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Tuesday 30 August 2022

Meghan Speaks - HOW DARE SHE

The Sussexes are engaged in legal action against the publishers of both the Murdoch Sun, and the Mail titles, something that both have managed not to tell their readers today. What they have told is that Megs has given an interview to a magazine called The Cut, which they have decided is A Very Bad Thing Indeed. And purely by coincidence, so have their pundits.

Also, as the Mail carries a column by the deeply unpleasant Dan Wootton, his other employer, Gammon Broadcasting News (“Bacon’s News Channel”), has also passed severely adverse comment on the interview, as has former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, so TalkTV also hates her. Percy is clearly still sore that Megs blanked him. Her judgment is clearly sound.

But one thing is clear: Morgan’s obsession with Megs has spread to the rest of the Sun and Mail crew, and even to the Daily Brexit, still called the Express. And even in the midst of a looming cost of living crisis - maybe as a deflection from it - both the former titles have made the interview their front page lead. But they still don’t mention the lawsuits. Let’s start with the Mail.

NOW MEGHAN DROPS HER ‘TRUTH BOMBS’ …New salvo of attacks in 6,400 word interview … Claims she and Harry upset hierarchy ‘just by existing’ … Appears to say Prince ‘lost father’ over Megxit”. How about the Sun version? “Royal Rift Bombshell … Meg’s new claim ‘saddens Charles’ … Queen snubbed on latest UK visit … HARRY: I LOST MY DAD”.

Mail merely smears, Sun lies as well, film at 11. Worse, though, is the unedifying scramble of bottom feeding press creeps, oops, sorry, Royal correspondents, to gain attention by grovelingly toeing the line, slagging off the Duchess while pretending they possess an authority they do not.

Dan Wootton took the biscuit in no style at all with “Prince Harry’s relatives must now stage an intervention because her new interview makes it clear that Meghan Markle appears to have no grip on reality and is on a mission to take down the Royal Family, no matter the cost”. But no-one in The Firm gives a flying foxtrot what he thinks. Or what Piers Morgan thinks. Talking of which, he “today slammed Meghan Markle as ‘shameless and shameful’”.

Splash a bit of that Dark Obsession on, eh? But there was no shortage of creeps out there, as witness Richard Palmer: “There are some jaw-dropping moments in this interview, suggesting tone-deaf Harry and Meghan have learnt no lessons”. He’s “Royal correspondent” of the Express. But he wasn’t toeing the mental health smear line, unlike Matt Wilkinson.

Have re-read this Meghan Markle interview many, many times today. We are surely at the stage when a grown-up needs to ask the couple who, if anyone, is advising them? Because this is becoming irreversibly embarrassing for them both and the Royal Family”. He’s at the Murdoch Sun.

Richard Eden, meanwhile, is at the Mail: “It should be pointed out that the magazine to which Meghan granted her jaw-dropping interview, The Cut, has been responsible for spreading scurrilous rumours about Prince William in the past”. Guilt by association smear? Check! Oh, and he’s not finished. “It's important that the misleading claims made by Meghan in this interview are exposed”. Otherwise the Vagina Monologue won’t be happy.

Likewise with the Mail’sRoyal editor” Rebecca English, sneeringWell, I’ve read Meghan’s extraordinary new interview. And I’ve penned some thoughts in tomorrow’s Daily Mail … Bizarre, often unintentionally hilarious, but Meghan’s warblings also have an unmistakable undertone of cool menace”. THREATS! THREATS! Against our beloved monarchy!! How DARE she?!?!?

But no-one really cares what she and her fellow pundits think. It’s one long circle jerk, as The DM Reporter illustrated in a summary of GB News’ coverage: “Man that hates Meghan Markle interviews woman that hates Meghan Markle on channel that hates Meghan Markle about how much they hate Meghan Markle and is reported by newspaper that hates Meghan Markle for comments from people that hate Meghan Markle”.

As one Tweeter pointed outMeghan Markle should not be on any front page over an interview when parts of the country smell like sewage, everyone is struggling to stay afloat, and the government is completely absent. Any paper that prioritises freaking out about her over that isn't a real newspaper”. But she is suing the Mail. That’s how the press responds.

And if the Sussexes are of so little relevance, why is our free and fearless press losing its collective shit over her giving an interview to a magazine many of their readers will never have heard of? Are they so desperate to avoid the real issues du jour while flogging more copies?

You might wish to ask that question. I couldn’t possibly comment.

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Monday 29 August 2022

Truss Acronyms Haven’t Got A Scooby

As it becomes clear that the membership of the Tory party will mostly not vote for a leadership candidate who is not white, so the prospect of Liz Truss as our next Prime Minister must be faced. And the omens are not good: today’s headlines suggest she thinks that a cut in VAT will provide the required help for those facing a steepling rise in their energy bills come October.

Why she should form such a belief is easily explained by the news that she is, more or less, in hock to three acronyms, none of which is going to provide the answers to a looming economic crisis which in turn has the silver lining of the Tories being cleared out of office for a generation, once the electorate realises that they’ve been taken for marks by a band of clueless con artists.

The revelation of the acronyms came from an unlikely source: Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, formerly teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, and now for some reason at Bloomberg, brought forth what he might have thought was great news, and for those out there on the right unable to inhabit the real world, it probably was. But not elsewhere.

[A] Truss backer said three acronyms would be fundamental to her administration: CTF, IEA and ERG”. CTF is Crosby Textor Fullbrook, domain of strategist Lynton Crosby, who helped Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson to be imposed on the unfortunate people of London. IEA is the Astroturf lobby group exposed as paid lobbyists for Big Tobacco. And ERG is the wacko Europhobic Tory fringe that is slowly destroying the wider party.

Crosby and his gang are good at attacking their clients’ opponents, but after years of Tory cluelessness, a country that has seen very little invested in most towns and cities since 2010, and the growing realisation that “Getting Brexit Done” has harmed the UK to the extent of making the country an international laughing stock, voters may no longer be prepared to listen.

By the time the next General Election comes round, an opposition offering their particular version of FDR’s New Deal, free of confected culture wars, picking fights with neighbouring countries, and lousy trade deals that have screwed over our farmers, but with a commitment to listen, and to help the 99%, will be difficult to demonise. They will also need to promote Ms Truss.

And whether it is Keir Starmer, or any other Labour leader, the constant spectacle of seeing a Prime Minister worked over at PMQs to the point of weekly humiliation will be there in the mind of swing voters. Sneering at human rights and going WOKE WOKE WOKE isn’t going to work.

Then there is the economic cluelessness that emanates from the IEA. For them, the market will provide: as they were taught by the likes of Milton Friedman, if there is not a market in any part of the economy, a market should be made, which will yield the optimum outcome. It isn’t doing across the energy and utility sectors, and it won’t. And the IEA will then be out of ideas.

All that they will be able to urge will be cuts: they want to cancel HS2, as they want to cancel any prospect of Crossrail 2 being built. All they can offer is a pie in the sky reheating of the discredited idea of turning railways into roads. The IEA way of satisfying demand for more freight paths on the West Coast Main Line is to increase the lorry weight limit and dump it all on the existing motorway network. Their answer to transport problems: MORE ROADS!

And then we come to the ERG, a party within a party, eating away at the Tory monolith from inside, under the leadership of Mark François (note cedilla under the c). Cooperate with the EU? TRAITORS! Das ist Streng Verboten! The idea of the Tories as a paternalistic broad church, a party that can take a pragmatic view and do what is best for Britain, is for them long gone.

Under the less than benign influence of the ERG, the Tories are rapidly becoming a UK version of the US Republican Party: cultists, driving out those of less than desirable purity, intolerant of cooperation, intolerant of opposition, intolerant of inconvenient rules and indeed laws - backed up by a media always prepared to argue that this show of intolerance is somehow righteous.

Behold the alleged leading lights of the Truss premiership: propagandists who won’t be able to gaslight the people when the shit really hits the fan, an economically illiterate lobby group which doesn’t have the solutions to the onrushing problems, and a Europhobic cult that has nothing to offer except more flag-waving, hatred of The Other, and maybe a little ritual incantation.

You thought Bozo was the worst PM ever? Liz wants you to hold her beer.

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Sunday 28 August 2022

GB News Platforms Holocaust Denier

It had to happen: Gammon Broadcasting News (“Bacon’s News Channel”) finally went, of its own volition, so far down the rabbit hole that there was a later move to pretend that it hadn’t really happened. But it had: the broadcaster had given a platform to a known conspiracy theorist and, worse, Holocaust denier, someone who was too wacko even for other wackos.

Peter Imanuelsen. Not Swedish. Or Credible

How so? Well, the individual concerned, Peter Imanuelsen, had, in his previously established persona of Peter Sweden, made a number of appearances with Battersea bedroom dweller Paul Watson, formerly of InfoWars, where he had claimed knowledge of what all those Scary Muslims™ were up to in Sweden. But then a problem entered.

Imanuelsen was far from London, but yet further from Sweden: he lived in the North Yorkshire town of Northallerton. Worst of all, he had made a number of most unfortunate comments about the Holocaust, the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler, and Jews in general. The charge sheet was so long that pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins distanced herself from him.

Too wacko for Hatey Klopkins, but quite acceptable as a guest for GB News presenter Neil Oliver, whose team either failed spectacularly to do their due diligence on Imanuelsen, didn’t bother, or didn’t care. Because Imanuelsen’s recent history was well-known: Zelo Street called out his congenital dishonesty and covered his not being in Sweden more than five years ago.

Worse still, someone who had talked favourably of Hitler, wheeled out a series of anti-Semitic tropes, and denied the Holocaust had been invited on to Oliver’s show to talk about … the decline in birth rates. A subject on which, as with so much else, he talked well, but lied badly. “Political commentator Peter Imanuelsen speaks to Neil Oliver about whether we're facing a population collapsetold the GB News Twitter feed. And then the house fell in.

Christian Christensen musedSo, GB News decides to interview a guy who in 2016 tweeted that the Holocaust was a ‘lie to further the agenda of NWO’ and that concentration camps had ‘swimming pools, cinema, theatre’”. GB News has now deleted that Tweet. But it’s too little, too late. Imanuelsen is seriously wacko. He was pushing anti-vax stories before the pandemic.

Another less than savoury aspect of Imanuelsen’s character was noted by Tom Scott: “Peter Imanuelsen, aka Peter Sweden, is a conspiracy theorist & holocaust denier who's called for LGBT people to be sent to camps. GB News knew this when it invited him. This is the channel that Liz Truss thinks better than the BBC. Mainstreaming fascism”. Looks that way, doesn’t it?

The Tweeter known as Otto English could not believe that GB News had gone so far down the rabbit hole. “Disturbed to see this guy pop up on GB News talking about ‘declining birthrates’. Did you know who you were booking?” He also pointedly tagged Neil Oliver, whose credibility has been in freefall, and whose reputation just experienced a non-opening parachute.

Because Oliver’s discussion was not about birth rates alone: as the Tweeter known as SnigsKitchen observed,”Nice people they have on GB News. Nothing to worry about. Just Neil Oliver talking to the far right, Holocaust denying Peter Sweden, about the birth decline conspiracy theory”. What kind of conspiracy theory that might have been was not long in being revealed.

Richard Bartholomew gave a little detail: “On [GB News] Peter Sweden alleged a big drop in fertility over the past year in the UK, and Neil Oliver suggested Covid vaccination could be the cause. This fits with Oliver's role alongside James Melville as a trustee of John Bowe's failed prophecy copium ‘Covid injury’ charity”. Imanuelsen has previous on alleging vaccine harm.

And just in case anyone thought that wasn’t where Oliver was really at, John Bye had a little reality to share with his followers. “GB News have actually deleted the video of Neil Oliver talking about depopulation with Holocaust denier Peter Sweden. But they're still promoting his latest monologue, in which he claims Covid and Ukraine are all part of a plot by the elite to give us ‘smaller, colder lives’”. I can almost hear the late Tommy Cooper.

Rabbit hole - GB News … GB News - Rabbit Hole”. But no laughter. Busted.

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Friday 26 August 2022

Emily Maitlis - Now The Pushback

What former BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis said in her MacTaggart Lecture in Edinburgh earlier this week should not have surprised any Beeb watchers, nor anyone familiar with the modus operandi of the Tories and their hangers-on. But for the right-leaning part of our free and fearless press, her calling out political interference was little short of treasonous.

Those who covered the phone hacking saga may remember that former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan had spat “Judas” at Nick Davies, for blowing the whistle on this and other less than totally legal methods of news gathering. The Guardian had been ostracised for running his articles; it is still not totally forgiven by those out there on the right.

So it should have been no surprise when the tsunami of sneering dismissal struck: typical was the irredeemably batshit Allison Pearson, telling readers of the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph that “Emily Maitlis is the Meghan Markle of journalism”. Think of a right wing media hate figure, invent otherwise spurious comparison, engage Phil Space mode. Result!

That Ms Maitlis had transgressed by making a better-late-than-never statement of the bleeding obvious was underscored by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog howling “Emily Ignored Labour Party Agents On BBC Board”, without considering whether any of those cited interfered in the way Robbie Gibb has been accused of doing.

The Fawkes flounce came after Staines’ new tame gofer, sorry, “senior reporter”, sensitive soul Christian Calgie, had snipedI see Emily Maitlis is accusing the BBC of bending to the whim of No.10 over her Newsnight Cummings rant, despite the BBC themselves later finding it in breach of their own impartiality rules. We knew she was left-wing but she's going properly FBPE right now”. “Left-wing” and "FBPE" not evidenced, merely invented.

Also strong on both invention and denouncement of this newly-discovered anti-party element was the deeply unpleasant Dan Wootton, now shooting off his North and South at Gammon Broadcasting™ News (“Bacon’s News Channel”): “All Emily Maitlis has proven is that she was never fit to broadcast at an impartial BBC. Pushing an alternate reality where the Brexit-hating/Boris-despising/lockdown-loving Corporation is some sort of Tory party propaganda machine is risible. She’ll fit in at LBC’s echo chamber”.

Brexit hating”? The Beeb is often too scared to even mention the word, thanks to its desire to appease the Tories. “Boris despising”? Alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has had the easiest of rides from the Corporation. As for “Lockdown loving”, that would be the same BBC that has been “Both Sides-ing” so much. Wootton is just an unprincipled liar.

But the Pièce de Résistance has to be the projectile vomiting to order of soundbites, right-wing talking points and stinking dishonestly served up by Mick Hume of Spiked (so called because it should have been long ago) and published by the Daily Mail, titled “Why the only voice that Emily Maitlis wants you to hear is her own: The ex-Newsnight presenter's attack on 'both-sideism' at the BBC is typical of those who despise true democracy”.

Freedom of speech despises true democracy! Ignorance is strength! War is peace! But do go on. “Maitlis's deranged [abuse] sermon revealed her to be the embodiment of all that is worst about the smug, self-righteous BBC [she’s not at the BBC], a broadcaster which has abandoned any notion of objective reporting in favour of partisan tub-thumping [no citation]”. There was more.

Worse, it confirmed how the elitist outlook she personifies poses a threat to both media freedom and democracy, the pillars of modern liberal Britain”. Paid propagandist for the real media elite says someone else is the elite. Gratuitous attack on someone in the media exercising their freedom of speech, who is shouted down as a threat to media freedom.

As to calling a speech to an audience mainly of her peers “a threat … to democracy”, that is complete bullshit. But Hume has given the game away: as it was with Nick Davies and the Guardian over phone hacking, so it must be for Emily Maitlis over Tory interference at the BBC. Those not keeping their heads down and obediently following the status quo must be denounced.

Why does the right-leaning media establishment need to do this? Ah well. Hume lets slip that one too: “BBC Two's Newsnight, which Maitlis fronted, and Radio 4's Today programme were in the front line of attempts to incite a coup against Boris ever since he won an overwhelming majority at the General Election”. Because they’re frightened to the point of paranoia, that’s why.

Meanwhile, a winter of fuel poverty awaits many. But not the right wing media.

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Thursday 25 August 2022

Robbie Gibb - SACK HIM NOW

It was more than a year ago that Zelo Street noted the propensity of BBC non-executive board member Robbie Gibb to interfere in the Corporation’s recruitment process, effectively on behalf of the Tory Party, in an attempt to head off the appointment of Jess Brammar, someone who was considered insufficiently establishment and right-wing. The conclusion was stark.

Robbie Gibb in his natural habitat

The Beeb should have no truck with Gibb’s presence; he should be sacked from the board and not allowed to darken the Corporation’s corridors any longer. Now has come confirmation that Gibb’s interference in BBC business was not limited to personnel matters, with the implied conclusion that he has been influencing news coverage to make it more acceptable to the Tories.

This revelation of what was already widely suspected came during this year’s MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, given by now former BBC presenter Emily Maitlis. Moving right along from the obvious criticism that her intervention would have been significantly braver had she still been at the Beeb, her comments were nonetheless damning.

As the Guardian has reported, “Reflecting on her time at the BBC, Maitlis said the corporation often slipped into a ‘both-sides-ism’ approach to impartiality that gave a platform to individuals that did not deserve airtime. She recalled how during the 2016 EU referendum the BBC would create a false equivalence by putting one pro-Brexit economist on air to debate with one anti-Brexit economist, even though the overwhelming majority of economists felt Brexit was a bad idea”. See also under climate change.

But it was when discussing the carpeting she received for righty calling out former chief Downing Street polecat Dominic Cummings that she made her accusation against Gibb: “Put this in the context of the BBC Board, where another active agent of the Conservative party - former Downing Street spin doctor, and former adviser to BBC rival GB News - now sits, acting as the arbiter of BBC impartiality”. And that is a serious problem for the BBC.

Gibb’s idea of impartiality looks like another way of saying “what Gibb finds acceptable”, what might accord with his opinion. And opinion does not necessarily equal fact. The “both sides” obsession used during the Covid pandemic has merely confused viewers and given an opening to conspiracy pushers and other no-marks who should never have been platformed.

Emily Maitlis - better late than never

The BBC was clearly unhappy about reporting Ms Maitlis’ comments, but could not pretend that the lecture hadn’t happened. What to do? Simples. The first attempt at covering the story airbrushed Gibb from the frame. Adita Chakrabortty notedThe BBC website's report on [Emily Maitlis’] speech completely omits any mention of Robbie Gibb. As if the Corporation is seeking to confirm her argument about its censorship”. Whoops giveaway!

The story was later amended, but the internet never forgets, and the original was there for all to see. So how would the right leaning part of our free and fearless press react to the revelations, and left leaning pundits like Owen Jones observingit's just very unfortunate that those of us who said the BBC's political coverage was rigged in favour of the Tories were long treated as wild conspiracy theorists”. We did not have to wait long to find out.

The odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, still pretending to be a real journalist at the Murdoch Sun, sneeredFunny how there were no posh telly crowd speeches decrying the fact the entire BBC strategy was for many years set by a Gordon Brown-era Labour Cabinet Minister who sat on this hallowed BBC Board”. So deflecting and lying - and no sign of a denial.

But what was way more revealing than Master Cole’s whinge was the array of front pages offered up by today’s papers. The Guardian, alone among them, mentions the story. The Mirror, campaigning for a freeze in energy price increases, had good reason to devote more space to that story. The others, more prosaically, merely had good reason to keep quiet.

And that is because most of them have been fully invested in the premiership of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, which has included bullying the Beeb into submission. They are part of the misinformation machine that brought us the act of national self-harm that is Brexit, and the continuing efforts to deflect from an increasingly grim reality.

Perhaps the real world should be allowed back in. And that process can be shown to have begun with one act - the sacking of Robbie Gibb.

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Wednesday 24 August 2022

Tories Poison Scots Debate

The poisonous and intolerant nature of today’s Tory party was laid bare during the failed attacks on Labour leader Keir Starmer over a post-campaign gathering that did not break Covid rules: City of Durham MP Mary Kelly Foy has told in a Guardian article looking at events that included press intrusion and doorstepping how the county’s Tory MPs joined in with the nastiness.

Craig Hoy MSP - ready to take responsibility ...

As she says, trust and respect has broken down and it is not going to be restored any time soon. The vicious partisanship of the Tories, especially when defending alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson - the Starmer attacks were an attempt to create an equivalence between the Labour leader and Bozo’s Downing Street lawbreaking - was unforgivable.

So it should come as no surprise that where the Tories are not in power, the viciousness gets dialled up just that little bit further. Which brings us to the devolved administration in Scotland, where the SNP is now in alliance with the Green Party. But in the City of Edinburgh, the SNP and Greens do not command a majority on the council, and so are not in power.

That distinction falls to Scottish Labour, which runs the council with the support of Scots Tories - and the Lib Dems, an arrangement that would be unthinkable south of the border. This unwieldy convocation has found itself in the hot seat at the most unfortunate of times: refuse collection has been hit by another of those strikes. So the Tories have gone to work - blaming the SNP.

And it’s not just the SNP who are getting it in the neck: as so often, the Tory attack is not merely poisonous and intolerant, it is highly personal. This is exemplified by Scots Tory chairman Craig Hoy sneering “Nicola Sturgeon is spending millions on fake foreign embassies But, in Edinburgh, she’s failing to pay properly to collect the bins. They say a picture tells a thousand words, but five words say it all First Minister: Focus on the day job”.

That’s right, the Tories are partly responsible for the increasingly visible mess on the streets of the Scottish capital, but, as south of the border, it’s all someone else’s fault. Who? You guessed it: “The SNP has slashed council budgets for years. And now councils can’t even afford to pay the bin-men. The rubbish piling high in Edinburgh is down to Nicola Sturgeon”'

... for blaming someone else

There was more: seeing a Union flag flying, he declaredThanks [sic] goodness that something is looking respectable in Edinburgh today. It’s time the SNP realised there’s so much more to Scotland than their council cuts, perpetual grievance and completely incompetent management of our economy and public services”. Management of economy and services?

Wouldn’t that he his party that is mostly responsible for that? Shouldn’t he think about winding his neck in just a little and take a little responsibility for the bin strike? Would he care to support a tax rise to ease the budget constraints about which he so volubly complains? Is his party willing to back a council tax hike in Edinburgh? As if. He’s just whining for the sake of it.

So the political climate north of the border resembles its counterpart to the south: the Tories, intolerant, vicious, hyper-partisan and utterly poisonous, congenitally unable to take responsibility for anything, waging personal campaigns against opposition leaders, “lefty lawyers”, anyone and everyone in the EU, asylum seekers, trade unionists, and Scotland’s First Minister.

Why should this matter? Ah well: what Craig Hoy, and so many other Tories, are indulging in does not stop with them: as can be seen with the social media armies of “Back Boris”, “Never Labour”, “Love Europe, Hate The EU” and the loose convocation of variously jolly Brexiteers, the example set by the Tories is then taken up, and amplified, by their followers.

Thus the debate is poisoned. Which, no doubt, is also someone else’s fault.

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Tuesday 23 August 2022

Tom Harwood, Tories, And Sewage

The inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker were unequivocal in their interpretation of a Commons vote last October: “Fury as Tory MPs vote to allow water companies to dump raw sewage into Britain's rivers and seas … MPs are facing a backlash after voting against amending a bill to stop water companies dumping raw sewage into Britain's rivers and seas".

What time is it, Eccles?

There was more. “Just 22 Conservatives rebelled against the Government last week by voting for an amendment to the Environment Bill which sought to place a legal duty on water companies not to pump sewage into rivers. Sewage pollution is a key component of what MPs have heard is a chemical cocktail of pollutants going into rivers, with raw sewage being discharged into waters more than 400,000 times last year”. But that was then.

Now, all is changed: as water companies discharge untreated sewage into rivers, and more visibly, into the seas around England’s coast - thereby putting nearby beaches off limits for holidaymakers - the backlash has begun, with Tory MPs who helped vote down that amendment being individually named and shamed on social media platforms. What to do?

Sadly, all that could be done was for Gammon Broadcasting News (“Bacon’s News Channel”) to bring forth an alleged “fact check” from Tom Harwood, formerly replacement teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog. Teaboy Tom claimed that the vote wasn’t really about that, and, moreover, that dumping of raw sewage was “relatively rare”.

But, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, there was only one thing wrong with this idea - it was bollocks. And the Tweeter known as The Prole Star said so. “There were at least 470,000 "sewage spills", where sewage is intentionally dumped into waterways, in England and Wales in 2021. Combined, they add up to over 3.4 million hours (the equivalent of 388 years!) in a single year. The GB News teaboy thinks that's 'relatively rare’”.

Also, the BBC reported bad news for Teaboy Tom: “Water companies have been accused of failing to monitor sewage discharges at popular British seaside resorts … In Seaford, East Sussex, where the beach is popular with swimmers and families, a monitor was only working a third of the time, according to a review of data from the Environment Agency”.

There was more. “Southern Water was forced to apologise last week after beaches in East Sussex were closed due to untreated wastewater being released into the sea at the shoreline. Pollution warnings were put in place across more than 40 beaches and swimming spots in England and Wales after heavy rain overwhelmed sewer system”. And yet more.

Water companies say it's all going swimmingly

Particular concern was raised over a handful of beaches that have bathing water status - including Littlehampton in West Sussex and Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire”. It got worse: Tory MPs claimed that they voted down the amendment because it would have left water companies with a £600bn bill.

As Marina Purkiss observed, “Tory MPs (and Tom Harwood) now saying they had good reason to vote against sewage restrictions … That this would have left the taxpayer open to a £600bn repair bill … That this ‘would have led to sewage leaking into people's homes’”. The truer figure for not dumping raw sewage into rivers and onto bathing beaches is around £15 billion.

SOS Whitstable has taken each point made by Tory MP, Maria Caulfield, who represents Lewes (a Lib Dem target), showing she is being disingenuous, if not dishonest (thread HERE). As they put it, “We are concerned by the [Conservatives’] response to the ongoing sewage crisis and the manner in which they are trying to shape the narrative and rewrite history”.

But then, had the Tories really wanted to rewrite history, maybe they shouldn’t have selected Teaboy Tom as their standard bearer. Not with his track record, and the inconvenient fact that those Tory MPs voted, effectively, for the continuation of the status quo, whereby water companies could just carry on literally pumping crap into rivers and seas. Which they are now doing.

One might urge them to Get In The Sea. Except the beaches are closed.

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Monday 22 August 2022

Strikes - Now The Lawyers Are Out

Not many outside the North West will have noticed, but bus drivers in the area employed by Arriva have just returned to work after a strike lasting just over four weeks. The pay demand was for 11%; the offer went from 3% to 8% with strings, before Arriva caved in. That Stagecoach, who compete directly with them in Liverpool, had already settled may have focused minds.


Some strikes only enter the consciousness of our free and fearless press when it affects them - people who work in London. The Arriva North West example shows that it’s not just rail workers, dockers (Felixstowe has just seen a walkout), London’s bus and tube workers, and maybe other groups waiting in the wings. Strikes are widespread, and spreading yet wider.

So it should have come as no surprise to see today’s Ballot Announcement from the Criminal Bar Association, which represents barristers who deal with the progression of cases where defendants stand accused of committing one or more crimes. 79.5% of those balloted voted for the current campaign of intermittent industrial action to become an indefinite all-out strike.

Following another extensive period of consultation with ordinary members and leaders of the Criminal Bar, the third ballot which opened on 8th August has now closed. Over the course of these past 14 days 2273 of you cast your vote. The turnout exceeded that on the second ballot in June (2,055) and was significantly higher than that witnessed in the first ballot in March (1,908)” told the Criminal Bar Association announcement, suggesting increasing support.

There was more. “Given that many members have been away during this month, the increased level of participation in this latest ballot speaks volumes about the strength of feeling amongst colleagues across all six Circuits”, adding “We take great pride in the fact that our members have so consistently demonstrated such a deep commitment to the democratic process”.

Just in case anyone in Government wants to try the old Not Enough Of Them Voted To Make It Properly Democratic ploy. And there was this coda: “It reflects an unshakeable underlying belief in the power of collective action and a demand to be heard”. The demands made are of the non-trivial variety.

As the BBC has reported, “Barristers have voted to go on an indefinite, uninterrupted strike in England and Wales from next month … The walkout … will begin on 5 September …The strikes are expected to delay thousands of cases, leaving victims and the accused waiting longer for justice”.

And the numbers? “The CBA is asking for a 25% rise in pay for legal aid work, representing defendants who could not otherwise afford lawyers … Members have rejected the government's 15% pay offer, saying it would not kick in immediately or apply to existing cases”. It has been claimed that criminal barristers’ income has fallen 28% since 2006. There was more.

Michelle Heeley, a criminal barrister, told BBC's Five Live the justice system was ‘crumbling’ because of a lack of increase in pay. Responding to comments that criminal lawyers were perceived to be well paid, she admitted those high up the pay scale were ‘very fortunate’. But she said the median pay for a junior barrister was £12,700 per year. ‘That's why they cannot survive doing criminal work, and that's why they're walking away.’

Worse for the Government, the next week of on-off industrial action comes immediately before the start date for all-out strike. Hence “members' last working day will be on Friday” (August 26th). So what does the most vocal, and, indeed, most anti-strike part of the press make of all this? Ah well.

One of the most vocal strike bashing papers has been the Daily Brexit, still called the Express. But this member of the Reach plc stable has a problem: as Press Gazette has told, “National and regional journalists at Reach have voted to strike starting this month over a ‘meagre’ 3% pay rise offer … Strike action is currently planned to take place all day on Friday 26 August and Wednesday 31 August, and for 48 hours on 14 and 15 September”.

Yes, strike action is now so widespread that it includes some of the most vocal strike bashers. There’s a message in there somewhere.

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Sunday 21 August 2022

Tory Cost Of Living Plan FLOPS

With alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson edging ever closer to the exit door, and demonstrating his commitment to all those still backing him - continuing to be taken for mugs - by going off on yet another holiday, the impression is given that there is no-one at the controls, no Government, no action, that the Tories really don’t care.

Nadhim Zahawi: did one of his team brief the idea?

Someone has clearly decided that this impression must be turned around, that the Government really is getting to grips with the cost of living crisis, that the Tories actually do care, and most importantly that they are in touch with all those ordinary people they conned into voting for them in 2019.

And so it came to pass that a policy idea was cobbled together: this was then communicated to the waiting masses using the conduit of a carefully selected client journalist. The lucky recipient of the resultant pile of fresh and steaming bullpucky was Kate Ferguson, newly appointed as political editor of the Murdoch Sun on Sunday, who duly proclaimed the briefing as an “exclusive”.

The thought occurred that her weekday counterpart, the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, may have seen this one coming and bodyswerved it, so lame was the content on offer. “Brits could get money off their energy bills by getting a PRESCRIPTION from their GP under radical new plans” read the headline, because the Sun puts the IMPORTANT words in CAPITALS.

There was more. “DOCTORS will be able to write prescriptions to give Brits money off their energy bills under radical government proposals … The idea has been drawn up by the Treasury as they scramble to ease the painful cost of living crisis hammering the country … Under one radical option, needy Brits would be told to go to their GP if they needed help heating their homes”.

So radical, they named it twice. Or maybe that should read “so radical it should have been binned first”. But do go on. “Their doctor would chat to the patient and verify they needed help - either because they were sick, elderly or just in need. The GP would then effectively write a prescription saying the person should get money off their bills. This could be doled out in cash via the local council, or come in the form of a voucher for gas and electricity”.

Ah, the old Someone Else Is Going To Have To Stump Up The Dosh ploy. At least the article anticipates the problems: “Treasury officials are braced for GPs to kick off at the wacky idea”. And they’re all heart: “They are trying to come up with a plan which is not universal, as they do not want to be handing cash bungs to the ultra rich”. Indeed. They already bunged them lots of dosh.

So how well was this patently ridiculous idea received? As if you need to ask: Jonathan Portes of King’s College London concluded that it was “Genuinely beyond idiotic”. Sam Freedman was taken by surprise. “This is one of the most demented ideas I've ever seen. I don't know where to start”. And Dmitri Grozoubinski wondered what intellectual process had arrived at this point.

I play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. I build entire worlds from scratch for my players. I improvise intricate characters on the spot. I invent mystical creatures and fabulous arcane items. Yet my imagination fails me. I cannot imagine the meeting that came up with this idea”. Meanwhile, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner had the obvious solution ready to roll.

For far too many people under the Tories, work no longer pays. 5 million working people are living in poverty … A Labour government will guarantee a genuine National Living Wage for all adult workers”. PAY PEOPLE PROPERLY. Added to holding down the energy price cap. Sometimes the best solutions are in the realm of Stating The Bleeding Obvious.

There might, whisper it quietly, be less industrial unrest under such a scenario. So why the Tories would not go down that route looks mystifying. Unless they don’t mind a few strikes. Keep the core vote on side, and all that. Pity about the country they’re supposed to be running, mind.

Their ideas are so bad, it’s clear: the Tories are out of ideas. And out of road.

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Saturday 20 August 2022

GB News - Not Waving But Drowning

This week, Gammon Broadcasting™ News (“Bacon’s News Channel”) was, in public at least, sounding bullish. There was to be £60 million of new investment in the broadcaster, viewer numbers were on occasion comparable with or better than other news channels, and a new line-up of presenters had been announced. Tomorrow belonged to them. Or maybe it didn’t.

The Guardian has reported thatUS media group Warner Bros Discovery is to sell its stake in GB News, in a shake-up which has seen the loss-making television channel’s co-founders sell-up and resign as directors, and the remaining backers step forward with a further £60m in cash. The fledgling news channel, which originally said its first £60m fund raising last January would last three years, has tapped Legatum Ventures and hedge fund boss Paul Marshall for more funds after just 18 months”. There was more.

The company also announced that co-founders Andrew Cole and Mark Schneider … have resigned as directors and sold their stakes in the business”. What might be the problem with this brand? “GB News … has had to deal with an advertising boycott by media agencies whose clients are wary of associating with the TV channel’s editorial stance”. Well, well.

As Stop Funding Hate has pointed out, “GB News might not like it, but [Stop Funding Hate] works“. Moreover, at current levels of spending, the channel will burn through that £60 million in just 18 months. Will Marshall and the people at Legatum keep on funding it then? Because if it’s still losing money at that rate, they won’t be in it for the rewards, but the ideology.

Even the new presenter announcement begged its own questions. Free sheet Metro told readersGB News also announced … three new presenting appointments. The Telegraph’s Associate Editor Camilla Tominey, former politician Michael Portillo and broadcaster Andrew Pierce will join. Pierce and Portillo will both front programmes on the channel”. Ri-i-i-ght.

Pierce and Ms Tominey have had an occasional berth at LBC. So it has to be concluded that they’re leaving that broadcaster - and, as there have been no howls of protest from LBC’s parent company Global, it also has to be assumed that they have no problem with those departures. Maybe, whisper it quietly, they might have been let go, had they not jumped first.

Even the instantly recognisable mush of Michael Portillo begs questions as to why he joined: has the BBC axed his travel programs? And has GB News not stopped and thought that the reason Portillo’s rail expeditions went down so well with the viewers was because he mainly left the politics out of them? No pleasant scenery, no easily digested history, no transfer of viewers.

Yes, the channel will carry on for now: there will be more full-throated ranting from the deeply unpleasant Desperate Dan Wootton, former Brexit Party Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, Tom Harwood, former teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog (and the only person ever to be Pwned by the Virgin Trains Twitter feed), and of course the crafty one himself, Darren Grimes, too stupid to fill in a form correctly.

But unless CEO Angelos Frangopoulos can transfer his shooting-the-mouth-off skills to eradicating the channel’s propensity to spray money up the wall, those backers are increasingly likely to tire of throwing more folding stuff in his general direction. Maybe GB News will end up like BSB - merged into a less deserving but more savvy and ruthlessly run Murdoch-backed rival.

So there will be fewer presenting and punditry opportunities, and maybe sooner than those in the GB News bunker think. There’s not much money to be made by pretending that the reality that is catching up with your audience isn’t happening. The cost of living crisis, a creaking NHS, extreme weather, industrial unrest, and the failure of Brexit, all will drive viewers away.

GB News is not yet dead and buried. But you can see it from here.

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Thursday 18 August 2022

Avanti - Virgin On The Ridiculous

When Virgin Trains finally bowed out after more than 20 years running what is more prosaically known as InterCity West Coast, it handed over to a new operator called Avanti, this being a joint venture between Italian operator Trenitalia, and UK based First Group. The trains were re-liveried, but the service carried on very much as before. Until recovery from the pandemic.

An Avanti West Coast Pendolino train at Crewe

Service reductions that had been made due to reduced demand were not all restored: many trains from London to Chester and North Wales, as well as some from London to Manchester and Birmingham, are among them. Then came the claim by Transport Secretary Grant “Spiv” Shapps that Avanti’s drivers were engaging in unofficial industrial action, though they were not.

UNOFFICIAL STRIKES: Passengers using Avanti West [sic] services should expect disruption today. Archaic rules from 1919 mean working on rest days is voluntary. Unions now stopping drivers volunteering - causing misery for public & staff who won't get paid. We MUST modernise rail” he told. What Shapps did not tell is that there appeared to be a serious problem at Avanti.

Virgin Trains had sufficient drivers to maintain the full pre-pandemic service, and at first, so did Avanti. But now, there were insufficient driver numbers to cover a reduced service, so much so that the operator was dependent on some drivers volunteering to work their rest days. On top of that came news that a (further?) reduced timetable was to be introduced next month.

As Shapps’ dishonest narrative became the new received wisdom, free sheet Metro told readersShort-notice strike action has seen a train operator slash its timetables and widespread delays are expected from this weekend … Avanti West Coast … accused train drivers’ union Aslef of carrying out ‘unofficial strike action’ from Saturday”. Then came the really bad news.

Services between London Euston and Manchester are expected to be the worst affected, with frequencies reduced from three trains per hour to just one from Sunday … The company has also paused sales of train tickets to travel from Sunday until September 11 while it establishes a new timetable”.

No ticket sales? You read that right. Go to National Rail, bring up train times for Crewe to Euston for the first week of September, and look at the fare options offered. Every Avanti service shows “No fares available for this journey”. The trains operated by London Northwestern Railway are unaffected. This reduction in services to Manchester from London, coupled with increased pre-strike demand yesterday evening, led to chaos.

Journalist Hannah Al-Othman got to Euston in good time for the 2000 hours departure to Manchester, but as she later told, “We were at the station in plenty of time, but the 20.00 was delayed, and there was no platform. The platform went up and everyone ran. I was too slow and they shut the gate. For balance: I’m now on the 21.00, which is fine, and I have a seat”.

The Avanti charge sheet also includes a farcical incident at Oxenholme station, which is the main line railhead for Kendal and Windermere. As Cumbria Crack has reported, “Passengers on a delayed train had to climb over spiked fences after they discovered they were locked in at Oxenholme station. People on a delayed Avanti West Coast service from London arrived at the Lake District station to find that staff had gone home for the evening, locking up behind them”. Local MP Tim Farron was not impressed.

He told “there was the concern that passengers would be forced to cross the live tracks to find an alternative route out of the station” (trains can pass through Oxenholme at over 100mph), musing “There are clearly systematic failures going on at Avanti and we cannot let it go unchecked … Avanti have turned one of the best services in the country into one of the worst”.

But that did not just happen. Going from an operation that has sufficient numbers of drivers to run the full pre-pandemic service to one that cannot run a rather more reduced timetable, without depending on the goodwill of those willing to forego their rest days, suggests that a lot of drivers have left and not been replaced. Which brings us back to Grant Shapps’ involvement.

What did he know about the state of Avanti West Coast’s driver establishment, and when did he know it? And if what looks like a significant reduction in that establishment happened and he somehow failed to notice, what on earth is he doing still in post? Will we get an honest answer? Because, with the certainty of night following day, that information will leak.

As so often, it will be the less well paid staff on the front line who will get all the grief. But the decisions that led Avanti to this place must have been taken way above their level. Either the operator’s management is not fit for purpose - or the DfT knows rather more about this than it is letting on.

Grant Shapps must explain himself. That arrival may be severely delayed.

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Wednesday 17 August 2022

Liz Truss - Vicious But Not Stupid

As the Tory party leadership contest rolls towards its close, it is becoming clear either that every opinion poll is wrong, or that Liz “don’t call me stupid” Truss is so far in front of the unfeasibly wealthy Rishi Sunak as to make prolonging the ordeal pointless. She will be the next Prime Minister, and still there are those wondering why anyone would want to emigrate from the UK

After poising to take note of Gordon Brown’s proposals for dealing with the impending hike in energy bills - another idea the Tories have ridiculed, but will shamelessly appropriate almost as soon as Ms Truss gets through the doorway of 10 Downing Street - it was on to the central Scottish city of Perth for she and Sunak to make their pitch to Tories north of the border.

And it was at this gathering that anyone with brain plugged in and a hole in their backside could see very clearly just what a nasty - needlessly nasty - piece of work our Prime Minister in waiting truly is. This was heightened by a revelation from Pippa Crerar, who has now taken her political editor chops from the Mirror to the Guardian, regarding Ms Truss’ view of British workers.

These are some of Ms Truss’ superior insights: “I once wrote a book about this which got mischaracterised - British workers produce less per hour than … and that’s a combination of kind of skill and application … If you look at productivity, it’s very, very different in London from the rest of the country. But basically … this has been a historical fact for decades. Essentially it’s partly a mindset and attitude thing, I think. It’s working culture, basically. If you go to China it’s quite different, I can assure you”. Ri-i-i-ght.

However, Ms Crerar points out apropos higher productivity in London, “this is widely believed to be the result of large multinationals being based in the capital, higher engagement with research and development, the size of firms and the level of exports, and the transport infrastructure”. And it gets worse.

Here’s Ms Truss again. “There’s a slight thing in Britain about wanting the easy answers. That’s my reflection on the election and what’s gone before it, and the referendum - we say it’s all Europe that’s causing these huge problems … it’s all these migrants causing these problems. But actually what needs to happen is more … more graft. It’s not a popular message”.

WORK HARDER! WORK HARDER!! Confusing productivity with how hard people work? Dmitri Grozoubinski had something to say about that. “I am begging, on my knees, for people in public life not to begin conflating ‘productivity’ with ‘how hard people work’ and productivity problems with laziness. That's not how anything works”. And Shaun Lawson had more.

Don't call her stupid

The person about to become Prime Minister DOES NOT HAVE THE FIRST CLUE about basic economics, and would fail A Level Economics miserably … Anyone who thinks productivity has anything to do with 'laziness' or 'idleness' is a bona fide idiot who shouldn't be anywhere near public life”. And he had a chilling warning for the kind of country Ms Truss wants to lead.

Listen to Truss highlighting China as an example. A virtual slave state in how it treats its workers … Imagine an ENTIRE COUNTRY as one massive Amazon sweatshop - and that's what the Tories' vision for Britain actually is”. Then came her performance before an audience of Scottish Tories.

Adam Bienkov of Byline Times was watching. “Asked if she still plans to ‘ignore’ Nicola Sturgeon, when she is Prime Minister, Liz Truss replies that ‘I will work with Douglas Ross in a constructive way’ … Liz Truss says she will ‘knock spots off of Nicola Sturgeon’”. And what of the Union?

Kate Ferguson of the Murdoch Sun rather liked the tone struck here. “Nice line from Liz Truss at Tory leadership hustings in Scotland … ‘To me we are not just neighbours, we are family. And I will never, ever let our family be split up'”. But Jonn Elledge did not agree. “It's a terrible line, it's something an abusive partner would say, and not for the first time I find myself thinking that the Sun politics desk is going to kill the Tory party with kindness”.

Could the not-stupidity-at-all get any more nailed on? Adam Bienkov once more: “‘I don't agree that Boris misled Parliament,’ says Liz Truss”. Congenital liar is not a congenital liar honestly, no shock horror. Plus she’s not terminally clueless and dependant on nicking Labour ideas, either.

Why would anyone worry about the future of the UK? Search me, Guv.

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Monday 15 August 2022

Rees Mogg Speaker Vetting Hypocrisy

Cancel culture, which was never really a thing except in the fevered minds of paranoid right wingers in our free and fearless press, is one of those mythical culture war elements that is waved at Rotten Lefties™ as a means of frightening undecided voters into backing the Brexiteer death cult that is today’s Tory party. But now the Tories are doing a little of it themselves.

As the Guardian has noted, “Guest speakers at the Cabinet Office will have their social media accounts vetted to check whether they have ever criticised government policy before they can take part in events, according to new rules”. The presence behind this needlessly draconian move appears to be the right honourable member for times long past, Jacob Rees Mogg.

There was more. “The Cabinet Office policy applies to outsiders coming into the department to take part in ‘learning and development’ events. Managers are being urged to carefully check the backgrounds of such guests, including by trawling through up to five years of posts, according to an article in the Financial Times”. Rees Mogg has let it be known that he agreed the move.

The report quoted allies of Cabinet Office minister Jacob Rees-Mogg as saying the due diligence policy, which took effect this week, was ‘very sensible’ and should be implemented straight away, since ‘there have been far too many examples recently where essentially extremist speakers have been invited to speak to civil servants and staff networks’”.

What kind of trawling would be involved? “The checks include trawling through between three and five years of posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to search for ‘potentially problematic or controversial material that may contravene civil service values’, including criticism of government officials or policy, strong political views and ‘behaviour that might bring the civil service into disrepute’”. Civil Service values? What they?

As is usual with what passes for our current Government, someone else has to be responsible for the move. “The Cabinet Office said the policy had been ‘introduced to ensure there is a proper process for inviting speakers to talk to civil servants in the Cabinet Office, as the public rightly expects’”. Yeah, that public, they made us do it! Bullshit. This is just authoritarian overkill.

It is also hypocrisy of the most blatant kind, as observers of Rees Mogg will know. He attended the annual gathering of the Traditional Britain Group, fronted by Gregory “Lauder” Frost, an organisation that is effectively the rump of what was the Monday Club before that was expelled from the Tory party.

The expulsion was ordered by Iain Duncan Cough during his brief tenure of the party leadership: it was too extreme even for him. The TBG advocates for repatriation for migrants, although not for “Lauder” Frost, who was born in Australia. The group called the Duchess of Sussex a “mulatto”, although this characterisation was later deleted. It is a cesspit of racist bigotry.

Rees Mogg regretted his attendance. But he had been warned beforehand and took no action. His brushes with extremism did not end there: he later met Steve Bannon, a white supremacist, a virulent Islamophobe, and a misogynist. Nothing short of ethnically pure male Whitey Power will do for him. JRM is also comfortable in the company of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage.

And all too recently, he was called out by David Lammy over his liking for the pronouncements from German far right party Alternative für Deutschland. Rees Mogg tried his best to snootily sneer his way out of that one, but did not adequately address concerns that he was linked with those calling for refugees crossing the EU’s external borders to be shot.

But now, Rees Mogg will have no truck with extremists. The thought enters that this may be a highly selective search: what will ultimately prove revealing is not how many of those considered to be leaning too much to the left get speaking bans, but how many out there on the right. And the problem he has is that, now he’s laid down the rules, the world will be watching.

Of course, this could be more wasteful Tory hot air. No change there, then.

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Sunday 14 August 2022

Olaf Scholz And The Iberian Pipeline

While politicians in the UK begin to face up, with varying degrees of reluctance, to the prospect of imminently higher energy prices, and how the problem might be alleviated, if not averted, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is facing up to the prospect of his country’s energy supply being severely curtailed, whatever the price, and despite all the warnings.

Now on the same page: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ...

His country’s dependence on gas supplies from Russia had been known about, and his predecessors warned about, for some years, especially given the, shall we say, unpredictable behaviour of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and his gangsterist régime in the Kremlin. One way of alleviating that problem would have been to interconnect the French gas grid with that of Iberia.

This, with some strengthening of the pipeline grid between Portugal’s western Atlantic coast and north-west Spain, would enable liquified natural gas to be offloaded at the deep water port of Sines (that’s pronounced Sin-esh) and piped across Europe - rather faster than other permutations of sea routes and pipelines. But the Germans were not bothered. So the inevitable happened.

As energypost dot eu told back in 2016, “The French energy regulator has recently said that a long-awaited gas interconnector between Spain and France, which the European Commission says would help reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, is not needed and too costly in the current market environment”. The Pyrenees were a barrier. Or were they?

The Pyrenees, which are the natural border between France and Spain, were not a barrier to the railway system, even if Spain had decided to use a different gauge than the rest of Europe, for the unjustified fear that France would steal their hardware. Cars and trucks also go freely across the many highways that today crisscross the range between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The boundary literally disappears”. Indeed.

Russia had made supply cut-off and restriction noises in the past; it had then failed to follow through, most likely because it needed the money. The country’s economy was increasingly dependent on extractive industries - in other words, oil and the by-products that came with it. Like gas.

... and António Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal

Also, the French regulator CRE appeared to be engaging in creative accounting: “It states that the cost of the pipeline would be around €3bn; but Enagas, the Spanish system operator, has reported that the capex for the 222 km to the French border, and on to Carcassone, would be a total of €471mn”. All the while, Germany sat on the sidelines. Until last week.

As CNN Portugal has reported, “[last] Thursday, the German chancellor [Olaf Scholz] asked for the construction of a gas pipeline from Portugal, passing through Spain and France, and reaching the centre of Europe to reduce energy dependence on Russian gas. António Costa [Prime Minister of Portugal] took less than 24 hours to say yes”. I’ll bet he did.

There was more: “[by] Friday, the Prime Minister guaranteed that the Portuguese route of the gas pipeline to the centre of Europe has already been defined, with the ‘work being very advanced’, and assured that the Iberian Peninsula can replace ‘a large part’ of gas imported from Russia”. The new pipeline would run from Celorico da Beira, crossing the Spanish border at Vilar de Frades, and continuing on to Zamora in north-west Spain.

Completion should be just 30 months away. The cost would be between €150 and €244 million, to which would be added the cost of the interconnecter between the Spanish and French gas grids. All of which shows which country needs to be on board to drive forward EU-wide projects (that answer could have included the UK, but our politicians think we’re above such things).

The German Chancellor has spoken. The French are no longer indifferent, making excuses, accounting creatively or objecting. A route to reducing European dependence on Russian gas will be opened up. And a lot of pundits are going to have to learn how to pronounce Sines correctly.

But British politicians need not worry. They no longer have any influence.

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Saturday 13 August 2022

Nigel Farage Speaks Too Soon

After the FBI arrived at Mar-A-Lago, the Florida retreat of Combover Crybaby Donald Trump, armed with a search warrant, and proceeded to execute it, there was the now customary sight of all those Trump cultists out there on the right pretending that The Great Man had been the victim of a politically motivated witch hunt, and that there was Nothing To See Here.

One of those sounding off the loudest was former Brexit Party Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, whose initial reaction to the FBI search was to combine the pitching of a batshit conspiracy theory and a little self-promotion: “Shocked to wake up and hear about the raid on Trump's Mar-a-Lago home. The deep state truly does exist” was his first reaction.

Having pitched the conspiracy theory, the self-promotion followed: “I will be on [GB News] at 9.20am to respond to the appalling raid on Mar-a-Lago. Is America becoming a Banana Republic?” And so it came to pass that he rocked up at Gammon Broadcasting News (“Bacon’s News Channel”) to say something he may soon come to regret. Because he was talking crap.

Utterly appalled. Shocked … there’s been a witch hunt against Donald Trump ever since he was elected in 2016 … they’re scared of Donald Trump … to any fair minded person [!], they’re going to say, how on earth can this be happening in 21st Century America”. And then he dropped the clanger.

Might Trump have hung on to papers he shouldn’t have had? Mr Thirsty laughed at the thought. “The idea that Donald Trump would take documents from the White House and keep them in Mar-A-Lago is utterly ludicrous … there was no plan for this [the storming of the Capitol] to happen on January 6th and therefore those documents won’t exist .., and do you honestly think that if he had taken documents, that they’d be stored at Mar-A-Lago?

This conceit was repeated on Farage’s own GB News show. “Overnight, the FBI have raided Mar-A-Lago, they’re seeking documents from the Oval Office, that they somehow think Trump has kept … well, had he ever planned a coup, on the 6th January, I doubt he’d have been stupid enough to keep the documents, and certainly not take the documents back to his home”.

As recently as last night, he was doubling down on the ridicule. “The idea that Donald Trump would keep top secret documents from the Oval Office at Mar-a-Lago is laughable. This is a set-up and people won't believe it”. So, as regards what the FBI found at Mar-A-Lago and took away with them, as Cilla used to say on Blind Date, shall we have a look and find out?

We get a flavour of what was discovered by the “Receipt for Property” given to Trump by the FBI following their visit. This noted such items asInfo re: President of France … Various Classified TS/SCI documents … Miscellaneous Secret Documents … Miscellaneous Top Secret Documents … Miscellaneous Confidential Documents”. The Washington Post had more.

FBI searched Trump’s home looking for nuclear documents and other items … Experts in classified information said the unusual search underscores deep concern among government officials about the types of information they thought could be located at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and potentially in danger of falling into the wrong hands … People familiar with the investigation did not offer additional details about what type of information the agents were seeking, including whether it involved weapons belonging to the United States or some other nation”. So is this as bad as it sounds?

Brian McBride’s observation suggests it is: “CNN analyst says the intel Trump stole are so sensitive that FBI agents will begin FINGER PRINTING each document to find out who actually touched them”. And what was that about “Various Classified TS/SCI Documents?” Asha Rangappa had that covered.

The former FBI Special Agent mused “Unpacking the Espionage Act, 18 U.S.C., Chapter 36. We are concerned here with Section 793 - Gathering, Transmitting, or Losing Defense Information … [S.793 concerns] info which the person who has them has reason to believe could a) be used to the injury of the U.S. or b) to the advantage of a foreign [Government]”. Do go on.

Trump has claimed he unilaterally declassified some material, which he could as President, but not as an ex-President. However, “it appears that nuclear secrets cannot be unilaterally declassified…which makes sense, [because] you can imagine that we might not want to leave secrets that could involve blowing up the entire planet in the hands of one individual”.

Whether or not Trump was allowed to retain such information, “it is a violation of the Espionage Act to wilfully retain such information and fail to turn it over to an official who is lawfully entitled to receive it … That is, it appears, what Trump has done … If he affirmatively conveyed it to a foreign government … it would be a violation of Section 794…which … can carry the death penalty”.

And there is Nigel Farage blustering away in defence of The Donald, but managing to miss all those inconvenient facts. Why would he do that so readily, so willingly? You might wish to ask that - I couldn’t possibly comment.

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