Monthly Archives: November 2011

Oborne! Oh, boy! Oooh … err

The Torygraph has made up its mind on all things Cameroonie. The ferret will have to be reversed soon or the official line involves UKIPping.

Peter Oborne today has a go at Theresa May, comparing her get-put-of-gaol card (the black spot decrying Brodie Clark as the “rogue operator”) with the honourable tradition of ministerial resignations:

It is almost 30 years since a British politician last resigned on a matter of honour. That was Lord Carrington, who insisted on taking the responsibility for British unpreparedness ahead of the Argentine invasion of the Falklands…

Compare and contrast the exemplary conduct of Lord Carrington with the wretched, self-serving and disreputable behaviour of Theresa May. For the past week, Mrs May has had only one objective: survival. In her desperate and apparently unscrupulous concern to save her own skin, she has tried to pass the blame on to more vulnerable people.

Fair enough: that was then; this is now.

Then Oborne swings his cudgel another way:

One of the reasons why Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, was so weak in the House of Commons yesterday is that she is in no position to attack Mrs May. Her husband, Ed Balls, sought to get himself out of trouble after the very shocking Baby P case by ordering that Haringey’s director of social services, Sharon Shoesmith, be sacked. Mrs Shoesmith was able in due course to extract a huge compensation payment.

The first part of that makes no sense: both Cooper and Balls are adults, able practitioners of the darkest arts in a dirty trade. Neither needs the other to stand up for her/him.

The second part overlooks a truly loathsome exercise of precisely the political corruption Oborne attacks.

Sharon Shoesmith was a capable officer of Haringey Council, who was hustled to the guillotine in the need for a high-profile scapegoat. Foremost among les tricoteuses, wielding her knitting-needles to hurry the victim towards the scaffold, was the LibDem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.

The Honourable Lynne Featherstone MP — for it was she with the sharpened stainless steel Knit Pros — earned her reward, and is now a junior minister in Mrs May’s Department.

Yet, for all her venality, Featherstone was merely pandering to the self-appointed, irresponsibly-potent Committee of Public Safety of the tabloid columnists. Greater love hath no MP, knowing an election is in the offing, than to have her name favourably featured in a front-page crusade! Oh, to be associated, however loosely, in the public consciousness, on the side of the angels trumpeting saucy stuff like:

As a nation, we became obsessed with the case of Baby P. We winced at the details of his unbelievably cruel death at the hands of his mother and her vicious boyfriend. 

We were angered by the failure of social services to protect this innocent little boy from harm.

etc., etc.

Let’s milk this for all it’s worth, fellow harlots. So who authored that little bit of sensationalist poison? Guess! In your heart, you know …

Of course, it’s the rent-boy Oborne, now trolling his stuff a bit further up-market with the Telegraph, but then being pimped by the Daily Mail.

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Filed under Conservative family values, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, Ed Balls, Lib Dems, Lynne Featherstone, Peter Oborne, sleaze., Theresa May, Tories.

Wish you all adieu

There is a world out there, beyond spats about immigration.

For the next couple of weeks, Malcolm will be elsewhere.

The elsewhere will be via JFK, NYC, DC and Thanksgiving in Noo Joisey.

With luck it will involve substantial sampling of craft ales, book-stores, diners (the US’s gracious gift to international cuisine, and rarely matched), decent music (Mona’s in the East Village is inked into the agenda), a bit of family familiarity, along with the odd novel (real and literary) experience. In there somewhere will be thirst-slaking at  the Old Town Bar  — if only because, one celebrated afternoon, unshorn and weary, sitting beneath the image of Frank McCourt and other worthies, Malcolm was accosted by a pasty and insipid youth and asked was he Famous Seamus.

Redfellow Hovel will be left in full charge of he who answers to the code number of 1690: the password is “No Surrender”. That’s no joke: his name is Ken. He left just that message on the Redfellow answerphone when “The Troubles” were at their height. For months afterwards, there were strange clicks and quiverings whenever anyone else ‘phoned. Can’t think why.

So, this evening, Malcolm has been filling the iPod to get him from here to there and back. Just let’s hope that he doesn’t disgrace himself on AA107 if the iPod spills out Phil Coulter’s Scorn Not His Simplicity — 

Or (as is more likely) Luke Kelly’s angstier rendition:

It cracks him wide open every time. For a good reason.

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Filed under air travel., Apple, Beer, Dublin., folk music, Ireland, New York City, pubs, Seamus Heaney, travel, Troubles

It takes a while for the message to get through …

… but it helps when one happens upon a few old CD burns of forgotten .mp3s.

Now, what’s this?

It’s Utah Phillips reprising one of the Greatest Hits (words by John Brill to a tune ripped off a hymnal) from the Little Red Songbook (9th, Joe Hill memorial edition, March 1916):

Are you poor, forlorn and hungry?
Are there lots of things you lack?
Is your life made up of misery?
Then dump the bosses off your back.
Are your clothes all patched and tattered?
Are you living in a shack ?
Would you have your troubles scattered?
Then dump the bosses off your back.

Are you almost split asunder?
Loaded like a long-eared jack?
Boob – why don’t you buck like thunder,
And dump the bosses off your back?
All the agonies you suffer
You can end with one good whack;
Stiffen up, you orn’ry duffer
And dump the bosses off your back.

Or, if you prefer:

What a shame the Occupy! lot (be they in NYC, St Paul’s Churchyard, or around this shrinking globe) lack the nous to produce dissident material as potent.

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Filed under folk music, IWW, leftist politics.

Cameron, May and the UKBA

What hasn’t yet reached the point of visibility is the real reason why the UKBA cock-up is life-threatening.

Whatever the argy-bargy, we know that Theresa May’s Home Office condoned (at the very least) the lifting of strict migration checks. Quite how far that complacency went is open to debate, a debate not yet near finality; but it is common ground that May’s Home Office was aware that the strict checks were off. And that knowledge went to ministerial level. May is dumping on everyone around her: either she shuts up or Brodie Clark (suspended from UKBA) will sing loud-and-long to the Home Affairs Committee and (unless he is bought off — an admission of guilt in itself) to an industrial tribunal or whatever.

Now shift focus.

Ever since the General Election campaign Cameron has been banging on about the need to cut numbers of migrants. He has made two very important speeches (14th April and 10th October — hardly coincidentally with semi-annual regularity) this year alone. His repeated phrasing has been “tens of thousands” not “hundreds of thousands”, and a return to 1980s levels of immigration.

Let’s not argue that for now — though the historic numbers are here — and they aren’t “tens of thousands”.

What does leap out, though, is how on earth numbers can be assessed, when nobody is doing the count.

Whatever formula of words were agreed with Brodie Clark and UKBA — and Yvette Cooper had the leaked text — if not May, then Damian Green underwrote a plan to make sure such a count was impossible, at least over the summer peak.

And that takes the doggie doo-dah right onto Cameron’s doorstep.

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Filed under Britain, broken society, Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, Guardian, Theresa May, Tories., travel

Because you can see her lips move.

We all had Theresa May bang-to-rights when we grasped:

  • those three “independent” inquiries into the UKBA cock-up were nothing of the sort;


  • she mouthed her mantra, “without ministerial approval”,  in yesterday’s Commons statement .

Of course, it didn’t help — except in terms of verbally greasing the skids — when Cameron was quoted, in effigy at the morning presser:

No 10 has said the prime minister has “full confidence” in the home secretary.

Oh, dear!

Take it more slowly.

Three inquiries ordered

  • John Vine, chief inspector of the UKBA, will look at ways to strengthen the system and examine the decisions made by ministers. He will report by January.
  • Dave Wood, head of the UKBA’s enforcement and crime group, will investigate where checks were relaxed.
  • Mike Anderson, director general of immigration [at UKBA], will look into Brodie Clark’s team.

Notice anything there?

  • Second, there’s that weasel term “ministerial approval”.

Had May been able to say, “without ministerial knowledge and approval”, we’d have given her the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, without doubt, without hesitation. In stead we knew, instantly, that  “a nod and a wink” had been aimed at the blind horse.

And, sure enough, it’s all coming unravelled.

So we can insert, before the headline here, the rest of the clichéd exchange:

“How do we know she’s not telling the truth?”

Sad, really. She’d been a unique Home Secretary among recent memories. She’d gone eighteen months without the roof falling in.


Filed under BBC, Conservative family values, crime, David Cameron, sleaze., Theresa May, Tories.

Tin-foil hat time?

Let’s put a few totally unrelated thoughts together:

As far back as May 2011:

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has been criticised in a report examining its operations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Independent inspector John Vine said he was concerned at how it operated at major ports and airports.

He found senior managers focused on moving staff to passport control, potentially at the expense of detecting drugs and other illicit goods.

He also said it had not assessed the threat to small ports and airports.

On to the latest:

Mrs May is facing Labour demands to disclose whether any terror suspects are believed to have entered the country after border guards were instructed not to carry out certain passport checks.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has claimed that border controls were relaxed to keep queues down despite cuts to personnel. It also said the decision was authorised by ministers.

Sue Smith, of the PCS, blamed what she claimed had been a 10 per cent reduction in border force staff.

‘The travelling public understandably want to have a fast and efficient service, and yet we are also under a reduced workforce,’ she said.

‘So, I think senior managers have seen this as a way to provide the public with what they want.’

She added that senior managers had told the union that the changes to border checks had been made with the authorisation of ministers.

‘As far as our staff were concerned, this was all done with ministerial authority, and that’s the information we have received,’ she said.

What that means:

Apart from the obvious headline stuff, the 20% budget slash and staffing cutbacks — 5,000 jobs over four years —  in the UKBA means that “minor” ports and smaller airfields go without cover:

The operator of the flight undertakes full security and passport checks prior to the passenger’s arrival at the airport. This is then usually followed by a further, quick ID and baggage check before boarding, which means that the passengers are able to move through the F[ixed] B[ase] O[perator] very quickly once they arrive – without the security delays so often experienced at main airport terminals. Depending on the country, these final checks can often be undertaken by the staff of the FBO or handling agent.

Arrive by a private plane at a minor airfield and there’s no UKBA cover at all. Of course, such VIPs are “pre-screened” — aren’t they? Anyone, such decent, upstanding folk shouldn’t be inconvenienced to the same degradation as us peasants. Right?


Lydd airport was, immediately post-WW2, the main base for short-hops to France — it ran a well-publicised car-ferry lift to Le Touquet. Bring your Rolls, your Bentley, and we’ll have you on the golf-course or in the casino within the hour.

It has a 5,000 foot runway  not much short of Belfast City, Jersey, Derry City — and certainly longer than London City’s 3900 feet — all of which are up to running scheduled services.

That may add a touch of spice to Private Eye‘s recent report:

A PLANNING inspector is now settling down, after hearing eight months of evidence, to decide whether to back Shepway district councillors’ bizarre decision to grant permission for a runway extension and a new terminal at Lydd Airport against the strong advice of their own planning officers (Eyes passim).

But a court case earlier this year may throw some light on how decisions are reached in that part of Kent.

The airport’s former boss, Jordanian Zaher Deir, was suing owner Sheikh Fahad Al Athel (familiar to Eye readers as the Saudi arms dealer in the Al Yamamah scandal) over non-payment of directorship fees. In evidence, the sheikh challenged some of Deir’s spending on his company credit card. But Deir told the court that the purchases were not for his own benefit but, er, “gifts to councillors” to further the interests of the company.

Malcolm may be a conspiracy theorist, but  how decisions are reached in that part of Kent wouldn’t be his immediate thought there.

It might involve “arm dealer” and uncontrolled access to the UK.

Or, as Clive Aslet of Country Life wrote for the Daily Telegraph (albeit before the 2010 General Election):

Lydd lies at the end of a straggle of lanes which would not cope with the traffic of two million prospective passengers. Less than two miles away is a nuclear power station: not the sort of thing you would want to crash a 737 aircraft into, unless you happened to be a terrorist, of course. As for jobs, politicians tend to forget that local people might become baggage handlers but better paid work would go to more highly skilled workers brought in from outside.

The fact that Lydd airport is unlikely ever to be commercially profitable will not, of itself, influence the planning outcome. Under our glorious system, private individuals and companies are entitled to lose their money if they want to. But the rest of us have an interest in keeping this extraordinary and evocative place as it is. We live in uncertain times.

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Filed under air travel., City of Derry Airport, Conservative Party policy., Daily Telegraph, politics, Private Eye, security, Theresa May

Good riddance

[The following may contain some Norfolk-born prejudices.]

At long, long last Andrew Draper, three times a star turn for Private Eye‘s Rotten Boroughs column, defenestrated Tory Councillor for Worlingham Ward of Waveney Council, has done the proper thing — and quit:

His resignation follows his conviction for drink driving and assaulting a police officer in August.

Following his convictions Mr Draper, who represents Worlingham, stepped down from the ruling Conservative group and became an independent councillor.

A statement released this morning by Mr Draper said: “I have today tendered my resignation as a Waveney District Councillor with immediate effect.

“I have given this much thought and, in light of recent events, have reached the conclusion that it would not be in my, or the council’s, best interests to remain.

“I would like to thank the people of Worlingham who elected me as their ward councillor and extend my very best wishes to them, and to the council as a whole, for the future.”

They do things different in Suffolk…

… but that one was a dead cert.

Had it not been that Waveney is balanced 23-23 between the Tories and the opposition (and had Draper not been a close buddy of the Council’s Tory leader), le Grand Départ would have pedalled off into the sunset some time back.

Currently Waveney’s website has Draper’s resignation sandwiched with:

  • “Lowestoft travel plans” (disabled access to a station which ought to have mainline access);
  • “Eyes of the World on East Suffolk districts” — Don’t get excited, it’s that damned Olympic torch;


  • Lowestoft amateur dramatics.

Apart from the surreality there, anyone who has missed the chance to visit “England’s most easterly point” might miss the … err … point here. And that point is — when one reaches Lowestoft, one is as far from decent Englishness as is possible. What is “normal for Norfolk” is too stretching for what borders Norfolk’s immediate south.

Lowestoft (says this Norfolkman) is particularly recommended in March, when a lazy gale comes whistling uninterrupted over the North German Plain, all the way from the Urals.

A lazy gale“? One that doesn’t bother to go round you.

For the record:

  • Draper was not just “with drink taken” (as they say in the best West of Ireland courts), but drunk-driving three times over the limit.
  • He didn’t merely assault the copper police inspector: he prefaced that with ““Do you know I am a councillor?”


  • The general opinion among decent folk of those parts (of whom there are several) is that his £815 fine would transmuted into a gaol term for lesser beings.

All of that brings us to consider two others:

  • Colin Law, Councillor for Oulton Broad Ward, the Leader of the Tory Group and Leader of Waveney Council. Law it was who managed to over-ride what must be the ultimate vote of no-confidence by the Council, a total condemnation by its “standards sub-committee”, to say the Council had not further way of sanctioning Draper. As a result, Draper remained to vote the Tory ticket for another ten weeks or so.
  • Peter Collecott, Chairman of the Council who sits as an “Independent”, and by no coincidence, a fellow councillor for Oulton Broad ward. However, Collecott is also “Treasurer of Lowestoft Crime Prevention Panel”. So, no conflict of interest there.

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Filed under Conservative family values, crime, Norfolk, prejudice, Private Eye, Tories.