Category Archives: Murdoch

Traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament

Recognise it? Its the indictment against Charles Stuart, 20th January 1648.

Where else to start? In a roundabout way, Paddy Kavanagh springs to mind:

Forget the worm’s opinion too
Of hooves and pointed harrow-pins,
For you are driving your horses through
The mist where Genesis begins. 

Those #Brexiteers assured us the UK would enjoy some regeneration, a second “genesis”, after 23rd June. They didn’t bother about the painful details. Now, the worm beneath the harrow is beginning to watch for where the tines will drive.

It also started here. Quite why the commenters on politics.ie should divide between ultra-Kippers and staunch defenders of the British Constitution escapes me. But for 1,700 exchanges (and continuing) they did, and do.

4256Personally, I was severely affronted by the vulgarity, the xenophobia, the sexism, the violent populism and anti-elitism fomented by the vulgar, xenophobic, sexist, arrogant,  elitist tabloid press barons in their spittle-speckled assaults on the High Court of Justice.

But back to first principles:

The whole non-event comes down to a binary simplicity:

  • Does the Prime Minister have the right to decide when and what #Brexit means, by exercise of “Royal Prerogative”?

or

  • Is Parliament the essential arbiter? 

Those three High Court judges, in their wisdom, endorsed a thousand years of English history, and declared for Parliament.

I doubt there will ever be plaques, with or without bird-turd, outside the Baby Shard (the London bunker from whence Murdoch’s The Sun rises daily), or Northcliffe House in Kensington (ditto the Daily Mail) as the one outside the Roundhouse pub, on Royal Standard Place, in Nottingham:

king-charles-placque

I laid out my understanding in that previous post.

That left me with the residual issue:

  • When might the “Royal Prerogative” ever be invoked?

As I see it, that Elephantine Object in the Newsroom, the “British Constitution”, constrains both:

  • Courts (who can only interpret the “Constitution” as a corpus of legislation going back to Norman times) and
  • Parliament (which can only act and enact within “constitutional” limits — for example, since the 1911 Parliament Act, the Lords have no powers over money bills, except a one-month delay).

Any amendment to an existing Westminster law would need an amending Act of the Westminster parliament.

We have a balanced — and ever-evolving — settlement between Parliament, devolved Assemblies, and Courts. Still,  I can just about conceive circumstances in which “Royal Prerogative” might need to be invoked — short of a declaration of War. Say the administration of a devolved Assembly became totally unmanageable …

Aha! You’re with me already!

Even then we’d need something like a Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act, which imposed Direct Rule from 31st March 1972 to its repeal on 2nd December 1999.

I therefore found myself seeing this as an exercise in speedy parliamentary activity, without use of Royal Prerogative.

A bit of parliamentary history

On 20th March 1972, Harold Wilson, under an emergency notice of 16th March, led an Opposition adjournment motion.

This came after weeks of dithering by the Heath government, and procrastination by the Unionist at Stormont. It was now common ground (except among the extremes of opinion in Northern Ireland, who were up for a local Armageddon). The Dublin government was on the verge of doing something unmentionable.

Wilson, ever the opportunist, would have known that the Heath government was about to act; and wanted to get in on the act. The Opposition had another motive : the need for a distractor. The following week the Chancellor was going to offer a crowd-pleasing budget, as a softener for a General election (which would become the “Barber boom”, and stoke up the inflation that bedevilled British politics for the next decade — but that’s another matter).

After three hours of debate (with Prime Minister Heath responding) the government defeated the motion to adjourn by 257 to 294.

Had that vote been lost, the sitting would have ended abruptly, and Heath would, by convention (another bit of unwritten “Constitution”) have had to return the following session to propose a vote of confidence in his own adminstration. Had that vote of confidence been lost, it would immediately require Heath to go the Palace (another bit of “Constitutional” flim-flam) and resign.

At that moment the Queen would have two choices: to accept the now ex-Prime Minister’s request for a General Election, or to summon the Leader of the Opposition to form a new government (who would then promptly request a General Election, which would be granted).

There then intervened three days of Budget debate.

Perspective

At this distance in time, we’d need to remind ourselves just how febrile the atmosphere was at that moment. One name in particular should be in the frame: William Craig.

Craig had lost out to the more moderate Brian Faulkner for the leadership of the Unionist Party and the stool-of-office as Northern Irish Prime Minister. He had then built a party-within-the-Unionist-Party, his private Ulster Vanguard movement — which was closely associated with the loyalists and paramilitaries of such as the UDA. Craig held his “monster rallies”, involving motor-cycle outriders, and armed men drawn up in quasi-military ranks. Craig’s speeches at these rallies are quite outrageous:

We must build up dossiers on those men and women in this country who are a menace to this country because one of these days, if and when the politicians fail us, it may be our job to liquidate the enemy.

Note there “this country”: Craig was advocating a Rhodesian-style UDI.

Keeping it parliamentary

On 24th March, Heath was back to the Commons to make a holding statement in advance of the weekend, announcing the bringing back to Westminster of powers over Northern Ireland :

Parliament will, therefore, be invited to pass before Easter a Measure transferring all legislative and executive powers now vested in the Northern Ireland Parliament and Government to the United Kingdom Parliament and a United Kingdom Minister. This provision will expire after one year unless this Parliament resolves otherwise. The Parliament of Northern Ireland would stand prorogued but would not be dissolved.

The weekend out of the way, on  27th March, the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Bill was laid before the House, and given a nominal First Reading.

On 28th March there was a full debate, and division (483-18) on the Second Reading. Willie Whitelaw , as Leader of the Commons and as emollient a creature as the Tories could contain, introduced the Bill with a formula of words worth noting in this context:

I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place her interests and prerogative, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Got that? The “Royal Prerogative” there being made — effectively — subject (if only for this purpose) to the will of parliament. Nearly half a century ago, that must strike as a significant statement. And we have since moved much, much further in claiming democratic accountability through parliament against arbitrary, post-feudal authority.

There was a brief debate on amendments on 29th March (in effect, the “Committee Stage”).

On 30th March all the remaining stages, including the Bill passing the House of Lords, were completed, and at 12.26 pm the Lord Chancellor announced the Royal Assent: it was now an Act of Parliament, subject (see above) to annual review.

After that, interpretation would fall to the Courts.

All done and dusted, with the barest of nods at “Royal Prerogative”.

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Filed under Britain, Daily Mail, History, Law, Murdoch, Northern Ireland, Northern Irish politics, politics, politics.ie, pubs, Quotations

There are times …

… when the excesses of the Murdoch press are so grotesque, they defy imagination.

Today’s very-shady Sun has this, from the Honourable Toby Young [1]:

If the new Prime Minister is serious about taking us out of the EU, we need a Foreign ­Secretary who’s upbeat about Britain’s post-Brexit future, not another doom-monger. [2]

It will be the job of Britain’s 150 ambassadors to sell this new vision of the UK to the rest of the world, so it makes sense they should be led by someone who believes in it. [3]

Boris is a pretty good salesman in his own right. As Mayor of London, his main job was to attract business and investment to our capital — and the transformation of the city’s skyline [4] is testament to how effective he was. If he can do the same for UK PLC, Britain’s depressed northern cities will be lit up like Las Vegas. [5]

[1] Toby Daniel Moorsom Young is the son of Baron Young of Darlington, major contributor to the 1945 Labour Manifesto, and a distinguished sociologist. The Moorsom is for his mother, Sasha, who kept the BBC Third Programme and elsewhere culturally sound, and wrote a couple of decent books herself. As such, the offspring is entitled to be an “Hon”.

This fruit has fallen far, far from the Muswell Hill tree.

[2] Up to a distant point, Lord Copper.

It obviously hasn’t dawned on the Honourable Toby that Theresa May, in her wisdom, has made quite sure BoJo will have little to contribute on #Brexit. Were he even considering so doing, he would collide forcibly with the adamantine David Davis, Secretary of State for #Brexit. That would be an event where it would be would be worth having the popcorn franchise. Essential differences are that Davis does his homework, knows his stuff and is licensed to kill.

[3] Even further from the point, Lord Tinplate.

Theresa May has delegated International Trade to Liam Fox, the one Tory outstanding for being more devious, more self-seeking, more duplicitous, more venomous than BoJo. If Davis leaves a bloody BoJo corpse at the Cabinet table, Fox can be guaranteed to boot it on the way out.

[4] Ah, yes.

Generations yet unborn will hail BoJo for his architectural significance. He did more for the London skyline than the Luftwaffe. His greatest hit [sic] ought to be the car-killing 20 Fenchurch Street, a.k.a. the Walkie-Talkie.

[5] Either the Honourable Toby has smuggled an irony past the Sun sub-editors, or this has to be further proof of the man’s excellence in crassness.

The architect of Carbuncle-of-the-Year is Rafael Viñoly. A previous “commission” (read that as you please) was the Vdara Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas. This was Viñoly‘s previous attempt to build a death-ray. The curved frontage, as at Fenchurch Street, focuses the sun, with the result that sun-bathers can have their hair scorched and their loungers melted.

 

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Filed under Boris Johnson, London, Murdoch, Muswell Hill, Tories.

Cui bono? (As if you couldn’t guess)

The New Yorker, of all places, has a piece on Hillsborough — The Legacy of a Soccer Tragedy, by Ruth Margalit:

Margalit-HillsboroughSoccerTragedy-690

  • it comes prefaced by one of the most poignant images (see above) and one I cannot recall seeing before;
  • and, as befits The New Yorker, comes quite sophisticated with it.

After a predictable human-interest opener, Margalit attempts a swift survey of how we arrived at caging people at Hillsborough —

  • the Heysel Stadium disaster, blamed here on:

rioting Liverpool supporters at a match in Brussels had triggered a stampede that caused the collapse of a stadium wall, leading to the death of thirty-nine people, most of them Italian fans of the soccer club Juventus.

Let us not bother to harp on whether a wall that collapsed was the fault of a “riot”, or whether a stadium should be organised to prevent such a “riot”, and not have walls that collapse.

  • the baleful influence of Margaret Thatcher, concerned not essentially with human suffering but with public image:

“We have to get the game cleaned up from this hooliganism at home and then perhaps we shall be able to go overseas again.”

Margalit then does a quick flit past Nick Hornby and Jason Cowley — both valid sources — before arriving at the key point:

Luckily for those of us who love the “beautiful game,” the culture did change. The most immediate and lasting changes were prompted by the publication, a few months after Hillsborough, of a damning report by Lord Taylor of Gosforth, later England’s Lord Chief Justice, criticizing the soccer industry’s poor treatment of supporters. The report led to a complete overhaul of stadium-safety regulations, and to the requirement that every spectator have an assigned seat.

And with that came something else:

the new seating requirement also contributed to a change in demographics. A mostly working-class fan base gave way to a middle-class and upper-middle-class clientele, the only people still able to afford tickets: adjusting for inflation, ticket prices now cost at least three times what they did in 1989, and, increasingly, clubs offer perks like champagne-on-tap V.I.P. boxes to their most deep-pocketed fans. Money coming in from TV rights has also skyrocketed, from a revenue stream of about twenty million dollars a year in 1988 to more than five billion dollars a year in 2014. Next year, the English Premier League is expected to overtake the N.F.L. as the highest-earning sports league in the world.

Time for a small declaration of interest. My Pert Young Piece, saving for her gap year, had a good thing going. Alternate Saturdays, she was on the catering/waiting detail for those V.I.P. boxes at White Hart Lane (and its American Express black cards) for the football and Harlequins for the Rugby.

So what has happened to the mostly working-class fan base?

Those who have been priced out of those “safer” stadia now frequent sports bars. [Don’t get me started on these soul-less and depressing joints, fuelled by fizzy imported beers.] The numerous screens will, inevitably, be tuned to the Sky Sports feeds. This from 2013:

Pub landlords say the cost of screening top level sport is becoming so expensive it is making them switch off from showing the likes of Premier League football and the Ashes.

One pub and restaurant owner in Tunbridge Wells said he had to call time on the satellite service after Sky wanted a staggering £2,400 a month for him to show Sky Sports in his pub.

The cost of showing Sky Sports channels in public venues varies, but the national average is said to be around £400 a month for pubs.

I can easily spot what Jerry Hall sees in her octogenarian squeeze.

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Filed under Britain, culture, Murdoch, New Yorker, pubs, sleaze., social class

The cess-pit bubbles over

Yesterday Murdoch’s überTory scandal sheet, The Sun, was offering inducements: Sun190 That should be considered in parallel with Electoral law: Electoral Commission Doubtless a well-paid corporate lawyer will have established why a “case study” doesn’t soon became a barrister’s brief.

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Filed under Murdoch, politics, sleaze., smut peddlers, Tories.

Odd man out

Unlike every pollster, snake-oil salesman, journalist, bean-counter and Uncle Tom Cobbley, I haven’t a clue what transpires after Thursday’s General Election.

I somehow suspect Sinn Féin will cling on in West Belfast, Labour in Liverpool, Walton, and the Tories in Richmond, Yorkshire. I like to think North Down kept Lady Sylvia as their elected Member. Beyond that, all is speculative.

What I do know is that stuff like this is wind-and-piss:

Guidocrap

There are two precedents here.

The first was 1945.

The result then came through during the Potsdam Conference. Attlee, as the new Prime Minister, and his equally-new Foreign Secretary, Ernie Bevin (not, as generally expected, Hugh Dalton — and there are several stories in that), flew into Berlin prontissimo. Only a handful of senior Cabinet posts had been filled; and Attlee instructed the pro-tem Tory ministers, occupying the lesser posts (including some of Cabinet rank) to stay put, and carry on. It comes as a small shock to find that, as the War in Europe wound down, as the atomic age began, as hostilities continued in the Far East, the Commons did not meet between 15th June and 1st August, 1945.

The British Civil Service, at its best, ensured continuity.

Then, the most recent, 2010

By the dawn of 7th May, 2010, we all knew the Labour Government of Gordon Brown looked unlikely to survive. The BBC finally wrung its withers and declared, at breakfast time, we had a hung parliament.

Then the fun began.

The Cabinet Secretary became the ring-master, and in effect ordered Gordon Brown to stay put. Brown did so until the evening of 11th May, formally went to the Palace, tendered his resignation, and advised the Monarch to send for David Cameron.

That weekend there was a quite-extraordinary, and duplicitous campaign against Brown by the Tory press. Th Cabinet Office had briefed all and sundry on the state-of-play, and why it was a constitutional obligation for Brown to rest in his place. That didn’t quell the shrieks that Brown was a “squatter in Number 10”:

Newton-Dunn

 Can’t Ya Lova Plurabumma

Which,

A way a lone a last a loved a long the riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to

another arm of Murdoch’s grasping media- octopus, and today’s Times first leader:

Occupy Downing Street

If Ed Miliband tries to oust David Cameron from No 10 with SNP supportthe public will cry foul. The prime minister is right to warn he will stay put

David Cameron is defying Ed Miliband to book removal vans. That is the logistical significance of Conservative signals at the weekend that Mr Cameron plans to stay in No 10 even if he has no overall majority. The political significance is that he is staking an advance claim on legitimacy, because that is what the post-election battle will be about.

And the only response is any thinking Gofer’s:

‘Up to a point, Lord Copper”

The point being when the parliamentary arithmetic is >323, Cameron (or Ed Miliband) has lost it. However, any party leader able to mobilise those 323 votes is legitimate. But until then. over a long-drawn out political argy-bargy, whether the Tory Press like it or not, public opinion wouldn’t wear it. If Cameron tries to sit it out, all the way to a defeat over a Queen’s Speech at the end of the month, he will discover the painful truth:

Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream:
The Genius and the mortal instruments
Are then in council; and the state of man,
Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
The nature of an insurrection.

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Filed under Britain, Elections, Labour Party, Murdoch, Quotations, Shakespeare, Sinn Fein, Times, Tories.

Fissiparous revisited

Well, if was OK for Larkin and Toads, why not here?

Give me your arm, old toad;
Help me down Cemetery Road.

After this General Election, were the Tories to “win” (or, as happened in 2010, were the Cabinet Secretary to spatchcock them a “win”), the Big Event would not longer be the “deficit”. It would be “Europe”.

In our local politics we are urged to remember that Farage’s Kippers (4.3% of the vote, 38 seats) — not Manfred Weber’s EDD (29.4% of the vote, 221 seats) — “won” the 2014 European Parliamentary Elections. Clearly, as in 1938, things European are still “a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing”.

Wars and rumours of wars

Yet, assuming that Tory Election “win”, “Europe” is the coming crisis —”Europe” being a shorthand for the fissiparous state of the Tory Party. And, yes (since you didn’t ask), I have today been reading Ian Traynor in The Guardian:

For more than two years, Cameron has regularly demanded changes to the EU, requested that concessions be made so he can repatriate powers from Brussels, win the referendum and keep the UK in. But he has yet to tell the other 27 heads of government what he wants.

“We need more concrete British demands,” Donald Tusk, the president of the European council and former Polish prime minister, told the Guardian three weeks ago. Tusk organises and chairs EU summits and will have a key mediation role over the British issue, which he describes as one of his top three dossiers. He said he wanted to help solve the British problem in a “limited and rational way”, but in effect ruled out a renegotiation of the Lisbon treaty to accommodate the British.

Reopening the treaty has long been Cameron’s main demand, although he has also been told authoritatively that it will not happen. “No one thinks he’s credible,” said Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform thinktank. “Cameron wants to have his cake and eat it.”

The whole of that piece is a recognition that, for Cameron and the Tories, “Europe” is code for the unbridgeable divide which John Major suffered with his “bastards”. Then it was the Maastricht rebels. The headbanger tendency has been self-denying and quiet in recent months, but, after 7th May, will be liberated and reinvigorated. It could be Eurosceptic two-thirds of the parliamentary Tory benches. Exactly a year ago Matthew d’Ancona had this:

In moments of exasperation, the PM has been heard to say that he would rather form another Coalition after the next election than win a small majority and, in practice, govern in a daily modified coalition with [Peter] Bone and his gang of hardcore Eurosceptic backbenchers (“Bonie’s Cronies”, as I have heard them described). 

In any case, if Cameron wins with a majority of any sort, or negotiates a second coalition that includes the fulfilment of his pledge to hold a referendum before the end of 2017, the Conservative Party’s energies will be utterly absorbed by Europe, as never before, for up to 18 months.

Conservatives and “National Conservatives”?

When I was observing those divisive amoeba, the North Norfolk MP was Eddie Gooch. At each General Election he had a single opponent, a “National Liberal”. This strange sub-species of Tories now needs explanation: since I can’t be bothered, try wikipedia. They were a lingering residue of the 1931 split in the Liberal Party. There was also a “National Labour” party (those who went with Ramsay MacDonald into the 1931 coalition) until after the 1945 Election.

The question has to be: would a commitment to (or against) #Brexit be as devastating to Tory “unity” as was 1931 to the other two parties? Cameron, as a prisoner of the rampant Eurosceptic right, the faction howled on by the Murdoch scandal-sheets, would likely lead to some constituency associations so alienated they resigned, or were suspended. If Cameron were able to stave off the “Better off out” loopies, the obvious beneficiary would be the Farageistes.

On the other hand, none of these fissiparous tendencies are neutered by a Tory defeat in this General Election. Cameron would be out, gone, the designated fall-guy. Inflexible rigour would be the order the day. [Isn’t it odd that “ideology”, however warped and homeopathically diluted, is now the norm on the right?]

TheScapegoat

If all we hear about the selection of Tory parliamentary candidates is anywhere near the reality, the next leader will be further right — a hardliner, such as Liam Fox (always sniffing round the parliamentary henhouse) or Theresa May, or a trimmer, such as Boris Johnson (the original arse on which everything has sat except a man).

Watch this dividing space: it could be fun.

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Filed under Boris Johnson, Britain, broken society, EU referendum, Europe, Guardian, History, Murdoch, Norfolk, politics, Tories.

One has to wonder

Anthony Wells tacitly poses the question:

YouGov’s two sets of voting intention figures are CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 15% in the Sun on Sunday poll, and CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 16%, GRN 6% in the Sunday Times (Sun Times tabs are here, Sun on Sunday should be up tomorrow) – so still showing the two main parties very close to one another.

On which, I have just two observations:

  • One particular: the same polling operation (YouGov), paid by the same other operation (Murdoch, via News UK, a subsidiary of NewsCorp), produce two sets of numbers. Admittedly the statistical difference is slight, but it is the difference between a “tie” and a “lead” — which is also (especially for a reader of The Sun) the difference between three points for a 1-o win and a single point for a 0-0 draw . By (quite obviously) no coincidence that slight but telling difference represents different narratives, which — curiously but neatly — fit those of the two “news”papers.
  • More generally, that little lot about sums my view of opinion polls and their interpretation. And that is more significant.

To repeat myself:

Opinion polls, outside of an imminent (that is a span of days, not weeks or months) election are totally valueless. There is no constraint, no check on findings.

Since, by definition, such polls cannot be validated by votes-in-boxes, they are, also by definition, valueless.

However, they fill “news” columns, provide editors and their subs with a predictable supply of column fodder. They keep the paper’s tame “expert” in employment: this, without exception, is a university psephologist or another self-serving crony in the polling business —in both cases, then, with a vested interest in keeping this balloon inflated. As Private Eye always says, “Trebles all round”.

Above all, they are statistical constructs, derived from arcane algorithms based on assumptions about the population on which the small samples are based.

Hence, they exist within “margins of error”.

The bottom line

My objection is not to the polls, which are harmless, the wind-blown spinnings of a spider:

… so light a foot
Will ne’er wear out the everlasting flint:
A lover may bestride the gossamer
That idles in the wanton summer air,
And yet not fall; so light is vanity.

[Which is Shakespeare’s better advert for Durex: the other is King Lear, Act IV, scene 6].

Yet, consider the spider.

Its work is neatly illustrated by the Independent on Sunday‘s two (usually reliable) commentators. John Rentoul opines:

David Cameron could not believe his luck. He was about to lose a by-election to the most irritating bunch of people a moderate Conservative prime minister could imagine, when Ed Miliband decided to distract journalists with a class-based comedy caper.

One of Cameron’s aides was so astonished by the Opposition’s mistake that he could hardly contain himself when we spoke the next day. The gist, with the expletives deleted, was that Miliband and his advisers had lost possession of their faculties, but this was mixed with outrage at their sheer lack of professionalism, as if he felt his craft had been insulted.

“The broadcasters were unsure if they were going to report it,” he said, of Emily Thornberry’s condescending tweet about England flags and a white van in Strood. “So they phoned Ed Miliband’s office and were briefed that he had never been so angry. It was like putting petrol on a fire.”

Got that? The whole narrative-thrust of the Rochester by-election is being dictated by the Downing Street spinners.

In parallel, Steve Richards then invites us into the age of anti-politics, concluding:

The loathed politicians agonise and differ over what to do about these big issues, but few notice. Thornberry has gone for taking a photo. White Van Dan is a celebrity. The main party leaders feel gloomy about being loathed and yet are perceived as arrogant and indifferent. Welcome to the mad world of British politics in a dangerous state of flux.

Hold on a mo: if you allow your narrative to be dictated by faceless spin-doctors, manipulating the crudest end of the Murdoch tabloid empire, what do you expect?

Prestidigitation

Back at the ranch, in the meanwhile, George Osborne’s “long-term economic plan” has just gone rotten pear-shaped, but was downgraded in The Times (once, proudly, “a newspaper of record) to page 60, on 22 November — you’d have found it sandwiched between nougat and toy trains:

Public sector borrowing between April to October this year rose £3.7bn compared to the same period the previous year, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics.

Public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks (PSNB ex) from April to October 2014 was £64.1bn…

Government cash requirement from April to October was £56.2bn, an increase of £20.3bn compared with the same period the previous year…

Public sector net debt excluding public sector banks (PSND ex) was up £97.1bn in October 2014 compared to October the previous year.

The speed of the spinner’s tongue versus the eyes of even the most adapt commentators?

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Filed under Conservative Party policy., economy, George Osborne, Murdoch, politics, polls, Sunday Times, Times