Thursday, 31 May 2012

Benyon is a bounder

Benyon is a top toff. He is also a cad and appears to have used his position as wildlife minister to promote the shooting industry. Following his Buzzard fiasco he is now under the spotlight for a decision to drop an inquiry into the behaviour of another estate. Benyon owns a 20,000 acre estate.
“Benyon, the Wildlife minister, was under pressure last night to explain what influence he had on a decision to drop landmark legal proceedings against a grouse-shooting estate that was burning peatland in a conservation area.” Independent 30/5/12
It is becoming clearer and clearer thanks to Leveson that we are ruled by an elite who do not give a toss what lesser mortals think or value. They collude with each other and promote their own interests. Even long-standing Tory supporting papers like the Wail and Torygraph express their dismay and sometimes disgust at the incompetence and cronyism.
Benyon is a bounder but he is not alone.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tory Toffs

Most of you will by now be familiar with the ‘Tory Toff’ label applied to many of the Cabinet. You may not be so familiar with one who has raised toffdom to an art form.
Introducing Richard Benyon, as the Independent says, “a scion of a well-known Berkshire landowning and political family: he is the great-great grandson of Lord Salisbury, that most aristocratic of Tory Prime Ministers at the end of the 19th century.
Thus, he is not only a toff: he is as grand a toff as they come, and his CV displays the archetype of the Tory landed gentleman: educated at Bradfield, the well-known Berkshire public school, army service in the Royal Green Jackets, until its amalgamation perhaps the smartest of the infantry regiments, and an estate management degree at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, the Oxford for young gentleman farmers. 
His is the type of Old Tory background David Cameron is none too keen on highlighting. Today, Mr Benyon presides over the Englefield Estate, 20,000 acres of beautiful Berkshire countryside, and you might well expect that with his background, he would enjoy game shooting. The problem is, he has taken his enthusiasm with him into Government, and it is now clashing with his conservation responsibilities.
Keen observers have started to notice that under his tenure, the wildlife part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been favouring shooting interests over conservation. For example, in the spring, when Natural England, the Government's wildlife watchdog, was attempting to prosecute the owners of a grouse moor in the Pennines, Walshaw Moor, for damaging protected bogland, Defra – read Mr Benyon – forced it to drop the prosecution. That went largely unnoticed; perhaps it emboldened him. But his extraordinary decision to allow buzzards' nests to be destroyed with shotguns will be noticed, and resented, and challenged, all over Britain. It is a classic case of a minister so blinded by his personal enthusiasms that his political judgement deserts him completely.” Independent 29th May
There are even better reasons to despise this arch toff. The unsubstantiated claims about the Buzzard and the reaction from Defra without a shred of evidence is concerning. It gets worse. The news that the Hen Harrier faces extinction in England has been met with a deafening silence from Defra. The majority of the recorded casualties occured on land owned by the huntin ‘n shootin fraternity who also happen to be very wealthy supporters of the tory party. This damning revelation is allegedly contained in a report suppressed by Natural England. Don't want to upset the toffs do we.......
Just in case anyone is in any doubt let us reiterate; Benyon ‘enjoys’ game shooting. This includes importing pheasant chicks from France so they can be fattened up on these sporting estates. Large amounts of public funds are diverted to these estates for ‘conservation’ ie killing all potential predators (many protected by the law of the land) while claiming the contrary. Colossal numbers of pheasants are killed every year in a manner that could best be described as shooting fish in a barrel by chaps with little willies and even smaller brains. 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Stinky and stinkier

“A fish rots from the head” is an ancient saying of disputed provenance. No matter. It is apt today after watching the wriggling and squirming of Michel and Smith at Leveson. The latest in a long list of gobsmackers was the news that four weeks before he replaced Vince Cable, Hunt wrote an email to Cameron expressing support for News Corps bid for BSkyB. 
When the poo hit the fan a month ago this was conveniently ignored by Cameron. He knowingly replaced a prejudiced Minister to run a quasi-judicial role with another, equally but oppositely biased one. The odds on him not being leader at the next election were already plunging before this news. The Torygraph are particularly unhappy. They opposed the Murdoch hegemony so their journo's word processing skills have been ditched for axemanship.
The vast amounts of contacts between the department and Michel (acting on behalf of NewsCorp)are in themselves revealing. Ordinary folk do not have such access. Spivs, scoundrels, chancers and scumbags however can text, email or ring at any time. 
This affair is getting stinkier and stinkier. It began with an ‘off the record’ meeting between Thatcher and Murdoch back in 1981, only revealed in March this year. After this meeting she refused to refer his bid for the Times group to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Thanks to her support he gave her an easy ride through his rags in the eighties. It has clearly carried on till the present day.  
In other countries this sort of thing is called corruption.
Not sure if the Tories can spell it but they certainly smell of it.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Adrian Beecroft

(Who he? Ed) He is an extremely wealthy venture capitalist who was called in by Cameron to ‘think the thinkable’ and look at employment law. He is also a significant donor to Tory funds. He has produced a report which has split the Coalition. The Tories welcomed his proposal that employers should be able to summarily sack workers they deemed unsatisfactory. The LibDems  thought the idea ‘bonkers’. All very useful to put clear blue water between the parties. The more Tory backbenchers fulminate about ‘tails wagging dogs’ the better it plays with the handful of LibDem activists still engaged.
Venture capitalists are people who invest large sums of money in fledgling businesses. Like gambling on the favourite in the 3-30 at Kempton it can be high risk. The risk can be minimised by utilising offshore banks in the Caymans to (legally) reduce tax bills to near zero. This is what Beecroft did with his various Apex companies. In this he follows in the gilded footsteps of another government ‘advisor’ Sir Philip Green, who handed over all his considerable wealth to his wife in Monaco; thereby saving himself a massive tax bill. Again all legal. 
This affair reinforces the ‘us and them’ view rapidly gaining ground in the UK. ‘Them’ constitute barely 1% of our population; avoid paying taxes; are extremely wealthy and are invited to influence government policy. They enjoy security, an above average healthcare system and all the trappings of a reasonably civilised society. They take but only give to bodies who will look after their interests. Austerity! What austerity?
Then there are the ‘us’ .....Bearing the brunt of austerity measures. Paying proportionally significantly more in taxes and beyond the ken of the average Tory minister. And at the opposite end of the spectrum, struggling to survive. 
Should the opportunity arise when a member of the 99% is asked to ‘advise’ the government then the first thing to consider would be to make these wealthy leeches pay their taxes. 
Beecroft claimed his proposals would stimulate the economy by £5bn. 
Taxing the wealthy would raise £120bn.
As the Americans say, do the math.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Dissolution of the Rich

Mark Steel had this bombshell in his latest article: “In the UK, the national debt is equivalent to the sum the richest 1,000 have become richer by in the past four years.” Independent 16/5/12. Were they to return to their levels of 2008 these people would still be rich. They are incredibly wealthy. They are also very cunning and spend a lot of time and money getting the best tax advice. As a consequence they pay a considerably lower rate of tax than many of their staff. And this includes the lowest paid. 
Tax avoidance and the use of offshore bank accounts are de rigeur among our elite. It has spread to the next layer down. Public servants have taken to declaring themselves to be ‘companies’ thereby significantly reducing the amount of tax they pay. This needs tackling - and quickly.
In the early 16th century there was a similar elite group who stood outside the common herd. In those days it was the monasteries and religious orders who had acquired vast wealth and lands. As the ProtestantReformation gathered pace across the continent these elites came under attack. As Wikipedia has it, “there was the added element of mass discontent against ecclesiastical power and wealth among common people and the lower levels of clergy and civil society.” 
Henry the 8th came up with a novel wheeze.  J.J. Scarisbrick remarked in his biography of Henry VIII:  ‘Suffice it to say that English monasticism was a huge and urgent problem; that radical action, though of precisely what kind was another matter, was both necessary and inevitable, and that a purge of the religious orders was probably regarded as the most obvious task of the new regime’ 
His solution was to dissolve the monasteries and grab their assets for the Crown. 
Substitute ‘wealthy elite’ for ‘English monasticism’ and the road ahead becomes clearer. A purge on the wealthy. 
One suggestion is for the richest 1000 to have a windfall tax on their recent wealth. Simple to apply and could be sold as ‘We are all in this together,” a mantra that has been heard less and less from the ConDem government. 
As most of the Cabinet form part of the elite this will not happen. 
Another solution, even more unlikely, is to launch dawn raids and take as many of the very wealthy  as possible into ‘protective custody’ while their tax affairs are scrutinised. Any discovered avoidance and skullduggery would result in confiscation of equivalent assets followed by show trials pour encourage les autres. Estimates vary, but the £120bn raised would go a long way to sorting out the current mess ( caused by the selfsame wealthy.....!) 
Henry would have approved.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Rage against the machine

Our local Tory candidate bucked the national trend. The Tory vote nationally collapsed or supporters stayed at home. Recent headlines could not have been worse for a prospective  candidate. By working hard contacting the electorate in this geographically spread ward he more than doubled the Tory vote. He was very narrowly defeated but showed what can be done by connecting with people. Many people voted Tory for the first time in their lives. The turnout in the ward was 51% - again significantly higher than the average for Scotland and the rest of the UK. 
“Labour polled better than the rest, but the real winner of those contests, and by a landslide, was the Stay At Home Party. The non-voters represented 68% of the electorate.  One Labour figure observes: "People say 'I don't vote' like they would say 'I don't smoke'. It's a lifestyle decision now".” Andrew Rawnsley, Observer 13/5/12
At the count in Argyll there were several spoilt ballot papers which were scrutinised by the candidates. Part of the process involves displaying said papers on a screen in the hall. There was much laughter when one came up with the words ‘ALL WANKERS’ written in bold felt tip across the entire ballot paper. Another had every name bar one crossed out with the word ‘reluctantly’ against the remaining candidate. There were several ‘none of the above’s’ too. The ‘wankers’ voter must have been in enough dudgeon to go to his polling station with a felt-tipped pen to make his (or her) statement. Far too many cannot be bothered or are now detached from our political system
“Among those still voting, we see an increasing rejection of conventional party politics in a flight to extremes, "independents" and single-issue parties, a phenomenon far from confined to Britain. In Germany, there's the rapid rise of the Pirate Party. The French and Greek elections both saw leaps in support for fascist and radical leftist parties. In the US, it found expression in the Tea Party. The British strain of this contagion has been comparatively mild: one byelection victory for Respect and an increasingly smug look on the face of Nigel Farage as he basks in the rising ratings for Ukip....
...At the last election, when David Cameron was trying to present himself as the answer to public disenchantment, broken promises and sleazy deals, he offered what he called "an invitation to join the government of Britain". The revelations of the Leveson inquiry are further confirmation for voters that power is brokered at gatherings to which they are never invited. The Labour leader was honest enough to acknowledge the sins of his party in this respect. "We became one of 'them' rather than one of 'us'."
As an explanation for what has gone wrong, this analysis is not just confined to the left. The New Few, a compelling book by the conservative thinker Ferdinand Mount, a former head of the Number 10 Policy Unit when Margaret Thatcher was in residence, argues that wherever you find power, whether it be at Westminster, universities, in the City or corporate boardrooms, you will find self-serving oligarchies dedicated to the empowerment and enrichment of a minority at the expense of the majority.” (ibid)
So what is to be done? One answer is to re-connect with electors on their doorstep as evidenced by our local Tory. It takes a certain amount of bottle and a willingness to engage in what has come to be known as dog shit politics - tackling issues that matter to people in an area. Another is to limit party donations or even do away with them all together, restricting fundraising to a membership fee. 
We cannot rely on Westminster’s bubble-dwellers for reform. It will take a bottom-up movement.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Rebekah Brooks - the flame-haired harpy

Brooks, sitting in the dock at the Leveson Inquiry, doing her best to look like Miss Purity, reflected an interesting approach from the News Corp team. Coached, briefed and drilled to cope with whatever Jay and Leveson threw at her, Brooks began with the ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ approach, simpering and smiling obsequiously. She thankfully left this behind when it was clear it had no effect on her inquisitors. 
Her memory was remarkably flawed for one so powerful. In this she follows a long line of powerful deniers who also have galloping dementia (Straw, Blair et al). What did emerge was a sorry picture of just how influential the malign Murdoch empire has been. The instances of pre-emptive cringing and kow-towing from senior politicians reflect very badly on the perpetrators. She also revealed more than she thought when she had ‘difficulty’ recalling how it came to be that Cameron ‘happened’ to turn up at one of their many yachts  in the Med.  
The release of yet another email placing the egregious Hunt in the firing line was a further bombshell for beleaguered Cameron and his inept colleagues. Hunt can deny all he likes. He either knew and was complicit and is therefore a crooked corrupt bastard or he didn’t know and he is therefore out of his depth and is not fit to run a department of state being such a stupid bastard.
As for Rebekah.....What a thoroughly nasty piece of work. It is no wonder so many MPs and Ministers adopted the Arslikhan (copyright Private Eye) approach to her and her cohorts. They knew very well what the outcome would be to take her and the Murdochs on. It is no coincidence that Cameron is getting a regular doing from his former chums because he bowed to massive public pressure and set up the Leveson Inquiry. All those Tory spokesjobs mouthing off about how good Cameron was to set up the Inquiry need to rewind a few months and remember the febrile atmosphere when the Millie Dowler hacking story broke. Cameron had no choice. He was in deep trouble.
Anyone who crossed the paper would be pressured into doing the Sun’s bidding e.g Balls the bully caving in to sack Sharon Shoesmith (over the Baby P case) and in the process ignoring established safeguards and having his decision castigated and overturned in the courts. 
But he was ok with the harpy. 
The brutalisation of our culture, the demeaning of our politicians and the corruption of our society are almost all down to the Murdoch Mafia with Rebekah acting as consigliere. 
After all, its only business.

As for the harpy we will see how she gets on with the criminal courts.....

Update 18th May
Having just been charged with perverting the course of justice, the harpy has launched an attack on the CPS QC who gave the go-ahead for charges to be brought. According to the Harpy, these charges have been made because the QC was reported in the tabloids as having an affair 5 years ago. Her legal team are challenging whether the QC was acting fairly. 
Having edited the Sun and the Screws, the harpy will have a good grounding in 'fairness'. 

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Isn’t business brilliant?

A seminal moment in my life came many, many years ago when reading about the end of the Second World War. It emerged that the giant Krupp metal, engineering and armaments  company who had provided the Nazis with weapons and equipment, and who had made a vast fortune out of the untold misery inflicted on swathes of Europe, were still in business and still massive. Yes, many of their factories had been massively damaged and yes, they had used thousands of slave workers captured from invaded territory and yes, they did pay some ‘reparations’ at the end of the war. It was not long though before the Cold War meant the Krupp organisation were rehabilitated into society very quickly. They had provided the Kaiser’s troops with guns and equipment too so they had form. Similarly Henry Ford sold many trucks to the Nazis - without much backlash.
It was all ‘business’  - the magnificent word which covers so much. 
In our recent history we have experience of a Prime Minister scuppering a legitimate Serious Fraud Office (SFO) Inquiry into the Al Yamamah arms deal. This was an arms deal estimated to be worth £90bn brokered between the Saudis and BAE during the reign of Thatcher and had a cast of reprobates, rogues and scoundrels. Among them Jonathon Aitken with his sword of truth and his shield of decency who went to prison for lying. He used his daughters as a cover story. PM Blair was approached by Prince Bandar Bin Sultan who was alleged to have received bribes approaching £1bn to sweeten the deal. As the SFO gained access to Swiss bank accounts it became clear that the deal was under threat. PM Blair, using his ‘good offices’ put pressure on the SFO to drop the case which they duly did. It was ‘business’ after all.
To bring matters up to date we have the spivs and rogues in the City masquerading as people of probity. They are no more than the gamblers found on race tracks across the globe. What is even worse, with the development of ‘futures’ it is possible to bet on the price of commodities not even grown, sewn or mined yet. A tanker leaving the Gulf can have its cargo bought and sold seven or more times as it heads towards Europe. Lyme Bay off the Dorset coast recently had three or more tankers anchored there waiting for the price of fuel to rise. The net effect of all this is that we end up paying ever increasing amounts for our fuel. Because some little City squit wanted his bonus.
Far, far worse is the effect that such betting (or speculating) has on the third world and the price of staple foods, leaving the worst served ill-equipped to provide for their families. It pressurises countries desperate to pay their debts into the last resort of growing commodities such as coffee and sugar which cannot feed their people.
But it is business.
The vast profits engendered by these trades rarely see the exchequer. 
“Offshore accounts old boy - it’s such good business sense.”

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Guantanamo: a stain on the US
It is rare indeed that the thoughts of Gerald Kauffman ring a bell. He is the MP for Gorton in Manchester, one of the poorest communities in the country. He submitted a bill for a £7000 tele to us the taxpayer (Expenses scandal) thereby establishing his right-on credentials. He has pomposity to spare and is an unlikeable chap. Yet his letter in today’s Guardian was short and very much to the point.
“The defendants at the Guantánamo trial are accused of abominable crimes, and the victims' families are understandably anguished. It should be remembered that in international law this is an illegal trial staged at an illegal venue by a lying president who has broken his promise to close the venue down.
Gerald Kaufman MP
Labour, Manchester Gorton”
Guantanamo is a stain on the name and reputation of the United States. 

Monday, 7 May 2012

What Leveson has shown us so far
Gary Younge makes sense of the Tories links with Murdoch in today’s Guardian and sets the scandal in the context of a ruling elite.
“The evidence (at Leveson) has laid bare the intimate, extensive and insidious web of social, familial and personal ties between the political, corporate and legal forces that govern a country: a patchwork of individual and institutional associations so tightly interwoven that to pick at one part is to watch the whole thing unravel. The "sit downs", pay-offs and class camaraderie on display owe more to a cross between Downton Abbey and the Sopranos than the functioning of a 21st-century democracy.
The details of the main narrative bear repeating. We now know that James Murdoch met with David Cameron 12 times between January 2006 and January 2010 – eight times for dinner, twice for breakfast, once for lunch and once for drinks. Between May 2010 and July 2011 there were also more than 60 meetings between ministers and either Rupert Murdoch, his son James, the then News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks or James Harding, the editor of the Times. That averages around one a week. We know there were more, but not all were logged as such by Downing Street.
The subplots are stunning. And the forthcoming attractions could yet overshadow the lot. Now that Brooks has agreed to hand over her text messages to Cameron, we are about to learn whether rumours that they exchanged as many as 12 texts a day are true.
Brooks was arrested both on suspicion of phone hacking and corruption last year. She was arrested again this year with her husband, Charlie Brooks, on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. Charlie went to Eton with Cameron – as did the Tory mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
Such is the incestuous nature of the British ruling class and the gene puddle from which it draws its stock. Such is their brazen venality, complicity, contempt and mendacity. Eton, Oxford, Bullingdon, Westminster – if you're looking for a tiny minority who are struggling to integrate, look no further than the cabinet. Two things make this a matter of import as well as intrigue. The first is the lie it gives to the insistence on meritocracy at a time of acute economic crisis when benefits are slashed, the poor hammered. Cameron and his cabinet insist others pull themselves up by their bootstraps even as they themselves swan around in their parents' expensive pairs of loafers. Today almost 40% of MPs went to private school. In 1997 it was just 30%. In terms of social mobility, we are going backwards. The issue here is not class envy but class entrenchment. The fact that they were born rich is irrelevant. They had no choice in the matter. But the fact that they appear to want to give even more to those who already have a great deal while denying much to those who have little is unforgiveable. (my emphasis)
The one job Cameron landed in the private sector was arranged by his wife's mother, Lady Astor, who was friends with Michael Green, then executive chairman of Carlton. Green gave Cameron a starting salary of £90,000. He has no more had to stand on his merits than James Murdoch had to interview for a job at News Corp.
Rocked in the cradle of power from birth so that its rhythms become second nature, these people imbibe their sense of entitlement with their mother's milk. But the personal tutors, private schools, the most expensive universities do not, somehow, suffice. As though the benefits of wealth were not enough, they apparently feel the need to game the very system they already control.
Which brings us to the manner in which these interactions mock the very notion of democracy on which the nation's illusions are based. For the meetings, lunches and visits showcase a parallel, unaccountable universe where actual decisions are made and deals are done. (ditto)All these informal gatherings took place at a time when the government was supposed to be adjudicating News Corporation's bid to take over BSkyB. With the culture secretary described by Murdoch's lobbyist as a "cheerleader" for News International, it seems as if the takeover was to all intents and purposes a done deal, prevented only by the fallout from the hacking scandal. All the kinks ironed out on horseback and settled in time for the main course. Parliament would have been a mere rubber stamp. Oversight reduced to an afterthought in a House of Commons that may soon more closely resemble a house of cards.” G. Younge Guardian 7/5/12

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Cardinal Sean Brady - “to not lose face”
The depth and breadth of the abuse crisis in Ireland is not over. The religious programme ‘Sunday’ on radio 4 this morning updated events in Ireland since the BBC documentary ‘This World’ aired last week. The BBC investigation revealed more details of his role in investigating Ireland's most notorious paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth in 1975. Brady was given the names of several children who were being abused. He did nothing with that information. He even swore the informant to secrecy on the bible. Remarkably, Brady has since issued a writ against the programme makers. Another gem was that Brady was still refusing to resign and that his defence was in effect that he was ‘only obeying orders.’
A priest who is an opponent of the catholic hierarchy painted in some background. Twenty years ago 97% of the population of the Irish Republic attended mass weekly. That figure is now down to 30%. Of those, the majority of attendees are over 60. The number attending mass who are under 30 is in single figures.
The Vatican continue to operate in denial mode. Surprise, surprise. Michael Kelly, Deputy Editor of the Irish Catholic Newspaper said that they would not bow to public pressure. They would put another Bishop in place alongside Cardinal Brady who would then act as his shadow until the heat had died down. At that point Cardinal Brady would stand down ‘without losing face.’ This has happened before in Ireland. The Bishop of Dublin was exposed in 2003 in a RTE documentary covering up abuse and rather than resign immediately he left several months later. 
It is hard to comprehend how the ‘loss of face’ in any way remotely compares to the damage done to thousands of children by abusing priests. It is also very surprising that the police have not become involved. The sight of Cardinal Brady being arrested and charged with aiding and abetting criminal acts would concentrate minds in the Vatican. There is a concern in the Vatican that there could be a domino effect. Bring it on.
How much ‘loss of face’ have the victims suffered?

Friday, 4 May 2012

Murdoch and the Tories
The following article was written by Peter Oborne in the Telegraph, the parish magazine of the Tory party. After reading it you may well have to pinch yourself and double-check that yes, it really appeared in the Torygraph.
“Mr Cameron and his close circle have emerged as the main public champions of News International. They are bravely – some would say wilfully – refusing to accept that the Murdoch system, as it flourished under Blair, Brown and early Cameron, is finished.
This posture first became apparent in February, when Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, launched an attack on the Leveson Inquiry while making a speech to journalists in the House of Commons. In a gigantic grovel to the Murdoch press, Mr Gove (a former News International employee) asserted that Leveson was in danger of producing a “cure that is worse than the original disease”. Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary, William Hague (who was paid a fortune for writing a News of the World column when the Conservatives were in opposition), was at it again, with a defence of the media tycoon on the BBC.
The Prime Minister has shown a similar moral blindness, with adamantine support for Jeremy Hunt after the Culture Secretary’s grotesquely biased handling of the Murdoch bid for BSkyB. Mr Cameron’s refusal to sanction an official inquiry into Mr Hunt’s dreadful conduct is extraordinary, and reinforces the impression that the Government has something to hide.
Now we can turn to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee, which has split along party lines over Mr Murdoch’s management of his News International titles. The Labour and Liberal Democrat members judge that Mr Murdoch is “not a fit person” to run an international company. The Tory members disagree, so voted against the report.
There have long been concerns about the Conservative members of this committee. John Whittingdale, its chairman, has links with News International going back over a number of years. One of his Tory colleagues, Louise Mensch, is an attention-seeker who last year abused parliamentary privilege to make unfounded accusations of illegal conduct involving another newspaper group, thereby widening the scandal beyond News International.
Even if the motives of these MPs were entirely honourable, they have placed the Conservative Party in a wretched place as the chief partner and public supporter of News International. This is a wonderful free gift to Mr Miliband. As the New York Times reported yesterday, in a well-informed and judicious report, “part of the Labour strategy will be to tie Mr Cameron inseparably to Mr Murdoch and his senior executives in Britain, some of whom were Mr Cameron’s close confidants”.
This strategy goes from strength to strength. Think of what lies ahead. Soon, Jeremy Hunt must appear before the Leveson Inquiry and answer questions about those deeply improper emails between his special adviser and Rupert Murdoch’s lobbyist. Then Mr Cameron himself will face a lengthy session at Leveson, probably in late May.
A fresh embarrassment concerns Rebekah Brooks, who providentially retained the text messages she received from the Prime Minister, which I’m told could exceed a dozen a day. These may now be published, a horrible thought. Next year it is possible that some of Mr Cameron’s closest allies and friends, including Andy Coulson, the former Downing Street director of communications, will go on trial. Apart from anything else, these reminders of the Prime Minister’s poor judgment will reinforce the popular belief that he is arrogant, louche and only comfortable as a member of some elitist set.
Here are the News International crowd: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson, David Miliband, David Blunkett, John Reid, Tessa Jowell, Michael Gove, George Osborne, William Hague. David Cameron, John Whittingdale and Jeremy Hunt (as well as Mr Hunt’s brainless sidekick, Ed Vaizey) should also be added to this list.
And here are the refuseniks: Vince Cable, Tom Watson, George Galloway, Iain Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson, Dominic Grieve, Ken Clarke. This is a much shorter list. My hunch is that their integrity has paid off and we are coming to the end of the Murdoch era, which was based around a cult of celebrity, collusion, criminality and deceit.
Something wonderful may be happening to British politics: the air at Westminster is becoming cleaner and fresher. Mr Miliband, always under-rated as Labour leader, has woken up to this defining story of our age much faster than Mr Cameron and his amoral strategists. That is why he has been able to convert the News International phone hacking and corruption scandal into Tory sleaze. The Conservatives need to wake up fast.”
Peter Oborne Daily Telegraph 3/5/12

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Cardinal Brady
We are a long way from what our social commentary gurus would describe as ‘closure’. Yet again the Catholic Church stands exposed as the bastion for abusers and the deniers of the abused. A shockingly powerful documentary on BBC 2 tonight was another small step in dragging the church hierarchy kicking and screaming into the light. It is not a place they relish if Cardinal Brady is an example. He is the top Catholic cheese in Ireland and someone who is expected to be a public figure. Confronted by evidence of his part in a cover up, which led to a paedophile priest continuing to abuse children for another 13 years, he simply fled, protected by minders. How ironic. The abuse collaborator is protected while the victims are ignored and denied. 
A Catholic Church investigation into child abuse in another diocese in Ireland was quite rightly described as a ‘whitewash’ by the local press. The ‘Inquiry’ had searched church records to find what had been written about the abuse of children in the area. Surprise surprise - they did not find anything - so that’s alright then. They did not contact any of the hundreds and hundreds of victims. A bit of an omission that. 
“New revelations about the failure of the Catholic primate of all-Ireland to protect children from abuse have been uncovered by the BBC's This World show.
It found Cardinal Sean Brady had the names and addresses of those being abused by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth, but did not ensure their safety. Sean Brady's role in the affair became clear in 2010, when it became known that he had been present when the abused boy was questioned.
The Catholic Church has been knocked off its pedestal in Ireland, and its leader is battling to hold onto his own position. Cardinal Sean Brady has been under pressure for some time. But he has always made it clear he will not resign, unless there is specific proof that his failure to act allowed clerical child abuse to take place. Clearly, he does not believe the evidence in the BBC documentary meets that criteria. However, with the media spotlight on his past, the Catholic primate is struggling to shift the focus to the present and the future. That is a very uncomfortable position, for any church leader.
He claimed, however, that the boy's father had accompanied him, and described his own role as that of a note-taker. However, the BBC This World investigation has uncovered the notes Cardinal Brady took while the boy was questioned.
The child's father was not allowed in the room, and the child was immediately sworn to secrecy by swearing on the Bible. Many, many other children were then abused by Brendan Smyth.” BBC Online 2/5/12
So Cardinal Brady lied. He should not merely resign. He should be having a chat with the local plod. A retired detective who investigated some of the abuse cases believes that many of these Bishops should be in jail for covering up crimes, and even worse providing the opportunities for serial abusers to thrive and abuse many more children. They have left  a malign legacy around the world.
A chunky little chap resembling Danny De Vito’s brother posing as a Papal prosecutor spoke about how the Catholic Church has learnt serious lessons and is tackling abuse with urgency and speed. Oh yeah. Once confronted with the actualite his words turned to dust and insulting guff about ‘charity’.
This complicity goes right to the top of the Catholic Church and should be borne in mind whenever ‘Cardinal This’ or ‘Nuncio That’ dare to lecture us about behaviour. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Murdoch and Mensch
The Tories are digging themselves into a mighty hole. All four Tory members of the Commons Culture Committee refused to back the line that Murdoch was not a fit person to run a corporation. They were perfectly happy for the monkeys to take all the blame while the organ grinder walked away relatively unscathed. Why could this be? It could not have anything to do with their close relationship with the Murdoch empire could it? 
Most Tories hate public services with a passion. They loathe the BBC. They see Murdoch as their champion. A private enterprise entrepreneur  who will erode the BBC’s position in our life. Unfortunately for these half-wits the Milly Dowler hacking story scuppered NewsCorps takeover of BSkyB. From what has emerged at Leveson, it is clear that Hunt and Cameron were perfectly happy to grease the wheels of the bid.  The Tories do not see the corrosive effect he has had both in the UK and the US with the Scum, the Screws  and Fox News, because they spout right wing rubbish which fits their agenda. They also demean our daily life. Take the latest example of a joke. Roy Hodgson has been appointed England boss so the Sun took the piss in a nasty front page taking the mickey about the way he speaks. Not about his calibre, his ability or his talent. The way he speaks. They really are an egregious bunch in Rupe’s favourite paper.
As Murdoch has become even more toxic so have the Tories. Their relationship will be exposed further at Leveson. Miliband divorced his party from the Murdoch empire some time ago (and took a lot of stick in their papers ---purely coincidentally...) 
“..the committee as a whole was happy to damn already-ousted Hinton and other players that News Corp has thus far pushed under a bus, (however) the Conservative members rallied to the defence of the Murdochs themselves. One Tory, Phil Davies, justified this with the circular argument that Murdoch Sr must be fit to run a business because he has always done so, adding that everyone makes mistakes. Another, Louise Mensch made the subtler pitch that it was for Ofcom, and not the committee, to provide the final verdict on the Murdochs' fitness to broadcast on these shores. Her gamble is that Labour's Tom Watson, who launched a withering diatribe against the Murdochs as the report was published, overreached himself in persuading the majority to go for the jugular.” Guardian leader article 2/5/12 
Mensch put up a spirited defence on Newsnight about the split. Matthew Norman, writing in the Independent earlier in the week revealed how close Whittingdale had been to Murdoch in the past when he acted as a cheerleader for Thatcher. He had contacted Andrew Neill, the then editor of the Sunday Times, who was minded to express support for Heseltine in a leadership contest. It was Whittingdale who threatened him with the spectre of his boss Rupert Murdoch. Mensch has also had contacts with the Murdoch crew. 
“John Whittingdale, the committee's chairman, admitted he had talked to News Corp's corporate lobbyist, Fred Michel. But Mr Whittingdale said there was nothing sinister in what had been a standard, routine exchange with the lobbyist currently at the centre of the row involving the BSkyB bid and the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. (Oh yeah)
Louise Mensch has already been clear about her exchanges with Mr Michel: yes, he briefed her on arrests at The Sun; but no, she refused his offer to brief her on the background to phone hacking. (Oh yeah)
Mr Watson and his fellow Labour colleagues all said they couldn't be influenced and suspected Mr Michel may have known this and therefore hadn't bothered to call them.” Independent 2/5/12 (My italics)
Louise Mensch was revealed this morning as being absolutely set against any criticism of Rupert or James Murdoch or of their company NewsCorp. (Paul Farrelly MP speaking on the Today programme). Jings! So help me Bob.
What is her background?

The daughter of a wealthy stockbroker, born in 1971 into a family of distinguished Catholic gentry, she attended a home counties boarding school before studying English at Oxford. Her first political memory is the Falklands war – "My mum boycotted Argentine corned beef, and I remember disagreeing violently with pacifists" – and at 14 she read Jeffrey Archer's First Among Equals and joined the Tory party. Her heroines were Margaret Thatcher and Madonna, her plan was to become an MP.” Decca Aitkenhead, Guardian 30/9/11
She made her name (as Louise Bagshaw) writing apparently quite raunchy chick-lit. She also admired Tony Blair. So much so she became a member of the Labour Party (briefly) in the 1990’s. She has also had a facelift. Now why would a well adjusted intelligent person with no external reason (car crash, disfigurement etc) pay oodles to look like a landed carp?
The word Mensch comes from German Yiddish and means ‘human being.’ Mmmm.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The alternative to austerity
With all three main parties agreeing that cuts are necessary only disagreeing about the speed and amount, it is good to see a simple alternative. George Galloway has an idea:
"We would bring all our soldiers home from foreign wars – thus saving billions of pounds. We would scrap the renewal of Trident submarines. And we would pursue what Vince Cable said was the £100bn-a-year-plus tax avoidance and tax evasion industry. Thus, we'd have no deficit. If you do the maths, if we did those three things we not only would have no deficit, we'd be quids in. We'd be £80bn up." Guardian 30/4/12
Sounds straightforward until all the vested interests come into play. The arms/industrial complex, so astutely warned against by Eisenhower in the dying days of his presidency, are a baleful and malign presence throughout our upper echelons. The revolving door between the arms companies, the MOD and the Services ensures systematic corruption flourishes. These boys play dirty. Remember when the Reverend Blair scuppered a huge fraud inquiry involving the Saudi’s and BAE at the behest of a Saudi prince? 
The tax avoiders too are a mucky bunch who live life on the hog at the expense of the poor and disempowered. They too will fight to retain their access to masses of cash. 
And then we come to the armed forces, used as pawns for the petro-chemical giants. Their presence in various theatres has not increased our security. Look at the measures being taken to ensure people can hop, skip and jump at th’Olympics. We have given, and continue to give, a great many people many reasons to hate us. Hearing our rotten politicians crowing about us ‘punching above our weight’ is nauseating. Untold thousands have died so we can ‘punch above our weight.’
The Swiss model of aggressive defence with most adults undergoing some form of basic training with arms caches hidden around the country and the message to potential enemies that ‘you may invade us - but it is going to cost you dearly,’ is an alternative. It also helps that they can remind aggressive despots that they have their money.
So George, good ideas but a hard row to hoe. Particularly as 90% of the mainstream media fall into the tax avoiding category.