to be a paper of record or repository of ground-breaking journalism, is the latest to climb on the bandwagon of those sneering at Mil The Younger in an effort to damage the Labour Party and hopefully deliver The Blue Team to majority power next year. It has accomplished this by over-egging comments made by MP Jon Cruddas.
Cruddas is – rightly – concerned that the “big ideas” and the bold approach, which would give voters a clear choice between the major parties, are not being brought forward. That is bound to cause frustration, and he has apparently let that be known in a conversation which was, whether he knew it or not, recorded. But it’s hardly the stuff of game-changing headlines.

The Murdoch press’ natural reaction has been to call “split”, this being something that they know is likely to turn voters away from parties, but this, and other screaming denunciations of Miliband, many of which are personal, do not appear to be having the desired effect, as two opinion polls out today show. And one of the polls brings terrible news for the Tories.

The Sunday Times’ own poll – from YouGov, the same pollster used by the Sun, although results not meeting the Murdoch narrative tend not to get reported in the latter paper – shows a Labour lead of 4%. Moreover, YouGov has shown a lead for The Red Team of between 3% and 4% across the latter half of June. That suggests the Miliband bashing is not having an effect.

Worse, the Mail On Sunday’s poll today, which comes from Survation, brings far worse numbers: here, Labour holds a 9% lead, with the Tories well below 30%, and UKIP still showing over 20%. This would be enough not just to put Miliband in Downing Street, but would deliver him a majority of almost a hundred. Some of the names that would be on their way out may find the prediction disturbing.

They would include Charlotte Leslie in Bristol, David Nuttall in Bury, Gavin Barwell in Croydon, Charlie Elphicke in Dover, Angie Bray in Ealing, Ben Gummer in Ipswich, Stewart Jackson in Peterborough, Penny Mordaunt in Portsmouth, Jacob Rees-Mogg in Somerset, Rob Halfon in Harlow, and both Alok Sharma and Rob Wilson in Reading. And, yes, Graham Evans and Edward Timpson closer to home.

Things may improve for the Tories between now and next May. But, with the probing into possible corporate charges against the Murdoch empire – which could being bad news for those closest to Rupe and his current and former troops – the potential for bad news for Cameron is enormous. The Tory-supporting part of the press is free to keep on sneering at Miliband, but so far it does not seem to be working.

And, what is worse, this is one strategy that does not appear to have a Plan B.

[UPDATE 30 June 1200 hours: Mike Smithson at Political Betting has Tweeted the result of a Populus online poll, which confirms a widening lead for Labour.

The numbers show their lead over the Tories has increased from just one point to a full 4%, the same figure as the YouGov poll quoted above. Moreover, it shows a trend away from the Tories, and towards Labour.

There may be other factors at work here, such as the hacking trial and Cameron's less than successful trip to Brussels last week, but the fact remains that Miliband bashing is not working. End of story]

Top Six – June 29

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 more gardening stuff to do later. So there.
6 Tories – Hold The Righteousness Some Thatcher fans were getting rather keen to call out others for drunkenness, and pin instances of well-known paedophiles on the left. Here’s one figure from the recent past who shows they should be careful when going down that road.

5 Don’t Menshn The Hacking Trial Verdict There had to be a truly batshit response from someone prepared to grovel in the service of Rupert Murdoch, and Louise Mensch was that person. Wibble overdrive duly engaged.

4 Press Spins Hacking Trial It was so predictable – out came The Usual Suspects to tell readers that it cost too much, that nobody really got guilty, and didn’t that cast doubt on the CPS’ decision to prosecute? [Clue: no it didn’t]

3 The Blog Complaints Commission Some threatening anonymous letters have arrived on Zelo Street. Can you identify the handwriting, or the franking machine used to apply postage?

2 Cameron Under The Cosh When the Guardian and Daily Mail agree the same line – that the PM showed terrible judgment when appointing and sticking by Andy Coulson – that means trouble.

1 Tories Want To Demolish World’s End Estate – 1 It looked as if Crossrail 2 was being used as cover for “redevelopment” of the Cremorne and World’s End Estates at the west end of the King’s Road in Chelsea.

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

Saturday 28 June 2014

Juncker Does Not Mean Brexit

The press – and, whisper it closely, the broadcast media too – has outdone itself with reporting the appointment of former Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission (EC), and in the worst kind of way. Even the Guardian, to its detriment, has pretended that this pushes the UK closer to the exit door, and no examination of Young Dave’s shortcomings is made.
What has happened? The largest groupings in the European Parliament (EP) have put forward their preferred candidate for head of the EC, with Juan Manuel Barroso stepping down this time. The largest single grouping, the EPP (the Tories were formerly part of this group, but have recently broken away), proposed Juncker. Others joined in with this recommendation.

Cameron stood opposed, and declared that he would force a vote, suggesting that others were also opposed. Sadly, when that vote was taken, he was in a minority of two (the Hungarian PM cast the other dissenting vote). Dave wanted us to know that having Juncker in post would mean he could not get his reform proposals through. This, sad to say, is weapons grade bullshit.
Moreover, the media could, and should, have seen this and pressed him on it. I will explain: the BBC has helpfully given us a diagrammatic representation of the EU’s power structure. The EC has its priorities set by the 28 national leaders, and is scrutinised by the EP, which can – and has in the past – removed the Commission if it is not up to the task. The EC cannot work independently of the EP.

And it is the EP which passes laws, along with the Council of Ministers, not the EC. The EC is, in effect, the heads of the European Civil Service. Would Westminster politicians get so het up over the appointment of the head of the Civil Service? Would they argue over that person’s politics? No, of course not: the Civil Service is there to support elected representatives. Thus it is in the EU.

Were Cameron to agree a package of reforms with other heads of Government, then this could be fed in to the EC. The presence of Juncker as head would change nothing; if that was what the Commission was directed to do, that would be that. So where is Dave’s package of reforms? Ah well. As far as is known, Cameron has thus far merely sounded off about that, rather than actually doing something about it.

Just think what he could have achieved, had he used the goodwill among other EU leaders to put together a package of reforms around which agreement could be formed – rather than spraying the goodwill up the wall by throwing a needless mardy strop. And those telling that the UK is in a weak position inside the EU, remember this: leaving would not make it any stronger. Just the opposite, in fact.

To quote Cameron’s favourite phrase, he is weak, weak, weak. So is the UK’s press.

Garden Bridge – Another Waste Of Money

As if there have not been enough money-wasting projects implemented in the capital already – think Bozza’s vanity cable car, Bozza’s vanity buses, and Bozza’s vanity cycle hire scheme – Londoners are now to have a Garden Bridge imposed on them, whether they like it or not. And, like all the other vanity projects, the cost of this edifice is rising all the time, and now stands at £159 million.
Guess who, readers? Crikey! Oo-er, chaps!

Now, a pedestrian bridge across the Thames could be had for a fraction of that amount, so why stump up so much, especially when there is another bridge no more than 300 metres away (the Garden Bridge is intended to span the river from a point east of the National Theatre, with its northern access at Temple underground station)? Ah well. We are talking National Treasure and style guru here.

The Garden Bridge is the brainchild of actor turned campaigner Joanna Lumley, with the actual design from Thomas Heatherwick, which latter name should have those concerned about spraying money up the wall going to a state of high alert in very short order indeed. Heatherwick is the name behind the New Bus For London, that overweight irrelevance which is definitely not a Routemaster.

How much less would a conventional bridge cost? Well, the Millennium Bridge further down river cost, even with the well-publicised remedial work, £23.2 million, although those prices would be significantly higher nowadays. In any case, there were significant challenges that had to be met, height restriction being perhaps the greatest. A straightforward footbridge could probably be bought for £30 million.

So what is the Garden Bridge for? Well, not for London’s long-suffering cyclists, who would be banned from riding across it. Bozza doesn’t seem too sure, except to suggest it might be “a wonderful environment for a crafty cigarette or a romantic assignation”. It is being sold as some kind of visitor attraction, so will there be a toll? Otherwise, who will pay for its construction and upkeep?

Simples. Government – that means us, whether in London or elsewhere – will pay £30 million. “Private Donors” will advance another £30 million. And Bozza has now instructed Transport for London (TfL) to stump up another £30 million, as Mayor Watch noted yesterday. The source of the remaining £69 million is not yet known, but if construction starts, someone will have to foot the bill.

Meanwhile, there is a desperate need for river crossings down river of Tower Bridge: one or two links for pedestrians and cyclists would be much appreciated, but what is delivered instead? A cable car that hardly anyone wants to use, and now a Garden Bridge is to be built in a location where there is already plenty of provision, with funding just committedat risk” if it doesn’t get built.

Somebody, as they say in London, is having a laugh. And it looks like it’s Boris.

Tories Want To Demolish World’s End Estate – 3

The public consultation over Crossrail 2’s “Chelsea West” option has given a fascinating insight into the motives of those in charge at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC): it is now clear that all talk of “redevelopment” for the Cremorne and World’s End estates is down to them – and perhaps also London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.
What is equally clear is that, even if a station were to be provided at that location, there would be no need to demolish even one flat. Not one. Not that the representatives of RBKC are admitting this, though: there is a flat refusal to rule out demolition on their part, although the Council leader has played down talk of knocking down entire estates as a “scare story”. So who’s saying what?
World's End Estate, with Cremorne Estate at top right

The Council View: while the Council leader is making a great show of denying all the stories suggesting the Cremorne Estate, and at least part of World’s End, would be demolished were Chelsea West to go ahead, the transport spokesman cannot rule it out, admitting that part of both estates may have to go. Space requirements for station entrances were quoted in square feet (so bigger and more scary numbers).
Clapham South: all the space needed for a station entrance. Chelsea West would need two of these

The Network Rail (NR) View: my information is that NR has concluded that there need not be any demolition. The station would be deep underground: all that would be needed are two entrances on the surface, each needing no more than a space of 20 metres square. For a guide, I’ve included a photo of Clapham South on the Northern Line, a single entrance late 1920s station. Entrance, ticket hall and escalator shaft – that is all that is needed (but twice in the case of Chelsea West).
Look who else may be involved. What a surprise (not)

The City Hall View: I’m told that Bozza may come up with some money towards costs, although whether than means the station, or part of some future redevelopment, is not clear. The Mayor may look to raise money from the value of the land after the station is completed (which suggests redevelopment).

The MP’s View: there wasn’t one. Greg Hands has, once again, been absent elsewhere. He has, as far as is known, made no statement other than to urge residents to attend the consultation.

Conclusion: residents of both Cremorne and World’s End estates have good reason to be worried about the motives of their Council and the Mayor of London. There appears to be no reason why there should be any demolition, even if the Chelsea West station option is chosen. Once again, Crossrail 2 seems to be being used as a cover for another of London’s money-spinning redevelopments.

That conclusion has only been reinforced by what has been fed back from the consultation. Of course, RBKC, Boris Johnson and Greg Hands could assure residents that this is not the intention. So why don’t they do that, and do it now?

Friday 27 June 2014

Jimmy Savile And An Agreeable Currie

As the awful reality of what Jimmy Savile got away with at a number of hospitals over many years sinks in, and the realisation that nobody, young or old, male or female, or even living or dead, was safe from his activities, one former politician will be realising that, in the cause of personal ambition, she made a fateful and utterly wrong decision: step forward Edwina Currie.
The woman who put the lead into “Shagger” Major’s pencil can now add to her achievements over the years her confirmation of Savile as head of a taskforce at Broadmoor high security hospital aimed at improving its governance. Whether he accomplished this task, what the appointment also did was to allow Savile free rein to prey on yet more vulnerable people.

Ms Currie must have thought she had scored maximum brownie points when the former DJ was given the Broadmoor gig. It was 1988, Mrs T was still in her pomp and firmly established in 10 Downing Street, and she was giving a key role to someone who regularly spent Christmas with the Thatchers at Chequers. The PM would be pleased at her decision. What could possibly go wrong?

Moreover, as the deeply subversive Guardian noted today, Ms Currie “was also supportive of Savile's promise to confront unionised prison officers about their working practices and issued a press release praising his work ending with the words ‘he is an amazing man and has my full confidence’”. Union bashing would also find great favour with the Tory leadership.

And while Ms Currie is now “shocked, surprised, startled, disgusted ... I wish we had never seen hide nor hair from him”, and “told the Guardian she was only responsible for the portfolio "for around four months" ... Most of the revelations were completely new to her, and his abusive behaviour was hidden at the time”, she had “thought his ‘blackmail’ approach to the POA was ‘a pretty classy piece of operation’”.

Strangely, Ms Currie had no problem identifying or talking about paedophiles like Mrs T’s former confidante Peter Morrison, who “had sex with 16-year-old boys when the age of consent was 21 and that he had been protected by a ‘culture of sniggering’. In her diaries, she called him ‘a noted pederast’, with a liking for young boys”. Did she not notice Savile? Or was she more keen on impressing the PM?

In any case, she now has a current MP on her case: “Labour MP Tom Watson said Currie and other ministers have further questions to answer about the access granted to Savile, who had senior political connections including a friendship with Margaret Thatcher: ‘In her naivety, it allowed a dangerous, predatory sex abuser unfettered access to some of the most vulnerable people in the country,’ he said”.

Edwina Currie can now repent at leisure. But the questions will not go away.

Murdoch Press Spins Its Own Trial

The Phone Hacking Trial that finally came to an end this week put not just a series of individuals on trial, it by association put Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper empire on trial as well. And that empire did not emerge from the encounter at all well: the now-defunct Screws was engaging in what was conceded, even by Rupe’s most fervent fans, to be phone hacking on an industrial scale.
That's what I think of youse objective factual reporting idea, ya Pommie Bastards!

Rupe’s upmarket troops at the Times, no longer a paper of record, had two options in reporting this: they could hold their hands up and admit that News UK, as it is now known, had harboured a criminal enterprise within its premises, or it could fire up the spin machine, pretend it was pure as the driven snow, and blame someone else. No prizes for guessing that the latter course was chosen.

This was achieved via an editorial in yesterday’s Times, and a column of serial cluelessness by Tim Montgomerie, who so memorably called phone hacking completely wrong: “It is a desperate attempt by Labour to get revenge for the ousting of Damian McBride” he told, not stopping to wonder why he’d been given a platform to open mouth and insert boot by the Guardian – which had broken the story.
Monty then sealed his future career direction with this slice of jaw-dropping arslikhan: “Rupert Murdoch has been an overwhelming force for good in this country’s life and politics”. So it was no surprise to see him opine “I come to praise Coulson, not to bury him”. Yes, Andy might have overseen a cesspit of criminality, but he made the Tory Party’s trains run on time.

It’s rather like The Italian Job’s Charlie Croker saying of his deputy Bill Bailey “He’s just done four years in Parkhurst ... and you can trust him”. Meanwhile, the paper’s editorial tells “A record of won one, lost nine begins to sound like the current England cricket XI”, as its author conveniently forgets the five individuals who had already pleaded guilty, and who will be sentenced next week, along with Coulson.
Readers are told “The CPS should have been far more careful in advancing the charges in the first place”. The editorial concludes “the acquittal of Mrs Brooks in particular proves that the use of hacking and other criminal means to obtain information was not widely known about, let alone endorsed by ... News International”. That would be why Nick Davies knew about it, then.

But the last word must go to Monty, predicting the upcoming Government reshuffle: “Expect Liverpudlian Esther McVey to replace Ken Clarke and become a roving Government spokeswoman”. Well, Cameron may do just that – but what would be the point in promoting someone who has just committed career suicide by having her Twitter account playing party politics during the Hillsborough memorial service?

Lame excuses, and yet lamer punditry, and Rupe expects us to pay for it too.

Greg Hands, Cremorne, And World’s End

It seems that the coverage by this blog (see HERE and HERE) of threats to the Cremorne and World’s End estates in Chelsea has shed sufficient light on the machinations of the Tory-dominated Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) Council for residents to realise that their elected representatives are being less than totally open and honest with them.
And those elected representatives include MP Greg Hands, who is so far refusing to meet his constituents other than via booked one-on-one surgery visits. Hands will not be addressing any meetings, nor making any publicly announced visit to Cremorne or World’s End. He has also declined to respond to the direct question as to whether World’s End would be part of any “redevelopment”.
Local MP won't attend meetings no shock horror

Hands was asked for his views, and whether he would attend any of the meetings (there is one this afternoon, from 1400 to 2000 hours, at Studio 2 of the Chelsea Theatre in World’s End Place). His reply was “always happy to meet any constituents (eg at weekly surgery) but you should also respond to the TfL consultation”. That looks like the area’s MP is washing his hands of the whole affair.
What's the problem, Greg? Cat got your tongue?

When he was asked “so what is the plan? Demolish the World’s End Estate for a station? Is it just more social cleansing?” answer came there none. His last bulletin to constituents simply gives a link for the Crossrail 2 website and adds “A station for Chelsea is envisaged, and there are currently two proposals for its location: Dovehouse Green and Cremorne. TfL is inviting views before 25th July”.
Someone does not want residents to see these notices

This is a significant change of tack: when it came to HS2, which crosses beyond the northern edge of his constituency, Hands was all enthusiasm, but on Crossrail 2 he is keeping his head down. Meanwhile, it has emerged that RBKC Cabinet Member for Planning Policy, Transport and Arts Tim Coleridge wrote to Bozza as far back as last August urging examination of what is now being called the Chelsea West option.
Look who else is involved ... crikey readers!

The advantages of a station towards the western end of the King’s Road should be investigated further” he concluded. Residents, however, were not informed, and even now, posters alerting them to the potential consequences of the Chelsea West option are being taken down, a move that looks disturbing (but good to see Get West London is now up to speed on the issue).
Only dropped on residents earlier this month, remember

Greg Hands has been elected to serve all of his constituents, without fear or favour. He has not been elected to spend his time Tweeting snarky remarks about the leader of the opposition, nor spreading party propaganda about the new Labour administration in Hammersmith and Fulham. When he had the opportunity to show some leadership on Cremorne and World’s End, he was absent elsewhere.

Why the silence? What does Greg Hands know that the residents do not?

Thursday 26 June 2014

Tories – Hold The Righteousness

Today they are getting righteous over the alleged thirst of the man slated to become the next head of the European Commission (EC); tomorrow, some or all of them will be getting equally righteous over Jimmy Savile. But supporters of The Blue Team, especially those who have in the past lionised the memory of Margaret Thatcher, have no room to talk on either subject. I will explain.
Young Dave has tried to block the candidature of Jean-Claude Juncker, on the grounds that the vote should be down to heads of Government – several of whom he claims have reservations about the former Luxembourg PM – rather than MEPs. On this, Cameron is in a probable minority of one. So he is being backed up by a number of pundits who should really have kept schtum.
The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines is one of them: The Great Guido has told of “Jean-Claude Juncker, the drunk who has cognac for breakfast”. Staines is in possession of four alcohol related convictions, including two for drinking and driving. He is damn lucky that his trial for the last D&D, at Tower Bridge Magistrates’ Court, was switched to another court at the last minute: the judge he was down to face would have seized his wife’s car and sent him to prison.
Over at the Spectator, editor Fraser Nelson takes a rather more jovial, but still righteous, line, pushing Charles Moore’s article: “Jean-Claude Juncker is stale, unimpressive, probably a drunk. What’s not to like?” he asks.
An equally ardent Thatcherite, Dan, Dan The Oratory Man suggests by use of a photo that Juncker gets down to work waiting for the wine to be poured (the offending sauce has decreased in strength, sadly).
Then Mrs T’s bestest fan in the whole of Manhattan, Louise Mensch, has her ninepence worth: “Cameron should ask on record in writing if [Juncker] ever met officials having drunk alcohol in the morning, or took official meetings drunk”.
So, for all these upstanding followers of the Iron Lady’s memory, I present the Gents’ toilets on Platform 12 of Crewe station. It was here that the political career of one Peter Morrison came to an end. Morrison was a good friend of Margaret Thatcher, so much so that she trusted him with her 1990 leadership campaign. Sadly, he was so pissed that he spent much of it asleep: Morrison was an alcoholic.

Perhaps one day there will be a blue plaque on the wall, although the wording may need careful consideration. Morrison’s career was ended when he was caught with an under-age male: the Tory whips tended to worry about his cruising around the Sussex Gardens area. And yes, that, too, is relevant.

Because Jimmy Savile was also a good friend of Mrs T. Still feel righteous, folks?

Press Spins Hacking Trial

Met forced to defend role in £100m hacking trial” thundered the Times this morning, that being the same Times that is owned by Rupert Mudoch, six of whose formerly faithful servants were found guilty as a result. But then the paper tells readers “Eight month hearing brought one conviction”, and at this point, the agenda becomes clear. Didn’t they have anything better to spend all that money on?
He wasn't the only one getting guilty

I mean, there are all those rapists and paedophiles out there, not to mention the hordes of Scary Muslims being battle-hardened somewhere in the Middle East before heading back to the UK to cause some kind of unspecified mayhem. And it wasn’t just the Met who were under the cosh: “CPS explains reason for hacking trialwas the Telegraph’s angle. Yeah, they wasted our money too!
It tells readers “Despite unprecedented resources being thrown at the three year investigation and eight month trial, five of the seven defendants, including former News of the World and Sun editor Rebekah Brooks, were cleared of all charges. But prosecutors and the police have insisted it was right to bring the case, which is estimated to have cost the taxpayer more than £45 million” [my emphasis].
Estimated? By whom? As Lisa O’Carroll of the deeply subversive Guardian has pointed out this morning, the total cost of the prosecution – which includes attributions for Operations Weeting, Sacha and Elveden, so accounts for Police expenditure as well as Counsel and expert witnesses – was just short of £1.75 million. Court staff will add rather more, but not that much more.
Rather less than £45 million, then

So someone is being distinctly economical with the actualit√© here. The “cost to the taxpayer” is nothing like the sum touted by the Tel. If anyone had to stump up serious money, it was the Murdoch empire, which bankrolled legal teams for all the defendants. The Crown, on the other hand, had to make do with rather less in the way of resources, as Peter Jukes pointed out earlier.
So that's who spent the most

As Peter notes, the whole prosecution team cost around £5,000 a week. Rebekah Brooks’ team alone cost ten times that. The falsehood and misinformation on costs has been bad: added to that is the inevitable “free press under attack”, this line being supplied by Stuart Kuttner, former Sun managing editor, and eagerly taken up by the Telegraph. And Kuttner’s old paper has made its own contribution.
Taking the biscuit? Full pack of Hobnobs, more like

Miliband and his aides mistake the obsessions of Westminster, and the hysteria of Labour’s Twitter fan club, for the national conversation ... many normal people won’t know who Coulson is. They talk about the economy and immigration ... Ask a question about those, Ed”. The least f***ing subtle Look Over There you will see – until the next one. The message is clear: one, it was a waste of money.

And two, just don’t talk about it, right? So I will. You know how it is, Rupe.

Murdoch Is Served (103)


Remember the indifference of most of the Fourth Estate to the Guardian’s revelations back in 2009? Most of their efforts were directed to slagging off the BBC for having the temerity to mention the story. We now know, several thousands of voicemail interceptions and one hacking trial later, that, far from being a “non-story”, it was one of the most serious abuses of media power ever seen.
So one might have thought all those papers would be listening up when the same journalist who brought phone hacking into the open – Nick Davies – reported thatRupert Murdoch has been officially informed by Scotland Yard that detectives want to interview him as a suspect as part of their inquiry into allegations of crime at his British newspapers”. He’s flying in today.

Yet the only mention of the Murdoch empire’s less than sparkling conduct is the front page of its own Times – no longer able to call itself a paper of record – trying to diminish the hacking trial by complaining about its cost, most of which was the hiring of a significantly-sized defence team by, er, the Murdoch empire. Yes, the Times is complaining about the largesse of its owners.

But does a pre-arranged interview with the Met really matter? Well, yes it does, as the Daily Beast has pointed out. “Scotland Yard is investigating corporate charges against the company” [my emphasis] ... after that, Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, says he is waiting to formally launch a congressional investigation into the company”.

The Met has previously intimated its readiness to pursue News UK, as it is now known following Rupe’s move to split his newspaper interests from his vastly more profitable broadcast media business, the company’s reaction being “a successful corporate prosecution ‘would be apocalyptic’ and threaten to ‘kill’ the corporation in both Britain and the U.S., costing tens of thousands of jobs”.

Yes, don’t come for us, or the ordinary hardworking people to whom we pay comparatively little will get it. It’s a strategy with very limited horizons: now that Andy Coulson has been found guilty, and several of his former colleagues have already confessed, it’s not going to hold back the tide of investigation much longer. A corporate prosecution Stateside will force the Met’s hand, whatever the defence.

And it will happen even if the press bands together and hopes it will all go away. While the Fourth Estate’s useful idiots sneered at the Guardian back in 2009, I said it was serious (you can read my analysis HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE). Now it is yet more serious. And it has the potential to draw other newspapers, plus their owners, into the mire. Rupe getting interviewed today opens a whole new chapter.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Cameron Under The Cosh

It’s a rare occasion that sees the Daily Mail take the same line with its front page lead as that in the Guardian, but today saw just that: the latter, exceptionally, used almost all that front page for “Coulson: the criminal who had Cameron’s confidence”, while the Mail tells “Questions over PM’s judgment as spin doctor he took to No 10 faces jail for phone hacking while Rebekah Brooks is freed”.
The legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre’s less than subtle flourish is to add “Humiliation for Cameron”. The Mail has even roped in Stephen “Miserable Git” Glover to put the boot in: “The inescapable truth is that Mr Cameron’s original embrace of Mr Coulson, as well as his later championing of him, raise alarming questions about his judgment and good sense that have not gone way

Nick Davies at the Guardian notesThe ease with which [Coulson] was able to fool the Conservative leadership will also add weight to questions about David Cameron’s judgment in hiring the former News of the World editor without checking his background – and about the reliability of evidence that the prime minister gave under oath to the Leveson inquiry”.
Meanwhile, the Mail points out that Mr Justice Saunders’ condemnation of those, including Young Dave, who made ill-advised remarks yesterday afternoon – while the jury were still deliberating – was not the first time he had put his foot in it that way, there being the precedent of his “team Nigella” remark, delivered somewhere between Downing Street and Beaconsfield services late last year.

And Daily Mail Comment will not cheer the PM: “So why did Mr Cameron ignore wiser counsels, giving him this job at the heart of the Tory Party and the Government? Two reasons – neither worthy of him. One was a foolish belief that the former editor of a red-top paper might be just the man to lend the Tories the common touch they so manifestly lacked. The other, more questionable still, was his determination to strengthen his links with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire”.
True, the paper fouls up by then claiming that the Leveson Inquiry was precipitated by a claim made about Milly Dowler’s voicemails, which it was not. But that Dacre is prepared to question Cameron’s judgment does not bode well for the period running up to the next General Election.

And the Mail’s editor is rather close to Nick Davies on the point of Cameron and Murdoch: “according to senior Tory officials, Cameron made no attempt to seek a police briefing or to check the court record, even when he became prime minister and took Coulson into Downing Street. Cameron has been accused of employing Coulson in spite of his past in order to build a bridge to Rupert Murdoch”.

When Dacre follows the paper that broke the phone hacking story – that’s trouble.

PMQs – Itch-A-Sketch 18

Yes, that time of the week has come round again, and as Young Dave takes on the rest of the Commons, but especially Mil The Younger, there is one subject that is going to crop up, whether Cameron wants it to or not, and that is Andy Coulson. The only imponderable is the angles that may be explored. So, to business.
It was always going to be about Coulson. Speaker Bercow knew this, by setting out the ground rules as to what he would allow.

And the conclusion was not good for Cameron. No amount of softball grovelling, no mention of the Long Term Economic Plan, no invitation to agree that the other lot were rubbish, would save him. In any case, by the time the grovellers spoke up, Dave was already finished.

Miliband took it step by step: the Guardian’s first expose in 2009. The PM’s own deputy warning him. The New York Times splash in 2010. The failure to secure Developed Vetting (DV) for Coulson, as his six predecessors had received. What Gus O’Donnell may have been asked, and what advice he gave.

Cameron could do no more than deploy a copy of the Leveson Inquiry report as his shield, behind which he sheltered, as if expecting it to provide some sort of cover, in a jaw-dropping display or rank hypocrisy, as he’s done his best not to take any notice of it when it comes to press regulation.

Time and again he accused Miliband of being the sole person who called for that Inquiry. Time and again he waffled that “he cannot bear to ...”. And time and again the Speaker had to calm matters, on one occasion suggesting that those who could not exercise restraint might leave the chamber.

But Leveson was inquiring into “The culture, practice and ethics of the press”, not how to appoint a spinmeister. And Dave kept on waffling, at one stage excusing himself by inviting the House to look at Damian McBride, Jo Moore and Alastair Campbell, who might have something to say about that.

Mililband – with Ronnie Campbell and Yasmin Qureshi following up – put Cameron on the skewer and kept him there. Chris Bryant increased the discomfort by suggesting the PM’s “second chance” remark meant he knew there had been a first offence.

As The Italian Job’s Mr Bridger might have put it, it didn’t kill him – just gave him a Good Going Over. Not a good day for Dave.

More Free School Woes

The right-leaning cheerleaders for Michael “Oiky” Gove’s Free Schools programme are rather quiet at the moment, and for one very good reason: they have nothing to cheer, and rather a lot to avoid talking about. Even Gove’s faithful wife Sarah “Vain” Vine is keeping off the subject in her weekly Daily Mail me-me-me-fest. This, for once, is a wise move on her part.
Yes, "Oiky", it's your programme, remember?

In Wolverhampton, the city’s first Free School is not faring as well as expected. “The headteacher of the Black Country’s first free school has quit her post - and the school’s controlling body has disbanded less than a year into its existence” tells the Express and Star. The school roll has just 20 pupils, against an expected one-year intake of 60, with just 14 wanting to start there in September.

On top of that, “The Wolverhampton Sangat Education Trust is to fold after its board agreed to allow the Birmingham-based Nishkam School Trust to take control of the school. Headteacher Kulbinder Kaur Pouni, who took up her post in September 2013, told the Express & Star she had resigned and would be leaving on September 1”. And how much is this enterprise costing?

Anand Primary was set up at the former Orchard Centre in Great Brickkiln Street with the aid of a £220,000 grant from the Department for Education (DfE). It received a further £1.6 million from the Government last year to build an eight-classroom extension”. The city with the country’s second-largest Sikh population somehow cannot provide enough pupils to fill one primary school.

But that is a mere side-show compared to what is kicking off once more in Bradford, where King’s Science Academy, already the subject of much attention after its head teacher was arrested on fraud charges, is back in the news for all the wrong reasons. Again, the Yorkshire Post has the story.

Sajid Raza, the principal at the Kings Science Academy, had been arrested in January following allegations that the school submitted fabricated invoices to claim just over £10,000 of public money from the Department for Education (DfE). West Yorkshire Police have revealed that he has answered his bail regarding these matters and has also been arrested in relation to further allegations of fraud. He has been bailed pending further enquiries”.

The chairman of governors has meanwhile sought to reassure Government and community, telling “The school has confirmed to the Education Funding Agency that the steps we have taken to strengthen internal controls are taking effect and the EFA has acknowledged that the schools financial management arrangements are improving”. But it still looks a less than ideal situation.

Small wonder “Oiky” and his pals are not shouting too loudly this morning.