Posts Tagged ‘Leveson inquiry’
My allotment pals were in a grumpy mood this morning as we swept puddles from the paths surrounding the hen-runs. I tried to cheer them up by pointing out that our dear leader is creating a “land of opportunity”, but they seemed less convinced that his adoring supporters at the Conservative Party conference. They clearly saw handle-less brooms as more important than the new master plan to have the older unemployed report to Jobcentres every half-hour, and the younger element obliged to seek vacancies in the Scilly Isles.
But the mood had lifted somewhat by the time we gathered for our brew, a change partly due to someone having spotted out favourite pie-eater, Eric Pickles looking decidedly threatening as the other 11,999 delegates leapt to their feet to sing hosannas for a speech that seemed decidedly short of content. Pickles for PM we say, at least that would mean the end of the army of experts who lecture us daily on the merits of healthy eating!
Bill had last night attended a function at which he chatted to a local MP. The lady in question mentioned that a pivotal meeting of MPs is due to meet next Wednesday to consider proposals for a press royal charter with a new press regulator to replace the Press Complaints Commission, which has proved as dynamic as a wet lettuce. She went on to say that the mood has changed dramatically, and there is now a real possibility that the proposal cobbled together for self-regulation may well be rejected out-of-hand. She may well be riht for this morning the group content director of the Independent titles and the London Evening Standard, Chris Blackhurst, has said that the behaviour of the Daily Mail over the past few days has “deepened the schism” between politicians and press.
If that is correct we may well be back on course for a legally-binding regulatory body along the lines recommended by Leveson. The irony would be that even that would not prevent newspapers attacking politicians providing that information published had not been obtained illegally. But right now emotions are running high and many parliamentarians are reflecting the mood of their constituents who say that if the Daily Mail is prepared to stoop so low as to publish the picture of a dead man’s grave alongside a pack of lies it will do anything.
One thing is certain, anyone who can succeed in uniting Messr Cameron, Clegg and Miliband is unique. And according to Lord Sugar of YourFired, the Mail Editor, Paul Dacre is unique. Uniquely bad. He demanded that the Daily Mail shareholders should “finally and once and for all, get rid of this man Dacre”. He went on to describe Dacre as a “tyrant who needs to be expelled”.
Perhaps even more surprising is the widespread condemnation of the Mail from leading fugures on the right of political thinking. Lord Moore, who served in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet between 1986 and 1989, said it “beggars belief” that the Mail coiuld impugn the patriotism of Ralph Miliband, who taught him at the London School of Economics. He said that Miliband Senior was “one of the most inspiring and objective teachers I had. Of course w had different political opinions but he never treated me with less than complete courtesy and I had profound respect for his integrity”. In a statement issued to the Press association, Moore added; ” He came here as a fugitive from the Nazis, did his duty by serving in the Royal Navy during the war, became a great academic and raised a good family. I saw him continually and never heard him say one word which was negative about Britain – our country”.
Moore is quite clear that the Daily Mail is “telling lies about a good man”. And so says Lord Haseltine who told The Daily Politiucs on BBC2; “This is carrying politics to an extent that is just frankly demeaning. It is completely wrong. As everybody knows the guy fought for this country”. The attack was maintained by a member if the No 10 policy board, Margot James, MP. She tweeted: “Crass and cruel to condemn Ralph M’band for his Marxist views…deeply misguided maybe but never unpatriotic”.
And this morning the attack goes on. Countless politicians and members of the public are filling letter pages and Twitter with their views on the Daily Mail. Some have pointed out that being a Marxist has nothing whatsoever to do with sympathising with such as Stalin. Others have pointed out that if the Mail really wants to visit the supposed sins of the father on his offspring, it should perhaps examine its own background which features owners who really hated Britain.
I never imagined that I would be moved to quote the thoughts of Charles Moore, the official biographer of Thatcher, but here goes. In this week’s edition of the Spectator he writes that: “The Mail managed to offend against taste and decency on multiple counts – attacking a man for his deceased father’s views, misrepresenting those views, attacking a Jew, attacking a refugee from Hitler”.
We codgers say amen to that. We do hold to our belief that politicians should not be in a position to control the press. Sadly the gutter-press behaviour has made that far more likely!
QUOTE OF THE DAY; “I couldn’t believe it when I picked up my newspaper and read that 82% of men would rather sleep with a goat than with me”…Sarah Ferguson
No prize for guessing what dominated our conversation this morning when we codgers gathered for the daily hen-cleaning ritual. Our dear leader’s latest U-turn is the most astonishing of them all. Whilst on visits yesterday both Miliband and Clegg had expressed confidence that a compromise on Leveson was close. It was the reporters who told them that David Cameron had suddenly pulled his party out of the talks. Clegg was clearly astonished and, on the spur of the moment, said that only David Cameron knows why.
‘Hacked Off’, the campaign for phone-hacking victims, accused the prime minister of a “shameless betrayal of victims of press abuse”. The group’s lawyers had been in talks with officials from the culture department when they were suddenly informed that Cameron had decided to end the discussions. The lawyers were asked to leave the building. Some of the victims took to the air to remind our dear leader that he had promised to meet them and had broken his word. Within hours a national furore had broken out, something that the PM must have anticipated. Perhaps a clue to his mysteriously sudden change of tack was provided by an immediate statement from The Newspaper Society, which represents some owners, which said that ” Mr Cameron is right to reject statutory regulation as it would threaten 300 years of press freedom”.
Freedom to intimidate, falsify and intrude illegally perhaps? It was noticable that a number of papers immediately disassociated themselves from the statement. Amongst them was the Guardian which suggested that reconciliation of the various views was close. It reminds us that just two principled points remained under discussion.
The first is whether to use a statute to give Cameron’s idea of a royal charter democratic legitimacy. Ministers can always unpick backdoor Buckingham Palace legislation and that should worry press and public alike. The second issue is independence. The Press Complaints Commission failed because it wasn’t a true regulator and it wasn’t truly independent. But some newspaper owners still want a veto over appointments to a supposedly independent regulator – that directly conflicts with the Leveson poposals and is clearly unacceptable.
It is clear that Cameron believed that a compromise was imminent. It is equally clear that something happened yesterday morning to force him to pull out quickly. We may never know what that was but speculation is rife. The words telephone, threats and Murdoch spring to mind. Perhaps not, but we cannot forget the revelations of his close links with the News Corp crowd at the time of the BSkyB bid. At best they were inappropriate, at worst corrupt.
Certain it is that our dear leader suddenly felt cornered. But having leapt from one corner he has landed in another. Even Nick Clegg is unlikely to bail him out this time and the Conservatives are in real danger of defeat in the Commons on Monday if the new coalition of Labour and Lib Dems muster their full total of votes. Of course there will be a lot of arm-twisting before then and it is possible that Clegg and co will decide to do what they did on the ‘Mansion Tax’.
Either way this is a remarkable betrayal by a man who promised to implement Leveson unless it was insane. Ask any member of the public and they will almost certainly say that it is entirely sane and necessary. The bully-boy tabloids are a disgrace going right back to Hillsborough through to Milly Dowler and the McCanns. Even as you read this yet more reporters are under arrest for phone-hacking.
The idea of the press barons controlling appointments to a new regulatory body is laughable. The issue at stake is not press freedom, but the freedom of every citizen to seek redress against lies and intrusion.
We all knew that David Cameron has become indecisive and pompous. Until now we Codgers had continued to give him the benefit of the doubt against charges of being in the pockets of powerful press barons.
We no longer do!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “A politician never believes anything he says, so is always amazed when other people do”..Charles de Gaulle
Acording to the weathermen heavy snow was due at 11.00am, so we hurried our hen-cleaning with a view to avoiding being buried alive. The Met Office is seldom as precise as this, and by the time you read this you will know just how wise they were to be so on this occasion. Our problem is that we have reached the stage of believing absolutely nothing that we are told.
If we codgers are in anyway typical a state of cynicism stalks the land. It is hard to put the finger on the origins of this common mental state, but the Leveson Inquiry gave us some pointers. Day after day brought clear evidence of both newspapers and politicians having reached the point where pure invention is the norm. Even worse we realised that the links between sections of the press and politicians run deep, where the latter will jump through a thousand hoops to win support and the twisting of news to manipulate the public will.
The odds are that the perceived need to hold on to the support of Murdoch and the like is driving our dear leader and his colleagues to go to any lengths to ensure that Leveson’s recommendations are not implemented, and that the press barons will be left to exercise their own controls. One wonders if this was on the agenda just days before Christmas when Gorgeous George Osborne visited New York for a get-together with Robert Thomson, the new chief executive of the company that will control all Murdoch’s newspaper operations in Britain and the US. After a great deal of denial the Treasury spin-doctors have finally admitted that the meeting took place.
Meantime the press shows little sign of reform. Today’s Telegraph carries a four-page diatribe about the Swansea ball-boy who was booted by a Chelsea player on Wednesday evening. His parents climb from rags to riches, his own penchant for fast cars and daring emails are all investigated in minute detail. Invasion of privacy still seems to be the order of the day even amongst the so-called quality press. And the coverage of our dear leader’s promise of a referendum on Europe has had all the organs slanting the story to suit their own political agenda. Thus we ‘learn’ that Angela Merkel has welcomed ‘Dave’s ‘ plan to reform the EU. In reaity she said nothing of the sort, but favours must be repaid.
It is in regard to the dismantling of the NHS that the politicians and press alike are really having a field day in the lying stakes. Tomorrow will see thousands march through the streets of south-east London to protest aginst “ludicrous and highly dangerous” plans to close the A & E department at Lewisham Hospital. So intense is the anger that Millwall’s home match has been brought forward to tonight, and the club has made clear its view of the plan – “scandalous”.
The truth is that the closure is aimed at resolving the financial crisis at the neighbouring debt-mired South London Healthcare NHS Trust. The truth is that that hospital will not be able to care for the 125,000 patients of Lewisham. The truth is that ambulances face a one hour journey, and that local people seeking non-emergency medical help face the frightening prospect of having nowhere to turn to without first undertaking lengthy bus or car trips through congested traffic areas.
What we are being told is that this is all part of a plan to create bigger, and more technically efficient, crisis centres. South London isn’t that and there will be no local non blue-lights centre in Lewisham, something that the Department of Health claims is part and parcel of the move toward a new approach to emergency medicine. This pattern is set to be applied right across the country. It is based on an outright lie.
Unknown to most is the fact that the NHS ‘reforms’ are in the hands of management consultants who are rubbing their hands as the juicy contracts roll in. McKinsey is at the forefront of the plan to create a “commissioning market” and it pocketed the best part of £3million for last year alone. The work is led by Dr Penny Dash who was head of strategy at the DoH before movng on to the NHS competition regulator and promoter Monitor. Wheels within wheels, all well greased.
Come the election the NHS, not the EU, will be the major issue. There will be a new political party comprising clinical consultants. They will face a tough challenge as the politicians lie and their media friends oblige with tales doctored not by clinicians but those of the spin variety.
It is hard to know where all this will end, the country is in the last-chance saloon but has little awareness of the truth on any issue. Perhaps the only hope lies in the fact that today’s new generation do not read newspapers and have little respect for politicians.
Meantime we can console ourselves with the old adage that the truth will out. But when?
TODAYS QUOTES ARE ON MONEY! “In the midst of life we are in debt”…..Ethel Watts Mumford “Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?” …..John Barrymore “The difference between outlaws and in-laws is that the outlaws don’t promise to pay it back”…..Kin Hubbard “I once gave a waiter a tip – I told him never to step off a moving bus”…..Groucho Marx “My problem is how to reconcile my gross habits with my net income”….Errol Flynn “I gave him an unlimited budget and he exceeded it”…..Edward Williams “Saving is a fine thing – especially when your parents have done it for you”…..Winston Churchill “I’ve got all the money I need if I die by four o’clock”…..Henny Youngman “When a man tells you he got rich by hard work, ask him whose”…..George Bernard Shaw
It took many a bucket of hot water to give the hens access to their early morning drink today. One bonus for ancient codgers was that cleaning-out was imposible given that the muck was frozen, so we heaped liberal amounts of bedding on top. Like the national tax regime all looks well on the surface but underneath lies rather less pleasant reality. Thus freed from our usual chore several of us went down to the local garden centre in search of Christmas presents. Mistake. Cars were queuing for admission, people were jostling down the aisles. Little sign there of the dramatic fall in retail sales that we read so much about.
My reference to the taxman was triggered by stories that have hit the headlines today. They concern a company called Abbey Forwarding of Woolwich. They operate a drinks warehousing business which was suddenly raided by 20 officers from the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs). The inspectors changed the locks, appointed a Liquidator and fired the directors and staff.
The woman appointed to liquidate was Louise Brittain who now works for Deloitte, charges around £750 an hour and is described as tough and experienced. Be that as it may she certainly subjected the family directors and their wives to an appalling experience. She rendered them bankrupt and subjected them to threats of losing their homes and everything they possessed. It was explained to them that fraud was suspected.
When directors are dismissed in this way they have no legal right to appeal, the only person that can do that is the Liquidator, who is appointed by HMRC. The tax authorites can apply to a judge at an ‘ex parte’ hearing at which the company it wishes to liquidate is not represented and so cannot defend itself. In this case that allowed HMRC’s counsels to claim fraudulent practice and to support this by stories of 301 occasions on which the company’s vehicles had taken out loads of drinks yet were empty when stopped. Therefore they were evading the payment of duty.
Because they were in liquidation the directors had no access to records or computers and no entitlement to representation. What they knew was that the HMRC and its Liquidator were lying. Meantime Ms Brittain showed just how tough she is by freezing their persoanl bank accounts, and maintaining a vicious campaign of intimidation. It was when she decided to sue the former directors for “malfeasance”that she made her first mistake.
The case was heard in the High Court before Mr Justice Lewison. For the first time the persecuted were allowed to contest the charges. The Judge found that the claims made by the HMRC were totally false. For example, Ms Brittain’s claim of 301 ‘stops’ proved to be a lie. There were in fact only 3 such events and in all three cases there was a valid explanation.
The Judge was astonished when one HMRC employee admitted that he had no evidence that Abbey had been involved in fraud, but maintained that he had no proof that it had not. The Judge pointed out that this is not grounds for liquidation or any other legal charge. He went on to describe the evidence as rubbish, and dismissed the charges.
For the family business the experience has been horrendous, one senior member recalls that he contemplated suicide. For them the battle goes on and they are en route for a case against HMRC for the loss caused by the company’s liquidation, which amounts to millions of pounds in legal and other fees . Meantime Ms Brittain has admitted that she had known for several months that the allegation that over 300 of the Abbey’s lorries had been stopped was false!
There is of course much more detail available, but I tell this summary of the story to illustrate that there is cause for concern at the sweeping powers allowed to the taxman. There is nothing new to this and for years legal experts have argued that the dice is loaded dangerously in favour of the Inspectors and their Liquidators. We have all tended to regard the taxman as someone to be feared, but we have generally assumed that the ‘Inland Revenue’ is a bastion of truth and integrity.
Clearly we were wrong! It is true that there has been some unease at talk of cosy deals with large taxpayers but now we face the grimmer reality, that our tax enforcers are dishonest bullies. Neither are they very effective if today’s announcement by Starbucks that it is to reconsider its tax-avoidance in the light of ‘customer misgivings’.
The cuts that are affecting almost everyone are the result of treasury income falling short of expenditure. The news that the body responsible for increaing income is both dishonest and incompetent is depressing.
If our dear leader ever extracts himself from his self-imposed Leveson crisis he should perhaps have someone consider this!
Albert was singing about his tiny hand being frozen as we cleaned out the hens this morning. It wasn’t the only part of my anatomy so afflicted. In the space of 24-hours we have moved from the new flood age to the new ice variety. It is on mornings like this that I tend to consider the option of being a more typical 80-year old. Pathetic surrender? Maybe, but the thought of lying under the covers for another hour or so has replaced my long-held fantasy about walking into the sunset with Zsa Zsa Gabor!
Once we had thawed out it was time for our daily moan around the hut fire. One of our pet hates is the energy companies, all of whom now have their own debt collectors who make the Third Reich look like Mother Theresa by comparison. When the latest example of this is revealed we often wonder how on earth it came to this. We have a system designed to ensure that the consumer comes off worst, with much of our energy having been effectively nationalised by foreign firms either owned or substantially assisted by their own governments. We can blame Thatcher but shouldn’t forget that our foreign masters flourished under Blair.
But we drew some consolation this morning from the news that this government is about to camp down on so called pay-day loan sharks. Many a desperate soul has been drawn into their seemingly attractive web without bothering to check the interest rates enforced should the next pay-day come and go without repayment. All credit to our dear leader on this one!
But the news today will undoubtedly focus on the Leveson report. As if on cue the Sun – who else – has payed out £400,000 to Louis Walsh, the X Factor judge, after publishing a false story claiming he had sexually assaulted a man in a Dublin nightclub. The Sun will also pay Walsh’s legal costs of £180,000.
Speaking outside the court after the settlement Walsh spoke emotionally of the effect that the lies had on him and his family. It is not hard to imagine, it is certainly impossible to forgive given that on the day before publication he told the Sun’s Gordon Smart that the story was a pack of lies.
The Sun based its screaming headlines on a story provided, presumably in exchange for cash, by unemployed dance teacher Leonard Watters. He was jailed in July for six months for admitting to wrongly accusing Walsh of groping him in the Dublin celebrity nightclub Krystle. He lied and the tabloid cheerfully assassinated the character of an innocent man.
The Murdoch paper has now unreservedly apologised and admitted that the alleged assault was a foul fabrication. The lawyers acting for Mr Walsh have made the point that had there been a regulator with power to appeal to the story could have been stopped before publication.
It is a timely reminder of just how out of control the tabloids are. When later today we hear leading lights talking about the need for press freedom we should perhaps reflect on the damage done to innocent people by newspapers prepared to print lies about anyone and everything.
Come to think about it the Sun deserves a regulator all of its own. Mind you, such a move would do considerable harm to our dear leader’s loving relationship with the Murdoch empire!
It has to be admitted that were we codgers to make a list of the things that we simply do not understand it would stretch from Sven-Goran Erikson’s front door to the nearest pole-dancing club. As we cleaned out the hens this morning we added what to us is another mystery. Yesterday the planning minister, Nick Boles, let it be known that the UK house-building programme is to be expanded by a third. The green-belt must be sacrificed to give people coming into the country access to affordable homes and, once the new Eastern EU nations are free to come, that means a lot of bulldozers. Mystery? Wouldn’t it be better to stop them pouring in? Now codgers, politically incorrect solutions are not allowed.
In truth we seem to have reached an age of political arrogance previously unknown. Minister after minister tells us what we should think, indeed most seem to have reached the point of delusion in which they genuinely believe that what they believe is what we automatically believe, a version of a Borg collective. So when our dear leader visits the flooded West Country and says that he is there to help, he clearly doesn’t expect us to grasp that had his government not cut the flood defence programme there would be no flooded houses to visit.
But that is a subjective view. Less subjective are the results of three opinion surveys published this morning. In the first one people were asked if they shared the Chancellor’s view that we are all in this economic mess together, that rich and poor alike are sharing the pain. In fact 62% disagree.
Meantime a whole load of politicians have published a letter in the media demanding that any recommendation from Leveson that the press be regulated by an independent body be rejected. The people, they tell us, demand the continuing presence of an unfettered press. Really? Today’s YouGov poll reveals that over 80% favour a new regulatory system by law. Even Daily Mail readers show 80% in favour, despite the paper being the most vociferous in its opposition to “interference”.
The third poll concerns the NHS. Successive ministers have told us again and again that the only reason for the Lansley reforms, and the £20billion cuts, is the need to become more efficient, to improve in the way that the public demands. Today’s poll tells us that over 60% of clinicians and patients believe that service standards are falling to dangerous levels, that the total collapse of the service is nigh.
Of course Ministers will brush all this aside. They will say that people they have spoken to believe that we are united in facing austerity, that no one will support regulation of the tabloids and that every NHS patient is delighted with the new age of medicine. Rather like the haf-witted minister who appeared on Newsnight last night to say that the Work Programme is a great success despite only 3% finding work. How can you possibly say that, demanded Paxman. Easily, since she believes that we automatically endorse every dopey thing she says.
Of course this is all very worrying for our dear leader who has just recruited yet another top spin doctor. Once he grasps that the plebs are not in fact merely lesser intellectual beings prepared to believe anything he may have to make another appointment.
Leonard Cohen once sang about the ‘Thought police’. Time to introduce them, for when the people show signs of thinking for themselves the tranquility of the Bullingdon club is severely disturbed!
What does a codger do on his 80th birthday? I now know. He cleans out hens, mends coop-roofs damaged in the zillionth freak storm of 2012, and he types out a blogpost. Someone told me that age is a thing you talk about until you teach 29, and lie about forever after. I subscribe to that but feel that today it is time to come clean and to admit that, as one of my presents has it, I now officially have one foot in the grave. Certainly the Victor Meldrew part of my psyche seems to be blossoming. Then again maybe things are actually deteriorating.
Qustion 2 is how does one reach 80 and remain as active as ever. The answer seems to be pure luck. I confess that I have never had sufficient willpower to forsake the things and activities said to damage good health. I can only assume that I, like my allotments mates, must have at some point discovered a four-leaf clover. Without doubt the grim reaper has plans for us, but until the sod arrives we prefer to ignore him. Who knows, I might survive to receive a telegram from the Queen, then again will she survive to send it?
Albert gave me a present – clearly some unique happenings are reserved for 80th birthdays. Unfortunately it is an illustrated guide to keeping chickens. Having already scanned it I realise that I am a poor keeper. Of the various routines recommended I have not only failed to practice half but, even worse, have not even heard about them. When, later today I position their first ever sand trays the chooks will probably tell each other that they drew a short straw in getting retired idiots as their carers.
But distracting though all the hoo-hah is I cannot avoid finding time to feel a little sympathy for our dear leader. Within days he will have first sight of the Leveson report. His instinct always seems to be to go for the policy most likely to win votes and kisses. The problem here is that whatever he does he will offend someone.
If he pursues the recommendation, if there is one, for state regulation of the press he will fall foul of his close friends in the Murdoch tribe and others. They will undoubtedly turn their full fury upon him and, as we were often reminded at successive elections, it is the Sun wot wins it. If he opts to water down Leveson he will be immediately accused of pandering to his friends and, for good measure, risks being defeated in the House by a combination of those Tory MPs that demand tighter controls plus Labour and the Lib Dems.
Perhaps a newly arrived 80-year old can be allowed to offer advice. First, remember Millie Dowler. Secondly, worry not about the indignant yapping for by the time you are eighty the whole affair will have been forgotten and other priorities, such as ark-building, will have emerged!
Meantime I can only resort to a cricketing metaphor. I am not out but have to admit that the bowling now seems faster!
I have to admit that the pleasures of watching ITV’s This Morning have passed me by, but several of my fellow chicken-keepers claim to be regular viewers. Why anyone would wish to start their day with Philip Schofield is a mystery to me, but they praise him to the heavens. At least they did. Yesterday he behaved like a complete idiot, and an irresponsible one to boot.
Our dear leader was the guest on the sofa, apparently there to perform a public realations set-piece about a new dementia policy. Suddenly Schofield handed over a list of ‘suspected paedophiles’ and remarked that the Prime Minister knew the people named, and asked if he would now be “personally grilling those concerned”. And where had this ‘evidence’ come from? Schofield had spend a few minutes trawling the internet. To compound his stupiity, Schofield handed the list over in such a way as to expose the names to viewers.
To his credit David Cameron responded appropriately. He warned that Schofield was fuelling a witch-hunt, particularly against people who are gay. What you are giving me, he added, is merely a list of names thrown around by anyone willing to do just that. It seems that Schofield does not subscribe to the principle of innocent until proved guilty.
The gutter-press needed little triggering. This morning’s Daily Star has a huge front-page headline reading “Paedo Tories outed live on TV!”. It is outrageous that someone can indulge in unsubstantiated character-assassination on, say, Twitter and within hours delight in seeing their probably innocent victim found guilty and condemned. The next development could well be crowds of idiots gathering outside their houses. Far fetched? Hardly, since a crowd recently attacked the home of a paediatrician in the belief that people so labelled are child-molesters.
There is of course an even more serious aspect to all this. Should police investigations lead to any of those named being charged, the chance of a trial will be considerably reduced since a defence counsel coul reasonably argue that their chance of a fair trial has been prejudiced.
I am sure that we codgers are not alone in wanting anyone involved in child abuse locked away for life. The likelihood is that we are all equally united in loathing the branding of innocent people. If the media is allowed to continue to behave in this way we will have lynch-mob rule. It is not long since a man arrested in connection with the murder of his neighbour was featured on every tabloid front page together with offensive labelling. By the time that the police announced that he was entirely innocent he was a reviled and broken man.
There can be no doubt that, to quote an earlier headline on this site, the odious Svile was just the tip of a foul iceberg. There is reason to doubt that the varuous inquiries set up will never get to the absolute truth, that can only be achieved by a team of hard-nosed detectives working to an open agenda. But one thing is certain, the media cannot be relied upon to do other than distort the truth and blame the wrong people.
Of course they love the Savile affair and the wide range of options for startling headlines. Today’s papers are chock-a-block with accusations. One of those ‘convicted’ is former Tory minister Alan Clark. He is dead and presumably the well-heeled lawyers employed by the press, have felt less need for caution. It seems that someone has posted on the Internet a filmed interview with publicity agent Max Gifford made some ten years or so ago. In it Gifford said that the MP had “interfered” with 14 year old girls.
So the hacks are hounding Mr Clark’s widow, Jane, to comment on something said a decade ago by someone who probably had no evidence. What sort of justice is this? If Alan Clark did do such things his memory, like that of Savile, should be reviled. If he didn’t the media should be held to account. Either way they should leave Mrs Clark alone.
The irony is that all this is taking place at a time when Rupert Murdoch, and just about every other media mogul, is lobbying against implementation of any recommendatios from the Leveson Inquiry that propose regulation. It will, they tell us, inhibit free speech.
There may be some truth in that but frankly we could do wihout what they regard as free speech. Were such laws in being now does anyone imagine that Schofield would have behaved in such an arrogant and stupid fashion? Does anyone imagine that The Star would have printed its misleading and inciting headline?
Freedom of speech is important and we would mourn its loss in many ways. But innocent people would be spared the attention of scumbags and all their works!
It was cold enough to freeze the whatnots on a brass monkey this morning when we released the hens. The steam from the chicken’s hot bran, and the squawking furore around the troughs, reminded us that the delights of winter await us on the allotments. But the blue skies were a welcome relief from the usual dark weeping ones.
We were cheered by the news that, according to the polls, Barack Obama has edged ahead in the key American states. It may well be that as old codgers, and British ones to boot, we are misreading the issues in the Presidential election but, to a man, we cannot shake off the suspicion that Mitt Romney might be a dangerous leader of the world’s major power. It is no surprise that Putin has welcomed his ‘honesty’ in declaring Russia to still be enemy number one. The Russian leader is rapidly pulling his country back to an autocratic isolationist position, and he needs an external ‘bogey man’. Our worry is that Romney means it! Hopefully the polls are right and we will never find out.
At least neither candidate appears to be immersed in the amount of sleaze surrounding our own dear leader. It is hard not to sympathise with anyone who has to do daily battle with Nick Clegg, the Tory right and Ed Balls, but David Cameron does appear to move in social circles hardly appropriate for a prime minister. Yesterday further soppy text messages exchanged with Rebekah Brooks emerged, this morning it has become clear that he may be sitting on a large cache of emails and texts, having passed to the Leveson Inquiry only those that actually mentioned the BSkyB bid.
According to the former Labour Europe minister, Chris Bryant, a ‘mole’ has revealed that many of them are “salacious”. Bryant makes the point that Adam Smith, former special adviser, was forced to publish every one of his emails to News Corporation and ended up resigning. It is all beginning to look decidedly bleak for our dear leader, as we plebs begin to wonder who pulls his strings. Mind you, Bryant is playing a dangerous game for should he succeed in toppling ‘Dave’ his party will find facing mad but popular Boris a tougher call.
But it is probably not the latest news of the goings-on within the Chipping Norton set that has most caught the public eye this cold November morning. If our group of codgers is any guide many people will have viewed with some horror the large ads inserted in most of the dailies by the Fire Brigades Union. It reminds us of the many occasions when the Fire Service has rescued people from fires, car accidents and floods and warns that the cuts being imposed on the service will mean that from now on we may not be so lucky.
According to the ad, the cuts to the fire service over the past two years have been as savage as any in the public service. And now the government proposes to cut another 6000 firefighters. Throw in the fact that many sub-stations are being closed and you have a scary picture. Fewer firemen will have longer distances to travel when the alarm sounds. Fire service or funeral service – the public is asked to choose. The stark reality, claims the script, is that these cuts will kill people.
The ads feature our dear leader out for a stroll, not with Rebekah, but equally gorgeous George Osborne, the man who refuses to contemplate any brake on tax avoidance which costs his balance sheet a zillion times the cost of a relatively small number of firemen.
Of course we must bear in mind that the campaign is being waged by the Union. But it seems highly unlikely that it would be making such appalling claims in so public a way if they were untrue. We certainly know that the closure of ambulance stations has cost lives, this sounds even more deadly.
In fairness it is equally unlikely that anyone intends to put the public at severe risk, but this government has a poor track record in planning, no names no Richard Bransons. At the very least it must respond to something that will have worried many a cornflake-eater this morning!
It was wet underfoot but sunny overhead when we trooped on to the allotments this morning. Lots of ribald comment about a local incident in which police fired a 50,000-volt Taser into the back of an elderly blind man in the mistaken belief that his white stick was a samurai sword. It happened in broad daylight, and the man was walking at a snail’s pace. Fortunately he wasn’t seriously hurt which meant that a good deal of humour could be centered around the need for Albert to walk a little faster when carrying his brolly in the town centre.
In more serious vein there was much speculation about our dear leader’s refusal to answer questions in the Commons yesterday. In defiance of parliamentry convention, David Cameron flatly refused to tell MPs any more about the copious messages to Rebekah Brooks which he did not make available to the Leveson Inquiry. It seems that Downing Street is sitting on a cache of emails and text messages between the Prime Minister and Ms Brooks, as well as communications with Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor and government spin-doctor.
This morning the Independent quotes a senior Conservative Party source as saying; “Saying I’m not going to answer a question is not acceptable. He does have a duty to answer questions. Otherwise you can only suspect that he has something to hide!”. Indeed. The close relationship between the PM and Rebekah Brooks, and other members of the ‘Chipping Norton set’, is a matter of public interest given that it covered the whole period of the BSkyB bid and the subsequent phone-hacking fall-out. Had it not been for the latter, there is little doubt that Cameron and Jeremy Hunt, who mysteriously replaced Vince Cable when he spoke out against Murdoch, were about to nod through the bid which would have produced untold riches and power to their friends.
The refusal to disclose the full story of his daily contacts with Rebekah Brooks is curious and extremely damaging to David Cameron’s reputation. It may be that he is merely protecting a close friend who is now facing serious criminal charges. What we actually know of events following the news of the hacking scandal does little to explain what is happening. We know that Ms Brooks was given an £8m payoff from News Corp, and we know that Rupert Murdoch has turned his venom on the prime minister. Last week his tweet read; “Told UK’s Cameron receiving scumbag celebrities pushing for even more privacy laws. Trust the Toffs! Transparency under attack. Bad”. So that relationship has turned sour, what about the one with Rebekah?
We can only speculate. Perhaps the release of the mass of still secret documents would lead to retaliation from Ms Brooks, or provide evidence capable of being used against her. Perhaps she, like her former boss, has turned against our dear leader and is also now in vengeful mood. Perhaps, perhaps – this is what happens when information is withheld even from parliament.
So yesterday was a bad day for any politicians desperate to restore public trust. To add to the general impression of deceit today’s Telegraph, which broke the original revelations about MP’s expenses, reveals that many members are exploiting a loophole in the new rules that allow politicians to rent their homes to one another. This ploy enables them to build up property nest eggs at taxpayer’s expense whist claiming back the cost of renting accomodation.
John Mann, MP, described the practice as a “return to the bad old days”, and added that “attempts to restrict transparency are beginning to creep in”. The comment was triggered by a letter from Speaker John Bercow to the expenses regulator warning him not to disclose the identity of MPs’ landlords for “security” reasons. What they could be is hard to fathom.
So in one day we had two examples of the culture of secrecy that now surrounds our democratically elected leaders. They have no one to blame but themselves if the people assume that they have much to hide!
In 1960 the writer and novelist Elias Canetti wrote that “Secrecy lies at the very core of power”. Clearly nothing has changed in over half a century!
Some readers have suggested that this blogsite is for men only. They have noticed the absence of women from our ramblings, not to mention their absence from the daily commentary. I hasten to assure you that our better-halves are regularly involved, even though they do draw the line at cleaning out pesky hens. And there are many women amongst our prize-winning allotment holders.
I confess that there are some subjects of special interest to women that we tend to steer clear of. Good examples are abortion and size of families, both matters of heated topical debate. The explanation is simple, we find the ramblings of men on such issues distinctly patronising given that they invariably refer to “the women’s vote”, a term which implies that there is such a thing. As with men, women are individuals with individual views, they are not members of a Borg-style collective. We codgers claim greater expertise only in regard to Van Persie’s latest goal, for us to argue the toss over such a profound issue as abortion would, in our view, be wrong since only those who bear children can speak from the heart or experience.
But men and women alike amongst our allotments fraternity are united in their dismay at what is happening to our NHS acute and mental health services. Over 300 acute hospitals are being obliged to close or downgrade mental health wards. Mental illness can strike anyone and we are all at risk here, unless of course we are wealthy enough to seek treatment in private units such as The Priory. Services are already totally inadequate, what is happening now ensures that if you are unlucky enough to be the one in three that suffers an episode of mental ill-health you are unlikely to receive adequate care or treatment.
Much the same danger is now looming for those who suffer emergency medical conditions. In a letter published today leading doctors have spoken out. Many A & E departments have already been axed or downgraded, and the likes of Sir David Wetherall, a former regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, and Peter Fisher, president of the NHS consultant’s association, have seen enough. In an open letter they have told the Prime Minister; “We are not against change. But such change must be driven by genuine improvement in clinical care and service efficiency rather than as a part of an indiscriminate cuts policy. We urge you to take seriously the concerns of many professionals over the serious risks A & E reforms pose to people’s health”.
But David Cameron has other matters on his mind. His arch-rival Boris has been obliged to release to public view details of his various contacts with senior News International figures at the height of the storm over phone-hacking. Good news for Cameron? Sady not, since the revelation has brought back to the surface his own intimate involvement with the Rebekah Brooks set. That in turn has sparked a letter from the “Hacked Off” campaign, which comprises many celebrities, 7/7 victims, and members of the Hillsborough Justice campaign.They have been told by ‘informed sources’ that he is preparing to reject statutory regulation of the press, the likely outcome of the Leveson Inquiry.
Now why would our dear leader be so inclined? Why did he yesterday talk about the dangers of “heavy-handed state intervention”? He may be right to warn of the perils to democracy of press censorship, on the other hand there may be a rather more sinister conclusion to be drawn from his rush to dismiss Leveson before he has even spoken.
Our dear leader may not be feeling overly friendly to the press after it, this morning, published pictures of him fast asleep during William Hague’s rallying speech in Birmingham. But he may have reason to be afraid of the Murdoch group.
Either way we, men and women alike, do not condemn him for his nap. William Hague is surely the nation’s long-awaited cure for insomnia!
I noticed that the cricket buffs amongst us were somewhat subdued this morning. Seldom has any England team endured such a hammering as that meted out by South Africa at the Oval, my fellow chicken-keepers preferred to talk about local boy Bradley Wiggins as we cleaned out the quarrelsome hens. Our pet hate is the weather, but today one gained the impression that it was the absence of rain in London yesterday that frustrated those who just a few days ago talked of Jimmy Anderson striking fear into cowardly South African hearts.
Come our tea-break it was once again G4S that dominated. Today’s headlines reveal that the so-called security specialists have allowed scores of trainees, recruited at the last minute, to “cheat” their way through tests on use of the X-ray machines that detect homemade bombs and other weapons. Those who failed the test were being given repeated opportunities to get the right answers to the same questions, and were being allowed to confer with others during the exams under the noses of instructors. Recruits were being given only 20 minutes practice on the real machines that will be used at Olympic venues.
The result of these latest revelations, arising as a result of undercover work by reporters, is that police and armed forces have now been asked to “scope-out” whether they can undertake more x-ray duties, and run the CCTV monitors too. In other words yet another dangerous situation has been avoided thanks to the media. Contrast that to the attitude of politicians such as the Sports minister who yesterday described constant talk about G4S as “defeatist crap”!
Touch wood, we are now going to enjoy a disaster-free Games. That will be largely thanks to the media which has time and again exposed appalling shortcomings in the arrangements made by politicians. Such is their instinct for avoiding blame there can be little doubt that had the press been subject to gagging, the entire security of the Olympics would still rest in the hands of G4S. Not a happy thought!
All of which serves to remind us that the task faced by Lord Leveson is a monumental one. Clearly he has to find a formula for preventing the sort of behaviour practiced for so long by the Murdoch press. Today we learn that some of our dear leader’s closest friends, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, are to face prosecution. At the very least it is clear that relationships between sections of the press and both politicians and the police was highly improper. Something must be done.
But, and it is a big but, his Lordship will be well aware that to introduce the type of censorship being advocated by many would not only represent a danger to democracy, but a danger to the public at large. Given the chance to control what is reported one can easily imagine the army of spin-doctors, employed by such as Cameron and Osborne, feeding doctored versions of the truth. Does anyone believe that the expenses scandal would ever have emerged given political censorship, or phone hacking? It is equally easy to imagine a biased approach to news outlets, only yesterday Jeremy Hunt was once again banging the drum for Murdoch.
Given what happened to such as the family of Millie Dowler it seems cruel to say that even such excesses are better than censorship operated by politicians. Hopefully Leveson will find a way of stamping out actions that are not in the public interest, whilst leaving the media free to expose corruption and incompetence.
If the run-in to the Games has taught us anything it is that we need a free-press. The alternative would leave us at the mercy of the people we trust least of all – politicians!
WHY HAVE BONUSES AT ALL?
A review commissioned by the government of Britain’s stock market culture has proposed axing cash bonuses for company executives.
The report comments; “Many people doing responsble and demanding jobs – cabinet ministers, judges, surgeons, research scientists – do not receive bonuses and would be insulted by the suggestion that the prospect of bonuses would encourage them to perform their duties more conscientiously”.
Good point. Whether this government will listen to an idea likely to offend its own is another matter. Not if its latest statements about tax avoidance are any indication!
Yesterday Treasury minister David Gauke launched a tirade against those who pay plumbers in cash in the knowledge that it is helping tradesman to reduce their tax bills. No mention whatsover was made of big companies and top excutives who pay virtually no tax at all.
So bonuses for bankers are safe given that there is one rule for the masses and another for the rich-boys.
One of the less endearing habits of Bob, one of my fellow chicken-keepers, is to repeat questions over and over until he gets what he considers a real answer. Many a time we have arrived home too late to see the whole of a televised international due to ‘ferret’s” tenacity at a committee meeting. But he does invariably establish the identity of the one that failed to lock the gate. It is of course invariably Albert, but that is beside the point I am trying to make.
Which is that yesterday’s appearance of Bob Diamond before the Treasury Select Committee lacked any evidence that MPs are a suitable substitute for a banking version of the Leveson Inquiry. Unlike the regular performance there of Robert Jay QC, the MPs wasted opportunities, asked rambling questions and few supplementary ones. Indeed many of them seemed confused about their role and resorted to the usual politician’s sport of yelling insults. It may be true that Diamond is incompetent, Barclays a “rotten, thieving bank”, a den of iniquity, but saying so is hardly likely to elicit an admission.
In fact the committee scored zilch on the eliciting front. Diamond told them over and again that he loves Barclays and that its people are the nearest we have to angels on earth. Of the fiddling of the Libor rate he knew nothing until about a month ago. In fact he knew very little about anything other than the fact that he loved Barclays. He also inferred that he will be accepting his £20 million pay-off, perhaps he plans to buy yachts to be raffled off amongst the angels.
Frankly such story as Diamond told was implausible. If proof was needed that such a serious corruption in our banking sector must be properly investigated by professionals this was it. Our dear leader would prefer to have a political fudge but it won’t do. Clearly his desire is to have Conservative MPs playing at being judge and jury, thus enabling Gorgeous George Osborne to create some bizaare tale of Ed Balls – who else – being in some way to blame.
It is becoming increasingly clear that neither Cameron nor Osborne are interested in getting at the truth. They are trailing in the polls and this is the perfect opportunity to throw mud at their opponents. In reality they are not grasping that we are entering a new era where the old rules will no longer apply. They are like trade union leaders in the late 1970s who failed to realise they no longer held sway and had terrible consequences to face.
The much maligned Ed Miliband is proving to be more aware of the sea-change. He held out for a public inquiry into the conduct of the media. That is not yet complete but already one can be sure that no leader will be seen at a Rupert Murdoch summer party this year. If he eventually secures a similar investigation of the banks one can be equally sure that no leader will ever again praise Bob Diamond’s “noble contribution to the British economy”.
There is change in the air, a British revolution. It will therefore be a slow process but at least the change will not be driven by politicians who surely represent the biggest vested interest of them all.
The days when they could play God whilst pouring whitewash over a corrupt order are drawing to a close. And yesterday’s abject display will have served to reinforce the growing public cry of a plague on all their houses!
BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP; LOYALTY? ONLY TO MONEY!
If evidence was needed that any semblance of loyalty on the part of the millionnaire Barclays Premiership stars to their clubs is dead, Robin van Persie has provided it. The Arsenal star has announced that he will not be renewing his contract when it expires next year. The move forces Arsenal to either hang on to him for one more season and then gain no financial return for their investment in him, or to sell him now.
Manchester City are said to be standing by with their oil rich owner’s cheque book at the ready. Many insiders believe that Van Persie will soon be even richer than he already is.
Predictably the star striker’s statement stresses his love of Arsenal and its fans. Pass the sick-bag please!
HOW TO EXPLAIN THE HIGGS BOSON TO A CHILD IN THE BACK SEAT;
“It’s a particle scientists have been looking for. Because they knew that without it the universe would be impossible. Because without it, the other particles in the universe wouldn’t have mass. Because they would all continue to travel at the speed of light. Because I just said they would, and if you ask why one more time we’re not stopping at Burger King!”
Having been in an horizontal position for almost a week it is hard to work out how I can comply with my Father’s Day cards which urge me to have a jolly day. I was still considering a plan when Albert arrived. I commented that it was the first sickbed visitation by a member of the allotments gang, he replied that he had been afraid of “catching something”, but had decided that since I was still alive it couldn’t be that bad. Great pal Albert, but he doesn’t do jolly. However he did bring me a giant-sized turnip.
Al told me that the chicken-keepers have been banging on about the man they call the ‘poison dwarf’, Michael Gove. Possibly because some of them are ex-teachers they definitely do not like what they see, or read about, the education secretary. Then again, I don’t like him and I have no links with the teaching profession. Maybe it is because he comes across as a bumptious know-all.
Either way, he has once again imperiled the reign of our dear leader. According to some government sources Lord Leveson was so infuriated by a speech given by Gove that he wrote to the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, demanding that the wretch be fitted with a silencer. Failng that the Judge was prepared to quit. Think about it. Had that happened the whole pack of cards would have fallen. In his speech Gove claimed that Leveson had created a “chilling atmosphere” towards freedom of speech and “should be gagged”.
You may recall an earlier blogpost that described Gove’s own appearance before the Inquiry. For the first, and only, time Lord Leveson lost his cool and told his witness ;”Mr Gove, I do not need to be told about the importance of freedom of speech, I really don’t”. Unabashed, our pet hate-figure went on to praise Rupert Murdoch as one of the greatest men ever to walk this earth. Second only to Gove himself perhaps?
Like Cameron and Osborne, Gove is a close member of the Murdoch clique. Unlike them, he continues to bang on about it and with great apparent pride. Clearly he sees no distinction between freedom of speech and lies, phone-hacking, harrassment and blackmail. Murdoch, he clearly believes, must be free to do or say whatever he pleases. And this is the twerp responsible for our schools!
In his speech to political journalists, Gove said that there is great danger of regulation being imposed by “judges, celebrities and the establishment” … all of whom have an interest in taking over from the press as arbiters of what a free press should be”. Is he seriously contending that the press has shown itself capable of being arbiters? The parents of Millie Dowler and countless other victims of Murdoch may well take another view!
He probably believes that someone like himself is best placed to ‘keep an eye’. Really? Today’s papers give yet more details of the affairs of Lady Warsi, who as co-chairman of the ruling party is presumably an example of the absolute impartiality and trustworthiness of politicians. She has been found wanting, she is far from alone.
Of course Gove makes no secret of his passion for Murdoch and all his works. He undoubtedly sees his role as protecting his hero, of allowing him to plough on with the ruination of lives for a large handful of silver. This man is potentially more poisonous than Jeremy Hunt. Our dear leader should sack him before it is too late.
But he won’t. The hold and threat of News Corp is tightening around many memebrs of this beleagured coalition.
QUOTE OF THE DAY; ” Which pub did Cameron leave his integrity in? Each time I watch coffins coming back from the futile Afghan conlict, the horrible thought crosses my mind that those soldiers would not have died if it hadn’t been for Mr Slippery’s desire for office at any price. Disgust is not a strong enough word, really. ”…..Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday.
I won’t bore you with more tales of my bedroom ceiling, a landscape with which I have become overly familiar over the past week. No piece of decorating has ever been so minutely examined and, in my mind’s eye, I have been transformed from an expert in DIY to someone as skilled in that art as was dear old Cyril Smith in hang-gliding. But last evening’s gazing at the TV brought great cheer. When the doctor came he pronounced my pulse as normal, it was fortunate he didn’t arrive during the England v Sweden match. Had he done so I would now be waiting on an NHS corridor trolley, an innovation of Lansley’s ‘reforms’. The England comeback followed brave substitutions made by Roy Hodgson, perhaps we at last have a good choice as manager. And by way of a bonus he speaks English!
First thing to catch my eye when she-who-must-be-obeyed brought in the papers this morning was the latest honours list. I scanned it, applying the Andrew Marr test as I did so. Marr recently ridiculed the awarding of honours to people who had done no more than the job for which they are well paid. And there they all were, first one to catch my eye was our dear leader’s Chipping Norton colleague, Charles Dunstone.
He co-founded the Carphone Warehouse 22 years ago with £6000 of his savings, and saw it grow into one of the country’s largest mobile phone dealers. Today he has a personal fortune of £860 million, so his Conservative Party donations are mere pocket-money. And all credit to him. But why, other than the fact that he is a member of the nation’s most exclusive clique, should be receive a knighthood? The whole thing is elitist nonsense.
But for me today’s big story is the announcement of the cabinet investigation into the claims made at the Leveson Inquiry by Rupert Murdoch that immediately after the Sun’s switch to the Tories, Gordon Brown called him to berate him about it and to threaten that “his government would now make war on News Corp”. Brown immediately denied that such a call ever took place, but both the Murdochs and David Cameron have made great play of the supposed fact that Grumpy Gordon was every bit as tainted as they quite clearly are. Now comes the shock!
According to Murdoch, speaking under oath, the long abusive call came just after the Sun’s announcement, which was made just after Brown’s party conference speech in September 2009. The Cabinet Office yesterday announced that there had been no call that month. It went on to add that only one call was made during the whole of 2009. As was Brown’s practice, that was listened in to by Downing Street staff whose notes reveal that the only subject covered was Afghanistan.
So either the story was a total invention or the Cabinet Office civil servants are involved in a huge cover-up, something as likely as my opening for England. One hopes that Lord Leveson will now be inviting Murdoch to pay him a repeat visit!
I have always had suspicions about the dramatic claims. Back in 2009 I, as chairman of an NHS Trust, had a meeting with an MP who was then a PPS to one of the Labour ministers. I asked him about Grumpy Gordon. He told me that going in to see him was a nightmare in that he would stop you in midflight and tell you that he was not interested in ‘rubbish’, only facts. Mr Brown, my visitor told me, was too honest, too forthright, too obsessed with pure facts. It painted the picture of a prime minister who was inconsiderate of the feelings of others, who spoke the truth whoever he wounded. Grumpy but scrupulously honest.
Add that to the findings of the Cabinet Office and Brown’s heated refutal of Murdoch’s claim and what do you have? It can only be that the story was an invention. That being so you are left wondering just how much of the other Murdoch/Cameron versions of everything has more substance than an Enid Blyton book.
Meantime I notice that Paul Jenkins has been knighted. He was the lawyer who Cameron claims gave him the legal go-ahead in 2010 for the appointment of Jeremy Hunt despite being on holiday at the time, as a result of which he had not seen Mr Hunt’s comments on BSkyB. Now there’s a surprise.
As I slide down under the duvet again my final resolution is to trust no one. With the exception of Roy Hodgson of course!
QUOTES FOR TODAY; “I couldn’t believe it when I read that 82 % of men would rather sleep with a goat than me”…..Sarah Ferguson “Buckingham Palace isn’t ours. It’s a tied cottage”……Prince Philip “I declare this thing open. Whatever it is”……Prince Philip “I left England when I was four when I found out that I could never be king”….Bob Hope “A jury is twelve people chosen to decide who has the best lawyer”…..Robert Frost “There is nothing like a solemn oath. People always think you mean it”…..Norman Douglas