Category Archives: Law

This grim and unpleasant land

Anyone who wis or has been a local councillor knows the problem. Mine, may years ago, involved allotment gardens which had been “enhanced” with slurry from the local stage works. The result was vegetables high in toxic heavy metals. Adjacent was a scrap-yard which, some how, in days of yore, had gained planning permission — moreover, planning permission with very little in the way of conditions.

Righting these wrongs involves one commodity: money, and shedloads of it. That is precisely the commodity of which local government is chronically lacking.

So I am acutely aware of the griefs felt by all, residents and officialdom, at Moor Street, Brierly Hill:


Six years of to-and-fro-ing, and one of the sites’s owners, Robert McNaughton, ordered six months in the chokey: only by awarding planning permission for 90-odd flats has the thing come closer to reconciliation.

McNaughton, by the way, didn’t offend Mr Justice MacDuff by causing a gross public nuisance. His succession of wilful delays and obstructions finally were deemed contempt of court. Not quite on the level of doing Al Capone for tax evasion, but still a nice try. As McNaughton and his moll remain beneficial owners of the site, they may yet clean up.

Anything the West Midlands can do, South Yorkshire can do bigger and more noxious. It’s at Great Heck, near Selby:


This one burns, stinks, pollutes and probably can be viewed from low orbit.

Again we find an uncooperative owner, who conveniently went bust last summer.

What is different here is the lack of a substantial local authority, properly resourced. Briefly Hill is in Dudley Metropolitan Borough: Great Heck is in Selby District. The population and revenue base vary by a factor of eight or ten. The Great Heack site is sandwiched between concrete plants, a motorway, and a railway line — industrial land less desirable for profitable development.

This time the financial burden has to fall on the Environment Agency, which means the general taxpayer (or more specifically by a virement from other essential schemes).

Capitalism is a dirty business. 

Oh, and by the way, that anecdotage which started this post has another sting in the tail.

Government and hope-builders cast eyes on the Thames-side marshes. The 1974 Tower Bridge to Tilbury survey for the GLC might merit being dug out of the archives. It mentions how the marshes have been used for all sorts of tipping. Not excluding low-level radio-active waste.



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On with the monstering

That Dan Hodges piece (see previous) is about as subcutaneously irritating as it can get. But that is only part of the great flannelling which is how this Rotherham story has become.

  • At no time in all this does anyone recognise where the whole story, as currently represented, comes from. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, 1997-2013 was commissioned by and for … Rotherham Council. And presumably paid for by them, too.
  • Ever since 2001 Rotherham Council has funded the Risky Business youth project, which:

worked with young people between 11 and 25 years, providing sexual health advice, and help in relation to alcohol and drugs, self-harm, eating disorders, parenting and budgeting. By the late ‘90s, it was beginning to identify vulnerable girls on the streets of the town. Its relationship with any young person was voluntary on both sides. It was part of the Council’s Youth Services, though it derived its funding from various sources in its early years. One of its main functions was the provision of training to voluntary and statutory agencies working in the field, to magistrates, the Police, schools and foster carers.

Risky Business is one of the few good-news stories here.

  • The failings were at management level, as Professor Jay calls it:

the collective failures of political and officer leadership were blatant. From the beginning, there was growing evidence that child sexual exploitation was a serious problem in Rotherham. This came from those working in residential care and from youth workers who knew the young people well.

Within social care, the scale and seriousness of the problem was underplayed by senior managers.

  • Surely, the main failing was with the South Yorkshire Police. Again from Professor Jay:

At an operational level, the Police gave no priority to CSE, regarding many child victims with contempt and failing to act on their abuse as a crime. Further stark evidence came in 2002, 2003 and 2006 with three reports known to the Police and the Council, which could not have been clearer in their description of the situation in Rotherham. The first of these reports was effectively suppressed because some senior officers disbelieved the data it contained. This had led to suggestions of cover- up. The other two reports set out the links between child sexual exploitation and drugs, guns and criminality in the Borough. These reports were ignored and no action was taken to deal with the issues that were identified in them.

This becomes even more glaringly obvious when we reach paragraphs 4.1 and 4.2 of the Jay Report:

4.1 Children’s social care introduced CSE as a category for referral in 2001. However, many exploited children were wrongly categorised as being ‘out of control’. Prior to January 2013, the Police did not have a separate category for CSE. Neither agency had compiled reliable data that the Inquiry could use to estimate the scale of the problem over time. There was good information about cases open to the CSE team or co-worked by them, but information about other children being supported by children’s social care was not easily obtained. [My emphasis]

Jay chart

4.2 In the chart above we summarise what we were able to find out about caseloads and contacts received by children’s social care. The data must be treated with caution. The figures were not collected or presented in a systematic way from year to year. Nevertheless, the chart gives a broad indication of the scale of the problem as reflected in children’s social care records.

 I am aware from my own past connection with local authority business that the casework-load for social workers is excessive. Even now, Rotherham’s specialist child sexual exploitation team has 51 active cases, and sixteen looked after children who were identified by children’s social care as being at serious risk of sexual exploitation or having been sexually exploited.

So, let’s consider spending constraints. In fact, Professor Jay does that for us, too:

The combined effect of changes to local authority funding in England has been a dramatic reduction in resources available to Rotherham and neighbouring Councils. By 2016, Rotherham will have lost 33% of its spending power in real terms compared to 2010/11.

For the current financial year (i.e. after Rotherham’s problem had been identified, and lambasted by the Commons Select Committee) that‘s:

a £23 million programme of cuts – as well as a tax increase – in Rotherham Council’s budget for the [present] year.

The authority has already had to slash £70 million from its spending plans over the last four years, and needs to find another £23m of savings by next April.

A council tax increase of 1.9 per cent – the first rise in the town for four years – has been proposed, but ‘frontline services’ will be affected in the latest round of cuts.

Those cuts to ‘frontline services’ include:

children and young people’s services will lose £3m.

Rotherham, lest we forget, ranks 310th of the 324 English authorities in the Experian Resilience Index.

Any monstering there should properly start with Eric Pickles at the Department of Communities and Local Government.

There is one other operation that requires a severe monstering: the South Yorkshire Police.

Read this, and weep:

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) concluded that officers in its public protection unit spent “a great deal deal of time trying to disprove” victims’ allegations.

HMIC’s chief inspector, Tom Winsor, ordered South Yorkshire police to end immediately the culture of “investigate-to-record”, where officers do not record incidents as possible crimes until they have been investigated.

Of the violent offences, including rape, that had been written off as “no crime” by the force, just under a fifth were wrongly classified and should have been pursued, inspectors found.HMIC examined 66 recorded crimes of rape, violence and robbery that South Yorkshire police had recorded as no-crime but found that 11 of these – equal to 17% – were incorrectly classified.

The report said: “This culture of dealing with reports of crime shows a disregard for victims and is unacceptable; it hides the true extent of the picture of crime from the force and is particularly concerning when the offences investigated by this unit are often of the most serious nature and victims are often the most vulnerable.” […]

The HMIC also raised concerns about South Yorkshire police’s recording of crimes including child abuse.

Winsor said that inspectors had examined 53 reports to South Yorkshire’s specialist departments. Out of those, 34 crimes should have been recorded – but only 18 were, the report said. Of these 18 crimes, eight fell outside the 72-hour limit allowed to record incidents.

The report found: “This level of under-recorded crime is a significant cause of concern and is a matter of material and urgent importance, particularly as some of these relate to violence and sexual assault against vulnerable children.”

South Yorkshire police currently have 173 “live” investigations into suspected child sexual exploitation, 32 of which are in Rotherham, a spokeswoman for the force said on Thursday. [again, my emphasis]

So there are 141 “live” CSE investigations going on in the other three administrative areas of the South Yorkshire Police Authority. Obviously Rotherham may not be quite the worst cess-pit of depravity.

South Yorkshire Police previously distinguished themselves in the 1984 Miner’s Strike and at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

In 1984:

After Orgreave, South Yorkshire police claimed they had been attacked by striking miners, and prosecuted 95 people for riot and unlawful assembly, offences that carried potential life sentences. All were acquitted, after defence lawyers argued that police evidence was false, fabricated and that an officer’s signature on a statement was forged.

[Michael] Mansfield [QC], who defended three of the accused miners, describes the prosecutions as “the biggest frame-up ever”. Mansfield argues that South Yorkshire police, under [Chief Constable Peter] Wright, had been “institutionally corrupt” and was still unreformed when the Liverpool supporters came to Sheffield for the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

In 1989:

Lord Justice Taylor, in his official report into Hillsborough, published in 1990, judged that mismanagement by South Yorkshire police was the prime cause of the disaster, yet the force relentlessly sought to lay the blame on the Liverpool supporters. A unit of senior officers, reporting to Wright, oversaw that case, ordering junior officers to rewrite their statements, to delete criticisms of the police’s own operation and emphasise allegations that supporters were drunk and misbehaving.

In those days, of course, the South Yorkshire Police had a firm friend in 10 Downing Street. The private briefing that Margaret Thatcher was given (to be told only what she and the police wanted her to hear) the day after Hillsborough, and the equally-misleading report of Merseyside Chief Constable Sir Kenneth Oxford only came into the public domain in 2012.

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Filed under broken society, crime, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Law, policing, sleaze., social class, Yorkshire


And so it began:


Pennine TalesI have good reason for liking that book (as right). I have just rescued my well-foxed paperback, from 1985, which had lurked itself between the complete run of Donna Leon‘s Brunettis and Whisky Galore. All of which must say more about my reading taste than is decent.

It is a collection of fifteen short stories, some of which first appeared in The Guardian, others were broadcast by BBC Radio, with Livings’ own voice narrating. Confession time: I pillaged a couple, at least, of the stories for classroom use.

Livings’ fictional village of Ravensgill is high in the Pennine Hills: my assumption would be to impose it upon Greenfield, near Oldham, whence the old trackway across grim Saddleworth Moor and to Summer Winey Holmfirth in South Yorkshire once ran. It’s now, officially, the A635 — though you’ll still find locals referring to it as the “Isle of Skye Road”, from a long-lost pub at the head of the Wessenden Valley.

  • What is crapulous?
  • Why is Livings so good?

Try a prime example:

Dog Race Coup

Nobody outside this village ever believes me when I tell about Harpo, people think I’ve invented him. This is not so: Harpo invented himself. On the subject of wine, for instance, he knows there are three sorts: red, pink, and white. On this basis he will give you an extended account of wine and its uses, normally ending with ‘I wouldn’t give you tuppence for champagne; cider is every bit as adequate.’ He’s an expert on everything, and a rivetting anecdotalist; I won’t spoil your meal, but his account of being taken short leaping a low wall in pursuit of the 183 bus, told with a semaphore of mime worthy of Marceau, and ending with the conductor remarking, ‘My word, you’ll have to get off this bus if anyone else wants to come on,’ is a cherished classic.

Take the matter of his dog, Benji. ‘It’s definitely a Basenji,’ he said, walking round the Co-op freezer with the animal sticking its nose into everything, ‘ancient Egyptian hunting dog; I’ve seen a picture in a dog book, same curved tail; that’s why we called it Benji, after the ancient Egyptian dog breed. Fastest dog in Ravensgill, even though it’s had a broken leg.’

Why do we rise to such things? Why challenge obvious balderdash? Why not just let him rattle on? He’s entertaining, original, a lunatic. How in the world would anyone get a Basenji out of the Dog’s Home? Come to think of it, how come Harpo got his dog free when everyone else has to pay £7? Imponderables.

‘Do me a favour,’ I said, ‘mine’s a damn lurcher; that thing wouldn’t have a chance. Get off.’ (Benji was licking the butter packs and I was after buying some.)

‘I’ll definitely challenge any dog against mine,’ he said.

‘Get that stinking pooch out of here,’ said Mr Bacon.

‘D’you mind,’ sajd Harpo, ‘that’s no pooch, it’s a Basenji.’

The word got about. A small committee was formed, rules framed. No reference was made to broken legs, but it was to be for mongrels only (Harpo was wounded, but confident, after this slur), the length of the football pitch, and started with a shotgun blank by the landlord of the Tinker and Budget, entrance fee ten shillings. (We’re waiting for the older end to die off before we introduce metrication.) The book was to be held by Nipper Schofield, well experienced in illegal book-making at bowls matches, known absconder. Once, when he was really in trouble, he phoned up the landlord of the other pub, the Shanter, from the kiosk outside, and stuck a pencil in his mouth, on a Sunday, mark.

‘Peeppeeppeep … Hallo? This is Mr Schofield’s bank manager; he tells me he’s cashed a cheque with you; he’s asked me to tell you not to bother presenting it, he’ll come in and settle it Monday.’

Another imponderable: what were we doing putting money into his hands? I suppose to a certain extent we relish the consistency of his depradations. Be it understood that no money was to change hands on the bets till after the race, but nevertheless. Everybody paid their entrance fee, except Harpo.

Blatantly furtive training sessions began; you could hardly go into the playing fields without someone speedily and casually pocketing a pigeon-watch or elaborately not looking at his digital as he threw a stick for a scampering ragmop. The women were the most obsessive: Mrs Hirst, fifteen stone and a compulsive nibbler who didn’t like to leave the dog out, had a good half stone off her Labrador/Alsatian by switching from chocolate digestive biscuits to dogchews for its between-meals snacks, and throwing its ball down a banking for half an hour every day; she promised it verbally a biscuit if it won, but its eyes grew more desperate by the day and it had to go on Valium after the race.

Then there’s Marrie, who’s been going to obedience classes for four years. ‘He’s all right when there’s other dogs, it’s when you get him on his own he goes mutton-headed.’ I saw her in a back lane; she’d devised a scheme whereby she was at one end of the course and her husband at the other, so that, when loosed, Duke had a quick decision to make as to which of its owners it was going to run away from.

In my opinion, my Bounty was the strongest entry, on the grounds of obedience: she comes to me when I call, and of course she was bred mostly for speed anyway. Early morning I sat her on the touchline, told her to stay, walked to the other end, called, and she ran to me. Nine seconds. Not world class, but good enough for the mutts of Ravensgill I thought, in my pride. The dog gave evidence that it thought I’d gone potty: where were the rabbits if it was required to run? On the fourth morning it lay down and yawned on the touchline, so I knocked off the training.

11.30 am. The football field. A prize of £9.50 (Harpo still hasn’t paid). Starter and finishing judge in position. Nineteen dogs, from terrier-style to lolloping Labrador crosses (there’s a large black dog on the estate that’s always first on a bitch’s doorstep). Every knuckle white. Maybe thirty spectators. Nipper in his dad’s velour trilby, bawling the odds. No Harpo, no Benji.

He’s chickened out. He’ll be watching from behind the curtains at his Auntie Alice’s. We shan’t see him for weeks, until he thinks we’ve forgotten. It was like this when he was telling us about his skill at unarmed combat and then we found out that the husband of one of his paramours, a karate enthusiast from Ashton, was standing in the other bar.

11.45 Harpo comes, pale from Saturday, the dog on a brand new lead, steadily the length of the pitch, daughter Linda beside him, clearly wishing herself elsewhere, cheeks aflame. A crossword fanatic, he was delighted to find that ‘crapulous’ means poorly through the effects of drink. ‘You’ll have to excuse me, gentlemen,’ he will say at a Sunday morning bowls match, ‘I’m feeling a little crapulous today.’

‘Benji’s been sick,’ he tells us by way of excuse, ‘I told him he was in a race, and I had to wait while he was sick on the way down.’

He takes the lead off Benji, and Linda holds the animal among the competitors, by now strung like banjos. ‘Come on, Benji,’ he says, ‘c’mon boy.’

Finishers set off for the other touchline.

‘C’mon Benji, c’mon.’

‘Shut it, Harpo, you drive us mad when you’re not here, and you drive us mad when you’re here.’

‘It’s my method, Henry. C’mon Benji!’

Finishers all in place, handlers in place, judge signals with white hankie, starter raises the shotgun. You can almost hear false teeth being tested to destruction. ‘BOCK!’ and they’re off.

Twenty throats roar for their dogs, women screaming with unpent fury, urging the animals. Marrie’s scheme falls to pieces at once: Duke runs away from the both of them, and is found at home later, staring with punished eyes from under the hen hut. Mrs Hirst’s pudding dog leads the pack with joyous yelps, its mind mayhap on chocolate digestive biscuits. Benji well up and going strongly. Where the devil’s Bounty? Good grief, she’s run straight to the starter and sits, eager, ears up, bright and ready to be waved on to the rabbit. What did I have in my head to think I could call her in all this din? My wife dashes across to wave her on, frenzied, and the dog sets off, a blur of speed after the others. Can she make it through the pack?

They’re bunching, and then bundling as the pudding dog wheels back, eager to be among its friends, Mrs Hirst’s imprecations rising above the clamour like exploding rockets. Benji is through and over the line, passes Harpo at an easy gallop, across the road, and into the Tinker and Budget, it being opening time.

For the record, would Harpo’s bet — not having paid his ten shilling dibs to the bookie — be (a) fungible?

Ahem! Let us refer to John Erskine’s An institute of the law of Scotland (1773):

Hence those things only can be the subject of mutuum, which consists pondere, numero, et mensura ; which may be estimated generically by weight, number, and measure; otherwise called fungibles, quæ jvnctionem recipiunt. By this description, pictures, horses, jewels, are not fungibles; for as their values differ in almost every individual, each must be rated by itself: But grain and coin are fungibles; because one guinea, or one bushel or boll of sufficient merchantable wheat, precisely supplies the place of another. It is true, that some subjects which are not of their nature fungible, are converted into fungibles, or held for such, in the contract of steelbow, explained supr. B. 2 T. 6. § 12.; which is undoubtedly a species of mutuum, the property of the steelbow goods being thereby transferred to the tenant; and yet those goods consist frequently, not only of corns, and other fungibles, but of horses, cows, and most of the implements of tillage. But the reason of this specialty is obvious. It would be a most unequal bargain for the landlord, if the tenant should have it in his power to discharge his obligation to him by the redelivery of the steelbow horses, carts, &c. after they had, by a use of perhaps a dozen or twenty years, been rendered quite unfit for service.

The estimable Mr John Rentoul, c/o The Independent, will doubtless explicate.

And in the future, we may look at that other useful term from Scottish law, a wad set:

A right, by which lands, or other heritable subjects, are impignorated by the proprietor to his creditor in security of his debt; and,like other heritable rights, is perfected by seisin.

Which amounts to a mortgage. But impigniorated … ? Sounds like something involving bodily fluids and done to sows.

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Lost and gone, and well forgotten

Martin Kettle starts his Guardian piece:

Commentators often fail to discern the essential insecurity of politicians. Yet somewhere beneath even the most confident MP’s veneer is the sleepless fear of oblivion.

I found that reassuring. I know my memory is not what it should be, and used to be — too much Cabernet Sauvignon, too often. Still, I wonder how many others of my vintage would recognise the names on this list:

Mac the Knife

That’s “Vicky ” for the London Evening Standard, exactly fifty-two years ago (17th July, 1962). There are, it seems, two versions of this cartoon. The early editions of the paper may have had just the seven top names, with the other nine, the junior ministers, were added in the later effort.

Kettle’s point, about “oblivion” made me wonder how many of the names on Mac’s “Little List” have any resonance these days. Does anyone hanker for David Eccles at Education (1954-7, 1959-62) or at the dead-and-gone Board of Trade (in the intervening gap)? Do we remember Harold Watkinson for his time at Defence (1959-1962) or as Chairman of Cadbury Schweppes (1969-74), or neither?

Just two characters there deserve a bit of immortality

Selwyn Lloyd (sacked as Chancellor by Macmillan) was rehabilitated as Leader of the Commons by Alec Douglas-Home, and imposed by the Heath majority as Speaker in 1971.

Kilmuir was the Lord Chancellor, formerly David Maxwell Fyfe.

I’d not be surprised if, in the near future, his name doesn’t appear more often than it has these forty odd years since his death. He was wrong about not reprieving Derek Bentley in 1953 (allegedly because a hanging would strengthen his chances to elbow Eden aside in Churchill’s succession). He justified the Suez intervention in 1956. He set up the Wolfenden Committee, and then in the House of Lords opposed its recommendations and badger-stroker Lord [“Boofy” Gore] Arran’s Sexual Offences Bill. Kilmuir remained a firm defender of the death penalty.

What may yet give Kilmuir some posthumous notice is his claim in the House of Lords, 24th May 1965:

I have in mind the proselytisation which goes out from sodomitic societies and buggery clubs, which everybody knows exist.

I cannot find another reference for this, but Geraldine Bedell, in a 2007 piece for the Observer had:

For the opposition, Lord Kilmuir warned against licensing the ‘buggers’ clubs’ which he claimed were operating behind innocent-looking doors all over London. But Arran, supported by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, won his third reading by 96 votes to 31.

The term buggers’ clubs, as there, seems always associated with Kilmuir. Properly it belongs to Lord Chief Justice Goddard:

There is no judge who has to go on circuit, as I did for many years, who does not from time to time find that in various parts of the country—in quite different parts of the country—there are what are generally referred to among the people who practise these things as “buggers’ clubs” or associations or coteries of people who are given to this particular vice. They are often careful to see that they keep out young boys, because they know that they get very heavy sentences if they are found out; but at these coteries of buggers, the most horrible things go on. As a judge, one has to sit and listen to these stories which make one feel physically sick.

If this Bill goes through, so that buggery is no longer a criminal offence provided it is done in private and with no boys concerned, then it will be a charter for these buggers’ clubs. They will be able to spring up all over the place. I can assure your Lordships that it is a very real risk.

Goddard is now remembered for his other proclivities and his trousers. Which is one way of escaping public oblivion.

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A piddling bit of language

The New York Times is never caught short.

Here’s today’s intro:

Everyone knows violent crime goes up in the summer.

Temperatures rise, tempers flare.

But it’s also high season for several seemingly innocuous activities that could earn you a summons:

• Drinking alcohol in public – in parks, on stoops, on the street. Including in your car.

• Public urination. The law prohibits spilling “blood, swill, brine, offensive animal matter, noxious liquid, dead animals, offal, putrid or stinking vegetable or animal matter or other filthy matter” in public areas.

Such euphemistic terms go back to the earliest English Common Law, with prohibitions on any form of “public nuisance” that the prevailing morality didn’t like.

The New York City rules, specifically Article 153 on Littering and Disposal of Refuse (which is the origin of that Times quotation above), continue and come heavy on any

person [who] shall allow any such matter to run or fall into any street, public place, sewer, receiving basin or river, any standing or running water or into any other waters of the City as defined in §145.01.

Which must make flushing the toilet a potential offence.

This all-purpose prohibition seems to date from before AD1240 and to have been formulated in the time of Edward II in the form of “purprestures”.

What? You don’t immediately grasp that term from Norman French? Allow the OED to assist:

an illegal enclosure of or encroachment upon land or property belonging to another or (now only) to the public; an appropriation of land or property for private purposes. Purpresture often affects roads, public waterways, etc., or, esp. in the earlier period, royal, manorial, or common lands. In that period the offence was often not prosecuted but instead a rent was levied …

The OED reckons that post-classical Latin porprestura , proprestura , purprestura [meaning] encroachment is frequently found 1086–1539 in British sources.

So, if the bladder’s under pressure, bear in mind the purpresture.

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If you prick us, do we not bleed?

“Easy!” says Malcolm. “Shylock to Salarino, Merchant of Venice, Act III, scene 1″. And so it is.

For pricks have been a big topic around these parts of late. The matter had been raised (ahem!) by Ms Treneman of The Times, in connection with James Wharton MP:

His majority was tiny (332) and he had made the news for being linked with a company that sells stone statues of giant penises.

What Malcolm had not fully appreciated was the full story of …

james-and-the-giant-peachJames and the Giant Peach Penis

The full story is courtesy of the Chronicle (Malcolm’s regular read in his first teaching post on Teesside), under the arresting title:

Stockton Tory MP’s bid to get cash for his pal
A NEW Tory MP tried to help a former Conservative colleague who sells giant penis statues get £30,000 in Government aid.

The credited author, Adrian Pearson, continues:

Stockton South MP James Wharton is facing criticism after he wrote to jobs quango One North East asking them to speed up a grant to Trocabart, a company run by his former Conservative party pal Jason Hadlow.

The newly elected MP asked spending chiefs to hand over £30,000 as “a priority” to his mate whose other company Simply Dutch was at the centre of a media storm earlier this year when police seized a four-foot tall sandstone statue of a penis following indecency complaints.

Mr Hadlow, a former chairman of Yarm’s Conservative Association and now an independent councillor, hopes to create dozens of jobs in Teesside by expanding the secondhand goods market. To help his business plans, Mr Hadlow asked One North East for a grant but soon hit a problem after the Conservative party nationally ordered the development agency to freeze business support.

As the cuts began to bite, Mr Wharton contacted One North East in June saying he had met with the firm and wanted to know why it hadn’t been given any cash yet. The MP had campaigned against the need for a jobs agency in the run up to the General Election. When spending chiefs explained to him that they were powerless to act because his own party had ordered a freeze, Mr Wharton took the issue to Parliament and asked written questions to the Department for Business in July to see when the grants would be freed up again.

Let’s get that straight:

  • Our James had campaigned for one policy, and promptly (once elected) reversed his position.
  • He was lobbying against a ConDem policy he had voted for in Parliament.
  • He was doing so out of personal friendship and fellowship.
  • He had the notion that a national policy could be reversed for his political and local ends.

Yes. We’ve got that. Sounds eminently … err … reasonably. Well, subjectively so.

… his former Conservative party pal Jason Hadlow

Malcolm knows when he is hearing a bit more than is said.

Jason Hadlow is a fifty-something (+/-) who was six years the perpetual mayor of that nice little, tight little town of Yarm.

  • In October last year he announced his intention to resign his position.
  • He walked out of a council meeting, and declared that any subsequent business was illegitimate.
  • He had been involved (literally) in a spat with a fellow councillor (an elderly lady, Cllr Marjorie Simpson of the Yarm Independents, whom we shall meet later in this post). Hadlow said she had spat upon him and punched him. Despite his submission, the Police did not proceed with any charges.
  • He had deliberately infringed the parking restrictions, as a way of challenging the regulations (this whole business — Yarm versus Stockton — cost Yarm some £70,ooo in legal costs).

Simply Dutch

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpgThat was the curious name of Mayor Hadlow’s store in Leeming Bar, North Yorkshire. Last year he suddenly closed it, sacked his staff, then as suddenly re-opened:

selling unusual furniture, homewares and antiques.

It was, apparently, all the fault of the weather. Simply Dutch seems also to operate via the Internet, with strong lines in replica guns, samurai swords and  “militaria” (as right).

That apart, let’s be honest: what do things “Dutch” imply in the lowest popular mind? Oak furniture (Mayor Hadlow’s version)? Or could it involve 200 hundred coffee shops — which are definitively not the same as cafés — in Amsterdam and their Bond van Cannabis Detaillisten (and there’s a clue)?

On that basis, what was HM Customs to believe when Mayor Hadlow imported a vast fibreglass dinosaur through the port of Hull? Right! They impounded it, and sent for the sniffer dogs, on the possibility that it might have “contents”.

Subsequently Simply Dutch went for the Big Time. A huge sandstone phallus, apparently one of 200 hundred made in Indonesia for which English gardens were in crying need, was put on public display in the shop window. Susceptible passers-by complained. The Police (spoilsports!) confiscated the object. A public order offence was issued: Mayor Hadlow was fined £80. He fomented a “Free Willy” campaign (Geddit?), and involved Janick Gers of heavy-metal rockers Iron Maiden,  a North-Easterner from Hartlepool, whose family home, coincidentally, is in Yarm.

Further back …

The earliest connection Malcolm sees between Hadlow and Wharton is in October 2007:

Following the local elections in May 2007, Yarm Town Council was made up of 9 Conservative councillor and 2 independents. Four months later James Earl resigned. The Local Government Acts 1972 states that once a resignation is received by the appropriate person, it takes effect immediately. Four days later James Earl withdrew his resignation.

The Council Chairman, (then-Conservative Councillor), Jason Hadlow, took the advice of a trainee solicitor, James Wharton, already the prospective Conservative candidate for Stockton South. At the subsequent Council meeting Hadlow first admitted he had read the letter (which made the resignation absolute and legal — that was also the advice of David Bond, the Director of Law and Democracy of Stockton Borough Council), then was advised by our trainee solicitor Wharton that he had not read the letter. So he hadn’t.


It is remarkable, too, how often in Mr Wharton’s estimation Mayor Hadlow makes “an excellent speech”: not only at Yarm Fair (October 2009) but again at the lighting of the Christmas tree (December 2009). Was it the same speech? And then there are those repetitive mentions of Yarm’s excellent Conservative run Town Council and how Jason leads an excellent team of Town and Borough Councillors.

As to how many occasions Wharton spent some time discussing the issues facing Yarm with Town Council Chairman, Jason Hadlow, only Google may tell us.

♥ It must be love ♥

Not all are so taken.

Andrew Calcutt does a blog at newscompositor. He did a little skit on Clockwork Orange (where a giant penis is also a participant):

There was me and my three droogs, that is Dave, Georgie and Dim, and we sat in the Metrovia Milkbar trying to make up our rassodocks what to do about Europe. Dim, also known as Jim Whart, announces he’s up for a bit of the old in-out, in-out referendum on EU membership. Better to resolve the situation, he says. Release the pent-up frustration among grassroots activists so that afterwards we can focus on that which ordinary malchick- and devotchka-voters are worrying about all the time, namely ‘the cost of living’.

When he used that antiquated phrase – viddy well, oh my brothers, ‘the cost of living’ was last spoken of before there were even videos – the bile in me started to rise. I thought I could hear the blissful music of dear old Ludwig Van urging me to visit some actual ultra-violet upon Dim and his ilk; upon all the mad, swivel-eyed loons who populate the party with their outdated, provincial customs and embarrassing clothes.\

I looked across the table at Dim-Jim: still in his twenties and already the first signs of the-comb-over-to-come; veteran of the Officer Training Corps at Durham University where he studied law – making him the conservative conservatives’ conservative.  Why, oh my metrosexual brothers, is the party stuffed with such Dim antediluvians, dinosaurs who would stamp the life out of our ultra-modern, frictionless Westminster Village with their flat feet encased in socks and sandals? Watching his pudgy round face – surely the face of a boy who’s been carrying a briefcase since his first day at secondary school – I thought of the giant, model penis we had nicked from an artist’s house earlier that night, and I couldn’t stop thinking of ramming it right into him.

The latest thing

There is a delicious account, in — of all places — the Daily Star, of Hadlow’s more recent doings. It begins:

A MAYOR has quit after claiming he was assaulted, spat at and punched in town hall bust-ups with other councillors.

Tory Jason Hadlow alleged one of his political rivals turned up drunk for a town council meeting clutching a pint of cider, then chased him and another councillor out of the chamber.

The mayor said he has been sent poison pen letters and last May found posters all over his neighbourhood alleging he ran the town like former Chilean dictator General Pinochet, who tortured and killed political opponents.

Other posters appeared portraying the mayor of Yarm as Pinocchio – the Disney character famous for telling lies.

We are deep into Miss Marple territory here:

Last October Cleveland Police confirmed a man had been cautioned for sending poison pen letters to the mayor.

The notes had been sent to Mr Hadlow’s home, his ex-wife’s house and to Yarm Town Hall. He said he also received abusive fax messages, some calling him a “little shit and liar” and others saying “I hope you die”.

Welcome back an earlier acquaintance:

But the mayor’s rivals on the council claim the only person to turn up worse for wear from drink at meetings was him.

Councillor Marjorie Simpson said: “People who sit near him at meetings know he’s been drinking before he comes. He goes to the Black Bull. I’ve got a 100% attendance record at the council meetings and I’ve never seen the mayor or anyone else being chased out of the town hall.”

Let’s end at our beginning, with the ex-Mayor and his willy:


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Pride of our alley?

Let Malcolm start with two confessions:

  1. staustellproperjobYesterday’s Sunday papers got short shrift, mainly because of that long liquid lunch at Ye Olde Cherry Tree, a decent meal well lubricated with St Austell’s Proper Job.
  2. He is distinctly ambivalent about the Bercows. Obviously, since John Bercow as Speaker gets up the noses of so many Tories, he cannot be entirely a bad thing. He seems to do the business; but doesn’t cut it along with the recent great Speakers of recent memory: say, Bernard Weatherill (recently the star of James Graham’s This House at the Cottesloe) and Betty Boothroyd (a great hoofer, never out-shone by anyone). As for wife Sally, well, she does seem a trifle OTT.

And it is of Sally Bercow of whom we now speak.

The story so far:

Back in the darkening days of last autumn a frisson ran through the British political establishment. Some well-rehearsed ‘revelations’ from decades gone by, about paedophile rings in high places, bubbled to the surface of the settlement pit. One particular name involved was McAlpine. Unfortunately two McAlpine cousins, “Jimmie” and Lord Alastair, were confused by the media, including the BBC (who later paid McAlpine £185,000 for the mistake).

In the course of which Sally Bercow tweeted:

Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *innocent face*

The noble Lord McAlpine (believed to be down to his last ten million) then set about cleaning up. He issued writs for libel against all and sundry, collecting large sums of moolah in the process:  the Guardian columnist George Monbiot coughed; and comedian Alan Davies is supposed to be down for £200,000. McAlpine then generously desisted from cleaning out the bank-accounts of lesser beings, making a special, public and explicit exception of Sally Bercow’s seven words and ornamental punctuation.

Sally, blessed her little convoluted heart, stood up to the bullying. Yesterday’s Sunday Times reminded us how things went from there:

The libel case is centred on whether Bercow’s tweet was defamatory. A key issue will be the level of innuendo implied by the use of asterisks in her comment. Such punctuation represents the mimicking of a physical action by the user.

Hold on!  There is a precedent for this, which — at first, even second sight — seems to contradict the old maxim de minimis non curat lex. When English law wants to, it could — as with Roger Casement, hang a man on a comma.

Back to the Sunday Times:

At a High Court hearing on Tuesday, lawyers for McAlpine, 70, will ask for permission for the case to be split into two parts: one to determine the meaning of the tweet, and a second, if required, to award damages. The peer is seeking up to £50,000.

If the case goes against her, Bercow fears a two-part trial will drag proceedings on for months, with legal costs likely to overtake damages. This is why she is thought to want a full trial to be heard in one go.

Bercow has instructed solicitors at Carter-Ruck on a no-win, no-fee basis and is believed to have taken out insurance to cover costs of up to £100,000 should she lose.

She will be represented in court by William McCormick, QC, a defamation and privacy expert whose previous clients have included Sir Elton John.

McAlpine’s barrister is Sir Edward Garnier, a Tory MP and former solicitor-general.

Andrew Reid, of the RPMI firm of solicitors, who is also representing the peer, said, “It is very disappointing that Mrs Bercow still wants her day in court. But there is a huge public interest in this. The sooner the meaning of what she said is settled, the greater the benefit to the public at large.”

Focus, if you will, on that last quoted paragraph.

What does it mean?

  • One plain insinuation is that plutocrats, who can afford the bill for the thrill of the chase, might mulct lesser creatures through just a threat of action. But the lesser being is not supposed to use the proper legal remedy of “a day in court”. Of course, with verbose senior barristers involved, the chances of this being settled in a “day” are precisely zilch. Scattering writs like confetti was patented by such low-lifes as Robert Maxwell, to the great profit of his tame lawyers, who have refined the operation ever since.
  • Second, McAlpine’s lawyers would clearly prefer not to have all that embarrassing “huge public interest”. Not in front of the serviles …
  • Partisan politics, and a bully’s need to humiliate, seems a major contributory factor.
  • As for “benefit to the public at large”, any sensitive and sensible mind boggles. We have here another of the myriad attempts by those with power to throttle and constrain each and every twitch, tweet and twaddle of the social media. Underlings’ sympathy for La Bercow derives from the good British principle of nil carborundum.
  • The moral superiority of Lord McAlpine fades when we recall he was on the take, albeit on behalf of Thatcher’s Tory Party, from the likes of Asil Nadir. His love-of-country amounts to being a non-dom. His family firm, the construction giant McAlpine, made vast sums from Tory policies, and also operated the notorious black-list: since McAlpine started his career with the firm as a clock-watcher and pay-clerk on the South Bank site, his distance from victimizations cannot have been too great.

One last thought …

This Sunday Times piece was illustrated by yet another from a photo-shoot of Lord McAlpine cruising (make of that word what you will) around Venice.



The chequered suit and a gaudy tie, guaranteed to bar any on-course bookie from frightening the horses, tells us all we need to know. This present image, arms propped on true-blue umbrella, Rialto Bridge and moon-faced cheesy half-grin to the fore, mushy-peas Grand Canal beyond, is the latest, and even least appealing of the sequence.  Even Sally Bercow, in her more flirtatious and ill-advised moments didn’t sink that low.

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