Monday, 30 April 2012

Frederic Michel and  Cameron: PR people both
Once the details of the emails released at the Leveson Inquiry had been poured over there were some who said the PR guy for News Corp had ‘oversold’ his case. Simon Hoggart, writing in the Guardian had this view. “Frédéric Michel, the man employed by News Corp to link with Hunt's office, sounded like so many of the PR people I've met. Everything is wildly exaggerated. "X is really on board with us on this" means "I have spoken at a party to X and he didn't reply with a screed of abuse." 
"We're going to do a media blitz, starting with Newsnight and The One Show" means "I have phoned a junior researcher on both those programmes."
"We've lined up all the key players on this decision" implies "We have emailed several of them."
You get the idea. Listening to Cameron’s faux outrage today, at being dragged back to the Commons to explain his peculiar inactivity was frustrating until it was remembered that Cameron had cut his teeth as a self-same PR man. Hunt is his shield. He will say anything and go to any lengths to deflect heat from his shield. The Tories relationship with the Murdoch empire is even more toxic than that ‘enjoyed’ by New Labour. PR Cameron will face many more challenges yet before he is safe. Our PR PM takes us for fools. 
To see just how far away we are from a decent society we can apply the Professor Michael Sandel test. He is the American professor of Philosophy who shines a light in a murky world. He said in a Reith Lecture in 2009: “The virtues in democratic life  - community, solidarity, trust, civic friendship - these virtues are not like commodities that are depleted with use. They are, rather, like muscles that develop and grow stronger with exercise.”
Read the words again and appreciate just how distant our society is from these virtues. PR Cameron and his crooked cronies willfully abuse these virtues on a daily basis.  

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Hunt is a tax avoider too
When the Daily Torygraph is hot on your trail and you are a Tory Government minister you know you are in trouble. The paper has been doing some digging and has unearthed another issue to trouble Hunt. 
“The Culture Secretary was paid a dividend by the company he founded in the form of half its office building. The offices were then immediately leased back to the same company.
Accountants said that the deal allowed Mr Hunt to legally reduce his potential tax bill by more than £100,000 because it was completed just days before an announced 10 per cent rise in the tax on dividends in April 2010.
Earlier this week, David Cameron said he would not associate himself with anyone who carried out “aggressive tax avoidance”, while George Osborne, the Chancellor, previously said he was “shocked” by the scale of tax avoidance by some of Britain’s richest people.
The Culture Secretary and his business partner, Mike Elms, transferred ownership of their company’s office building in Hammersmith into their own names in April 2010, just before the tax rate for the transaction rose to 42.5 per cent. They then leased the property back to Hotcourses, their jointly owned education company, for 10 years.
By paying themselves the building as a dividend before the change in tax rules, the two men saved themselves an income tax bill of £202,000 on the £1.8 million deal, by paying tax on it at the rate of 32.5 per cent. The company now pays them £60,750 a year in rent.” Telegraph 28/4/2012
Hunt is another Tory millionaire who regard paying taxes as something little people do. He operates in a world of influence and back-scratching. Probity, transparency and honesty do not rate highly in his value system. 
His contemporaries at Oxbridge were Cameron and Johnson. Who are also millionaire ‘posh boys’. 

Leveson says no
It is not often that an embarrassing issue, supposedly despatched into the long grass, is unceremoniously booted back into play. That is what happened this evening when Lord Justice Leveson declared that the shenanigans surrounding the Culture Minister were nothing to do with him or his Inquiry. 
Yet again the brains at No.10 have screwed up. Once the damaging emails emerged during James Murdoch’s appearance at the Inquiry there would have been a frantic gathering deciding how best to play what looked like corruption in high places. Well they did not do their reparation did they? No-one checked with the judge. Or if they did they got their wires crossed. 
The Downing Street Machine are so useless they cannot even get the cover up sorted. Hunt has to go. He is either inept because he did not know what his Special Advisor was up to (in a hugely sensitive commercial venture) or he is bent. The assurances about transparency and releasing his text messages is so much hogwash. He assured Parliament back in March 2011 that he would release all the documents to do with the bid. The appearance of 160+ pages of emails this week show that he lied to Parliament. Another sacking offence. 
Will he divulge the details of his off the record conversations, briefings and dealings? Will he explain what was said when he had the meeting with Murdoch’s execs in the US well before the last election? Will he reveal what he said to Cameron on his return? Will he explain how it came to pass that a mere six days after he landed back in the UK, James Murdoch met Cameron and pledged the support of The Sun in the upcoming election?
Will he buggery. 
Cameron must be breaking out in cold sweats.........the heat is being turned up on him.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Murdoch is The Dirty Digger
Rupert Murdoch was not known as the ‘Dirty Digger’ as a term of endearment. He was a ruthless, calculating and unprincipled businessman. He would use and abuse anyone to get his way. Agreements and conditions put in place to help him acquire notable titles such as The Times were ignored or torn up once the deal was done. He has been largely unchallenged for most of his working life. To see him play the role of a benign potentate at the Leveson Inquiry took some swallowing. His aim was he declared, “To dispel some myths.” 
Nick Davies is the award-winning journalist who exposed the depths to which the News of the World had sunk against ferocious opposition and much establishment indifference. His views of the Digger’s appearance at Leveson are apposite.
“Murdoch kept denying that he made deals with politicians, ie, that he simply offered them the support of his paper in return for favours to his business. But Jay suggested: "It operates at a far more sophisticated level, doesn't it?" and went on to quote the reported words of the former Australian prime minister Paul Keating: "You can do a deal with him without ever saying a deal is done."
He described how he had once spent an afternoon at Chequers, telling Blair how much he opposed Britain joining the euro, as though the prime minister had nothing better to do.
To this extraordinary degree of access, he boldly added that he does indeed direct the editorial line of the Sun on major issues, including questions about Europe. And, once again failing to hold his tongue, he went right ahead and admitted what this would mean to a man like Blair: "If any politician wanted my views on major issues, they only had to read the Sun." The Sun relentlessly reinforced the anti-EU message.
Murdoch continued to deny that Blair had ever done anything for him, but then conceded that Blair had "gone the extra mile for him" over European policy, to the point where he had acceded to the Sun's demand that the government should agree to hold a referendum before accepting the new EU constitution.
And Blair had done something very similar by ensuring Britain maintained tough anti-union laws and then underlined the point with an article in the Sun, following which the two men had enjoyed dinner together. Murdoch agreed it was possible he had congratulated Blair on his position.
Similarly, Jay quoted Murdoch's former confidant, Woodrow Wyatt, who was close to Margaret Thatcher and who recorded in his diary that he had once told Murdoch: "Margaret is very keen on preserving your position. She knows how much she depends on your support. Likewise, you depend on her." Murdoch produced his standard denial – "I didn't expect any help from her, nor did I ask for any" – and then found himself accepting that, while the Sun supported her, she had delivered a series of decisions which looked really very helpful indeed, including allowing him to buy the Times and the Sunday Times without referring his bid to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. She also exempted BSkyB from the regulations in the 1990 Broadcasting Act.
With Gordon Brown and David Cameron, he kept closer to the script but, even so, he caused unnecessary trouble.
He denied discussing the BBC licence fee with Cameron. Enough said. Talking to a prime minister about the licence fee might suggest he had some commercial motive. But then his tongue added: "I wasn't interested in the BBC licence fee. I had been through that with previous prime ministers, and it didn't matter. They all hated the BBC, and they all gave it whatever it wanted." Guardian 26/4/2012
Be prepared for a string of ex and current Prime Ministers denying that Murdoch influenced them in any way. Keating’s comment about doing a deal without a deal is perceptive. One of the most shaming things is the way our senior politicians (apart from the LibDems, regarded by Murdoch as losers and therefore not worth bothering with) behaved in such a sycophantic and demeaning way in the hope of getting his blessing. 
Sick bags all round.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Transparent as mud and bent as a nine-bob note*. 
Another chapter in the deeply unsavoury world of UK politics. This time it is Jeremy Hunt the Culture Minister caught schmoozing with the Murdoch empire at a time when he was acting in a ‘quasi-judicial’ role adjudicating on their bid to buy the rest of BSkyB. 
Tomorrow Murdoch senior turns up at Leveson. His recent tweets show that he has fallen out big time with the Cameron Conman crew. His rags have been noticeably putting the boot in, from the sting exposing ‘cash for access’, to the coverage of the budget. Mind you, they have been given plenty of ammunition by this hapless bunch of posh boys.
Camercon had a little mention today too. He did discuss the BSkyB bid at that pre-Christmas meal with Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch. Well blow me down. Fancy that! The 1% being helped by their lackeys currently running the country. 
Camercon will be more concerned about what will come out tomorrow. He will be working hard tonight with his PR team to come up with a strategy which makes him a little less muddy. The line he used so effectively when the expenses scandal broke is the likeliest approach. “Yes we have sinned, but I am determined to sort it out.” Well we know how that panned out. A handful of arrogant and stupid scapegoats went to jail. A few old duffers retired and several others were kicked out at the election. The majority of the rest carried on with business as usual, albeit a tad more carefully. Some sort out.
As for Hunt, he will hope to ride out the current demands for his resignation, knowing that Rupe will in all likelihood spill the beans on NewLabour too. The fact that Camercon hasn’t sacked him says it all. 
Listening to him giving his statement reminded me of the ‘Sword of Truth, Shield of Honour’ guff that Jonathon Aitken came out with when he took on the Guardian. 
Another few steps towards the national election nervous breakdown....
*nine-bob note = a reference to some thing being fake from the days of yore when such a thing as a ten shilling note existed

Sunday, 22 April 2012

National Nervous Breakdown
Radio 4 can make a long journey seem much shorter. It was interesting to finally hear from the minority parties in our country yesterday. The ten minute session on the ‘Week in Westminster’ (Radio 4 11.00a.m. Saturday) featured a discussion with Nigel Farrage, Caroline Lucas and George Galloway with Peter Kellner alongside giving the stats. There was very little point scoring and George Galloway was clearly a fan of Dr Lucas, as he called her. 
Among several well-made points was the fact that less people vote for the main parties than ever before. In the 1951 election, 95% of the electorate voted either Labour or Conservative. At the Bradford West bye-election the mainstream parties received barely 40% of the vote. UKIP came second in the last European elections pushing NewLabour into third place and are currently polling above the LibDems. Caroline Lucas said there was considerable anger among the public at the way all three parties agree to keep troops in Afghanistan and are also very much on the same wavelength on ‘austerity.’ She thought the nation was close to national election nervous breakdown as trust in the main parties is evaporating and mainstream politicians are so despised. George Galloway repeated his three cheeks on the same backside line. All felt that they had to keep pushing - not only against the system which rewards the status quo - but also against the media who are embedded with the status quo. Only the Guardian bothered to send a reporter to Bradford before the election. 
As if to prove their case along came ‘Any Questions’ at 1.10p.m. On the panel was the odious creep Alan Duncan, Spectator Editor Fraser Nelson (so that was two tories then) Caroline Flint New Labour and International law expert Phillippe Sands, a LibDem supporter. So the three cheeks were well represented. The programme was ably chaired by Nick Robinson, but as so often with these programmes the alternative view was absent. 
Galloway was on ‘Question Time’ last Thursday with an audience in Leeds who were not sympathetic but he gave far better than he got. In particular a spat with ex Communist (now bubble-dweller) Times columnist David Aaranovitch was particularly venomous. The programme benefited hugely by having a different approach aired. 
We have a country ruled by an elite on behalf of their rich tax avoiding chums; who regard the electorate with disdain; and who would not recognise poverty if it came and smacked them in the chops. We need to throw many of these self-serving self-satisfied smug bastards out and let real people who have to deal with the actualities have a go. 
Let the National Nervous Breakdown begin.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Funding corruption not politics
The Cruddas revelations where he offered access for cash lifted the lid on just how deeply corrupt our so called democracy has become. For a mere £250,000 you get to meet the PM and bend his ear about your latest money-making wheeze or convince him that your company is just what is needed for a government contract. When this happens in third world countries it is called corruption. Here it is known as party funding. And they are all at it. And it stinks. Labour had £1m donor Ecclestone demanding the lifting of a proposed ban on tobacco ads on his F1 toys for the boys, plus cash for honours. The Libs fell in bed with Michael Brown who is a convicted fraudster - and then would not give the money back. And then there are the tories....Buying influence and advancement is second nature to them. Why else would so many practice the form of child abuse that is sending their offspring to boarding schools at such a tender age? The old boy network is alive and well and runs through all our parties.
Alternatives to large donations have not figured in the debate up till now. Ian Bell, writing in the Herald has some useful figures and ideas. 
“Why do parties require all these millions? Their rotten leaflets and their dire party political broadcasts are subsidised. Opposition parties already get their "Short money". In Labour's case, that's currently just over £5.4 million a year for "parliamentary business", with more than £600,000 allocated to Mr Miliband's office. Yet Labour still depends on £2.5 million from the Unite union.
In pretending to hunt out corruption, we risk institutionalising a corrupt system. Were any of the parties actual mass movements embracing millions of ordinary, dedicated voters the issue of funding would not arise. In reality, these organisations are so moribund they depend on stratagems and big cheques from powerful individuals.
As of last autumn, Labour membership stood at 190,000; the Tories at 177,000; the Lib Dems at 66,000. Membership of the Caravan Club was just under one million. Luckily for all of us, caravanners are not bent on seizing power.
Mr Miliband is mistaken. The point is not simply to cleanse the procedures by which the parties are funded, but to ask why those parties became vulnerable to big money to begin with. The absence of honest political belief, the absence of anything liable to galvanise those holders of a single vote who can't write big cheques, might just have something to do with it.” Herald 18/4/2012
Our political elite exist in a bubble. They do not connect with ‘ordinary folk’ despite claims to the contrary. When was the last time a politician knocked on your door? Or called you up? They talk a lot about going on the doorstep but hate it. Real people complain and are demanding. They want things to be done differently. As the skin of the bubble has become thicker over time, so the input and influence of activists across all parties has declined. Imagine being an activist for the LibDems and trying to drum up support for the doormats masquerading as a party of government.
There should be no public funding of political parties. A maximum limit of £100 per year per member is ample. Parties would have to cut their garments to fit the cash flow. How much is wasted on ‘Special Advisers’ or ‘spads’ whose main role seems to be to tell us lies and brief against each other. 
There is a vacuum waiting to be filled. The worry is that a right-wing fascistic party will occupy that space with simple nostrums and racist solutions.  
There is an urgent need for our leaders to actively engage with the electorate. That means going out regularly and meeting us, holding rallies, arguing their case, drumming up support and mobilising opinion and attitudes on the ground floor. 
Do not hold your breath.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Corruption and the Conservatives
“The chairman of a minicab company that wants access to London's restricted bus lanes was granted a private meeting with the transport secretary at which they discussed the matter after his firm donated £250,000 to the Conservative party.” Guardian 16/4/12
To this untrained eye this stinks. To the plod it should stink. To most rational voters in the country concerned for our democracy it will stink. Anyone still with doubts should read on.
“Minutes of the meeting with Hammond, released under the Freedom of Information Act, sparked opposition calls for the government to explain whether the donation and the meeting were linked.
"There are serious questions for ministers to answer about the level of access given to a major donor to the Tory party who at the same time was bidding for lucrative government contracts," said Maria Eagle, the shadow transport secretary. "The public have a right to know if ministers gave preferential treatment to John Griffin and other 'premier league' donors who sought to use access to ministers to advance their own interests."
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said neither Hammond nor his successor, Justine Greening, had met the bosses of any other private hire taxi firms but denied that the donation had helped secure the meeting. "It is entirely appropriate for the secretary of state for transport to meet large transport operators from different sectors in order to understand how their industries work," the spokesman said.
A spokesman for Hammond said: "Mr Hammond does not recall having any information about donations to the Conservative party at the time or when he subsequently met Mr Griffin in October 2011 to discuss issues in the private hire car sector." (ibid)
Note the ‘does not recall’ defence as used by Straw, Blair, Hoon, Fox, Werrity and all the other bent bastards.
A final thought. Hammond took over from Fox thereby maintaining the tradition of having the defence of the realm entrusted to people of dubious probity. 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Men of Straw
Last week’s brought us further revelations about our government being actively involved in renditioning a Gaddafi opposition leader and his wife back to Libya to ‘sweeten’ Libya’s return to the fold - and give BP access to their oil. They were returned to years of torture. The principal players in this cosy deal were Jack Straw, the then Foreign Secretary and Tony Blair who was PM. How were they to know that with the fall of the Gaddafi regime there would emerge letters among the rubble? And that these letters would be handed in to Human Rights organisations? The letters were sent from our secret services confirming the arrangement to ‘render’ this couple via the CIA and their US air base in Diego Garcia (British territory). This is the same rendition that so many Ministers at the time insisted we had nothing whatsoever to do with (including one D. Miliband). 
Blair claimed ‘he had no recollection’ and Straw said that as Foreign Secretary he was not aware of everything that went on....... Chuck in the sordid details of Megrahi’s release from Scotland and you get a glimpse of just how unethical Labour’s foreign policy became. Robin Cook would have been outraged. 
Straw and Blair along with many of their former colleagues are liars of the first order. Matthew Norman, writing in the Independent today had this to say, “Jack's claims to ignorance of Mr Belhaj's kidnap in Bangkok and rendition to Tripoli in 2004 have suffered another setback. The Mail on Sunday quotes one diplomat saying he "was shown certain papers and accepted that he had known about it" ("bullied into owning up", in English, "by those desperate to cover their backs"); and another describing Jack's repeated denials of any knowledge as "an unexpected loss of memory" (to translate once again, "giant whoppers"). There would be a certain symmetrical charm if the Met rendered the adorable scamp to Tripoli, where interrogators may have ways of jogging a sluggish memory.” 
This will not happen. It is also significant to relate that the Coalition has succumbed to the wormtongues of MI5 and MI6 and is looking to hold certain trials/inquests/inquiries in secret, which will mean there will be a complete lack of transparency. It will mean this type of disgraceful and deeply shaming behaviour will go unreported and unpunished. Democracy it isn’t. 
The secret trials proposal is also another denial of the Coalition Agreement which states:
“The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.”  and
“Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.”  Oh yeah.
Even so, Mr Pants on Fire must be getting a little nervous as events unfold beyond the control of the establishment. And the Reverend Blair will have to scrutinise his travel arrangements with even greater care - he may find himself being arrested in a country with greater regard for the rule of law than ours and sent to the Hague.......fingers crossed.

Thanks to Steve Bell for the terrific image.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Tax the Rich
The three main parties resemble medieval churchmen arguing about the number of angels who can fit on a pinhead. There is very little to choose between them. This point needs hammering again and again as the media who exist in the same bubble continue to parrot the party line. And ignore any dissenting view. 

Academic Greg Philo writing on behalf of the Glasgow University Media Group, made the point very well in a letter to The Guardian today.
“When we suggested a wealth tax to raise £800bn out of the £4tn held by the richest in our society, to stop the cuts, we found very strong support with a YouGov poll showing 73% in favour. The problem is not the potential support, but the fact that most people are not offered such alternatives either in mainstream media or by the main political parties.
The BBC should be featuring alternative views, but its news programmes are largely a parade of vested interests. We analysed interviews on the BBC's Today programme in the period in which UK banks were part nationalised and found that 81% of the interviewees were either, "City sources", "free market economists" or "business representatives". The limiting of the range of alternatives impacts on public understanding of what is possible. Our most recent focus groups show people believing that the UK debt relates only to the actions of the last Labour government, rather than as a typical feature of how governments operate over long periods of time. Most plaintively, it was said in a group that there couldn't be alternatives to the present policies or "they would have heard of them". They certainly wouldn't at the moment, from most of our politicians and media.”
Tax the rich would resonate with a lot of people struggling. It would go over the head of our  smugly incompetent chancellor who tells us today that he is “shocked” at the way wealthy individuals pay barely 10% tax in the UK. Shocked my arse. They are his mates.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

A letter to my MP

Feel free to use part, all, or none of the below to let your LibDem/Tory MP know what you think

5th April 2012
Dear Mr MP
Not been the best few weeks for the Conservative party has it? 
  • The budget rewarding the rich at the expense of pensioners and those on middle incomes.
  • The same budget ripping up any pretensions to be the ‘greenest government ever.’
  • Passing the un-manifesto’d NHS Bill - accompanied by the thumping of the Cabinet table by your public school leaders.
  • The fuel fiasco exacerbated by unconvicted expenses cheat Maude and the leaked ‘Thatcher moment’ email.
  • Cash for Access - and the way Cameron later failed to list the events organised by Cruddas thereby undermining claims of transparency.
Not bad for starters. A time for reflection and regrouping would be in order......but no! It now appears that any claims to be hot on civil liberties have also been shredded. 

Secret Justice is not justice. It denies generations of fairness and transparency and takes us back to the days of the Star Chamber. In short - it stinks. Similarly the idea that the government should have access to all our emails, phone calls and web transactions. This is barmy and disgraceful in equal measure. It also represents practices operated by the worst authoritarian regimes - as well as sending out encouragement to regimes as yet un-repressive. 
There is a massive problem with both these proposals and it is trust. We the citizens of this country do not trust our governments any more. We were lied to about Iraq, and there can be no bigger lie than taking a country to war on a lie. We were lied to about the NHS (almost as big) and we continue to be lied to about tax evasion and all being in this together. 
Your party failed to win the last election because the ‘toxic tory’ tag still resonated especially in the north and Scotland. You were faced with a government in meltdown and a Prime Minister who had massive problems. You should have walked the election and didn’t. You will have great difficulty at the next election convincing any rational voter you mean what you say and say what you mean.
Recent policies/events have re-affirmed that the Toxic Tories are back. Supported by their quisling LibDem colleagues the government are confirming the impression that we are governed by the few on behalf of the even fewer. Upcoming appearances by Blair, Cameron et al at the Leveson Inquiry will no doubt reinforce this message.
As a Conservative MP who stood on the platform of putting the interests of his constituents first, what are you going to do about it?
Yours sincerely

Monday, 2 April 2012

A ‘Thatcher Moment’
The fall out from the government’s failure to handle the tanker driver’s dispute continues. Having been told to panic then not to panic in a form of dystopian Hokey-Cokey, we are now told everything is wonderful. “Oh no it isn’t” says a spokesman for the industry who makes a strong case. 6000 forecourts have closed since the last fuel dispute. That is a lot of capacity. Garage owners are wary of keeping their tanks full as each delivery costs £25,000 in tax to the government - paid upfront - which is then reclaimed from the customers at so much a litre. There are many garages with empty or nearly empty tanks and they have been told by their usual suppliers to ‘shop around.’ 
All of this will blow over in the next few days but will the damage done by the Tory Boys to their reputation recover? Even Tory papers are angered by their ineptitude. Charles Moore writing in the Telegraph quotes the email sent to all constituency parties before the fiasco escalated.
‘“This is our Thatcher moment. In order to defeat the coming miners’ strike, she stockpiled coal. When the strike came, she weathered it, and the Labour Party, tarred by the strike, was humiliated. In order to defeat the coming fuel drivers’ strike, we want supplies of petrol stockpiled. Then, if the strike comes, we will weather it, and Labour, in hock to the Unite union, will be blamed.”’
“There is a key difference which ministers have not spotted. When Mrs Thatcher piled up the coal at power stations until the strike began in 1984, she was not inconveniencing the public. In 2012, the Coalition is trying to press-gang the public, without saying so, into its political battles. All those people queuing on the forecourts were pawns in a Government-organised blame-game.
No doubt many people reading this column are happy that Ed Miliband’s and Ed Balls’s dependence on a large trade union should be exposed, but very few, I suspect, appreciate being made into mugs. (And the political effect, of course, is the opposite of that intended: Unite now looks virtuous, and is much better placed to win its demands.)”
The issue was discussed on ‘Any Questions’ this week. The audience were clearly of the view that they had been used political ends. 
Mrs Thatcher is reported to be suffering from dementia. The Tory who sent the message to the constituency parties was more right than than he thought. This was a demented plan from the Tory Boys in their gilded bubble.
Mad, bad and dangerous.