Archive for March, 2012

You’re so vain

March 30, 2012 8 comments

In common, I suspect, with many people, I did not know there was a by-election in Bradford yesterday until I switched on the news this morning to hear George Galloway’s victory speech. Having heard it I had to replay it on my iPad to confirm that it hadn’t been a bad dream.

It’s easy to write Gorgeous George off as a music hall turn, particularly after his embarrassing Big Brother performance, at a time when he was out of the limelight and would have done anything for the publicity that seems to re-oxygenate his lifeblood. It’s too easy to do that and it’s wrong. In fact, he’s a dangerous man, and he’s just proved it. Mr Galloway uses the democratic process, but as a tool. His speech in the early hours of this morning showed quite clearly that he would embrace the one party state, as long as that party was his. He is no more a democrat than were Stalin or Hitler, or his dear old pal Saddam, who finally ran out of rope. Since being booted out of the Labour Party, and emblazoning the word ‘Respect’ (a party he did not found, but uses as a vehicle) across his banner, I have heard nothing from him but hatred; no progressive policies, no plan for regenerating our troubled economy, only bile and invective. His tactic is obvious; he did in it London and now he’s done it again. He goes into an area with a substantial ethnic vote and sets himself up as its champion, encouraging discontent, encouraging division. And they fall for it. His love for himself seems to transfer itself to them. We saw through him in Scotland a while back, as his failed intervention in the 2011 election demonstrated, but clearly  where conditions are right, he can still work his black magic, for a while.

This morning, though, he went too far. Given what happened in the Middle East last year, given last summer’s youth unrest in England’s cities, to stand in a largely muslim constituency and announce the ‘Bradford Spring’  then describe it as an uprising among young people, was at the very least inflammatory, and possibly even an incitement. George is hugely articulate, beyond a doubt, but I wonder if he is always aware of the wider implications of his words. If he is invited to discuss them with the DPP, I won’t be too surprised.

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Betty Jane Blakely

Thanks BJ. Always good to hear from  Canada.

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Lara Russell

March 30, 2012 4 comments

Thanks for that feedback, and I’m pleased that both you and your dad are into Skinner. Do I have any regrets about some of the things I’ve done to characters? Absolutely, but sometimes they can’t be avoided. For example, I didn’t mean to kill Stevie Steele until the very moment he walked through that door, but when he did, I knew he had to go.

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Hello again

March 30, 2012 6 comments

I know, it’s been a long time, but I’ve been busy getting over a pretty nasty Spanish bug, and travelling. It is not advisable to do both at the same time. I’m also deep in conversation with Mr Skinner at the moment and that’s taking up many of my waking hours. But for better or worse, I’m back.

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Taking from the poor, to give to the rich

I wish the Telegraph had a facility that let me ‘share’ items on my blog as one can on Facebook, so that I could share in mor detail my annoyance at what Tesco have just announced. They’re raised their official retirement age to 67. Okay, on the face of it that’s in line with current trends and mirrors what the state is doing, although you could have bet that the first major retailer to announce it would have been Britain’s biggest, from which we are all protected only by Monopolies and Mergers policy. What isn’t acceptable is the announcement that future calculations of annual payment increases will be moved from the Retail Price Index, which includes mortgages, council tax and house prices, to the Consumer Prices Index, which doesn’t. The effect will be that future pensioners will find their incomes cut by up to 20%. I accept that pension costs to employers are rising along with average life expectancy, but I don’t accept that this should be seen as a ‘burden’ on corporate monsters like Tesco. There is another solution, one that seems fairer to me than what’s proposed: maintain pensions, and pay the shareholders less.

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Gerry Campbell

if you read Grievous Angel before last year it was in another life, I’m afraid. Yes it’s a prequel, with a few characters in their formative years and another brought back from the dead.

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Quote of the day

March 12, 2012 4 comments

‘The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.’ Agatha Christie

This explains why I rarely plan mine.

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More Whyte lightning

I have a  friend who is a life-long Rangers fan, with a very strong personal connection to the club. This link came from him.

News 1 new result for pritchard stockbrokers

Rangers boss’s firm in administration
The Independent
Mr Whyte, pictured, is company secretary of Bournemouth-based Pritchards Stockbrokers, which was suspended by the FSA on 10 February. The regulator said the firm had used clients’ funds to pay its own expenses and to trade on its own account, 



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From the BBC, another non-story

March 8, 2012 1 comment

Hurdler Tiffany Porter has been named as Great Britain team captain for the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul despite admitting she is not completely sure of the words to the National Anthem. The American-born 24-year-old qualifies to compete for Great Britain through her English mother.

“I choose a team captain for her leadership skills, and her athletic skills and her credibility, not for her ability to memorise words or her vocal skills,” said UK athletics chief Charles van Commenee.

Mr van C’s attitude may be influenced by the fact that he is himself Dutch.

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March 8, 2012 1 comment

Today’s topic seems to be whether Lionel Messi is the greatest attacking footballer ever. (For some reason, defenders are always ruled out of these pub-talk comparisons.) Those of us who are old enough to remember Pele’s arrival in  the 1958 World Cup and his dominance of the 1970 tournament, or who remember Maradona in his Napoli period, or Cruyff in Germany in 1974, and my friend Jack who regards George Best as  deity, might have difficulty accepting that. However my take is that it is too early to judge. The only objective way of comparing  great forwards is by examining their career records in terms of longevity and goals per game. Do that and Messi, at age 24, ranks already above everyone, except for Pele, whose eye-bulging 1152 goals in 1220 games make his case very difficult to oppose. The argument will go on for ever and no conclusion will ever be reached, but most people with enough years and experience to make an informed judgement will agree that Messi’s football is the most beautiful they have ever seen. It’s a pleasure to be around while he’s at his peak.

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March 7, 2012 5 comments

The Rangers affair is dragging on, and on, and on . . . and on. While I have sympathy for anyone facing redundancy, I’m less patient with people on a million quid a year salaries who stall over a cut to a mere £250,000 when the alternative is the liquidation of the company that employs them and the potential loss of everyone’s job. I have much more time for the 20-year-old who accepted voluntary redundancy without a pay-off. He may be able to go to a new club, in England, and command a signing on fee and a higher salary than he was on at Ibrox, but there is no certainty of that. In any case, he should be applauded for taking his own salary off the payroll in the interests of others.

However I wonder whether all these negotiations aren’t simply cosmetic. The administrators say they have to reduce running costs by £1m a month, but cutting the goalie’s pay by £60k a month isn’t going to get there. To achieve such savings the whole first team squad would have to be on that sort of money and I doubt if any more than half a dozen of them are, plus Ally himself. In any event, the target saving will simply balance the books. It will not address the debt. That will require 75% of the creditors to agree to write off the bulk of what they are owed. How realistic is that solution, and how can the administrators expect to receive serious offers for the purchase of a slimmed down club, when they do not know what its indebtedness is? That will not become clear until the upper-tier tribunal rules on HMRC’s claim for tax owed because of the alleged misuse of Employee Benefit Trusts. We are told that its decision will be forthcoming within a month, but that timescale has marched forward steadily for the best part of a year now. It would be nice to blame it all on the Taxman, but it’s public money he’s protecting, so that would be neither realistic nor fair. HMRC doesn’t run the tribunals itself; they are the province of teh Department of Justice, and that’s mills of God stuff.

I have a feeling that we are moving towards a situation where liquidation and the creation of a phoenix club will be the only possible solution. Even now it may be the only desirable solution. If that is the case, I anticipate that soon the administrators will recognise it, take a deep breath and step into the unknown.

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Through a glass darkly

I am reading this afternoon of players being made redundant or having their contacts cancelled by the administrators of Rangers FC. If I understand the situation correctly, even though they will be free agents, these people may be unable to find new employment in Britain and in many other countries because of the transfer window system that operates. If that is correct, then manifestly it is not fair. Aren’t there laws about restraint of trade? I hope that the football authorities will act properly, so that no-one has to go to court to assert his right to make a living.

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This has been Party Conference weekend in Scotland, with both Labour and the LibDems holding their annual assemblies. They reminded me that there was a time when I knew by name, sight and reputation, every political figure of stature in the country. I suppose I still do, but it’s no claim to make, because there are so few of them, and they all belong to the same party. I am willing to bet that if, one year ago, Ed Millipede had met in the street a lady called Johann Lamont, or Nick Clegg had met a man named Willie Rennie, they wouldn’t have had the faintest idea who they were. Scotland still doesn’t, yet today, those two individuals are the leaders of their respective parties in my country, nonentities who came to their positions not by acclamation, but in Mr Rennie’s case by default, and in that of Ms Lamont, because she was put there by the trade unions, against the democratically expressed wish of the rank and file members who took part in the election. Although the Tory conference will take place at another time, I should not exclude its flag-bearer, Ms Ruth Davidson, from this parade of elected inadequates. Her fall to the top is due to the facts that, she is one of the few Scots Tories left who is not in the grip of senility, and her opponents were a man whose manifesto called for the immediate dissolution of the Party he sought to lead, (Murdo, surely you’ve come to understand now that turkeys will never vote for Christmas)  and a very nice chap who was seen by most to be, in the words of a now departed colleague of mine, ‘so wet you could shoot snipe off his arse.’

I heard Mr Rennie on BBCTV news last week, revealing that he had contacted his opposite numbers in the Labour and Conservative parties, to discuss tactics for opposing independence. A little later, Labour’s conference heard a confused account by Ms Lamont of why she was against it, and what if anything her lot might offer instead. (My understanding is that they don’t know, and so will follow tradition by passing the buck to a committee.) We have yet to hear from Ms Davidson, but I do not expect her contribution to raise the bar by a single millimetre.

In two years, sooner if Alex can be persuaded that it’s tactically sound, or if Cameron moves the goalposts and is stupid enough (or cunning enough, for by losing Scotland he will gain England) to impose his will, and I’m still around, I will vote ‘Yes’ for an independent, self-governing nation. I’m not interested in the ‘debate’ that’s to come. My decision is made and it’s from the heart. If you’d asked me a month ago whether I believed that I will be among the majority, I’d have said that I did not. But now that I’ve seen the collection of pigmies who are ganging up to oppose Alex Salmond’s vision, and Nicola Sturgeon’s vision, and Mike Russell’s vision, and my vision, and even (dunno why, but I neither like nor trust him) Kenny McAskill’s vision, of a Scotland no longer subservient to the English majority at Westminster, I am not so sure. I am coming to believe that when the electorate comes to see that the puny Davidson/Lamont/Rennie alliance is the best the ‘No’ camp can do, and that they have to rely on the support of their London leaderships, reeking as they do of self-interest, it will become more and more inclined to seize the moment, when it comes.

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Pantomime horse

March 3, 2012 2 comments

For me, the Daily Telegraph lost its soul as a newspaper a few years ago, when its custodians seemed to decide that it had to compete with the Guardian. Since then it has gone to hell, not, it seems, in the usual vehicle, a hand-cart, but in a  coach and pair. Such a policy is, of course, nonsense. The late and very great Bill Deedes, and his chum Denis, must be muttering into their celestial gins and tonic, even as I write. Telegraph readers are Telegraph readers and Guardian readers are Guardian readers, by instinct, up-bringing and inclination, and never the twain shall meet. They are sorted into their respective groups at birth.

The Torygraph‘s decline into terminal silliness has never been demonstrated more clearly than by its obsession with ‘Raisa-gate’ and its interest in whether the Prime Minister ever mounted a retired Metropolitan police horse that had been loaned to Rebecca Brooks, the Witch of Wapping. I suspect that if Dave was suspected of mounting Mrs Brooks herself, the paper could not have roused itself to greater frenzy.

I don’t get it, as Ed Miliband might say. If Mrs Brooks, whose husband is a racehorse trainer, volunteered to feed and care for a nag that had been put out to pasture, so what? If their friend Mr Cameron happened to trot it round the paddock, so what? I flat out do not believe the claim that there is a long queue of people waiting for the privilege of re-homing elderly police nags, but even if there is, why should Mrs Brooks have been barred from joining it, as this Leveson-inspired, dog-eating-dog nonsense seems to imply?  I, for one, don’t care, and I doubt that too many sensible people do.

What I do care about is the decline in journalistic standards that has accompanied the once-great newspaper’s decline into darkness. When Christopher Hope, its senior political correspondent, can write, ‘He apologised for allowing a “confusing picture” to emerge about his personal connection to the horse, which he had rode before the election with Mrs Brooks’ husband Charlie, a friend from their Eton school days‘, without having his bottom smacked for appalling grammar by Tony Gallagher, his editor, or by Benedict Brogan, the school bully, there is no hope.

I do wish, though that Dave would stop being sorry for things. Not so long ago he was apologetic after making people laugh by remarking, ‘How many tweets make a twat?’ (A decent question, given the out-pourings of some Twitter users.) Now he’s doing it again. Who is advising him, so badly? Make me thirty years younger and put me in Downing Street, as his spokesman. If Mr Hope had approached me and asked me whether the PM had ever ridden Raisa, I would have been inclined to reply, ‘Yes, and why not? The animal needed exercising and he volunteered. Now go away, stop wasting everyone’s time, and let the man get on with running the country, and plotting secretly to ensure Scottish independence simply by opposing it.

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