Posts Tagged ‘Screws’
Great delight on the allotment this morning, and I am not referring merely to a record number of eggs or even the bright light in the sky. Some of my pals who bought the final edition of the News of the Screws did so in the hope that the sacked staff would include an attack on the whiter-than-white Rebekah Brooks, but they were initially disappointed, no great surprise since she had ordered a top-level scrutiny at the proof stage. What she didn’t think to do was to check the crossword. Yesterday afternoon Tom tackled the puzzle and, to his delight, gradually realised that the answers added up to abuse of the dear lady on an unprecedented scale! Clever!
Speaking from a personal angle what is not so clever is the sudden appearance amongst the headlines of the so-called ‘Chipping Norton set’. It may well be the first time you have heard the name of my favourite Cotswold (ish) little town. When I was a boy back in the 40s the greatest treat was an outing to Chipping Norton children’s home. At that time I was by compulsion a part of a floursihing Methodist chapel in Oxford, and a lot of effort was devoted to raising funds for the orphanage, as it was known then. Once a year it held a fete and along we went in a coach armed to the teeth with every copper we had scraped together.
Once the admittedly limited excitement of a fete was over, we would wander down into the picturesque town. I remember the broad accents, the friendly manner, the cosy shops. This, I decided, was the place I wanted to live in when I grew up. Of course it never happened, but to this day I think of the place with affection. At least I did until the Murdoch scandal broke and suddenly the little innocent haunt of my childhood became identified with ‘The Set’ or, as I gather the locals term it, the ‘Cameroons’.
Friends from the area tell me that David Cameron is to be seen regularly out riding with Rebekah Brooks. The now Prime Minister’s constituency home is just four miles from that of the chief executive a la Murdoch, and it was at her home that the now infamous Christmas party took place. She lives two miles from the town centre, in a luxury barn conversion, with her second husband, Old Etonian Charlie Brooks, the former jockey, horse trainer and now thriller writer. We now know that James Murdoch was also there for the get-together between the Camerons and Brooks. It was just after the party that Vince Cable, the business secretary and no fan of Rupert Murdoch’s, was relieved of his responsibility to decide on Murdoch’s attempt to take full control of BSkyB.
Ten minutes drive away lives Matthew Freud, the PR Guru, and his wife Elisabeth. They are at the heart of the ‘Set’ and are said to be immensely influential. Oh yes, Elisabeth is the daughter of Rupert Murdoch. A well know personality living nearby is Jeremy Clarkson, the ‘Top Gear’ presenter and columnist for The Sun. It was at his home that Elisabeth met her second husband, Charlie, an old pal of Cameron. In fact the prime minister turned up for the launch of his latest thriller. He was also happy to appear as ‘Top Gear’s’ The Stig in a video tribute at Clarkson’s 50th birthday party.
On Saturday the town held its festival but there was no sign of, to quote locals, the ‘Cameroons’. But several folk were happy to have their say. At the Chequers pub, David Hawker, suggested that the prime minister might want to “put some distance between himself and The Set. “It’s not ideal for the PM” was his verdict. Others are pretty annoyed at the way their beloved community has sprung to national notice. Don Davidson, a former mayor, said that “Chipping Norton should be known for real community spirit, not the outrageous things that have been taking place in Wapping”. The present mayor, Chris Butterworth, said that he would prefer his town to be known for more positive things”, and local resident Graeme Garden spoke out at the fete itself.
The former member of The Goodies said he spoke as one not invited to any of the parties held by The Set. Graeme has lived in Chipping Norton for thirty years and is less than enamoured with The Set. “I can think of more acceptable reasons for us to be put on the map, rather than through any association with sleazy journalsim” he complained.
Amen to that. As the old line has it, they are treading on my dreams. In those, Chipping Norton is still a lovely friendly place where everyone looks out for everyone else. I hate to see it portrayed as the home of a secretive, powerful clique that trades in deception and half-truths, that was prepared to hack into the phone of a murdered child.
I am striving to apply a mental censor and to delete the existence of such ghastly people from a place that served ice cream and doughnuts to small boys on long gone sunny summer days.
TODAYS PUB QUIZ; WHO WAS WHO? 1. Who became US President in 1992 when Governor of Arkensas? 2. Which playwright Arthur, an ex of Marilyn Monroe, died in 2005? 3. Which scientist gave his name to the process of pasteurisation? 4. Who left $9 million to give prizes in five different fields? 5. Did Tony Blair have one, three or five children when he became Prime Minister? 6. Who lit the fuse for the 1605 Gunpowder Plot? 7. Was it John Ford or Henry Ford who manufactured cars? 8. During which war did Anne Frank write her diary? 9. Indira Ghandhi was Prime Minister of which country? 10. John Paul Getty made his millions from which commodity?
It would be nice to turn to other topics today but the News of the World scandal refuses to budge from our collective thoughts on the allotment. Having had time to digest the announcement of the papers immediate closure, we all seem to have arrived at the same conclusion, the closure is a giant con-trick aimed at drawing a line under the hacking affair. And, to quote Albert, who has returned from his abandoned holiday at soaking Blackpool, it just won’t wash!
We may be simple souls but even we can work out what the Murdochs are trying to do. Two days ago the domain names TheSunOnSunday and SunOnSunday.com were registered. Out goes the Screws and in comes the Sun. But the public are unlikely to swallow this, neither are the advertisers who were pulling out of the doomed paper. A thorn by any other name is still a thorn.
All that we have learned so far is that the Murdochs are ruthless. When News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks went to the News of the World offices to make the announcement to the staff she had a very rough reception and had to be escorted out by security staff. Small wonder, for most of them joined the paper after the hacking was at its peak and most felt that the editor of the day was culpable. How anyone can be expected to believe that Brooks was unaware of what was happening beggars belief. The same goes for her successor Andy Coulson but, like the staff, he has been hung out to dry by the Murdochs whose handed-over evidence will almost certainly result in his facing serious charges, especially now that the police have realised that backing villains is not wise.
David Cameron has had no option than to change his mind on the need for an enquiry led by a Judge. He tried hard to avoid it as demonstrated by the hapless Chris Grayling who, on Question Time, tried in vain to produce a rationale for what he then believed was his master’s position. Maybe it was the furious reaction of the audience and Hugh Grant that caused the U-turn. Either way the prime minister will not be sleeping easy for his personal friendship with Brooks and his close working relationship with Coulson may well provide insights that he would prefer remain hidden. There are this morning some bizaare theories on that point, one being that the appearance of all the leading Labour cabinet members on the police list of hacking victims may not be a coincidence! Perhaps this could prove to be a Wapping-gate?
But there is a bigger issue here. Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, Glen Mulcare and the Murdochs are neither the origin nor the limit of the problem, which is the unprecedented concentration of media ownership and power, and the corporate culture of arrogance and impunity that this engenders. It is now clearly in the public interest that News Corporation’s ownership of other media in the UK be broken up.
It is equally in the public interest that both Conservative and Labour politicians break off the social involvement that they have all nurtured with Murdoch. Yes, Cameron is the extreme example but even two weeks ago virtually every member of the cabinet and shadow cabinet attended a Murdoch party in London. Humble servants all, and it is totally inappropriate. To be fair to Ed Milband he is the first senior poiliticain of either party to stand up to Murdoch and the idea that he will now be targeted is repulsive. Who rules Britain?
Right now it is News Corporation, aided and abetted by government and police. For once the public has rebelled, what has happened has repelled even the most fervent reader of the tabloids. But we musn’t forget that the loss of a couple of papers is no big deal in the court of Murdoch, what he wants is ownership of BSkyB and the political power that brings.
There will be prosecutions galore and the idea that Hunt can still wave through the takeover is bizaare. If he does that the government could fall, no one will tolertae such power being ceded to people who oversaw the secret violation of the families of murdered children and slaughtered troops. Nothing will atone for that but the extension of the empire of the vile perpetrators must be stopped. Murdoch and his colleagues should be debarred from running, or owning any company in the UK. It can be done, it must be done, however close Cameron may be to the mogul.
This might be an appropriate time to re-show Melvyn Bragg’s interview with Dennis Potter. In it Dennis tells us why he named his cancerous tumour Rupert!
TODAY’S PUB QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. Had Theo Walcott played in the Premiership before his 2006 World Cup call-up? 2. Which duo had hits with “Mrs Robinson” and “America”? 3. What is the fear of enclosed spaces called? 4. Which Suday comes before Easter Day? 5. On TV, which night featured a show from the London Palladium? 6. Alphabetically, which is the last of the calender months? 7. What would a palaeontologist study? 8. Which Disney creature nickname was given to Tony Blair? 9. Which veteran comic Bob celebrated his 100th birthday on 29th May 2003? 10. When Eric Weiss escaped from his name he was known as who?
Suddenly the high winds are back and the hen-run roofs were rattling ominously as we cleaned out this morning. The problem is that we have to use transparent plastic sheeting, which like most things in life has its drawbacks, not least among them being a tendency to sail off in the direction of Birmingham given any wind above 40 mph. Now we are for it commented Bob as we tightened the screws. And so it is with the long-debated cuts which will soon make their presence felt in communities right across the country.
One of the many features of our daily lives will soon be shutting their doors for the last time. Libraries. A typical example is the Kensal Rise Library in Brent. This was opened by Mark Twain back in 1900 when he described a public library as ” the most enduring of memorials, the trustiest monument of an event or a name or an affection; for it, and it only, is respected by wars and revolutions, and survives them”. Not any longer, despite local uproar it is to close.
The rage has been led by author Zadie Smith who at the weekend spoke to a packed house in North London. She said that she could see ” that if you went to Eton or Harrow, like so many of the present government, it is hard to understand how important it is to have a local library”. She added that “it’s always difficult to explain to people with money what it’s like to have very little”. Zadie recalled the important role that her local library played in her childhood when it helped her discover literature. Having a nearby branch can save lives, and she mocked the notion of enormous central libraries which would be inaccessible for “families for whom getting on a train to visit the British Library is inconceivable”.
There are of course many services, some arguably even more vital than libraries, that will fall under the Osborne axe and few deny that we have to ‘draw our horns in’, as my Gran used to say. But is there another way? The most obvious one is the high-speed rail plan. This is due to cost a minimum of £17 billion. The London to Birmingham stage will cost that much and will decimate the countryside and environment. As continental journeys go a 140-mile stretch is a mere hop, and although the speed of the trains will be higher the potential for saving time is limited. For the sake of half an hour or so we are to spend more than all the cuts can realise. It simply doesn’t make sense for a small island.
Then there is of course the European Union. Today we learn that our contribution is to rocket again, and will this year cost every single taxpayer over £300. And that is before the contribution to the Irish and Greek bailouts, plus the almost certain rescue for Portugal. Even the most ardent Lib Dem European enthusiast must surely recognise that we have to say no in the way that Margaret Thatcher once did. A major factor was Blair’s decision to accept cuts to our rebate, but the unending stories of waste and gravy-trains add another.
And then come the Banks who caused the need to close Kensal Rise Library and much else. One of those bailed out by the taxpayer was Lloyds, which is now 41% owned by the taxpayer. Today it unveils its new chief executive, one Antonio Horta-Osorio. He has been handed a package of up to £13.4 million and this follows a ‘golden hello’ of £4.6 million. What fantasy world do these people inhabit and what happened to all those passionate election speeches about the state clawing money back?
Ministers never tire of telling us that the deficit is all down to Grumpy Gordon. If that were true we would be the only country in trouble. In fact it was, to quote Mervyn King, all down to greed. But its cause is largely irrelevant, we have to balance the books. The problem is that few regard what is being done as fair. Things like the high-speed rail project, the EU,and the Banks seem to be sacrosanct whilst crucial services for the vulnerable are not, let alone the Libraries that mean so much to so many who prefer to escape this wretched time in the happier world of literature!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; THE WORD: “The most beautiful words in the English language are, ‘it’s benign’ “…..Woody Allen “The most beautiful words in the English language are, ‘Cheque enclosed’ ”….Dorothy Parker ” The most beautiful words in the English language are ‘Have one on the house’ ”….Wilson Mizner “The most beautiful words in any language are, ‘Not guilty’ “…..Maxim Gorky “The sweetest words in the English language are, ‘I told you so’ “……Gore Vidal “The most awful words in the English language are, ‘Just coffee’ “…..Robert Morley “The most dreaded words in the English language are, ‘ Some assembly required’ “…..Bill Cosby “The saddest words in the English language are, ‘ Partick Thistle nil”…..Billy Connolly “The most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you’ “….Ronald Reagan
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Sweden 2 Geoffrey Boycott
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; Who played a scarecrow for children on TV? 2. Who played a rich man called Richard De Vere?